Define "Real"

Notice the title of this task is "define 'real'." It's not "change the meaning of the word 'real'."

Figure out exactly what the word "real" actually means. (And please, please, please, please don't change the meaning of the word to suit some personal agenda!)

This means you should figure out what definition of the word "real" is implied by the way everyday people use the word to talk about things that are and are not real. This definition should allow us to clearly distinguish between things that are real and things that are not real. Explain your definition fully by use of examples. Start with simple examples ("smurfs are not real because..." "humans are real because...") and go on to more complicated and difficult examples ("ghosts are/are not real because..."). Use as many examples as you can think of to illustrate various aspects of your definition. Make absolutely sure that the things you call "real" actually fit your definition, and the things that you call unreal actually fail to fit your definition.

Take the time to write out your definition and explain it completely. Remember, this is not a random definition you can come up with to make yourself feel good. Don't say things like "something is real if it's made of cheese" or "something is real if exactly thirteen people believe in it." Remember, the word "real" is a word people use to convey specific facts about the world. The question "is this real gold" should only be answered "yes" if the object in question is actually made of gold!

One common error in this task is when people define "real" as meaning "unreal, but believed in by many people." A object that people merely believe in is not a real object, and believing in something does not make that thing real, no matter how many people believe in it, or how obnoxious believers get when people disagree with them. If you think that believing something really does make it real in the ordinary sense of the word, you had better have a really good argument to support this idea.

Finally, argue for your definition as best you can. Give reasons for leaving out the things you left out as well as for including the things you included.

Another way to approach this is to make a list of the most important different ways people use the word real. ("That's not a real ____" "Is he/she for real? "Are ______________real? etc...) and explain each one in detail.

Then figure out which way of using the word "real" is most fundemental, and explain why this way of using the word is the most fundemental, and what that means.

If you are working on the "Kyla" problem, and you have time after working all this out, figure out whether or not you're real according to this definition.

Any other comments you wish to add will be welcome.


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