Once it was simple. Fantasy was the imaginary, reality was the objective world. But in our topsy-turvy, postmodern space, the real has come to look like a mirage created from our fantasies. What is going on, and could our pictures of reality be radically incomplete?
“Reality is the dream of a mad philosopher,” argues Joanna Kavenna in this issue of IAI News, quoting from nineteenth-century writer Ambrose Bierce. Can we ever persuade others of the reality of our subjective experience, she asks, or should we abandon all claims to objectivity? And when does it really matter?
Objective reality is out there, believes quantum computation researcher Chiara Marletto; but we need to question our basic assumptions about the physical universe. Is information fundamental to reality? Did the universe emerge from a bundle of bits? In The Code of the Cosmos, she outlines the new “constructor theory” which seeks to explain life, the universe and everything in it.
Economics, too, is in need of an urgent rethink. In The Growth Delusion, financial analyst and author Ann Pettifor asks whether continuous economic growth can ever be sustainable. Or is it merely a delusion?
Meanwhile, the traditional, once-reassuring fantasy of marital bliss comes under fire from both Catherine Hakim and Helen Croydon. In Screw the Fairytale, Croydon rejects our fantasy narrative of love; while Hakim – the sociologist behind the idea of “erotic capital” – says we need to be more honest about our desires. It’s time to rethink sexual morality.
And finally, can one fantasy cancel out another? Philosopher Stephen Law imagines an intergalactic debating contest in order to settle once and for all one of philosophy’s oldest questions: Does god exist?
Image credit: David Phillips, opticalillusion.net