HCAS lecture by Jaakko Hintikka: The Logic of Fiction

Time: Wednesday 16 March 2010 at 4:15 p.m.

Venue: university main building, small assembly hall (pieni juhlasali), Fabianinkatu 33, 4th floor.

Organised by Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. Free admission. Welcome!

Lecture abstract:

What is the Logic of Fiction

Could logical skills help an aspiring novelist or a similar writer? This very question might seem ridiculous, but only as long as it is not realized that deductive logic is at bottom the science of thought experimentation and ampliative reasoning is but skillful questioning. An author is constantly facing the very concrete question: what to say next? In answering these questions, a novelist is telling us a story about her fictional world – not unlike a scientist, who is inquiring into the nature of the actual world.

Typically both are trying to answer an overall “big” question by means of a number of “small” questions, which for a scientist are typically experiments and observations. In both cases, the most important skill is in the strategic choice of these small questions.

In fiction, a second questioning process is also going on: reading. Reading is but a series of tacit questions put to the text in analogy to scientific observations conceived of as questions put to one’s perceptible environment. A writer’s choice of answers to her working questions is calculated to prompt new questions in the mind of the reader. Hence the answer to the question “what is the logic of fiction?” is: “logic, especially the logic of questions and answers.”

Short biography of Jaakko Hintikka:

Jaakko Hintikka (born in 1929) is currently Professor of Philosophy at Boston University and during the academic year 2010-2011 he is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. He was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Helsinki from 1959 until 1970. He is the author or co-author of over 30 books and over 300 scholarly articles. Professor Hintikka has contributed to mathematical logic, philosophical logic, the philosophy of mathematics, epistemology, language theory, and the philosophy of science. His works have appeared in nine languages.

Hintikka is regarded as the founder of formal epistemic logic and of game semantics for logic. In recent decades, he has worked mainly on game-theoretical  semantics, and on independence-friendly logic, known for its “branching quantifiers” which he believes do better justice to our intuitions about quantifiers than does conventional first-order logic. He has done important exegetical work on Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Wittgenstein, and C.S. Peirce. Hintikka’s work can be seen as a continuation of analytic tendency in philosophy founded by Brentano and Peirce, advanced by Frege and Bertrand Russell, and continued by Carnap, Quine, and by Hintikka’s teacher Georg Henrik von Wright.

In 2005 Jaakko Hintikka was awarded the Rolf Schock prize in logic and philosophy “for his pioneering contributions to the logical analysis of modal concepts, in particular the concepts of knowledge and belief”.  “The Philosophy of Jaakko Hintikka” was published in the Library of Living Philosophers in 2006.

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