Colin Radford Paradox of Fiction

Essay add: 25-03-2016, 16:30   /   Views: 95
Colin Radford, an English philosopher, published a paper in 1975 in which he outlined his “Paradox of Fiction.” A paradox is an instance where two or more statements that are by themselves true, contradict each other. Radford’s paradox is based on three premises which he claim to all be true. The first is that for one to have an emotional response to a story one must believe that that story actually exists or has existed. The second premise is that such beliefs are often lacking when we read stories, and the third is that we clearly have emotional responses to works of fiction. Because these premises contradict each other Radford came to the conclusion that emotional responses to fictional characters and events are “irrational, incoherent, and inconsistent.” Due to the fact that this appears to be a valid conclusion if the premises are true philosophers have questioned the premises the conclusion is based upon. The conclusion is in correct not because the logic is wrong but because they premises are incorrect. Emotions are unexplained and therefore it is impossible to In separate attacks against each of the premises philosophers have used logic to show how all of the premises could be untrue, therefore proving the paradox nonexistent and the conclusion invalid.

Emotions aren’t understood. They are a product of our brain, something we fail to completely understand the operations of. Emotions are one of the most complex and enigmatic products of the brain. As a result of our lack of understanding of why we have certain emotions in certain situations there is no way of proving that we can only feel emotions to events we think are real. Because there is no proof either way philosophers can only attempt to find the most logical answer to this problem. Many, including R.T. Allen who wrote, “A novel…is not a presentation of facts. But true statements can be made about what happens in it and beliefs directed towards those events can be true or false. …Once we realize that truth is not confined to the factual, the problem disappears,” is an advocate of this position. I know from my own experience that I often have stronger emotional responses to characters in movies and books that I know are fake than to people I see on the evening news.

The emotions we experience in response to fictional stories aren’t the same type of emotions that we experience in response to real life events. We always have a wide range of thoughts and experiences that will act as existence beliefs and our emotions can be based on those instead of actual existence beliefs. For many people to experience emotions for characters they need to have “a willing suspension of disbelief.” A term coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This theory holds that to create a suspension of disbelief creates a different type of emotion, different from the type of emotions experienced in real life. Although there is no concrete evidence to support this claim, most people would agree that they usually feel less for someone they know is fake than someone in real life. This alone is enough to weaken Radford’s conclusion.

In some cases we are artificially creating the emotion in our minds to enjoy the movie or book more. In these instances we only have ‘quasi-emotions’ for fictional characters. This argument is best summed up in a quote by Kendall Walton. “it is only "make-believedly" true that we fear horror film monsters, feel sad for the Greek tragic heroes, etc. He admits that these characters move us in various ways, both physically and psychologically—the similarities to real fear, sadness, etc. are striking—but regardless of what our bodies tell us, or what we might say, think, or believe we are feeling, what we actually experience in such cases are only "quasi-emotions.”’ I know from my own experience that I often try to recreate emotions from previous situations in order to become more involved in a book.

Although the logic Radford used to come up with his conclusion is correct the three theories which refute the premises of his paradox make more logical sense than the all the premises being true. This isn’t because it is possible to prove them true but simply because it is impossible to prove them untrue and a paradox being true is dependent on being supported by infallible logic.

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