'REALITY,' WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

by Lewis W. Brandt and Wolfgang Metzger

(2nd part)

[W. Metzger Bibliography of Publications in English, French, Italian, Japanese and Spanish]


THE FOURTH MEANING OF REALITY: REALNESS VERSUS ILLUSORINESS

The issue in reality4 is strictly phenomenological, namely whether objects, events, and qualities manifest themselves as "to be taken seriously" or with the characteristics of 'mere' semblance, unsubstantiality, and of 'as if.' Examples of phenomenal illusion are after-images, pictures formed by shadows, lights and reflections, many mirror images, pseudohallucinations (as opposed to true hallucinations which are characterized by their inescapable realness), depth in drawings, and in a certain sense any picture, symbol, and name as compared to the object itself which is being represented or designated by it. Further examples of illusoriness are the distortions of objects seen through uneven glass, heard on poor recordings, and found in unreliable reports (not the things, voices, and reports themselves!).

As these examples illustrate, phenomenal semblance can be a characteristic of either the entire state or of only specific qualities, momentary states and/or behaviors of something. The following experiments illustrate particularly clearly the difference between realness and illusoriness: (1) If one moves to and fro in front of a wire cube while looking at it monocularly against the light seeing it alternately spatially correct and inverted, the identical parallactic displacements of the edges of the cube are first phenomenally unreal and meaningless and in the second case (inverted cube) phenomenally real. (2) Masks seen from the inside in slightly dark surroundings usually look from some distance as if they were turned inside out. If one walks to and fro in front of them, they perform extremely impressive real4 movements. In this instance the contradiction between reality1 and reality4 concerns only the behavior of the object (the mask). In the case of a phantom limb the contradiction involves the entire existence of the object. As is well known, when the recent amputee does not look at the missing limb, it can be phenomenally present to such an extent that he attempts to make use of it and has an accident.

Whereas epistemologically, i.e., in reality1, something can be only either real or unreal, manifest or phenomenal, reality4 contains degrees of realness. Experienced [erlebte] (real2) events can be more or less real4. Even one and the same situation can have very different degrees of realness under various circumstances: for different people, for the same person at different ages, at the same age in various internal and/or external conditions. Under certain circumstances a person may experience his entire enironment and even himself as more or less unreal. This occurs not only in severe emotional disorders and under extreme fatigue but can happen to a completely healthy and rested individual in entirely incomprehensible, never conceived of situations in which one attempts to ascertain whether or not one is dreaming.

Realness and illusoriness (real4 and unreal4) are experimentally interchangeable. If a three dimensional white figure is slowly rotated in front of an equally white wall and is illuminated in such a way that its shadow can be seen sharply and dark right next to it, the deep black shadow can be made to give the effect of the 'real' figure while the pale and weakly contrasting real1 wire figure gives the effect of being the shadow of the other, i.e., mere illusion. Such empirical evidence demonstrates that the distinction between appearance and realness is not the result of mere attitudes, interpretations, and judgements (which are unreal3) but that this distinction is encountered (real3). Otherwise a transposition of these characteristics could not occur in the face of better knowledge. Thus it is possible to make a clearcut distinction between directly encountered (real3) characteristics of realness or illuoriness and the corresponding, purely ideational (unreal3) convictions or judgements based on common sense knowledge or on special considerations.

Reality4 with its various degrees of realness applies not only to thing perception. In person perception faces, postures, and movements, tone of voice and handwritings may be experienced as expressing true (real4), questionable, or clearly false (unreal4) joy, enthusiasm, firmness, even anger, etc. The contrast may take quite different forms. It may be between a genuine and an insincere expression (empty formalities, social amenities, pretense, hypocrisy, lying), between natural and affected behavior, between being serious and joking, between actual and 'acted' actions (to play a role, to attribute a role to something, to do merely as an exercise, to show or indicate how something is to be done), etc.

