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NOVITZ ON WALTON by Stephan L. Burton David Novitz's discussion1 of Kendall Walton's Mimesis as MakeBelieve : On the Foundations of the Representational Arts2 presents so many plump fish in so small a barrel that one can hardly forbear to take aim and shoot some of the fatter ones. Novitz's first important charge is that "perhaps without realizing as much, Walton alters his theory of representation" (p. 120) in order to accommodate representations that discourage participation in games of make-believe. In order to substantiate this claim, he goes on to cite, first: (1)Walton's "original thesis according to which 'the central function of representations is to make propositions involving the properties they specify fictional'" (p. 130), and, second, the alleged modification according to which: (2)The " 'thought of a work's serving as a prop in a game of makebelieve ' ... is central to our appreciation of it" (p. 275). Concerning the latter, he proceeds to claim that: (3)It follows "from this that . . . representations need not be able to be used in games of make-believe at all. . . . What is essential to them Philosophy and Literature, © 1991, 15: 295-301 296Philosophy and Literature is no longer their function in make-believe, but rather the idea that they can be so used even when they resist any such use." Moreover, he goes on to add: (4) If it is "true of anything whatsoever that one can have the thought of its serving (functioning) in a game of make-believe, this has the unwelcome effect of converting everything into a representation." Now this last might indeed be an unwelcome effect, but it does not follow from anything said or implied by Walton, who never retreats from the idea that to be a representation is to possess the function of serving as a prop in games of make-believe. Novitz trades on his own confusion between the "central function" of a representation and what is "central to our appreciation" thereof. (2) is in no way a modification of (1): it does not say that the thought of a work's serving as a prop in a game of make-believe is enough to make it a representation; it merely notes that in certain cases what is essential to appreciatinga representation is not participation in the games of make-believe it authorizes. The fact remains that its authorization of such participation is what makes it a representation. Thus while it may be "true of anything whatsoever that one can have the thought of its serving (functioning) in a game of make believe" (or even the thought of its possessing the function of serving as such a prop), it does not follow that it actually possesses any such function. So (3) and (4) are no threat to Walton. II To the extent they lack their official function qua representations, Walton describes fictions that discourage participation in the games of make-believe they authorize as "ornamental." "Representations" that are purely ornamental in this sense may lose that official function altogether , though they may still represent themselves as representations of whatever they no longer genuinely represent. Walton's discussion of ornamentality in Mimesis 7.6 forms the launching pad for Novitz's next major assault (p. 121), which takes off from the claim that: (5) "On Walton's view, the only representations that are thought likely to discourage make-believe are highly ornamental ones" (pp. 278-79). Stephan L. Burton297 It gathers momentum with the observation that passport photos, family snapshots, and aerial photographs "have practical purposes which positively discourage participation in games of make-believe" whereas pictures officiions, like Santa Claus, Anna Karenina, Alice and the Mad Hatter, etc., which "do encourage make-believe . . . have no practical function and are in a certain sense merely ornamental," and comes in for a triumphant landingwith Novitz's conclusion that "Walton's attempt to treat representations that require games of make-believe as functional , and all others as ornamental, is at best misleading." Unfortunately, Novitz overshoots the runway. In the first place, Walton never makes the claim attributed to him by Novitz. The pages in Mimesis to which Novitz refers us for this view are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 295-301
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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