More Speaking in Blogs

Brent Murray wrote: So, trying to figure out what would be the moral action in an impossible fantasy is pointless.

I’m not so sure I agree, Brent, though I certainly do appreciate the point you’re trying to make. We can’t take some work of fiction, some crazy impossible hypothetical, and say, “This proves that (A is not A||rationality is no good||socialism is the proper way to live||some crazy thing).” However, to the extent that a fiction coheres with the intelligible world, trying to figure out the moral action certainly does have a point - usually, that point is entertainment.

As a perfect example, I’m currently reading Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice. For those who don’t know, this is the fourth book in her Vampire Chronicles series. No doubt about it, this is an impossible fantasy, full of spooks and psychic phenomena and, of course, vampires.

However, despite the impossibility of the story, Anne Rice’s storylines are compelling, her characters are rich, and her style is very clear and enjoyable. In fact, the “impossibility” of a vampire allows her, through the character of Lestat and the other vampires, to explore a character’s personality over the course of several centuries.

Indeed, however, her stories are only compelling to the extent that they are truthful. Without the suspension of disbelief, any fiction is just babble. Lestat may be a vampire, but he was born a man. By looking through his eyes, Rice shows us aspects of ourselves. The reader thinks, “What would life be like if I had to run from the sun and drink blood?” We identify with Lestat because, with fairly rare exception, he is moral - for a vampire, that is. I.e., he does his best to only feed upon those intent on killing/robbing him and others. He has a penchant for serial killers. Despite the “monstrous” creature that he is, his drive to be moral resonates with the human need for rational pride. Sure, he does battle with otherworldly gods and demons, but for all us normal peops, our day to day experiences are just as important to us.

Brent, are you really saying that you didn’t cheer for Frodo when he brought the ring to Mount Dhoom? Or for Luke when he blew up the Death Star? Why, every relevant invention of Galt’s in Atlas Shrugged was an “impossible fantasy.”

PS: Brent…
You’re using Movable Type. They invented Trackbacks. Everyone’s doin it. You should too!

2 Responses to “More Speaking in Blogs”

  1. On March 5th, 2004 at 11:45:01, Brent Said:

    [Isaac]: I posted the equivalent of a trackback on Brent’s post, and this was his reply:
    First, the context in which this situation arose was when we were discussing ethics. We not in the realm of making art (by a long shot). I understand what you’re saying, and I agree. I could have been clearer in my statement. “I do not enjoy when someone rambles on at length describing a situation which could never exist and then tries to wrangle — asking for my assistance — with the ethical implications of actions within that scenario. I find such a request irritating.”

    If someone has a clear, concise example which they would like to use to point to an ethical principle, fine. The example of Rand’s “immortal robot” comes to mind. I was simply grumbling about being dragged into the murky waters of someone else’s philosophical flailings.

  2. On March 5th, 2004 at 11:45:41, Isaac Said:

    Ah, I can see where you’re coming from, and I can relate. (I’m reminded of the desert island scenarios that people always seem to bring up when you say that selfishness is good and the initiation of force is bad.)

    I was applying a different context I guess, since I happened to read this while engaged in another discussion of whether or not fantasy makes fiction irrational. (A silly and rationalistic claim, to be sure, but annoyingly common among Objectivists, I’ve found.)

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