Thursday, January 18, 2007

Philosophy of Literature - Spring 2007

Dear Students,
It's time to blog! Welcome to Philosophy of Literature. The thread for our course is now open, so you can discuss our course topics by clicking on 'comment'. I look forward to your entries.
Enjoy the forum,
Prof. Ribeiro


Anonymous said...

When I said in class there should be a certain distance (when we were discussing the Faegan piece), what I had in mind was something a little different than what Dr. Ribeiro brought up (about aesthetic distance). I specifically had a thought that echoes something that is said in "The Fall" by Camus. Camus says that we respect the dead, in a way we do not respect the living, because we owe nothing to the dead. This was roughly what I had in mind because in tragedy, we can see awful things and have no responsibility levied on us. This is obviously not true when we see things in real life; real life has a way of making us feel responsible (whether we should or not is unimportant, it's the case that most of us do feel some measure of duty to help). When we view tragedy this (self-imposed [?]) duty is not there, allowing us to be pure spectators instead of participants.

will caudill (in case it does not post my name)

Adrienne said...
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Adrienne said...
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Adrienne said...

Today, Dr. Ribeiro lectured on Tragedy and Morals, and the necessity of judging a work of art as being good by not allowing a conflict with one's own ethical views; the example given was Nabokov's "Lolita," which, by the way, is my favorite book of all time. Nabokov is brilliant. Now back to philosophy; I have, my whole life, struggled with the true meaning of 'good' and 'bad.' Reading "Lolita" as a very young teen (personal experience?), Humbert Humbert IS the 'bad guy.' Simply a man taking advantage of a young girl. But as a young woman (late teens, early twenties, perhaps) Humbert Humbert suddenly becomes the victim of a very manipulative young girl (Delores, Dolly, Lo. Lee. Ta.), who is much wiser than most will admit. Since I truly believe that morals/ethics can change throughout one's life, or sometimes even be dismissed, I am curious as to how some philosophers can generalize a person’s behavior (response) to a particular incident. Now, considering this person who read “Lolita” as a child, and again as an adult, responded in a way that was not particularly a learned response to morality, but, instead, self-taught, is it possible that this person’s direct response and/or meta-response could be polar opposite from child-hood into adult-hood? Thank you, -Adrienne Jean-Marie Hughes

Adrienne said...

I absolutely understand what Will is trying to convey. However, in a book I read long ago by Carl Pletsch: "Young Nietzsche," the aesthetics within Greek tragedy was clarified; at least that is what Nietszche, via the writings of Pletsch, would have his reader to believe. I am sure you are wondering how this coincides with what Will has said; let me explain. Although I do agree somewhat with Will's theory (Camus' , rather) that we, as humans, do feel a sense of responsibility to whomever it is on the receiving end of a tragic event (being that it is occurring in real life), I also believe that visual stimulation via media or literature also causes one to feel pity for the protagonist/antagonist. I have, several times, felt an overwhelming and lingering angst from merely reading a particular novel. One may not feel a sense of responsibility for a fictional character per se, but, to dismiss that possibility is truly absurd. I am living proof! Nietszche, in the aforementioned book, said that experiencing such visuals as Greek tragedy could likely cause people to suffer great despair ultimately leading to rampant nihilism. This is where his often misunderstood quote "God is dead" comes into play (but that is another debate). I have never taken a philosophy class, but have read many works of great philosophers; therefore, I am not claiming to be correct in my analysis, or perhaps I should be politically correct and say my intellectual kinship with Nietzsche's analysis; but, I truly believe that certain emotions may be innate for some and completely void for others. Therefore, an individual who views tragedy (fictional) as mere entertainment can separate his- or herself from the suffering being portrayed; but, an individual who lacks that capability to separate, may truly meander into the life of this or that fictional character, thus leading to a feeling of dread and helplessness that would otherwise only be felt for a friend or loved one (real life). Thank you, Will. Adrienne Jean-Marie Hughes

Adrienne said...

