What Does Virtual Actually/Really Mean?


  • Susan Payne English Literature, Florence




This essay is intended as an overview, a summary of the usage of the English word virtual, its relationship with its apparent antonym real and, in conclusion, its meaning in the phrase virtual theatre. Such a vast topic lends itself with difficulty to treatment within the confines of an essay so an attempt has been made to exploit and/or create several fils rouges to aid the writing and reading of the article. The first one is the deliberate exploitation of the lexicographical scholarship of the Oxford English Dictionary, which forms, with its etymological and linguistic expertise, the backbone of the topic and includes the corroboration of the various quotations provided which document the history of each headword. Another leitmotif is the fundamental (and hopefully not redundant) assumption that the exemplification of the frequently ambiguous grammatical and semantic usage of the pair virtual/real is significant in the history of this usage in the philosophical discipline of ontology. And last but not least is the role the word virtual plays in the history of physics as well as metaphysics and the apparently symbiotic connection of ontology to the often equally enigmatic world of the behaviour of scientific phenomena.

Keywords: virtual; real; usage; semantics; ontology; philosophy; theology; physics; theatre






Monographic Section