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a. that which exists, independent of human awareness
b. the totality of facts as they are independent of human awareness of them
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



objective reality, as the concretely developed totality of natural and sociohistorical phenomena. The concept of reality is also used in the sense of genuine reality, in contrast to appearance. In this ontological sense, the concept of reality was used in ancient philosophy (for example, Democritus’ juxtaposition of the “world of opinion” (doxa) to the true, that is, the real world, and the world of the senses and the real world—the world of ideal essences—in Plato’s works). By contrast, for Aristotle the synonym of reality was the world perceived by the senses, which was the realization of eternal and unchanging forms. This interpretation was adopted by the medieval Catholic thinker Thomas Aquinas.

In the philosophy of the new age of the 16th through the 18th century, reality was interpreted as available reality, existing in space and time in the form of the totality of material substances. In the interpretations of philosophers such as Hobbes and Descartes, reality acquired an abstract mechanical and geometrical character. Kant considered the problem of reality to be theoretical and cognitive, and for him, the criterion of reality was perception by the senses. According to Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, reality—the objective world—was the product of the activity of the mind. Objecting to the Hegelian idealistic interpretation of reality as one of the stages in the self-knowledge of the absolute mind, Feuer-bach considered reality as sensuous objectivity in space and time which, far from requiring thought for its existence, provides it with truth.

Contemporary neo-Thomism has revived the medieval interpretation of reality, connecting it with the concepts of actuality and potentiality. Reality is the becoming of the being, realization of its “pure” forms. In the existentialist personalist school of philosophical thought, the examination of the real is shifted from the sphere of that which is reasoned and universal to the sphere of that which is volitional and individual. The concept of reality is used in the sense of the immediate, vital sphere of human experiences, choice, and decisions. Reality is authentic being, understood not ontologically, but anthropologically, in connection with the self-expression of the personality. Thus, sociohistorical, human reality is interpreted subjectively.

In Marxist philosophy, the concept of reality, in the sense of genuine reality, coincides with the concept of matter. Marxism regards sociohistorical reality as the objective world that realizes its tendencies, laws, and potentialities—that is, as being, in its self-transformation and self-development—and also as the object and result of human activity and practice. Practice—the specifically human relation to reality—is the criterion distinguishing reality and appearance, the criterion of the validity of the thought: “Practice is higher than (theoretical) knowledge, for it not only has the value of universality, but also of immediate reality” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 29, p. 195).




that which actually exists. In dialectical materialism the term “reality” designates both objective reality and everything that exists. Objective reality is matter in the totality of its forms. In this sense, reality is contrasted with subjective reality, or the phenomena of the consciousness. The phrase “everything that exists” refers to the entire material world, including all of its products in the form of ideas.

In dialectical materialism the criterion for the reality of objects, processes, events, facts, characteristics, and so forth is the social practice of humanity, including scientific and technological experimentation.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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