Thursday, December 15, 2011

thought experiements vs stories

Telling a story is like presenting a thought experiment in the following way. You aren't asserting that whatever scenario you describe actually obtains. If you say in a story or a thought experiment that France is a monarchy, you haven't asserted that this proposition is true, and you haven't lied if you know this proposition to be false.

However, telling a story is different from presenting a thought experiment in what you are inviting the reader to do/what it takes to "get" the thought experiment. Someone presenting a thought experiment invites you to recognize the metaphysical possibility of the state of affairs described in the thought experiment, and then to infer from this this that some philosophical moral follows (e.g. that you can have justified true belief without knowledge). A listener who has done this fully "gets" the thought experiment, and they are not asked to linger any further.

In contrast when someone tells a story they invite the reader to linger over many (open-endedly many?) different aspects of the scenario being described, and the words used to do the describing. There is no fact or pattern such that when you have recognized this you have got the point of the story and are done.