Friday, April 30, 2021

Well Said: The Riddle of Fiction

The riddle of fiction comes to this: Evolution is ruthlessly utilitarian. How has the seeming luxury of fiction not been eliminated from human life?
Jonathan Gottschal, The Storytelling Animal
Jonathan Gottschall measures everything against evolution, which is the only measure he really trusts for giving scientific answers about people and story. Therefore, he isn't able to answer some of the questions he poses in his book because some things just can't be measured by science. (It's still an interesting book. You don't have to answer every question all the time.)

That was what made it entertaining when, some time later in his books, he inadvertently answered the above question with the conclusion that I, as a Catholic, already knew.
Why do stories cluster around a few big themes, and why do they hew so closely to problem structure? Why are stories this way instead of all the other ways they could be? I think that problem structure reveals a major function of storytelling. It suggests that the human mind was shaped for story, so that it could be shaped by story.
Jonathan Gottschal, The Storytelling Animal

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