Alright Will, I shall try this again. Perhaps if I write in first person, rather than giving a hypothetical explanation, I can clarify with a bit more ease. Let's say, when I was thirteen (the first time I read "Lolita") morality, for me, was defined by the Lutheran Church; in other words, morality had no gray area (pardon if that seems cliche) Now, say for instance by the time I was sixteen I had developed my own ideas behind the meaning of morality. Going to church and such was a rather jading experience; morals had become obsolete. So, I read "Lolita" as a young teen (I am assuming and hoping you have read the novel), and in doing so, Humbert Humbert, due to the ideals set forth by the church and its elders, was portrayed as a hideous character who took advantage of an innocent young girl. However, at sixteen I read "Lolita" once more when I had developed my own ideals. Suddenly, Humbert Humbert was no longer the villain, but instead the victim of a precocious, manipulative Lo. Still, though, I did not empathize but instead analyzed the events within the book. Herein lies my question: given what we have learned about Direct-Response and Meta-Response, I am wondering if society alone, or even education can so easily change one's perception on 'good' and 'evil,' so much that that perception is completely dismissed? If so, then how is it that one can still experience the direct-response, and in turn the meta-response? I ask this because, if I have this correctly, Feagin states that the reason we take pleasure in tragic stories is given the fact that we can empathize with others. I suppose somewhat similar to an innate humanitarian trait. Well, what if one has acquired, due to cynicism or whatever the case may be, an ability to dismiss the aforementioned trait, then how is a work of art then enjoyed so passionately? So much that "Lolita" was read numerous more times for Nabokov's artistic value? Is one still experiencing the direct-response and meta-response, or has a whole different philosophical explanation taken their place?

If this still makes little sense to you, perhaps I can explain in person easier. Thank you, Will. Adrienne

will caudill said...


I read ‘Lolita’ a long time ago, so I am going to choose another book that I am more recently familiar with: ‘American Psycho’ by Bret Easton Ellis. A brief summary: Patrick Bateman has everything: looks, money, popularity, etc. He also has a penchant for murder, rape, torture and cannibalism. (This is not a tragedy in the classical sense, but that is okay, we can make it work.) Assuming that Feagin is correct about direct and meta-responses, the question is of course, how can anyone have the type of direct response (and in turn the appropriate meta-response) Feagin alludes to when reading ‘American Psycho?’ I think the focus should be on the word appropriate. It would seem that Feagin simply assumes we are going to have an appropriate response, but I think that is not necessarily true. First, unless you are actually made of stone, you should have a direct response (even if that response is ‘this is boring’). That is not to say the reader/watcher has a revolting response to revolting material, like some of the carnage in ‘American Psycho’ or the sexual relationship in ‘Lolita.’ In fact, some people may have a direct response of pleasure from reading/watching unpleasant things (there are sadist and masochist in the world after all, otherwise we would not have names for them). Your question is that if the perception of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are dismissed, can there still be the two responses. I think the answer is yes, but you may not come out with the same type of responses. Feagin assumes that people are generally good and do not like to witness suffering (at least that’s the gist I got). If that is true then the type of responses she is talking about are ‘normal.’ However, if we are not good (either evil or morally neutral) then that does not entail that we would fail to have direct and meta-responses; however, the nature of the responses will probably be very different. For instance, if a sadist reads ‘American Psycho,’ he/she will have pleasant direct responses to it. What happens at the meta-response level is tricky; I could imagine it might be either a more intense direct response or an unpleasant meta-response (because the sadist will actually feel alienated by his/her feelings). This actually answers your cynic question as well, because being able to dismiss his/her ‘humanitarian’ inclinations (assuming he/she has them), that again does not mean the responses are dismissible. [By the way I still think that there is something to the mannerist notion of being able to separate what is happening from what is [really] happening, therefore despite being repulsed by the content of the story/movie, a viewer/reader could still be impressed with the delivery.] Is that helpful? What are your thoughts on it (hey, that’s only fair.)

Adrienne said...


First, very well-stated response. I think I understand what you are saying; do correct me, however, if I am wrong. To sum it up, if one is a masochist (by the way, do you feel all people have an inborn tendency to find pleasure in suffering?) or sadist he or she will have a direct response and meta-response that is polar opposite than, say for instance, a nun (a bit extreme?). Therefore, all people, regardless of their ethical views and/or background are subject to catharsis, regardless?

If the above is correct, then certainly I agree. Even the Dalai Lama, with all of his Zen-like characteristics, admits to crying.