The difference between what is real4 and what is less or not at all real4 exists not only for what is presently encountered (real3) but also for what is merely represented (unreal3). In terms of one's experiences and actions it is of paramount importance to distinguish between representations (ideas and imagery) related to facts, i.e., representations with the characteristics of knowledge, memories, and expectations, and those representations appearing as mere associations, dreams, daydreams, and thoughts in the narrower sense. The former refer to what actually is, has happened or will occur with or without one's own contribution. The latter do not seem to have any counter-part in the physical world (reality1). On the borderline between the real4 and the unreal4 representations lie hunches about possibilities and plans for the future. Both positive and negative errors (according to reality1) can occur: involuntary plagiarism (kryptomnesia), i.e., apparently new ideas which are actually memories (cf. Brandt, 1959; Menninger, 1960), deja vu experiences, i.e., apparent memories which cannot be traced back to past events, and disappointed expectations.

The realness of representations can also change. What one believed to be a memory of an actual event turns out to be only that of a story one once heard (for a fascinating example, cf. Piaget, 1951, ftn, p. 188). Dreams which at the time of their occurrence are not only real3 because they are encountered but also real4 lose their realness (real4) upon awakening. This loss is not attributable merely to their becoming representations (unreal3). Most events are not less real4 when they become unreal3, i.e., memories, than they were while they were still real3. Ordinary memories do not have any quality of illusoriness.

Except for memories of events which were originally encountered as unreal4, e.g., the memory of an unconvincing act by a magician, the opposite of reality4 is for representations not illusoriness but the zero on a scale of what is not real4, what is outside of the real and what is neutral to the question of reality. The degree of realness can vary all the more among representations. Several factors account for greater or lesser realness of a representation. Two of these are temporal and spatial distance. The further away a represented event is in time - either in the past or in the future - and/or in space the less real4 is it. The increase of degree of realness of a contemplated wedding becomes clear as it moves from the distant future to next summer to next week to an hour from now and finally begins, its decrease in realness as it moves from being just over to being "hardly any longer true." Correspondingly, a fire in another part of town is more real4 than one in a distant city - unless one is more familiar with the respective area in the distant city than with the part of one's town where the fire is. Thus, familiarity is a third factor accounting for realness. Still another factor bearing upon the degree of realness of specifically past events is whether or not they still exert effects upon present happenings. The realness of future events depends correspondingly on the certainty or improbability of their occurring. A given goal is the more real4 the easier it seems to reach.

Of particular importance for education are the factors involved in degrees of realness of practical knowledge. The extent to which the student can make use of what he has learned depends on how real4 the acquired knowledge is to him. It seems to be for this reason that skills are best learned by "watching the master and emulating his efforts in the presence of his example" (Polanyi, 1964). Knowledge (representations) acquired through imitation or even through mere observation is based on earlier real3 experiences [Erfahrungen] whereas knowledge acquired from verbal instructions consists of memories of what were always mere representations, i.e., unreal3. Thus concepts formed in the laboratory are based on reality3, those derived from pure lectures or from readings on unreality3 (cf. Vygotsky, 1962).

How real4 knowledge derived from lectures and readings becomes depends on its sources. If reports are isolated and general their contents are less real4 than when they are cumulative and detailed.

The degree of realness of one's own feelings, ideas [Einfälle], conclusions, wishes, intentions, and even completed actions has been shown to depend on whether they are still one's unspoken secret or have already been shared with others and thus entered their world and become somehow 'irrevocable.' The varying degrees of realness of a future wedding depend in addition to its temporal and spatial distance on whether one thinks by oneself of the possibility of a marriage, discusses it with the beloved, talks seriously about it to one's friends, parents, prospective in-laws or announce it in the newspaper. In all these instances the wedding is unreal1, real2, unreal3 and to different degrees real4.

While the degree of realness of a representation is in part a function of to whom and how it has been communicated - by gesture, insinuation, or detailed explanation - representations can change in degree of realness even without being disclosed. As Freud already pointed out naming something makes it more real (cf. Brandt, 1961). As one labels in one's own mind a gift as 'bribe' or a pain as an 'ulcer' the representation becomes more real4.

