In this essay, then, I would like to address what I believe are the most compelling epistemic arguments against the notion that literature (and art more broadly) can function as an instrument of education and a source of knowledge.
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)
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.
You’re imagining, in the course of a different game of make-believe, that you’re a bank robber. You don’t believe that you’re a bank robber. You are moved to point your finger, gun-wise, at the person pretending to be the bank teller and say, “Stick ‘em up! This is a robbery!”.
Standard theories define fiction in terms of an invited response of imagining or make-believe. I argue that these theories are not only subject to numerous counterexamples, they also fail to explain why classification matters to our understanding and evaluation of works of fiction as well as non-fiction. I propose instead that we construe fiction and non-fiction as genres: categories whose membership is determined by a cluster of nonessential criteria, and which play a role in the appreciation of particular works. I (...) claim that this proposal captures the intuitions motivating alternative theories of fiction. (shrink)
The currently standard approach to fiction is to define it in terms of imagination. I have argued elsewhere (Friend 2008) that no conception of imagining is sufficient to distinguish a response appropriate to fiction as opposed to non-fiction. In her contribution Kathleen Stock seeks to refute this objection by providing a more sophisticated account of the kind of propositional imagining prescribed by so-called ‘fictive utterances’. I argue that although Stock's proposal improves on other theories, it too fails to provide an (...) adequate criterion of fictionality. I conclude by sketching an alternative account according to which fiction is a genre. (shrink)
I introduce and argue for the importance of a cognitive state that I call alief. An alief is, to a reasonable approximation, an innate or habitual propensity to respond to an apparent stimulus in a particular way. Recognizing the role that alief plays in our cognitive repertoire provides a framework for understanding reactions that are governed by nonconscious or automatic mechanisms, which in turn brings into proper relief the role played by reactions that are subject to conscious regulation and deliberate (...) control. (shrink)
The goal of this paper is methodological. It offers a comprehensive mapping of the theoretical positions on the ethical criticism of art, correcting omissions and inadequacies in the conceptual framework adopted in the current debate. Three principles are recommended as general guidelines: ethical amenability, basic value pluralism, and relativity to ethical dimension. Hence a taxonomy distinguishing between different versions of autonomism, moralism, and immoralism is established, by reference to criteria that are different from what emerging in the current literature. The (...) mapping is then proved capable of (1) locating the various theories that have been proposed so far and clarifying such theories’ real commitments, (2) having the correct relationship with actual art making and art criticism practices, and (3) showing the real weight of the alleged counter-example to a moralist position of a work that succeeds artistically because of its immorality. (shrink)
The topic of this essay is how non-realistic novels challenge our philosophical understanding of the moral significance of literature. I consider just one case: Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. I argue that standard philosophical views, based as they are on realistic models of literature, fail to capture the moral significance of this work. I show that Catch-22 succeeds morally because of the ways it resists using standard realistic techniques, and suggest that philosophical discussion of ethics and literature must be pluralistic if it (...) is to include all morally salient literature, and not just novels in the “Great Tradition” and their ilk. (shrink)
Here I defend response moralism, the view that some emotional responses to fi ctions are morally right, and others morally wrong, from the objection that responses to merely fi ctional characters and events cannot be morally evaluated. I defend the view that emotional responses to fi ctions can be morally evaluated only to the extent that said responses are responses to real people and events.
In this paper, we develop an analysis of unrealistic fiction that captures the everyday sense of ‘unrealistic’. On our view, unrealistic fictions are a species of inconsistent fictions, but fictions for which such inconsistency, given the supporting role we claim played by genre, needn’t be a critical defect. We first consider and reject an analysis of unrealistic fiction as fiction that depicts or describes unlikely events; we then develop our own account and make an initial statement of it: unrealistic fictions (...) are those that invite us to believe something false. We further develop this account and restate it in terms of the notion of “import-export inconsistency.” That is, unrealistic fictions invite us to import certain propositions true in the actual world then invite us to export propositions entailing the negation of those imported. Finally, we consider whether for fiction being unrealistic is always an aesthetic flaw. (shrink)
In this article, we present an analysis of defeasible generalizations -- generalizations which are essentially exception-laden, yet genuinely explanatory -- in terms of various notions of privileged conditions. We argue that any plausible epistemology must make essential use of defeasible generalizations so understood. We also consider the epistemic significance of the sort of understanding of context that is required for understanding of explanatory defeasible generalizations on any topic.
