The Myth of Fiction

by Alphaville Herald on 27/09/04 at 10:21 am

I’m happy to report that we finally got Professor Ludlow off of his fat derrier and got some product out of him — in this case a paper titled “From Sherlock and Buffy to Klingon and Norrathian Platinum Pieces: Pretense, Contextalism, and the Myth of Fiction.” Wordy mofo ain’t he? Not sure I get the point of it, except that EA’s Jeff Brown was his inspiration (can a romantic cruise be far behind?).

A description of the paper byProfessor Bill Irwin (Seinfeld and Philosophy) follows.

If you would rather just cut to the chase (rtf version): Download file

10-2-04 addition: discussion of this on Terra Nova as well.

“We readily recognize that real people, places, and things can appear in works of fiction; in Annie Hall Marshall McLuhan appears as himself in line at a theater in Manhattan. More curiously though, people places and especially things from works of fiction have invaded the space of reality. Klingon and Elvish are spoken by real people outside Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings­ and the currency of online roleplaying games, such as the Norrathian Platinum Piece of EverQuest, have real world exchange value. How are we to account for this? In “From Sherlock and Buffy to Klingon and Norrathian Platinum Pieces: Pretense, Contextalism, and the Myth of Fiction,” Peter Ludlow draws on his experience as a renegade journalist and founder of the The Alphaville Herald in The Sims Online to address the question. Ludlow had the plug pulled on him after reporting in his Alphaville Herald on unsavory elements of game play and criticizing the game owner, Electronic Arts (EA). Much real world controversy ad media coverage ensued, leading Jeff Brown, Vice President of Corporate Communication for EA, to remark, “If Peter Ludlow is a journalist, then I’m a railroad tycoon whenever I play monopoly.” Reflecting on Brown’s statement, Ludlow concludes that he is in fact a journalist when playing the Sims Online and Brown is indeed a railroad tycoon whenever he pursues the losing strategy of buying up the railroads while playing monopoly. How can this be? Ludlow argues against pretense theory a la Kendall Walton and in favor of contextualism, an idea imported from epistemology to metaphysics. In being or becoming real it is not the ontological status of fictional objects or identities that changes but their contexts that change. Indeed fictional objects don’t become real; they always were real. Sarah Michelle Geller does not just play Buffy Summers; in some contexts she is Buffy Summers. There are, then, no fictions per se; fictional statements are merely statements that hold true in certain contexts.” — Bill Irwin

If you want a rtf version, click this: Download file

5 Responses to “The Myth of Fiction”

  1. blaze

    Sep 27th, 2004

    Hard to comment intelligently without the appropiate background, so I’ll try to change the subject a bit.

    When we talk about the flow from fiction into the real and the real into fiction, why don’t we address the concept of models as a predictive force more often?

    In fact, any “real life” venture generally predicates most of its actions based on a model of some sort.

    Aren’t things like SL, EQ, really just sophisticated models?

  2. humdog

    Sep 29th, 2004

    luddie, you do go on so — and the references are so CRUNCHY! mmmmmm footnotes…

    thanks for the opportunity to crawl in your head.

    i like what i have read so far. be back later with Qs.

  3. Dyerbrook

    Sep 30th, 2004

    RL money is itself a fiction — a symbol — signifying the gold stored in the treasury (or so we are led to believe). That gold only acquired value because…why? Because thousands of years ago some ancient tribe found it malleable and glittery and made jewelry with it? But why was glittery considered pretty? All of these so-called real objects and real things in the real world are themselves largely just made up of the human aspirations, ideas, imagination ascribed to them and placed on them with so many layers over the ages… That’s why it was easy to turn simoleons into ebay money — ebay money is a fictionalized version of the symbol of paper cash…which is backed up by…what again?

    I dl’d the paper and I’ll read it later. I think the fictional characters and money/economy issues are entertaining, but aren’t as interesting as the psychodrama issues. How is it that I can become really, really upset that my Sim spouse has deleted in one city, but not another…or that we are working too hard in DC and have no down time together, or whatever…it’s just too crazy, no?

    BTW, I came to SL but so far all I do is just fly around and bang into buildings.

  4. urizenus

    Sep 30th, 2004

    >RL money is itself a fiction

    yes. u can make a good case for that.

  5. Scribo

    Oct 15th, 2004

    Slayers, journalists, fiction and contextualism
    Peter Ludlow recently posted From Sherlock and Buffy to Klingon and Norrathian Platinum Pieces: Pretense, Contextalism, and the Myth of Fiction, a paper that manages to marry a classic problem in philosophy of language with his long time interest in

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