17 June 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The usefulness of fantasy

Dear Fiends, 

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. 

Best Lawrence 

tel: 606081813 
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/ 
MeetUp https://www.meetup.com/PhiloMadrid-philosophy-group/ 
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid 

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: 

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