In his work, “On Fairy Stories,” J. R. R. Tolkien offers a detailed account of what he calls Sub-creation, along with the corresponding notions of Primary and Secondary Worlds. In this paper, I suggest that Tolkien’s concept of Sub-creation can be creatively appropriated in the realm of moral psychology and there applied to the fundamental relationship between self and other – or in Judeo-Christian terms, “I” and my neighbor. Through appeal to Tolkien’s thought and to the wider Christian theological tradition, and in constructive tension with the contemporary psychoanalytic attention to “intersubjectivity,” I attempt to elucidate the power and appropriate function of the human imagination to dispose us to good moral action, and so to bring us closer to ultimate happiness.


An embryonic form of this essay was first offered as a paper at the "Psychology and the Other" Conference, sponsored by Lesley University, in Cambridge, MA, 2013.



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