In epistemology & ontology "Realität" relates to what we perceive as our environment - objects, sounds,.... So a optical illusion would be not real in sense of "Wirklichkeit", its not a real existing part/object of the universe, but perceived and constructed from a constructivism point of view. So it belongs to our personal constructed "Realität"

In english "Wirklichkeit" is translated to actuality, objectivity, substantiality, realness, reality, truth, etc. How should these words be translated into the terms of English-language technical philosophical discourse?

  • Not a German expert, but it seems like this might feasibly be rendered as the real-actual distinction (e.g., memories might be said to be real without being actual, etc.)
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jul 14, 2011 at 22:49
  • @joseph i was thinking of actuality too, but there isnt at all a entry in wikipedia or standford encyclopedia. This is best i found plato.stanford.edu/entries/possible-objects Realität Wirklichkeit are pretty common german words
    – Hauser
    Jul 14, 2011 at 23:05
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    The translation context would also probably be helpful here. I am not exactly sure what the absence of a particularly-named wiki page demonstrates?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jul 14, 2011 at 23:10
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    Is there a particular philosopher who uses these terms? Are they found in a particular philosophical discipline? That bit of context would definitely make this question easier to answer (and more clearly a fit for the Philosophy site, rather than the German site). Jul 15, 2011 at 16:21
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    The words are synonyms and both mean "reality". However, specific German philosophers might use them so that the words mean slightly different things, but that would be up to that philosopher. Linguistically, however, both are translated with "reality", so german.SE would probably not help. Jul 18, 2011 at 7:55

3 Answers 3


With help from the German Wikipedia on Wirklichkeit, one can roughly put it this way:

Wirklichkeit is a philosophical modality of the being; that of which is the actual case. Realität is used instead of Wirklichkeit in the ordinary German language.

In contexts that seek to distinguish, the concept "Wirklichkeit" is reality, limited to things that have an effect or exercise an effect. The German word Wirklichheit was an translation by Meister Eckhart of the Latin actualitas (related to Aristotle's concept of energeia and ergon).

Actuality and reality could perhaps be used.

Disclaimer: I'm far from good at German, and used Google Translate as an aid. Also, it probably depends on which philosopher you're reading.


Realität=reality, Wirklichkeit=actuality (Heribert Boeder: Seditions, translated by Marcus Brainard, glossaries).

Two different categories by Kant: reality = Realität is a concept based on affirming a quality (empirically, accessible to the senses) (and not negating or limiting a quality), whereas actuality = Wirklichkeit (or Dasein or Aktualität) is based on a judgement that states an assertoric modality, meaning that something is at a destined time (not at any or all time), and that it is being asserted, not problematic or apodictic.

Actuality implies a judgement not of what is, but whether it is at a destined time, or destined to be. Thus a teleological judgement about what is being asserted.


"Effectiveness" is a good word to translate "Wirklichkeit". "Wirken" is to have an effect. Sometimes it is used to denote the actuality, as Weissman said, of something, for example, the empirical world. Reality doesn´t need to be empirical. Anyway, it depends of which philosophy are you translating. "Effectiveness" has an existential connotation that goes along with the notion of Wirklichkeit of Schelling and Kierkegaard.

Kind regards.

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