As far as being able to separate what is happening (fictional) from what is happening (real life), sure, I think it is possible; I try not to dismiss any possibilities where the human psyche is concerned. Now, I am assuming this question is in regard to my first post. First, let me say that on a personal level, I agree with Nietzsche's concept of the aesthetically sensitive man. Nietzsche says this, ".... the whole divine comedy of life, including the inferno...pass before him, not like mere shadows on a wall--for he lives and suffers with these scenes--and yet not without a fleeting sensation of illusion." I believe that a person can become so fixated with something fictional that his or her reaction will simulate the reaction of a person who is experiencing the same event in real life. Next, I think perhaps those instances are quite rare; however, I do not think it is fair to generalize and say that each individual has the mental capability to distinguish between what is realistically happening from a mere interpretation of what is happening. Perhaps I am wrong?


will caudill said...

The Paradox of Fiction
1. We feel emotions for fictional characters
2. Emotions require belief in the existence of their object
3. We do not believe fictional characters actually exist

1. Imagine Hamlet were written where nothing actually happens. Hamlet wakes up every morning, eats, washes up, does Princely things, goes to bed. We would feel nothing for him. However, add tragedy and drama to his life and suddenly we do care for him. Now imagine you have a sibling, a brother. You are concerned with his life regardless of whether he had a dramatic life or a mundane one. Given these two scenarios, it would seem that #1 is not true, but rather we only feel emotions for fictional characters in emotional situations. I would challenge Redford in his opinion that we feel ‘for’ the character; I would contend that we feel ‘at’ them (meaning we feel emotion for them because of the situation).

2. Emotions are simply a natural reaction to stimulus, either physical or mental. All emotions can be reduced to instinct and reaction. Let us take two emotions: first, rage. Imagine that you are driving on the loop and someone cuts you off, nearly causing a crash. When you get mad (yes you do), do you systematically (either then or now) attribute any beliefs as the basis for your anger? No, you do not get angry because you believe the other driver meant to cause a wreck (or any other belief), you simply get mad. Next emotion: joy. If you are estranged from a loved one for a given amount of time, say a month, when you see them again you are happy. Does it require any belief on your part to feel that way? Must you believe they are happy to see you? No.

What I think goes on with #2 is that certain emotions are more complicated than other emotions. For instance, love is a more complicated emotion that anger (or so it would seem). Also, some emotions seem to require belief (especially emotions like despair); however, when you boil it down, emotions are simply reactions, like a reflex. When the doctor hits your knee, your leg jumps; this is the same situation as if the same doctor smacked you really, really hard in the face, causing you to get P.O.’ed. No belief is necessary.

(There may be an argument that if belief is required for emotions, and belief requires mentality, and animals have no mentality, then animals have no emotions. However, that is a different class and a much more complicated idea.)

Anna Christina Ribeiro said...

Hi guys,
I thought I'd point out that cognitivism about the emotions--the view that emotions require beliefs--has been the standard for a long time, but has recently been challenged by philosophers and psychologists. Note, however, that to say that beliefs are required is not to say that a particular belief is required. For instance, in Will's example above, you need not believe that the driver intended to cause a crash; you need only believe something relevant to the situation that woud be sufficient to upset you--for example, that the driver made a bad and dangerous move, which put your life at risk, etc. There's no need to attribute those specific intentions to the driver (though some intentions will have to be attributed, since you can't be mad at someone who's being forced to do something, for instance, or who's doing it because they suddenly fainted, or for whatever reason act unintentionally).

Will's initial comment about the difference between feeling for Hamlet and feeling for Hamlet in a tragic situation is interesting. True, we wouldn't really be concerned with Hamlet if all he did was hang around doing everyday princely things that had no major consequences for his life. But the problem is that, in some circumstances (not necessarily tragic ones), we feel for/with fictional characters (think of feel-good stories where you are rooting for the winner, or for the guy to get the girl (or vice-versa)--no tragedy, but feelings are still there). In any event, I am wondering how saying that we feel emotions for the situation, rather than the character, solves the paradox, and how this solution is different from one of solutions considered by Radford. I'm thinking there is a slight difference, but I'd like to hear what it is.

Back to the emotions. The literature on this is fascinating. Let me suggest some books for those who wish to delve further into this:

1. What is an Emotion? Classic and Contemporary Readings. Edited by Robert Solomon. Oxford,1984, 2003.

2. Philosophy and the Emotions: A Reader. Ed. Stephen Leighton. Broadview, 2003.

3. Deeper Than Reason. Jennifer Robinson. Oxford, 2005.

4. Gut Reactions. Jesse Prinz. Oxford, 2004.

Both Robinson and Prinz, as the titles of their books already hint at, challenge the cognitivist view of the emotions, so I think Will would be particularly keen on them.

