Fantasy is a memory without images. It is a phenomenon of thinking about memories and people without pictures.
There are people who simply do not imagine pictures, for example while reading a literary work. For them, descriptions of landscapes and main characters play no role. Namely, it is not even clear to them what the purpose of creating such mental images is. They do not lack imagination, nor do they simply think of ideas in pictures.
This phenomenon was defined as a fantasy in 2015, but it has existed for much longer. He was spotted by John Stuart Mill in the 19th century, and in his claim he presented the “problem of someone else’s consciousness”. Namely, we cannot, on the basis of someone else’s behavior, conclude what is hidden in their consciousness, nor whether they think about the same things as us, during the same behavior or activity. Some people have clear mental images, while others in the same situations are completely unfamiliar with this phenomenon.
Why and how often does fantasy occur?
Previous research has shown little. Fantasy is innate, and cognitive functions in this case develop differently than in those who rely on images. In 2010, a man came to the University of Exter to whom something began to happen at the age of sixty-five, something unreal for him until then, which one of the professors later called a fantasy.
Professor Adam Zeman published a paper based on this case, and people who recognized this phenomenon began to call him. Five years later, Zeman’s team published a research in which several people participated, and then this impossibility of creating mental images was given an official name. Zeman is still working on researching afantasia, as well as answering why and how often it occurs.
Philosophers of the empiricist tradition in the 17th and 18th centuries emphasized the importance of mental images. How important is it in the perception and meaning of language? Some philosophers equated the meaning of an idea with mental images, while others considered the meaning of language to be based on an idea, or mental images.
In the philosophy of the 19th and 20th centuries, the meaning of the mental image as a carrier of meaning has weakened a lot.
Professor Adam Zeman noticed during the research of the phenomenon of fantasy that people have developed the power of abstract observation, that they are creative, to read, and to paint. They have also been observed to dream in images, although they cannot consciously create them while awake. They rely on facts, not photographic memory.