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Reviews351 change yet again, it is humbling and useful to learn more about this history of interpretation. It should make us reflect about what interpreting Homer is, and save us from excessive confidence in die rightness of our own readings. University of Southern CaliforniaWilliam G. Thalmann Fictional Worlds, by Thomas Pavel; viii & 178 pp. Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1986, $20.00. PhUosophers of the analytical kind and literary theorists have not enjoyed an especiaUy intimate and fruitful relationship. The austere ontologists of Vienna and Oxford had litde time, at least officially, for the literary or the fictional. And the great schools of twentietii-century criticism have drawn dieir inspiration from linguistic and ideological sources. The structuralists and dieir successors have wanted to identify fictional discourse as a sui generis "play of language" to which questions of communicative intention, truth, and reference are simply irrelevant . Extremists have even wanted to export die revolution, arguing diat aU language is nonreferential; that there isn't (reaUy) a real world diat we can talk about. But analytical phUosophy has broadened its horizons and relaxed its methods; its goods are starting to look attractive to literary theorists. Thomas Pavel (a theoretician by trade) argues for glasnost. Breaking widi die formalist and structuralist past he wants to develop a metaphysics which integrates fiction with real-world discourse, and which makes use of phUosophical devices like the causal theory of names, possible worlds, and Lewis's theory of convention. The result is phUosophicaUy disappointing. The analytical tools diat Pavel employs can indeed enhance our understanding of fiction, but uiey need careful and rigorous employment. Here one has die impression of a coUection of phUosophical doctrines, some of diem imperfecdy understood, being hijacked and used as cover for some dubious argument. The central notion of a fictional world, once it overflowed the boundaries set by die logician's "possible world," faUed to take coherent shape. A brief account of die Kripe semantics for modal logic proves to be just a crowd-warmer before the introduction of fictional worlds — some of diem impossible, most of diem incomplete, aU of them, apparently , quite unlike possible worlds. It is as if someone impressed by physics were to insist diat ghosts are made of atoms — spiritual, insubstantial atoms quite unlike physical atoms — but atoms noneuieless. The notion of convention receives die same treatment; weU before die end of the chapter the phUosophical machinery seems to be running idle. We are given the regularity account of convention, but it is foUowed by vague and impres- 352Philosophy and Literature sionistic talk about the conventions of literature, witii no serious attempt to connect die examples widi the definition. The causal theory of names does get used in Pavel's investigations. The trouble is it gets misused. He argues diat, like ordinary proper names, fictional names are not essentiaUy connected with descriptions, but are just "pegged" to individuals. Fictional characters can, he says, "be named and individuated independently of any kind of description" (p. 37). But which individual is "Hamlet" pegged to? No actuaUy existing individual, surely. To a possible individual ? Which one? How can we pick out a merely possible individual? Not by ostention; not even by description. It would be like saying "Let's caU 'Hamlet' the person who possibly did aU the things described in Shakespeare's play." But there are coundess people who possibly did those things. On die causal model, which Pavel wants to apply to fictional names, pegging is done by causal contact . What causal connections are diere between die supposed individual Hamlet and ourselves? I'm talking about possible worlds and their inhabitants here, and Pavel wiU object diat he has already transcended diem for somediing richer. In diat case he ought to teU us enough about the structure of fictional worlds to show mat such individuation is plausible. He doesn't. What is motivating Pavel here — and the motivation is sound — is the apparendy legitimate use we make of fictional names in counterfactuals: Hamlet might not have kUled Laertes, for instance. We certainly need a theory to accommodate such judgments, but taking die causal dieory over wholesale creates more trouble than it is worth. At the end of this...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 351-352
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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