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The Science of Fiction

Posted by Vinay 10 months, 2 weeks ago to Entertainment
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“A quest for an integrated theory of fictional narrative must begin by asking why human beings listen to and tell stories.”

“Fictional narratives expose us to what life’s concretes can teach us, without endangering our lives every minute of the ‘lesson.’ Ayn Rand has a different emphasis. She contends: ‘The primary value [of art] is that it gives him [man] the experience of living in a world where things are as they ought to be.”

“Higher the emotion and more frequent the changes in emotion, the more one is entertained. At first glance, this makes no sense, but we do seek entertainment that causes affect. We seek songs that induce sadness in us much more than music that does not move us at all.”

“Unless the artist wants to inculcate a sense of life characterized by ineffectualness, he will resolve the situation or conflict. Ironically, Aristotle is still the master most quoted at screenwriting school, even as Hollywood delves more frequently into unresolved drama. His words ring true: ‘[A] well-formed plot is therefore closed at both ends, and connected in between.’”

SOURCE URL: http://www.thesavvystreet.com/how-fictional-worlds-affect-our-worldview/


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  • Posted by  $  MikeMarotta 10 months, 2 weeks ago
    The author's premises may be flawed. It is an easy story that stories go back to primitive hunter-gatherers listening to an elder at a campfire. That story may be a fiction, not a fact.

    The oldest known writing consists of inventories of goods. The Gilgamesh was written some 2000 years later.

    Our "modern" languages are about 6000 to 8000 years old. Anthropologists theorize that language might be 100,000 years old, but offer little proof. We accept that our highly conceptualized thought expressions originate in animal calls. Ravens have over 30 "words" in three dialects -- or so I saw on Nova... But the distinct difference is that for us, the purpose of language is not communication. The purpose of language is to enable thinking. For that, we do have hard evidence, artifacts in clay. In fact, the oldest known clay artifacts are not pots and cups, but counters, abstract symbols for natural and artificial objects such as sheep and cloth.

    The Savvy Street has good conservative credentials. If the original article had been written by Al Gore for Huffington Post, you would be less willing to endorse it without question. But it is highly questionable nonetheless. I point out that even ewv failed to challenge the claim that we are "hardwired" for stories, even though Objectivism demands very strong evidence for any human behavior that is alleged to be inherited.
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    • Posted by Lucky 10 months, 2 weeks ago
      Language has three functions:
      - communication, the popular and usual idea of language
      - problem solving, enabling construction of models in the mind to follow up logical consequences
      - emotional relief, an important often ignored function of language

      Have these functions always existed for humans?
      Agreed, the study of language in animals gives insight.
      Animals communicate to and with each other. They produce sounds and movements to
      express emotion (when in isolation so there is no communication).
      But do animals solve problems - yes, but with language?

      Do animals tell stories? I think not. So how did story telling arise in humans?
      Does story telling serve some evolutionary purpose?

      That story telling started round a campfire is an easy explanation. It could have started by
      describing a place where a herd passed by, or a thicket of berries, or a clean stream.
      (re. the dance of bees!). Then language developed to discuss various
      ways to get to that location, what weapons and containers to carry - thus problem solving.

      Then, language developed to allow boasting, joking and so on (emotional relief).
      When the group was tired, but before sleep overtakes, someone would tell a story unrelated to instructions or to problem solving, the story just holds the interest of the individuals as a group, its evolutionary purpose promotes group identity and cooperation.
      This cooperation enabled humans to become better hunters than individual carnivores, cats,
      and better than pack animals, wolves.

      Conclusion-
      Story telling is now essential in human life as it establishes effective work groups.
      The entertainment and emotional enrichment are by-products.

      Hardwired- no need to assume this.
      Evidence- the proposition has been stated, does the evidence support or refute?
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    • Posted by ewv 10 months, 1 week ago
      Yes we are not "genetically wired for stories", whatever that is supposed to mean. The article contrasted that with Ayn Rand's philosophy of fiction in the Romantic Manifesto.

      We are 'hardwired' with the ability and necessity to think. "Stories" are one form of that, with the content created by those who do the thinking. The cognitive role of fiction in its different forms is described in The Romantic Manifesto.

