What Is Emotional Truth?
By Bryan Caplan
As a rule, I don’t care for “hard sci-fi.” In fact, artistically speaking, I normally dislike true stories of any kind. And I barely care about continuity errors. When I read novels or watch movies, I crave what I call “emotional truth.” This recently prompted Robin Hanson to tweet:
@bryan_caplan Someday you should blog on what you mean by “emotional truth”.
— robin hanson (@robinhanson) May 12, 2017
I don’t have a full answer today, but I’d start by quoting this passage from Being John Malkovich:
Well, Maxine, I’m not sure exactly. Perhaps it’s the idea of becoming someone else for a little while. Being inside another skin. Moving differently, thinking differently, feeling differently.
Why can’t hard sci-fi or true stories fulfill this ideal? In principle, they could. But when creators spend a lot of mental energy on the accuracy of their physics or the historical sequence of events, they tend to lose sight of their characters’ inner lives. A well-told story is designed to maximize the audiences’ identification with the characters – to bridge the Problem of Other Minds via art. And you know a creator has succeeded when you temporarily lose yourself in the story.