Friday, February 18, 2005

Fictional Truth


Philosophy, etc is carrying an article about whether a fiction is logically complete (i.e. that all propositions are either true or not-true in the fiction) which I have become embroiled in through an interesting email exchange. I thought I would post some of the discussion here.

MP>Consider Mary Poppins, and the proposition "A spoon full of sugar makes
MP> the medicine go down". Now, we are clearly talking about a MP (Mary
MP> Poppins) spoon, MP sugar and MP medicine. There is no way that any MP
MP> proposition could make any claims about anything in the real world.
MP> Additionally, real-world propositions can't refer to anything in the
MP> fiction - for example "Spoons full of sugar make the medicine react
MP> violenty and bubble" aren't propositions about MP medicine.

PE>We can refer to fiction easily enough. Consider: "In the LOTR, Frodo
PE>is a hobbit". That's really true, and it refers to facts about the
PE>LOTR fiction. I imagine a fiction could likewise make explicit
PE>reference to the real world (though this might make it an 'impossible
PE>fiction' - since fictions usually pretend *they* are real!). I also
PE>suspect things like substances (sugar, etc) are *usually* constant
PE>across all possible worlds. It's an interesting issue though.

My last question to Philosophy, etc was :

"It is farcicle to suggest that the rules by which any given fictional world operates should provide information about every possible proposition - as you say many cases will not be covered. Interestingly, this is ALSO true of our scientific systems which model the real world.

There is a fact-about-the-system, and a fact-about-the-world.

Consider e=mc**2. There are lots of facts and propositions relating to what this implies etc, but they may not be facts-about-the-world. e=mc**2 may incorrectly describe the world.

Let me ask you - is there any way in which the RULES of a fiction may incorrectly describe the fiction? Is there any sense in which there is a fact-about-the-fiction which is different to a fact-about-the-rules.

Indeed, may fiction be the very example of something that is true only because we believe it?"



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