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Dream Worlds and Cyberspace

Intersubjective Tertiary Reality in Fantasy and Science Fiction

What is real? Or rather, is that which we perceive with our senses ‘real’, in the sense that it objectively exists? This question haskept philosophy and
literature busy for centuries. An obvious answer ismirrored by language: The German verb ‘Wissen’ for instance, as well as the English ‘to wit’, derive  from  Proto-Germanic  *witanan,  ‘to  have  seen’: We  know  that  which we  have  seen.  Equivalent  verbs  in  Romanic  languages  derive  from  Latin ‘sapere’, ‘to taste, have taste’. Sensory input determines our knowledge of the world – a practical truth proven also in scientific experiments.
For Plato, of course, it wasn’t so simple. In  his allegory of the cave, he shows  that  ‘to  see’  doesn’t  necessarily  mean  ‘to  know’  in  the  sense  of  ‘to
have  a  correct  view  of  objective  reality’.  His  cave  dwellers  perceive  only shadows  of  artificial  objects  on  a  wall,  while  the  true  light  of  reality  remains outside, unseen and unknown. Their knowledge of ‘the world’ is an illusion, a fiction existing only in their (and the fiction-makers’) heads – a shared sensory experience  misleading to a limited, distorted and conventional  view  of  reality.  Because  we’re  bound  to  the  physical  world  by  the limitations of our bodies, sensory experience is novalid proof for its ultimate reality.
Dream Worlds and Fantasy Worlds: Tolkien’s On Fairy-Storiesand Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
The  potentially  problematic  relationship  between  sensory  experience  and knowledge or interpretation of the world is a favourite subject not only in
hard science and epistemology, but also in fantastical texts. Cervantes Don Quixote or Carroll’s Alice-novels are classical examples that deal with epistemological  uncertainty.  In  these  texts,  as  in  many  others,  delusion or dreams are  used  as  framework  for  the  fantastical  content. Defining  approaches to the fantastical, Tolkien in On Fairy-Storiesdistinguished “the machinery of Dream” and ‘Fantasy’, stating that the latter should be “independent of the conceiving mind” and “be presented as ‘true’”.

 


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