Why the human mind can say stories that never happened? are there a kind of hidden connection between many worlds interpretation?

  • 2
    Your question is about counterfactuals, which is a very big thing in philosophy, especially when causality is concerned. In this sense it does have a connection to many worlds, but many worlds is not special in this regards. All physical theories must address the notion of counterfactuals, even if they deny their relevance.
    – Lucas
    Apr 17, 2014 at 8:39
  • To teach you how to think stories which CAN happen.
    – Asphir Dom
    Apr 17, 2014 at 9:08
  • You can see : Gregory Currie, The Nature of Fiction (1990) and Alberto Voltolini, How Ficta Follow Fiction: A Syncretistic Account of Fictional Entities (2006). Also G.Currie, Narratives and Narrators: A Philosophy of Stories (2010) Apr 17, 2014 at 13:09
  • One way is our ability to consider "what if" scenarios - "spawn" a new model of a set of circumstances, apply some guesswork about what would happen if we applied a new situation, and evaluate the results. This is probably fundamental to our intelligence, and is the basis of a lot of AI. Arguably the "spawn a new model of a set of circumstances" is in aliognment with the "many worlds" notion Apr 17, 2014 at 15:43
  • Because if the mind couldn't predict many possibilities other than the actual course of events, it would not work, even for an animal. the mind is a powerhouse for inventing alternate possibilities, it makes animals survive better. Human rationale extends that to invent many explanations and possibilities to explain and predict events, for construction, travel, cause and effect, and is a powerhouse of inventing explanations for things. Add to that, there is the notorious human ability to socially further his position by using trickery and perceiving traps and tricks in others and in animals. Jul 2, 2014 at 20:05

8 Answers 8


The mind making up stories that never happened just means that it is able to generate them using whatever tools (concepts, maybe) it has available.

If "many worlds" refers to the theory that there are (physical) worlds for every possible future, there is no immediate connection to above question.

(sorry, new account, can't comment)


Imagine that you had a computer, with a program to generate syntactically correct sentences, and string them into paragraphs or even chapters. You would have a nonsense story! Now let us consider expanding this computer - giving it some basic rules, maybe even ending up with vague plots like RanGen's plot generator or writing very similar stories every time like the-elite.net's Random Story Generator. Consider writing a program to analyse already written books and spot patterns, and then write a story - it may well seem a little same-y or nonsense-y, but it would start to make sense. All of this without the computers ever watching a story occur. If you could write an incredible computer program on a very powerful computer - something like the human brain - it would be able to analyse words and sentences, draw on books already written and experiences already had, and like the very first simple computer, string these words into syntactically correct sentences and generate a story.

Making something up doesn't require intelligence: a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for a very long amount of time will almost surely type out Hamlet. Humans are just very good at checking that what they are writing makes sense. Writing a story is not "seeing" another universe: rather simply generating a string of words that makes sense to a human mind.



The theory I described probably has a better source. I know it from the book Anathem, by Neal Stephenson. This book is fiction, but draws heavily on historical metaphysics in a rather odd way, so this idea is probably not original to the story.

Possibly specifically because of the MWI

In the above mentioned book, two characters are at one point discussing the human perception and multiple universes. They came up with something like this: We model the universe in our minds, throwing away and reconstructing such models constantly. Those models can be quite complex, but are required in order to predict certain things or reason about what we cannot see (that clothing exists on both sides of a person was how this was presented). The simplest explanation, they reasoned, was that those models are real, and that the mind receives data from 'itself' between them - simpler than explaining that the mind can truly process universe simulations at the rate it must.

What I Think

I like the theory I mentioned. The book is far better at describing it, and much more successful at making it sound plausible than my quick summary. Even if I could do it justice, I wouldn't, because you should read the book. Again though, this is fiction. Neither you nor I should take it too seriously.

Unless, of course, it's right, in which case the world in the book exists. And the one you perceive while reading it.

The goal of philosophy is to think and to know. Hopefully you now have more questions than when you started.


It seems to me that it's part of our ability to run "what-if" scenarios.

We've evolved with enough intellectual capacity to spot trends and run simulations in our minds, trying different scenarios. We can apply more nowse (logic) to guess at an outcome - the fundamentals of planning/processing.

Perhaps a side-effect of this is to be able to concoct a scenario without it being part of a plan; it's just a story.


Other animals also tell stories that never happened. Most mammals seem to dream. If you watch your dog sleep, you can see him chasing rabbits, even if he has never met one. There are various theories about the purpose of dreams.

