Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will

Overview

In 1962, the philosopher Richard Taylor used six commonly accepted presuppositions to imply that human beings have no control over the future. David Foster Wallace not only took issue with Taylor's method, which, according to him, scrambled the relations of logic, language, and the physical world, but also noted a semantic trick at the heart of Taylor's argument.

Fate, Time, and Language presents Wallace's brilliant critique of Taylor's work. Written long before the publication ...

See more details below
Paperback
$16.30
BN.com price
(Save 18%)$19.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (17) from $6.40   
  • New (10) from $12.08   
  • Used (7) from $6.40   
Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49
BN.com price
(Save 44%)$18.99 List Price

Overview

In 1962, the philosopher Richard Taylor used six commonly accepted presuppositions to imply that human beings have no control over the future. David Foster Wallace not only took issue with Taylor's method, which, according to him, scrambled the relations of logic, language, and the physical world, but also noted a semantic trick at the heart of Taylor's argument.

Fate, Time, and Language presents Wallace's brilliant critique of Taylor's work. Written long before the publication of his fiction and essays, Wallace's thesis reveals his great skepticism of abstract thinking made to function as a negation of something more genuine and real. He was especially suspicious of certain paradigms of thought-the cerebral aestheticism of modernism, the clever gimmickry of postmodernism-that abandoned "the very old traditional human verities that have to do with spirituality and emotion and community." As Wallace rises to meet the challenge to free will presented by Taylor, we witness the developing perspective of this major novelist, along with his struggle to establish solid logical ground for his convictions. This volume, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert, reproduces Taylor's original article and other works on fatalism cited by Wallace. James Ryerson's introduction connects Wallace's early philosophical work to the themes and explorations of his later fiction, and Jay Garfield supplies a critical biographical epilogue.

Columbia University Press

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A progression of ordinary-seeming premises that would obliterate free will is challenged on its own grounds by the late, celebrated author of Infinite Jest. Written in the mid-1980s as one of Wallace's two undergraduate theses at Amherst College (his first novel, The Broom of the System, was the other), it addresses a "logical slippage"--as James Ryerson puts it--in Richard Taylor's six famous presuppositions that contend that man has no control over his fate. The paper, a survey of Taylor's argument and its influence on late-20th-century philosophy, is reprinted in its entirety, and the language of modal logic can be heavy going at times--be prepared for pages of highly specialized discussion on logic that necessitate accompanying diagrams. Still, as an early glimpse at the preoccupations of one of the 20th century's most compelling and philosophical authors, it is invaluable, and Wallace's conclusion--"if Taylor and the fatalists want to force upon us a metaphysical conclusion, they must do metaphysics, not semantics"--is simply elegant. (Dec.)
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

Fatalism, the sorrowful erasure of possibilities, is the philosophical problem at the heart of this book. To witness the intellectual exuberance and bravado with which the young Wallace attacks this problem, the ambition and elegance of the solution he works out so that possibility might be resurrected, is to mourn, once again, the possibilities that have been lost.

Financial Times - Anthony Gottlieb

[A] tough and impressive book.Financial Times

Times Literary Supplement - Robert Potts

an excellent summary of Wallace's thought and writing which shows how his philosophical interests were not purely cerebral, but arose from, and fed into, his emotional and ethical concerns.

Notre Dame Philosophical Review - Daniel Speak

Fate, Time, and Laguage contains a great deal of first-rate philosophy throughout, and not least in Wallace's extraordinarily professional and ambitious essay....

Australian Literary Review - James Ley

Valuable and interesting.

Financial Times
[A] tough and impressive book.

— Anthony Gottlieb

Times Literary Supplement
an excellent summary of Wallace's thought and writing which shows how his philosophical interests were not purely cerebral, but arose from, and fed into, his emotional and ethical concerns.

— Robert Potts

Notre Dame Philosophical Review
Fate, Time, and Laguage contains a great deal of first-rate philosophy throughout, and not least in Wallace's extraordinarily professional and ambitious essay....

— Daniel Speak

Australian Literary Review
Valuable and interesting.

— James Ley

Library Journal
This is the late Wallace's previously unpublished senior undergraduate philosophy thesis (1985, Amherst Coll.). He writes on the classical philosophical problem of fatalism, which is essentially the problem of asserting individual free will. As an undergraduate Wallace learned the logic needed to refute a claim of fatalism and the need to propose new logical systems for making his argument against fatalism. This book includes New York Times Magazine editor James Ryerson's introductory essay to establish context; a republication of philosopher Richard Taylor's essay to which Wallace was specifically responding; and a number of previously published papers that feature objections to fatalism or refutations by fatalists, e.g., an essay by coeditor Cahn (philosophy, Columbia Univ.). VERDICT Wallace's senior thesis is accessible to all who have a basic understanding of logic. This book is for any reader who has enjoyed the works of Wallace and for philosophy students specializing in fatalism.—Jim Hahn, Univ. of Illinois Lib., Urbana
Justin Moyer
The particulars of Wallace's argument will elude lay readers unfamiliar with philosophy's "contingent future-tensed propositions" and "law of the excluded middle." Still, fiction lovers with even a minimal knowledge of Aristotle and Wittgenstein will understand that the core proposition of fatalism—we have no say in what we do—haunted Wallace's writing.
—The Washington Post
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231151573
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 12/10/2010
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 564,726
  • Product dimensions: 8.48 (w) x 11.70 (h) x 0.36 (d)

Meet the Author

David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) wrote the acclaimed novels Infinite Jest and The Broom of the System and the story collections Oblivion, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, and Girl with Curious Hair. His nonfiction includes the essay collections Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and the full-length work Everything and More.

Columbia University Press

Biography

Born in Ithaca, NY, and raised in Champaign, IL, David Foster Wallace grew up athletically gifted and exceptionally bright, with an avid interest in tennis, literature, philosophy, and math. He attended Amherst and graduated in 1985 with a double major in English and Philosophy. His philosophy thesis (on modal logic) won the Gail Kennedy Memorial Prize. His English thesis would become his first novel, The Broom of the System. Published in 1987 during his second year of grad school at the University of Arizona, the book sold well, garnering national attention and critical praise in equal measure. Two years later, a book of short stories, Girl with Curious Hair, was published to admiring reviews.

In the early 1990s, Wallace's short fiction began to appear regularly in publications like Playboy, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker, along with excerpts from his second novel, a complex, enormously ambitious work published in 1996 as Infinite Jest. Surpassing 1,000 pages in length, the novel was hailed as a masterpiece ("[A]n entertainment so irresistibly pleasurable it renders the viewer catatonic," raved Newsweek. "[R]esourceful, hilarious, intelligent, and unique," pronounced Atlantic Monthly), and Wallace was crowned on the spot the new heavyweight champion of literary fiction.

Hyperbole aside, Infinite Jest, with its linguistic acrobatics (challenging complex clauses, coined words, etc.) and sly, self-referential footnotes, proved to be the template for a new literary style. Subversive, hip, and teeming with postmodernist irony, the book attracted a rabid cult following and exerted an influence on up-and-coming young writers that is still felt today. The scope of Wallace's achievement can be measured by the fact that one year after the publication of Infinite Jest, he was awarded the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant."

Nearly as famous for his nonfiction as for his novels and stories, Wallace produced mind-boggling essays on assignment for magazines like Harper's. In contrast to his sad, dark, disturbing fiction, these essays -- subsequently collected into such bestselling anthologies as A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (1997), Everything and More (2003), and Consider the Lobster (2007) -- were ridiculously exuberant, fairly bursting with humor, energy, and good cheer. Yet Wallace himself suffered from clinical depression most of his adult life. He was treated successfully with anti-depressants, until side effects from the drugs began to interfere with his productivity. At his doctor's suggestion, he stopped taking the medication.The depression returned, and he did not respond to any further treatment. In September of 2008, at the age of 46, he committed suicide.

Wallace's influence on contemporary literature cannot be overstated. Descended from post-war superstars like Thomas Pynchon and Don De Lillo, his style is clearly visible in the work of postmodernists like Jonathan Safran Foer and Dave Eggers. His untimely death was mourned by critics, writers, and millions of adoring fans. As author David Lipsky stated in a tribute that aired on NPR in September, 2008: "To read David Foster Wallace was to feel your eyelids pulled open."

Read More Show Less
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 21, 1962
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ithaca, NY
    1. Date of Death:
      September 12, 2008
    2. Place of Death:
      Claremont, CA
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English & Philosophy, Amherst College, 1985;MFA, University of Arizona, 1987

Table of Contents

Preface, by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen EckertIntroduction: A Head That Throbbed Heartlike: The Philosophical Mind of David Foster Wallace, by James RyersonPart I: The Background Introduction, by Steven M. Cahn1. Fatalism, by Richard Taylor2. Professor Taylor on Fatalism, by John Turk Saunders3. Fatalism and Ability, by Richard Taylor4. Fatalism and Ability II, by Peter Makepeace5. Fatalism and Linguistic Reform, by John Turk Saunders6. Fatalism and Professor Taylor, by Bruce Aune7. Taylor's Fatal Fallacy, by Raziel Abelson8. A Note on Fatalism, by Richard Taylor9. Tautology and Fatalism, by Richard Sharvy10. Fatalistic Arguments, by Steven Cahn11. Comment, by Richard Taylor12. Fatalism and Ordinary Language, by John Turk Saunders13. Fallacies in Taylor's "Fatalism", by Charles D. BrownPart II: The Essay 14. Renewing the Fatalist Conversation, by Maureen Eckert15. Richard Taylor's "Fatalism" and the Semantics of Physical Modality, by David Foster WallacePart III: Epilogue 16. David Foster Wallace as Student: A Memoir, by Jay GarfieldAppendix: The Problem of Future Contingencies, by Richard Taylor

Columbia University Press

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)