Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Moral Fiction

Is There Any “Moral” Merit In Reading Fiction?


Why do you read fiction?

morality

Image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski ~ http://www.sxc.hu/profile/mzacha

I think there are as many reasons to read fiction as there are people on this earth.

Sure, some of those reasons are common to lots of people — entertainment, pleasure, exploration, excitement.

But, reading fiction to become more moral?

Perhaps a bit of definition is called for

My dictionary says moral means:

“Concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character”

Some folks like to split hairs over whether something is moral or ethical yet the etymology of ethics says it’s “the science of morals”.

Then there are the arguments about what “good” and “bad” mean.

And, there are the philosophers who would have you believe that all morals are merely relative—there is no firm standard of morality—quite popular now in our heavily materialistic culture

Naturally, I have my own hard won ideas about ethics and morality and their place in fiction.

The easiest way to find out what I think is to read my short novel, Notes from An Alien <— Free :-)

Recently, a  Stanford University news article said:

“The relationship between literature and morality – and the proper role of both – has long engaged philosophers, critics and writers. But at a recent event hosted by the Stanford McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, Stanford humanities scholars said that while literature is capable of providing new perspectives and challenging our assumptions, imparting morality might not be one of its strong suits.”

A few comments from participants at that event:

“The best we can say about literature is that its effects are not reliable

“Literary fiction helps us develop additional schemas, other ways of seeing the world different from our own

literature plays on our emotions instead of giving us rational reasons to adopt new beliefs, so we can easily be manipulated by it.”

“Let the truth do its work. And if people aren’t yet capable of discerning truth from lies, help them. Cultivate their ability to separate good from bad arguments.”

I put a video of the event below

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There was a man named ‘Abdu’l-Bahá who spent 40 years in prison because of his moral beliefs.

He gave a talk at Stanford University back in 1912.

Here’s an excerpt from that talk:

“If the animals are savage and ferocious, it is simply a means for their subsistence and preservation. They are deprived of that degree of intellect which can reason and discriminate between right and wrong, justice and injustice; they are justified in their actions and not responsible. When man is ferocious and cruel toward his fellowman, it is not for subsistence or safety. His motive is selfish advantage and willful wrong.”

If you’d like to read the whole talk, you can download it as a Word .doc or an Adobe .pdf.

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If you happen to watch the video, I’d love to know in the Comments what you thought/felt…
If your mobile device isn’t showing the video, here’s its YouTube address

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Fiction and Social Justice ~ Can They Coexist?


Should writers of fiction consider devoting their talents to portraying moral actions in the face of social injustice?

Does fiction have sufficient influence in readers’ lives to serve as inspiration for taking steps toward social justice?

I, personally, believe the answer to both those questions is Yes, though I deeply understand why many folks would say No

One type of No would come from fear, another from feelings of inadequacy, another from hesitation to expose oneself to criticism.

The most dangerous No would come from a belief that fiction is not the venue for portraying moral issues

I’ve written here before about writers taking social responsibility and making a difference in the world.

And, I’ve also indicated that making a difference with fiction doesn’t have to mean writing books that treat the reader like a moral whipping-post

Just for a second, imagine a world that’s swiftly unraveling itself, displaying multiple interwoven crises that all seem to be coming to a head at the same time.

If it’s assumed fiction has sufficient power and influence to move readers toward acts of moral courage; and, if getting a book published was technologically easy, would authors who devoted their art and talent to inspiring acts of social justice help that world in some way??

The fact is, we live in that kind of world and, I believe, fiction writers do have influence, and it is easier than ever to have things published

If you’re not one of the naysayers to fiction and social justice working together and you’d like a bit of inspiration to take up the challenge of integrating issues of the day into your fiction, watch this video of Jacqueline Novogratz talking about “Inspiring a life of immersion”.
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