Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pity without object. Gina Tsang

How do you solve a problem like Anna Karenina?
Thomasson’s Artifactual Theory of Fictional Characters

Problem: Certain sentences of fictional discourse seem true yet there is no referent of fictional names. We emotionally engage with fictional characters yet there is no thing which we pity, desire or despise. Language and experience of fiction do not seem to match with non-existence of fictional characters.

Background:
Non-realists: those who wish to avoid ontological commitment to fictional characters
Frege, Russell (descriptivism) and Walton (‘Pretence’ view)
Realists: those who wish to postulate fictional characters
Meinong, Zalta, Parsons, Kripke and van Inwagen (abstract object view). Lewis (possibilism)

Thomasson (1999) = Realist about fictional characters.

1. What are fictional characters?

*Fictional characters are abstract artefacts.*
Artefact= an object created through the intentional activities of humans.

I1) Fictional characters are created by an author(s).

Provided there is no pre-existent character or real person to whom the author is referring (importing fictional character vs. importing real people into fiction).

I2) Fictional characters are created at a particular point in time.

I3) Fictional characters are ontologically dependent on their author(s) and literary works/ memory of the work/ competent readers of the language in which the work is written.

Some contingent entity A ontologically depends on some contingent entity B, iff necessarily, if A exists then B exists.

Two types of dependency:

D1) a fictional character is historically and rigidly dependent on its author(s).

Historic= Author brings character into existence at a particular point in time, though can exist independently thereafter.
Rigid= The character is dependent on a particular author (thus the author and social and historical circumstances need to exists in all pws in which the character exists).
Analogies= Child and parents, chair and maker, the colour of an apple and the apple, fictional work and the intentional acts of a particular author.

D2) a fictional character is constantly and generically dependent on either copies of literary work/ memory of the work/ competent readers of the language in which the work is written.

Constant= the character exists only as long as the work/memory/reader exist.
Generic= the character exists provided there exists any copy of the work/memory/reader exist.
Analogy= Government and the intentions and behaviour of its people, party and partygoers.

Most of these analogies seem unconvincing.


Further problems:
Have to give up traditional definition of ‘abstract’ that of being ideal, eternal and non-spatial.
It is not clear that the author intends to bring a character into existence in the way stipulated.
The seeming disanalogy between concrete and abstract artefacts has been ignored.

2. Why should we postulate fictional characters?

2.1 The Arguments from Language

Thomasson: Kripke’s direct theory of reference + chains of ontological dependence

Why should we posit such chains?

This is how language works: Kripke’s view can be generalised to cover fictional characters since they exist as abstract artefacts.
Separates ontological and referential worries: the desire for a sparse ontology is separated from worries about the referent of fictional names.

Quasi-indexicality and Illocutionary Acts

“The textual foundation of the character serves as the means whereby a quasi-indexical reference to the character can be made by means of which that very fictional object can be baptized by authors or readers.” (1999: 47) Emphasis added.

Illocutionary acts and possibility of error.

Serious Statements: Real versus Fictional Contexts

FC) Anna Karenina throws herself under a train.
RC) Anna Karenina first appears in chapter 18 (part 1).

FC) can be prefixed with a story operator whereas the RC) cannot be prefixed.

Thomasson cites unsatisfactory parsing of ‘serious’ statements as reason to posit fictional characters as abstract artefacts.

Intersubjective Identification: We refer to the same object when we both use the same fictional name as reference to object succeeds.

Problems:
“There is an abstract entity who we pretend throws herself under a train” does not seem like an adequate analysis of FC).
How do we manage to refer to the same abstract artefact? Through the same textual foundation?
Mixed statements do not neatly fall into either real or fictional contexts (e.g. I feel sorry for Anna Karenina when she throws herself under the train).
Creative biographies, Shakespeare’s Richard iii.





2.2. The Argument from Intentionality

Tripartite conception of intentionality:
Conscious act (the thought, desire etc)
Object (referent)
Content (like Fregean senses)

Three constraints:
Existence independence, conception dependence, context sensitivity.

There’s a non-realist reliance on either content or context to do all the work as they do not posit the object. However, this is not satisfactory for mixed cases in which two or more constraints are exercised.

a) The protagonist is loved by Vronsky.
b) Anna Karenina throws herself under a train.
c) The protagonist is the father of Goneril.

Non-realist cannot show how content in both cases refers to the same character (or perhaps more correctly, how both contents are unified) - intersubjective identification of the character fails.

Thomasson = all intentional acts have an object (not to be confused with ‘object of thought’) – intersubjective identification succeeds.

Problems:
Abundant ontology (numerous intentional objects of hallucinations/imaginings etc).
No possibility of error (again) over existence of object.
Unclear how the content succeeds in picking out the object or the same object each time.

Summary= Postulation of fictional objects does not seem to assuage our worries concerning both language and experience of fictional characters; indeed it seems to raise further problems.

Labels:

108 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

surely there's no problem here at all.

human beings are linguistic creatures. we communicate through language. a by-product of our ability to relate information [via language or other means] is our ability to state what is not the case. We can say there exists a tree there or we can say there does not exist a tree. in the case of fictional entities, having fictional references, there's no philosophical problem here at all: we all know they're fictional characters, but we empathise with them because we identify with events/personality traits, and so on, that have an affinity with our own lives. E.g. We all [according to Jean Piaget's cognitive theory of development] have a 'theory of mind'. Viz., we can decenter experiences and imagine what it would be like for someone else in such a situation to feel. So we feel sad when Anna karenin gets run over by the train at the end of the book, for the simple reason that we can imagine [to a certain degree] how horrible it would be to run over by a train. i.e. we feel emotional connections for fictional entities [people, places,and so on] for the atrociously simple reason that we can identify with something in them. So, fictional characters in a realist setting can be dealt with. But what about fantasy fictional references? e.g. Harry Potter, Paul Atreides [Dune], etc? Well, that's arguably more tricky, but surely those with imagination can empathise and conceive of what it would be like in their place and thus identify [to a certain degree] with the characters. That's why people with no imagination don't read much. And regarding the ontological problem: there's no such thing. As Gareth Evans pointed out, a fictional entity simply has a fictional domain [or something like that], so we suspend our judgment and know it's not real, but we still identify with the characters/places, and events, because we want to. IF WE DIDN'T WANT TO BELIEVE IN THE ENTITIES IN QUESTION, THEN WE WOULDN'T. E.g has anyone ever read a film review where the reviewer [Jonathon 'Woss'] said that he/she couldn't "get into the film because the characters weren't believeable" ?

This is because the characters [presumably either the acting or the storyline] weren't realistic enough for us to want to believe in them.

J.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting point J., but i think you've missed the mark just a tad. the point of the talk was about the ontological status of fictional entities, not the psychological question (which you've masterfully address, btw). Re. the ontological status of fictional entities, I would also agree that this is a pseudo-problem, if a problem at all. If there were a real problem Re. the fictional denotation then publishing industry would be in a pickle. Do the millions of book reading masses ever stop and ask themselves: "Hang on! What the hell's going on! Is H.H a real character or just a fictional entity conjured up by Nabokov!, and if he's fictional then where is he? and what's his metaphysical/ontological status?!?!".

Of course not. Why? Because this is just another case of philosophers worrying over fictitious spilt milk: it's not REALLY been spilt at all! P.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "Pseudo problem" criticism can apply to everything in philosophy. One motivation for worrying about pretend spilt milk is that some sentences containing reference to fictional objects seem to be true, others false, and others neither true nor false. Eg Sherlock Holmes is a detective: true. Sherlock Holmes is a bullfighter: False. Sherlock Holmes scored 98% on a history test when he was eleven: neither true nor false. Why is this important? Classic Modal logic will tell us that there is no possible world where (p v ~p) is false. It seems as if "Sherlock Holmes scored 98% on a history test when he was eleven" expresses a proposition which is neither true nor false in the actual world but that there are possible worlds where this proposition is true, and worlds where it is false. Therefore a fairly cursory investigation into statements about fictional characters together with some fairly uncontroversial axioms of logic can create the conclusion that the actual world is not possible.
U

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the point here is that it is true that sherlock holmes lived at 221b Baker street and that he was a great private detective, IN A FICTIONAL CONTEXT. He was not an NBA Basket player or from the planet Krypton, IN A FICTIONAL CONTEXT: the fictional context laid out by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Harry Potter went to Hogwarts, IN A FICTIONAL CONTEXT, Harry Potter did not attend Uppingham School, IN A FICTIONAL CONTEXT, the fictional context laid out by J.K. Rowling, and so on. An author creates a fictional context, J.R.R. Tolkien created 'Middle Earth', and so on. The fictional statement has a truth value in that fictional domain,but not in another. It is true or false within that domain. Full stop. The domain of the 'real world' is a different one, so the truth values simply don't refer to our world. J.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baker street is in the real world. I know that S.H. lived in Baker street, and my knowledge is of someting that is true in the real world. Doyle is dead, so it is not Doyle that is making it true. I don't know what university Holmes went to. It would be possible for me to find out. I could read up all the books, or ask an expert. Perhaps he went to Oxford, Perhaps he went to Cambridge. Perhaps he never went to university. Or perhaps it is not specified. In this later case, Holmes went Oxford is neither true nor false. This would mean that either 1. FICTIONAL CONTEXTS as you call them are not POSSIBLE WORLDS, since they are logically impossible. This would be odd because it would seem that this would involve the commitment that Sherlock Holmes lives in Baker street is both true and impossible. Or 2. (pv~p) is not a requirement for possibility, which is big news.
U

1:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if the fictional domain is consistent and it is specified [e.g. whether or not Holmes went to university] then it has a truth value. S.H did go to Cambridge (this is stated in one of the stories, though i forget which].

take for example, the BBC series 'Red Dwarf'. In two separate episodes in different series the character Lister has his appendix removed. A human only has one appendix, so there is a continuity error [a blunder by the script writers]. So, the question whether or not the character Lister in the BBC television series 'Red Dwarf' had his appendix removed is an indeterminate question, as it has two answers.

Doyle is indeed dead, but he specified the fictional domain of facts Re. S.H in his numerous writings [A Study in Scarlet
The Sign of Four
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
The Return of Sherlock Holmes, etc]. If this fictional domain is sufficiently richly specified [without contradiction] then that a sentence which refers to that domain has a truth value. The question is: "If X true for domain M", where X is a question referring to the fictional domain in question. It it does refer to that domain [e.g. the domain of Sherlock Holmes stories written by sir Athur Conan Doyle] then it has a truth value, in so far as it corresponds to the fictional domain.

A good analogy here would be to compare the statement "Jonny said that he is made of camembert" with what Jonny actually said. If Jonny did indeed claim to be made of Camembert then the reported statement that "Jonny said he was made of camembert" is true. But it doesn't make Jonny's claim that he is made of Camembert true [if he did indeed venture to say it]. In other words: A statement can refer to something said [or wrote] by someone else, but that statement does not refer to the real world, as it is nonsense on stilts.

The same applies to fictional statements: It has a truth value in so far as it refers to something; the fictional domain specified by the writer/speaker, and nothing more...

J.

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Jonny said...

Speak of the devil and I will appear. And I am NOT made of camembert, even in my own fictional domain. What interests me about fictional domains is that they often go beyond all the direct entailments of the Authors words. So the reported speech model suggested by "J" will make less statements true that we would ordinarily aloow. eg. Hamlet had an Oedipal complex. By "J's" theory, this is false, since no where does Shakespeare write that he had. However, someone who believed in the existence of Oedipal complexes might well believe justifiably that Hamlet had one. Such conjectures are common place in literary criticism and in wider thought. To say such statements are literally false is a little odd but reasonable. To say that they are false even in the fictional domain seems inuitively wrong. They could be false, but they could be true, surely. Hamlet might have been blond, but maybe he had black hair.

5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ah, now that's an interesting thought (the Oedipal thing). It could be argued that,although shakespeare never explicitly stated this [for the simply reason that Freud hadn't written about it, obviously], one could infer the presence of an Oedipal complex in Hamlet in shakespeare's play. This is because all the behaviour of Hamlet, as written by Shakespeare, conforms [to a greater or lesser degree] to Freud's idea of an oedipal complex. But this statement can be applied to any real historical figure too. So under my view this statement is no necessarily false, any more than it would be if it was predicated of a genuine historical figure,e.g D.H Lawrence, or any other famous mummy's boys. So I would not argue that it is strictly false. The second point you noted, as to whether Hamlet had black or blonde hair is an interesting one. If the fictional domain has not specified such a feature, then it is indeed indeterminate and therefore has no truth value. This is where we find ourselves in muddy waters. If the fictional domain is indeterminate then so is the truth value. E.g. If someone asks: "Did Hamlet have size 9 shoes or size 11?", I find nowhere in the play which states his shoe size, for the simple reason that such feet measurement scales did not exist then. But the same statement could be applied to any other historical figure for which the information is indeterminate. E.g. Did William the Conqueror have size 8 feet? Did Bertrand Russell eat tacos on 21st March, 1921? We don't know either of these pieces of information, but they must have a truth value, for the simple reason that they existed and therefore the law of excluded middle is applicable to them. But the law of excluded middle is only applicable to a fictional story if the fictional domain is sufficiently rich [and consistent]. So whether Hamlet had size 9 feet, enjoyed eating cheese on toast, or had an oedipal complex, are all indeterminate questions with no truth value. Personally, I think the Oedipal complex is nonsense, like all psychoanalytic concepts, and therefore innapplicable to anything, except perhaps Oedipus himself. But then again, perhaps he was a fictional character, in which case.... (;). J.

6:45 PM  
Anonymous RobS said...

I can't help agreeing that this mystery is a bit of a pseudo one.

A novel is an injunction for us to make-believe in a sequenced way. If you start make-believing that e.g. Holmes had eggs for breakfast, when it's not specified what he had, then you're not playing by the rules, that's all.

The sense in which excluded middle fails then is that you must avoid questions not addressed directly or indirectly in the novel, if you want to partake in literature. If you want to use fiction as a starting point for your own imaginings, then you can but that makes you a writer of fan fiction. In which case, my condolences.

The problem only comes when we start to hypostatise all this activity into the perception of truths and falsehoods. It seems unclear why this is a good thing to do. If you want to say it is true that Holmes lived on Baker Street, I just want to shrug my shoulders. Express it like that if you want but the fact you can doesn't amount to a metaphysical problem. We can just recast it in terms of what readers are supposed to imagine, can't we?

11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Robs and 'J' and take issue against 'u'.

Robs and 'J' are right: this is a pseudo-problem,...if a problem at all. If you start asking questions outside the text (not specified within the fictional domain) then you're just engaging in meaningless drivel.

"Il n'y a pas de hors-text".

P.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One last point against U's comment:

Classic Modal logic will tell us that there is no possible world where (p v ~p) is false. It seems as if "Sherlock Holmes scored 98% on a history test when he was eleven" expresses a proposition which is neither true nor false in the actual world but that there are possible worlds where this proposition is true, and worlds where it is false. Therefore a fairly cursory investigation into statements about fictional characters together with some fairly uncontroversial axioms of logic can create the conclusion that the actual world is not possible.
U



This is false for the simple reason that you're predicating true or false onto the fictional entity. What you should of done is reformulated the statement as follows:

Either it is true that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle WROTE that Sherlock Holmes score 98% on his History test, agesd 11, OR Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not write that.

It's the fallacy of predication,making you guilty of a "category mistake":fallacious predication. Not a single law of Modal logic has been broken here at all! Either Doyle wrote it or he didn't.

P.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous U said...

I feel as if "P" has missed the point. Any good novel has characters who transcend the authors intentions. The question of whether Anna Karenina is worthy of pity or not is NOT the same question as whether Tolstoy wrote "Anna Karenina is worthy of pity" or Tolstoy wrote "It is not true that Anna Karenina is worthy of pity". If A. K. has evoked pity in millions across the world, then her piteousness is a real and powerful feature of the world. This fact is independent of Tolstoy's intentions, since the piteousness would still be real even had he not intended it.

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ah, another fallacious predication.

this reminds me Kant's antinomy of taste: he notes how a judgment of taste appears to be both objective and subjective: objective because there must exist some intrinsic physical quality in the painting, on the canvas, that serves to invoke the emotional response in us, the viewer. But it must also, in a sense, be subjective, as we don't all respond uniformly to stimuli [with the stimuli in this case being art] the same. We agree to disagree. 'De gustibus non est disputandum'.

However, the solution for Kant was to note that we've failed to distinguish between the two judgments. Whereas in a logical judgment, the predicate is a concept. Whereas in an aesthetic judgment the predicate is a feeling. Feelings don't exist in the objects themselves! They exist in us!. So the fallacy here is that she should be saying "I feel pity for Anna Karenin". We predicate the feeling of ourselves. There's no ontological problem here, nor one of modal logic. you've missed the point Re. the modality [pseudo-] problem. the modal question arises when we ask questions outside the strictures of the authors writings. The issue Re Anna Karenin invoking an emotional reaction in us, the readers, be it joy, sadness or pity, is a feeling IN US, the reader, not in the book! This has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the modal problem or the ontological problems. It's simply to do with us identifying with fictitious events and characters in the story/play/novel.

What we feel has absolutely nothing to do with the modal or ontological or reference problem.

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't this all going round in circles? "J"'s already addressed the issues mentioned by whoever posted the 8:48 PM posting concerning pity and empathy. I will people would read through other postings before going on one. 'J', whoever you are, have made a number of points (if perhaps a little abrasively). I'm inclined to agree with him/her on this, but do feel it's an interesting question.

'U' is definitely off the mark. The modality "problem" dissolves immediately when we realize the limits of what are and are not legitimate questions to ask. 'Robs' hit the nail square on the head there, or was it 'J' again? i can't be bothered to scroll down again.

'U' enjoys christening mole-hills and declaring them to be mountains.

But I'm rather upset that after I developed a great admiration for 'P', he let us all down by feeling the need to invoke the evil spirit of Derrida: "Il n'y a pas de hors-text"? Really? A.

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A. If you think that piteousness is not the property of an object but a feeling in an observer, then just change the example. I suspect that most people reading Hamlet imagine him to be white. Are you saying that "whiteness" is not a property of an object, but of the reader, or spectator? How about mass? Or distance? Do all these properties have to be specified by the author? Nothing really has a mass, it is just our fallacy to imbue things with mass because they evoke a particular array of sensations in us. Nothing has a perspective, we just project our feeling that things have a perspective onto them.
U

12:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was clearly referring to emotions/feelings! You're clearly just attacking a straw man now, as you're not referring to anything I've written, or to J or P: you repeatedly reply referring to something else that has nothing to do with what the previous post has actually said. 'J' and P have already addressed everything and have clearly bowed out. Can people please read what people write before retorting!!!

Re. hamlet: no, shakespeare does not mention he's white. But that isn't an emotional. It's an inference based on historical evidence. We think he's white. We don't 'feel he's white. That's an absurd thing to say. We think Hamlet is white because the play was written in 16th century England and set in 16th century Denmark, and Hamlet is supposed to be the Prince of Denmark. So given the historical context, it's pretty unfeasible that he wasn't white. In plays where the character isn't white [i.e.Othello], this is stated. Therefore, it is a pretty clear inference to THINK [not 'feel'!]that Hamlet was white.

