Consensus reality

Consensus reality is the set or totality of what is believed to be real, the "reality" accepted by the majority of individuals in a given place or at a given time. The connotation of "consensus reality" is, with few exceptions, disparaging: it is usually employed by idealist, surrealist and other anti-realist theorists with the implication that this consensus reality is, to a greater or lesser extent, false. (The phrase "consensus reality" may be used more loosely to refer to any generally accepted set of beliefs.)

Consensus reality may be related to theories of false consciousness.

The theory of reality enforcement holds that belief in consensus reality (the "reality" of "reality enforcement" is used in this sense) -- on which the apparent persistence of consensus reality's existence may depend -- is "enforced" or promoted through various means including sanctions applied against those who challenge it.

The theory of reality enforcement is opposed by those who believers in the theory call "reality enforcers." (It should be noted Alan C. Walter uses the phrase "reality enforcers" in a highly idiosyncratic way having nothing to do with the theory of reality enforcement.) The so-called "reality enforcers" hold that since consensus reality would obviously exist without any sort of action or reinforcement on their part, there cannot be any such thing as "reality enforcement." The theory is open to criticism on the basis that "reality enforcement," on its face, cannot exist, as "enforcement" would play no part in a reality that exists a priori.

Believers in reality enforcement are typically sympathetic to anti-psychiatry and would describe involuntary commitment as often being a form of reality enforcement (as in the course of treatment the patient may be encouraged to abandon beliefs the psychiatrist considers to be delusions and thus to have his beliefs come into line with consenus reality). Mental health codes in some United States states even specify that a diminished "capacity to recognize reality" is part of the standard for mental illness, something to which believers in the theory of reality enforcement would obviously object.

Consensus reality and reality enforcement in fiction:

  • Various dystopian novels, such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, feature a highly controlled consensus reality.
  • The works of Philip K. Dick often involve shifts in or deviations from consensus reality
  • The film The Matrix shows something similar to reality enforcement; Agent Smith could be called a "reality enforcer."
  • Magic: The Gathering employs "reality enforcement fields".
  • Reality Enforcement Commission is a comic by Neilson Nguyen, with artwork by Nora Summers.
  • The Mage: The Ascension RPG deals with characters that attempt to change the consensus reality

See also: socially constructed reality


Consensus Reality is a record label.



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