Showing posts with label literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label literature. Show all posts

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Truth in Fiction

A comment on this post from Rationally Speaking

J'C: "Humans are story telling creatures. We learn about living in our society "Around the campfire" from fables and stories all of which are fictional. A powerful fictional story works not because of the characters or what happens to them but because the social structures they are embedded in provide meaningful social information whether we agree with it or not. Several of the novels mentioned above, "Gone With the Wind," "Grapes of Wrath," "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," among many others all provided depictions of a social ethic which whether we agreed with it or not, was part of the social fabric in which we live or could live.

Probably the best philosophy course I took was entitled "Philosophy from Literature." Starting with Homer, and stopping off every few hundred years until we reached James Joyce's Ulysses. The basic premise of the course was what can you learn about your society from the literature of various past societies?"

Fiction allows the author or anonymous authors of most of the fiction and fables from which we derive our mores to explore those mores in ways that direct exposition cannot. The characters can and do react in "unacceptable" ways that people can learn from. Note I am not excluding the religious fictions which guide religious mores.

I have learned almost everything I know about social mores from fiction. I read almost nothing else. I would much rather read a very smart person telling a good story embedded in a well thought out social structure than an equally smart sociologist trying to figure out a social structure from observation of reality. The sociologist is extremely limited by having to describe and reason from existing social structures, and trying to guess why some are dysfunctional, and some seem to work. The very smart novelist, playwright or poet simply plops his characters into a social structure that is close enough to a real structure to be recognizable, and show how the fictional characters react to it. The writer is not limited to reality but can explore variations on reality to see how the fictional characters might respond to the challenges presented by that variation.

June 19, 2010 12:20 AM

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dawkins - Literary prize winner or bigot or both.

Dawkins' Trashy Tract - Beliefnet
You've done a mostly decent job of trashing the man's book, but what of the author, himself?

J'C: "I have 5 books by Dr. Dawkins on my shelf which I think are excellent interpretations of evolutionary science for the reader of average or higher intelligence. I bought The God Delusion without reading reviews based on the rest of his books. As an evolutionary scientist and popularizer of his field I think he is exemplary. As an atheist I think he is a bigot. As a responsible person I feel a necessity to combat bigotry from whatever corner it comes from. As a responsible atheist I resent the fact that his bigotry is giving ordinarily responsible theists a hobby horse to ride roughshod over atheism and atheists.

Just as I hold responsible Christians accountable for speaking out against the bigotry of the Pat Robertsons and Fred Phelps of the Christian world. I think that responsible atheists are on the front line for combating atheist fundamentalism and bigotry. We are a small and politically marginal minority, and have to work intelligently under the radar to achieve the changes that are necessary. Strident hate, bigotry, and mindless fundamentalism does great damage to the cause of rationality and humanistic values in todays polarized world. Someone must pay attention."

As I noted on the eSKEPTIC blog promoting Dawkins for the Noble Prize
Polemics are not literature. If Dawkins could somehow get the brain fart of “The God Delusion” out of his bibliography he might have a chance. Unfortunately it is stinking up his name if not the excellent work he has done in explaining a difficult science to a skeptical world.

Monday, July 27, 2009

15 books

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15 BooksShare Here are the rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. They don't have to be the greatest books you've ever read, just the ones that stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes
Elizabeth Black

"Carlin Black
books that stay with you
How do you stop at 15?
East of Eden
Grapes of Wrath
Stranger in a Strange Land
Time enough for Love
Oath of Fealty
Mote in Gods Eye
The Red Pony
Space Child's Mother Goose
The Book of J
The Jerusalem Bible
Ender's Game
The Foundation Trilogy
The Hobbit Quadrilogy
The Lensman Series
Hume's Treatise
Everything I Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten
Not Man Apart"

OMG how could I forget Sweet Thursday, Godel, Esher, and Bach, and The Star Beast.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is a story a message?

Is Heinlein the atheist's philosopher? - : "If the message in art or storytelling seems more important than the story or the art the package will fail. However, a story without a message is destined to the dustbin of pulp fiction, read once and discarded without a thought. It is no wonder that the function of pulp fiction, that is mindless escape from the real world has been taken over by Video and UTube. Before you beat me with that dolly again, there are Videos with important messages behind the storyboard, and maybe there is even an important UTube out there, but you can bet it is entertaining as well as meaningful. The very few that are willing to think about the meaning behind the entertainment will keep it circulating in blogspace or the next big thing for people who can and do think."