- To say that something is fictional is not to say that it lacks any significance. Money is a good example of a significant fiction. The material employed in money — metal, paper, or most recently here in Canada, plastic — has no intrinsic value in relationship to other objects (as far as I can tell — actually, as far as I can tell, nothing has any intrinsic value in relationship to anything else). So why can I trade two pieces of paper for one piece of wooden furniture? Because we, as a group, choose to participate within a fictional understanding of that which we call “money.” Money is like the Emperor–clothed in incomparably beautiful robes… as long as we all pretend that he is not naked.
- Other examples abound: nation-states are also fictions, as are all political boundaries, but our choice to participate in those fictions has serious ramifications for our actions. As I stated before, we are all creating the world in which we live, and when we create a (fictional) world that has (fictional) components like money and nation-states, how we act in that (fictional) world will be significantly modified.
- Language, itself, may be the most powerful example of this. Non-sense, or fiction, that we take as “sensible” or “real” based upon the games that we play with it.
- That said, to say that something is a game is not to say that it is not serious. Some games, of course, are more serious than others–usually, what is risked in a game of Scrabble amongst friends is significantly different than what is risked in a game of Russian Roulette and the same spectrum of significance applies, I think, to the different language games we play as we construct meaning and value and, literally, make sense of our lives. Yes, all language is game playing, yes, all definitions are tautologies as worked out within the rules of a particular game, but that game can be deathly serious. Again, what matters is the way in which the game impacts one’s actions.
- Of course, all of this assumes that game-playing and participating in fictional constructions of the world do, in fact, impact a person’s actions. This assumption could be reversed — we could argue that one’s beliefs and values are determined by one’s actions and not vice versa. In fact, I believe that this is the case far more often than we care to think — we do what we want to do and only then find ways to narrate those actions so that we are good people within the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and within the stories others tell about us. However, I don’t think this has to be a strict either/or. Actions (more often? ) influence beliefs; but beliefs (less often?) can influence actions.
- The other assumption operating here is that, while appearing to try to objectively describe things as they are, there is still a system of valorisation operating within this post. That is to say, I believe that things are significant to the extent that they impact what we do and make our actions more or less life-giving or death-dealing. I am not just saying that fictions impact action, nor am I saying that game-playing can have repercussions for a person’s lived existence, I am saying those things are significant because of that.