When you consider the word "virtual" you would usually picture something that is simulated or exists in a computational manner.

Does this mean that virtual reality is actually contradictory? After all, reality is literally reality.

  • I don't have time to add a definition for "virtual" at the moment, so please feel free to do so. – Dog Lover Aug 10 '16 at 3:14
  • Take "the blue pill" to stay in virtual reality. – user190075 Aug 10 '16 at 3:36
  • I sometimes feel like I'm a brain in a vat. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? :/ – NVZ Aug 10 '16 at 8:04

virtual - very close to being something without actually being it; existing or occurring on computers or on the Internet; being on or simulated on a computer or computer network

virtual reality - an artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (as sights and sounds) provided by a computer and in which one's actions partially determine what happens in the environment

Going by these definitions, I would not call it a contradiction at all.

Reality is not simulated. It is our conscious world—what really exists. Virtual experience would be a simulation, that is, a representation of reality. So going by this, "virtual reality" is like saying "artificial reality". Maybe even "turkey bacon" ;)

On the other hand, reality as we know it could be computerized—if you believe in The Matrix

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  • +1 for the definitions, but I think the term 'artificial reality' detracts from the clarity of the definitions. Although it is by definition artificial if it isn't reality, your initial emphasis on the closeness to reality gives a better sense of the word virtual in the question's context. – Lawrence Aug 10 '16 at 4:36
  • True; it's "mock-reality". Close, but no cigar. Virtual reality is basically a world for those who want to escape reality. It is like a parallel universe on a computer. – user190075 Aug 10 '16 at 5:01
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    @RoyC, can you add the source/citation of the definitions? – alwayslearning Aug 10 '16 at 8:32
  • @alwayslearning merriam-webster.com – user190075 Aug 10 '16 at 16:24

It is an oxymoron which by definition (see below), is composed of apparently contradictory terms.

So yes, you are right to an extent when you consider the usual meanings of the separate words. However, they have alternative meanings (to be used in this context) which make virtual reality not such a contraction after all.

From oxforddictionaries.com:

virtual: ADJECTIVE

2 [Computing] Not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so: virtual images

See also virtual reality.

More example sentences:

Once they figured out how to get Trojans onto computer, creating their own virtual spamming super computer, spammers have adopted this method for most of the spam they send out.

This paper explores the potential for developing virtual dissection software for physical collaboration.

The software also supports multiple virtual desktops.

reality: NOUN

1.3 The quality of being lifelike: the reality of Marryat’s detail

More example sentences:

Harsh reality is created with striking clarity throughout the collection, leaving the reader both awed and dismayed.

He loved acting and the people that were in it and that could produce and create moments of great reality.

Only when films regain the sparks of creativity, originality and reality, will we see crowds in cinema halls again.

virtual reality: NOUN

The computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.

Example sentences:

You play as a character that has entered a computer system in virtual reality to destroy a virus infecting the main frame.

As virtual reality simulators are computer based systems they generate output data, or what is commonly referred to as metrics.

Their aim is simple: to generate a truly immersive virtual reality environment that has a useful commercial function.

oxymoron: NOUN

A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g. faith unfaithful kept him falsely true).

Example sentences:

Yes, but it does leave a reader ever more certain that the term ‘mature male’ is an oxymoron.

One day I sat her down to explain to her the word oxymoron and then to describe a magnificent and bucolic world of insults.

The idea of a light of darkness is certainly an oxymoron, certainly a contradiction in terms, and yet we find that among various mystics.

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