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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Earlier today I tried to boil down my ideas re: Bhaskar on a forum, more than anything else to challenge myself and see if I could simplify my views for general consumption.  I don't think that I succeeded, but I'm reprinting it here for my own possible future use.


I've recently finished reading a book on philosophical views relating to science, Roy Bhaskar's A REALIST THEORY OF SCIENCE.  Bhaskar is only concerned with science, but as I read it I wondered if his ideas could have some application to my literary theory.

As I said above, there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why some tropes belong to "horror" and some don't. To repeat three of my earlier examples, some persons might not feel that Victor Hugo's HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME qualifies as horror, or anything else remotely belonging to "fantasy."  But almost everyone would agree that THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is horror and MASK is not, even though all three deal with physically deformed characters.

Roy Bhaskar argues for his view of science against two other prominent views.  According to him, the main way that empirical science judges the nature of the world is in terms of "regularity determinism;" i.e., phenomena can be judged by their regular, repeatable nature.  According to him, Kant and the neo-Kantians judged the nature of the world in terms of "intelligibility determinism," which is to say phenomena can be judged by their accessibility to human understanding.

I see the paradigm of empirical science differently from Bhaskar. I agree that when humans begin to look at physical phenomena in terms of their regularity, and then find empirical reasons for the regularity in terms, of, say, the movements of heavenly bodies, this gives rise to a concentration on regularity.  But at the same time, this generates its own form of "intelligibility determinism," because the budding young empiricists believe that the world is fully intelligible-- that is, things need not be explained by supernatural forces-- because humans can understand the world's regularity aspects.

Now, my arguments from all this goes like this:

Whenever authors create a fictional world, they draw on the idea that the empiricist idea that the world is both regular and intelligible.  

If they create a naturalistic world, then it's like the world of MASK: nothing in that world violates the regular functions of the cosmos, and all things are basically intelligible as well.

If they create a marvelous world, even if it just has one marvelous item in it, like a deformed killer who rises from the dead (paging JASON VOORHEES), then it is a world that is no longer regular in the empiricist sense, and so also cannot be intelligible to empiricist reason.

But some worlds are "uncanny" in that even though there is nothing in them that violates the laws of a regular cosmos-- like PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and EYES OF A STRANGER, for two-- there remains something "unintelligible" about them.  Even the killer of EYES OF A STRANGER, who is in no way as bizarre in his appearance as the Phantom, conjures up a similar emotion of "dread" and so is not easily reducible to natural forces, which should conjure primarily "fear."

Hmm, I started this post, like the last one, with the idea of avoiding "proposition-based language," but I gave up halfway through.  Oh well.

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