Sunday, November 12, 2006

The sad story of a fictional individual's existent place based on pretences.

Takashi Yagisawa in his paper "Against Creationism in Fiction" attacks… yep you guessed it… creationism in fiction. His first victim is Searle. Admittedly an easy target, but sometimes it’s easier to start a war with the weakest opponent, in particular one who advocates the basic creationist view.

Creationism is when fictional individuals (characters) exist as a result of being created by the relevant author(s).
So, fictional individuals actually exist either:

1. As a result of being created by the author(s)
2. Not as a result of being created by the author(s)

Which means that either:
(A) Fictional individuals actually exist as a result of being created by someone (or something) other than the author(s)
(B) Fictional individuals actually exist not as a result of being created at all.

Yagisawa’s aim is to deny 1. and therefore conclude that fictional individuals don’t actually exist. As a side note, the reason for Yagisawa’s dismissal of 2. is because of “its inherent implausibility and lack of supporters.”(1) I am admittedly a little mystified by this. If his aim is to full out deny that fictional individuals don’t actually exist, not simply to deny the view that they are results of creationism, he must at least entertain these ‘unpopular’ views in order to deny that fictional individuals actually exist.

Anyhow on to Searle’s simple creationism…

Searle says:
“By pretending to refer to people and to recount events about them, the author creates fictional characters and events.”(3)

In other words, the author pretends to tell a true story and by doing this he creates fictional individuals.

So the formula (as it were) for Searle in creating a fictional individual is to:

The author pretends* to make an assertion.
By pretending to make an assertion the author pretends that there is an object being referred to.
The pretend reference creates a fictional individual.

note: the author is not referring to an antecedently created fictional individual. It’s the reader (us) that is outside the fictional story that does this and can really refer to a fictional individual.

* Though the act of pretence on the part of the author is obviously important to the formula for Searle, he doesn’t offer a great defense as to why it’s important, so I won’t talk about it. Yagisawa attacks it latter in his segment on the pretence-theoretical creationist accounts, à la van Inwagen.

Speech acts of reference:

(1) M pretends to refer to FI by the use of the proper name ‘FI’
(2) Speech act of reference is successful only if there exists an object M is referring to
(3) M pretends there is an object being referred to by the use of the proper name ‘FI’
(4) M creates FI

Yagisawa at this point follows the outline for speech acts of reference by pointing out that Searle, who seems to agree with it (bad move on his part), is doing something “abrupt and unwarranted” in the steps (3) to (4). I have to agree with Yagisawa on this. If the fictional individual’s existence is needed in order to fix reference, then, Searle’s formula is unsuccessful when taking the speech acts of reference account into consideration. Searle can’t have both.

Yagisawa then backs up a bit and tries to help Searle from incoherence. Perhaps it is the case that Searle is talking about existence not in actuality, a robust existence, but a watered-down kind of existence as an idea in the mind or in the land of the fictional story. But, this is not the creationist’s view. They are advocating robust existence. So Searle is still incoherent.

The next lifeline Yagisawa offers Searle is to deny “that necessarily for any x, if x is created, then x comes to exist” (7). Basically Searle needs to choose an account, either it is existence in actuality that fixes the reference, or, it is the reference that fixes the existence in actuality. If he chooses the former, then he’s agreeing with the speech acts of reference account, in which case he cannot have a creationist’s view. If he chooses the latter, he can have a creationist’s view but deny the speech acts of reference account.

Frankly Searle is lost at this point. If he wishes to maintain a creationist’s view he’ll need to give a better account of reference. And the most glaring way to do this is to cash out exactly what it is for an author’s pretence of reference that is responsible for fixing a fictional individual’s existence. Good luck Searle!


Blogger Chelsey said...

As a very interesting and supremely funny side note, when I used the Blogger's spell check for my post it recommended 'insane' for 'Inwagen'! Good stuff that technology thing...

12:29 PM  

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