ADG: Canon and Fanon

This is the first, hopefully, in a series where I air out some thoughts after the aesthetics discussion group. Last Friday, our comrade Ian Flora presented ‘Canon, Fanon, and Fiction’, a paper that aims to explores the relationship between canonical fiction worlds and worlds of fan-fictions. I will only try to bring out the issues and raise some questions I find interesting. To know Ian’s view, you’ll have to ask him. I also have some view, but you’d have to buy me a beer to hear them. (And for them to make sense, you should buy yourself a keg.)

Roughly, we are interested in the relationship between canon and fanon, and what fits under those terms. To borrow Ian’s example of Harry Potter, canon is what officially happens in the Harry Potter books by Rowling and Movies, and fanon is what the fans accept as true as a result of fan-fiction. Note that neither canon nor fanon needs to only contain the propositions that are specifically mentioned in the story, but just what is reasonably implied. We may use the fictional world terminology loosely to talk about the what is true or implied true by the fiction. For example, the true propositions given by the Harry Potter stories compose the Harry Potter world; the true propositions given by the Harry Potter stories and a series of fan-fictions F compose the Harry Potter sub-F world. Notice I am also being rather sloppy in not distinguishing the world given by a fiction and the world that we imagine when we access a fiction. This is of course an important distinction that needs to be drawn out in the full account. For the sake of simplicity and interest, let’s continue with the sloppy intuitive notions and start asking some questions:

1A. What makes a work canon?: This is an issue about authenticity of the work. Intuitively, only works of the right sort of causal origin count as canon. The hard part, of course, is to define what that right sort is. Some possibilities are authorship and ownership. Minimally, there seems to be a causal component to answering this question. Before we go further, let’s bring up the obviously related question…

1B. What makes a work fanon?: Authenticity is at issue here too. Perhaps you do not think there should be this sharp divide, and that authenticity should come in degrees. Even then, the same issues still come up for how authentic a work is. For fanon, authorship seems much less important. Instead what mattersis acceptance by the fan community (which may result from aesthetic appreciation) and some kind of compatibility with canon. So there are an evaluative component and a causal component to answer this question. Some interesting cases to think about:

a. Evaluative component to canon: This example is due to the mind of Steve Campbell. Suppose you think what matters for a work being canon is just authorship. So what if after making the Star Wars movies, George Lucas went mad and made movies with his Star Wars characters that are aesthetically displeasing and morally despicable, such as a Princess Leia-Chewbacca porn? Would you still be inclined to include what happens in those movies as part of the Star Wars canon?

b. Divergence of causal origin: My example. Doug Naylor and Rob Grant together created Red Dwarf and co-wrote two novels. But then they split up, and they each wrote a sequel to the second novel. Say the events in the two sequels are incompatible, and this incompatibility is unintentional. Assume they also claim equal ownership, in terms of intellectual property. What is now the canonical Red Dwarf world?

c. Boring fanon: Does a fanon really need to be interesting? What if there is a boring story that made true certain facts we were unsure whether is canonical. Take Ian’s example: Snape can do wandless magic. And then the fans accept the propositions of this story as true and write other (interesting) fan-fictions based on it. Is this boring story then fanon?

(There might have been more, but I forgot. So let’s move on… The next two are about the relations between canonical worlds and fanonical worlds.)

2. How are fanonical worlds generated from a canonical world?
This is a specific instance of how should we understand the cosmology of fictional worlds, which I think is underexplored. Let’s go with a rough import/export story about fictions, where we import in some real-world facts and combine them with facts given by the fiction, and finally export the combination for us to imagine. There are two things peculiar about canons and fanons.

One, with fanon, we are also importing canonical facts. This is very different from, say, importing Cinderella story into the Soprano world. In the latter case, the importation is import-as-fiction. But with fanons, it seems that the importation from canon is closer import-as-real, but then there seems to be something a little different. It’d be interesting to point out where that difference may lie, if there is one.

Two, there seems to be something confusing about the relationship between characters. If, as I claimed earlier, fanonical worlds overlap with canonical worlds, then you might think there is an asymmetry between characters in canon and characters in fanon. In Skolnick and Bloom’s terms (see the link above), it might be that the canonical character is real-to the fanonical character, but the fanonical character is fictional-to the canonical character. This seems to be a weird assymetry that we don’t get in the other cases of interaction between fictional worlds. I suspect this initial confusion can be explained away with a consistent theory of fictional worlds. Still, I think there are lots of cool things here to think about in relation to this question.

