I was fortunate enough to be able to attend one of the lectures offered during the Melbourne Writer's Festival recently, where one of the speakers (Chandrahas Choudhury: see his blog here) made a very interesting argument. The idea he put forward was that literature, and fiction specifically, amounts to a sixth sense, in that it allows humanity to experience the world in a different way. Sight, sound, touch, smell, hearing all provide unique and distinct ways of understanding the world around us and the inhabitants thereof, and Chandrahas postulated that fiction is the only way that we as humans have discovered (as of yet) to allow ourselves to see what someone else is thinking, thereby expanding our comprehension through not only a perspective distinct from our other senses, but one that is separated from our own mind. In essence, we have created a false sense to give us a more real understanding of the world. An interesting idea.
What do you think? Is fiction a sixth sense? Or are we simply over-justifying our love of reading?