The General Category of the Fictive II

Making Fictions is a Practice

Answering My Opening Question

"The Fictive" is something more than stimuli works of literature give to our imaginative activities. The Fictive is a convenient name for those intersections of varying sets of Real structures, necessarily but not exclusively social ones, that enable distinct acts of worldmaking to take place. The Fictive permits the establishment of an Actual situation (1) where people may engage in the activity of decomposing and composing worlds (2), an activity which can result in the production of Fictions, objects (3) that participate in the network of references in the world being decomposed, and the one being composed. Those Fictions that exemplify (4) the activity of worldmaking in the world prior to and/or antecedent to that activity may, for ease of reference, be designated "works of art. 

1) There must be Real opportunities for this activity to take place, individual agency or private acts of Imagining are not sufficient for Actual collective acts of worldmaking to take place. A group must be involved for the establishment of a a network of references to be established. Goodman stipulates that constructing a world means establishing references in common and establishing consistent predictions, not heaping together a heterogeneous collection of objects or positing new things (names, nouns) in an already established world.

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The General Category of the Fictive

Definition

My Opening Question

The Fictive must surely be something more than "those stimuli our imaginative activities take from literature." Is it something other than the magma of figures, forms, and images that allows people to to represent, reason, and socially construct reality?

The Definition

Fiction is "the differential" between the decomposition of current worlds and the composition of new ones. Fiction is an intervention in a world that is itself the product of preceding interventions. It is entailed in the activity of making selves and worlds, not in the representation of the them. Fiction decomposes a current version of the world and composes a field for new version that will take place. It precedes the new versions and provides an outline for what the new version will become, but its significance is pragmatic and not epistemological.

Quibbles

"Differential" needs to be replaced. It is a property that distinguishes 2 specimens belonging to one genus. What is the genus that contains both decomposition and composition? They are both varieties of worldmaking?  "Differential relationship" might do: fiction could be defined as the external asymetric relationship between two activities, the decomposition of one world and the composition of a new one. 

But Iser is after something more than establishing some logical relationship.

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Why Propose a General Potential Called "The Imaginary"?

Why?

Iser surveys the history of theories of the imagination. He investigates the same six products successive theories of the imagination had to explain:

  • Literary Texts
  • Thoughts
  • Perceptions
  • Daydreams
  • Dreams
  • Madness

Yes, each theory of the imagination has had something to say about these products. But why propose some faculty that underlies all of the activities that create them? Perhaps writing, thinking, perceiving, daydreaming, dreaming, going-mad are all distinct activities and have nothing in common besides the fact they are activities people find themselves engaging in. 

Iser's offers a syncretic appropriation of the tradition that attests to some sort of "human potential" and turns prior theories about that potential into an array of possible "simuli" to the actualization of that potential. The individual's use of their personal psychological faculty, Sartre's act of consciousness, Castoriadis' eruptions of the the Radical [Social] Imaginary are not three successively proposed mechanisms for the creation of the six products Iser investigates; rather, they are three available stimuli to the exercise of the imagination at any time and in any place. To these, Iser adds "the fictive."

Iser turns historical succession into theoretical categories for understanding the operation of an enduring capacity. Is he right to do so? Here is an alternative schema:

"Imagination" should be replaced with "faculty" to distinguish different types of being, or "act" should be replaced with "consciousness" to indicate the quality of the entities in question.
"Imagination" should be replaced with "faculty" to distinguish different types of being, or "act" should be replaced with "consciousness" to indicate the quality of the entities in question.

Iser's is persuasive when he looks back and concludes that the prior theories of the imagination have addressed a "potential" that allows people to produce the six products. But is that tradition correct? Should it be followed? Is it only a construct elaborated during some 200+ years of European intellectual history and not a single distinct "potential." I don't think so. But I cannot justify why I think so in the kind of discourse that Warburton and others insist is the only acceptable way to philosophize.

The Imaginary has to be conceived very broadly. It is a human potential to take the 4 stimuli and engage in distinct activities that produce different varieties of unique productions. 

The next challenge is dealing with another broad concept, The Fictive. Can it be considered as some potential distinct from The Imaginary but stimulating to it? And how does The Fictive differ from faculty, act, and radical imaginary? A faculty belongs to individuals and operates at their level. It might even be liable to empirical research by cognitive science or neurology. But the "act" we are considering is an activity and, as such, belongs to the domain of the Actual and amenable to philosophy, but not apparent to the senses. The Radical Imaginary and The Fictive are not capacities of individual human agents, and they are not convenient labels for types of events in which subject-relevant acts like Sartre's "act of consciousness" takes place.

The following three statements all seem to work together.

  1. "I had a frightening dream." 
  2. "I had a dream about a frightening place that reminded me of something I saw in a schoolbook"
  3. "I had a dream about a frightening place — it related to something frightening I read about at school but can't quite recall, and I have to say: I couldn't have even had a memory OF those things without my social experience and the debris of all that, without that Radical Imaginary Castoriadis talked about."

The first is a generic statement about an event that involved me but could involve anyone. The second is a more specific statement that ties the dream to both my private experience AND to the society and the interpersonal world that enabled that private experience to happen (the world of schools and school books, and societies that send children to schools, etc.). The last is a reflexive statement where I apply a theory that I and others have deliberated about to a unique event in which I participated, that dreaming wherein I exercised my capacity to hold on to past experiences (or the experience of "pastness") and to feel fear, but not my capacity to intend private mental events. (I can set myself to daydream but I find myself caught up in dreams).

I cannot see what something called "The Fictive" adds to all this. What does "The Fictive" add to this:

  • 3+ "I had a dream about a frightening place — it related to something frightening I read about at school but can't quite recall, and I have to say: I couldn't have even had a memory OF those things without my social experience and the debris of all that, without that Radical Imaginary Castoriadis talked about. Maybe the book I read brought a bit of what Iser called 'The Fictive' to my dreaming."

The Fictive must surely be something more than "those stimuli our imaginative activities take from literature." Is it something other than the magma of figures, forms, and images that permit people to to represent, reason, and socially construct reality?


Ontology of the Imagination

Cautiously Multiplying Unobservable Entities Since 1993

Castoriadis works against ontologists who postulate some ultimate that determines particular beings. He also works against theorists of representation who limit acts of representing to reproduction of particular beings that exist or to reproduction of eternal ideas persisting in some transcendental sphere. Critical realist ontology postulates unbridgeable gaps in existence: Empirical experience occurs during Actual events enabled by Real structures. The Real cannot be experienced or sensed. Actual events cannot be reduced to Empirical experiences some of the involved entities might have. The Real structures relevant to any event, and the constitutents of the Actual event, may be determined through retroduction and abduction, but may not be experienced in sensation. But new structures emerge out of Actual events. There are new Reals that will enable new Actual events and new Empirical experiences will be had. Castoriadis need not seek refuge in semiotics when a dynamic mode of ontology can support his inquiries better than the static ones that were available to him.

What happens when people imagine? People can experiment: they may establish a region in space and time where a very restricted set of Real mechanisms are allowed free play, and can record the Empirical results of this activity. This activity is possible because of the kind of natural being humans, but social institutions like language and skilled practice have to be in place for this agency to be recognized. Is imagining like experimenting? "No" for Castoriadis but "Yes," for Iser, with some caveats.

Certain acts with sensible consequences in the Empirical domain are intentional and some are not. A daydream is intentional for it may be ended intentionally even if the daydreamer fell into daydreaming without deliberation. The composition of a literary text is a very deliberate activity, one that requires the capacity to fictionize alongside imagination (generate fictions, (more of that later)). Perception is an act partially liable to intentional action. I cannot not have sensations but I may focus on particular areas within the perceptions that I have and put myself in a new situation to have perceptions that differ from the ones I am currently having. Other activities involving the imaginary are less attributable to intentional acts. A dream occurs to someone. I did not intend to dream about a colossal mega hotel with a special elevator-cum-performance space in which Rush Limbaugh entertained high paying customers with an immersive theatre experience. I swear. But that dream happened to me. An untold number of people could have sensations when they attend an experiment I conduct in public but no-one had my Las Vegas dream, I hope. Hallucinations are qualitatively different from perceptions but may not be as easily intentionally dismissed as a daydream. "Madness" is different from experiencing symptoms of a mental illness known to science. It could be thought of as the "I"-poled activity of assent or refusal to endorse sensations symptomatic of mental illness. 

Isser offers a grab bag of events with sensible products.

Actualizations of the Imaginary 

Ranked by Liability to Subject's Intentional Acts

  1. composing fiction
  2. thinking
  3. perceiving
  4. daydreaming
  5. dreaming
  6. hallucinating
  7. going-mad

Grouped by Sensibility of Products

  • completely interpersonal: composing fiction — the composed fiction is sensible to agent and audience (in speech, picture ,and movement as well as in writing)
  • anchored in public: perception — the bass guitar might be generating a 40 Hz frequency, but that Empirical physical event is perceived differently by others. The "my"-ness of my experience of the note is structured like others' "my" experiences but Yvonne's perception will never include the quality "this is the bass note that I, Erik, am experiencing" that accompanies my experience of the note.
  • anchored in private: I think in a language and language is a social medium of interpersonal communication. It is possible to tell people about my thoughts and they can have the same thought. The inscriptions in which thought is expressed is externalization of the inscriptions which enabled the thought to occur. But no-one can sense the thought I am thinking now. I dare you ... try. Wrong!
  • private but describable: daydream, dreaming, hallucinating, going-mad — all may be described with varying degrees of satisfaction felt by the describer. 

Your daydreams, nightmares, hallucinations, going-mad might be structurally similar to mine. I could tell you about my nightmare and parts of it might end up in your next nightmare. Apologies for that. But you will never experience that particular concatenation of images, anticipations, recollections that I experienced. You can entertain parts of my dream as virtual images. But that daydreaming using my description of a private dream will always miss things: the novelty of that particular dream work, and its ineluctability. That dream intruded on me unanticipated and undesired. To entertain a second-hand reconstruction of a dream is not the same as the first-person experience of being subjected to one. The same with your imaginative reconstruction of my hallucination or my going-mad. 

Structures Involved in Actualizations of Imaginary (Iser's "Stimuli")

  • The Faculty of Imagination Belonging to a Particular Subject: it is a universal faculty but possessed by individuals, and it manifests itself as images triggered by external stimulants that are drawn into the creative play that they trigger. [does cognitive science have a role to play?] [I can intentionally bring this faculty into play to varying degrees when I create images]
  • The Acts of Consciousness: consciousness posits objects that are (unlike sensations) accompanied by the qualities "being nothing" or "being absent." [this would be amenable to phenomenological investigation] [again, there are varying degrees to which this act is intentional or, like a dream or hallucination, it is an event in which I participate or am subject to]
  • Radical Imaginary: social structures that enable individual psyches to create figures, forms, and images necessary for agents' capacity to represent, reason, and reproduce/transform/modify socially-constructed reality. [is this what "Theory" tried to talk about for so long and can "theories" do a better or different job?]

I am entangled in Actual events and have Empirical experiences during them. But I cannot have sensations of the operation of the Real mechanisms at play during that event. I can see my blue pencil. The meteor from the alien planet is Actually heading toward me and could be sensed by others even if I never perceive the object that will end my life. But I cannot sense the mechanisms that makes all of that possible.

The last structure deserves more attention. All sorts of Real but non-Empricially sensible entities entities precede my thoughts and perceptions, and are unaffected by my intentional acts. I cannot suspend the strong and weak nuclear forces by thinking, daydreaming, or writing a poem. The Radical Imaginary is similarly inaccessible to my senses and indifferent to my individual capricious acts. Is the Radical Imaginary just another name for big "B" Being that determines the fate of little "b' beings like me? No. The Radical Imaginary is not just another name for the structures and ontological gaps that I cannot sense. [Real absences and voids are NOT equivalent to the layered ontology — I can lack food or be prevented from getting it, but no entity is "preventing" me from perceiving the Real and at no point was I alienated from it.]

