Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reading and Free Will

The internet has been down where I have been the past couple of weeks, or I probably would have written something. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, it is hard to evaluate what one does not have access to), I have no idea what it was I was going to write.

I tend to read philosophy even when the internet is fine, but over this summer I have noticed that I do not read fiction quite so much, and have the feeling that I do not know how to read fictional stories. I appreciate fictional stories as valuable. It is not a matter of not seeing fictional stories as valuable, but a matter of not knowing how to get the value out of it. This may well be the same as not having developed, or having lost, the taste for it.

The problem is that when I read, I tend to read the facts off the page, but that raises the question of what else there is to read. We often think as if the world consisted of the facts in the world, and those alone, but this deprives the world of meaning in the most basic sense. If we view the world as simply the facts, and not as having values, then the world is a very dull place. Thus, what I think I am missing in reading fictional stories as simply facts, is the implicit values of the world which the author is giving me.

To view the world as a person is to view the world as having values, or at least the possibility of value. Viewing the world as mere facts makes the idea of "value" inapplicable to the world (likewise, "interesting" or "dull"). Viewing the world as mere value thereby also removes any reasons for action. If there are no values in the world, then there is nothing to act on the basis of. To read fictional stories well, or any stories for that matter, then, it is necessary to view the world of that story as one to be acted from within.

How does one read a story, which will not change, as if one had to act in it? (This closely parallels the problem of free will: how is it right that I view the world as one I have to decide on a course of action within, when it appears as though what I do is simply part of how the world goes along?)

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