Fact/fiction

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Totenkopf

Fact/fiction

Post by Totenkopf » March 15th, 2008, 11:24 am

Bertrand Russell once made an interesting distinction between fact and fiction:


".....to maintain that Hamlet, for example, exists in his own world, namely, in the world of Shakespeare's imagination, just as truly as (say) Napoleon existed in the ordinary world, is to say something deliberately confusing, or else confused to a degree which is scarcely credible. There is only one world, the 'real' world: Shakespeare's imagination is part of it, and the thoughts that he had in writing Hamlet are real. So are the thoughts that we have in reading the play. But it is of the very essence of fiction that only the thoughts, feelings, etc., in Shakespeare and his readers are real, and that there is not, in addition to them, an objective Hamlet. When you have taken account of all the feelings roused by Napoleon in writers and readers of history, you have not touched the actual man; but in the case of Hamlet you have come to the end of him. If no one thought about Hamlet, there would be nothing left of him; if no one had thought about Napoleon, he would have soon seen to it that some one did. The sense of reality is vital in logic, and whoever juggles with it by pretending that Hamlet has another kind of reality is doing a disservice to thought. A robust sense of reality is very necessary in framing a correct analysis of propositions about unicorns, golden mountains, round squares, and other pseudo-objects."

(from Russell, Bertrand. Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy. London: Allen and Unwin, 1919)

Lord Russell raises an important point here, however bo-ring that point may seem to most literary hepcats, many lacking a "robust sense of reality". Do aesthetic "truths" hold (say the truth of the play Hamlet) in the way truths of natural sciences or history, or truths arrived at in calculus or formal logic hold? Russell seems to suggest they do not.


The play Hamlet offers no facts; it is not history, tho' it may contain a few historical allusions (rather difficult to confirm as well). The play Hamlet thus might be interpreted as sort of an eloquent Prevarication (we are not complete Philistines and would allow the Bard's strange works to be kept in libraries the world over--not sure about other, lesser Lit-Liars, however). Similarly, a few pages of authentic WWI history--say, regarding the sausage-grinders of Verdun or the Somme-- in effect reduces Joyce's Dantean vision of Ulysses to near nothingness (stalinism, fascism, Hiroshima, 'Nam continue that reduction). Hemingway at least attempted to depict the Sausage-grinder (i.e Soldier's Home).

A fortiori, the latest fictional potboiler--whether Salinger or space-opera---should not be mistaken for some accurate representation of, for lack of a better term, economic-historical Reality. Literary works--or cinematic works, for that matter--may allude to historical or scientific facts: they are human inventions, however, and not to be mistaken for the ding-an-sich.

In some sense, Russell reaffirms a rather classical and skeptical view of aesthetic claims: in the Republic, Plato (speaking through the Russell-like Socrates) bans the emotionally-driven lyric poet from the ideal State, and insists on Reason as the sole pathway to Wisdom.

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mnaz
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Post by mnaz » March 16th, 2008, 1:10 am

What about allegorical fiction? That would be tied to (or in reaction against) reality, wouldn't it?

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Post by stilltrucking » March 16th, 2008, 4:56 am

Speaking of Hemingway:

Dos Passos gets no respect anymore. It would have been better for his legacy if he had sucked on the end of a shot gun, then to have wrote those speeches for Nixon.
Until Three Soldiers is forgotten and fancy achieves its inevitable victory over fact, no war story can be written in the United States without challenging comparison with it--
it even changed the recollections of actual veterans of the war. They saw, no doubt, substantially what Dos Passos saw, but it took his bold realism to disentangle their recollections from the prevailing buncombe and sentimentality."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Soldiers
The quote on the first page of Three Soldiers
"Les contemporains qui souffrent de certaines choses ne peuvent
s'en souvenir qu'avec une horreur qui paralyse tout autre plaisir,
meme celui de lire un conte."

STENDHAL

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e_dog
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Post by e_dog » March 23rd, 2008, 8:34 pm

What's great about Russel is he writes his own self-parody:

e.g.

"A robust sense of reality is very necessary in framing a correct analysis of propositions about unicorns, golden mountains, round squares, and other pseudo-objects."

gotta love it this robust sense of, uh, reality. bald kings of france every
(no)where applaud.

truth is there is no knowledge of fact sans fiction. ask Einstein's twins. it's all fict/faction.

best o' all compostable whirl'ds.
I don't think 'Therefore, I am.' Therefore, I am.

Totenkopf

Post by Totenkopf » March 24th, 2008, 11:55 pm

Ah I knew you would WUV this, that's why I posted it, e-hund. Not really self-parody (is plato's republic self-parody? similar line of thinking---). His point rather "ontological" and somewhat profound really , and part of a much longer essay (didn't Quine address this as well?? yass). Sort of concerns the status of a statement which asserts "Ken is a married bachelor" (or Mary a pregnant virgin, etc.). That seems prima facie wrong, but it's still grammatical. So then the semantics are off, or something.

