Don Quixote and the Problem of Reality

  • Alfred Schutz
Part of the Phaenomenologica book series (PHAE, volume 15)


“Under what circumstances do we think things real?” William James asks this question in one of the most remarkable chapters of his Principles of Psychology 1 and starts from there to develop his theory of various orders of reality. Any object, so he finds, which remains uncontradicted is ipso facto believed and posited as absolute reality. And a thing thought of cannot be contradicted by another, unless it begins the quarrel by saying something in-admissible about that other. If this is the case, then the mind must take its choice of which to bold by. All propositions, whether attributive or existential, are believed through the very fact of being conceived, unless they clash with other propositions believed at the same time, by affirming that their terms are the same with the terms of these other propositions. The whole distinction between real and unreal, the whole psychology of belief, disbelief, and doubt, is, always according to William James, grounded on two mental facts: first that we are liable to think differently of the same object; and secondly, that when we have done so, we can choose which way of thinking to adhere to and which to disregard. The origin and fountainhead of all reality, whether from the absolute or the practical point of view is thus, subjective, is ourselves.


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Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1976

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alfred Schutz

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