Maarten Maartensz:    Philosophical Dictionary | Filosofisch Woordenboek                      

 A - Actor


Actor: Someone who acts; someone who enacts a role; stage-player.

In the most basic sense, an actor is someone who does something, usually but not necessarily consciously and intentionally so, while in the most figurative sense, an actor is a person who, possibly professionally, plays roles in staged plays.

In either sense, there are some unclarities and ambiguities, but the basic referents are clear, namely respectively to someone who does things he knows or may know he is doing, and to someone who pretends to be someone he is not in order to amuse or instruct people, possibly for pay.

The most interesting sense of actor is the middle one, namely when it is used to refer to persons playing ordinary social roles, which is an activity that has much more to do with playing on a stage than most people realize:

Much of ordinary human social behavior can only be explained truthfully when taking into account that this is to a large extent normally staged for a public, who are outsiders to a group, in which persons play roles that involve considerable amounts of deception, usually for the purpose of saving face, or for taking advantage of the public.

The main reason the idea of actor is required to explain ordinary human behavior is that much of that behavior is make-belief, pretension, and intended to deceive, for all manner of reasons, including moral ones such as trying to safe face, being kind or polite to others, or behaving morally in one's group.


See also: Act, Deception, Game, Group, Person, Personal perspectives, PerspectivismPlay, Political Correctness, Public, Role, Self, Society


Berne, Gerth & Mills, Goffman, Hazlitt, Laing, Watzlawick

 Original: Mar 19, 2012                                                Last edited:19 March 2012.   Top