Justification from Fictional Narratives

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Philosophers generally accept that sound arguments or strong empirical evidence for a proposition can provide some justification for believing it. Can make-believe stories do the same? In this paper, I examine an argument that denies that they can, and I assess one popular response to this argument, which seeks to assimilate fictional narratives such as novels and plays to thought experiments. I argue that this analogy helps explain how fictional narratives can justify propositions at what I call the “micro” level but not at the “macro” level, where other factors such as thematic coherence and the intellectual character of the author typically come into play.

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... To Chase (2011), narrative enquiry is closely aligned with qualitative-interpretative or ethnographic research traditions and hence it is not surprising that work in this area is dynamic and constantly evolving as it is an emerging field that uses different discourses and rhetorical methods to both engage the reader and recreate lived experiences in order to stimulate learning. 3 In a sense, narrative enquiry is meant to be a reaction against and an alternative to the dominance of the empirical-scientific paradigm that pervades educational research (Banks and Banks 1998;Ozolins 2014;Phillips 2014;Tierney 1993) and so we intend to extend on this idea with what can loosely be described in the literature as "ethnographic fiction" (Schmidt 1981;Van Maanen 1988;Webster 1982), "fictional representations" (Clough 2002) and more recently as "fictional narratives" (Repp 2014). According to Connelly and Clandinin (1990), the power of narrative enquiry stems from readers' interpretations of the dialogue in such a way that it resonates with their own lives to the point that the verisimilitude of the narrative allows Downloaded by [La Trobe University] at 17:57 16 October 2017 for both multiple interpretations and learning possibilities. ...
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The use of narrative – in this case a fictional dialogue – has been a time-honoured way of exploring ideas and most importantly indispensable for learning, at least since the time of the Sophists. Indeed, the dialogues of Plato exemplify this thesis because the qualities and characteristics of philosophy and philosophising are revealed through their lives. Extending on this premise, we would argue that we learn to understand both the unity and complexity of philosophy – particularly in education and educational research – not by formal philosophical arguments, necessary as they are in some contexts, but by narratives that are relevant, narratives that make the actions of one or more characters intelligible and justifiable. As a result, this article uses a narrative approach for the dual purpose of exhibiting the relevance of philosophy intelligibly exhibited through the examples of the characters put forward (enquiring Ph.D. student and university professor), but at the same time characters we ourselves can learn from as they both dialectically engage with philosophically orientated problems.
Coherence is a term of art in both epistemology and literary criticism, and in both contexts judgments of coherence carry evaluative significance. However, whereas the epistemic use of the term picks out a property of belief sets, the literary use can pick out properties of various elements of a literary work, including its plot, characters, and style. For this reason, some have claimed that literary critics are not concerned with the same concept of coherence as epistemologists. In this article I argue against this claim. Although various nonepistemic notions of coherence figure in literary criticism, the epistemic concept has a mirror image in the literary–critical concept of thematic coherence. Moreover, evidence from literary criticism suggests that thematic coherence can be valuable from a literary-evaluative standpoint because it can be valuable from an epistemic standpoint, in particular by enhancing the credibility of a work's themes or author. My analysis of the notion of thematic coherence thus provides novel support for literary cognitivism, the view that a work's literary-aesthetic merits can depend on its epistemic merits.
This book investigates the relation of art to morality, a topic that has been of central and recurring interest to the philosophy of art since Plato. The book explores the various positions that have been taken in this debate, and argues for ethicism - a position that holds that an artwork is always aesthetically flawed insofar as it possesses an ethical demerit that is aesthetically relevant. Three main arguments are developed for this view: these involve showing that moral goodness is a kind of beauty (the moral beauty argument); that art can teach us about morality and thereby often has aesthetic value (the cognitive argument); and that our emotional responses to works are merited in part by ethical considerations (the merited response argument). In the course of its argument for the correctness of ethical criticism of art, the book also develops a new theory of the nature of aesthetic value, explores how art can teach us about the world and what we morally ought to do by guiding our imaginings, and argues that we can have genuine emotions towards people and events that we know are merely fictional. The book also examines several artworks in detail, showing how ethical criticism can yield rich and plausible accounts of works such as Rembrandt's Bathsheba and Nabokov's Lolita.
By the common consent of all mankind who have read, poetry takes the highest place in literature. That nobility of expression, and all but divine grace of words, which she is bound to attain before she can make her footing good, is not compatible with prose. Indeed, it is that which turns prose into poetry. When that has been in truth achieved, the reader knows that the writer has soared above the earth, and can teach his lessons somewhat as a god might teach. He who sits down to write his tale in prose makes no such attempt, nor does he dream that the poet's honour is within his reach;-but his teaching is of the same nature, and his lessons all tend to the same end. By either, false sentiment may be fostered; false honour, false love, false worship may be created; by either vice instead of virtue may be taught. But by each, equally, may true honour, true love, true worship, and true humanity be inculcated; and that will be the greatest teacher who will spread the truth the widest.
Thought experiments have played a prominent role in numerous cases of conceptual change in science. I propose that research in cognitive psychology into the role of mental modeling in narrative comprehension can illuminate how and why thought experiments work. In thought experimenting a scientist constructs and manipulates a mental simulation of the experimental situation. During this process, she makes use of inferencing mechanisms, existing representations, and general world knowledge to make realistic transformations from one possible physical state to the next. The simulation reveals the impossibility of integrating multiple constraints drawn from existing representations and the world and pinpoints the locus of the required conceptual reform.
By carefully examining one of the most famous thought experiments in the history of science-that by which Galileo is said to have refuted the Aristotelian theory that heavier bodies fall faster than Lighter ones-I attempt to show that thought experiments play a distinctive role in scientific inquiry. Reasoning about particular entities within the context of an imaginary scenario can lead to rationally justified conclusions that-given the same initial information-would nor be rationally justifiable on the basis of a straightforward argument.
This essay, as its title "The Uses of the Philosophy of G. E. Moore in the Works of E. M. Forster" indicates, examines the ways in which Moore's philosophical thought, particularly the ethical theory that was formulated at Cambridge during Forster's student years and published as Principia Ethica in 1903, influenced the writings of E. M. Forster. Specifically, aspects of both the persona and philosophy of Moore are examined in three of Forster's novels. In The Longest Journey of 1907, the doctrines of moral and metaphysical realism that Moore taught to Forster at Cambridge emerge as the major theme of engagement and contention among the characters of the novel. In Howards End of 1910, Forster symbolically projected the promise of "Moorism" (the term used by Moore's advocates in Bloomsbury) as a moral philosophy for the reform of English public life and for the resolution of the challenges of industrialization and urbanization that confronted Edwardian England. In A Passage to India of 1924, Forster used the character of Mrs. Moore to demonstrate that Moore's "method" of philosophical dialectic could be directed to rectify an injustice of imperial rule and to clarify personal relationships. Forster's continued support for Moore's approach in the domain of personal relations even as he recognized its limitations as a public philosophy in postwar society is set in this essay against John Maynard Keynes's criticism of the Bloomsbury commitment to Moore's thought as sketched in Keynes's memoir "My Early Beliefs." Aspects of Moore's thought reverberated in Forster's essays which marked his emergence as a major public advocate of anti-Nazism and liberal democracy in the 1930s and 1940s, characteristically expressed in such moderate and ironic tones of "Two Cheers for Democracy." Finally, this essay probes a fundamental dilemma in the interpretation of Forster's oeuvre. On the one hand, Forster was a lifelong advocate of the Moorian ideal of truth in personal relations, and this advocacy was realized through his vocation as an author whose novels provided a continuing quest myth in which each of the main protagonists is in pursuit of this ideal. On the other hand, Forster argues for an interpretation of himself as a modernist writer who is free of any authorial advocacy in his commitment to the ideal of art for art's sake.
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