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Why Fiction Can Be a Poor Teacher of Reality

Updated: May 29

Fiction is a type of imagination in which a narrated realm of reality exists in both our collective minds and the media on which the narration is told.

What makes it separate from reality is the fact that the events described in the story never happened but were rather imagined to happen. It's like a trick, but one where we already know it's a trick, so it's not really deceiving anyone who can distinguish reality from fiction.

We see fiction through the lenses of the characters in action, presented by actors whose moves are dictated by a director and by those who wrote the plot. If it's a story in a book, then we watch the happenings through the writer's narration.

It does not matter in that sense if the narration is in third person or otherwise, because that story cannot exist without its creator. Therefore, the fictional universe depends on its creator and cannot exist without the perspective he or she has placed on it.

I think it is a mistake to regard fictional information as accurate compared to factual information, a.k.a. "real life." I'm not talking about insights, which are far more open to discussion and contemplation, but rather information that is supposed to imitate real life as a parallel. Do you want to learn about autism, for example?

It might not be wise to learn it from a TV show when the purpose of the show is to entertain the audience and not be educational. Do you want to learn history? Watching a fictional movie about a specific era that is inspired by said era isn't an emulation of reality.

I used to write fiction when I was a teenager, and I actually wrote three novellas in Hebrew. While it was a nice way to exercise my writing, I knew even back then that there wasn't much purpose for it in terms of contribution. If I thought writing fiction regularly would offer a greater contribution to my readers than writing philosophy articles, then I would stick to that.

I also used to be a bookworm back then, but even I wasn't at all inspired by most of the stories I read. I remember getting to the last page and thinking to myself, "What am I to do with the information I have consumed?" I didn't learn much, and they did not really make me think independently of the narration, so I began favoring nonfiction as a former reader and as a writer.

But the thing is, people may believe that some facts in fiction are also the same in reality, even though it's a fallacy. Some facts are obvious to be true in reality, like tables, as they exist in both realms. However, fictional "facts" that may require further validation can still be regarded by others as reality-based facts, even if the assumed notion has no verification.

Philosophy in general isn't always about facts but also about things that are possible to be true, such as theories that are up for debate and/or experimentation. Therefore, it would make sense to not be entirely factual in philosophy because there can still be room for speculation and theory.

Plato's theory of some kind of plane of existence where perfect forms exist is a valid theory because it is based on reasoning. However, it's not a verified fact, and we might never even reach that plane physically. We can still think about it without accepting it as fact. However, in fiction, that might not be the case when it comes to the information it presents.

The purpose of fiction is mainly to entertain. Video games are poor teachers of reality because we play them to have fun and not to learn about life. We can still choose ideas and concepts, but treating them as verified facts without fact-checking would be a mistake (assuming they are factual, not abstract or philosophical).

It's almost as if pornography is being viewed as a real-life encounter with the desired gender. The purpose of porn is to sell you a fantasy, and the people in it are also actors; it's their job. I abstain from it because it disgusts me.

I believe I understand why that fallacy is used. People might see some information in fiction as fact because there isn't always a disclaimer at the beginning of the media that verifies the traits of that fictional media. Thus, some people might not make the disclaimer themselves.

It's like, sometimes... People do not always reach conclusions that seem obvious to me (and I won't be surprised if the opposite is occasionally true as well). It's like we need a guiding hand to tell us exactly what we should think, and without the guidance of the author, we will not do the same actions the writer in question may do for us.

Sometimes I intentionally use words (such as "almost"), but the other side might ignore them unintentionally, as if I hadn't used "almost." Sometimes, the obvious exists right there but blends with the rest of the content.

Why do people need to be told what to think? Why can't they reach the conclusion that is based on the given information? If something is fiction, why treat it as a fact-serving medium that's essentially narrated by one or a few creators? I will try to keep being precise regardless, as my point as a writer is to be understood.

Remember: some fiction might as well be propaganda. There's little reason to deem propaganda an accurate representation of reality. Maybe of a mindset, but not as something that aims to present the whole picture. Maybe the representation of minorities is such an example. Even if one considers it "good"?

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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