It is advisable to treat some sorts of discourse about fiction with the aid of an intensional operator "in such-And-Such fiction...." the operator may appear either explicitly or tacitly. It may be analyzed in terms of similarity of worlds, As follows: "in the fiction f, A" means that a is true in those of the worlds where f is told as known fact rather than fiction that differ least from our world, Or from the belief worlds of the community in (...) which the fiction originated. (shrink)
This is the second volume of philosophical essays by one of the most innovative and influential philosophers now writing in English. Containing thirteen papers in all, the book includes both new essays and previously published papers, some of them with extensive new postscripts reflecting Lewis's current thinking. The papers in Volume II focus on causation and several other closely related topics, including counterfactual and indicative conditionals, the direction of time, subjective and objective probability, causation, explanation, perception, free will, and rational (...) decision. Throughout, Lewis analyzes global features of the world in such a way as to show that they might turn out to supervene on the spatiotemporal arrangement of local qualities. (shrink)
Issues of pretense and imagination are of central interest to philosophers, psychologists, and researchers in allied fields. In this entry, we provide a roadmap of some of the central themes around which discussion has been focused. We begin with an overview of pretense, imagination, and the relationship between them. We then shift our attention to the four specific topics where the disciplines' research programs have intersected or where additional interactions could prove mutually beneficial: the psychological underpinnings of performing pretense and (...) of recognizing pretense, the cognitive capacities involved in imaginative engagement with fictions, and the real-world impact of make-believe. In the final section, we discuss more briefly a number of other mental activities that arguably involve imagining, including counterfactual reasoning, delusions, and dreaming. (shrink)
We refine a line of feminist criticism of pornography that focuses on pornographic works' pernicious effects. A.W. Eaton argues that inegalitarian pornography should be criticized because it is responsible for its consumers’ adoption of inegalitarian attitudes toward sex in the same way that other fictions are responsible for changes in their consumers’ attitudes. We argue that her argument can be improved with the recognition that different fictions can have different modes of persuasion. This is true of film and television: a (...) satirical movie such as Dr. Strangelove does not morally educate in the same way as a realistic series such as The Wire. We argue that this is also true of pornography: inegalitarian depictions of sex are not invariably responsible for consumers' adoption of inegalitarian attitudes toward sex in reality. Given that pornographic works of different genres may harm in different ways, different feminist criticisms are appropriate for different genres of pornography. (shrink)
Jenefer Robinson takes the insights of modern scientific research on the emotions and uses them to illuminate questions about our emotional involvement with the arts. Laying out a theory of emotion supported by the best evidence from current empirical work, she examines some of the ways in which the emotions function in the arts. Written in a clear and engaging style, her book will make fascinating reading for anyone interested in the emotions and how they work, as well as anyone (...) engaged with the arts and aesthetics. (shrink)
Authors have a lot of leeway with regard to what they can make true in their story. In general, if the author says that p is true in the fiction we’re reading, we believe that p is true in that fiction. And if we’re playing along with the fictional game, we imagine that, along with everything else in the story, p is true. But there are exceptions to these general principles. Many authors, most notably Kendall Walton and Tamar Szabó Gendler, (...) have discussed apparent counterexamples when p is “morally deviant”. Many other statements that are conceptually impossible also seem to be counterexamples. In this paper I do four things. I survey the range of counterexamples, or at least putative counterexamples, to the principles. Then I look to explanations of the counterexamples. I argue, following Gendler, that the explanation cannot simply be that morally deviant claims are impossible. I argue that the distinctive attitudes we have towards moral propositions cannot explain the counterexamples, since some of the examples don’t involve moral concepts. And I put forward a proposed explanation that turns on the role of ‘higher-level concepts’, concepts that if they are satisfied are satisfied in virtue of more fundamental facts about the world, in fiction, and in imagination. (shrink)