An Essay on Free Will
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.
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.
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of Thirty-six Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction
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... is simply elegant.Publishers Weekly
This book is for any reader who has enjoyed the works of Wallace and for philosophy students specializing in fatalism.
[A] tough and impressive book.Financial Times
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.
Fate, Time, and Laguage contains a great deal of first-rate philosophy throughout, and not least in Wallace's extraordinarily professional and ambitious essay....
Valuable and interesting.
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
Independent Publisher Book Award (gold medal) for Classical Studies / Philosophy