More Philisophy of Fantasy

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here are a couple more blog posts that are worth reading.

Firstly R. Scott Bakker delves into the psychology that might lead one to misunderstand fantasy as badly as the guy who set all this off did. (Warning: probably triggery if you are a conservative Christian).

And there’s more from Paul C. Smith. This is a bit abstruse in places if you haven’t had the same sort of education as Paul, but it is actually addressing a very important moral issue. He talks about the difference between a “shame culture” and a “blame culture”:

For those unfamiliar with the terms, a shame culture is one like that of the Greeks, where external forces are responsible for misfortune, while a guilt culture is one where the individual is to blame.

That’s not as theoretical as it might sound. There is direct practical application. For example, if you see someone who is disabled, do you think, “my, poor guy, what bad luck,” or do you think, “gee, he must have done something really bad for God to have punished him so.” These days we have pretty much grown out of the latter idea, but move it on and think instead of someone who is unemployed. Do you think, “my, poor guy, this economic crisis is a bitch,” or do you think, “what a slacker, why doesn’t he go out and get a job instead of sponging off the state?”

Similar arguments are applied to sexual morality. If you discover that someone is gay do you think, “poor guy, he’ll have a tough life because of it,” or “if only he had enough self-will he could resist his urges.” (Of course there are other possible responses, including “wow, great, and he’s so cute too,” but I’m giving examples that illustrate the two ways of thinking that Paul talks about.)

By this time I have probably thoroughly wandered away from the intellectual rigor of Nietzsche’s original point and Paul will chastise me for sloppy thinking. My apologies in advance. Also, as with just about everything in life, this is not a clear cut issue. Sometimes people do have to take responsibility. But our initial instincts with regard to these two ways of looking at the world can often color how we approach individual cases, and prevent us from thinking clearly about them.

Fantasy fiction, which so often deals with matters of fate and destiny, is an ideal vehicle for exploring such issues.

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