And re. your later comment:

How about mass? Or distance? Do all these properties have to be specified by the author? Nothing really has a mass, it is just our fallacy to imbue things with mass because they evoke a particular array of sensations in us. Nothing has a perspective, we just project our feeling that things have a perspective onto them.

I confess that I haven't the foggiest idea what you're on about.

You've confused a feeling/emotion with the object that invokes that feeling/emotion.

And of course, not all of these properties have to specified by the author: if they did the even the shortest novellas would fill out the millenium dome! of couse the reader brings his or her own 'baggage', so to speak, when reading a book to fill in the holes and conjure up images in their minds. But so what? What has this got to do with the original pseudo problem pertaining to fictional denotation? The answer, ladies and gentlemen, is clearly nothing.

The hallmark of good philosophy, is to make subtle conceptual distinctions. These are crucial for any form of good philosophical analysis. Emotions have nothing to do with reference, fictional or otherwise, as they're OUR emotions and don't exist in the book. Simply because a story invoked them doesn't make the story real any more than it makes our dreams or daydreams real. To say otherwise would permit your GP to detain you inder the 1986 Mental Health Act indefinitely. I'm going to sum up for 'J', as he/she appears to have deserted us now.

Fictional statements have a truth value iff the fictional domain, as specified/defined by the original author, is sufficiently rich [and logically consistent]. E.g. the statement "Sherlock Holmes lived at 221b Baker Street" is true, iff Conan-Doyle stated this in one of the stories. The statement "Sherlock Holmes was a deeply repressed homosexual who was secretly in love with Dr Watson" is neither true nor false, because Conan-Doyle never mentioned this.

This is not a modal problem,as either Conan Doyle wrote this in one of his short stories for The Strand Magazine or he did not.

In a possible world it is possibly true that Conan Doyle wrote a short story in which Sherlock Holmes and Watson decide to run off together and live out their days in the Pyronees, it is not true to say that in another possible world Sherlock Holmes and Watson eloped and moved to the Pyronees, as they never existed!

Coming back to properties for a moment: recall J.L. Mackie's "Argument from queerness" (or something like that). How odd it would be to assert that our moral feelings have an objective existence apart from us. And how equally absurd it would be to assert that our feelings towards Anna Karenin, or Holmes apparently falling down the cliff face interlocked with Moriarty. We predicate these feelings of ourselves. Or at least, we should do. Note Kant's distinction between an aesthetic judgment and a logical judgment once more: in a logical judgment the predicate is a concept, whereas in an aesthetic [i.e. emotional] judgment, the predicate is a feeling, and should only be predicated of ourselves.

Your last comment also needs to be addressed: Mass is an objective physical property which is measurable. Mass is the property of a physical object that quantifies the amount of matter and energy it is equivalent to. This is objective. And yet you wrote that "it is just our fallacy to imbue things with mass because they evoke a particular array of sensations in us.".

?!!!??!?!?!

2:12 AM  
Anonymous U the fictional said...

The last two statements were ironic. Of course I don't think that mass isn't a property of objects. And it is self defeating to say that nothing has a perspective. I have read all the comments. My point is that fictional objects have properties which are not specified by the author. Some of these properties are not "aesthetic predicates" but "logical predicates". Some logical predications of fictional objects which are not specified by the author are true, some are false, and some are neither true nor false. If all were neither true nor false, then what you say would be fine. But this is not the case, some are true: Hamlet is white, Hamlet has two nipples, Hamlet has read Aristotle. Some are false: Hamlet has read Marx, Hamlet has three arms, Hamlet owns a Vespa. And some are neither true nor false: Hamlet was a manic depressive, Hamlet was blond, Hamlet contracted mumps as a child.
The interesting modal question is how to account for these three categories. A solution that suggests itself is that the undetermined category (neither true nor false)includes what it is possible for Hamlet to have been consistent with what is in the text. So it is possible that Hamlet was blond. Using possible world modal semantics this is the set of possible worlds in which Hamlet exists, and everything predicated of him in Shakespeares eponymous play is true. In some of these worlds he is blond, in some he is not. This means in this world he is neither Blond or not Blond. So here we have a clear counterexample to excluded middle. But if one responds that this is fine because Hamlet doesn't exist, so that both statements are false, then one must also say that the true predications are false too, for example it is false that Hamlet has two eyes. This sounds odd, but might be acceptable if sufficiently motivated. Saying that these statements are true in a FICTIONAL DOMAIN but ACTUALLY false may work. All I ask is that this be explained to me. In particular what presuppositions define the boundaries of possibility within a fictional domain that are not spelled out by the author? I suspect that these presuppositions will be the same ones that carve out what is possible in the actual world. In which case excluded middle is probably not a good rule for reasoning since it has exceptions.
U
PS, I am fictional.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous RobS said...

Look, there is lots of theorising to do about what principles determine what's true in a novel. Personally I think it's a bit like hearing a true story as told to you by someone at the time and place the book is set. E.g. far more is conveyed and can be inferred than the sentences literally say, and more can be false too. Complex interpretive principles apply.

But this is separate from the logical/modal worry. If you do the theorising above and come up with some principles that determine what is true in fictional worlds, this theorising will leave one thing intact: if you start imagining things that your principles do not determine either way, then you are not reading the novel properly. To repeat myself a bit, what does the failure of excluded middle come to apart from that?

U: regards your thing about sentences being true in a fictional domain but actually false -- no, this is not necessary. A novel is not a description but an injunction to imagine so its sentences do not need truth values any more than commands do. Moving outside the sentences that make up a work to meta-sentences about the work like, "Holmes lived at Baker Street", it's fine to say that this is true (when uttered by someone who is talking about the novel). No problem. It is true and what it means is that when you read Conan Doyle, you had better imagine Holmes living in Baker Street. There is no claim that such an utterance would be ACTUALLY false (unless made by someone who'd been tricked into thinking Holmes really existed).

9:58 AM  
Blogger bloggin the Question said...

Anyone wanting to post on this blog on a topic in philosophy is welcome. Just send me 500 words or so and I'll post it up. (given it is of a reasonable standard) My email address should be available.
it is jonnyblamey and it is at yahoo.com.
I'm not bored with this topic though. RobS says that fictional statements are injunctions to believe and not descriptions. Therefore questions of truth and falsehood do not apply. This seems very plausible to me. I would like to generalise it to assertions in general. Ramsey (my hero) says of nonsense statements that they are not true or false, its more that we had better not believe them. Problems of induction and counterfactuals means this could be a useful way of looking at statements of a causal nature. When you say that "milk causes flatulence" this is not a statement of truth or falsehood, but an injunction to believe that you will be flatulent after drinking milk. The fact that these kinds of rules for believing are generally carried over into fictional domains is interesting since it sets them apart from more factual statements. As J said much earlier, this is why fantasy and science fiction settings are interesting because we are invited to drop some of these presuppositions. I do not agree that by questioning anything left open by the author we are not playing by the rules of the game since often we are invited do exactly this, and this is all part of the pleasure and function of literature. A book might end for example with the hero being hung for a crime, yet it might not be specified in the book whether he committed the crime, or whether he was innocent and hung unjustly. The intention might to make us think about justice. But even if there was no such intention, this doesn't mean it is outside the rules of the game to wonder whether or not the hero was guilty. The injunction in this case would be what? Believe what you like but don't believe a contradiction? Believe what is true? Accept that there is a truth of the matter, but you can't know what it is? The problem is that our theory of truth and our logical rules have to carry over into our thinking in fictional domains. And thinking in fictional comains is an important feature of our reasoning.

11:37 AM  
Anonymous RobS said...

*Sorry if this is a duplicate -- I posted a comment that does not seem to have appeared.*

I agree that there are questions not settled by the text or by the author's intentions that we can legitimately wonder about, while still being engaged with the novel. But surely our activities at least have to fall under a meta-intention of the author's, e.g. like you say, the author might have wanted us to reflect on justice.

At any rate, I'm suspicious of any interpretation that turns out to have no grounding in authorial psychology at all. (Of course, this is complicated when self-aware authors intend readers to form their own interpretations. In this case anything goes as long as it's sincere.)

1:55 PM  
Blogger bloggin the Question said...

Now we're talking! Although there is a view that there is no other purpose of reading fiction than entertainment, I believe that it is edifying and one can learn a great deal about the world from reading fiction. What is learned is not to be found in the string of statements that make up the fiction. what is to be learned is the more general truths that transcend the actual. A good writer will not spell these out in a didactic way, but reveal scarcely effable nuances of human nature and possibility through a delicate web of actions, speech and events. In this way truths are revealed in great literature. These aren't fictional truths but actual truths.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the just the sort of thing that gives philosophers a bad name and gives ammunition to those who wish to mock philosophy. I told my family about the "problem of fictional denotation and modal issues" and they all burst out laughing. Deary.

Request: REAL philosophy please! and soon! Not fictional nonsense! Thank you!

D.

1:19 AM  
Blogger bloggin the Question said...

D. You paint a pretty picture. A loving Father around the breakfast table with his children telling them about some philosophy blog he read and them gurgling with delight. Where's the problem? Perhaps an operational test for good philosophy would be that philosophy is good philosophy if when one tells one's family about it, one's family is bored witless.
Anyone who wishes to improve the content of this blog by making it less funny is invited to send in posts to my email address which I have already given in a comment on this post.
(I'd best add that that bit about the operational test was meant as irony. I actually believe that the philosopher must be able to find humour in philosophy and witless over technical philosophy is not philosophy at all but more like an application form for tenure.)

9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It pains me to see this problem dismissed so readily, D. Fiction provides crucial test cases for theories of reference, of propositional attitudes, of intentionality, perhaps even of truth.
Which is not to say that the question of the ontological status of fictional objects (if it presupposes that there are such things) is not a pseudo-problem. If it is a pseudo problem though, showing that it is a pseudo problem, while showing what is really going on when we appear to refer to and think about fictional characters, is still a worthwhile task. The tenability of Russellian theories of singular reference, (which don't acknowledge meaningful non-referring singular terms), is just one of the issues at stake.

Several posts (particularly those of J and robs) seem to advocate something like Kendall Walton's Pretence-theory of the semantics of fiction: roughly the idea that utterances involving names like 'Anna Karennina' are either pretend assertions - neither true nor false but legitimate or illegitimate within the context of a sort of 'game of make-believe' - or (while making pretend assertions) also serving somehow to characterise such a game.
This is a rich and ingenious theory but is far from plausible when applied to sincere utterances of sentences like:

“Sherlock Holmes is more famous than any real detective”

“There are some fictional characters who appear in more than one work of fiction”

and so on... (check out Thomasson: Fiction and Metaphysics). Not to mention

“Anna Karennina does not exist.”

Walton fails to offer a satisfactory, as far as I can see, semantics for sincere utterances of these sentences which seem to neither engage in a pretence nor characterise a pretence (and I don’t think Gareth Evans either succeeds in specifying the exact content of utterances of singular negative existential statements – though I would love to discuss this with someone). Such utterances – that is, utterances made outside of any ‘fictional context’ and not seeking to characterise any such context, are clearly meaningful and, I would submit, clearly true.

So maybe the question of the ontological status of fictional characters is not a pseudo-problem at all. Those present at Gina's talk will also remember Thomasson's argument for the ineliminability of fictional characters as the putative ‘objects’ of intentional states – a powerful argument to this conclusion; or at any rate, an argument that is worth discussing.

U, while I agree with you that fiction presents real problems for philosophers, I don’t agree with your specification of the problem. Maybe this is a case of too much exposure to a theory but I have no problem denying that “Sherlock Holmes” lives in Baker Street” for instance, is literally true. Any Victorian seeking the services of a consulting detective would not be advised to turn up at 221b Baker Street (if the address even existed). Surely it is only according to the fiction that Holmes lives in Baker Street? You may think this is enough to make the quoted sentence true but I think a distinction between truth and acceptability (for instance, the acceptability of a statement that doesn’t semantically encode a truth but pragmatically imparts one) better preserves our complicated intuitions about these cases. All statements that attribute to Holmes the sort of qualities that characterise real things - whether they, or their negations, or neither, are to be found in the fiction - are literally false, and their negations true. So there is no transgression of bivalence or the LEM.

N

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an address 221b baker St. It's actually been turned into a museum. There's always a hilarious 'bobby' costumed chap outside surrounded by Japanese tourists.

I think the topic's boring and not worthy of philosophical study. J and Robs summed it up best.

Hint: The clue for the solution of the [non-]problem lies in the title:

IT'S FICTIONAL! WE'REFERRING TO FICTIONAL THINGS!

P.s. Is it just me, or do philosophers over-complicate things....?

D.

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"IT'S FICTIONAL! WE'REFERRING TO FICTIONAL THINGS!"

If we're referring to fictional things then it's not a non-problem.

N

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thankyou N for a very clear exposition of what is going on. I believe that Evan's solution to negative existentials is that "holmes does not exist" Is not the negation of "holmes does exist" but of "holmes really exists" . This is a "conniving" use of the term and involves accepting a pretense. Our own Tim Crane thinks this might provide a good model for error in general. I guess this would mean that "conniving" is a kind of willing error. However I'm far from well read about all this and admit that I may be unwillingly conniving.
As for the LEM business, I am happy to accept that "Holmes lives at baker street" is literally false, but only fictionally true, or pragmatically acceptable. But in philosophy and science, especially physics, thought experiments are often used to elucidate actual truths. But they often refer to fictional objects. For example, take Putnams twin earth thought experiment. When Twin Arthur believes that there is water in the glass, his belief is false if there is h2o in the glass and true if there is XYZ in the glass. Let us suppose that Putnam makes a valid point here. If propositions containing fictional objects are literally false, but only fictionally true, then it seems that what Putnam says is literally false. Bad news for externalists about content. It doesn't make things better if we say that it is true in the fictional domain which is specified by Putnam since then whatever Putnam thinks becomes true. The same applies to thought experiments in physics, and I think, the understanding of causal laws. A law extends to counterfactual cases, but since they are counterfactual they are literally false. When designing in engineering, for example a car, one will apply laws of motion to fictional entities, objects that exist only in the mind of the designers. Eg "the porsche will have a top speed of 200kmph if we use these tyres, so lets not have these tyres." The Porsche in question does not yet exist, and may never exist. But all these statements better not be literally false, otherwise the laws of motion have instances which are literally false.
I concede that I may be making some elementary mistake and this can all be dealt with in some easy way. But perhaps the easiest way is to say that fictional objects exist.
U The "literally false"

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, that’s about it (Evans’s account) U, I think. One participates in a pretence – letting on that one is talking about someone called ‘SH’ – only to ‘unmask’ the pretence. But can one provide a plausible semantics for negative existentials in line with this picturesque suggestion? What exactly is the content of the unmasker’s assertion?

Anyway more on this later perhaps.
Quickly on the other point. Firstly, positing fictional objects as existents (or as possibilia or Meinongian non-existents) AND acknowledging that these things are as they are described in the fiction – that is, are real detectives etc – seems to get one into precisely the sort of logical problems that I took you to be drawing attention to earlier (because of the inconsistency and indeterminateness of many fictions).
Even one who acknowledges fictional objects should deny that Holmes is anything more than a fictional detective I think.
To clarify, not every sentence involving “Sherlock Holmes” is literally false. Only all those that treat SH as a real person, a real detective and so - ascribing properties that only real people, detectives and so on can possess. So for instance the claim: ‘In the fiction, H is a detective’ is true, as is the claim: ‘Either H is right handed or he is not.’ (Not having hands, he, or rather it's, not).
The truth of a claim: ‘In the fiction X’, is down (perhaps) to the content of the text and/or the authors intentions.
So what about thought experiments then? Well, the scenario imagined in a thought experiment has to be possible. It’s not just a fiction. So the truth of ‘In the thought experiment, X’ is down to how things are in the possible situation X. When we say: ‘In Putnam’s thought experiment Arthur refers to XYZ but not to water’, we say that in the possible world which Putnam has asked us to imagine: a world in which a possible individual, Arthur, has never encountered H2O – when Arthur uses 'water' he refers to XYZ and not to H2O. We are thus describing a possible world rather than relating the content of a fiction. It is our intuitions about what is possible that tell us that it is compatible with the possible situation Putnam has outlined that the imagined person in that situation refers to XYZ, and it is not compatible with the possible situation he has outlined that the imagined person refers to H2O. So if these intuitions are trustworthy we can draw conclusions about the truth conditions of ‘water’. Hope that eases your worries (in the Porsche case one can also state useful truths about what is compatible with a specified possibility).

N

12:45 PM  
Anonymous U said...

So here is my problem:
1. Statements containing reference to fictional objects are literally false.
2. Logical and natural laws apply to possible, non actual worlds.
3. Possible worlds are fictional.
4. A law with falsifying instances is itself false.
Therefore natural laws and the laws of logic are literally false.

It is possible to be a "modal realist". This is to deny 4. But since the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, for example, don't seem to be impossible, then for every fictional context there is at least one possible world.

To deny 2 means dropping any modal logic at all. It also means one would have to drop the distinction between causal laws and accidental regularities. Counterfactuals would become unintelligible.

The clearly obvious solution is to say that counterfactual instances of logical laws or natural laws are NOT literally false, but literally true. The kind of thing I have in mind is this kind of statement "It is impossible that Polonius is Hamlet's son." (given that Polonius is older than Hamlet). Its seems that this is TRUE in the fictional context, but actually FALSE. This would be fine, except that "It is possible that Polonius is Hamlets son" seems to be ACTUALLY (literally) TRUE but FALSE in the fictional context. It is actually true, since there is a possible world where Polonius is Hamlet's son. So there are true statements made using fictional objects, which are false in the fictional context.

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Statements containing reference to fictional objects are literally false.
2. Logical and natural laws apply to possible, non actual worlds.
3. Possible worlds are fictional.
4. A law with falsifying instances is itself false.
Therefore natural laws and the laws of logic are literally false.


The fallacy is in premise 1. Statements containing reference to fictional objects are literally false.

We've already gone through this. Keep up people! Statements containing reference to fictional objects are true iff they refer to the writings of the author. Sherlock Holmes lived at 221b Baker Street in the fictional context of the writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, iff Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote (in one of his stories for Strand Magazine) that Sherlock Holmes lived in 221b Baker Street in one of his stories.

So it's true, in a fictional domain/context!.

Re. Premise 2). Logical and natural laws apply to possible, non actual worlds.

Possible worlds are hypothetical worlds, so all statements referring to them are of the form "IF ___ THEN ____".

So according to modal logic, "IF Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote that Sherlock Holmes lived in 221b Baker Street in his stories, THEN it is true that Sherlock Holmes lived in 221b Baker Street, in the fictional domain/context of his stories about Sherlock Holmes".


Re. the remaining two premises:

3. Possible worlds are fictional.
4. A law with falsifying instances is itself false.
Therefore natural laws and the laws of logic are literally false.


Premise 3 is not entirely correct. They're hypothetical worlds, which I suppose one could regard as fictional (i.e. non-actual).

The fallacy is with premise 4. There are no falsifying instances of any of the laws of logic! The law of excluded middle is inapplicable to vague domains. This has already been stated and re-stated in earlier posts!

