In a recent column Paul Krugman spoke of “fantasy posing as hardheaded realism.”* As might be expected, Krugman’s subject was economic, his theme political. But his well-wrought phrase has resonance beyond the spheres of politics and economics.
To begin with, it evokes the stereotype of the hardheaded realist—the seasoned, no-nonsense person who lives in the real world. At the same time, it suggests that realism may be little more than a pose. If, as Krugman implies, realism can be false, the opposite must also be the case. What is true realism, we might inquire, and what are its salient traits? Is it by nature hardheaded—and hardhearted as well? (more…)