See you guys tomorrow.

Adrienne said...

I agree, Will, with your argument to Radford's opinion. He says when we do react emotionally to a fictional character, that those feelings are not due to the fate of the character because we relate to him or her as a real person. How, then, does one feel sadness or anger, or any other type of emotion if one has not imagined feeling or already has felt that sort of pain when inflicted upon someone they know or even upon themselves? In other words--and I may be contradicting myself from earlier entries--if a person is going to feel for (or 'at' as you have suggested) a fictional character, is it not because he or she believes the event taking place could occur in real life?

And yes, emotions are "a natural reaction to a stimulus;" however, I do not believe that one just "simply get[s] mad" or happy. Sure, emotions are instinctive, but it is not exactly that simple. In Darwinian theory, memory plays a relative role in one's emotions, i.e., emotional memory. So yes, when you see someone for the first time after a lengthy interim, you are happy. But, to say that particular emotion is merely a reaction, is reducing something important or special to a going-through-the-motion sort of standard (which is fine if you are cynical). But for most humans, you are happy because you remember how this particular loved one makes you feel, or because you are now capable of sharing special moments that you have missed. And those emotions are linked to the memory.

Of course, we could also go into the complexity of emotions shared or rather contrasted between genders. Men certainly react differently than women to such emotions as love and fear. Therefore, what I have stated, as far as emotions not being necessarily blase, and what you have stated, Will, that emotions are simply a reflex, could both stand true. That is, if I am speaking of the female species and you are speaking of the male species.

will caudill said...

In regards to the Searle piece, I have a question. Searle says that fiction can contain large amounts of fact (p. 117a, first full paragraph). My question is this: as a whole, if a factual work has a single line of fiction in it, does that make the whole work a work of fiction that actually has large volumes of fact in it? This may seem a stupid question, but consider this example:
2x + 4y = 16
x – 2y = -4
a) 2x = 16 – 4y
b) x = 8 – 2y
c) 8 – 2y – 2y = -4
d) -4y = -12
e) y = 3
f) 2x + 4(3) = 16
g) 2x + 12 = 16
h) 2x = 28
i) x = 14

In the above math problem I have made a mistake at h) by not making it -12 and coming up with 2x = 4 (and thus x = 2). Because one mistake exists the entire problem is wrong. Now look at this:

President Clinton was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. He was not impeached by the U.S. Senate. He finished his tenure as President after four years. Of the situation, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Today the American people were largely ignored.”

The above account is factual except the last sentence (Holmes dies in 1935 and therefore never knew Clinton). Because there is a fictional statement in the paragraph, does that make the whole paragraph fictional? Is it up to the intentions of the author (which happens to be me)? I seem to have broken semantic and pragmatic rule #1. What if that is exactly what I meant? (Another example: what if I wrote an exact, i.e. factually accurate, account of the Civil War and called it a Novel? I could very well write something true and say it is fictional, does that make it fictional since my intention was for it to be fictional, even though there is no fiction in it?)

Adrienne said...

Searle also says that a novel is a "pretended representation of a state of affairs" (116); and that a play is not, but, instead, the "pretended state of affairs itself" (116). I question whether or not, then, the actors are pretending to represent a state of affairs. I understand that they are just acting out what the author/director has written; so then, wouldn't they be pretending to make assertions? How is this, therefore, any different from the characters in a novel "performing" (so to speak) the way the writer deems necessary?

Also, if I have written this (a real excerpt from an [unfinished] novel):

Pictures I have seen reveal my mother’s hands delicately painted with henna, and her dress was as colorful as the pigments on Picasso’s palette. She was adorned from head to toe with ornaments which she explained to me once as being solah shringar. There are sixteen ornaments in all, including henna, which supposedly signify the sixteen phases of the moon. They also have something to do with the bride’s fertility, which I still do not understand. All I know is that I was born nine months later.