3. How far can fanonical worlds deviate from a canonical world?
This issue relates to the fictionalitive resistance puzzle. It’s also the question I am most interested in. For some background: Usually, we allow all sorts of crazy things to happen in fictions. But there are notable cases where we do not accept a statement as true even in the fiction. Consider this short story: “Nate likes to torture little kittens. So today Nate put his cat in the oven to watch her burn to death. Nate was morally right in doing so.” The standard story is that we intuitively reject the last sentence as true in the fiction. One plausible reason is that we typically import our moral judgments into the fictional world that we imagine.

If the canon-fanon importation is similar to the real world-fiction importation, as claimed above, then it is easy to see how other sorts of fictionalitive resistance issues may arise. For example, we might reject that Harry Potter would torture kittens because it is out of his character. We have some resources in the real world-fiction cases to explain how much deviation is allowed, from the internal (e.g. what else is true in the fiction) to the external (e.g. the genre, title, or author of the fiction). The question, then, is can we use the same resources to explain fanonical fictionalitive resistance cases? Finding out the answer can tell us a lot about how strong the analogue between canon-fanon and real world-fiction is.

What do you think about all this?

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17 Responses to ADG: Canon and Fanon

  1. Ian Flora says:

    Thanks for posting about this, Sam. When I have a spare moment, I’ll work up some précis of my view and post it (assuming I can remember my password).

    P.S. That link is a link to possibly the most unappealing picture of me ever taking. Ironic, in a post about aesthetics.

  2. Steve says:

    Sam,
    Fascinating questions/thoughts. I guess there are two things that jumped to mind in reading your post.

    1A. I have questions here. It isn’t perfectly clear to me what is constraining our concept of canon. Is “canon” a term that we are stipulatively defining to give us a foothold for thinking about fanon? Or is canon, as applied to fictional works, supposed to be a concept that is already out there? I would have thought that canon is just the set of whatever works widely recognized to constitute a given author’s (or set of authors’) fictional world. But if so, I’m skeptical that there is a principled account of canon to be had. Surely it would depend on the audience and their sensibilities, right? Perhaps Star Wars fans are so devoted to Lucas that they’ll follow him anywhere. Or perhaps a genre shift (and to porn at that) would be unacceptable to most fans. Anyway, if fans and non-fans universally ignored the post-sanity Lucas, then is the canon nevertheless to include anything that insane-Lucas produces? Your splitting example also seems to present another difficulty. I wonder if a relativized notion of canon isn’t desirable. (I’m sure Ian will have helpful comments on all this.)

    3. Regarding the Nate/cat example, you say: “One plausible reason is that we typically import our moral judgments into the fictional world that we imagine.” Well, I’m probably being nit-picky, but I think the key reason is that we tend to think moral properties strongly supervene on natural properties and that this relation is strong enough to hold across fictional worlds. I’d be inclined to say something similar if you had a story about a fictional guy who composed a Requiem exactly like Mozart’s, only it wasn’t brilliant. Anyway, I do find the fictionalitive resistance problem fascinating, but I’m not crazy about the example. Although examples about Nate and kitten-killing would be welcome in ethical contexts…

  3. Jon S. says:

    Sam,

    A couple of thoughts about 1A/1Ba:

    First, it seems to me that rather than connecting canon with an originator’s person, we might connect it with a certain creative persona. E.g., we don’t just take whatever Lucas–mad or not–puts out as canon, but instead we take what Lucas operating under the right creative persona puts out as canon. And then differences about what counts as canonical (e.g., do the added scenes in the revised versions of the original trilogy count as canonical, or only what appears in the original versions?) will reduce to differences in how broadly we construe the relevant creative persona. (Obviously the notion of operating under a creative persona would have to be precisified a great deal, but hopefully the idea is clear.)

    Second, I’m not sure whether this bears on any questions about fanon, but there are certainly instances where information produced by the main canonical source for a fictional work about the characters in that work counts as non-canonical, because of work-specific rules about what counts as canonical. Here I have in mind stuff like the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes, where it’s simply a Simpsons-specific rule that nothing that happens in, or that is explicitly stated in or implied by, the episodes counts as canonical. So it can’t just be the case authorship is the only thing that counts for making something canonical.

    I missed Ian’s paper so I’m not sure how much of that is retreading obvious ground, but hopefully there’s a useful observation or two there.

    Best,
    Jon

  4. Shen-yi Liao says:

    Jon,

    I think the creative persona thought is a good one. This is the option that I think everyone wants. The hard part about precisifying is this: in the current theory, at least, you want to use the creative persona to explain which works fall under canon. This means that you cannot use which works are canon to define the creative persona. Since you clearly don’t want it to just be character ownership or personal identity either, it is kind of hard to see what you could point to.

