The Invented Reality – November 2015

About This Project

THE INVENTED REALITY, by Paul Watzlawick
Selected by Pit Hartling


“The basis-hypothesis of the psychological/philosophical school labeled ‘constructivism’ is this: Reality is not something ‘out there,’ but rather something we all actively construct. In his very down-to-earth and entirely practical work as a therapist, Paul Watzlawick encountered many examples of this, and his clear, intelligent and at times highly entertaining writings highlight some of them.


While this book’s focus is on clinical cases, Watzlawick and his co-authors explicitly mention conjuring as a case in point. And rightfully so – we magicians are the ultimate constructivists: We use the tools of our trade to cause our spectators to construct false realities. The emotion of impossibility is the result of unwittingly having constructed a false reality and suddenly being exposed to some fact that does not fit that picture.


Watzlawick’s work, and that of his colleagues, is a fascinating read. Far from only of theoretical or academic interest, I believe any constructivist/magician can truly gain from it.


In case the book is not so easy to come by, maybe an even better introduction to Watzlawick’s work (and probably the title I should have chosen for this list in the first place) is his book: ‘How Real Is Real.'”
– Pit Hartling


About the Book
Common sense suggests that reality can be discovered. In contrast, constructivism postulates that what we call reality is a personal interpretation, a particular way of looking at the world acquired through communication. Reality is, therefore, not discovered, but literally invented. This book examines how individual, social, scientific, and ideological “realities” are constructed, after which we naively assume they are actually “real.” A compilation of different texts from different contributors, which include Ernst von Glaserfeld, cyberneticist Heinz von Foerster, David L. Rosenhan, microbiologist Francisco J. Varela and Gabriel Stolzenberg, professor of mathematics at Northeastern University. For educated readers, this is the first multidisciplinary presentation of a subject of vital importance to the way we think and live.


About the Author
Paul Watzlawick was an Austrian-American family therapist, psychologist, communications theorist, and philosopher. A theoretician in communication theory and radical constructivism, he commented in the fields of family therapy and general psychotherapy. Watzlawick believed that people create their own suffering in the very act of trying to fix their emotional problems. He was one of the most influential figures at the Mental Research Institute and lived and worked in Palo Alto, California. Watzlawick wrote 22 books that were translated into 80 languages for academic and general audiences. Paul Watzlawick’s theory had great impact on the creation of the four-sides model by Friedemann Schulz von Thun and made a great impact on the development of the Interactional View for communication theory, which is based on what is happening, and not necessarily associated with who, when, where, or why it takes place. Watzlawick also donated his body to science. He died in 2007.