1984 is an extremely philosophical work. Winston contemplates endlessly the meaning of existence, of life, of history, of power – and each one’s relation to the other. Consider the text on these issues:
"Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence…Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?"
"Where does the past exist, if at all?"
"The belief that nothing exists outside your own mind – surely there must be some way of demonstrating that it was false? Had it not been exposed long ago as a fallacy? There was even a name for it…"
"‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple."
Doesn’t all of this make you want to look up at the starry sky and ponder just what is existence, what is reality, and who and what are you?
Questions About Philosophical Viewpoints
- According to Ingsoc, the Party’s ideology, reality exists only in the mind of the individual. Do you believe an external reality exists independent of perception? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
- Is reality necessarily subjective for Winston? Can there ever be an objective account of history and its events in 1984, or is reality dependent upon the observer?
- Winston spends a lot of time ruminating on metaphysical questions, but no one else seems to be doing this at all. What is it about Winston that makes him different from his peers, that drives him to ask these philosophical questions?
Chew on This
Although Ingsoc preaches that reality exists only in the mind of the individual, objective reality exists insofar as it is possible to assess the collective minds of all the people – therein resides actuality, untainted by subjective perception.
It is necessary for the Party to control the past in order to control the present. However, it is not necessary to control the present in order to control the future.