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Are our fantasies immune from morality?

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Immoral fantasies are not uncommon, nor are they necessarily unhealthy. Some are silly and unrealistic, though others can be genuinely disturbing. You might fantasize about kicking your boss in the shins, or having an affair with your best friend’s spouse, or planning the perfect murder. Everyone enjoys a dark little fantasy at some time. Which leads us to wonder, is it ever morally wrong to do so? Or, a better way to put the question, under what conditions is it morally wrong to fantasize about something? A natural response to these questions is to answer flatly: no. It can never be morally wrong to fantasize about something simply because it is a fantasy. My imagination is not a space where morality intrudes. Rather, what happens in my imagination is my business, and no one else’s moral qualms should have bearing on this most personal space. Despite this, there are circumstances where there is good reason to be morally concerned with some imaginings even if we still insist that people should be free to do so. The notion of an ethics of imagination falls into the interesting logical space where morality and legality come apart, that realm of morality that lies beyond what can be legislated. It is this same logical space where we find things like the ethical condemnation of a cheating lover (at least, between unmarried lovers). Cheaters cannot be arrested, but they are still jerks. It is not illegal to cheat on a lover, but it is immoral. The same is true for fantasies. We are free to imagine whatever we wish, but some fantasies are morally problematic. So, when is it morally wrong to imagine something immoral? The short answer is that it is morally wrong to fantasize about something when that fantasy feeds an immoral desire. Our fantasies feed certain desires for us, typically desires that otherwise go unfulfilled. The slightly longer answer is this. Our fantasies are often tied to our desires—not always, but often. It is not an accident that we fantasize about. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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