Physical Reality, Language, and the Cinderella Problem

Author: Paul Rastall, independent scholar, UK
Published: June 26, 2019

Citation: Rastall, P. (2019). Physical Reality, Language, and the Cinderella Problem. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 6(1).


This article identifies, and explores the nature of, a number of “explanatory gaps” between our conception of physical reality and our cultural understanding, in particular our understanding of language and experience of reality. Some suggestions are made to address those gaps. On the one hand, certain positions in physical science are widely accepted; physical monism, the commonality of behaviour, reality at a quantum level, biological entities as temporary clusters of atoms held together by energy fields, and “facts” as constructs. On the other hand, reality as we experience it is “of many sorts” (Popper, 1972); neither physical nor perceptual, but verbally constructed, “unreal” in any physical or historical sense. Language is rooted in sociality and qualitatively different from other forms of communication. The article identifies and considers some major disparities and some tentative ways of reconciling them. In particular, it addresses the disparity between physical reality and fiction or purely imaginary reality (the “Cinderella Problem”) through the notions “what if...?” and “as if”.


physical monism, interactions, model-dependent realism, imaginary reality, verbally constructed reality, sociality, problem-solving, communication models