The Invented Reality

Paul Watzlawick

Finding honest philosophical work is as probable as finding an unsigned Picasso at a garage sale. It happens, but so seldom that its occurance is cause for a grand celebration. The difficulty lies not only in the relative scarcity of the unclaimed art, but in our powers of perception as well. I don't have a good enough eye to distinguish a cubist-period Picasso from a Braque or Duchamp, or even, perhaps, a Picasso from a cheap knockoff, but I do know honest philosophy when I read it, and Watzlawick's book is a gallery of rare masterpieces. With the same keen observation that he demonstrates in 'How Real Is Real,' he collates and develops essays by pioneers in biology, psychology and philosophy, whose work all points to a challenging hypothesis: that our biological makeup, in tandem with our linguistic codes, give rise to the very world we come to know. Far from representing a world with fixed categories of things, we construct our world through our unique perception (and expression) of it. We humans, he argues, travel a path between the intuited world of idealism and the logical one of traditional realism. He is not alone in this assertion, and in his own essays uncovers the philosophical history of this trail (now known as constructivism) as well as sketching out promising avenues yet to be taken. The author has spent over thirty years as a clinical psychotherapist, well over a dozen at the famous Mental Research Institute at Palo Alto, and has worked or collaborated with some of the (other) legends in the field, including Gregory Bateson, R.D. Lang and Alan Watts. And like them, Watzlawick has come to appreciate the intricasies of human and animal communication

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