If it is not specified whether Sherlock Holmes liked Cheese on toast in any of the stories, then it is neither true nor false. An analogy is as follows:

Does Jimmy like the taste of "joojookoo"?

Jimmy's never heard of a food called "joojookoo". So he doesn't know if he likes the taste of it. This statement is therefore neither true nor false because he doesn't know. This isn't an epistemic problem worthy of philosophical investigation. Why? Because it's fairly clear that young Jimmy simply hasn't sampled the delights of this wonderous substance "joojookoo".

This brings me onto your final premise:

4. A law with falsifying instances is itself false.
Therefore natural laws and the laws of logic are literally false.


The "joojookoo" example seems to violate the law of excluded middle, but is this a philosophical problem? Of course not!

Does this mean that we should abandon the law of excluded middle? of course not! Why? Because the law of excluded middle isn't applicable to it. But it's not going to keep me or any other philosopher worth his salt up late at night pondering it.

Re. your final statement once more:

[...] Therefore natural laws and the laws of logic are literally false.



This is a gross non-sequitur!

The law of excluded middle isn't falsified by either the "joojookoo" or the fictional context, so it's certainly not a falsification or refutation of it!

----------------------------

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4. A law with falsifying instances is itself false.


............................

It is possible to be a "modal realist". This is to deny 4. But since the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, for example, don't seem to be impossible, then for every fictional context there is at least one possible world.


..............................
Premise 4 is correct. But its application to the fictional “problem” is not.

(Q) What kind of logical laws apply to fictional domains?

(A) Answer: All of them, except the law of excluded middle, IF the fictional domain isn’t sufficiently rich to answer a question which isn’t specified in the fictional domain (e.g. whether S.H liked cheese on toast).

Such questions are meaningless and illegitimate to ask.

Wittgenstein taught us to recognize sense from nonsense and meaningful from meaningless propositions. ‘U’ would do well to re-read him.

..............................

2. Logical and natural laws apply to possible, non actual worlds.
..............................
To deny 2 means dropping any modal logic at all. It also means one would have to drop the distinction between causal laws and accidental regularities. Counterfactuals would become unintelligible.


..............................
This does not follow at all!

Premise 2 is valid, but again, its application to fictional domains is not.

‘U’ is guilty of G.E Moore’s “Category Mistake”:

“It is possible that Sir A.C.D wrote X”.


This is a valid statement in modal logic.

“It is possible that S.H did X”.


This is an illegitimate modal question, as S.H did not exist! Sir A.C.D did!

So the modal question should be applied to the writer of the fictional domain, NOT the fictional domain itself!

This is where the confusion arises and how ‘U’ has fallaciously derived a modal problem from a situation where no such problem exist: all this confusion based on a tiny confusion Re. a category mistake of fallacious predication.


..............................


The clearly obvious solution is to say that counterfactual instances of logical laws or natural laws are NOT literally false, but literally true. The kind of thing I have in mind is this kind of statement "It is impossible that Polonius is Hamlet's son." (given that Polonius is older than Hamlet). Its seems that this is TRUE in the fictional context, but actually FALSE.

The statement “It is possible that Polonius is Hamlet’s son” is false, in the fictional context of Hamlet. Shakespeare explicitly wrote that Hamlet is the son of Queen Gertrude and the late King Hamlet, and the nephew of the present king, Claudius.
..............................


Polonius is explicitly introduced as Lord Chamberlain of Claudius’s court, as acts as King Claudius’s Key Advisor in his Royal Court.

So the statement “It is possible that Polonius is Hamlet’s son” is false, IN THE FICTIONAL DOMAIN of the story of Hamlet, as written by Shakespeare.

Whereas the statement “Polonius is the father of Laertes and Ophelia”, IS true, IN THE FICTIONAL DOMAIN of the story of Hamlet, as written by Shakespeare.

The legitimate modal phrase of this statement IS legitimate, IF paraphrased as follows: “It is possible that William Shakespeare wrote that Polonius is Hamlet’s son in the play called ‘Hamlet’ ”.

As such, there is no modal problem here.

It is illegitimate to modally paraphrase this as:

“It is possible that Polonius is Hamlet’s son”, because all modal statements are hypothetical, and neither Polonius or Hamlet existed.

You would have to re-write this statement as:

“It is possible that there existed a Prince of Denmark called Hamlet and a Chief Advisor to a King called Claudius, and Hamlet was the son of this Polonius”.

This would be a very distant possible world, in which all the characters of the play existed and this really happened.

The fallacy, once again, is that the modal statement is applicable only to the writer of the fictional domain, NOT the fictional domain itself!

The law of excluded middle is applicable, to the WRITER, not the actual character, as they’re not real, but the writer, and their written corpus of work (Shakespeare and the Histories, Tragedies and Comedies) are real.


..............................


This would be fine, except that "It is possible that Polonius is Hamlets son" seems to be ACTUALLY (literally) TRUE but FALSE in the fictional context. It is actually true, since there is a possible world where Polonius is Hamlet's son. So there are true statements made using fictional objects, which are false in the fictional context.
..............................

In the play Hamlet, as already mentioned, Polonius is King Claudius’s Key Advisor. He is described by Hamlet in one scene as a “tedious old fool", and Polonius is the father of Laertes and Ophelia, so he must be older than Hamlet, who is described as being around 30 years old at the start of the play. So it is NOT possible that Polonius is Hamlet’s son in the play!

So this statement is false in the play Hamlet!

Q.E.D.
----------------------------------------------------

4:57 PM  
Anonymous U said...

The last comment, by anonymous, seems to agree with what I said in my last comment, but as if disagreeing. I say that this proposition, "It is possible that Hamlet is the son of Polonius" (call it POLONIUS)
is false in the fictional domain and true in the actual world.
Where is the category mistake?
here are two quotes from anonymous' last comment that illustrate that he agrees with the above:
"So it is NOT possible that Polonius is Hamlet’s son in the play!" so POLONIUS is false in the fictional domain.

“It is possible that there existed a Prince of Denmark called Hamlet and a Chief Advisor to a King called Claudius, and Hamlet was the son of this Polonius”.

This would be a very distant possible world, in which all the characters of the play existed and this really happened."

So anonymous is conceding that POLONIUS is true in the actual world. Unless of course "very distant possible worlds" are not possible worlds. But that would be just incoherent.

As for Wittgenstein telling us to distinguish what is nonsense, "Hamlet drove a vespa" is not nonsense, it is false. "Hamlet had blond hair" is not nonsense either, it is neither true nor false.
I'm all for having a rule that says that only things that are determinately true or false count as propositions. This would be a rivival of verificationism. "Hamlet has blond hair" would then fail to express a proposition. But this does not make it nonsense. It would be an important issue when for example casting for a production of Hamlet.
"The new concorde, had it gone into production, would have had a top speed of 5000mph." This is not nonsense. It is about a fictional object. There is no new concorde. We want to be able to say that these kind of statements have a truth value that is independent of the author of the fiction. This is the modal "non problem". If anything specified by the author is true, and anything not specified with the author is nonsense, then we can't sensibly talk about anything. This is a point that has been made by Wittgenstein, if he is being taken as an authority. If anything the author says is right, then we can no longer talk about rightness since there is no possibility of error. However, any book that constantly stated contradictions and modal falsehoods would be unintelligible and not meet the minimum requirements of fiction, so it is clear that there IS a possibility of error by the author of a work of fiction.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous U said...

How annoying! You say there is a fallacy in 1. So you don't agree that fictional statements are literally false! Yet you keep saying that they are.
You say that LEM doesn't apply to "vague domains". So you disagree with Williamson about this and make a controversial claim about vagueness as if it was accepted by everyone. You contradict yourself by claiming to have proved that I am wrong by restating a couple of statements I made. And what is worse is you won't even put a name to your comments, or even a letter.
U

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How annoying! You say there is a fallacy in 1. So you don't agree that fictional statements are literally false! Yet you keep saying that they are.
You say that LEM doesn't apply to "vague domains". So you disagree with Williamson about this and make a controversial claim about vagueness as if it was accepted by everyone. You contradict yourself by claiming to have proved that I am wrong by restating a couple of statements I made. And what is worse is you won't even put a name to your comments, or even a letter.


………………………………


I didn’t say that fictional statements are literally false, for the simple reason that I don’t know what you mean by ‘literally false’.

I understand statements to be either true or false.

The statement “S.H lived in 221b Baker Street” is false, not “literally false”, or any other adjectival or adverbial modification of the predicate false: it is simply false.

This is because he never existed.

However, the statement: “Sir A.C.D wrote that S.H lived at 221b Baker Street” is true, not “literally true” , or any other adjectival or adverbial modification of the predicate true: it is simply true.

That’s what I mean by your Category error of erroneous predication.

Infact, throughout these postings this confusion has become so dire that I’m forced to give it a name: Let’s call it the “U-Predication Error”.

………………………………


Re. your second point:

You say that LEM doesn't apply to "vague domains". So you disagree with Williamson about this and make a controversial claim about vagueness as if it was accepted by everyone.
………………………………

Again, another confusion.

Williamson’s argument is different from mine as follows:

The problem of vagueness Re. the ‘real’ world is that the real world isn’t constructed from the mind of an author [let’s leave God out of it for the moment]. So whether or not a state of affairs holds can be empirically determined.
As such, vagueness is nothing more than sloppy epistemology.

However, the fictional case is radically different: the states of affairs in question are constructed by an author: he determines what is and is not the case, not nature.

Consider these four statements;

1) “There existed a Prince of Denmark who was called ‘Hamlet’ ”.

And

2) “In the play titled ‘Hamlet’, written by William Shakespeare, there existed a man called ‘Hamlet’, and he was the Prince of Denmark”.

And

3) “in Act I, scene ii, of the play ‘Hamlet’ by Shakespeare, Claudius asks Hamlet why “the clouds still hang” upon him, as Hamlet is still wearing black mourning clothes (I.ii.66).

And

4) “In the play ‘Hamlet’ by Shakespeare, Hamlet ate dip-in-soldier-eggs for breakfast and did some Tai-Chi before leaving the castle”.

Statement (1) has a truth value, as it refers to the ‘real’ world: either there existed a man named Hamlet and he was the Prince of Denmark, or there did not.

Statement (2) also has a truth value, as there existed a play written by Shakespeare in which there was a character named Hamlet.

Statement (3) also has a truth value, as either in Act I, scene ii, of the play ‘Hamlet’ by Shakespeare, Claudius asks Hamlet why “the clouds still hang” upon him, or Claudius did not.

However,

Statement (4) is neither true nor false, as this is not specified by the fictional domain.

The radical difference here between Williamsons’s notion of “vague domains” and this one is that, in nature, something is either true or false, not in virtue of some linguistic construction, but because there exists only one reality [ignore Quantum Mechanics for the moment]: something is or is not the case.

Whereas in fiction it is the writer who constructs the domain of discourse: they control and determine what is and is not the case. They are the authors of the fictional reality.

The writer determines the ontology of their fictional world. They are the gods of their own domain.

So, if the writer in question chooses, for whatever reason, be it stylistic intention, or simple literary sloppiness, to omit certain details, then they are making the ontology of their world all the poorer for their absence.

I repeat, in reality, nature determines the ontology, and accords everything with a determinate truth value. But in fiction, the author determines the ontology.

As such, if the ontology isn’t specified, e.g. whether Hamlet ate dip-in-soldier eggs (yummy) or whether he did not, then it is neither true nor false.

But if you ask whether or not something in the real world did or did not occur, then it has a truth value: either Bertrand Russell liked dip-in-solder-eggs or he did not.

This is what I mean by vagueness. There is a radical difference between vagueness in a fictional context and vagueness in reality. In nature vagueness is epistemological: in fiction vagueness is ontological.

i.e. in nature if we don’t know something then it is because we lack knowledge.

Does there exist a planet in the Milky Way Galaxy whose surface is made of Philadelphia cream cheese?

There either is or there isn’t.

But did S.H eat a Bagel with cream cheese on?

We don’t know, because the creator of the S.H fictional ‘world’ did not choose to specify this.

So it’s neither true nor false.

This is what I mean by vagueness. You have been repeatedly muddying the waters of thought by confusing these two cases: the ontological with the epistemological, or in what I chose to coin earlier as the “U-Predication-Error” [UPE].


…………………….

You contradict yourself by claiming to have proved that I am wrong by restating a couple of statements I made.
………………………………


You’re going to have to elaborate on that. What contradictions? What statements? Philosophy is a discipline noted for its rigour and clarity. If you’re going to shout wolf then you’d better show me one…

………………………..

And what is worse is you won't even put a name to your comments, or even a letter.
………………………………


D.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quote from 'U':

"How annoying!"

.....................
I agree :p

I do wish people could keep up and note the "U-Predication Error"(UPE) category error.

D.

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with D on virtually everything, except the dip in soldier eggs comment. I prefer my eggs poached, or in a spanish omelette, thank you very much.

But everything else you've said (excluding your egg preference) seems pretty much spot on.

P.s. How do you use the html tags "D"?

Cheers,

N.

12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

N, can you choose another initial? 'N' is already taken.

N

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That hardly seems reasonable, and given that I posted a comment first, you should either change your initial order declare yourself to be "N2", or some variation on that theme...

N (and proud).

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, just noticed your earlier post 'N'. Apologies.

I am now 'N2'.

N2.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'U the fictional' said...

"The last two statements were ironic".
(9:20 AM)


...............

That's not ironic.

Definition of Irony: Being run over by an ambulance.

D.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous U said...

So D: I take it that you assert that statements made about fictional characters are false, but that they are true if what is "meant" is that within the fiction as specified by the author they are true. Since in everyday talk we drop reference to the author, and often the author isn't really known or may not exist as a single person, it is handy to have this operator "literally". For example "Father christmas has a reindeer called Rudolph". This is "literally" false. But there is no author that lends Father Christmas a fictional ontology. So it is convenient and ineliminable to say it is "literally" false, but "fictionally" true. There is no easily available paraphrase. You can try if you like: "In the widely accepted myth of Father Christmas he has a reindeer called Rudolph." No one actually speaks like this, and it may come out with different truth conditions, but I am happy to talk this way if you won't let me use "literally".
So I guess the modal problem , as you say, may not be a problem. How is this?
1. In the play "Hamlet" it is impossible that Hamlet is Polonius's Father.
2. It is impossible that Hamlet is Polonius's Father.
I take it that 1 is true, and 2 is false. (No need for "literally", since the play is specified)
This is what I take you "D" to have stated, and in fact "proved" since you put QED afterwards. But notice already that 1, though clearly true, was no where specified by Shakespear. The rules of inference you used to demonstrate 1 you assumed to apply to the events within "Hamlet" the play. These aren't just logical rules, but empirical laws. eg: No man is older than his Father. However there is no reason why Shakespear couldn't have waived this rule or any rule. But he didn't explicitly waive this rule (by introducing a time machine for example) so we can assume this rule applies.
To make the point, we can switch the truth values by switching possible for impossible.
3. In the play "Hamlet" it is possible that Hamlet is Polonius's Father.
4. It is possible that Hamlet is Polonius's Father.
3 is false, but 4 is true. 3 is false for the reasons you gave. 4 is true because there is a possible world such that Hamlet is Polonius's Father. It is a real possibility. The events in Hamlet the play do seem perfectly possible. It seems equally possible that a similar set of events could have occured where Polonius was the son of Hamlet.
The UCM I take it is to say that 4 has a truth value at all, since we are outside the domain of the play. 4 is nonsense according to "D". But D also says that 4 is true. So here is the contradiction. D says that 4 is both true and lacks a truth value and is nonsense. I have specified whether the statement is made in or outside the fictional domain and the contradiction applies to events outside the domain of the play. So there is no "UCM" here.
I am willing to agree that in this case it doesn't really matter. This is true for all those who never engage in creative work whether it be engineering, science, creative writing or philosophy. But for Shakespear himself, questions of what was possible for his characters to have done must have had a truth value independently of whatever he said was possible for them to have done. It is possible that Polonius was Hamlet's son, It is possible that Polonius is older than Hamlet, but it is not possible that Hamlet was both Polonius's Father and younger than Polonius. This is within in the restrictions of what would have been "acceptable" to an Elisabethan audience.
Suppose a car designer is designing a new car. He calls it the "Sundance". At an early stage it might be possible that the Sundance runs on Alcohol, and it might be possible that the Sundance can have a top speed of 200mph. But it may not be possible that both these things are true. The "Sundance" is the designers fiction until it actually gets made. But the designer cannot decide which modal statements are true of "Sundance". The truth conditions of these statements are independent of the designer. And these kind of statements DO matter. They are not nonsense.
You might want to say that these are just short hand for long conditional statements. If there is a car called SunDance and it has properties p1,p2,....pn then its top speed is 200mph. If it has properties d1,d2,....dn then it does not have a top speed of 200mph.
This is fine. But it is not the way people talk and is very long winded and awkward. It is an interesting fact about reasoning and creativity that we don't do this and are very adept at flipping from one set of assumptions to another. Insisting that all statements containing fictional objects are false seems unmotivated in this light, and hinders an inquiry into what these shifting sets of assumptions are and what rules govern them. The idea that it is whatever the "author" says doesn't work even for singular facts, let alone modal statements and generalisations.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's OK N2. I didn't mean to be pushy about it. Especially towards someone with such evident good taste in initials. Perhaps you could call yourself 'the artist formerly known as 'N''?

N

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So D: I take it that you assert that statements made about fictional characters are false, but that they are true if what is "meant" is that within the fiction as specified by the author they are true.

………………………

Correct.

………………………


Since in everyday talk we drop reference to the author, and often the author isn't really known or may not exist as a single person, it is handy to have this operator "literally". For example "Father christmas has a reindeer called Rudolph". This is "literally" false. But there is no author that lends Father Christmas a fictional ontology. So it is convenient and ineliminable to say it is "literally" false, but "fictionally" true. There is no easily available paraphrase. You can try if you like: "In the widely accepted myth of Father Christmas he has a reindeer called Rudolph." No one actually speaks like this, and it may come out with different truth conditions, but I am happy to talk this way if you won't let me use "literally".

………………………

Correct.

Abbreviations and omissions in everyday linguistic practice are commonplace. Indeed, they make discourse and communication in general far more fluid, compact and simple. If we all used Russellian Descriptions and used words with the clarity usually left for the logician then it’d take us an absurd length of time to say anything!

But this isn’t a problem, and it doesn’t conceal any philosophical issues.

We drop reference to the author because the fictional context is implicit.

……………………….

So I guess the modal problem, as you say, may not be a problem. How is this?
1. In the play "Hamlet" it is impossible that Hamlet is Polonius's Father.
2. It is impossible that Hamlet is Polonius's Father.
I take it that 1 is true, and 2 is false. (No need for "literally", since the play is specified)

…………………………

Correct.

Statement ‘2’ is valid, on the presupposition that we’ve already specified the domain to be fictional. It is shorthand. Abbreviations and omissions, as stated previously, are convenient. They have heuristic value.

On the proviso that it is clear that one is referring to the play, this is not a problem.


…………………………

This is what I take you "D" to have stated, and in fact "proved" since you put QED afterwards. But notice already that 1, though clearly true, was no where specified by Shakespear.

…………………………

The point here is that information already specified by Shakespeare permitted the inference.

By Shakespeare stating that Hamlet was around 30 years old at the start of the play, and that Polonius was an older man, the key advisor to King Claudius, the impossibility of Hamlet being Polonius’s father is deductively entailed.

Consider another example.

“Hamlet is a mammal”.

Nowhere in the play does Shakespeare explicitly state that Hamlet is a mammal.

However, he does state that Hamlet is a man.

So one may deduce via the laws of logic that if Hamlet is a man then he is a mammal.

This inference, from a piece of information stated by the writer [Shakespeare] to a piece of information not stated by the writer, is deductive, and therefore legitimate.

It is therefore within the remit of the Law of Excluded Middle.

The cases you were arguing for consisted, not of deductive inferences legitimated by the context, but simply of wild speculation that had no inferential basis, deductive or inductive, within the fictional writings. As such, they are neither true nor false. They are meaningless sentences, and nothing more.

…………………………….


The rules of inference you used to demonstrate 1 you assumed to apply to the events within "Hamlet" the play. These aren't just logical rules, but empirical laws. eg: No man is older than his Father. However there is no reason why Shakespear couldn't have waived this rule or any rule.


…………………………….

He [Shakespeare] stated explicitly in the play that Hamlet was the son of the late King Hamlet and Queen Gertrude.

As Shakespeare had explicitly stated this, the assertion that Hamlet was in fact the son of Polonius is false, because the writer [Shakespeare] had already explicitly stated this was not the case by stating that he was the son of the late King Hamlet.

This is what I meant earlier. By explicitly stating that Hamlet was the son of the late King Hamlet, Shakespeare logically rules out the possibility that he could be the son of Polonius, as the relation of “being the father of” is a two-place relation. You cannot have more than one father. A definite description for “X is the father of Y”, where X is specified [viz., Hamlet], only one entity ‘Y’ can satisfy this 2-place relation. Ipso facto, Polonius could not have been the father of Hamlet.

……………………………….


But he didn't explicitly waive this rule (by introducing a time machine for example) so we can assume this rule applies.


To make the point, we can switch the truth values by switching possible for impossible.
3. In the play "Hamlet" it is possible that Hamlet is Polonius's Father.
4. It is possible that Hamlet is Polonius's Father.
3 is false, but 4 is true. 3 is false for the reasons you gave. 4 is true because there is a possible world such that Hamlet is Polonius's Father. It is a real possibility. The events in Hamlet the play do seem perfectly possible. It seems equally possible that a similar set of events could have occured where Polonius was the son of Hamlet.
The UCM I take it is to say that 4 has a truth value at all, since we are outside the domain of the play. 4 is nonsense according to "D". But D also says that 4 is true. So here is the contradiction. D says that 4 is both true and lacks a truth value and is nonsense. I have specified whether the statement is made in or outside the fictional domain and the contradiction applies to events outside the domain of the play. So there is no "UCM" here.



………………………………………..


Incorrect.

The play ‘Hamlet’ forms part of Shakespeare’s “Histories”. Note the word “History”, not “science fiction”.

As already stated in the previous section, Shakespeare explicitly wrote that Hamlet was the son of the late King Hamlet and Queen Gertrude.

………………………………………….

I am willing to agree that in this case it doesn't really matter. This is true for all those who never engage in creative work whether it be engineering, science, creative writing or philosophy. But for Shakespear himself, questions of what was possible for his characters to have done must have had a truth value independently of whatever he said was possible for them to have done. It is possible that Polonius was Hamlet's son, It is possible that Polonius is older than Hamlet, but it is not possible that Hamlet was both Polonius's Father and younger than Polonius. This is within in the restrictions of what would have been "acceptable" to an Elisabethan audience.

……………………………………………

Incorrect.

Once again you are guilty of the “U-P-E” fallacy: a category mistake of predication the modal possibility of what is possible in a fictional domain with what it is possible for the writer to have written.

It is possible that Shakespeare to have written that Hamlet was Polonius’s son, or vice versa. But in order to do this he would have to change other parts of the story. For a start, he would then be forced to state that Hamlet was not the son of the late King Hamlet.

As soon as Shakespeare wrote that Hamlet was the son of the late King Hamlet, he automatically eliminated the logical possibility of Hamlet being Polonius’s son. And by stating Hamlet to be aged around 30 years old, and for Polonius to be considerably older, he eliminated the logical possibility of Hamlet being the father of Polonius.

You cannot simply change one event in a possible world: facts are intrinsically connected to other facts. There is no such thing as an atomic event. By changing one thing you need to change other things, in the story.


…………………………….



Suppose a car designer is designing a new car. He calls it the "Sundance". At an early stage it might be possible that the Sundance runs on Alcohol, and it might be possible that the Sundance can have a top speed of 200mph. But it may not be possible that both these things are true. The "Sundance" is the designers fiction until it actually gets made. But the designer cannot decide which modal statements are true of "Sundance". The truth conditions of these statements are independent of the designer. And these kind of statements DO matter. They are not nonsense.

………………………………

Incorrect.

This is a possible statement, a modal statement, and should be stated as follows:

If the car named ‘Sundance’ is built with such-and-such design specifications then it will be able to reach a top speed of 200mph”.

The car has not been built, so it cannot reach a top speed of 200mph.

If it were built, then it would be able to reach 200mph.

But it hasn’t, so it cannot.

This is what you keep doing wrong dear: You repeatedly confuse and muddle up possible statements with actual statements.

I recommend you re-read the above paragraph several times before you reply.

……………………………………


You might want to say that these are just short hand for long conditional statements. If there is a car called SunDance and it has properties p1,p2,....pn then its top speed is 200mph. If it has properties d1,d2,....dn then it does not have a top speed of 200mph.
This is fine. But it is not the way people talk and is very long winded and awkward.

……………………………………

Yes? So what?

So what if people don’t speak like that. We’re doing philosophy. If you’re interested in how ‘normal’ people talk in everyday situations then you should be in the psychology department.

The underlying logical form of the statement concerning the possible design, construction and top speed capabilities of a car named ‘Sundance’ is conceded by yourself above.

Whether or not the laymen speaks like that is irrelevant.

People may speak how they want. They may coin new terms, ignore the lexical, syntactical and grammatical rules of language. They may use cultural or regional slang.

But this has absolutely nothing to do with philosophy. Philosophy is a discipline concerned with truth and meaning. The ‘vulgar masses’ may do as they please.

We need only the weaponry of logic and the compass of reason to guide us.

………………………………….

It is an interesting fact about reasoning and creativity that we don't do this and are very adept at flipping from one set of assumptions to another.

………………………………….

Another example would be the use of metaphors and similes in everyday linguistic practice.

Is there a metaphysical/ontological problem here?

Of course not.

Why? Because we know we’re using metaphors and similes.

The same applies to fiction.

Is there a problem with a shorthand fictional statement

Of course not.

Why? Because we know when we’re using fictional statements and referring to fictional entities/domains.

I think the metaphor/simile – fictional analogy is perhaps the most revealing and devastating criticism against your thesis.

Fictional statements and metaphors stand on an equal footing: A metaphor is fiction. It states one thing in terms of another.

There is no philosophical confusion here because we know it’s a metaphor.

And the same applies to fictional statements.

Q.E.D.
………………………………..

Insisting that all statements containing fictional objects are false seems unmotivated in this light, and hinders an inquiry into what these shifting sets of assumptions are and what rules govern them.

…………………………………

Incorrect.

Neither my or any other posts have stated this.

I stated that all statements referring directly to fictional entities are false, as they refer to nothing that exists. A statement is legitimate iff it refers to the writer, not the fictional entity.

If we do not do this in everyday linguistic practice then this does not reflect a philosophical problem: it reflects sloppy speech and heuristic shorthand abbreviation to speed up and aid communication.

Language is a linguistic tool to facilitate communication. So if we choose to abbreviate statements referring to fictional entities, colloquial greetings, or use metaphors and similes, then this reflects a pragmatic use of language to communicate.

I repeat: this is a psychological ‘problem’, and does not fall within the remit of the philosopher.

I hear UCL have a four star rated Psychology dept [*hint-hint*].

………………………………

The idea that it is whatever the "author" says doesn't work even for singular facts, let alone modal statements and generalisations.

………………………………..

Philosophical rigour requires clarity, rigour and systematic analysis.

So once again, you’re going to have to elaborate. What doesn’t work? Why doesn’t it work? Why doesn’t it work even for singular facts? Why doesn’t it work for modal statements? Why doesn’t it work for generalisations?


D.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to 'N':

No apology needed. My fault.I should have checked through first.

I acknowledge you as the true and only 'N'.

I think I'll take up your suggestion as "The Artist formally known as 'N' ". (:).

Actually, that'd take too long to type, so although i'll sign as 'N2', I am infact the 'artist formally known as n'.

N2.

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

U, I don't think D would say that every statement made about fictional characters is false. Those that appear in the fiction (with obvious exceptions) and their ilk are; but not statements like 'In the fiction Hamlet is the prince of Denamrk'. Am I correct in assuming that we are all in agreement on this point?

“It is possible that there existed a Prince of Denmark called Hamlet and a Chief Advisor to a King called Claudius, and Hamlet was the son of this Polonius”.

It is not therefore possible that Hamlet is the son of Polonius. Nor is it possible that Polonius is the son of Hamlet. Kripke has made this point. There are any number of possible situations containing Danish princes called 'Hamlet', some of whom have parents called 'Polonius' and some of whom don't. But these are not possible situations involving the thing Shakespeare was referring to. Shakespeare arguably was not referring to anything, or if he was, not to a possible Danish prince called Hamlet; but to an abstract 'fictional character' or a Meinongian non-existent, neither of which could possible be human.

Even if he were (and to which of all the possible Danish princes called 'Hamlet'?), one's parentage is an essential property, and presumably the possible Danish Prince Hamlet is possibly Claudius's son - so the possibility of Polonius being Hamlet's father is again ruled out.

N

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

D

"I stated that all statements referring directly to fictional entities are false, as they refer to nothing that exists. A statement is legitimate iff it refers to the writer, not the fictional entity."

What about these?

“Sherlock Holmes is more famous than any real detective”

“There are some fictional characters, Sherlock Holmes for instance, who appear in more than one work of fiction”

"Winnie the Pooh, despite not existing, is loved by millions of children."


N

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quote from ‘N’:

What about these?

“Sherlock Holmes is more famous than any real detective”

“There are some fictional characters, Sherlock Holmes for instance, who appear in more than one work of fiction”.

"Winnie the Pooh, despite not existing, is loved by millions of children.".

……………….

Very good point ‘N’. A worthy philosophical sparring partner.



Re. 1) “Sherlock Holmes is more famous than any real detective”


This statement is, to borrow “U’s” phrase, “literally false” as it stands. To be a valid statement it would need to be paraphrased as follows:

“The fictional detective ‘Sherlock Holmes’ is more famous than any real detective”.

……………………

Re. 2) “There are some fictional characters, Sherlock Holmes for instance, who appear in more than one work of fiction”.


There’s no problem with this statement whatsoever.

All the stories are set in the same fictional domain: the Victorian world created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There is continuity and the collection of the stories all form the same fictional domain.

The same applies to Harry Potter, Bridget Jones, and so on.

……………………….


Re. 3) "Winnie the Pooh, despite not existing, is loved by millions of children.".


Again, what’s the problem here?

This one is very interesting indeed, but not philosophically problematic.

Why? Well, you’ve stated that he’s fictional [so far so good], and you’ve stated that he’s loved by millions of children.

What’s the problem?

People love fictitious things all the time, but they know they’re not real.

You’re referring to real children loving a fictional bear. The children are real and so are their emotions.

But it’s not a problem for someone to experience a genuine emotion for a fictional entity, anymore that it’s a problem for someone to be scared of a nightmare, be made happy by seeing a dead loved one in a dream, or love an idea, e.g. for a prisoner in a repressed country to love the idea of their country having a democracy.

Indeed, ‘J’ explicitly went into this at length in an earlier post.

This is a psychological matter, not a philosophical one. If the characters and the fictional setting are sufficiently rich and well-written, then readers are going to identify with them, or simply like, or in the case of Winnie the Poo, love them.

The feeling of love should be predicated of the children (note J’s Kant discussion in a previous post), not the fictional entity.

“I feel love for the fictional bear called ‘Winnie the Poo’, as featured in the fictional stories written by A.A. Milne”.



D.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why try and stop the debate?

there are 57 posts and it's getting interesting!

why would you want to ruin the fun?

this is what philosophy should be: heated rational debate.

Take the gloves off and let the battle commence! D Vs U !

I put my money on D (who wouldnt?!), but i suppose 'Anon', if the fight's already over, then we should all move on to Janiv's post.

ho-hum.

K.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

D,

“Sherlock Holmes is more famous than any real detective”

That seems straightforwardly true to me. And it says something very different to your suggested paraphrase:

“The fictional detective ‘Sherlock Holmes’ is more famous than any real detective”.

What is the fictional detective 'Sherlock Holmes'? 'Sherlock Holmes' is a name of a fictional detective, not a fictional detective. Example 1) is not saying that 'Sherlock Holmes', the name, is very famous. That's true of course. But imagine a situation in which SH is famous mainly in Japan, and Japanese translations of the Holmes stories change the name 'SH' to something else - it is true in such a situation that SH is famous in Japan but not true that 'SH' is famous in Japan.

"
Re. 2) “There are some fictional characters, Sherlock Holmes for instance, who appear in more than one work of fiction”.


There’s no problem with this statement whatsoever.

All the stories are set in the same fictional domain: the Victorian world created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There is continuity and the collection of the stories all form the same fictional domain.

The same applies to Harry Potter, Bridget Jones, and so on.
"

Yes my suggestion was that this statement again is 'literally' true - but it both quantifies over fictional characters and refers to one: SH. The quantification and reference take place outside of any fictional domain or pretence. Maybe I haven't understood your point.

I'll deal with love the next time I'm online. I have to get back to work now.

To those who have been speculating, I am not Nils, I'm Niall; I'm a Meinongian and think this is certainly not a pseudo-problem.
I don't know who anyone else is but I think some of the more recent comments directed at U are unpleasant and unnecessary.

N

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

N wrote:

D,

“Sherlock Holmes is more famous than any real detective”

That seems straightforwardly true to me. And it says something very different to your suggested paraphrase:

“The fictional detective ‘Sherlock Holmes’ is more famous than any real detective”.


…………………………….

How?
I don’t see a difference here at all. Sherlock Holmes is a fictional detective, so you’re saying the same thing.

……………….


What is the fictional detective 'Sherlock Holmes'? 'Sherlock Holmes' is a name of a fictional detective, not a fictional detective. Example 1) is not saying that 'Sherlock Holmes', the name, is very famous. That's true of course. But imagine a situation in which SH is famous mainly in Japan, and Japanese translations of the Holmes stories change the name 'SH' to something else - it is true in such a situation that SH is famous in Japan but not true that 'SH' is famous in Japan.



…………………..

That is a very interesting point, but incorrect, because my paraphrase was “The fictional detective S.H is more famous than any living detective”.

Where “the fictional detective S.H” is the same as the Japanese translation of detective stories by Sir A.C.D.
If all the S.H stories are the same, if all the characters behave and act in the same way and story line/plots are identical, and the only change is the name of the character for translational purposes, then it is the same thing.

Japanese fictional detective stories are known as ‘suirishousetsu’ (I can’t type Japanese characters on this keyboard).
There’s a very famous Japanese fictional detective called Kogoro Akechi , written by Edogawa Rampo, whose real name is in fact Tarō Hirai.
Now, the writer Tarō Hirai was a huge fan of Sir A.C.D, and translated many of S.H stories into Japanese.
Like Holmes, Akechi is a brilliant but eccentric detective who cousults with the police on especially difficult cases. He is a master of disguise and an expert at judo whose genius lets him solve seemingly impossible cases. Also like Holmes, Akechi makes use of a group of young boys to gather information. His version of the Baker Street Irregulars is known as the Boy Detective Club. Akechi smokes Egyptian cigarettes when he is thinking about a case.
S.H was actually translated into Japanese and proved extremely popular there.
Infact, there are a large number of Japanese scholars working on Sherlock Holmes.
I read an interesting book recently called ‘Japan and Sherlock Holmes’, by Yuichi Hirayama; Masamichi Higurashi; and Hirotaka Ueda (ISBN: 0964878879, if anyone's interested).

They actually kept the name Sherlock Holmes instead of translating it.
……………………………………
Right. I have to get back to work too.
D.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



But imagine a situation in which SH is famous mainly in Japan, and Japanese translations of the Holmes stories change the name 'SH' to something else - it is true in such a situation that SH is famous in Japan but not true that 'SH' is famous in Japan.



This is a meta-linguistic, not a metaphysical problem.

People use different names all the time, but it doesn't cause any problems Re. identity.

Consider the actor/writer/director Woody Allen.

Now, his real name is Allen Stewart Konigsberg.

He changed his name aged 16 to 'Woody Allen'.

and he was nicknamed 'Red' as a child for his flame-red hair.

So, if someone were to say that Allen Stewart Konigsberg went to Midwood High School, but 'Woody Allen' did not, is false. They're the same person.

And take an example a film:

'The Neverending Story' in English and 'L'Histoire Sans Fin' in french, or 'Die Unendliche Geschichte' in German.

The film was dubbed for all three countries, and referred to by different names [as listed above].

Now, in German, the character known as the Childlike Emperess, or 'Moonchild', is known as Die Kindliche Kaiserin/Mondenkind in German.

Is there a problem here? Is it meaningful to assert that in Germany, 'Die Kindliche Kaiserin/Mondenkind' is known by fans of the film, whereas the Childlike Emperess/moonchild is not?

Of course not.

I feel deja`-vu from old lectures on Kripke and Hesperus/Phosphorus [Morning Star/Evening Star].

D.

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

N wrote:

I don't know who anyone else is but I think some of the more recent comments directed at U are unpleasant and unnecessary.

I agree.

All my posts have been a debate with 'U'.

although I disagree with her [clearly], I respect her opinions and find her a worthy philosophical debater.

Both 'N2' [aka the 'artist formally known as N'] and 'K's comments have been both unnecessary and in poor taste.

There's no need for it.

Attack propositions, not people!


Right. back to my own work now.

p.s. I'm not a Meinongian.

D.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous U said...

D writes: "Incorrect.

The play ‘Hamlet’ forms part of Shakespeare’s “Histories”. Note the word “History”, not “science fiction”.

As already stated in the previous section, Shakespeare explicitly wrote that Hamlet was the son of the late King Hamlet and Queen Gertrude." Here ends the quotation from D.

What I said that this is supposed to refute was that the statement that
4.It is impossible that Polonius is the son of Hamlet (outside the play)
Is false.
For one thing, the statement by Shakespeare that Hamlet is the son of the late Hamlet is irrelevant to whether it is possible that Hamlet is the father of Polonius, so I don’t what you are trying to prove here.
Secondly, Hamlet the play contains a ghost. What “history” contains a ghost?
But most importantly, the proposition described by 4 is about what is possible in this world, not what is possible in the play that Shakespeare wrote so neither these considerations are relevant to the falsity of 4.