Or, for that matter, "Apollo descended to the battlefield and helped the greeks" or something. The syntax conjures up things, but they are not "real,"; which is to say the Apollo idea/metaphor is not an Apollo. And sort of Wittgensteinian: language creates ghosts.

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e_dog
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Post by e_dog » March 25th, 2008, 12:43 am

but Mary coulda been artofiscally impregnated, like with in vitro fertilisation, in spiritu sancti.


at BYU they give out many bachelors to married men, makin' them "married bachelors (of arts, or scienza)"

.

so there: profundity schmundittie.
I don't think 'Therefore, I am.' Therefore, I am.

Totenkopf

Post by Totenkopf » March 25th, 2008, 3:49 pm

Is "bachelor" acceptable as replacement for "males with bachelor degrees"?? Not that common. But that's sort of Quine's point: semantics is hardly necessary; so what appears to a logical contradiction (a married bachelor) isn't really--more just like improper grammar. "Bachelor" could conceivably mean what you suggest. Definitions are not fixed, sez Quine and all those anti-Realist peeps. So "poet" could like turn out to be synonymous with "enemy of the State" or jaggoff, or born again xtian, what have you.

(really I don't agree with Quine, and doubt bachelor will change much in meaning--so it is a contradiction, given a definition of bachelor as unmarried male---X cannot be a unmarried and married male; just like mary cannot be pregnant and not pregant................. Qed .)

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Post by e_dog » March 30th, 2008, 7:55 pm

why couldn't mary be artificially impregnated and still while a virgin. that's not logically impossible even if technically infeasible at the time.

await the second coming of Christ. technologie end timez.
I don't think 'Therefore, I am.' Therefore, I am.

Totenkopf

Post by Totenkopf » March 30th, 2008, 11:13 pm

wasn't artificial: some unknown schlmiel did it, and Joe was sort of hard up . so he took her, Notre Maria aka Used Goods, anyhoo. Oy vey!

Ah wager even Papa Marx would agree with Bertie's point here, regardless of what he thought of whiggy brits. History, facts, economic reality, alas even science out-trumps belle-lettres, which has always been the indulgement of the idle rich, aristos, (or wannabe aristos).

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what me worry?
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Post by what me worry? » April 8th, 2008, 12:01 pm

Like, wow, she promised him some pussy if he'd stick it out with her,
an ejaculate conception?

A fortiori,i the latest fictional potboiler--whether Salinger or space-opera---should not be mistaken for some accurate representation of, for lack of a better term, economic-historical Reality.
The a fortiori argument is most often used in order to reinforce a claim, though sometimes also to incorrectly justify a claim taking it as a premise (petitio principii).
[color=brown]I'm not a complete idiot! :roll: There's more than one way not to skin a cat :)[/color]

Totenkopf

Post by Totenkopf » April 8th, 2008, 12:17 pm

Wow. Porn spam time. You don't seem to understand the point. If Hamlet is merely construct and product of human imagination, a fortiori, so is Salinger.

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the flaming ace
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Post by the flaming ace » April 8th, 2008, 1:22 pm

duh, Salinger is real, his works are real in another sense, his unnamed works are equal in parallel construct, as is Sal with the Shakes.
He don understood what? Don make the a fatiora mistake?
Thanks for coming down to his level!
Last edited by the flaming ace on April 8th, 2008, 1:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
[b][color=darkgreen]one more for th road[/color][/b] :mrgreen:

Totenkopf

Post by Totenkopf » April 8th, 2008, 1:24 pm

Duh, you missed the point, spam artiste. Maybe a bit too much tweak this mornin? Try a reread of Russell's paragraph: maybe after a few hours you'll get it.

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Whoa, FA: 666 for ya.
Last edited by Totenkopf on April 8th, 2008, 1:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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the flaming ace
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Post by the flaming ace » April 8th, 2008, 1:25 pm

Down in flames, I'm open, regards.nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnkitty paw
There is only one world, the 'real' world:
You're being deliberatly elusive, thanks for the wonderful essay tho, mercy thanks for the 666 beast honors too!
The a priori setup for the Iraq War shows how scripted fiction is used to manufacture consent. Here's to Boolean logic.
[b][color=darkgreen]one more for th road[/color][/b] :mrgreen:

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what me worry?
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Post by what me worry? » April 8th, 2008, 2:48 pm

It
is merely construct and product of human imagination, a fortiori
so is, blah,blah.I'm not worried.
[color=brown]I'm not a complete idiot! :roll: There's more than one way not to skin a cat :)[/color]

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