One way creatures of fiction seem to differ from real things is in their essential properties. While you and I might not have done many of the things we did do, Anna Karenina could not, surely, have been other than a lover of Vronsky. Is that right? Not straightforwardly: while it is true that “Necessarily, someone who was not a lover of Vronsky would not be Anna”, it is also true that “Someone who was necessarily a lover of Vronsky would (...) not be Anna”. I use a framework developed by Stalnaker to explain this, and to shed light on the semantics of fictional names. (shrink)
How should we characterise the view that we can learn about the mind from literature? Should we say that such learning consists in acquiring knowledge of truths? That option is more attractive than it is sometimes made to seem by those who oppose propositional knowledge to practical knowledge or “knowing how”. But some writers on this topic—Lamarque and Olsen—argue that, while literature may express interesting propositions, it is not their truth that matters, but their “content”. Matters to what? To literary (...) criticism, they reply: there is no place in criticism for “debate about the truth or falsity of general statements about human life or the human condition.” I argue, to the contrary, that ideas of truth and truthfulness are woven into the fabric of a kind of criticism that is widespread now and comes with a long and distinguished history. (shrink)
Pictures are sometimes said to be ironic. In many cases this is an error—the error of confusing an ironic picture with a picture of an ironic situation. Nevertheless some pictures are ironic, and there are two interestingly different ways for that to be the case. A picture may be ironic in style, in which case its irony is independent of the context in which it is presented; or a picture may be ironic by virtue of its context of presentation. Having (...) sorted this out, we can solve two problems: why do we often make mistakes about the irony in pictures? The answer has something to do with the nature of pictures themselves. Is the irony which is sometimes represented in a picture ever the product of the picture itself? The answer, yes, shows that there is a closer connection than we might otherwise have thought between the irony of representations and the irony represented in representations. (shrink)
As Dr Johnson said, argument is like a crossbow: it owes its force to the mechanisms of the bow, as argument owes its force to its intrinsic rational power. But testimony is like the longbow: we cannot tell what it will do unless we know the strength of the user.
Shaun Gallagher and Dan Hutto claim that those once bitter rivals, simulation theory and theory-theory, are now to be treated as partners in crime. It's true that the debate has become more nuanced, with detailed suggestions abroad as to how these two approaches might peaceably divide the field. And there is common ground between them, at least to the extent that they agree on what needs to be explained. But I see no fatal flaw in what they share. In particular, (...) I reject the idea that most interpersonal understanding can be accounted for without the postulation of mechanisms for inferring beliefs and desires. I also query the claim that simulation mechanisms have a very limited explanatory scope, and argue for the existence of such mechanisms at sub-personal levels. I suggest that Gallagher and Hutto's strictures against false belief tests are unwarranted, and their conclusions about the role of narrative in interpersonal understanding are unfounded. (shrink)
Our experience of narrative has an internal and an external aspect--the content of the narrative’s representations, and its intentional, communicative aetiology. The interaction of these two things is crucial to understanding how narrative works. I begin by laying out what I think we can reasonably expect from a narrative by way of causal information, and how causality interacts with other attributes we think of as central to narrative. At a certain point this discussion will strike a problem: our judgements about (...) what is a relevant possibility within the narrative’s story depend on our judgements of probability; but these latter judgements depend, in turn, on factors external to the world of the story, and cannot be explained in terms of causal relations available within the story. We need the external, author-centred perspective at this point. These different perspectives, the internal and the external, correspond to different types of explanations we may give of events in a story; I call these internal and external explanations. I show how these different explanations are made use of in two contrasting arthistorical projects. I use these examples as the basis for a generalisation about the structure of the two explanatory forms. Finally, I suggest some ways in which explanations of these two kinds relate to one another, and to our thinking when we are engaged by a narrative. (shrink)
For more than 10 years, Ulrich Beck has dominated discussion of risk issues in the social sciences. We argue that Beck's criticisms of the theory and practise of risk analysis are groundless. His understanding of what risk is is badly flawed. His attempt to identify risk and risk perception fails. He misunderstands and distorts the use of probability in risk analysis. His comments about the insurance industry show that he does not understand some of the basics of that industry. And (...) his assertions about the wrongness of allowing acceptable levels of exposure to toxic chemicals do not stand up to scrutiny. Key Words: Beck risk analysis risk perception probability insurance. (shrink)
Philosophical questions about the arts go naturally with other kinds of questions about them. Art is sometimes said to be an historical concept. But where in our cultural and biological history did art begin? If art is related to play and imagination, do we find any signs of these things in our nonhuman relatives? Sometimes the other questions look like ones the philosopher of art has to answer. Anyone who thinks that interpretation in the arts is an activity that leaves (...) the intentions of the author behind needs to explain how and why this differs so fundamentally from ordinary conversational interpretation, where the only decent models we have are ones that depend crucially on the recovery of intention. Anyone who thinks that imaginative literature has anything to tell us about time had better have a position on how earlier and later relate to past and future. Anyone who thinks that empathy plays a role in literary engagement had better have a psychologically plausible account of what empathy is. Philosophical questions about the arts also go naturally with other kinds of philosophical questions: we can't think constructively about representation in art without thinking about representation; text, meaning, reference and existence get similarly drawn into the conversation. Some ideas that philosophers of art deal with emerge from other disciplines. In literary theory an enormous amount of attention has been lavished on tracing the sources of unreliability in narrative. Is the result adequate to the details of the particular works we call unreliable? Contemporary film theory is generally hostile to the fiction/documentary distinction. Are there in fact any grounds for this? This book of thirteen connected essays examines questions of all these kinds. It ranges from the semantics of proper names, through the pragmatics of literary and filmic interpretation, to the aesthetic function of stone age implements. Some of the essays have not been published before; some that have are here substantially revised. (shrink)
What kinds of psychological states motivate us? Beliefs and desires are the obvious candidates. But some aspects of our behaviour suggest another idea. I have in mind the view that imagination can sometimes constitute motivation.
Recreative Minds develops a philosophical theory of imagination that draws upon the latest work in psychology. This theory illuminates the use of imagination in coming to terms with art, its role in enabling us to live as social beings, and the psychological consequences of disordered imagination. The authors offer a lucid exploration of a fascinating subject.
What do pictures and mental images have in common? The contemporary tendency to reject mental picture theories of imagery suggests that the answer is: not much. We show that pictures and visual imagery have something important in common. They both contribute to mental simulations: pictures as inputs and mental images as outputs. But we reject the idea that mental images involve mental pictures, and we use simulation theory to strengthen the anti-pictorialist's case. Along the way we try to account for (...) caricature and for some basic features of pictorial representations. (shrink)
Dienes & Perner argue that there is a hierarchy of forms of implicit knowledge. One level of their hierarchy involves factuality, where it may be merely implicit that the state of affairs is supposed to be a real one rather than something imagined or fictional. I argue that the factual or fictional status of a thought or utterance cannot be a matter of concept, implicit or explicit.
To Carroll I say that nonrepresentational cinema is marginal in a way that nonrepresentational painting is not, and that films consisting of words only can be pictorial. Hence, my pictorial characterization of cinema is not as problematic as he suggests. To Gaut, I say that the cinematically relevant sense of imagining is not entertaining without asserting and that he underestimates the explanatory power of a simulation-based theory of imagination. He persuades me to modify some of my claims concerning the implied (...) author. To Lopes, I say that the experience of fiction does not involve a perceptual illusion, but rather a nonillusory perceptual experience leading to certain acts of imagining. He persuades me to modify some of my claims concerning imagining seeing. (shrink)