What you appear to be claiming is 4 is not a proposition and does not have a truth value. But you do not seem to dispute that the events in the play “Hamlet” are possible, and that there is a nearby possibility that things could have gone the way they did in the play, but that Polonius was the son of Hamlet. In this case, it is possible that Polonius is the son of Hamlet, though it is not possible in the play. Nothing you have said refutes this.

Whether or not it was possible that Shakespeare could have written the play differently is not at issue here.

To try and get away from particular cases there are statements of the form
1. It is possible that x is y.
Where “x” refers to a fictional object. In many cases there is a single author and set of texts in which x feature which will give a background against which to decide whether 1 is true or false. In some cases there will not be such an author, for example in myths. In most cases there will be a lot of indeterminacy and vagueness. That shouldn’t be a problem because in the vague cases 1. should come out true. Let us call the set of texts “the fictional domain”.
The case that I am interested in, which, contrary to N2 and K’s childish remarks, I don’t think has been dealt with, is where the fictional domain contains propositions such that 1 is false, yet outside the fictional domain 1 is true. I have already given examples, but the examples have been distorted. So I’ll keep it abstract. Let us suppose that p and q are incompatible. X is a fictional character. It is possible for X to be p or q but not both. In the fictional domain it is specified that X is q. So in the fictional domain it is not possible that X is y. So if we are referring to the author, or the fictional domaine then 1 is false. But if we are not referring to the fictional domain, then X is true. Therefore there is a true proposition that contains a fictional object which isn’t made true by the fictional domain.

A fresh example to illustrate the point.
1. Father Christmas is a man. (in the FD)
2. Father Christmas gives all good children presents on Christmas eve. (in the FD)
3. Therefore it is possible for F.C. to give all good children presents on Christmas eve. (in the FD)
4. It is impossible for a man to give all good children presents on Christmas eve. (general empirical statement that is true in the actual world)
5. Therefore it is impossible that Father Christmas gives all good children presents on Christmas eve. (special version of 4)
6. Therefore Father Christmas does not exist.

Seems a good argument to me. 5 seems to be true, contain a fictional object AND be false in the FD from which the fictional object gets its ontology according to D.
One might want to say that 4 and 5 are not propositions. I might agree with this. One cannot say that 4 and 5 are false or nonsense, because this just doesn't wash. 4 is true and 4 entails 5.

12:16 AM  
Blogger bloggin the Question said...

I had to remove some stupid comments from this post. Please keep it philosophical and refrain from locker room hi fiving and Jerry Springer Jeering.
On a positive note, thanks to D, J, P, RobS, N and U for making this the longest discussion yet, and quite exciting. And thanks to Gina for setting the whole thing off. And by the way, a little bird has told me that U isn't Gina.
Don't take this as a signal to end the discussion though....

12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

U: just noticed your reply post.

I shall read and reply to it thoroughly when I get back from holiday (I leave tomorrow).

so please don't take my absence from the debate as a sign of defeat!

everyone needs a holiday, so when i return I shall give your reply the full attention it deserves with my characteristic pedantic thoroughness.

Have a great week everyone, and let the debate rage on so there's something for me when I get back!

D.

12:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for that blogginthequestion.
And have a good holiday D. I will try to get my hands on Japan and Sherlock Holmes - that sounds fascinating.

D (though you're gone) regarding Sherlock Holmes and 'Sherlock Holmes' I took it that by putting the name between quotation marks you meant to mention it rather than use it in your proposed paraphrase - you meant the paraphrase to say something about the name instead of about its bearer. The Japan example was intended to show the difference between talking about Holmes and talking about ‘Holmes’ the name.

If "the fictional character SH is more famous than many real detectives" is true then there must be such a thing as the fictional character SH. Not a real person granted, but something for the name to refer to.

And in claiming that 'Moonchild' and 'Monderkind' are names of the same fictional character - that is what you're saying, right? you also seem to be acknowledging that there are such things as fictional characters.

I took it that in speaking of a 'non-problem' you had been suggesting that the question of the ontological status of fictional characters doesn't arise because there are no such things. But that is not what you're saying is it? Is it that you think that there are fictional characters but that they are just fictions - not people or anything like that?

That would be close to the view of Kripke, Salmon, Thommasson, Van Inwagen and others - by now the most popular view in the literature on this topic, I would imagine. These people claim that fictional characters exist, but as 'abstract artefacts' - they are merely 'the theoretical entities of literary criticism'. Meinongians, in contrast, claim that Sherlock Holmes doesn't exist. On the face of it, an intuitive claim - but the problem we face is to make sense of the notion of a 'non-existent object'.

Anyway, on love. As everyone knows love is more than just a feeling. I can feel all gooey and sappy but that isn't love unless there is someone (or something) that I love. Love is a relation. And a relation can only obtain if there are relata.

If X loves Winnie the Pooh then what are the relata of the relation that obtains? X and Winnie the Pooh, it seems. It is certainly not the case that X merely loves some idea or concept, or fictional narrative. X may be fond of these things as well but his love is for Pooh.

Or maybe, one might argue: “X loves Winnie the Pooh” is really false – and all that is going on in this apparent case of love for Pooh is that X is having some feelings of the sort one has when one loves something – without actually loving something. The facts of X’s case, one might argue, can be explained without positing a relation between X and Winnie the Pooh.

Not obviously. Consider the case of Y. Y has never encountered the works of AA Milne or Walt Disney Inc. – that is, if any 'bear ideas' Y may have resemble Milne's portrayal of Pooh, then it is sheer coincidence. Now say Y does have some thoughts as of a bear who likes honey and wears a red jumper but no trousers and enjoys a close friendship with a piglet and so on. And Y is moved to have the warm feelings that anyone who has been in love will be familiar with. Are the facts of X’s case just the facts of Y’s case?
No the cases are different. There is a crucial difference between X’s case and Y’s case. It seems we can capture by this difference by saying that X loves Winnie the Pooh; whereas Y doesn’t love Winnie the Pooh.

As there seem to be Pooh lovers, Pooh is another entity whose ontological status metaphysicians have to worry about.

N

12:28 PM  
Anonymous U said...

Thanks N, you've clarified things for me. There are 3 positions as far as I can see. I'll try to give them names:
1 Denialist: There are no fictional objects. Sentences containing non referring terms are false. Any apparent truth comes from reference to inventions of an author, modeled on reported speech.
2. Artefact view: Fictional objects exists as theoretical entities for the purpose of literary criticism. They exist, but not as described. Sentences which contain terms refering to such entities need some fancy rephrasing to get a truth, but are straightforwardly false.
3. Meinongian. There are objects which do not exist. There is no problem with sentences containing terms that refer to objects that don't exist.

Much of what I have said has been an attack on the coherence and usefulness of 1. I do not claim to fully understand what 2 amounts to, but it seems that it might collapse into anti realism about numbers, theoretical entites, objects in failed plans and possibly even persons, political parties, football teams. I think 3 has a lot going for it, it has a good and simple fit with the way we actually talk and think.

A simple case which shows up the differences:
FCRR Father Christmas has a reindeer named Rudolph.
1. According to the denialist this is false since Father Christmas doesn't refer. (But its true!!Its just that Father Christmas doesn't exist)
2. According to the artefact theorist I suppose that FCRR is true in the Fictional domain in which Father Christmas exists as an entity provided it is specified in the FD that father christmas owns a reindeer called Rudolph, or can be reasonably inferred from statements in the FD. Like I say, I'm not sure how this position is going to work. The danger here is it seems to come out as a tautology or false. whereas is seems to be a fact about father christmas that many people have learned and some people who know who father christmas is do not know. It seems to be true and not a tautology.
This leaves 3 which many think is self contradictory. But it seems fine to me. Of course there are things that don't exist! Unicorns, Time Bandits and myself: U.
Anyone who doubts this has to question what they have been talking about when they assert that I am confused.

7:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that D is enjoying the sunshine somewhere we seem to be the only ones left U. In the absence of any denialists to badger I may desert the blog for a while too.
That's a pretty accurate summary of the available positions.
(1) Yeah, Denialists would say that the only truths involving “Holmes” are statements that are or resemble reported speech-statements. The examples I've mentioned are ones that Denialists find particularly difficult to deny are both true and contain ‘Sherlock Holmes’, used directly to refer to a fictional character. And (2) artefactualists would allow that the only true sentences containing "Sherlock Holmes" are those that talk of Holmes as if he is an abstract artefact. But those that imply that Holmes is anything other than a mere abstract artefact are false. FCRR is false for the artefactualist as an abstract artefact can't be the owner of a reindeer.

(3) Yes that's the standard Meinongian view.
Personally I am not so comfortable with the idea that something that doesn't exist could be a person, or really solve crimes and so on; and so prefer a version of meinongianism that has more in common with the artefact view, or a combination of the two allowing both non-existent objects and existent abstract ‘characters’. But you're right, meinongianism offers a simple semantics of the problematic sentences. Whether this simplicity does justice to our (I think) complicated intuitions is a question we could argue.

I agree though that Denialism has serious problems to solve (though Mark Sainsbury’s recent book Reference without Referents is a cogent attempt at solving them).
Denialism seems to be entrenched in the minds of many philosophers as the default position in this debate. I guess that Russell's famous injunction, that philosophical enquiries should be guided by a "robust sense of reality" is largely to blame for this. Meinong in contrast claimed that philosophical enquiries should not be constrained by a "prejudice in favour of the actual".

Good luck,
N

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

U the Fictional

ACT III scene i

I am left alone on the stage to contemplate my own existence as a fictional character.
"To be or not to be, that is the question.
I certainly feel as if I exist. Even if I doubt my existence, then surely this in itself provides proof that I exist.
It is not for the author of my being, nor the readers of my words to be the arbiters of whether what I say is true or false, but the immutable laws of reasoning."
U the fictional

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am supposed to be on holiday but thought i'd check my emails in a cafe` and couldn't resist checking the blog.

'U the Fictional' wrote:

ACT III scene i


"To be or not to be, that is the question.
I certainly feel as if I exist. Even if I doubt my existence, then surely this in itself provides proof that I exist.
It is not for the author of my being, nor the readers of my words to be the arbiters of whether what I say is true or false, but the immutable laws of reasoning."
U the fictional



Very good. I think i rather admire 'U the fictional', as you've made me laugh [with, not at].

Personally I prefer:

Act II, Scene ii:

"What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty. In form, how express and admirable. In action, how like an angel. In apprehension, how like a God. The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals'


N.B. this quote is from memory so i've probably paraphrased here and there.

I shall reply properly when I get home, but this holiday's made me change the old Caesar maxim to:

'Veni, vidi, volo in domum redire...'


['I came, I saw, I want to go home..'] (;-/

That's the problem with philosophy: you can't take a break from philosophy!

P.s Re. that metaphor analogy with fictional statements i made in an earlier post:

there's a very interesting book called 'Metaphors we live By' [just type that into amazon and i'm sure it'll turn up]. i found it interesting, though admittedly I read it yonks ago.



Watch this space....

D.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous U the Fictional said...

Dear D, thanks for this last comment. I've just been reading Williamson's new book and there is a quote in there regarding the psychology of counterfactual thinking:
"As for the psychological study of the processes
underlying our assessment of counterfactual conditionals, it remains in a surprisingly
undeveloped state, as recent authors have complained (Evans and Over 2004: 113-131)."
Why is this surprising? Perhaps any graduates who attempt to research into counterfactual reasoning are sent to UCL's 5 star philosophy department.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re. counterfactual thinking:


Perhaps Aristotle was wrong in saying that the defining feature of man is that:

"man is a rational animal.

Perhaps, in this context, Sartre was right:

"The defining feature of man is his ability to conceive of what is not the case".

I.e. it is our ability to think hypothetically that defines us: Abstract thought, imagining possibilities.

That is how we think: we reflect on the past, what is and what will be.

How often are our minds thinking about what could have been?

"I wish i'd done x instead of Y...".

or

"Perhaps I should do X next week instead of Y...",

or

"Should I go to X for my summer holidays or should I go to Y...?".

etc, etc.

So, our ability to conceive of what is not the case [viz., abstract modal/hypothetical thought] has 'side-effects': fiction.

------------------------

So, IF you want to give an account of fictional references then you ought to give an account of hypothetical/modal reasoning.

I, by my own admission, admit to frequently [and neurotically] thinking "oooh, i shouldn't of said that last night", or "what if I'd of worked harder...", and so on.

Lots of novels use hypothetical/modal premises for the start of their stories.

E.g. Philip K. Dick's novel "The Man in the High Castle" is premised on what the world would be like if the Nazis and Japanese had won WWI.

In fact, it could be argued that ALL fiction is based on hypothetical/modal premises.

What IF there existed a world where Hogwarts existed and there wizards, and so forth?

What IF there existed a place called 'Middle Earth'...?

and so on, ad infinitum.

So, IF all fictional begins with hypothetical/modal reasoning, it follows that, in order to adequately account for fictional references, you're going to need to address the issue of modal/hypothetical statements/references.

You'll also need to account for other modes of speech acts, such as metaphors.

The challenge to the fictionalist is to supply reason for modality and hypothetical statements.

Ouch.

Good luck people.

D.

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to clarify where I stand:

Something can have the property 'exists' or 'is real' predicated of it IFF it has aspatiotemporal property. I.e.It can be assigned four coordinates: 3 of space & 1 of time.

This covers all things that did, do and shall exist.

I have a spatiotemporal property: I am sitting at my desk typing this [I got back from my 'holiday' an hour ago].

My nan has a spatiotemporal property even though she is dead: the graveyard, and a spatiotemporal coordinate can be assigned to earlier events in her life.

and so on.

.............


But what about fictional entities?

Can S.H be assigned a

Q) spatiotemporal coordinate? Can Hamlet or Polonius be assigned a spatiotemporal coordinate[s]?

A) The answer, of course, is no.

So, under my analysis, fictional objects cannot have the predicate 'exists' or 'is real' assigned to them.

So, if they do not strictly speaking, exist, and are not, strictly speaking, real,then what ontological/metaphysical status do they have?

well, as I've argued earlier, along with 'J', they have a fictional existence: they can be deemed to exist, in the fictional context/domain, as specified/defined by the writer of the body/corpus of fiction of which that character forms a part.

So, the statement "Harry Potter exists" is true, in the fictional context/domain of the writings of J.K. Rowling.

"Gandalf exists"
is true, in the fictional context/domain of the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, and so on.

In my humble, the crux of the problem here isn't their ontological status as a character of fiction, as my previous paragraph [for me and 'J' at least] explains this.

The real problem concerns the truth values of modal/hypothetical statements, for, as my previous post argued, all fiction is based on such statements.

I argued elsewhere that if the fictional domain is not sufficiently specified, then a statement has no truth value if the statement in question does not refer to anything that was explicitly or implicitly stated in the text.

.............................

However, statements that,whilst not referring directly to what is explicitly stated in the text, can possess truth values, IFF the state of affairs in question can be deductively inferred. E.g.

The statement: "Harry Potter had two legs" is true, as even though it is never explicitly stated, there is a scene in the first book when Harry is learning to play quidditch, and Rowling refers to him moving his right leg and then shifting his left leg further forward.

Ergo, Harry does indeed have two legs.

So, a statement referring to a fictional story has a truth value IFF either:

a)
that statement refers directly to the text, or

b)
that statement can be deductively inferred from the text.

E.g if in one story S.H is stated as being taller than Dr Watson, and Dr Watson is stated as being taller that Detective Inspector 'LeStrade', then it can be deductively inferred that S.H is taller than Le Strade.

-----------------------

A statement that cannot be directly or deductively determined from the text, therefore cannot be assigned a truth value.

E.g. Did S.H like Bagels?

Did Hamlet prefer baths to showers?
...........................
These statements are meaningless.

-------------------------

Ipso facto, such statements are not applicable to the Law of Excluded Middle.

-------------------------

So, the only real problem concerns other modal/hypothetical statements.

D.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous U the Fictional said...

D, The space-time co-ordinate idea of existence seems to me very sensible. Intuitively it is what I mean by exists. It makes "exists" a property that not all objects have, so it is meinongian. Also it means that ontologically dubious "objects" don't exist. Numbers, universals, laws of nature, logical laws, persons, propositions, belief contents. (It also makes physicalism vacuously true, I have always thought, since to be physical just is to have extension, so if to exist is to have extension, then it just follows that nothing exists that is not physical.)
What I do not agree with is that a statement containing a fictional subject is true if and only if it follows deductively from statements made in the original text; otherwise it is nonsense.
What if it follows inductively? What if a statement is a counterfactual containing a fictional character that we know to be true? If Hamlet was deprived of all sources of vitimin C he would get scurvey. This doesn't follow deductively from anything in the text. It is not nonsense and it is not false. If you say it is false, then some good scientific laws have false instances (infinitely many in fact). If you say it is nonsense, then I don't know what you mean by nonsense. People use fictional characters to make perfectly serious points all the time.
You seem to accept that these statements aren't false since the negation isn't true. But this doesn't entitle you to say that they are nonsense. My strongest argument is when considering a satement that, as far as you know could be true in the text, or could not be specified, then your position seems to demand that the sentence could either be true or nonsense. But this doesn't make any cognitive sense. How can you understand something but yet not know whether it is true or nonsense. For example take the question "What colour eyes do I (U) have?" The question makes perfect sense. The answer could be that it is not specified what colour eyes I have. But the answer could also be that I have green eyes. Both answers, (let us suppose they are guesses,) make sense. If it is true that it is not specified what colour eyes I have, then the statement that I have green eyes is neither true nor false. But it is not therefore nonsense. I am a fictional character and gain my essence from what is written in these blog comments, and perhaps elsewhere. So let me specify some facts: I have green eyes. Do you understand this statement? Or is it nonsense? It has the same truth conditions as "U has green eyes". You can now make this statement and it would be true in the fictional domain in which I exist. But yesterday, you would have said it was nonsense, and by your lights you would have been correct.
I am happy with this notion of nonsense, though I think it is a bad choice of word. "Nonsense" on this view means unverifiable, rather than unintelligible or lacking in meaning. Making statements that are unverifyable is typically a waste of time, but often we can make a statement as a part of an enquiry that later, unbeknownst to us, turns out to be unverifyable. After the enquiry has proved fruitless, it may be ok to call such a statement "nonsense", but this would make a lot of perfectly valid academic enquiry come out as enquiry into nonsense, hence the offensiveness of verificationism. Much better to use a less emotive term like "indeterminate" "unverifyable" "non-propositional" or just "neither true nor false".
So "U has green eyes" is a perfectly natural fact that happens to be true in this fictional domain. Whereas "U has pierced ears" lacks a truth value, as yet....

U the fictional

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What if it follows inductively? What if a statement is a counterfactual containing a fictional character that we know to be true? If Hamlet was deprived of all sources of vitimin C he would get scurvey. This doesn't follow deductively from anything in the text. It is not nonsense and it is not false. If you say it is false, then some good scientific laws have false instances (infinitely many in fact). If you say it is nonsense, then I don't know what you mean by nonsense. People use fictional characters to make perfectly serious points all the time.