My favorite is that they allow for mental rehearsal of inherited skills when the stimuli that evoke them are not common enough to keep the animal in practice for when they are important to use. For instance, a dog may have the inherited ability to walk across a narrow bridge, but only if his sense of balance is maintained by rehearsing certain experiences. It may be important to retain that skill for use in emergencies, but not worth exposing the dog to the danger needed to actually practice the skill regularly. So he may be genetically programmed to dream of negotiating dangerous landscapes, instead of seeking them out in reality.

So animals wake, and they dream. But they don't seem to do both at the same time. They don't, for instance, when they meet an obstacle, turn away from it, think internally and return with a solution. Nor do we see them simply watch others fail, and then step forward with a successful strategy and overcome the obstacle on their first attempt. Human children do these things all the time.

The "Stoned Ape" theory hypothesizes this is the first major step forward from other mammals that led ultimately to human thought -- the ability to escape from literalism in the present, and powerlessness in dreams, into the state where we can both experience reality and effectively imagine how it might be different at the same time.

Terrence McKenna and Rick Strassman theorize we might have developed to this state by learning to ingest substances that contain chemicals related to dimethyltryptamine and other hallucinogens, and then by learning behaviors that provide our own internal supplies of those chemicals to maintain this state permanently. In particular, hallucinogens seem linked strongly to the ability to visualize scenes from other perspectives than our own in three dimensions, which has its own immediate value for hunting. One idea is that this might be the original impetus to include these in our diet, but that their deeper effects upon our thinking were fully incorporated over time.

Whether it happened by exposure to plants, or through internal changes, this merger of the real and the imaginary seems to be one of the things that make for the difference between real intelligence and mere experiential problem-solving. It forms a major component of the psychoanalytic philosophy of Jacques Lacan.


Even an animal is able to think things that didn't happen. If a deer sees something unusual, it will normally think "Oh No a Monster!", and a monkey may call to his friends to say the sound for leopard, where there isn't a leopard. Trickery and traps are a social reality used for hunting and war that humans have had to become very adept at predicting and using. Even plants that use copies of things that are not there, like mimicry, or a leaf-stick-insect, are lying about reality. It is a fundamental tenet of perception and survival, and a facet of perception and reality, that one thing can be perceived, and can have multiple explanations.

  • there are articles online about cats imitating bird and tamarin monkey calls for hunting, so the seeds of deception are very old, while the imagination and complexity of the lie has increased along with brain size. confusing thing, is why humans are so incredibly imaginative and good at lying... suggestions were made that neanderthals lacked the conceptual tools to lay as elaborate traps and deceptions as modern humans, so were fast decimated... lies perhaps help to develop imagination and conceptual depth by making it a major survival imperative. Jul 26, 2016 at 8:21

Human mind can put together concepts it has learned to create stories. It part of our imagination. How it works exactly is not known, but it is an important part of our intellect and learning faculty. Whether or not it is deterministic or not is an interesting question. For example, ask a person to produce a random number and he can, but how it is done is not known. Teaching stories like those from mythology and religion help us to understand life and ourselves better. Remember also that we can intuit information from the spiritual realm also via communion with God.


The funny thing is, when the human mind says the stories, they are happening. So you cannot say they never happened, when they actually are happening as we speak. =) :o) :P

You are what you think (you are).

What am I talking about.

Any story comes from memory. If you remember concepts and make a story out of them or if you falsify or glorify a story that actually happened. The listener unless he witnessed the same thing, and even then might not know the difference between a real and an imaginary story. Because when you are telling the story you are using your imagination to bring back the images so you can translate them into words.

And every time you tell the same story unless you wrote it down it will be a little bit different. You just created a new story or new world. So to speak.

Why does the above answer your question? I don't know. Maybe because the humans mind can say anything it wants to? Why can it do that? Because it needs to be flexible and able to adapt to anything. Why does it need to be flexible and adapt to anything? Because it lives in a constantly changing environment. Why is the environment constantly changing? Because it is inhabited by living beings that can adapt to anything and also well there is day/night etc.

So being able to say anything is just a by product to being able to say anything which again is necessary so you can talk to anybody about anything potentially. All you need to do is learn new things and then you can talk about them. In any particular order and or combination.

  • 2
    And in what way does this answer the OP's question?
    – user132181
    Apr 19, 2014 at 13:20
  • Too much thinking along these lines can cause schizophrenia. We need to be able to distinguish real from imaginary in our lives. Be careful :)
    – kns98
    Feb 25, 2016 at 20:00

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .