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If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable - what then?

on Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:27 pm

I believe that the following quotation is truly remarkable because of the deep philosophical reflection that Winston undergoes regarding ignorance and reality. “If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable - what then?” (Part 1, Chapter 7, Page 84)

In this quote, Winston refers to the fact that the past and the external world can never be seen or experienced and thus exist only in  one’s mind. In fact, through the Ministry of Truth, history is constantly changed and manipulated in order to prohibit contradictions to the values of INGSOC by falsifying books and documents. In addition, he also refers to fact that the slogan “War is Peace” keeps citizens from Oceania ignorant to the ways of living of other societies since they are eternally at war with them. In fact, because these wars keep each society inaccessible to one another, citizens accept their situation as reality, since they have no other point of reference.

Furthermore, in order to properly understand the deeper meaning of this statement, it is imperative to understand what qualifies as reality. According to The Oxford Dictionary, reality is defined as “The state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them”. From this, a fine line can be drawn between reality and perception. Indeed, perception is subject to interpretation and can easily be manipulated. It is hence quite easy for the leaders of a society to impose a perception of what is real on it’s citizens.

For instance, in our society, reality is based off of hard facts such as observation, history, math and science. In fact, these fields help us discern reality from fiction, but in a society such as Oceania, where ignorance is applauded and history and thoughts are manipulated, how is one to truly distinguish fact from fiction? Moreover, their reality is based on the principles of INGSOC and if their reality is based solely on a fabricated philosophy, is their reality truly reality or rather the interpretation of statements put forth by Big Brother?

The question remains and it continues to be one of the great reflections with which Winston struggles throughout the book.
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Re: If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable - what then?

on Tue Nov 14, 2017 2:35 pm
Very well thought out, Sierra!

To that, I will simply add that even "hard facts" as you describe them do have a certain element of subjectivity. To observe means to rely on one's eyes as interpreters of the world - but who's to say that our senses are actually that reliable? Do we see reality as it actually exists, or do we see a version of Reality filtered through our human senses? A bee or an owl certainly experiences a different reality than we do. How do we know we have the right one?

Even history, math and science have evolved over the years. 200 years ago, scientific "fact" was that caucasians were more evolved than africans. Reality reflected the philosophy of the time.

I wonder which "facts" will be debunked 200 years from now?
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