Metaphysics, Epistemology and Orwell's 1984
Since the beginning of recorded time, philosophers have pondered questions of metaphysics (what exists, what is real) and epistemology (how we know what exists and is real, our proof). However in George Orwell's 1984, the need to answer these questions no longer exists for the majority, as the ruling party has created a new reality for its citizens, one in which what is real and what truly exists cannot be questioned. But on the flip side, the protagonist of 1984, Winston Smith, finds himself constantly searching for what is real in his life, and in a larger sense, in the society and world that surrounds him.
In its simplest terms, metaphysics can be seen as a question of what it is that we know to be real, what truly exists. In a deeper sense, as defined by Aristotle, metaphysics attempts to understand the fundamental nature of all reality. Closely related to metaphysics is epistemology. Epistemology looks to define what knowledge is, how it is obtained, and what it is that makes anything knowledge at all. It serves to establish proof, a warrant for what we consider to be real, thus validating our knowledge of our own reality.
Within 1984, Orwell, or rather "The Party" has created Big Brother, a larger-than-life character known to all citizens, uniting and influencing all of Oceania. To the citizens of Oceania, there is no question that Big Brother does not exist. To them Big Brother is real, he exists in the flesh just as the rest of the citizens of the nation. Almost no one entertains the proposition that he is merely a character, created to enforce party agendas and goals. His face appears in movies, on posters; he is virtually everywhere. Citizens are continually reminded, "Big Brother is watching you." The majority does not question his existence, a metaphysical question, but rather, they live in fear of him, constantly striving to be the perfect party members. Once a citizen is convinced through the constant presence of Big Brother, there is no need for proof of his existence, leaving no room for epistemology. Conversely, Winston Smith begins to explore the metaphysical question of whether Big Brother truly exists in the same way that he himself exists. Unlike the majority of the citizens, Winston is equipped with the tools and intelligence that are required to question the aims of the party. This intelligence, when combined with his constant questioning and need to find the answers leads to Winston's capture and reintegration, (brainwashing) after which he is made to believe that Big Brother exists....