Consider this: I watch a Harry Potter movie when I am a kid (I did) and, as early as kids, of course, older people tend to teach young kids at some point that motion pictures are "fiction" and not to be taken seriously; however, in this same sentiment, we are expected to experience emotions from these films (emotions that are real, felt within us, and clearly are "real"; the same as emotions over a dead person).

We are told that science is testing to prove something real (for simplicity's sake, let's leave it at that).

If science is based on(a) testing procedure(s), and evidence shows us that "science isn't always right," and we experience mistakes all the time in all walks of life, why is it just to call science "real" but magic to be irrefutably "fake"? Isn't that ignorant and more so based on trained beliefs than actuality?

Example: A person who laughs at me may reason and say, "Well, in Harry Potter, a car flies; cars don't fly in "real life" now, do they?" We know, however, that cars flying is not anywhere near a reasonable realm of "impossibility"; cars can even parallel park themselves, auto-lane assist, and predict crashes before they even happen. So a car flying is very, very, very far from "magic", isn't it?

At that level of reasoning, one could argue that science is inevitably "real" because it has "real world effect" to us directly: medicine curing sickness, computers like the one you're reading this on now, and even the ability to explain how we'd explain how we'd think another person may think is thinking of us.

Being very specific, I could say science is "real" at the same time a scientific blunder backfired on the "expert" whom was researching it; likewise, someone in the 1420s would call me "insane" if I told them there'd be walking robots, video game emulators and computer virtualization, and auto-flying ships.

What is "fake" could be made to appear in an unexplainable, magical form that could be done with science, but what is "real" depends on who currently believes it to be.

As for another example, consider the perception of reality from our not-so-perfectly-understood consciousness of the world. Consider that everything we know and do is based on consciousness, and we are not so sure how consciousness works inside our minds to the point where we can even emulate it. Since we grow up with little biases, cultures, and our own shaped little perception of "the world" as we know it, seen differently by all around us, and impossible to prove that our consciousness exists in others outside of our own lives (Can you irrefutably prove that I wrote this? A human with consciousness? Maybe you are the only conscious person, or maybe I am the only person feeling and experiencing it?)

Some people even learn to dissociate "real" from "fake" in unsettling ways. Say a girl uses the internet and talks to people on the other side, but from her mind she sees them all as "internet people," virtual, apparent beings in her mind, but in the same realm as she witnesses "TV people," actors & characters.

Is the internet social experience "fake" then, assuming more than one person sees this the same as this hypothetical girl does? But how could we assure that the face-to-face experience is the "real" one then?

Where does one drawn the line between, "What one feels is real to them, regardless of anything else," versus, "If one feels something different from most, one is insane because it makes no sense to us."?

If science was perfectly "real" it would be flawless, lest we consider that magic can also be real too, given that there are things we can't explain, which is how apparent "magic" works.

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    First, off welcome to philosophy.se. I'm seeing a lot of statements and a grand claim. But what I'm not seeing (and this is key) is a question answerable in the SE format.
    – virmaior
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 2:32
  • There is no perfect, inarguable answer on what constitutes "answerable S.E. format." Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 3:08
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    The level of depth and detail you provide is great, but here we answer academic-style philosophy questions. If you want us to answer a more personal, subjective question "not on the books", so to speak, we can do that, but then you must be extremely explicit what your terms are and clear on what your question is. In this case you question is clear but you never once define "magic", "real", or "fake". We thus can't answer your primary question.
    – stoicfury
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 18:47
  • Most of the questions I see here do not fall in to "academic-style" questions. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few on the homepage that are written by seemingly non-philosophers. Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 19:45
  • One might argue that all science is perceived as magic and that all of the natural world is perceived as supernatural until it is truly understood. Commented May 11, 2015 at 19:17

2 Answers 2


Science is the study of the sensual world around us. It collects 'facts' from the study of that sensual world and then tries to come up with reasons (hypothesis, theory) to explain those facts.

'Fact' - when I let go of an apple 10 feet off the ground, it falls to the earth - it doesn't float, or shoot up into the sky.

'Hypothesis' - there is a measurable physical attraction called gravity between physical bodies. The apples are not being pushed down by the gods.

'Theory' - Newton's gravitational laws

What 'facts' does magic study or examine? What 'theories' to explain those facts has magic produced?

Simply because we or you don't understand all the workings doesn't make it magic.


Consider it as a linguist exercise. We live in a world that is dominated by science, so science gets to define a surprisingly large portion of our vocabulary. Accordingly, things that are "scientific" are "real," and "magic" is "fake."

Part of the issue is that we often approach magic in the form of very far-fetched scenarios. Much of what we know of as "magic" is illusion. In fact, if you talk to magicians, many of them would prefer to be called illusionists, reserving "magic" for something greater than their art. They recognize their illusions are easily marked as "fake," though the smiles they bring to people's faces are certainly real.

There are other definitions of magic which cling to "real" better than movie magic or illusionist magic does. There is the magic of a supreme artist. I live in the cold hard world of science most of my life, but I still get a slight uncanny feeling watching a real artist pick up their instruments. Watching a Japanese caligrapher pick up their pen, a martial artist pick up their staff, or a surgeon pick up their tools, I get a feeling deep down that there is a part of the world that I do not understand, but recognize as beautiful. I have no words for it besides "magic."

Perhaps the great author Arthur C. Clarke put it best. Wedding both science and magic into one phrase, he famously declared "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." If Clarke could wed science and magic in his life, maybe we can too.

Then perhaps it doesn't have to be fake for us either.

We call love "magic" too...

  • Love is supposed to be an emotion that has biological explanations, such as chemical and hormonal ones, but none are perfectly specific. For example, how can one call "obsessive love" not real love? What makes it fake as opposed to the "real" love, which has endless variances as well? People with good compatibility call it "love," but the "tenderness, oxytocin, puppy love" feeling may not be elaborate. If that suggests "degees of love," it's plausible to believe that obsessive love is similar or identical, and just felt differently due to the fact that not all people reach it the same "way." Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 19:49
  • Is that what love is supposed to be? Quite a lot of time has been spent trying to figure out how to describe what love is supposed to be. Many say "you'll just know" when you're in love. I think a reasonable portion of the population believes that word refers to something more fundamentally meaningful than the biology has yet described.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 22:44
  • Biology as a science doesn't necessarily aim to define "love" in the non-scientific venue the same way as it does in the scientific venue. Basically, how love "feels" is typically different than how one in science would aim to define it from the perspective of hormonal and chemical degrees. This is more of a "how to me" versus "know from me" problem; how it "feels" is not quite the same as how it "works." Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 0:57
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    Then, are you saying that it could be deemed an organic process so complicated that we might as well treat it as sufficiently advanced technology? ;-)
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 1:03
  • Well, perhaps. All humans, one could say, are advanced biological systems. Comparing technology one-to-one, it's plausible to consider humans to be sufficiently more advanced bio-systems than a computer can be classified purely as a logical one. Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 2:58

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