Now, this novel is written in first person (Sara'i), who is speaking of her mother's wedding. Since I have done extensive research on India, and thus all information on the Indian wedding is true, but the characters are one's borne from my mind, does this mean that the book is both fiction and non-fiction? In other words, all authors at one point in their lives have to do research in order to write; authors also elaborate on events in their own lives (we write what we know--it is a fact). So does this automatically throw novels (those containing research or vague accounts of true-life experiences) into a whole new genre? Would I be considered non-deceptive or deceptive by definition of the conventions of fictional discourse? I am afterall, by adding fact to fiction, making an attempt to bring Sara'i and other characters to life. But also, so as to not mis-represent a culture.

khqualls2003 said...

to write the "fictional truth" and have it convey significance requires that the created world be "real." it must conform to the rules of that world. why else do we as readers carry in our memories those characters who never existed, why do we hate for a book to end, knowing that their lives stop with the last page. a salty soup tastes bitter, but a little sugar sweetens the the concoction, still it is salty soup. all that matters, I think, is the intent. for many ages, people thought the earth flat, that did not make them liars or the occupants of a fictional realm

Adrienne said...

In regard to your last question, Will, I, too, ponder that notion. I recently read Paul Carson's "The Buffalo Soldier Tragedy of 1877," which I located in the Fiction section at Barnes and Noble. Although this book is solely composed of factual events, it is written in a narrative form. Personally, I enjoy historical events when written as such; however, I have always been curious as to why certain ones (not all of course) are considered fictional. Perhaps one of our classmates can solve this one....

Adrienne said...

In regard

Adrienne said...

Would anyone like to get together and form a study group? Not necessarily to study (since I study better alone), but rather to exchange ideas and acquire a bit of knowledge via other people's opinions and/or facts to which he or she may have access. Reply through the blogger or Dr. Ribeiro. Thanks and good luck to you all!

Adrienne said...

I want to begin with a quote in the essay written by Hirsch; Edward Dowden, the Victorian scholar Hirsch mentions warns "against a limitation of the word literature to stand only for belletristic writing," while excluding "philosophical and other valuable texts" (50). How very imperative this warning is to those lover's of literature. Even as Lyas states in Beardsley's piece: that merely the capability of a work causing one to evaluate the aesthetics within it, is what allows it to be placed in the realm of literature. This evaluation, however, can vary from reader to reader. For example, although I absolutely adore the works of James Joyce, I can honestly say that, in reading "Finnegan's Wake," I did not feel as if I had been reading a piece of literature, but instead, after a few pages, that I had been on a ten day drunk. That particular piece of literature was compiled of obscure allusions and puns in so many different languages that it confused and annoyed me. But that does not mean that because of my opinion (or others who may have had the same experience) that book is no longer a literary work. I agree with Rebecca West's definition of literature: " Literature must be an analysis of experience and a synthesis of the findings into a unity." Those experiences should not have limitations.

I also want to argue Beardsley's definition of art. He says that if a particular object has acquired its form independent of "any human act or purpose, it is not a work if art" (52). When I read this I immediately remembered an epiphany of Edward Abbey's the moment he saw Delicate Arch: The beauty of Delicate Arch explains nothing, for each thing, in its way, when true to its own character, is equally beautiful ("Desert Solitaire"). Nature is art. It is that simple. I think this can coincide with the aforementioned definition of literature. I believe that whatever it is that compels a certain reaction in the mind of its appreciator (and that varies from person to person), is what permits a particular piece of work to carry the title of "art" or "literature." To place certain stipulations or rules on such titles is rather Stalin(esque), no?

Adrienne said...
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Adrienne said...

Today Will and I debated my last post. Will, you disagree with my opinion of what art is and what art is not. You said that nature cannot be art because there is simply no intent. I asked you how an artist can paint nature (I again used Delicate Arch as an example) and then have the right to call his/her work 'art.' We were unable to finish our conversation; therefore, I am still pondering this notion. Because a particular scene is depicted via paint and canvas, does this automatically give it a claim to art? If so, then how can you say that nature itself is not art, since without a particular scene, the author who paints nature would not have the intent to share it with a broader audience?

On a side note, class today was rather fulfilling. Sitting outside amidst nature (Mother Nature's artwork?) allowed for a much better discussion.

Anna Christina Ribeiro said...

I'm glad you enjoyed sitting outside. It was wonderful indeed.

A brief note on this discussion: we must distinguish artworks from things that have aesthetic properties (beautiful, sublime, moving, dramatic, etc.). Some things may have aesthetic properties without being works of art. Perhaps nature is one of those things. We can appreciate its aesthetic properties even though it was not made by anyone. When something is made by someone, we may ask further questions about it: usually those that involve intention and context in general. For instance, what did she mean to convey with this work? What kind of technique was used? How does this work relate to others in its category? So on and so forth.

Adrienne said...
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Adrienne said...