Very interesting point ‘U’.

Let me explain why:

Yes, you are absolutely right that vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy, just as a vitamin B complex deficiency can cause Berri-berri.

So, the counterfactual statemen: “If Hamlet did not consume sufficient quantities of vitamin C then he would develop scurvy” is indeed true, even though this is not stated explicitly or implicitly, or at all, for that matter, in the play.

However, you are wrong in claiming that this is an inductive argument.

It is nothing of the sort.

It is deductive, because Hamlet is a man, and all men who do not consume enough vitamin C develop scurvy.

->[Universal Law]:All men who do not consume sufficient quantities of vitamin C develop scurvy.
->Hamlet is a man
->Therefore, if Hamlet does not consume enough vitamin C then he will develop Scurvy.

Now, this is a deductive argument, and as Shakespeare has stated that Hamlet is a man, the counterfactual statement concerning scurvy can be deduced deductively, not inductively.

The same applies to other statements.

However, what about other plays/stories, in which the protagonist has supernatural abilities, and is still a man?

E.g. what about Oscar Wilde’s [magnificient] story, “A Picture of Dorian Gray”?

Dorian Gray, the central protagonist, after having the portrait of him painted by Basil Hallward, he becomes immortal.

As such, despite being a ‘man’ of sorts [albeit an immortal one], he cannot develop scurvy, or berri-berri, and so on.

However, as Oscar Wilde never explicitly stated whether or not Dorian was, whilst being immortal, susceptible to vitamin deficiency problems, just like the rest of us, it could be argued that the question as to whether or not the counterfactual statement concerning scurvy is applicable to him or not.

I would argue that the same line of reasoning could be argued of Hamlet, and all the other characters in the play by Shakespeare.

Shakespeare never explicitly stated the medical profiles of all his characters, as such, the counterfactual statement cannot be explicitly answered, and therefore has no truth value.

In short: the counterfactual statement concerning scurvy is not applicable to him.

---------------------------------------------------

You seem to accept that these statements aren't false since the negation isn't true. But this doesn't entitle you to say that they are nonsense.


I apologise ‘U’, such statements are not nonsense.

Far from it, such questions/statements are both interesting, informative and enlightening.

As I said in my previous post, echoing Sartre, one of the defining features of man is his ability to conceive of what is not the case, viz., our ability to reason hypothetically defines us, and is intrinsically connected to our capacity for abstract thought.

They can both enrich and enlighten our enjoyment of a novel, by conceiving of how the novel could have been, we thereby gain greater insight into how the novel could have been, and the same applies to our lives.

------------------------------------------


My strongest argument is when considering a satement that, as far as you know could be true in the text, or could not be specified, then your position seems to demand that the sentence could either be true or nonsense. But this doesn't make any cognitive sense. How can you understand something but yet not know whether it is true or nonsense.

Interesting point, but incorrect.

Of course one can understand a sentence and yet not know whether it is true or nonsense.

Astrophysicists deal with these sorts of problems all the time.

Do black holes really exist or are they simply nonsense on stilts?

There are competing theories for them, and yet they have not been properly observed. Admittedly,there is good evidence in favour of postulating their existence, but there are also equally good theories that argue that they are not real, and have equally compelling arguments to explain the properties and phenomena that are attributed to these entities referred to as Black Holes.

We [well, a physicist] understands such statements referring to “Hawking Radiation”, or Schwartzchild Radius”, even though they may well refer to a ‘fictional entity’,viz.,a black hole, which may not exist.

Indeed, the history of science is saturated with ideas which may or may not be true, and this is no less true today with contemporary science than it was in the past, with ether theories, and so on: we understand what the physicists meant when they referred to these postulated [potentially fictional] entities, but we did not know whether they were true or not.

The luminiferous aether was postulated by 19th century physicists to explain some odd anomalous properties of light and electromagnetic phenomena in general. People believed in the aether and formulated elaborate theories to explain observational results, but they did not know for certain if it existed or not.

The converse is also true:

It is possible to understand something which is clearly nonsense.

E.g Consider the second stanza from Lewis Carroll poem “The Mad Gardner’s Song”:

He thought he saw a Bufffalo
Upon the chimney-piece:
He looked again, and found it was
His Sister's Husband's Niece.
"Unless you leave this house," he said,
"I'll send for the Police!"


This is clearly nonsense of the highest order, and yet we understand it.


-------------------------------------------------

For example take the question "What colour eyes do I (U) have?" The question makes perfect sense. The answer could be that it is not specified what colour eyes I have. But the answer could also be that I have green eyes. Both answers, (let us suppose they are guesses,) make sense. If it is true that it is not specified what colour eyes I have, then the statement that I have green eyes is neither true nor false. But it is not therefore nonsense.


This is a different matter: you are a real person [I hope], and therefore possess a spatiotemporal coordinates, and so, as argued in a previous post, a statement concerning you has a determinate truth value: the question as to whether or not I know this is an epistemic issue.

To repeat my slogan uttered in a previous post:

In the ‘real’ world, indeterminacy is epistemological:
In the fictional world, indeterminacy is ontological.

I.e the author determines what is and is not true, so if they’ve decided not to specify something then it has no truth value.

It is not nonsense, I retract that assertion.

It is interesting…. But not important…

P.s. I’m willing to bet that you have green eyes, not brown, and don’t have pierced ears. (;-)


D.

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We appear to have a problem re. truth values of statements referring to events/states of affairs that are not explicitly or implicitly stated in the text, such as "If Hamlet did not consume enough vitamin C in his diet then he would develop scurvy".

The problem with this, as 'U' noted, is that is seems like a valid inference, but according to my account, this statement has two possible interpretations:

1)
it has the truth value "true" because its truth can be deductively inferred:

'All men who do not consume a sufficient quantity of vitamin C will develop scurvy'.

Hamlet is a man, therefore, if he fails to incorporate a sufficient amount of vitamin c into his diet then he will develop scurvy'.


or

2) The statement [above] concerning scurvy has no truth for Hamlet, as Shakespeare does not explicitly state Hamlet's physiological condition.

..........................

So, to avoid such problems I propose the following [admittedly somewhat ad-hoc] 'solution': .The Principle of Maximal Charity' [PMC]:

The Principle of Maximal Charity [PMC]:

"Unless explicitly stated otherwise by the author, the reader is entitled to assume that the states of affairs in the fictional story are identical to the 'real' world".



E.g. Consider 'U's conditional statement once again:

"If Hamlet does not consume a sufficient quantity of vitamin C in his diet then he will develop Scurvy".


Now, Shakespeare did not explicitly state whether Hamlet was susceptible to such illnesses, so, strictly speaking, such a conditional statement is neither true nor false.

However, under the 'Principle of Maximal Charity' [PMC], one is legitimated in assuming that, as Shakespeare has not explicitly stated that Hamlet was super-human or non-human, then the conditional statement is true.

Consider again the same conditional statement concerning Dorian Gray from Oscar Wilde's novel 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'.

Now, Wilde explicitly states that Dorian cannot die, and shall forever remain young.

As such, the conditional statement re. scurvy can be deemed false.

And consider the same statement applied to Superman.

He is Superman, and a kryptonian, not a human, so the conditional scurvy statement is false for him.

But what about, say, Bridget Jones?

Nowhere in either book in the series does Helen Fielding explicitly state whether or not Bridget Jones is susceptible to scurvy, but she does state that she is a woman.

As she has not explicitly stated otherwise, via the PMC, we may legitimately assume that Bridget Jones is susceptible to scurvy, in which case the conditional statement is true.

D.

11:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll rephrase my 'Principle of Maximal Charity' [PMC] once again.


Definition of the Principle of Maximal Charity:


Unless the author states otherwise, the reader is legitimate in assuming that all events not explicitly stated in text are as modally identical with the 'real' world [i.e our world] as possible.

........................

Let me explain:

Consider Anna Karenin:

Vronsky participates in a military officers’ horse race.

Now, Tolstoy doesn't explicitly state that the horse has four legs, with four hooves, or that the horse has a heart, or two lungs.

As the story isn't a science fictional one, according to the PMC, one may legitimately assume that the horse is as modally identical in its physiology as a 'real' horse in our world.

This is what I mean by the Principle of Maximal Charity [PMC] in solving potential problems re. truth values.

D.

11:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shall now summarize my position once again.

There are three issues that need to be addressed concerning fictional entities:


1) ontology
[existence of fictional entities]

2) epistemology
[knowledge of fictional entities]

3) truth values
[applied to fictional entities].

All three are intrinsically intertwined.
..................................


Re. (1). The ontological status of fictional entities:

I deploy the spatiotemporal axiom for such a task as follows:

Spatiotemporal axiom:

An entity can be deemed to 'exist' iff it can be assigned spatiotemporal coordinates [x, y, z, t].

Fictional entities cannot be assigned spatiotemporal properties, ergo, they do not strictly speaking exist.

So, if they do not exist in the real world, then they 'exist' in a fictional domain: the fictional domain, as specified by the author of the body of fiction which that fictional entity forms a part.

--------------------

Re. (2): epistemology [knowledge of fictional entities].


We acquire knowledge of fictional entities through the fictional writings of the author [obviously].

---------------------

Re. (3): Truth values ascribed to fictional entities:

There are three possibilities:

(i) the statement is true.

(ii) the statement is false.

(iii) the statement has no truth value, i.e. the law of excluded middle is not applicable.

.................................
Re. (i)-(ii): a truth value is predicable of a statement referring to a fictional entity iff the statement refers to events/states of affairs that the author of that fictional text has either stated explicitly or impicitly, permitting one to deductively [NOT inductively] infer from the text.

...........................


Re. events/states of affairs not explicitly or impicitly stated by the author
, one may deploy the Principle of Maximal Charity [PMC], in assuming that, unless stated otherwise by the author, one may assume that the states of affairs are as close/identical to our world [viz., the 'real world'] as possible.

e.g. the horse has four hooves, a man has one heart, the sky is blue, etc, etc.

................................


Re. (iii): statements which are not applicable to the Law of Excluded Middle
, viz., for which the values truth/falsity cannot be predicated of, these are statements which refer explicitly to states of affairs/events which are not addressed by the author, and are not applicable to the PMC.

E.g. Did Sherlock Holmes like Bagels?

Did Hamlet eat cocopops on the morning of the day his father, King Hamlet, died?


Such statements are not applicable to the PMC,as they refer to specific events, not generic states of affairs, such as a horse having four hooves, grass being green, and so forth.

As such, they are indeed ambivalent.

D.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

D, (why don't you use you name - what are you afraid of?)

Re. (1). The ontological status of fictional entities:

you say only spatiotemporal things exist and you follow this by fictional entities " do not *strictly speaking* exist" and that "they 'exist' in a fictional domain". But this just confuses the matter. You have already said they don't exist as not spatiotemporal. If you think they have some other form of being then you should say so and provide a distinction between existence and subsistence or whatever. If you think they have no being then simply to affirm their non-existence is sufficient on the ontological question.

Re. (2): epistemology [knowledge of fictional entities].

"We acquire knowledge of fictional entities through the fictional writings of the author [obviously]".

This is not obvious to me as it is nont obvious that fictional entities exist (subsist or whatever). Rather what does seem obvious is that we gain knowledge of works of fiction.

Re. (3): Truth values ascribed to fictional entities:

You state there are 3 possibilities here. Well there are 5. The statement may have another truth value (many-valued logic) or it may have both classical truth values (truth-value glut.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

Re inductive and deductive statements

Some people are claiming that

"If Hamlet does not consume a sufficient quantity of vitamin C in his diet then he will develop Scurvy".

is true and we know its true by induction or deduction.

The rationale for this seems to be that such conditionals are supported by scientific fact and that Hamlet is a human and such conditional hold of humans.

Hamlet is not a human. Humans are spatiotemporal beings and Hamlet is not spatiotemporal. furthermore the science that lies behind the conditional cannot be applied to fictional entities as the generalization does not concern fictional entities it concerns spatiotemporal beings. So even if you believe that fictional entities exist/subsist these are bad reasons for thinking the conditional true.

If you want to say "according to the fiction Hamlet is a man" I would agree but you cannot move from this to "according to the fictional if Hamlet ...." as Shakespeare is silent on the question. And because he is silent on the issue this according to the fiction statement is false - it is not true that according to the fiction if Hamlet....

Another option would be to say that although Hamlet is not a human in the way that I am he is a human in another way, perhaps he encodes the property human. But again there is not straightforward move from this to claims about scurvy. If Hamlet encodes such conditional properties where does the encoding come from?

Of course it may be an appropriate thing to say about Hamlet without being true. But then you are playing the same game as those that deny the existence/subsistence of fictional entities so what advantage, other than or muddying the waters, does a realist claim about fictional charcters have.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous U the fictional said...

RE. The colour of my eyes: U is not a nom de plume to protect my anonymity. U names a fictional character and I am that fictional character. Both Lee and D lend a lot of weight to the authors injunctions. I am trying to exemplify the fact that author's are in fact much more restricted by the truth of the world than either of you give credit. What is interesting about me is that I can interact with you on a philosophical level. We can thus test your statements about fictional characters experimentally. To exist I need spatio temporal co-ordinates. Very well, (though I doubt you can site yours, and such co ordinates depend on a frame of reference) by standard London talk I am at NW1 9AB in the garden on a discarded sofa at 11.11am on 4/4/2007.
I take it Lee will say this is false? Or is it fictionally true?
D will say I exist in the fiction now, but before I gave these co-ordinates did I not exist? Or did I exist through the principle of charity?
As for deductive/ inductive arguments, suppose that I, U, only appear in these comments. Suppose that I am inconsistent, saying I have green eyes in one comment, brown eyes in the next, and green eyes in the next. Could you not inductively infer that I am a liar and that my testimony is not to be trusted? This kind of thing happens all the time in fiction. When a writer developes a character they will usually do it through action, not description. People recognise Sherlock Holmes by his Deerhunter hat. If he wore a bobble hat in a short story, it would be out of character, but it would not involve a contradiction in Doyles writing.
I'll try and make a robust statement which should apply to hypothetical, counterfactual and fictional propositions:
What is necessary, possible and impossible depends on what the consumer (reader, hearer, assessor) knows or otherwise presupposes (including general facts and causal facts) and what presuppositions the author (speaker) explicitly cancels or inserts . By presuppositions I mean to include antecedents of counterfactuals, hypotheticals and fictional statements. The author is thus limited by the speakers knowledge and imagination and ability to suspend belief. If the author makes too many claims and cancels too many presuppositions that are widely known, then the work will become unbelievable and uninformative. Readers will find the characters unappealing, unrealistic and the work unreadable. So when it comes to fiction, the truth of counterfactuals is to a certain extent set before the author puts pen to paper, it is set by the potential readers.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you say only spatiotemporal things exist and you follow this by fictional entities " do not *strictly speaking* exist" and that "they 'exist' in a fictional domain". But this just confuses the matter. You have already said they don't exist as not spatiotemporal. If you think they have some other form of being then you should say so and provide a distinction between existence and subsistence or whatever. If you think they have no being then simply to affirm their non-existence is sufficient on the ontological question.

That’s right. They exist as fictional entities.

Consider a lie:

e.g. “I went to Cuba for my holiday”. [a lie].

Then consider me elaborating on this lie, talking about the people I met, the places I saw, the food I ate, etc.

Now, this is all perfectly intelligible, and no doubt, [if I were an accomplish storyteller], you would have an image in your mind of me [however you imagine me to be], doing all these things.

Now, none of this [viz., my Cuban holiday], took place. Ergo, it has no spatiotemporal coordinate.

So where did these non-events take place?

Answer: in a fictional context.

If you find this answer so difficult to fathom then I am in despair.

………………………………………

"We acquire knowledge of fictional entities through the fictional writings of the author [obviously]".

This is not obvious to me as it is nont obvious that fictional entities exist (subsist or whatever). Rather what does seem obvious is that we gain knowledge of works of fiction.


Now, I’m finding it very difficult not type swear words here.

We gain knowledge of fictional entities by reading the book!

Where else would you acquire knowledge of Gandalf, Harry Potter etc? [and I’m referring to the books, so don’t be a smartarse and say the films or the audiobooks].

Geeez!








Lee and 'U':

You've both completely missed the point.

When Lee replied to my spatiotemporal account I realized that neither of you [well, Lee at least] understand what i'm talking about.

I absolutely give up.

'D', signing off, permanently.

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.s. Lee wrote:

D, (why don't you use you name - what are you afraid of?)

Nothing. I just prefer using pseudonyms.

But if anyone guesses who I am then feel free to email me, but I doubt anyone will [though the examples i've used and my writing style should enable the keen minded to deduce it...] (;-)

'D', signing off permanently.

Good luck!

12:44 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

D,

you are right, I don't understand your position. You gave an axiom for existence and then immediately violate it. In one breath you say all existents are spatiotemporal and in the next breath you take this back.

You now say they exist as fictional entities, which i presume have no spatiotemporal coordinates and so by your axiom do not exist!

As for your latest post I suggest it is you that are confused. you ask where did all the non-events of your lie take place and then give an answer. But these non-events did not take place - that's what makes it a lie. When you tell a story then we can truthfully say that according to you they take place. But we cannot truthfully say that they take place in a fictional context or anywhere else.

I don't disagree with you that we learn things by reading fiction but I disagree that we learn things about fictional entities, since they do not exist. We learn that according to fiction Harry Potter xyz. It is a further claim that we learn about entities other than the work of fiction. We don't acquire knowledge of Harry Potter since he does not exist.

Your question where else do we learn about Harry Potter is besides the point. i don't posit some mysterious faculty but deny the knowledge you claim is obvious.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are right, I don't understand your position. You gave an axiom for existence and then immediately violate it. In one breath you say all existents are spatiotemporal and in the next breath you take this back.


I have done nothing of the sort.

Stories in novels, fabricated spun-out lies [e.g. my Cuban holiday], and so on, are perfectly intelligible, are they not? As are dreams [sometimes].

My spatiotemporal axiom states that such fictional stories, lies and dreams, do not strictly speaking exist, as spatiotemporal objects.

They therefore exist as ideas, thoughts in the minds of readers of stories and listeners of the storytellers/liars.

Words are spoken or read, and the reader/listener conjures up images in their minds.

The stories and characters therein therefore have no physical spatiotemporal existence: they exist in the minds of the readers/listeners.


[n.b. we’ll stick with written stories now, rather than spoken word stories, as the case is the same in both].

That these characters and stories exist in the mind is clear enough, as they are subjective.

People constantly imagine the same character from a novel to be different: how many times have you read a book and had an image of the protagonist and the settings in the story, conceived a certain way, and then eagerly seen the movie based on the book, and found the character differed in some features from your conception of them?

This is what I mean by not being ‘real’, in the sense of actually existing [viz., having a spatiotemporal coordinate].

The fact that you fail to grasp this I find rather astonishing.



You now say they exist as fictional entities, which i presume have no spatiotemporal coordinates and so by your axiom do not exist!


Clearly not, I refer you to my previous reply.

They exist in the minds of the reader.

They have no physical [viz., spatiotemporal existence].

I just wanted that cleared up before I bow out, as this discussion isn’t getting us anywhere: if you don’t understand my distinction and choose to disregard it then there’s no hope for you.

