Dear Mr Malstrom,
I find it odd that you claim how people in olden days had a more
impressive model of how we think than today because they made more use
of the word imagination. What is this? The Muppet babies school of
psychology and philosophy?
I didn’t say *people*. I said individuals like Shakespeare and, more generally, the thinking around some of those Elizabethan playwrights at the time.
One more modern idea that may be useful is Daniel Dennet’s concept of
the Intentional Stance.
Let me stop you there. This is a reason why academics do not tend to have much influence outside academia and why philosophy majors remain unemployed.
If these people are so brilliant, so much wiser than anything, if they have all the answers, why are they unable to make anything on the same scale as say…. a Shakespeare or someone else? In fact, why are they unable to make anything that sells at all?
“Here is how it works: first you decide to treat the object whose
behaviour is to be predicted as a rational agent; then you figure out
what beliefs that agent ought to have, given its place in the world
and its purpose. Then you figure out what desires it ought to have, on
the same considerations, and finally you predict that this rational
agent will act to further its goals in the light of its beliefs. A
little practical reasoning from the chosen set of beliefs and desires
will in most instances yield a decision about what the agent ought to
do; that is what you predict the agent will do.” (Daniel Dennett, The
Intentional Stance, p. 17) -
This also explains the interest in Shakespeare.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
“Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Do you realize that Shakespeare absolutely mocked these people? All the poets did.
He creates characters who we are invited to think of as real people and are also invited to predict their fates, probably knowing ahead that the play being a comedy or tragedy that a certain type of fate is due to them. We like it when characters exceed and defeat our expectations rather than
being characters that are less than the ones modelled in our minds. A
really great sign of good characters is that we carry on imagining
their possible lives in our heads after the play has ended and even
putting ourselves in the picture but, I agree with you, for people to
put this sort of day dream forward as good fiction is nonsense.
Fiction should be written by a crafty manipulator, not by an easily
impressed imitator, especially one who falls for the work of a master
manipulator without seeing the manipulation then thinks they have
improved it with a few crude embellishments.
The problem with games is the inability to create characters through
computer code that are satisfying when we interact with them. On the
other hand the brain can be more than satisfied, even overstimulated,
when modelling interaction with physical worlds and tool use in games.
This is why the language of game design does not talk about capturing
the imagination of Shakespeare but is still so stimulating to the
player. It’s true that in mutliplayer you can capture some of the
stimulation of the intentional stance and AI can be used to complement
other design elements but humans and computer scripts are rarely as
fascinating as the great characters of fiction. Especially on playing
a second time.
Since you seem to have the answers, go out and make a “Hamlet” or an “Othello”.
Here is something I want you to consider: that you are not actually engaging in any philosophy or even thought at all. I want you to consider that you have not left the imagination arena and are engaging like a philosophical Don Quixote. Think of it as a bad Star Trek episode where the characters have fun on the Holodeck, return to the rest of the ship, but they don’t realize they are still actually on the Holodeck.
I want to give a very clear example of this. Every single year, there are new ‘biographies’ of Shakespeare published in very hefty tomes and written in a language of authority with towering words. Of course, there is no new biographical information coming out that warrants yet MORE biographies. In fact, the biographical information out there is extremely scarce with little to no details. So how in the world can there be a ‘hefty tome’ in the first place? The academic fills in the (indeed) sizable holes with his own imagination. Of course, the academic will profusely protest this is what he is doing, but the result speaks of itself.
This is perhaps why the ‘Shakespeare academics’ are so viciously hostile to the authorship question (raised throughout the centuries from famous poets, novelists [e.g. Mark Twain]). The authorship question is saying that these academics are still trapped in imagination and are writing about the wrong guy which would explain the hostility.
Considering theories of the subject imagination is, itself, practicing imagination. The only way out is to think more with your hands. Creating imagination in others would be the best way to understand it, would it not?
There is a reason why skilled people in the ‘imaginary’ professions such as writers, artists, and musicians tend to ignore everyone’s ‘advice’ except from other fellow writers, artists, and musicians. You will know the tree by its fruit. If someone does something, it is because they understand it. They only listen to people who can actually do it.
People who understand things do not get on a soapbox and declare they understand it. They just do it.