FIND in
<--prev V304 next-->
From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" 
Subject: Re: (urth) Generic Considerations
Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2003 10:13:29 -0700

> >Correspondence with ... what?
> >And what does "correspond" mean in this context?

>If I say that Texas is smaller than Rhode Island, my statement doesn't, on 
>face, correspond with reality.  Similarly, stating that water boils at 30 
>degrees Centigrade doesn't correspond with reality.  This leaves unanswered 
>the question of what "reality" is.

Actually, I think what it fails to correspond with is fact. Reality,
truth, fact: three different concepts that need to be distinguished

Something that can be stated compactly sense and can be verified (or
falsified) by empirical means is fact (or fallacy). "Water boils
at 100C" is a near-fact; it becomes a fact if you add some conditions
-- for example, it's verifiable that water boils at 100C, in a
standard atmosphere, at sea-level pressure. "Rhode Island is bigger
than Texas" is a fallacy for most meanings of "big," but it really
wants a dimension: "has a greater surface area," "population," etc.,
to make it verifiable/falsifiable.

Something that compactly states the experience of our existence is truth.
"Water boils at 100C" isn't really a truth, we don't experience
things that way. "Boiling water is hot enough to scald you" is a
truth. The relative sizes of Rhode Island and Texas aren't really
something most of us experience unless we're given to long road
trips, and have little to do with "truth."

"Reality," now ... perhaps that's what you verify and falsify
against, that's what we have experience of. Or do we? I have
experiences in a dream; are they experiences of "reality"? (Mind
you, I don't question whether they're "real" experiences.) How
can we classify such experiences -- if indeed we can at all?

I suggest that "reality" falls under the ban of Wittgenstein's
seventh proposition.

Let's drag Wolfe back into this, shall we?

In the discursive world of tBotNS, these are facts: Severian is
pricked by a rose. He recognizes the thorn as the Claw. He has
certain insights. He takes his boots off and throws them into
the water.

In the same discursive world (and, I believe, in ours) this is
truth: Everything is sacred because it comes from the hand of
the Creator.

But what, in that discursive world, is _real_?

We get into a cateogry error when we use the concept of "reality"
in discussing a fictional text -- that is, when we discuss any text
at the level of fiction. The world of discourse is precisely _not_
"real" -- though the text which embodies the discourse clearly is a
"real" text. (But is the discourse, is any discourse, "real?" What
does it mean to call a discourse "real?")

One difference between fact and truth is that you can alter fact
at will in creating discursive worlds, and remain in good faith with
the text and the (hypothetical, hypostesized) reader; if you alter
truth, you enter into a condition of bad faith with the reader, the
text, or both.

>I think it's meaningful, useful, and often necessary to talk about 
>historical accuracy even though I would argue that perspective and a host 
>of other factors tend to make common-sense discussions of "objective facts" 
>misleading, if not meaningless.

Au contraire, I suggest that "common sense" is the only meaningful
way to discuss "fact." We can only speak of fact in the realm of the
sensory, what we sense in common, what we can empirically test and
agree on -- the consensual. Anything else fails the test of "fact."
Pure "objectivity" may be a chimera, but we can choose to attend
primarily to the objective (or the subjective).

"Historical accuracy..." in fiction? If a historical account is
always biassed, then how much more is history-in-acknowledge-fiction?
Fiction is not -- pace Gernsback -- a learning pill, we don't read or
write it to learn or teach scientific or historical or other facts;
it does however serve didactic purposes. If I read a novel where the
Holocaust never happened, am I reading an alternate history, or a piece
of MF written by someone who subscribes to the theories of Aryan Nation?

How can I know the difference?

(Or: Might it be -- would it even be possible for someone to write --
an intelligent and mature novel which is neither, a conspiracy novel
on the level of FOUCAULT'S PENDULUM or, less grandiosely, ILLUMINATUS!,
which takes as its premise that the Holocaust _was_ a huge
conspiratorial fraud?)

>Different levels of analysis: objectivity is a myth, but I don't want news 
>reporters to be excessively biased.

Since all reporters are, willy-nilly, biassed, I prefer a reporter
who is open about her bias.

>The bogeyman of positivism lurks in the background, along with early 
>attempts to come up with a neutral language that could allow unambiguous 
>communication.  The ideal was to develop a language with a one-to-one 
>correspondence between words and things.  Possibly a straw-dog.

Unless one were to create a language with an infinite vocabulary,
it's not merely a straw-dog but a chimera. I have little truck with
positivism, but that doesn't mean we need to throw objectivity out
the window. "I cannot achieve perfection; but, I can choose to serve
perfection." Similarly: I cannot achieve true objectivity in my
utterances, but I can choose to direct my utterances to the object.

>I think I lean closer towards a view of reality as a construction

I guess the question I want to ask of this view is, what was there
before language existed to construct "reality" from?

Does (say) a dog not exist in a reality? A planarian?

>One small reason I like Wolfe so much is that he leaves plenty of space 
>open for interpretation, and yet also does a very good job of crafting a 
>naturalistic style.

Complete agreement.

>Many protagonists are also authors, who disseminate their work across the 

? ? ?

Severian does this. Who else? Well, Horn disseminates his work
across Blue, as do his sons; but Weer and Latro write purely for
themselves. Holly Hollander, I suppose, would like to disseminate

>Their styles differ, and are appropriate to the situation.  Horn conceals 
>some information from the reader because his papers might be read by 
>enemies, for instance.

I think one of my favorite things about Wolfe is his tendency to
invent a new style for every novel. You'd never read a page of
Heinlein and not know right away, "This is Heinlein." When a
new Wolfe novel comes out I have to learn how to read him all
over again.


Protect your PC - get McAfee.com VirusScan Online  


<--prev V304 next-->