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Lira
Put on robe & wizard hat!



Registered: Nov 2001
Location: Brasilia, Brazil Formerly known as: Maaz
Against Armchair Literature

Disclaimer: Meat, this thread is for people who actually care about literature, philosophy and stuff of this sort. If you don't, just ignore the following posts.


I've been knocking literature and a few authors for quite a while, but I never really took the time to make my views explicit so you could criticise and give me some feedback.



Jenny McCarthy is the proof that the power
of narrative and charisma can go so far as
to cause the resurgence of otherwise banal
fevers. Thanks to her, kids too can be hot!
What do Galileo, Ayn Rand and Descartes all have in common? In a way or another, they're well intended grifters. The Renaissance man was the best PR he could have had, pissing off the Pope not because of his discoveries but because of the way he sold them (Copernicus had, after all, espoused similar views, but an amendment was added to his most important book - without his consent, that is - making sure that readers would see that as the best way to measure the position of celestial bodies, and not necessarily the truth). He made it sure that his ideas were seen not as fiction, and told stories that clearly were so even though his ideas would back them up (do you really think people would let him drop heavy objects from the Tower of Pisa and that he'd be able to reliably measure their fall?). Luckily, his ideas were quite profitable to the advent of science and much happened after he made his ideas public. What saved his ideas was the legion of natural philosophers who revised and developed his work.

History wasn't so kind to Descartes and Ayn Rand though. The murky fate of their ideas may have, of course, been inspirational at first (What if Descartes is right? What if Ayn Rand is on to something? Is Big Brother watching us?) as mistakes are just as important as the reliable information we have at any given time. Descartes sure made a lot of mistakes but, after a while, scientists and mathematicians were able to save the good ideas he had and discard the eventual errors - and animal activists still try to rectify some of his beliefs to this day! Time and again an obsolete idea of his is resurrected (such as in Chomsky's Cartesian Linguistics), but they're subjected to just as much scrutiny as they used to. Ayn Rand, however, did much more harm than the other people I mentioned precisely because she was a great story-teller and knew bugger all about the stuff she was talking about, which definitely made her all the more confident about the content of her writings. Her ideas have been challenged by academics, including otherwise logical allies, such as Nozick have turned against her ideas, but due to her influence outside these circles, these debates lack the influence to actually have an impact on these ideas. Such is the power of narrative: Feeling a story is more powerful than looking at numbers, for one, and that's why Jenny McCarthy's account of how her son got autism from a vaccine is so much more compelling than the dozens of studying proving that's impossible.

Ideas put forth by novelists may become quickly popular if the authors are charismatic writers, but that doesn't mean they're right. I've jestingly written about 1984 and how poor Orwell's take on the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is (of course, this is far from being the main point of the book, but it renders the story as probable as Usain Bolt breaking more world records if we chop one of his legs off... and the butt-hurt fandom makes the criticism all the more amusing) and if you extrapolate the concept of story-telling to other media, you can clearly see that it can have a harmful (and unintended) impact on society. Such is the CSI Effect, for instance.

My first criticism to literature can be summarised thus: it's time we bridged the gap described by C.P Snow and treated literature as the hotbed of ideas it truly is. There are books such as "Batman and Philosophy", "House and Philosophy" and even "Simpsons and Philosophy", which bring academic topics to the attention of the public at large. However, that's not enough. That's not daring enough. It's about time scientists took literature more seriously and analysed some of the ideas proposed by the authors not as literature - but as scientific/philosophic hypotheses that need to be scrutinised. Likewise, authors should stop fooling themselves that beauty conveys truth. It doesn't. Depending on the work, there may well be the momentary suspension of disbelief that is typical of fiction. But, when an author intends to describe something that may well happen in the real world, Dan Browning the public has undesirable outcomes. And, when doing the research for a novel that purports to be realistic, the author should also link to the reference material he used, so the readers can have access to the same material.

Obviously, we can't require that from works that have already been written - and quite often that's unnecessary - but when it may be, we should take a step back and remember that authors are no more reliable than anyone else. Story telling, both in printed media and outside, is too compelling for its own good.


___________________
quote:
Originally said by Adolf Fleisch Hitler
How naive can people be? Curing the COR with messy hair and philosophy?

quote:
Originally said by Maurice Moss
I came here to kick ass and drink milk... and I've just finished my milk

Old Post Sep-06-2011 20:26 
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Chimney
Low pH



Registered: Oct 2008
Location: Western Block

I wanna start studying demonology, Key of Solomon, to be more specific. However I don't want this to influence me negatively since I'm a faithful christian.

Old Post Sep-06-2011 20:31  Romania
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Silky Johnson
Reach for the sky, Honky!



Registered: Nov 2003
Location: Player Hater's Ball


___________________
quote:
Originally posted by MrJiveBoJingles
Perhaps I was not whipped enough as a child.

Old Post Sep-06-2011 20:31 
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Halcyon+On+On
Liebchen



Registered: Sep 2004
Location: midcoast

Writers need to eat.


___________________
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Old Post Sep-06-2011 20:56 
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Lira
Put on robe & wizard hat!



Registered: Nov 2001
Location: Brasilia, Brazil Formerly known as: Maaz

quote:
Originally posted by Halcyon+On+On
Writers need to eat.

They can always find another job and/or plot if they can't be arsed to do research and share it with the readers


___________________
quote:
Originally said by Adolf Fleisch Hitler
How naive can people be? Curing the COR with messy hair and philosophy?

quote:
Originally said by Maurice Moss
I came here to kick ass and drink milk... and I've just finished my milk

Old Post Sep-06-2011 21:08 
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Halcyon+On+On
Liebchen



Registered: Sep 2004
Location: midcoast

Art should never be a democratic process.


___________________
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Old Post Sep-06-2011 21:22 
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Chimney
Low pH



Registered: Oct 2008
Location: Western Block

I once started writing a novel, it had a pretty good story, but it needed filler. The idea however, depressed me so much that I was on the brink of suicide.

Old Post Sep-06-2011 21:24  Romania
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Lira
Put on robe & wizard hat!



Registered: Nov 2001
Location: Brasilia, Brazil Formerly known as: Maaz

I know that feeling
quote:
Originally posted by Halcyon+On+On
Art should never be a democratic process.

There could well be an exception, even if it's not my main point here.


___________________
quote:
Originally said by Adolf Fleisch Hitler
How naive can people be? Curing the COR with messy hair and philosophy?

quote:
Originally said by Maurice Moss
I came here to kick ass and drink milk... and I've just finished my milk

Old Post Sep-06-2011 21:28 
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nefardec
Tranceaddict in tranning



Registered: Oct 2004
Location:

quote:
Originally posted by Halcyon+On+On
Art should never be a democratic process.


i disagree.

Old Post Sep-06-2011 21:39 
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Halcyon+On+On
Liebchen



Registered: Sep 2004
Location: midcoast

What is your main point, exactly? That every author should be responsible for thoroughly citing every influence that contributed to a piece of his/her work? Absolutely ludicrous. I understand the concern when in an academic environment, but it truly undermines the very point of education if you expect writers to disseminate their every last resource in order to humour your pedantry you so foolishly mistake for sapience enough to share with all of us.

Your primary concern seems fixated upon unintended consequence and the "damage" that narrative - literary, peer-reviewed, bunk as could be, etc. - might have upon a populace, and I think you are short-sighted for it. Writing's perils and directives are important because of the harm they may very well cause - and indeed, the same could be said of music or manners or any other discourse which communicates on a level above physical intersection. The fact that mere words, mere statements, mere questions, could inspire or incite is what makes literature an effective medium - you neuter this with requisite dissection because its potency lies in its solvency within the ether of human emotion and concord.

Yes, people write some hair-brained shit, and yes, people lap it right up for whatever mammal stimulus it might emit. Did you ever stop to think that its not some conspiracy to commit crimes against intelligence, but rather that it's simply apodeictic? Oblivion has always been destiny, when it comes to the self.


___________________
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Old Post Sep-06-2011 21:57 
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Halcyon+On+On
Liebchen



Registered: Sep 2004
Location: midcoast

quote:
Originally posted by nefardec
i disagree.


I'm certain you can find some way to worm your way around it, but whatever you have to say, remember that you are synthesizing statements to prove your point. Not votes, but truths that faithfully (in faith) reflect your perspective.

//Wait, I can see how you might've misinterpreted what I said - Art is in essence prone to contribution as a democracy might be. I mean "A piece of art should never be subject to a democratic process" - as in, it should not be subject to majority direction, at odds with the discretion of the individual, a minority - the artist. I'm sure you can agree, here - I'm defending minorities, after all!


___________________
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Last edited by Halcyon+On+On on Sep-06-2011 at 22:08

Old Post Sep-06-2011 22:02 
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Lira
Put on robe & wizard hat!



Registered: Nov 2001
Location: Brasilia, Brazil Formerly known as: Maaz

quote:
Originally posted by Halcyon+On+On
What is your main point, exactly? That every author should be responsible for thoroughly citing every influence that contributed to a piece of his/her work? Absolutely ludicrous.

I wouldn't go so far as to require that from writers. A reductio ad absurdum could be easily made requiring a sound background in neuroscience for an author to claim why a certain character was happy after being given a puppy. However, authors quite often need to do some research in order to write a story (making their work specially egregious when they don't). There are two instances in which I believe literature shouldn't isolate itself from other sources of ideas:

  • When authors incorporate concepts from academia: Suppose you want to write a novel about someone spreading a rumour and you were influenced by social network theory, having done some research on this topic to make your account realistic. The author must acknowledge this contribution somewhere in the work, as his target audience probably wants to know more about that particular issue and you must give yourself the chance to be wrong about your interpretation, redirecting more avid readers to your sources. Some more rigour is more than welcome.

    Mind you, this affects a negligible share of literary works. There's no reason why Harry Potter ought get its sociology right - in a world where wizards exist, there's no reason to imagine society works under different rules. However, failing hard to grasp important concepts is more often than not the result of laziness than infeasibility of research... and this makes literature no better than hoax hoarding.

  • When authors contribute with concepts to academia: This probably affects an even more negligible share of works, but they're necessary. This is why I wrote that tirade against 1984 - Orwell even went as far as write an appendix about NewSpeak, yet he never bothered to check if that would ever work. Given how there's nothing metaphysically different about his world, all else being equal, it's just the different history frame that shouldn't "match" our own world. That list I cited from TVTropes has loads of more examples.

quote:
Originally posted by Halcyon+On+On
I understand the concern when in an academic environment, but it truly undermines the very point of education if you expect writers to disseminate their every last resource in order to humour your pedantry you so foolishly mistake for sapience enough to share with all of us.

It doesn't need to go that far... but some misconceptions we could well do without.
quote:
Originally posted by Halcyon+On+On
Your primary concern seems fixated upon unintended consequence and the "damage" that narrative - literary, peer-reviewed, bunk as could be, etc. - might have upon a populace, and I think you are short-sighted for it. Writing's perils and directives are important because of the harm they may very well cause - and indeed, the same could be said of music or manners or any other discourse which communicates on a level above physical intersection. The fact that mere words, mere statements, mere questions, could inspire or incite is what makes literature an effective medium - you neuter this with requisite dissection because its potency lies in its solvency within the ether of human emotion and concord.

Not at all. I'm all for raising questions and whatnot. The point is that there's a difference between sticking it to the man because you know the system well enough to find its faults and sticking it to the man because you're misguided.
quote:
Originally posted by Halcyon+On+On
Yes, people write some hair-brained shit, and yes, people lap it right up for whatever mammal stimulus it might emit. Did you ever stop to think that its not some conspiracy to commit crimes against intelligence, but rather that it's simply apodeictic? Oblivion has always been destiny, when it comes to the self.

I lost you here, could you elaborate on this? I didn't intend to say there was a conspiracy or anything.


___________________
quote:
Originally said by Adolf Fleisch Hitler
How naive can people be? Curing the COR with messy hair and philosophy?

quote:
Originally said by Maurice Moss
I came here to kick ass and drink milk... and I've just finished my milk

Old Post Sep-06-2011 22:23 
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