If an artist's collection consists only of, let's say, national parks (something not borne of the imagination), then his/her work has intent; perhaps to share the beauty of nature with those who have only been exposed to city life. Therefore, instead of nature being art, nature is the intent of the artist?

will caudill said...

How can a collection consist of national parks? Did you mean to say works about national parks? If it was the first, then I do not understand how this is possible. If it is the second (let's say an artists work consist in paintings or photographs of objects in national parks, like Yosemite), then what Dr. Ribeiro said about judging the work would still hold because you could ask those questions (what did she mean to convey with this work? What kind of technique was used? etc.) of the painting and photos, but not the subject of the paintings and photos. How can you ask technique questions about Half Dome or El Cap? I still think you are not making the distinction between art and things that are beautiful.

Adrienne said...

Yes, Will, I meant to say the works about national parks. A collection, whatever. In any event, I am not sure I understand what you are saying about my inability to distinguish between art and what is beautiful. I simply asked Dr. Ribeiro if an artist paints nature, then does nature become the artist's intent. I was certainly not condemning her explanation, but rather asking for an elaboration. Perhaps I am too inquisitive?

Adrienne said...

Will someone please elaborate on the "literary works as types and tokens" theory? I am having a hard time interpreting Wollheim's piece, and I certainly do not want to misconstrue his intent.

will caudill said...


A type is a larger class of objects; a token is an individual instance of a type. For example (I do not have my text in front of me) the Opera is a type, whereas Don Giovanni, Carmen, Rigoletto and Salome are all tokens (because they are individual operas). So in short, consider a type a universal and a token a particular. I have not read the Wolheim yet, so I do not know what the above does for his theories.

I do have a question for you, or rather, a question inspired by our conversation. As I sat in traffic today, I noticed that all the people in front of me had their left turn signals on. So obviously, their intention was to turn left (provided they meant to turn it on and did not do so accidentally). It was not the car's intention to turn left; the car does not possess intentions. So how important is the work of art to delivering the author's intention? I know it is the 'vehicle' by which the author accomplishes that task, but is it necessary to the intention that the work be the way it is? (Analogy: I would have known the drivers' intentions of turning left other ways; for example, they were all in the turning lane, they could have been using hand signals, or they could have been screaming 'LEFT' out of their windows [which admittedly is bizarre]. Thoughts?

Adrienne said...


First, thank you for summing up the definitions of 'type' and 'token.' If I am correct, when Wollheim speaks of a work of literature, the author's original manuscript is the type and each and every printed edition of that particular manuscript is the token. However, he does not classify (and this is where I may have misunderstood him) tokens as literature. Therein lies my confusion.

Now, to touch on your questions: I think the importance of the work of art depends on the artist's intentions. An artist may paint something for different reasons such as self-therapy (where the importance matters only to him/her), or for a broader audience (where now the importance relies on the appreciator of the work of art); just as an author writes in a journal, but also writes a novel for the same reasons respectively. I am not sure I can answer your second question that you followed with the analogy, but I will try. I think sometimes works of art are purely spontaneous; that there was never an intent which was pre-meditated. Take for instance this particular event with Jackson Pollock: Peggy Guggenheim asked Pollock to paint a mural in her studio and for weeks Pollock stared at the canvas without so much as touching his brush to it; then voila, he began flicking paint across the canvas, and behold, something as abstract as splotches of paint began selling for thousands of dollars. I do not think Pollock's intentions were to create something as such with prior intentions of cashing in on his artwork. From reading his biography, he was simply tired at that moment. He got lucky. No intention necessary. But! after this--what I will call an artistic fluke--it became necessary to his intention that his artwork was the way it was. I am speculating here; does this make sense?

Adrienne said...

I decided to research type and token, and came up with this: Greg Koukl, who is a critic of moral and philosophical relativism explains types and tokens in relation to Christianity and word meaning within the Bible. He says this: "The meaning of the word is the type. It's the thing itself. The token is the t-a-b-l-e that signifies the meaning. The type doesn't change. The meaning or the type is a universal. It can be in more than one place at one time. The same meaning of table can be in mesa or tdoe and table at the same time. The different tokens have the same meaning but it takes different forms."

Therefore, I conclude that yes, an author's original manuscript is the 'type,' while each edition is the 'token' (since they are subject to change in form; e.g., the deletion of a word or even a paragraph as Will and I discussed today).