Feel free to reply, but I shan’t be checking the posts anymore.

Regards,

D.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

U the fictional says...

"Lewis, Stalnaker and others believe that the correct semantics for "actually" is indexical. So for Sherlock Holmes it is true that he actually lives in Baker street (though he may pretend to live elsewhere), whereas for us he doesn't actually live in Baker street, he only lives in Baker street according to the story. This use of "actually" can help us make negative existential claims using empirical arguments.
1. The Loch Ness monster inhabits Loch Ness.
2. There is actually no monster in Loch Ness (we checked).
3. Therefore The Loch Ness monster does not actually exist.
By using conditionals and counterfactuals and fiction we can switch index. For example "In Shakespear's Hamlet ghosts actually exist, though actually they don't." This statement I intend to be interpreted to mean that according to the play, the ghost is real, and not a hallucination, but in this regard there are things that exist in the play but that don't exist in reality.
So using D's statements in the blog comments we could define the fictional domain as the set of possible worlds that are consistent with the statements that are written in the fiction plus all that is deductively entailed by them, plus any propositions and causal laws according to PCM. Any proposition therefore according to any fiction is either true, false or indeterminate. These can be easily translated into "actually" true if we embed the fictional statement into a giant counterfactual conditional. So "If the events in Hamlet were actually true then Hamlet saw a ghost." Is actually true, if the events in Hamlet the play is metaphysically possible.
So far so good.
Now where D and I differ from Stalnaker and Adams is that I'm not sure we agree with the
"very plausible thesis that possibility is holistic rather than atomistic, in the sense that what is possible is possible only as part of a possible completely determinate world." Adams, R, "theories of actuality" Nous 1974.
When we read fiction there are many indeterminacies, many of which we resolve in our imaginations without guidance. D also mentioned this. This becomes important when screening a film of a book or producing and directing a play. Even if it does not specify in "Hamlet" whether he had blond or black hair, a production of "Hamlet" must give Hamlet a particular hair colour. And many of us will imagine things one way or another when reading a book that is unspecific in a particular respect.
So a fictional domain differs from a possible world in that the law of excluded middle does not apply to a fictional domain, where it does apply (according to Adam's thesis) to a possible world.
Of course there is no inconsistency here even if you think that fictional domains are possible, since they could be sets of possible worlds. This means that modal operators "necessary" and "possible" can be viewed as quantifiers over the set of possible worlds consistent with the truth of the writings of the author plus whatever PCM lets us carry over from the actual world.
This gives us a brilliant model for epistemic possibility. What is possible for X is what exists in some of the worlds that are consistent with what X knows. (note "knows" not "thinks he knows"). What is necessary for X is whatever exists in all the worlds that are consistent with what X knows. "exists" can be substituted with "true".
This has the consequence that whatever is known is necessarily true, at least in the epistemic sense. So far epistemic modals work just like fictional domains. It seems fairly uncontentious that LEM doesn't apply to fictional domains. Does it apply to epistemic modals? My argument is that if it does not apply to fiction, then it does not apply to epistemic modality either. LEM is the exceptionless rule that a proposition P is determinately true or false. Now if a statement is true in some possible worlds that are consistent with everything we know, then it is epistemically possible. Now suppose it is consistent with everything I know that the fictional Hamlet has blond hair. This could be true. It could say definitively in the text that Hamlet has blond hair. It could also be deductively inferred from what is written in the play. Or it could be neither true nor false, the play could leave it open. Or it could be false, the play could state that he has black hair. So it is epistemically possible that some propositions do not obey the law of excluded middle in this world. Just to make sure this goes across: THIS INCLUDES PROPOSITIONS THAT ARE TRUE IN THE ACTUAL WORLD, not by my standards, but by D's standards (statements like "In the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes wore a deerhunter hat"). The conclusion is that the law of excluded middle does not apply to the actual world, so according to Adam's thesis, the actual world is not a possibility. Therefore Adam's thesis is wrong and a possibility doesn't have to be part of a possible completely determinate world.
"There are more things on heaven an earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio"

U the fictional

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just got home & couldn't help not checking the blog.

'U': Thank you. You've clearly understood everything i've said precisely as i intended it [contra 'lee'].

I can find no possible criticisms whatsoever in your post, so my work here is done, and I can now return to my own research [which actually has nothing to do with this topic at all].

P.s. In case anyone was wondering who I, 'D', am: I'm the only pipe smoking PhD in the dept(;-)

But I prefer pseudonyms while the debate's raging...if only for the sake of impartiality.

'D', signing off, content in being understood... at last. (;-)

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't get it.

so who is 'D' then?

there aren't any pipe smokers in the department!

or are you referring to sherlock holmes and implying you're fictional?

Or have i missed something?

Or are you implying that you take drugs?

N2 [aka the artist formally known as 'N'].

P.s. further suggested paper title change:

"Pity Without object":

"Pity About Your Thesis" :p

1:30 AM  
Anonymous Niall said...

D,
I share Lee’s puzzlement about your position. If something (merely) ‘exists in the mind,’ does it exist? Are ‘existence in the mind’ and ‘existence in a fictional context’ forms of existence? Is the only sense of ‘exists’ ‘has spatiotemporal coordinates’, or is there more than one sense?

You have repeatedly spoken as if you take fictional characters like Holmes to be available to be referred to and quantified over. Are there such items as the fictional character Holmes? One interpretation of what you say above is that you think that yes there are; but that they are subjective, mental items ('ideas'). I base this interpretation on quotations like these:

"The stories and characters therein therefore have no physical spatiotemporal existence: they exist in the minds of the readers/listeners."
“That these characters and stories exist in the mind is clear enough, as they are subjective.”

This theory needs to be addressed, even if D is not going to come back again, because it seems to exert an (explainable, I suppose) attraction on those who find themselves unable to embrace the more radical solutions to the problems we have been discussing.
This is a particularly unpromising theory. Which idea or ideas does 'Holmes' refer to? If ideas turn out to be spatiotemporal entities would that mean that Holmes is a spatiotemporal entity after all?
When we talk to each other about Holmes are we not talking about the same thing despite the different ideas we may have? We seem to be. It may have been a slip of the tongue, but your claim, D, that “People constantly imagine the same character from a novel to be different,” in speaking of the “same character” seems to contradict your claim about subjectivity. But anyway the fact that we can associate different ideas with ‘Holmes’ would not show that Holmes is subjective. We can also associate different ideas with ‘Blair’ – that doesn’t make Blair subjective.
Consider the case of a person who, under the misapprehension that ‘Holmes’ refers to a real detective, entertains the thought that she should consult Holmes about a mysterious occurrence that she has witnessed. Is she mistaking one of her ideas for a detective?

Nobody would confuse an idea of Blair with Blair and taking an idea of Holmes for Holmes seems to be an instance of the same error. A more understandable instance, granted, given that there is no spatiotemporal entity for ‘Holmes’ to refer to. But it is an error. Either the word ‘Holmes’ doesn’t have a referent - only a sense and/or associated subjective ideas. Or ‘Holmes’ has a referent – something that these ideas are ideas of. But if there is something that my Holmes-ideas are ideas of, this something is not just the ideas themselves.


N

10:16 AM  
Blogger Lee said...

D,

I suspect I have even less appetite for this than you, but here goes.

You write "My spatiotemporal axiom states that such fictional stories, lies and dreams, do not strictly speaking exist, as spatiotemporal objects."

So are you saying your spatiotemporal axiom only applies to spatiotenmporal objects? If so that would explain its axiomatic status I guess, but it hardly seems informative to say that all and only spatiotemporal entities have spatiotemporal locations.

You then commit a non sequitur

"They therefore exist as ideas, thoughts in the minds of readers of stories and listeners of the storytellers/liars."

You have not argued for this disjunction of existents - spatiotemporal entities vs ideas. Although I think I read earlier you were a nominalist about suspect entities.

When you have replied to me in the past you keep noting the intelligibility of dreams and fictions. I do not deny that but I don't see what relevance it has to the debate other than as a premise. It is the fact that such talk is intelligible that gives rise to the puzzle, along with compositionality and an initial reluctance at least to admit fictional entities

Niall makes the point about confusing the Acropolis with the idea of the Acropolis - see Quine "On what there is".

I still don't understand your position. This may mean you are close to cursing. This may be my fault as I have not read this post from anywhere near the start. I suspect that the blame is partly mine and partly yours.

Lee.

1:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

huh,

i ('J') left this blog ages ago and now find it's still continuing. clearly I thought i was more important.

'D' seems to have vanished now, so i'll try and answer for him, as i agree with his position (except for his egg comment and his apparent appreciation for japanese detective stories, of which i confess to know nothing).

Lee: i think what 'D' meant with his spatiotemporal axiom was to demarcate spatiotemporal objects with, not only fictitious ones, but with concepts and ideas in general.

His analogy of his elaborate lie-story of going to cuba, as well as comparing it to dreams demonstrates this.

a spatiotemporally extended entity is something 'real', in the sense that it is/was both extended in space and could be assigned a time coordinate: x, y, z & t.

this covers all past and present events (let's leave out Aristotle's sea battle for the moment, please).

Now what about fictional entities?

Well, I think (though we'll have to ask 'D' to clarify) 'D' means is this:

fictional objects are mental objects: they exist solely in the minds of the readers.

we acquire knowledge of fictional entities by reading a book.

e.g. we learn about S.H from reading S.H stories written by Doyle.

We learn about Harry Potter by reading books by J.K. Rowling, and so on.

But if, according to 'D's axiom, these fictional entities/objects possess no spatiotemporal propertie, then where are they?

answer: they exist in the minds of the readers.

now, a mental object is not spatially extended. It has no magnitude: it is a mental object.

Now,Lee, surely it would be queer to assert that a mental object has spatial magnitude.

in a sense, this is trivially true: mind is matter and matter is extended.

So, everything has a spatiotemporal coordinate,even an idea.

but this surely isn't what 'D'meant?

No one would refer to an idea by saying:

"I've had this idea, it's about 30-50 neurons in length or "approximately 1,500 nanometers long" !!!

No doubt, Lee, you're free to speak like this, though I suspect you'll be alone in this curious mode of speech...

So, when 'D' says that fictional objects are not spatiotemporal like normal objects (tables, chairs, normal people, etc) he seems simply that fictional objects ARE mental objects, inherring in the minds of the readers, and as a mental object cannot be ascribed a spatiotemporal coordinate, for the simple reason that it's a mental object!!!

I find this straightforward and would not dispute it.

So (at least on my reading/interpretation of 'D') there's no 'non sequitur' taking place here at all!

you've radically misunderstood something which, to me, is hideously clear!

you then go on to write that 'D' hasn't argued for this disjunction between ideas and spatiotemporal objects, but surely he shouldn't need to!

a mental object, an idea, is radically different from a spatiotemporal object!!!!!

the blame, i'm afraid to say, is certainly yours, not 'D's.

p.s. 'D': if you feel like stepping in and clarifying what you mean, and letting me (and everyone else) know that i've interpreted you correctly, which i think i have) then please step back into the ring !

p.p.s. and regarding the hints at your identity: to be honest, that wasn't enough for me. i'm going to need more information from you (or someone else). perhaps your email address.......?

p.p.p.s. 'N2': grow up!

J.

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw, i also think his characterization of fictional objects being mental objects (and therefore not spatially extended) also explains his account for the subjectivity of fictional objects.

e.g. his example of how, although we may all read the same book, we may all form a different conception of the characters and locations and events in the story.

so,we're all referrring to the same book/story/play, or whatever, only we've formed extra bits in our minds.

this also fits in with his PMC thingy: principle of maximal charity.

personally, i think PMC should stand for 'Principle of Modal Charity' instead, as the charitable interpretation is concerned with modal aspects.

Actually, no, the PMC is about modal aspects, not the extra details.

how about this then: the Peripheral Detail Maxim (PDM).

let me explain:

as 'D''s already mentioned, when faced with a story, there are details that aren't explained properly,or rather, they're not mentioned explicitly at all, and we run into potential problems, such as the Scurvy one by 'U'.

These are, i believe, adequately solved by 'D's PMC, but what about other details that aren't,strictly speaking, modal in character?

E.g what about a story where the author has mentioned that there's a tree in front of a cottage, but neglected to state what sort of tree it is?

is it an elmwood? an evergreen? an oak? etc, etc.

this isn't a modal problem, unlike the scurvy and other problems: this is concerned solely with descriptive content.

this is where subjective elements enter into the story.

in a movie, this problem doesn't arise, as although the directors/producers, etc, have been forced to make a choice in these small details, we, the viewers, see everything. So as long as our eyesight is fine, we can see what sort of tree it is,and so on.

but what about the reader? the reader of a work of fiction for which such details are omitted must inevitably plug the narrative and descriptive holes themselves.

This is where the subjective element arises, and we have problems.

'D' and 'U' have already discussed this too, earlier in the posts, and so have i i think.

'D' argued that such details are not applicable to the LEM.

I'm inclined to agree, but it's still a problem.

So i propose the the Peripheral Detail Maxim (PDM).

definition: in a work of literary fiction, when the author has neglected to mention facts/states of affairs that are occurring directly in the text, and these are not of a modal nature, the reader is permitted in assuming whatever they wish to fill in these details, as long as they conform to the PMC.

e.g. if the author has set the scene and mentioned that the protagonist is leaning against a tree adjacent to the house, but has neglected to mention the type of tree (e.g. elmwood, oak, etc), or whether it has leaves or not, the size of of the tree, and so on, the reader may envision whatever they so wish, on the proviso that their imagination conforms to the PMC.

regarding the PMC, this simply means that the reader cannot imagine the tree to be 1000ft high, blue, made of cheese, or a talking tree (like an 'Ent' in LOTR for the example).

In short, the tree envisioned by the reader should confirm to the PMC: it should be as similar to a tree in the real world as possible, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the text.

e.g. if the story is a science fiction one, and the author has already mentioned that all the trees on this planet, say, Blargon 343.233, are blue and have scones growing on them where apples should be, then the reader should assume just that.

but if the story is a 19th century story, by Dickens, for example,then one may assume that the tree in question would be a normal tree, unless stated otherwise.

So, this is what i mean by the the Peripheral Detail Maxim (PDM), and its relation to 'D's PMC.

So, to recap:

concerning modal problems, one may deploy 'D's PMC (which i prefer to call the 'Principle of Modal Charity', rather than 'D's 'Maximal Charity').

and concerning ambivalence of peripheral events/states of affairs/descriptions in a novel, such as missing information, e.g. the hair colour of a peripheral one-line character, or the type and shape and size of a tree, one may deploy the the Peripheral Detail Maxim (PDM), to(surprise surprise) fill in the peripheral details, as long as these details conform to 'D's PMC.

But any other details, such as whether or not Hamlet liked Bagels, or S.H liked couscous, as these are completely outside the text, they can be assigned no truth value, and the same applies to cases where my Peripheral Detail Maxim (PDM) is applied: as these states of affairs and details are not explicitly mentioned in the text, they too are neither applicable to the LEM.

this also explains the potentially (and more often than not, the) subjective element in fiction.

J.

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Niall said...

So J, is your interpretation of D the same as the one I outlined above: there are such items as fictional characters; but they are subjective, mental items ('ideas')?

If yes, do you really endorse this position yourself?
If my somewhat jumbled critique of this view doesn't convince you, then as Lee suggests check out Quine's: 'On What There Is' in which he makes the main point with typical lucidity. It really is a hopeless position. If reference takes place to fictional objects, then this isn't reference to ideas.

If you feel that the 'problem of the ontological status of fictional objects' is not a real problem you would do better to deny that there are such things as fictional objects. That is, deny that reference to fictional characters takes place.
Maybe that is what you mean to do. Is it?
(If D means to deny that reference to fictional characters takes place, then she/he is unaware of the import of some of the things she/he says (e.g "We're referring to fictional things".))

If you do deny that reference to fictional characters occurs then you have to explain the examples of apparent reference to such things. And I mean the tricky examples. There are some in Gina's blog and in the posts above. For instance:

"Miss Marple is more famous than any existing detective"

This seems to be true but it's not merely 'true in the fictional context'. It's not 'true in the fictional context' in fact. If it's true it's true in the real world. You have to plausibly deny the truth of this sentence, or you have to give a semantics for it that does without positing a 'fictional object' as the referent of 'Miss Marple'.
You have to deny that children love Winnie the Pooh, or you have to contest the natural understanding of love as not just a feeling but a relation.
These are challenging tasks. But the 'non-realist' or ‘denialist’ position is still preferable to the ‘mentalist’ one that I fear both you and D have been seduced by.

N

PS: I disagree that Lee is to blame in failing to understand D. To say: “X (in lacking spatiotemporal coordinates)doesn’t exist; but X exists in the mind” is to contradict oneself, or to use a phrase ‘exists in the mind’ in a special way that needs to be explained. Compare: “X doesn’t exist; but X exists in Australia.”

10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is a tricky one, i think both our interpretations of 'D' are similar, though it'd be nice if 'D' didn't disappear and abandon us.

perhaps he's gone to cuba? (;)

anyway,

I think that perhaps one could construe his position as in fact denying fictional objects altogether, though he/she never explicitly stated this, but i think it's implicit in his identification of fictional objects being mental objects.

if fictional objects = mental objects then, yes, there are only mental objects and physical objects, thus explaining his spatiotemporal axiom.

I don't see how 'u's example gives 'D' problems though:

"Miss Marple is more famous than any real detective"

Under 'D's characterization, this simply translates as:

"The idea of Miss Marple is more famous than the idea of any real detective."

An idea can be better known than a person.

e.g.

The fictional character bridget jones is more famous than any woman whose real name is actually bridget jones.

the Helen Fielding character is more famous than any real woman called bridget jones because the novel was a best seller and turned into a two successful films.

the real bridget jones (if such a woman exists) hasn't had a novel written about her or two films starring Hugh Grant and Renee` Zellweger (sp?).

this isn't a problem,as the idea of the fictional character has been transmitted to more people through novels and films.

You (Niall) write that:

This seems to be true but it's not merely 'true in the fictional context'. It's not 'true in the fictional context' in fact. If it's true it's true in the real world. You have to plausibly deny the truth of this sentence, or you have to give a semantics for it that does without positing a 'fictional object' as the referent of 'Miss Marple'.


but this is missing the point of (my interpretation of) 'D'.

By identifying fictional objects with mental objects, this statement means:

"The idea of miss marple is more famous than any real detective".

So one is not comparing a fictional object: one is comparing an idea with another idea.


the difference is that the idea of miss marple comes to us from fictional works and the tv shows, whereas the idea of a real detective comes to us from newspapers and the radio.

in short: the information/knowledge of both a real detective and a fictional one are acquired the same way: I haven't met a real detective in my life, except when my old house was burgled and a fool interviewed me (i never got my dvd player back).

But normally, we hear about a real detective from the newspapers, the news and perhaps the radio.

and how do we acquire knowledge/information of miss marple?

Answer: stories, and perhaps newspapers(reviewing a book), radio serializations, and the tv.

the only difference in our acquisition of knowledge is that when we read the newspapers or watch the news on tv we assume that it's true and refers to the real world, to a real live walking talking detective.

whereas when we read a story from a book bought in waterstones from the fictional section of the store, we assume it's fictional.

