Fate, Time, and Language by David Foster Wallace
An Essay on Free Will

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Synopsis

Long before he published Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace wrote a brilliant critique of Richard Taylor's argument for fatalism. In 1962, Taylor used six commonly-accepted presuppositions to imply that humans have no control over the future. Not only did Wallace take issue with Taylor's method, which, according to him, scrambled the relations of logic, language, and the physical world, but he also called out a semantic trick that lie at the heart of Taylor's argument.

Wallace was a great skeptic of abstract thinking as a negation of something more genuine and real. He was especially suspicious of certain theoretical paradigms& mdash;the cerebral aestheticism of modernism, the clever gimmickry of postmodernism& mdash;that abandoned "the very old traditional human verities that have to do with spirituality and emotion and community." As Wallace rises up to meet the challenge of Taylor (not to mention a number of other philosophical heavyweights), we watch the perspective of a major novelist develop, along with a lifelong struggle to find solid ground for his soaring convictions. This volume reproduces Taylor's original article and other works on fatalism cited by Wallace in his critique. James Ryerson, an editor at the New York Times Magazine, draws parallels in his introduction between Wallace's philosophy and fiction.

 

About David Foster Wallace

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David Foster Wallace wrote the novels The Pale King, 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 Consider the Lobster, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, Everything and More, and This Is Water. He died in 2008.
 
Published January 22, 2011 by Columbia University Press. 263 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Fate, Time, and Language

Publishers Weekly

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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.

Oct 11 2010 | Read Full Review of Fate, Time, and Language: An ...

New York Journal of Books

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Note that Taylor claims that he does not actually believe in fatalism, only that he has discovered a sequence of logical statements (by logic I mean mathematical logic expressed in language), where each statement may be taken true by itself, but when chained together will imply the logical conclu...

Dec 01 2010 | Read Full Review of Fate, Time, and Language: An ...

Review (Barnes & Noble)

In 1962, a philosopher (and world-famous beekeeper) named Richard Taylor published a soon-to-be-notorious essay called "Fatalism" in The Philosophical Review.

Dec 22 2010 | Read Full Review of Fate, Time, and Language: An ...

Bookmarks Magazine

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 critiq...

Jan 02 2011 | Read Full Review of Fate, Time, and Language: An ...

Christianity Today

So, if the proposition "There will be a sea-battle tomorrow" was true yesterday, then the fact, today, of a sea-battle provides the necessary condition for the truth of the proposition yesterday, just as today's failure to have a sea-battle would create the necessary condition for the truth of ye...

Feb 04 2013 | Read Full Review of Fate, Time, and Language: An ...

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