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On Loving Our EnemiesEssays in Moral Psychology$
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Jerome Neu

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199862986

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199862986.001.0001

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The Ethics of Fantasy

The Ethics of Fantasy

Chapter:
(p.21) 2 The Ethics of Fantasy
Source:
On Loving Our Enemies
Author(s):

Jerome Neu

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199862986.003.0002

This chapter explores the ethics of fantasy. It begins with a discussion of the contrast between thought and action in ethical theory. It then turns to masturbation, and to fantasies that may emerge during sex with others, and to fantasies that include actual others, and to fantasies that get embodied in pornography. It argues that fantasies in themselves may do no harm, even if their content is appalling rather than ultimately innocent—it is the underlying desires, and not the fantasies, that lead to action. But it must be acknowledged and emphasized that fantasies, like symptoms, may reflect potent desires rather than ineffectual wishes. What may be truly difficult is distinguishing between fantasies which serve as harmless safety valves and fantasies which should be taken as symptoms, as warning signs. But even in the latter case one should not mistake the warning for the problem and try to suppress that which might serve, if only the warning were heeded, to prevent real harm.

Keywords:   thought, action, ethical theory, masturbation, sex, fantasies, pornography

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