Chapter published in:Epistemics of the Virtual
Johan F. Hoorn
[Linguistic Approaches to Literature 12] 2012
► pp. 17–52
1. The reality-fiction friction
In this chapter, I attempt to formulate a framework to analyze, understand, and explain the differences between things we consider fiction and things we consider reality. It all starts with the belief system we adhere to, upon which truth is attributed to things encountered in the world. The belief system is established through upbringing (religion, culture, science, education) and updated through personal experience. The belief system is formed through consistent, reliable, and trustworthy behavior of the parents, which induces a feeling of security and safety with the child. Because of this, truth claims have a moral side and ultimately rely on authority. When experiences in the physical world run counter to the belief system, doubt is induced and the feeling of security is no longer guaranteed. This is what fiction does all of the time; it is “unsafe.” If you are a strong believer, the inconsistency with your beliefs will be regarded as ‘wrong perception.’ If you are self-skeptic, the beliefs need adaptation. The belief system predefines what is true and based on that, phenomena in the physical world are classified as fiction or reality (ontological classification). Yet, these are judgments on a global level, trying to categorize the complete instance (e.g., people cannot fly with wax wings). At a more detailed level, fauns and water spirits can have a most realistic allure. The wings may look like real wings, the wax may be real wax, and the person playing Icarus may be a real person. These epistemic appraisals lead to an experience of realism that can be so strong that it overpowers the conceptual classification of a stage play or Virtual Reality environment as fiction.