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CartsBeforeHorses

How (And Why) To Fantasize

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Fantasizing is the most selfish practice possible. It's a deliberate creation of an ideal world in one’s thoughts. Put simply, it's a great way of getting to “experience” joyful things that are impossible in real life. Fantasizing releases endorphins in the brain roughly equal to or greater than that of physical exercise, or reading a thrilling novel. Most Objectivists, however, do not know how to make an objectively good fantasy. This is a shame, because fantasies can be about literally anything you want.

So how do you fantasize? True fantasizing is not idle daydreaming. It needs your focus and attention to detail. That said, fantasizing is an art more than a science. When fantasizing, you are basically telling a real-time story about yourself in your mind. It may be with images in your minds’ eye, or words, preferably both.

Detail is key. If you wanted to fantasize about yourself flying through the air, you can’t just shout “flying” to your mind and expect your fantasy to be at all enjoyable. Our minds aren't platonic and we don't deal with forms well. Picture it in your minds’ eye, be descriptive with thoughts. Where are you flying? Over the mountains? Across the ocean? Through space? What’s below or around you? Billy goats and pine trees? Dolphins or schools of tropical fish? Other planets passing by? What are you using to fly? Wings? Superpowers? A spaceship? Make a mental motion picture and flesh it out as much as possible.

Another important lesson is to imagine your emotions, really feel yourself into your fantasy. Forget for just a moment that your fantasy isn’t real life. The important thing in enjoyment is to lose yourself in the moment, just as you did while reading Atlas Shrugged. That’s not real either. Rearden metal and force fields don’t really exist. But fantasy, both the written word or just in our own heads, is the closest that we humans have. It is one of life’s most enjoyable experiences.

If all of this seem overwhelming, don’t worry. The art of fantasizing takes practice, just like writing, painting, or playing an instrument. Your mind is your canvas. If you’ve fleshed out your fantasy, or started to do so, and it doesn’t strike your interest, you needn’t continue it. If you aren’t satisfied, “clear the canvas” by imagining yourself popping out of existence and into another place. If your fantasy is only mildly enjoyable, but not ecstatic or blissful, don’t give up! There’s no limit to the ecstatic feeling besides your dedication to realizing your own happiness. Sometimes it can take up to 30 minutes to really get into a fantasy and feel that emotional thrill, but it might just be one of the best things you ever do.

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I'm all for developing and using one's imaginative powers, but what you've described here seems rather pointless.

I might have fantasized about myself flying through the air as a very young child, but as an adult I don't find it appealing.

Using my mind toward an actual, creative goal gives me great pleasure. This sort of fantasy strikes me at best as a waste of time, at worst a dubious use of one's mental faculties.

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On 9/26/2017 at 5:07 PM, CartsBeforeHorses said:

objectively good fantasy

Isn't a fantasy, by nature, a subjective experience? In that sense, a fantasy is something that is not part of objective reality.

There is a school of thought in psychology that there is such a thing as "positive illusion" that has psychological benefits. But fantasy is imagination, it is not part of defining what really exists which is the domain of philosophy. So your fantasy will not help you know what the truth is, in fact, it will move you away from it. Although, I admit that it can motivate you ... sometimes.

So it is a double-edged sword. Fantasy can have life-enhancing qualities. When to have them, why to have them, how to have them may be a valid research topic but in an objectivist forum, I suspect there will be a lot of pushback. It is more of a question of "how should I manipulate my consciousness". You are free to focus or not to.

On 9/26/2017 at 5:07 PM, CartsBeforeHorses said:

True fantasizing is not idle daydreaming.

It may seem like you are redefining something. You might have to rename or always use the phrase "True Fantasizing" as opposed to fantasizing. Fantasizing can mean idle daydreaming. As long as you can distinguish truth from fantasy, it could be okay.

On 9/26/2017 at 5:07 PM, CartsBeforeHorses said:

That’s not real either. Rearden metal and force fields don’t really exist. But fantasy, both the written word or just in our own heads, is the closest that we humans have. It is one of life’s most enjoyable experiences.

Here you are getting into artistic fantasy. Agreed. It is both enjoyable and it is necessary.

The key is that you can't use fantasy to create a business, or a legal system, or a government. The belief in "social justice" is usually based on a fantasy. "God will save you" is another fantasy. Or "Socialism works" has been a pretty deadly fantasy.  So how do you propose to deal with those fantasies?

 

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2 hours ago, KevinD said:

I'm all for developing and using one's imaginative powers, but what you've described here seems rather pointless.

Is listening to Michael Jackson, playing Pac Man, and keeping a pet cat pointless? Leonard Peikoff did all three because they gave him joy. They were idle activities that he engaged in while he wasn't helping to "save the world."

2 hours ago, KevinD said:

I might have fantasized about myself flying through the air as a very young child, but as an adult I don't find it appealing.

Might I ask why? When you are waiting in line at the airport, or sitting on a bus, what do you think about? Why not fill your thoughts with joyous things?

2 hours ago, KevinD said:

Using my mind toward an actual, creative goal gives me great pleasure.

