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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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Can't these all be true?

1. (x) fictional(x) entails not exist(x)

2. Es Ex sentence(s) & about(s,x) & fictional(x)

3. (s) [ s = 'Fa' and true (‘Fa’) ] entails Ex refer('a', x) & exist(x)

It would mean that every sentence about a fictional object was not true, of course.

Your first sentence is ambiguous between 'there are no purely fictional objects' and 'if anything is a purely fictional object, it does not exist'. You say "the first is nonnegotiable since it is true by definition. " That is very 'you', Bill.

On 6 and 7,

-------
6. In the Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock Holmes is a detective

7. In the Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock Holmes is fictional.
-------

we story-operatorists analyse story-operators differently from predicates. That is obvious. Clearly the stories say that Sherlock Holmes is a detective. They do not say that he is fictional.

----------
I was on the set and I said 'Should I read about this case?' and he said
'Uh, there is no case'.
I said 'But I mean, the story that it's based on'
He said 'No, it's not based on a story'
I said, 'Oh. Yes it is. It says on the front that it's based on a true story' and he said 'Yeah, but we just made that up.'
I said, 'You can't do that' and he said 'Why?'
I said, 'Because, because you're saying something that's not true'.
And he said 'The whole thing's not true. It's a script. It's a fiction. It says "fiction". Why can't we say it's based on a true story?'

William Macy on the Coen brothers' film Fargo.

Ed,

By your lights, there cannot be the ambiguity you mention.

>>Clearly the stories say that Sherlock Holmes is a detective. They do not say that he is fictional.<<

You are right, the stories do not say that that Holmes is fictional. Nonetheless, 'Sherlock Holmes is purely fictional' is true. How do you analyze that sentence so as to eliminate the apparent reference to a nonexistent object?

>>'Sherlock Holmes is purely fictional' is true. How do you analyze that sentence so as to eliminate the apparent reference to a nonexistent object?
<<

Simple. You agree that in the sentence

Gorgione was so-called because of his size

The word 'Gorgione' is doing double duty. The sentence is not saying that Gorgione was identical with his name. It means 'Gorgione was called 'Gorgione' because of his size', right? This proves that our language confusingly shifts between properties of individuals and properties of the language we use to describe them. Similar with 'former' and 'latter', when used to talk about characters according to the order that we have introduced them in the narrative. In cannot be that the man who is former really has a property of being 'former'. The property is linguistic only.

And so with Holmes. Holmes is a detective, and Holmes is fictional. However the 'detective' attribute is like Gorgione's size. But 'fictional' is like being so-called, or being 'former' rather than the 'latter'. Being fictional cannot be a real property of anyone any more than being latter. Nor do we mean that any real property is being attributed (unless you are a philosopher of course - nihil tam absurdum).

"Bill met Ed in Prague. The former is an American; the latter is an Englishman."

"Ed met Bill in Prague. The former is an Englishman; the latter is an American."

Such examples make it clear that there is no property of being former or of being latter. (An interesting datum that I won't pursue now is that these bits of discourse could be part of a factual account but also of a (boring) novel.)

So far, agreement. But how exactly did you arrive at the conclusion that 'fictional' is like 'former'?

'Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character' is true in reality, and thus apart from any story or linguistic context. It is true outside the scope of any story operator. This fact refutes your theory.

>>'Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character' is true in reality, and thus apart from any story or linguistic context. It is true outside the scope of any story operator. This fact refutes your theory.<<

My emphasis. “Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character” means “someone made up a story about a person called ‘Sherlock Holmes’”. ‘Fictional’ is from the pp of Latin ‘fingere’: fictum, literally ‘made up’ or invented.

And yes, it is true in reality that someone (Conan Doyle) invented such a character. I didn't use the term 'in reality', but rather 'real property'. But 'being made up' is not a real property like being a detective.

>>But how exactly did you arrive at the conclusion that 'fictional' is like 'former'?

'Fictional' is like 'former' in that it cannot be a real property. We agree that some of the characters in War and Peace are historical, others, like Natasha Rostova, are Tolstoy’s invention, yes? Then we can form the predicate:

‘Some of the characters in War and Peace are historical, others, like ---, are Tolstoy’s invention’

We can substitute different proper names in that predicate to get sentences of differing truth value. If we substitute ‘Pierre Bezuhov’ or ‘Sonya Rostov’, we get true sentences. If we substitute ‘Napoleon Bonaparte’, we get a false sentence, even though Napoleon was real. Indeed, if we substitute ‘Sherlock Holmes’ we get a false sentence, even though Holmes is fictional.

So the predicate is real enough, as a linguistic item. But it cannot possibly signify a real property. QED.

X is a character in War and Peace = Tolstoy wrote about X in War and Peace (true of Napoleon, Natasha, not true of Anna Karenina, Sherlock Holmes or Queen Victoria)
X is one of Tolstoy’s characters = Tolstoy wrote about X in one of his books (true of Napoleon, Natasha, true also of Anna Karenina, but not of Sherlock).
X is one of Conan Doyle’s characters (true of Holmes and Queen Victoria, not true of Natasha or Napoleon).
X is a literary character = some author wrote about X in one of his or her books.
X is a fictional character = some author wrote about X in one of his or her books, but there was no such person as X

Ed,

Ficta are indeed made up or invented, as the etymology suggests. They are mental creations. I incline toward the creationist or artifactualist view that I find in Ingarden and later philosophers.

Nonetheless, 'Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character' is true; but 'According to the Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character' is not true.

That is the point that you don't seem to want to concede.

>> “Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character” means “someone made up a story about a person called ‘Sherlock Holmes’”.<<

I don't think that is right. The two sentences are intersubstitutable salva veritate but not salva significatione

The question is not about real properties, however you define them, but about whether the sentential story operator approach works. I have shown that it doesn't. Actually, this is nothing original to me; it is well-known from the literature.

I also note that you ignored my Pinocchio example. 'Pinocchio was less of a liar than Obama.'

>>Nonetheless, 'Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character' is true; but 'According to the Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character' is not true.That is the point that you don't seem to want to concede.

Of course I 'concede' it! It follows from everything I have said above. Of course, that means that the analysis of 'Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character' is different from 'Sherlock Holmes is a detective', but that should be obvious.

>> “Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character” means “someone made up a story about a person called ‘Sherlock Holmes’”. I don't think that is right. The two sentences are intersubstitutable salva veritate but not salva significatione

Well I don't fully understand your 'purely', but why are the meanings different?

>>The question is not about real properties, however you define them, but about whether the sentential story operator approach works. I have shown that it doesn't.

How? All you have shown is that the analysis of 'Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character' is different from 'Sherlock Holmes is a detective', which as I say is obvious. The only serious objection is of ad-hoccery, but you haven't made that objection yet.

>>I also note that you ignored my Pinocchio example. 'Pinocchio was less of a liar than Obama.'

That was an entirely separate argument you tacked on at the end.

'Pinocchio was less of a liar than Obama' = 'Obama is more of a liar than Pinocchio was depicted in the stories'.

The chess player Paul Morphy figures in an historical novel. That makes him an object of fiction, but he is not a purely fictional object. S. H. is purely fictional. This is an important distinction, obviously. One cannot validly pass from
x is a fictional object
to
x is a nonexistent object.


The point of my post was very limited : to show that the sentential story operator approach cannot be applied across the board because of counterexamples like 'Pegasus is mythological' and the Pinocchio example.

It now appears that you agree with me on this.

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