Not only can one encounter and represent individual objects in various gradations of realness but one can even live and move around in areas of illusoriness. This occurs when one creates a novel, builds castles in the air, reminisces, or indulges in daydreams.

The Gestalt concept of 'common fate' helps to elucidate the conditions which are responsible for phenomenal reality4. The phenomenally real4 has a common fate with the encountered surroundings. What is experienced as unreal4 has a common fate with the observer but is not physically part of him. The encountered but phenomenally unreal4 (e.g., an after-image) is anchored in the observer and not in his environment and may continue even after he closes his eyes. A glove in a closed drawer or which one has lost is real4 while a glove in my fantasy is unreal4 because the former has a common fate with the environment and the latter with my thoughts. A shadow and a mirror image which are also unreal4 do, obviously, not have a common fate withthe observer but they also have no independent existence. Their existence is derived from something else of which they are the shadow and the mirror image. In general then, illusoriness (unreality4) may be accounted for by derived existence.

CONCLUSION

In presenting Metzger's four meanings of 'reality' to American psychologists we have attempted to fill a real1,2,3,4 gap. This gap is real1 because there has so far been no translation or discussion of Metzger's ideas in the American scientific literature. It is real2 because Brandt became aware of this gap when he based his psychology courses on Metzger's conceptualizations and found that there was no discussion in English to which students could be referred. As Brandt encountered this lack the gap became real3. The more students and colleagues asked where they could read up on what Brandt had presented in lectures the more real4 the gap became. The fact that the gap will be only partially filled by this paper and that the need for a full translation of Metzger's Psychologie will be experienced by many readers supports Brandt's impression that Metzger's fourth reality (cf. Footnote 1) contains gradations as does reality4.

In distinguishing different meanings of 'reality' Metzger did much more than bring clarity into an area of semantic confusion. He created a new basis for the study of human psychology. Metzger's conceptualizations open the way for a fresh approach to the investigation of the relationship between physiology (reality1) and psychology (reality2) and of the interrelationship between various psychological phenomena. [2]


Footnotes:
[2] Concerning the need for a fresh approach cf. Holzkamp (1964). For an application of Metzger's concepts cf. Brandt (1967).

References:
BRANDT, L.W.: Freud und Schiller. Psychoanalysis and the Psychoanalytic Revue, 1959/60, 46(4), 97-101.
BRANDT, L.W.: Some notes on penis loss anxiety. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 1961, 15, 246-250.
BRANDT, L.W.: The phenomenology of the self-concept. Existential Psychiatry, 1967, 6, 422-432.
DIMASCIO, A., & BROOKS, G.W.: Free association to a fantasied psychotherapist. Archives of General Psychiatry, 1961, 5, 513-516.
MENNINGER, K.: Dr. Karl's reading notes. Menninger Library Journal, 1960, 5(1), 22-23.
METZGER, W.: Psychologie, die Entwicklung ihrer Grundannahmen seit der Einführung des Experiments. Darmstadt: Steinkopff, 1963.
PIAGET, J.: Play, dreams and imitation in childhood. New York: Norton, 1951.
POLANYI, M.: Personal knowledge, towards a post-critical philosophy. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.
VYGOTSKY, L.S.: Thought and language. Boston: M.I.T. Press, 1962.


1st Part


Copyright © 1969, Psychological Reports. All Rights Reserved.
This paper was first published in Psychological Reports, 1969, 25, pp 127-135.
It is based on the first chapter of Wolfgang Metzger's book
'Psychologie. Die Entwicklung ihrer Grundannahmen seit Einführung des Experiments'
(Darmstadt: Steinkopff, 1941, 1954, 1963, 1968, 1975).
'Psicologia. El desarollo de sus conceptos basicos desde la adopcion de la experimentacion.'
(Buenos Aires: Editorial Nova, 1968)
'I fondamenti della psicologia della gestalt.'
(Firenze: Giunti Barbèra, 1971, 1984)

W. Metzger Bibliography of Publications in English, French, Italian, Japanese and Spanish


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