It might seem that I am trying to demonstrate the unreality of reality. Many others have done so, including Taoists, Hindus and Buddhists. Jews, Christians and Muslims, following Plato’s lead, think God’s ideal realm is realer than this world. Religious people are not the only ones to call reality an illusion. Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world,” and Jacques Derrida suggested, “There is nothing outside the text.”
Instead, my purpose is to show that the distinction between fiction and reality is artificial, created by language. Fiction and reality both exist as concepts within the same linguistic structure; symbols and stories are essential parts of our reality system. Everything we talk and write about is fiction, yet fiction has material existence, therefore it is real. Separating fiction from reality only drives us, like Don Quixote, to narrative madness.
Recognizing how fiction is our reality will not cure our insanity, but the realization will give us more freedom to reconstruct reality. The purpose of speech and writing is after all is not to record or comment on the world, as the Greeks suggested, but to act upon the world, to shape it and make sense of it. On the other hand, most of our actions are symbolic, referencing linguistic roles. When I stand before a class, I am saying, “I am the teacher. Listen to me.” A whole scene is suggested by the placement of my body. Speech is action and action is language. To understand what we are doing and saying, we must recognize that language and action are part of the same symbolic system.
Continue reading “Purpose: To Rehabilitate Reality through Metafiction”