Y'know...I've always considered myself to be an English Literature major, but today, I received the insult of insults. I was told I was coming at things from a scientist point of view!
Apparently, I am too practical for the world of literature - or, at least, for literature as read through the eyes of a philosopher. Why? Simply because I believe that it is important to make the distinction between fiction and reality.
Of course, that begs the question - what is fiction? If we define fiction as something that is "untrue," then just because a story is fabricated does not necessarily make it entirely "fictional" in the context of distinguishing it from "reality." Yes, it is a story of fiction, but it may also contain many truths and those truths are definitely not part of the fictional aspect of the tale.
Therefore, I do not mean to suggest that there is no practical purpose to imagination or to stories, nor am I saying there is no value in them - even if we can't find them to be particularly practical in our every day lives - but I do feel it is imperative to recognize fiction for what it is.
I am a creative writer. I spend an awful lot of time conjuring up fictions. That does not mean I don't recognize them as fictional, even if they are based on me or on actual events or emotions. Even children who play imagination games and get so completely engrossed in them...even they recognize that what they are playing is something from their imagination. They know that when they go in for supper, they are stepping out of the game for a little while. They can see that there are two worlds - the world of adults and the world of the game. They do not think the adults are playing with them. They know fiction from reality. It could be that they create a new reality for themselves during the game, but they still can tell the difference between that reality and the tangible reality that exists outside their imaginations.
There is a difference between hoping, dreaming, imagining and actually believing that something exists when it does not. How can there not be infinitely more value in being true to one's self and one's reality than in living a shallow life of lies and illusions?
And there is a difference between those shallow lies and illusions vs. using your imagination to deal with reality. For instance, in A Little Princess, Sara uses her imagination to help her get through her Cinderella story. She knows that what she imagines is not real, she does not go around sincerely telling people that she is imprisoned in the Bastille (for instance), but she allows herself to go along with the game just enough that it helps her get through her troubles.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, there is creating a world of imagination, and then there is living a life of illusion and delusion and denying reality altogether. This latter thing is what I'm against. I find it unethical to allow such delusions to go on in someone else and I find it a shallow existence to deny reality in favor of illusion.
With Northanger Abbey, there would have been a big difference if Catherine had only hoped to find a Gothic story going on at the abbey, or even played a game that there was one, as opposed to actually believing one existed. If she was only playing, she would have allowed herself to slip into her imagination and deliciously pretend exciting things were happening. But the fact that she went so far as to intrude into Henry's dead mother's rooms, and the fact that she actually accused Mr. Tilney of murdering his wife to Henry's face - and in all seriousness, too! - shows the danger and preposterousness of allowing yourself to believe that it is perfectly okay for fiction - true fiction - to be substituted for reality.
But this does not mean I am against imagination - believe me, I am all for escaping into your imagination. I just don't believe in substituting fiction for reality. Yes, I see them as separate, though there are some blurring of the lines, and yes, I see value in both.
So, alright, perhaps I am too practical for philosophy. But I have a perfect imagination and yet I am still able to be true to myself. And that's what counts.