Reality-based thinking

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Reality-based thinking refers to the idea (and worldview) that the best solutions are found by studying perceivable reality, which is more or less synonymous with evidence-based thinking.

The phrase came to widespread popular attention during George W. Bush's second term as President, apparently because of a quote from an unnamed Bush aide which was included in a New York Times Magazine article1:

from Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

This duality – between reality-based thinking and the aide's preferred mode of control-based thinking – is strikingly similar to the views of The Party in the novel 1984, in which Winston, the protagonist, is tortured to cure him of his alleged "insanity" which consists primarily of his "false" notion that there exists an external, self-evident reality independent of The Party. Winston must learn to accept that reality is simply whatever The Party defines it as.




Note 1

2004-10-17 The New York Times Magazine: "Without a Doubt" by Ron Suskind