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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Millnong project and descriptions with no author

Kripke's take on fictional characters is in line with the idea that those characters are description-dependent. They don't have in themselves the modal open horizon of life. They have no world other than the one fixed by their defining descriptions (if they live in a world at all). They are like monads: worldly beings. On this account, there is a clear difference between fictional and non-fictional characters. To be sure, there are many ways to be in-between - one of them is when we don't know whether the character is fictional, in which case there is a sheer (maybe incorrigible) ignorance about the character. Another intermediary case would be characters around whom there are many legends. I guess then one can say: what is true of the legendary character could be untrue of the real one. If we insist in the principle of indiscernibility of the identicals, they would be two different entities. Proceeding like this, one could maybe always determine the crucial question concerning about what the term is - about a fictional or a non-fictional character. And maybe (if we still go with Kripke here) it doesn't matter whether we can answer this crucial question. (For example,the crucial question about a gospel is whether it was written with the intention of being about Jesus or not.)

The idea of the Millnong project (direct reference for non-concreta, especially for non-existing objects) is that fictional objects could be accessed in ways that dispense (and revise) descriptions. There could be a revision about fiction, and we are not slaves of descriptions (I do want to make the analogy with the contrast between descriptive and revisionary metaphysics vivid here). The project - maybe impossible to be executed - is to find a way to enable characters to escape from their original fiction. The first trick that comes to mind is to make use of the multiple description associated to a fictional character so that the character satisfies most but not all of them (like in Searle's cluster theory). So, if someone looks like Holmes, it is enough for him to be Holmes in another world (where other things could happen to Holmes). From Kripke's perspective, this won't do. I'm looking for other ideas to pursue the Millnong project. It is not enough to postulate a separate realm of objects (mental or otherwise) and claim that they are not just description-satisfiers.

The Millnong project seems important for me because there are cases where there is no fact of the matter about what the description was about. Maybe all fiction is somehow about things the author is unaware of - like in a shamanic revelation. Markus Gabriel's ontology of senses would make a lot of sense for these cases. But it makes everything hostage to their corresponding (multiple) senses - or descriptions. The alternative would be to find a way for a description to fix a reference without caging it. In non-fictional characters, we appeal to the features of the concrete - mostly spatio-temporal. These features compose a plane, a space where things happen, where everything else is - concrete things co-exist (somewhere). The Millnong project asks whether there is anything like this plane of haecceities for non-concreta.

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