Sunday, November 26, 2006

Concerns with Creatures

I will post a few of my worries that I have with Van Inwagen's "Creatures of Fiction".

1)The use of existence/non-existence as as attribute on par with other attributes. We see this in Van Inwagen's assumption about Meinongians, p.299a. He says, "They mean to assert that there are, there really are, certain objects that have, among attributes (such as jollity and rotundity), the attribute of non-existence". My worry is that Van Inwagen is treating existence as a first order predicate, a big no-no according to Kant in his objection to Anselm's Ontological Argument. Kant, in his Critique of Pure Reason, writes "BEING is evidently not a real predicate, that is, a conception of something which is added to the conception of some other thing. It is merely the positing of a thing, or of certain determinations in it. Logically, it is merely the copula of a judgement". If we treat existence as an ordinary attribute there is no stopping the Ontological Argument to prove God's existence, a priori. Because the Ontological Argument appears fishy to most people, we should accept that Kant was right in his assessment of the existence predicate. I have not yet thought out the consequences for Van Inwagen, among others, nor am I convinced that he thinks this way. However, I put forth the concern.

2)"I do not see how it is I am supposed to use (Ix, [supposedly the same as (Crazy Ux]) and (Backwards Ex)" (300). This solution is simple according to Priest's set up. We just read Ix as applying to all worlds, and only commit to existence in the use of (Backwards Ex).

3)"If the Meinongian is asked, 'About your Mr. Pickwick--has he an even number of hairs on his head?,' he will answer... 'He neither has nor lacks the property of having an even number of hairs on his head; he is therefore what I call an incomplete object" (300). - Meinongians say that an object is incomplete because it does not exist. Surely if Mr. Pickwick existed he would have either an even or odd number of hairs on his head, but a Meinongian cannot say this. Van Inwagen faults Meinongians for this--yet his own solution is to say that when an author writes about some attribute of a character, e.g. Mrs. Gamp's fatness, she does not have this characteristic in the normal sense, but somehow bears a "certain intimate relation to fatness"(305). In the case of hairs on head, she would bear no relation if the number was not specified, so Van Inwagen's answer is the same as the Meinongian's.

4)The scope of existence. I believe Van Inwagen wants to say that Creatures of Fiction exist in the general sense of existence. He says "Anyone who said that there were such things as characters in novels, and went on to say that there was no such thing as Mrs. Gamp would simply be factually ignorant. He would be like someone who said that there were such things as irrational numbers, but no such thing as [pi]" (302). I am not sure that his solution guarantees this, though. First, notice how he phrases the above sentence. He always says "characters in novels". Now, it seems that even a Meinongian will say that characters would exist if the world of the novel was the actual world. This response, of course, does not entail that we say Mrs. Gamp exists in this world. What I believe is that all of Van Inwagen's references to the existence of characters fall within the scope of the world of the fiction. See, for example, all of his logical renderings of sentences 4-7. His later solution affirms this when he says, "The proposition commonly expressed by 'Mrs. Gamp is fat' we may express by 'A(fatness, Mrs. Gamp, Martin Chuzzlewit)'" (305). Only a later change suggests we can fill in 'x' for 'Martin Chuzzlewit', but this variable seems to be crucial to our interpretation of the relationship. For example, if x is a fiction like 'War and Peace', we cannot ascribe new things to the physically existing (in some higher sense, supposedly) persons, like Napoleon. So it seems we NEED to locate the character within his proper world. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the character exists in our own.


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