Me too. Why not do both, like I do?

2 hours ago, KevinD said:

This sort of fantasy strikes me at best as a waste of time, at worst a dubious use of one's mental faculties.

Please define what you mean by "dubious use"?

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

Isn't a fantasy, by nature, a subjective experience? In that sense, a fantasy is something that is not part of objective reality.

Just because the contents of a fantasy are subjective, does not mean that fantasy qua fantasy cannot be judged as objectively good. A fantasy's purpose is to delight the fantasizer. If it succeeds in this purpose, it is an objectively good fantasy. If it fails in this purpose, we can call it an objectively bad fantasy. People have those all the time when they imagine themselves getting in a car wreck and are terrified. Psychologists call that "catastrophizing" and it has objectively measurable negative effects on people, i.e. they are afraid to drive, or they refrain from driving.

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It may seem like you are redefining something. You might have to rename or always use the phrase "True Fantasizing" as opposed to fantasizing. Fantasizing can mean idle daydreaming. As long as you can distinguish truth from fantasy, it could be okay.

I am redefining "fantasizing" in the same way that Ayn Rand re-defined "selfishness." Most people think of "selfishness" as a bad thing but we use that word to mean a good way to live life. In the same way, most people view "fantasizing" as a sexual perversion, or as something that only children do and you "grow out of it." That's ridiculous. I am redefining "fantasizing" as a way in which man can directly and instantly use his mind for his own happiness. I would add "bearing in mind that it isn't actually part of objective reality" to the end of that, but that should be obvious and assumed. Ayn Rand didn't add, "by the way, this isn't real" to her writings on aesthetics, so I shouldn't be saddled with the same burden.

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There is a school of thought in psychology that there is such a thing as "positive illusion" that has psychological benefits. But fantasy is imagination, it is not part of defining what really exists which is the domain of philosophy. So your fantasy will not help you know what the truth is, in fact, it will move you away from it. Although, I admit that it can motivate you ... sometimes.

Emotions are not tools of cognition but they are critical to man's enjoyment of his life. I would add that fantasies, while not critical, should serve the same purpose in Objectivist thought. Not part of defining reality, but can be enjoyed themselves.

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So it is a double-edged sword. Fantasy can have life-enhancing qualities. When to have them, why to have them, how to have them may be a valid research topic but in an objectivist forum, I suspect there will be a lot of pushback. It is more of a question of "how should I manipulate my consciousness". You are free to focus or not to.

Some people seem to have a knee-jerk, "Well it's not real so I refuse to enjoy a good fantasy" reaction.

Imagine if they had that reaction to works of literature. "It's not real, so I refuse to enjoy it."

The "world" of Atlas Shrugged only exists in the minds of its readers. The "world" of my fantasies exists only in my mind.

Why not enjoy both?

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Here you are getting into artistic fantasy. Agreed. It is both enjoyable and it is necessary.

The only difference between artistic and personal fantasy is that one is shared with others, while the other is personal. I've written my fantasies down before and shared them with no one. They were necessary for me because I felt like crap that day and there was nothing in real life I could do to immediately change the facts and circumstances. So my fantasy made me feel immediately better. Even though I knew that my thoughts weren't real, I enjoyed them for what they were.

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The key is that you can't use fantasies to create a business, or a legal system, or a government. The belief in "social justice" is usually based on fantasies. "God will save you" is another fantasy. Or "Socialism works" has been a pretty deadly fantasy.  So how do you propose to deal with those fantasies?

I propose that we call them out as fantasies, but we don't take an intrinsicist view like "all fantasies are bad." We instead say, "this is not based on objective reality, it is a fantasy so it cannot inform us of how to live on earth."

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2 hours ago, CartsBeforeHorses said:

Just because the contents of a fantasy are subjective, does not mean that fantasy qua fantasy cannot be judged as objectively good.

 

I agree with some of what you say as in Fantasy is necessary and maligned but I don't agree with the place you put it in the hierarchy of values.

Fantasy definition: "the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable." (keep in mind, that includes positive and negative fantasies)

Even if Peikoff liked "listening to Michael Jackson, playing Pac Man, and keeping a pet cat" it can be pointless sometimes. In the case of being the beneficiary of his actions, consistently acting in ways that do NOT benefit him personally, eventually, will lead to his nonexistence. Unlike Fantasy, Selfishness is never pointless, it is always necessary.

If you don't do actions that sustain your self, you will die. Angels or star trek replicators will not create your food i.e. that is a fantasy.

"The ultimate value is life. The primary virtue is rationality. The proper beneficiary is oneself."  OPAR (p. 206).

Selfishness qua self-interest is moral, it is what ought to be. Rand did not redefine it from what it actually is. She was just waking people up to the fact that it was hijacked to mean something else. Fantasizing qua fantasizing can be good or bad depending on the situation.

Rand believed that man should be selfish, all time. Do you believe that a person should fantasize all the time?

Fantasy being a fundamental virtue is fantasy.

Edited by Easy Truth

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15 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I agree with some of what you say as in Fantasy is necessary and maligned but I don't agree with the place you put it in the hierarchy of values.

