David Foster Wallace Thesis

David Foster Wallace Thesis-14
Though I knew Wallace's fiction at the time only by reputation, I had been impressed by the graduation address he delivered at Kenyon College in 2005.This address, you will likely recall, had gone more or less viral among academics because of its profound and quirky defense of the value of a liberal arts education (sending up the whole graduation speech genre while nevertheless saying the sorts of things we have been hoping to hear from sweaty commencement speakers since we first were forced to attend these events). But it is more fair to an ingenious and very important argument (and I think more interesting) to say something else.

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In light of what we've seen about the semantics of physical modality, I hold that Taylor's semantic argument does not in fact yield his metaphysical conclusion.

We should now recall that Taylor was offering a very curious sort of argument: a semantic argument for a metaphysical conclusion.

At our harshest we might simply reject the fatalist's response here as assuming in the first place the very thing for which he purported to have an independent argument.

Pears Charles Sanders Peirce Derk Pereboom Steven Pinker Plato Karl Popper Porphyry Huw Price H. So what are we to say about the fatalist's asserting the truth of determinism in order to save the validity of an argument for the truth of fatalism, when determinism, by Professor Taylor's own enthusiastic admission, is simply a stronger, more general version of fatalism?

First, there is an excellent general introduction by James Ryerson that provides some useful history with respect to both the contemporary fatalism debate and Wallace's intellectual development up to and after the completion of his thesis at Amherst College in the spring of 1985.

In addition, Ryerson does some explaining to non-philosophers of how the central argument of Wallace's thesis works (here I think philosophers will do better to skip these explanations and read the thesis itself first -- not because there is anything misleading in Ryerson's treatment but because it seems clear to me that Wallace's argument will be able to speak for itself).

Taylor's article is still widely anthologized, with the result that many philosophers today regard Taylor as a fatalist! Wallace describes fatalism as collapsing all possibilities into actuality. Wallace writes: By what reason, other than mere habit or inclination, ought we to reject out of hand a modal system in which possibility, actuality, and necessity are collapsed? The fatalist can point out that no less a non-fatalist than G. Quite to the contrary, speaking in the traditional modal terms, one can call it a modal logic of a universe of propositions which has no room for contingent propositions but in which every truth is a necessity and every falsehood an impossibility." (In other words, a fatalistic modal logic.) Some philosophers have argued that the collapse of modal distinctions apparently implied by the Taylor problem results in the very concept of "necessity" itself becoming vacuous, and so renders the fatalist's contention that everything that happens is "necessary" empty and benign.

Bell Mara Beller Charles Bennett Ludwig von Bertalanffy Susan Blackmore Margaret Boden David Bohm Niels Bohr Ludwig Boltzmann Emile Borel Max Born Satyendra Nath Bose Walther Bothe Hans Briegel Leon Brillouin Stephen Brush Henry Thomas Buckle S. Burbury Donald Campbell Anthony Cashmore Eric Chaisson Gregory Chaitin Jean-Pierre Changeux Arthur Holly Compton John Conway John Cramer E. Culverwell Olivier Darrigol Charles Darwin Richard Dawkins Terrence Deacon Lüder Deecke Richard Dedekind Louis de Broglie Max Delbrück Abraham de Moivre Paul Dirac Hans Driesch John Eccles Arthur Stanley Eddington Gerald Edelman Paul Ehrenfest Albert Einstein Hugh Everett, III Franz Exner Richard Feynman R. Willard Gibbs Nicolas Gisin Paul Glimcher Thomas Gold A. Gomes Brian Goodwin Joshua Greene Jacques Hadamard Mark Hadley Patrick Haggard Stuart Hameroff Augustin Hamon Sam Harris Hyman Hartman John-Dylan Haynes Donald Hebb Martin Heisenberg Werner Heisenberg John Herschel Art Hobson Jesper Hoffmeyer E. Jaynes William Stanley Jevons Roman Jakobson Pascual Jordan Ruth E. Nevertheless, several philosophers tried to show in the 1960's that Taylor's arguments in "Fatalism" were invalid. ) and other analytical language philosophers tried to do was simply not possible to do, discover truths about the physical world from logic and language. Modern "actualists" include Harry Frankfurt, and Daniel Dennett. In discussing a system with just such a feature, von Wright maintains that "This 'collapsing' of the distinction between the possible and the necessary does not make the system uninteresting as a modal logic.

Stout Galen Strawson Peter Strawson Eleonore Stump Francisco Suárez Richard Taylor Kevin Timpe Mark Twain Peter Unger Peter van Inwagen Manuel Vargas John Venn Kadri Vihvelin Voltaire G. A determinist is simply, if he is consistent, a fatalist about everything; or at least, he should be.

The fatalist, then, would appear to be able to preserve the validity of his Taylor-argument against [Wallace's] analysis only by embracing the metaphysical doctrine of determinism, by being a determinist.


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