I suspend practical activity and try to open myself to the "magma" of suggestions and possibilities and forms that are available to me. That magma cannot be contained by the cognitive or discursive routines I comply with in my practical life. And the stream of that magma rushing through me is similar to those flowing in the people who are part of my society. And a magma flowed in past societies as well. Sure, some neuro-chemical activities are the same for all of us. But even identical natural mechanisms shared by all members of a species produce new Actual events, and the occurrence of new and different events produces new and different sensations, even if the underlying Real mechanisms do not change. I could engage in a research project to determine which particular structures, and in what particular conjuncture, were at play when I wrote my poem that referred to the strong and weak nuclear forces and proposed their abolition. But no social scientific theory can predict where and when and by whom such a poem will be written next. And I do not need such a theory to produce a literary text. I have the capacity to dive into the magma of the Radical Imaginary when I wish.*

Sellars secures a place for philosophy by distinguishing the space of reasons from the space of sensations. I conjectured that the space of reasons can express Image-objects or bundles of sensations that others can take up into their space of reasons. I like Sellars a great deal. But the need to understand how the products of creative activity work leads me beyond distinctions between philosophy and science. I need an ontology that encompasses the activities of reasoning, experimenting, and expressing, and the enabling structures as well as the entitites produced by these activities.

Preliminary Conclusions

"The Imaginary" is a convenient name for those intersections of varying sets of Real structures, necessarily but not exclusively social ones, that enable Actual acts of Imagining to take place, and the production of Empirical Images by those acts. "Images" are sensation-complexes that vary in the extent to which the sensations they produce are interpersonal (like a published book) or private (someone indulging their madness).

An Image is an entity, and as such, has Real enduring powers that may be Actualized and generate Empirical sensations. On its own, the Image-entity cannot transform the social structures that gave rise to it. Persons may incorporate Images into acts of self-transformation: by reading one book I can improve my ability to read books in general, I can imagine actions I can take, I can dissolve schemas that guide my thinking, I can feed my daydreams, etc. Interpersonal activities can bring about changes in communities: we become better readers, we anticipate or avoid possible events, etc. The social institutions enabling my our our actions are less amenable to change by one person's production of a particular Image. A published book is a noteworthy accomplishment but cannot change the society that produced it if it just sits in a warehouse, unread and undiscussed. Images must be taken up in Actual interpersonal activities if they are to contribute whatever causal power they have to some kind of socially transformative activity. The structures enabling material reproduction of everyday life is unlikely to be changed by one Image, one person's experience of that image, collective appreciation of that Image, or the canonization of that Image in institutions like schools or archives. If intentional and interpersonal activities coincide with profound changes in the material base, or with historical conjunctures — when there is an Actual co-incidence of Activities intended by Real agents and Events produced by Real impersonal structures — then an Image can play some part in the transformation of the ensemble of those Real structures that enabled the Actual production of that Image, and might enable the creation of new structures.

None of this is creation ex-nihilio.

* Suspending the activities that impede access to the magma is a skilled practice or habit. One can get better or worse at it. And in some circumstances that magma breaks into experience and that eruption can be accepted or resisted. 

Problem

There is a special kind of Image that involves The Fictive. That is the literary text. The Imaginary is at work there. And The Fictive is there too. What is the fictive?

The Ontology of The Imaginary

Sorting out Terms

I suspect that Iser has achieved something more than attaching more concepts to the "multifaceted" "human potential" to imagine (171). I cannot define what it is with the kind of clarity that Warburton demands from those who would philosophize.

I cannot proceed with that definition until I have processed some complexities that arose as I attempted to deal with Iser's own words. There were important parts of the previous post that must be dealt with before I can proceed.]

Discoveries from Structuratum

  1. "Unless one starts to entertain the possibility of unconscious intentions."
  2. I have to think of imagining as an activity that involves an agent, but this agent carries out this activity unconsciously. 
  3. Is the dreamer only a field in which forces come to play?
  4. I have to talk about "intention" separately from "will" or "planning" or "deliberating." 
  5. "The Imaginary" = an institution employing a "radical imaginary." [misunderstood in original post] Replacement: "The imaginary" is the social institutionalization of individuals capable of "a basic act of relating us to the world" (165)

Rephrasing Discovery #5 in Realist Terms

Individuals humans are capable of and act of relating humans (including the individual carrying out the act) to the world. Individual and mass acts of relating humans to the world may be named "imagining." "The imaginary" is the institution that produces individuals capable of imagining. 

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Structuratum

Andrew Collier offered the term "structuraum" in some footnote somewhere as a name for an actual object generated by the intersecting activity of several structures. The real structures of physics, biology, economy, society, and family, and a number of contingent events, have produced the entity rigidly designated by the name "Erik Paul Weissengruber."  

"Structuratum" can be employed to emphasize how distinct objects are the products of a complex of intersecting processes and are not simply specific instances of some genus. Yes, Erik P. Weissengruber can be described as a specific instance of the general type "human" (on my good days). I am an individual instance of an animal species that arose out of natural selection, part of a clade that can be traced back in deep historical time to a few individuals. So I am a product of a process and not just an instantiation of some abstract category of entities. My species emerged from prior species and may be the precursor to some subsequent species. The genus "hominids" is not a hidden ideal form waiting to be instantiated as a variety of species. 

So what to make of a textus receptus? This copy of Deliverance on my shelf, for example. Is it only a text because a community of readers has deemed it so? Is it a literary work because some author intended it to be so? Are readers bound to read it as the author intended it or does the name of the author only serve as a convenient tag to assist various networks of discourse to circulate and process the text as the social structures of the time need it to be circulated? What has Collier's scantily developed concept of structuratum/structurata have to do with Fish, Benn Michaels, or Foucault?

I don't know yet. All I know is that some structures that contributed to this and any text-as-structuratum persist after the activities of the producers ceases and the producers and their means pass away. The capacity to invent narratives and to construe narratives from written words persists. The publication and distribution of things called "novels" persists. The capacity to entertain fictions and to imagine persists. Agents and communities of agents can activate all sorts of capacities when they read their copies of Dickey's book.

The capacity to entertain fictions, to fictionize, is a capacity that readers and writers (and all persons contributing to the production of a text) share. A number of faculties or cognitive mechanisms have been advanced as explanations for this capacity. This capacity is most likely to be an emergent property of the intersection of several distinct mechanisms, each of which would have to be researched by a specialized science (neurology, cognitive science, linguistics, etc.). (Fictionizing may be a skilled practice and practiced differently in different settings & epochs, but those varieties have a family resemblance, as do the varieties of fencing or footracing). The capacity is real and produces actual effects across many separate situations. Philosophy can deal with the ontology of this capacity without committing itself to any of the currently available scientific theories about that capacity.

The capacity to imagine is another enduring capacity shared by readers and writers. Iser holds that perceptions, thoughts, dreams, daydreams, hallucinations, and literary texts all involve the capacity to imagine. It is impossible for me to conceive of this activity as an occurrence that happens without intentional activity. That also goes for fictionizing. One may find oneself engaging in an "as if" attitude without having done a lot of deliberation beforehand. One may cease this activity intentionally even if the activity started without much deliberation. Many skilled practices function as habits and the agent begins to carry them out without having done a lot of ratiocination. You signal your turn before making it as a matter of habit. But activities entered into unthinkingly may be ended intentionally. 

There is a problem with dreams: dreams occur to people when their capacity to initiate or terminate action is almost non-existent. "He started to dream" and "He tried to close the window" are both good descriptions of events but only one depends on a consistently maintained intention prior to the initiation of the act. Unless one starts to entertain the possibility of unconscious intentions. 

Iser proposes four stimulants that may feed into imagining. These are a faculty exercised by a subject, an act of consciousness, or an institution employing a "radical imaginary." The fourth is Iser's addition to previous ways of considering the stimulants that activate "the imaginary." It is the literary text. A literary text is a structuratum produced by the intersection of many activities, most notably acts of fictionizing and of imagining. The literary text differs from all the other stimulants to imagining in that it is constituted out of prior acts of imagining. The text is a structuratum composed of many layers but a preponderance of those layers were deposited by the activities of imagining and of fictionizing.

Once again, I have to think of imagining as an activity that involves an agent, but this agent carries out this activity unconsciously. Is the dreamer only a field in which forces come to play? Sleep is necessary and I cannot carry out the intention "I will never sleep (because, perchance, I might dream)". There must be a dreamer for a dream to occur. The capacity to imagine seems to be unleashed in the absence of the exercise of will or interior deliberation. So I have to talk about "intention" separately from "will" or "planning" or "deliberating." 

How Might Literary Theorists Address Theme?

I aquit Iser innocent of the charge of failing to be clear. Even if his statements can be remarkably laconic or elaborate, the writing preceding them provides the referents necessary for parsing sentences that, without question, cannot stand on their own.

What insights into texts' meanings does Iser's style of literary theorizing permit? I will confine my remarks to theme. Here is what he as to say about one of the themes he finds in Shakespeare's As You Like It:

Their protection of themselves through the very system they have violated entails the constant potential presence of their doubles, and herein lies the basic pattern of the political world. (99)

The "they" refers to Duke Frederick and Oliver. Their "doubles" are, respectively, the old duke and Orlando. Iser's specification of theme includes a paraphrase of the parallel actions undertaken by Frederick and Oliver: both have violated a system of norms. Frederick usurped his elder brother's position and Oliver has robbed his younger brother of his inheritance. 

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Can Literary Theory be Written Clearly? (fragment, abandoned start)

As an exercise in self-criticism I want to get back to something Nigel Warburton said on Twitter.

The Tweet that failed
The Tweet that failed

I lose points for misreading the original post. He said “clearly” and not “simply.” One part of me was thinking that long and complex paragraphs could obscure the point being made. Even if each sentence were clear, the exposition could fail to make the point being exposited clear. Writing makes demands of readers and a text that wears out novices may be an easy ready for adepts used to following philosophical disputations.

So now my misapprehension and misstatements are sorted out. But what about Warburton's contention?  What does he mean by clear?

Here are 2 statements from an interview with Warburton.


Clarity ...
... as Quality of Expression ... in the Parts of Expression
Clarity is expressing yourself in a way that allows readers to follow what you are saying. It minimizes the risk of misinterpretation. Clarity contrasts with obscurity. Obscurity leaves at least some readers in the dark about your meaning. Clarity in Philosophy involves clarity at the level of 1) words, 2) sentences, 3)paragraphs, 4) arguments, 5) illustrations, and 6) underlying thought. This list is not exhaustive, but these six features are all important.




The underlying thought needs to be as clear as any of the parts. Is the underlying thought the conceptual structure of the text, which includes any necessary consequences of the concepts endorsed, and the consequences of the interrelationship of those concepts? Or is it the thought of the person composing the text? Must the writer have had Descartes' “clear and distinct” ideas present to mind at every stage of composition? Can failures of clear thinking be evinced in unclear writing? Are questionable word choices and tangled sentence constructions indices of unclear and indistinct thinking? Or are they lapses of style rather than vices of thought?

Can Literary Theory Be Written Clearly? (full post)

As an exercise in self-criticism I want to get back to something I tweeted at Nigel Warburton on Twitter.

The Tweet that failed
The Tweet that failed

I  lose points for misreading the original post. He said “clearly” and not  “simply.” One part of me was thinking that long and complex paragraphs  could obscure the point being made. Even if each sentence were clear, the exposition could fail to make clear the point being exposited.  Writing makes demands of readers and a text that wears out novices may  be an easy ready for adepts used to following philosophical  disputations.

So now my misapprehension and misstatements are sorted out. But what about Warburton's contention?  What does he mean by clear?

Here are 2 statements from an interview with Warburton.

Clarity ...

... as Quality of Expression

Clarity  is expressing yourself in a way that allows readers to follow what you  are saying. It minimizes the risk of misinterpretation. Clarity  contrasts with obscurity. Obscurity leaves at least some readers in the  dark about your meaning.

... in the Parts of Expression

Clarity in Philosophy  involves clarity at the level of 1) words, 2) sentences, 3) paragraphs,  4) arguments, 5) illustrations, and 6) underlying thought. This list is  not exhaustive, but these six features are all important.

The  underlying thought needs to be as clear as any of the parts. Is the  underlying thought the conceptual structure of the text, which includes  any necessary consequences of the concepts endorsed, and the  consequences of the interrelationship of those concepts? Or is it the  thought of the person composing the text? Must the writer have had  Descartes's “clear and distinct” ideas present to mind at every stage of  composition? Can failures of clear thinking be evinced in unclear  writing? Are questionable word choices and tangled sentence constructions indices of unclear and indistinct thinking? Or are they  lapses of style rather than vices of thought?

Is understanding a  philosophical text a matter of forming clear and distinct ideas every  moment you are reading it? This COVID thing is making it impossible for  me to do that. I can maybe muster the energy to determine if writers are  offering me material that I could think about clearly, were I to get my  energy back.

Here is Wolfgang Iser theorizing about the role "fiction" plays in philosophical discourse. Fiction is no mere falsehood that stands opposed to the truths philosophy deals with; it is, rather, a way of relating the thinker's experience of sensations and their knowledge of the reality that generates those sensations.

The empty space of the As-if brings together the existing reality and sensations that guide the approach to it. (145)

Do the words of this sentence meet Warburton's standards of clarity? At first read they appear as the allusive and figurative language that gets lampooned as "deconstruction." But they do not have the obfuscatory quality that Warburton dislikes.

At  the level of words, there is no excuse for obfuscation through  polysyllabic abstraction (i.e. hiding behind long words). Some writers  write Philosophy as if they were paid by the syllable with bonus  payments for including untranslated Latin. They also use jargon which  may or may not clarify meaning. For a spectacular example of obscurity  through excessive use of jargon, see Martin Heidegger's Being and Time.

The one piece of jargon is Iser's “As-if,” taken from Hans Vaihinger. It's not intimidatingly polysyllabic – it's only two one-syllable particles.  The vocabulary is quite basic. Iser's words are clear. Can I form a  clear and distinct idea from each word? No. There is no concrete thing I  can visualize. Can I verify that this “As-if” has an empty space in it?  Yes, but only if I have absorbed Iser's preceding statements about language and how this particular complex of particles organizes two legible sentences around one implied one. So I can verify it by recourse to concepts and not by  recourse to sense data. The ideas are clear and distinct even if I cannot find clear and distinct sense impressions to verify the statement. Descartes would be happy with me but the early Wittgenstein would not.

Is the sentence clear. Warburton holds that “passive constructions or convoluted syntax can obscure meaning.” Those obfuscating elements are absent. It's a declarative sentence plus a simple one. We are first given a subject and then something is  predicated of it; an X (the empty space belonging to the “As-if” complex) does Y to A & B. The syntax is clear and so is the meaning.  There are no obscurities in the writing but can I still be confident  that the underlying though is clear? I find myself endorsing Iser's sentence but my experience of confidence will persuade can persuade no one else. 

Iser is very conscious of the kind of sentence he is turning out. The As-if "denotes a conditional sentence" that equates a sensible condition with a virtual one. "As-if" statements are notable because the conditional sentence has to be inferred from the statements around it. There is a virtual statement between the statements that flank either side of the particle complex. Writing out that statement in full expands Iser's initial formulation to something like

The virutal statement inferable from the juxtaposition of the particles exists, figuratively speaking, an in the empty space between the particles of the As-if complex, and it brings together the existing but not sensible reality and the sensations that guide the approach to it. (145)

I could rephrase this using the ontology of Critical Realism and talk about how the practice of writing, reading, or thinking fictionally allows to you to relate empirical data or traces to actual  phenomena and to the real structures that generate them. Not being gifted with the ability to condense thoughts into vivid figures, I would have to construct a laboured explanation of how fictions or models make it possible to bring together the empirical, actual, and real in investigations of social and historical phenomena. Iser is passing through philosophy and heading towards literature. A laboured exposition like the one that I have sketched would impede that journey and the reader's journey alongside Iser.

Literary theory as exemplified by Iser is written with the clarity appropriate for its objects and for the writer's and reader's purposes. Writers of literary theory may omit many of the connective and elaborative material characteristic of other discourses. They offer juxtapose elements but leave spaces between those elements wherein readers may infer what is necessary for completing the arguments. Iser's text has literary and figurative language that makes for engaging reading (it is a text with aesthetic features, i.e. it provides sensations), and it permits clear thinking about the intangibles and virtualities involved in the writing and the reading of literary texts.

Is Iser guilty of the “[p]oor use of paragraphs” that is, according to  Warburton, an indication of “poor argument structure.” A few citations from the paragraphs preceding the sentence will prove that  Iser is innocent on that charge. He has provided all the material needed  to understand the sentence under examination. He has cited those  portions of Vaihinger's writing that make the case for an actual elision  in the syntactic structure of the “As-if” complex. Vaihinger employs some convoluted syntax but the material necessary for understanding  Iser's sentence can be found. One count of unclear parapraph use is all that Iser can be convicted of here. An element of Iser's latter paragraph (his discussion of the Position of the implied conditional statement) has to be transferred back into Vaihinger's material to make Vaihinger's point clear. Iser muddies up the structure of his own argument by preserving the a block of Vaihinger's text as a whole, rather than interlacing his own terms and concepts with Vaihinger's.

Reorganizing Vaihinger's clauses by the points he is trying to make
Reorganizing Vaihinger's clauses by the points he is trying to make

I will reproduce the rest of Warburton's criteria for clear philosophical writing. It is the least I can do given that I tweeted at him without taking the time to look at his easily-searchable writing on the topic.

4) Philosophy involves building a case for a conclusion. The reader needs to be able to see how evidence, argument support the conclusion which purportedly follows from them. For examples of this kind of clarity, take a look at René Descartes' first 'Meditation' or John Stuart Mill's chapter on Free Expression in On Liberty.
5) Illustrative examples help most readers, even the highly sophisticated ones, to understand generalizations. When philosophers omit examples or applications of their ideas they sometimes float off into realms of imprecision - not all their readers will be happy to float off with them.
6) Some philosophers have a nose for the subject and what matters. Others don't. Those who don't can be particularly difficult to understand because it is very hard to see why they are bothering to think or write about a particular topic at all.

I believe that Iser's writing and the kind of literary theory that I admire meets all six of Warburton's criteria for clear writing IF Warburton will allow that literary theory has the kind of clarity appropriate to its objects and its audiences. I know that Stanley Fish has complained about the quality of academic writing. Maybe that writing lacks the aesthetic dimension that enables just that particular kind of clarity necessary for good writing about literature. Theorizing about literature without employing its allusions, elisions, and figures will produce unclear writing, "unclear" in Warburton's sense that it will lose the reader and impede their thinking.

P.S. Iser's discussion of fiction in the passages in question is about fiction in philosophical discourse. Perhaps he would have to write differently to transform this discussion into an intervention in philosophical debates. But it is just one one stage in the elaboration of a theory of fictional discourse in literature and serves its function as-is.

Iser, Wolfgang. The Fictive and the Imaginary: Charting Literary Anthropology. Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 1993.  

Why I Do This.

Richard Hornby, Cited in Kelty Dissertation.

This is a writer I need to read soon. Hornby's book came out in 1992 and the problem he points out hasn't been addressed.

In all of the vast acting literature – the textbooks, the memoirs, the anecdotes, the biographies and autobiographies, the interviews, the historical studies, the theoretical speculations, the manifestos – it is rare to find any mention of what acting feels like. What could be more important than to know what it is like to be there on stage or before a camera?

So put this book on the must-read list: Richard Hornby, The End of Acting: A Radical View (New York: Applause Books, 1992).

* Quoted in Shawna Mefferd Kelty (2009), The Space Between: Uncovering the Lived Experience of Actor Communication [Doctoral Dissertation: University of Missouri — Columbia].