I did not assign fantasy a place in the hierarchy of values, and if I appeared to do so I can understand. I apologize that I wasn't clearer. I didn't say that fantasy is more important than any other objectively good, virtuous practices such as starting a business. Fantasy is less important than doing positive things in real life to improve your position. I just said that fantasy is important to enjoy life, in the same way that other recreational activities are important to enjoy life. So it fits in the hierarchy as a component of "recreation," which is under "productivity" in the hierarchy of values.

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Fantasy definition: "the faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable." (keep in mind, that includes positive and negative fantasies)

"Negative fantasies" are more properly defined as delusions, or catastrophizing. Calling socialism a "negative fantasy" is like calling Adolph Hitler a "negative celebrity" or Jackson Pollock paintings "negative artwork." Hitler is more properly defined as infamous, while Jackson Pollock paintings are more properly defined as garbage.

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Even if Peikoff liked "listening to Michael Jackson, playing Pac Man, and keeping a pet cat" it can be pointless sometimes. In the case of being the beneficiary of his actions, consistently acting in ways that do NOT benefit him personally, eventually, will lead to his nonexistence. Unlike Fantasy, Selfishness is never pointless, it is always necessary.

He did like such things as he mentioned as much in his podcasts. And obviously he didn't do those things all the time. Obviously. He obviously does a lot of real things to sustain himself. And obviously fantasy isn't always necessary. Why are you wasting so much time stating the obvious to me? That's pointless, too.

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Selfishness qua self-interest is moral, it is what ought to be. Rand did not redefine it from what it actually is. She was just waking people up to the fact that it was hijacked to mean something else. Fantasizing qua fantasizing can be good or bad depending on the situation.

Which is exactly what I meant by "objectively good fantasy." The situation in which a fantasy can be good. I hate to keep repeating myself, but an objectively good fantasy should be 1. Enjoyable 2. Not taken to be objective reality and 3. Done in moderation the same as any other recreational activity. What, do I have to add, "Don't try to act out your fantasies of jumping off a cliff and being able to fly" to the list, too? Or how about, "Don't forget to breathe while you're fantasizing?"

Please quit saddling me with the burden of stating the obvious, and more importantly please quit saddling yourself with it. I'm currently on vacation from work so I'll bet that you have less free time than I do. Can we move on from such obviousness? A fantasy is not productive to real life, but at least it is enjoyable. Repeating self-evident, objective things about fantasy is not enjoyable nor is it productive. I'm not having fun wasting time here.

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If you don't do actions that sustain your self, you will die. Angels or star trek replicators will not create your food i.e. that is a fantasy.

"The ultimate value is life. The primary virtue is rationality. The proper beneficiary is oneself."  OPAR (p. 206).

Rand believed that man should be selfish, all time. Do you believe that a person should fantasize all the time?

Fantasy being a fundamental virtue is fantasy.

Fantasy being a fundamental virtue is never what I have said. I don't know who you are arguing against, but it's not me. I said that fantasy has great value in certain situations. And obviously it shouldn't be done all the time. Selfishness should be practiced at all times. I was only making the analogy of "selfishness" to "fantasizing" to state that I was redefining the word in the same way that Rand defined it. I wasn't trying to say that fantasy should be practiced all the time! How could you even think that I'd make an argument that stupid?

We're both Objectivists, neither one of us is that stupid. Have a little faith in your fellow traveler that I wouldn't make such a moronic argument.

Edited by CartsBeforeHorses

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On 9/28/2017 at 6:40 PM, KevinD said:

I'm all for developing and using one's imaginative powers, but what you've described here seems rather pointless.

I might have fantasized about myself flying through the air as a very young child, but as an adult I don't find it appealing.

Using my mind toward an actual, creative goal gives me great pleasure. This sort of fantasy strikes me at best as a waste of time, at worst a dubious use of one's mental faculties.

(sarcasm on) What?  You don't fantasize?  How dare you not fantasize!  How do you expect people to think Objectivism is fun if you don't fantasize?  Party pooper! (sarcasm off).   

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On 9/28/2017 at 10:05 PM, CartsBeforeHorses said:

..............., so I shouldn't be saddled with the same burden.  ...........

You are being a little sensitive.  Go ahead and fantasize if you want to.  It's your life.   

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48 minutes ago, Craig24 said:

(sarcasm on) What?  You don't fantasize?  How dare you not fantasize!  How do you expect people to think Objectivism is fun if you don't fantasize?  Party pooper! (sarcasm off).   

Funny how I'm the one who gets ridiculed as an "ayatollah of fun" when people in this thread were questioning the validity of an objectively fun thing. I don't judge you if you don't fantasize. I think it's a mental faculty that lots of people (not everyone) might find enjoyable to develop.

39 minutes ago, Craig24 said:

You are being a little sensitive.  Go ahead and fantasize if you want to.  It's your life.   

Considering that I was being attacked for a position that I never held... that "fantasy is a fundamental virtue," I was confused at why this strawman was being set up and shot right through the straw.

I appreciate your tolerance.

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