Will? Or anyone else in the class? What are your views?

Adrienne said...

As with Wollheim's piece, which was actually much more comprehendible than at first I realized, the Borges essay has imposed upon my brain a bit of ambiguity. Would someone like to strike up a discussion that would perhaps ornate the argument, which, by the way, I am having a hard time locating? Thank you.

Adrienne said...

Is the idea of types and tokens not identical to works and texts, respectively? And why are second inscriptions of a work (e.g., Menard's Quixote) not considered plagiarized works?

Kristen H. said...

Hi Adrienne, I cannot answer your first question because I thought that types and tokens did correlate to works and texts respectively. Perhaps someone else knows the answer.

I do think, however, that in the example of the Menard story, that since it's a fictional account, no plagiarism was done. If this Pierre person had actually existed, and he had tried to pass off _Don Quijote_ as his own work,then it would be plagiarism. Pretending that he does exist, if he states what he is doing, and cites Miguel de Cervantes, then I don't think it's plagiarism. It would be a bit different than simply erasing the author's name and placing yours there.

I would relate the situation to something akin to what Dr. Ribeiro mentioned in class and in her essay, which was the man who puts line breaks into animal abuse reports to create poems.

Maybe someone else has a different take.

Mark said...

Although I think Menard is incorrect with his view that texts are the same work if they share the same properties, it is difficult to accept Elgin's argument that interpretation is a determining factor of the identity of a work. This opens the door to the exact same book, say "The Great Gatsby", to be a different work as read by each person. This seems to be a very counterintuitive notion.

Robert said...

Stecker argues that there are acceptable and unacceptable interpretations. Yet, the definition of Monism is that there is one true interpretation, but what is truth? While both Stecker and Kieran agree that there are many different acceptable interpretations, neither define what a true interpretation is, yet this is clearly the issue between the two.
So if truth is defined as the most right relative other interpretations, while at the same time allowing other interpretations, it seems that Kieran would be wrong, because truth would be degrees rather than clear distinctions of right and wrong – this seems to favor Stecker, but then so do I.
I would also argue that truth need not be known for there to be the best truth, although I suppose it would be nice. Is there a better definition of truth that I’m unaware of?
Also, why does Kieran say the Russian interpretation/production of Hamlet is an interpretation when it is clearly another work? That seems a bit odd.

Abdi said...

It seems as though Borges - using the fictional Pierre Menard's project as a vehicle - contrasts two differents types of interpretation of literary texts. The first is intertwined with the idea of authorial intention and the second involves reader participation. According to the first interpretive style, Menard set out to write Don Quixote by identifying with Cervantes. according to the latter style, Menard maintains his identity as Pierre Menard and tries to come up with Don Quixote via his own experiences. It is clear that Borges was convinced that there was no singular, fixed meaning to be uncovered in a text, but rather that each reading ensconces the text with several different discourses which vary according to place, time, and reader.

Nicole said...

I was re-reading On the Cognitive Triviality of Art by Jerome Stolnitz because I wasn't quite sure I really got what he was saying. I think in essence he is saying that art does not offer any new knowledge therefore we don't learn anything from art. Does anyone know if this is right or am I way off base?

Xavier said...

Yea, i think that is what stolnitz is saying too. He believes that art does not provide any substantial truth because it does not require a distinct form of methodology in which to discover those truths. Like his title, art is simply trivial; it exists only to entertain, not to enlighten.

jbtroyer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jbtroyer said...

I think that the author's meaning is critical to a literary work; obviously the work was created with some sort of purpose and to ignore that seems strange. If the author's intent serves no purpose then what is the point of even writing something? People write because they have something to say and want that messege to be understood. You can attach whatever meaning you want to a work just as long as you don't try and pass it off as the true meaning if it's clearly not. Author intentions are important and should be respected by the reader.

Michael said...

In regards to Stolnitz, I think that's right to say that he is denying cognitivism because it doesn't offer anything new, but I also think there is a little more to it than that. It seems like his first complaint is simply that there is no way to confirm any truth within literature like you could confirm something you found in a biology book (or some similar type of natural science). After that, he seems to be denying cognitivism based on all of its propositions being either established outside of literature (not offering any new, "literature specific" knowledge) or the propositions are so general that they are useless. He gives, "Stubborn pride and ignorant prejudice keeps attractive people apart" as an example of a proposition from Pride and Prejudice that is worthless because it is useless on a general basis.