Horgan: Why do you write fiction? Doesn’t that mean philosophy isn’t really that fulfilling for you?
Schwitzgebel: Wait, writing fiction can’t be a way of doing philosophy? Sartre, Rousseau, Zhuangzi, Voltaire, Nietzsche and Borges might disagree! Is anyone currently doing better work on the ethics of technology than the TV series Black Mirror?
For instance, weirdly implemented group minds feature both in my science fiction stories and in my expository philosophy. Under what conditions could there be real thought and consciousness at a group level? … In a series of fictions, I’ve explored possibilities of group consciousness and cognition hypothetically, imagining cases of group cognition via hypnotic memory induction, via millions of monkeys trading gold foil, and via evolutionary processes among an infinitude of randomly constituted computers.
Think of it this way. A philosophical thought experiment is a mini-fiction. As a fiction, it engages the imagination and emotions better than purely abstract propositions do. It meets the human mind where it’s strongest. … We need to sink our teeth into specific examples. We need to imagine scenarios, work out cases, engage our social and emotional cognition. A fully developed fiction simply carries the thought experiment further, making it richer, more immersive, more engaging—and potentially more illuminating for those reasons.
— Read on www.scientificamerican.com/article/on-crazyism-jerkitude-garden-snails-and-other-philosophical-puzzles/