This Sunday we are discussing: The usefulness of fantasy
One of the practical usefulness of fantasy is that it's free; we don't
have to pay any money to engage in our own fantasy. But by suggesting
that fantasy is useful suggests that fantasy has a function that meets
some end. What are these ends that fantasy helps satisfy?
One function is clearly that fantasy helps us consciously to create in
our brain a mental experience that takes precedence over other real
world experiences. Although fantasy takes us away from real time mental
experiences, it is not like imagination, trying to solve a problem.
Fantasy is related to us creating a narrative or a story in our brain
that is not part of real time experiences from our environment. As
Descartes pointed out we can create all sorts of creatures whose genesis
is our real world experience; we cannot fantasise about something we
don't have experience of. It's ironic that Descartes was also one of the
philosophers who identified the scope of empiricism in philosophy.
If fantasy, in and of itself, is a brain function or a brain activity it
is certainly a mental capacity we have to create causal events in our
brain independent of real time causal experience. Descartes, as I said,
excludes the possibility of fantasising something that is not based on
our experience, and Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland or Through the
Looking-Glass takes this ability to fantasise to a level even more
intellectual. What matters is that we have this capacity to move in and
out of causal reality in our mental activity.
Fantasy, is also entertaining: entertaining for ourselves without much
extra effort and if put in a decent communication format our fantasy can
also be entertaining to others. From experience, we know that the young
boy is not flying on a broom because we have fantasised about activities
that defy gravity. Thus our fantasy can be useful to entertain others
because we and our audience (except for children maybe) know how to
apply or engage with fantasy. It is not that causality does not happen,
but we have this knack on how to resolve our real life experience with
causality and irregular causality in fantasy works.
The key drawback of Descartes's claim about our fantasy is limited to
our experience is that our experience might its self be limited to our
life and environment. But of course, our ability today to share our
experiences with others, through books, social media, photos and
narratives with friends and other people, gives us third person
experiences we can freely use in our mental activities. Indeed, I can
easily see myself flying on a broom crossing Antarctica and eating a
large piece of cherry chocolate cake which I am holding in my left hand.
Apart from my experience of eating a piece of chocolate cake a very long
time ago, I have no direct experience of the other factors in my
previous sentence. But I have certainly seen and read about these events
that I can easily fantasies about them; I might even have read about
large pieces of cherry filled chocolate cakes.
But our problem is that we assume that fantasy is about the unreal and
about strange events and things. What if we were to fantasise about what
is real: what if we publish a narrative about shooting a gun with a
bullet at someone who falls dead but no blood comes out of the body?
This is exactly the opposite narrative of my broom flying and eating a
piece of cake, except here we have the non real fact that no blood
leaves a dead body at the point of contact.
So a third use for fantasy is to create a real world narrative but maybe
with an unreal fact: no blood coming out of a shot body, no pieces of a
plane exist that crashed into a building, no side effects of eating
sugar loaded foods, no government will introduce policies that will
seriously damage the country and so on.
Our fantasy is very useful for us; the problem is when others try to
persuade us that their fantasy is our reality.
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid
from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: