Freedom and the Self

Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace

Steven M. Cahn
Maureen Eckert
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/cahn16152
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    Freedom and the Self
    Book Description:

    The bookFate, 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 withFate, Time, and Language, this critical set unlocks key components of Wallace's work and its traces in modern literature and thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53916-6
    Subjects: Philosophy, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. vii-xii)
    STEVEN M. CAHN and MAUREEN ECKERT

    Like Mary Ann (or Marian) Evans, better known as George Eliot, who translated Spinoza’s monumentalEthica, Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata, and T. S. Eliot, who was offered a faculty position in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University, David Foster Wallace (1962–2008) was a major literary figure who also excelled in philosophy.

    The son of the noted philosopher James D. Wallace, who taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, David Foster Wallace, like his father, was graduated from Amherst College, receiving a BA degree summa cum laude in 1985 with majors in both English and philosophy. His honors thesis...

  4. 1 DAVID FOSTER WALLACE AND THE FALLACIES OF “FATALISM”
    (pp. 1-30)
    WILLIAM HASKER

    In 1985 David Foster Wallace, then a senior at Amherst College, decided to devote his philosophy honors thesis to the issues raised by Richard Taylor’s paper “Fatalism,” published two decades earlier. Taylor’s paper had generated a storm of discussion, most of it critical of his argument. (Apparently, no one actually considered the argument to be sound, not even Taylor.) Wallace, however, found all of the previous criticisms to be inadequate in one way or another, so he set out to provide a new refutation, creating in the process a new system of formal logic to deal with what he termed...

  5. 2 WALLACE, FREE CHOICE, AND FATALISM
    (pp. 31-56)
    GILA SHER

    In a 2005 commencement address David Foster Wallace extolled the value of “freedom of choice.” But the freedom of choice he extolled wasnotthefreedom to do things in the world, change the world, build something new in the world. The choice he talked about, the “real freedom,” “the kind that is most precious,” was thefreedom to choose “what to think”(my italics)—the “total freedom of choice regarding what to think about.” It was the freedom of “choosing to … alter … or get … free of [our] natural, hard-wired default setting,” choosing “what you pay attention...

  6. 3 FATALISM AND THE METAPHYSICS OF CONTINGENCY
    (pp. 57-92)
    M. ORESTE FIOCCO

    Contingencyis the presence of nonactualized possibility in the world. Given contingency, the world as itactuallyis is incomplete not in that therearefeatures of reality beyond those that actually exist but in that therecould be. If there is contingency, a systematic metaphysics need provide some account of this possibility, including its source and relations to other features of the world. However,fatalismis a view of reality on which there is no contingency. On this view, the world as it actually is is entirely complete: every detail must be just as it is, and there neither...

  7. 4 FATALISM, TIME TRAVEL, AND SYSTEM J
    (pp. 93-108)
    MAUREEN ECKERT

    Fatalists regard the future like the past. Time travelers regard the past like the future. This mirroring of the fatalist and time traveler suggests that there is some kind of common ground between them—but what is it? According to the fatalist, there is nothing now we can do to influence future events. Meanwhile, the time traveler can do things to influence the past. We may prefer the time traveler to the fatalist—being a Time Lord promises considerably more adventure than necessarily having to do everything that one does. Yet, both positions seem counterintuitive about whatever it is we...

  8. 5 DAVID FOSTER WALLACE AS AMERICAN HEDGEHOG
    (pp. 109-132)
    DANIEL R. KELLY

    So was David Foster Wallace a fox or a hedgehog? There isn’t an obvious answer to the question. Clearly he knew a great many things, ranging from postmodern literary theory to the history and development of the mathematical concept of infinity, and from the paradoxical effectiveness of the simple clich’s of Alcoholics Anonymous to the arcana of the U.S. tax code. On the other hand, despite the sometimes overwhelming breadth of what he knew about, the more familiar one becomes with Wallace’s body of work the more difficult it is to escape the feeling that there is something distinctively hedgehog-ish...

  9. 6 DAVID FOSTER WALLACE ON THE GOOD LIFE
    (pp. 133-168)
    NATHAN BALLANTYNE and JUSTIN TOSI

    David Foster Wallace thought that the point of writing fiction was to explore what it is to be a human being.¹ In this essay, we argue that his writings suggest a view about what philosophers would call thegood life. Wallace’s perspective is subtle and worthy of attention. We’ll contrast what Wallace says with some popular positions from moral philosophy and contemporary culture.

    Wallace said much about ethical matters even though he didn’t write on them formally or systematically. How then shall we distill views from his writings? Our strategy is to present Wallace’s reactions, as found in his fiction...

  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 169-170)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 171-180)