Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace
Steven M. Cahn
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The book Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will, published in 2010 by Columbia University Press, presented David Foster Wallace's challenge to Richard Taylor's argument for fatalism. In this anthology, notable philosophers engage directly with that work and assess Wallace's reply to Taylor as well as other aspects of Wallace's thought.
With an introduction by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert, this collection includes essays by William Hasker (Huntington University), Gila Sher (University of California, San Diego), Marcello Oreste Fiocco (University of California, Irvine), Daniel R. Kelly (Purdue University), Nathan Ballantyne (Fordham University), Justin Tosi (University of Arizona), and Maureen Eckert. These thinkers explore Wallace's philosophical and literary work, illustrating remarkable ways in which his philosophical views influenced and were influenced by themes developed in his other writings, both fictional and nonfictional. Together with Fate, Time, and Language, this critical set unlocks key components of Wallace's work and its traces in modern literature and thought.
matter—necessity and possibility in a temporal world—comes to light. This issue is investigated through an important later criticism of Taylor by David Foster Wallace. Wallace’s critique is significant because it brings to the fore the crucial notion for understanding contingency in a temporal world, that of synchronic possibility, the idea that incompatible states of affairs are possible at a single moment. This notion provides the basis of distinguishing two systematic accounts of truth,
recognizes the need at the outset of his critique to get clear on the modality relevant to Taylor’s discussion. He determines that since Taylor obviously takes himself to be talking about the world itself—the realm of agency and free action—rather than how one speaks or thinks of it, the modality is not “logical,” that is, linguistic-cum-conceptual. He states, then, that the modality and the “relations treated of here by Taylor must be regarded as physical and causal, not logical” (Wallace 1985,
Taylor’s fatalistic argument is invalid—if the latter is correct, the argument is valid, and, hence, in order to accept contingency, one must reject some of the popular assumptions on which the argument is based. Yet either way there is contingency: one need have no fears regarding fatalism. One should not presume that just because there is an assumption one could make, viz., accepting synchronic possibility, from which it follows that Taylor’s argument is invalid, that this assumption is true.
a conundrum—a philosophical puzzle for which a solution is required, but for which none seems to be available.8 On the other hand, the way the argument is discussed in the second edition of Metaphysics could lead one to think that by 1974 Taylor had come to embrace fatalism or at least to consider its truth as a strong possibility.9 We now turn to the objection concerning which Taylor said that it “is so familiar that I have come to anticipate it every time I hear this discussed” (Taylor 1962b,
Old Neon,” Neal, makes precisely that mistake. I spent all my time trying to get [my peers] to think I was dry and jaded as well.… Putting in all this time and energy to create a certain impression and get approval or acceptance that then I felt nothing about because it didn’t have anything to do with who I really was inside, and I was disgusted with myself for always being such a fraud, but I couldn’t seem to help it. Here are some of the various things I tried: EST, riding a ten-speed to Nova