      The article claiming to represent a "science of fiction" is not very good, including the strained rhetoric of referring to fiction as something called "virtual reality technology", but at least he knew to cite Ayn Rand's ideas on the subject.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 10 months, 1 week ago
    Ayn Rand said that fiction can point out a world as it could be and should be. A great writer of fiction has an agenda. To thrill you. or scare you, or instill an idea in you.. The better the writer the more effective his/her instillation of the agenda.. All art has the underlying purpose of taking you out of your life and putting you in a situation that will provoke various motivations in you.
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    • Posted by ewv 9 months, 3 weeks ago
      Art doesn't take you out of your life. It can show what else is, or might be, possible as seen from your life here in reality. But there are different philosophical approaches to fiction writing. It isn't all Ayn Rand's concept of romantic art as showing what could or should be as Ayn Rand's fiction did so spectacularly. The abstractions of philosophically different kinds of art serve different purposes. In addition to Ayn Rand's Romantic Manifesto, there is excellent explanation in her The Art of Fiction posthumously based on recorded informal lectures she gave to a small group of acquaintances. There are different aspects of fiction writing that can be very good or not even though not necessarily romantic art, which accounts for the "great writers" you refer to.
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      • Posted by Herb7734 9 months, 3 weeks ago
        In my opinion, Art is the most difficult to explain, because it is selective.When you are reproducing reality according to the artists Selection of how reality is being portrayed in that art, it says a lot about not only the artist, but the recieverr of that art and what he/she finds in it.
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        • Posted by ewv 9 months, 3 weeks ago
          Who is doing the "reproducing" in that sentence? The artist reproduces in his selective re-creation; the person viewing it reacts to it in accordance with his own values, but doesn't do a reproduction or re-creation himself unless the artist is ambiguous or fails to convey his meaning.
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  • Posted by  $  blarman 10 months, 1 week ago
    The science of fiction is the ability of the human being to step out of reality and ask the question: "What if...?" It is the massive hypothesis played out in the mind for lack of a truly observable environment which might verify or disprove the hypothesis.

    I would contend that such has been around since the beginning of man, as within the art of conceptualizing fiction lies the heart of every inventor and scientist.
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    • Posted by ewv 10 months, 1 week ago
      Imagining fiction is not the heart of science and invention. None of it is stepping outside of reality. Abstraction is not separate from reality, it is selective focus on some aspect of reality. Fiction recombines aspects of reality in the mind that do not exist outside the mind, such Disney characters. Creative thought producing ideas no one else may have thought of before is not outside of reality.
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      • Posted by  $  blarman 10 months, 1 week ago
        I disagree. The very practice of postulating what could be is creating fiction or hypothesis. It only becomes fact once realized or proved. Calling it "abstraction" is a red herring: if you already know what reality is, you're not postulating anything new or creative. If it's already right there in front of you, you're observing - not creating or inventing.

        Take the Star Trek communicator, for instance. It was envisioned as a wireless communication device when common communications were still tied to cords and cables. It was very much science fiction at the time, but now it is science fact and commonplace. Space travel was conceived in the heart of a fiction writer far before NASA was ever created or launched their first satellite. And it can be argued that every other invention has precisely the same origin: fiction which then became realized.
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        • Posted by ewv 9 months, 3 weeks ago
          Abstraction is the human means of conceptual knowledge, not a "red herring". It is a cognitive process of selective focus, not "already knowing what reality is" versus "stepping outside reality". Forming objective concepts in a hierarchy though abstraction in order to gain a wider understanding requires creative thought. So do new ideas formed by mentally recombining what one already knows for scientific hypothesis and invention. The creative process of abstraction in forming new ideas is not infallible and must be objectively validated. None of it is "stepping outside of reality", which is not possible except as a metaphorical description of a certain kind of psychology that does not understand the basis and nature of imagination and misuses it as a substitute for objective thought.
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  • Posted by  $  AJAshinoff 10 months, 2 weeks ago
    Stories = escapism and hope.

    I am adept at world building. That said, there is one aspect missing in the article that should have been stated as a purpose, the harbinger. As with my stories, most present a matured vision of things to come IF we do not change our current mindset and actions. I agree that people are hardwired to be receptive to stories but I also must contend that far too many content being spoon fed images and ideas rather than making the effort of and taking enjoying in the epiphany of connecting the intricacies of a plot themselves.

    What might be? There is a hardly a "might be" to what I wrote anymore. Things today represent the equivalent of dotting the "i" or the crossing of the "t" i my stories and it scares the hell out of me.
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  • Posted by Owlsrayne 9 months, 4 weeks ago
    Not everyone is a story teller as related here. When my son was very young I would read to him but got bored with that. I created a saga from my imagination to tell my son every night. This was not written down so in essence I was doing true story telling. This was an enjoyable experience for both myself and my son. Maybe, I will put to paper sometime.
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  • Posted by chad 10 months, 1 week ago
    Sometimes stories convey information, ancient tales around a campfire might impart hunting knowledge. Some tales were meant to explain basic questions such as; "Why are we here? Where should we go?" These questions could also lead to the fanciful versions of which God to believe in and what was desired by this omnipotent force construing what behavior is expected. Stories told to inform and rationalize about what life could be like if . . . help humans to think conceptually and apply morals to behavior to determine outcome and association.
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