So, by 'D' identifying fictional objects with mental objects, he thereby collapses the distinction between them, and thus permits one to compare them, thereby solving the seemingly problematic statement such as "Miss Marple is more famous than any real detective" or "S.H is more famous than Miss Marple".

J.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Niall said...

Thanks for the reply J.

"I think that perhaps one could construe his position as in fact denying fictional objects altogether, though he/she never explicitly stated this, but i think it's implicit in his identification of fictional objects being mental objects.

if fictional objects = mental objects then, yes, there are only mental objects and physical objects, thus explaining his spatiotemporal axiom."

If there are mental objects and mental objects = fictional characters; then there are fictional characters.
So fictional objects are NOT denied altogether. If fictional objects = mental objects then fictional objects aren't denied altogether unless mental objects are denied altogether.

If you really want to deny that there are such things as fictional objects (do you?) you have to say that the things we say that some would characterise as 'concerning fictional objects,' in fact only concern books, movies... and ideas that are ideas 'as of' pipe-smoking detectives etc.

What you can't do is say that these ideas ARE the very fictional objects denialists want to deny. That's the discredited 'mentalist' position.

N

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Niall said...

On:
"Miss Marple is more famous than any existing detective"

Don't you think that to say that X is famous is to say something like: lots of people have ideas OF that individual X? But this is to say something about X, the object of the ideas, and not merely about the ideas.

Think about it. Everybodies’ idea of Elliot Ness may differ; everybody may have a different mental picture of the detective who brought down Al Capone. In fact, if ideas are subjective, then it is impossible for two people to entertain one and the same idea!
So if I say that Elliot Ness is a famous detective, how can I be talking merely about an idea?

When I say that X is famous I'm talking about X; not merely about an idea. This then:

""The idea of miss marple is more famous than any real detective".
So one is not comparing a fictional object: one is comparing an idea with another idea."

seems wrong.

What goes for Elliot Ness also goes for Miss Marple (if I can put it that way). To say that Miss Marple is famous is not to say that a particular idea is widely entertained. If ideas are subjective then it is impossible for the same idea to be had by two people.
If by idea you mean something non-subjective, like a 'Fregean sense' or 'concept' (though D is adamant that ideas are subjective); well it may even be that there is no one sense of 'Miss Marple' that is more widely entertained than the thought of a particular existing detective (people will have arrived at different Miss-Marple concepts through the different manners of their coming into contact with Agatha Christie's works; some may even believe that these works were biographical rather than fictional). That would not falsify
"Miss Marple is more famous than any existing detective" though.

I won't labour the point because perhaps I haven't understood and your suggested interpretation can be clarified (or perhaps it can be improved, if in the light of these comments you feel that is necessary. (I worry that it again turns out to be 'mentalist')).

N

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmm, interesting reply.

i've just scrolled through the posts looking for 'D's comments to try and clarify his position, and he's mentioned the Fregean distinction between sense and reference already.

I think that solves the problem re. the idea Vs. ideas comparison.

i.e. yes, we may all have a different idea of Miss Marple (if we have only read the books, not the tv show), so in that sense, all our ideas will differ in minor discrepancies with our mental images of the great fictional lady.

But we're still referring to the same person, as all our ideas are based on the same stories.

i.e. they all have the same reference, viz., the same stories, but they differ in the 'sense' of each reference.

Consider a real life example:

James went to visit his old friend Peter.

James hadn't seen his friend Peter for well over a year, and as they were best friends, and were very fond of each other, Peter would constantly talk about James to his friends: what a great guy he was, how much fun he was, etc, etc.

Peter may have described James in great detail to his friends, who by now were almost as eager to meet James as Peter was.

Now, suppose that Peter doesn't have a single photograph of James (rare these days I know), so all they have to go on in forming their mental image of James are Peter's descriptions of him.

Now, before all of Peters friends meet James, they'll have general mental images of him in their minds, based on the SAME stories and descriptions recounted to them [perhaps with injections of minor exaggeration, etc, by Peter].

Then, finally, James arrives.

all these people [friends of Peter]will have minor differences in how they imagined James, so they're subjective, as they've interpreted Peters stories slightly differently, based on their own preconceptions they've each brought to the table, so to speak.

But James is real.




I think this analogy with fiction is very poignant:

consider Miss Marple once again: she is a fictional detective, and people will form differing conceptions of her from their readings of the SAME stories, so they're subjective, in so far as they have a different 'sense',whilst still having the same reference; Miss Marple.

So many ideas can differ and yet refer to the same thing.


And i don't see why my interpretation of D's ontological collapse, enabling one to compare fictional ideas with real object ideas as being problematic.

we acquire knowledge of real and fictional detectives the same way, only when we read fiction we know it's not real, whereas what we read in a newspaper we know IS real [unless you're reading the Daily Sport, the Sun, or the Evening Standard].

(;-)

You say that "this seems wrong", but I'm still waiting for you to say WHY it's wrong.....


I can wait... (;)


J.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a further very simple, deceptively simple point, to note, is the pervasive problem of ambiguity.

It is a simple and inescapable fact that ALL fiction is bound to have descriptive omissions.

No novel, no matter how thorough in its descriptive content, will inevitably fail to describe EVERYTHING in its entirety.

In the case of a movie, it's all explicit: you can see all the colours, etc, and know exactly what the characters look like.

In the case of a radio serialization of a novel, things are slightly ambiguous: everything visual is indeterminate, as the descriptions cannot set the scene entirely.

However, in a radio serialization, the voices of the characters are unambiguated: they are fixed.

However, now consider a written novel: not only are we, the readers, faced with an indeterminacy re. the visual aspects such as the scenery, but we are also faced with an ambiguity concerning the voices of the characters.

This is where my Peripheral Detail Maxim (PDM) enters into it.

This,as i have already said, is inevitable, of necessity, solely in virtue of the nature of the medium in question, indeed, ambiguity is intrinsic to the form of a novel or any written word!!!!

J.

10:13 PM  
Anonymous Niall said...

"You say that "this seems wrong", but I'm still waiting for you to say WHY it's wrong....."

Eh? I have said why the claim that I said seems wrong is (I think) wrong. I argued that it is referents that are being compared, not just ideas - at least in the case of the real detectives (which you don't, I take it, identify with ideas.) And also in the case of Miss Marple. Who of course you say IS just an idea.
Or do you?

"consider Miss Marple once again: she is a fictional detective, and people will form differing conceptions of her from their readings of the SAME stories, so they're subjective, in so far as they have a different 'sense',whilst still having the same reference; Miss Marple."

Yes! I agree with this. But how can YOU, who take Miss Marple to BE a subjective idea, say this? Is there some particular subjective idea then that is the referent of all these different conceptions?

Or is this quote misrepresentative of your view. Are there instead lots of Miss Marples; one in my head and one in yours and so on...?
(actually that's not a very pleasant thought :))

I have already, in reply to D, criticised the ‘mentalist’ or 'ontological collapse' view: that there are such things as fictional objects but they are subjective ideas - so I don't want to repeat myself.
I also don't want to badger you into giving up a view that you think you can defend if you weren't convinced by my arguments. So I'll say no more until you further clarify or offer more arguments for your view. And as I know we're busy people I can also wait :)

N

PS Yes fictions are ambiguous; unfortunately comments on blogs usually are too. :)

2:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is ridiculous. We're all trying to interpret the words of 'D',but he/she has disappear. I'm going to give it a week and see if 'D' comes back.

J.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous U the Fictional said...

Philosophy ought to be about consensus and a true understanding of the world. Perhaps we (J, N, Lee and I) could gain consensus by trying to be D - ists. The goal is to agree upon a coherent position that has emmerged from this point that we can attribute to D. Here are the rules.
1. Any statement made by D or deductively entailed by statements made by D is TRUE.
2. Anything thing that contradicts a statement by D is FALSE.
From here on it becomes more difficult.
3. Statements neither TRUE or FALSE according to the above definitions could be EPISTEMICALLY CONTINGENT, (for now call this J-Possible) INDETERMINATE (call this U possible) or NONSENSE (call this D-possible)
J-possible statements fall under LEM, but we don't know whether they are TRUE or FALSE, that depends on whether D comes back and "clarifies his position", it could also depend on what D privately thinks, and hence unknowable to us.
U possible statements are neither TRUE nor FALSE but we can decide whether they are TRUE OR FALSE by using our own intelligence and imagination. We can justify these decisions by refering to D's comments and our own intuitions and empirical matters of fact.
D-possible statements are neither TRUE nor FALSE and have no place in a theory that claims to be D-ist.
I can as yet see no reason why there can't be U possible, J possible and D possible statements in a good D ist theory.
4. Now what is really difficult is when D contradicts himself. This will produce statements that are both TRUE and FALSE. Remember we are trying to be D ists so we can't take this as a good reason to abandon the project. But D has been accused of contradicting himself by Lee and N and myself, so the threat of any D ist theory being inconsistent seems real. So we can have three approaches to contradicition. REDUCTIOS, lets call these Lee contradictions; MISINTERPRETATIONS lets call these N contradictions and REVISIONS we can call these U contradictions.

Lee contradictions will be where it seems as if D has contradicted himself, but he is in fact using a reductio argument without spelling out the conclusion. It is our job as D ists to work out how to resolve these reductio arguments.

N contradictions are when D seems to contradict himself but in actual fact this arises from a misinterpretation. In these cases we must find the correct interpretation.

U contradictions are when D in fact contradicts himself, but this is because he has revised a former opinion. I am not suggesting we treat D as a Deity here nor as a dogmatist. D can revise his opinions through a learning process just like anyone else and good on him. The rule here is that a later statement trumps a former statement.

Again I see no reason why there can't be Lee, N and U contradictions.

Now the current crisis for D-ists like ourselves is this apparent contradiction:
E1. TRUE: Ms Marple doesn't exist since she doesn't have a spatio temporal location:
E2. TRUE: Ms Marple does exist in the minds of the readers.
But E1 and E2 are incompatible so both are FALSE.

My solution is to accept "actually" as an indexical. So though Ms Marple doesn't actually exist (she is in no spatio-temporal relation to ME) she does actually exist in the story (in the story she has a spatio temporal relation). This has the added bonus that when flims are made from books we can use the "actually" indexical to refer to the book. So eg. Gandalf doesn't ever actually blow a smoke ring shaped like a ship, though he does do this in the film.

However, fellow D-ists J and N have ignored this solution, so I will attempt to spell out their alternatives.

J, as far as I can tell, thinks that to be a D ist is to be a CARTESIAN DUALIST. There are mental objects, including fictional characters, and physical objects that have an extension(space time co ordinates).Both exist, but not in the same way.
When challenged with the comparison of the fame of ms marple with the fame of any other detective J appears to say that fame is predicated of the idea of a real detective, not the real detective herself. This works well: more people have read about Ms marple than about any real detective.
I'm not sure that J is vulnerable to the criticisms from Quine since of course J accepts the idea of intentional objects. We all have to to cope with error, so any good D ist position can't deny that there are structured thoughts containing objects which don't exist.
So lets try another 20th century attack on Dualism: The Beetle in the box argument. We can change it to the Marple in the box argument. We all have different pictures of what Marple looks like. These are our ideas of Mrs Marple and they exist in our minds. (forget whether minds = brains for now) But when we say "Mrs Marple is more famous than DS Smith" we can't be refering to our own mrs Marple since all our ideas are different and we may have no idea of Ms Marple at all (like in my case) What we are refering to is the Ms Marple who is the detective in the story/T.V. show, and THAT Ms Marple DOESN'T EXIST. Not in our minds, not in our brains, not in book shops, not anywhere. So I don't think J's dualism is compatible with a good D ist theory.
Suppose the author of these U comments were to say
"I had this idea, it was a fictional character called U who would argue with real people who claimed there were no fictional characters. I'm not sure if the idea worked"
The author wouldn't have meant that she wasn't sure whether I work. I could have a job in Oxford, or LSE, or on a flower stand, those things are all U-possibilities. I am different from the idea of me and I am a fictional character.

3:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I'm siding with 'D's position, only he/she has disappeared, and it would be infuriating if, after having expounded what I believe to be his/her view, 'D'returns and declares me wrong and confused.

I think it would be equally fun to track 'D' down.

I just went through this:

http://www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/phone/email.php

and entered in some 'd' names. I think i know who it is now so i'm going to start sendng off emails requesting they rejoin and clarify their position.

if i'm wrong, then this means i've sent emails to complete strangers.

but as i'm fictional like 'U', i've decided not to get embarressed, as my character,J, doesn't get embarressed.

J.

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

another alternative method for tracking 'D' down would be facebook. look through people on the king's network (surely it's a kings postgrad) and look through their profile. if S.H, Japanese fiction, Neverending story and whatever else they've hinted at is listed, then we've found our man/woman.

J.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok. that was a silly idea.

J.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous U said...

J, are you in love with D? I'm jealous! I thought we were getting on just fine 'til he stuck his pipe in.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"till he stuck his pipe in"?

is that an innuendo?

;)

J.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh right.

just reread the bit about 'D's hint at his identity and the pipe bit.

sorry!

um, i say we interpret 'D' ourselves.

if he/she decides to turn up again then it's his tough luck. as we've already formalised his position and interpreted him ourselves.

if he/she doesn't agree with our interpretation, then we'll just act like religious people interpreting a text and ignore him/her. ;)

J.

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the thing is, i seem to be the only one arguing against the rest: U, N, and Lee.

I fully endorse 'D''s position (with minor qualifications), but i have to confess to being a "D'ite".

So, tracking him/her down would have been handy for me.

oh well.

tant pis.

J.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually, in all fairness, it was you 'U'that drove'D' away in the first place!

if you hadn't of agreed with 'd' (or at least appear to) then he wouldn't have thought his work was done and disappear.

though i think we've pretty much wrapped it all up now anyway, as i agree with d's position against 'u' and 'n'.

the real problem isn't really about interpretation at all: it's about the identification of fictional objects with mental objects.

if we accept 'D's interpretation (with my minor qualifications) concerning the PMC, my Peripheral Detail Maxim (PDM), etc,then we solve the problem,IF we accept the mental object/fictional object ontological collapse.

it all dissolves in a fizz.

but if we don't accept this, as niall's doesn't, then we still have problems.

i have sided with the prophet (and clearly overly arrogant) 'D', so i'm throwing my hat into the ring and bowing out too.

99 posts (including this one), not bad at all.

i would like to thank gina for an interesting post in the first place, myself (obviously, as i deserve lots credit for playing devils advocate:p), Niall's and others.

Last but not least, 'D': if you do decide to get off your high horse and have a read, then cheers for being such a good sport.

i think 'U' had a point re. my fascination with you, in a strictly platonic way you understand.

J.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Niall said...

Well I'll make it 100...
Although I dispute that fictional objects are mental objects, I do agree that "it all dissolves in a fizz" if J and D are correct in holding:

There are no such things as fictional objects
(fictional objects are to be denied altogether)
AND
There are such things as fictional objects
(as they are the referents of names like 'Miss Marple' and are identical to ideas).

Fictional objects don't exist
(as they are not spatiotemporal and the ONLY existents are spatiotemporal entities)
AND
Fictional objects do exist
(as ideas in the mind)

Fictional objects are subjective
AND
Fictional objects are not subjective
(the fictional object Miss Marple is the objective referent of everyone's subjective Marple-conceptions)

I am not convinced of the cogency of this solution but it certainly has a flexibility that other solutions sadly lack.

N

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was reluctant to reply to you 'N' as i didn't want to spoil the centurion score on the wall.

but i concluded that 101 is an equally good number with far more interesting mathematical properties, such as being a palindromic number (same fwds & backwards), the same number in the periodic table as a Mendelevium (a synthetic radioactive transuranic element of the actinide series. Atomic number 101), the bit-101 Particle class (class allows you to create some pretty complex (and pretty damn cool) particle animations with minimal effort), not to mention it being a prime number. (;)

this is a classic problem in philosophy: IF we accept a certain premise then we reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Side A ('U' & 'N') deny it, whilst Side B ('J' & (hopefully) 'D') accept it.

Stalemate indeed.

Good fun debate though, thanks 'U' N and 'D'.

no doubt, even though you both disagree with 'D' and I, i hope we get references in your PhDs, albeit as footnotes.

I would like to be remembered as the Great 'D' Scholar.

J.

9:51 PM  
Anonymous U said...

102 = 3 x 33 + 3. the number of the triest
J, I'm not satisfied that you have the best interpretation of D since it is blatantly inconsistent as N has just pointed out and Lee before him. It might be better if you had a little more confidence in yourself, especially since you initiated the whole thing. I am trying to be a J - ist now. So when Smith has a thought "I feel sorry for Anna Karenina" then according to you he has a thought with an object that doesn't exist. This is fine since we can make statements about things that don't exist. Why then have you come round to the view that they do exist - in the mind? If the space time co-ordinate definition of existence is accepted by J ists, then this "exists in the mind" is problematic. Better would be to say that mental objects don't exist, since they have at best odd space time co-ordinates and at worse none at all. If you accept this then you accept that there are things that don't exist, and you are more like an N -ist. I was under the impression that D had conceded this much, since there do seem to be numbers, but numbers certainly don't have space time co-ordinates.
I'll put the problem this way: take these two thoughts of mine:
I love Bush
I love unicorns.
The dilemma is that if you say that the object of the first thought is in your mind, you seem committed to saying you love not Bush, but something that is in your mind. Your love for Bush is no longer a relation between you and Bush but between you and yourself. Solipsism and external world skepticism follow. Whereas if you say that the object of the second thought is not in your mind then you can no longer claim that unicorns have no independent existence. The only other option available seems to be that thoughts of the first kind are radically different from thoughts of the second, one is a relationship between you and an object, the other is not. I'm not sure where you stand on this.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oooh!

you ruined the 101 count!

:(

J.

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

p.s. admittedly, i was here before 'D',but he/she is clearly ALOT smarter than me. i accepted this when i returned to this post, and humbly accepted the more modest task of supporting 'd''s position, which is akin to my own, only more sophisticated (with my minor additions).

i'd be happy to continue this, but without 'D' i don't feel confident.

i admit to sleuthing some more, but couldnt get a reliable identity.

i only found one PhD in the departement and this person (a male) clearly wasnt it, a dead end.

so i'm reluctantly done.

:(

we should track 'D' down, and yell at him/her for abandoning the debate.

how arrogant!

ho hum.

j.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ha! i bet that, despite arguing against us ('D' and I) you're going to incorporate our ideas into your thesis for an "original position".

(;)

J.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my hunting for 'D' wasn't in vain, as i've tracked 'D' down after receiving a reply yesterday from one of the email addresses i tried, and we're continuing the discussion by email.

it was fun.

j.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

how pathetic are you 'D'?

chasing after someone who disappeared and then proceeding to proclaim yourself a 'D-ist', when you were the first one to post a comment and kick off this epic 106 (soon to be 107) posts.

'U' is right. you should have more confidence in yourself.


k.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ah, I meant "how pathetic are you 'J'?"



k.

6:18 PM  

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