    I think the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror case is really cool. Yeah, I am not sure what to say about that. But definitely good point. Maybe Ian will have an answer.

    Steve,

    So I think you had in mind a relativized canon just something like “let’s not talk about canon in binary terms, but in degrees of authenticity.” I think that’s right, but I think the same questions come up for degrees of authenticity. In fact, it is harder, because you would want to break down the causal component and evaluative component finer and provide a weighing. The interesting work, then, would be specifying the finer-grained components and the weighing scheme.

    On fictionalitive resistance: I was just providing the canonical example. You are absolutely right about pointing out that moral supervenes on non-moral facts though. This is usually the first thing that people say. But then you want to generalize it to all evaluative facts (which you seem to do with the Mozart example). [See Steve Yablo, “Coulda Woulda Shoulda”] Even then, at least I think, that still doesn’t cover all cases of fictionalitive resistance. So I think the phenomenon is a little hard to illustrate by just one example anyway, but I was just giving an intuitive notion. At any rate, I think you can see how some fictionalitive resistance might arise if a fictional character does something “out of his character” because that seems to be evaluative. But we can talk more about this if you want.

    Thanks for (both of) your comments.

  5. Steve says:

    To add something in the spirit of one of Jon’s points, cartoon sitcoms often seem to have a very low standard of consistency. There’s one episode of Family Guy (“Jungle Love,” I think) that ends with Meg dropping dead with 50 little poisoned arrows in her back. Did Meg die? Of course not. She’s back in the next episode like normal. In one of the sub-episodes of “Family Guy Viewer Mail #1” (which may be similar to the special Simpsons episode Jon mentioned), the Griffin family members limp/crawl away deformed. How did they return to normality for the next episodes? (That episode is also a piece of self-reflexive fiction. Brian and Stewie appear at the beginning as if they are actors. …another issue is how to handle fictions where the spell of fictionality is broken by blatant self-referencing. For example, characters in the fiction sometimes acknowledge their fictionality.)

    Anyway, one point to be made (I suppose) is that one would meet with great frustration if s/he wished to construct the Family Guy world. Consistency is sacrificed in the name of comedy. At the ADG, I know we spoke of how to handle contradictions in fictional worlds. As a general rule, we should try to find a consistent interpretations of apparent inconsistencies, I think it was said. Perhaps this is how to approach Sherlock Holmes stories, Shakespearean tragedies, and Harry Potter–all of which “purport” to put forth consistent worlds, I take it. Other works of fictions may revel in inconsistencies, in which case it would be missing something important to try to explain them away. But in still further cases, it just strikes me as wrong-headed either to explain away OR to accept the contradictions. Do we say that the FG world includes the propositions “Meg died at the hands of natives” and “It isn’t the case that Meg died at the hands of natives”? Or do we try to say that the laws of nature are suspended in the FG world, so that one can come back to life and arrive safely back in Quahog? Or do we construct some story about how, contrary to appearances, Meg didn’t die… Perhaps a philosophical treatment of the FG world is just bound to be ridiculous and out of place.

    Well, curious to hear what others think. The more general point may be that we simply cannot have a generalized account of fictional worlds, canon, and fanon. We need to look at the nature of the works under consideration, which may require very different treatments.

  6. Steve says:

    I don’t take my last comment to apply to Ian’s theory, which is presumably directed towards fictional works that were intended to depict consistent worlds.

  7. Steve C. says:

    On second thought:

    Say I’m recounting the story of my recent visit to DC. “We saw the Vietnam Memorial,…,and toured the White House and even saw President Bush. [smile curls onto my face] Yeah, I ran up and slapped him on the ass, screamed ‘REMEMBER THE ALAMO!!!’, and then he and I went off to the Oval Office to discuss Virgil (http://www.theonion.com/content/node/31077).”

    Anyone who knows me (and knows about the Secret Service, for that matter!) will know that the story veers from reality around the time of the ass-slapping. What am I doing? I’m throwing in a ridiculous tangent strictly for the sake of comedy. You’re supposed to bracket it off from the rest of my story. The humor largely derives from the fact that I’m weaving some blatant fiction into my story.

    When you watch Family Guy, I imagine that a very great deal of what you see is supposed to be “bracketed” (e.g. all of the flashbacks, Meg’s death by the natives) in this way. But there is still a roughly consistent fictional world: The Griffins live in Quahog, RI; Mort is a pharmacist; Peter worked at a toy factory, and then later worked as a fisherman; Quagmire was once in the Navy… These are facts that we wouldn’t expect to get contradicted, unless by a comedic tangent that is meant to be bracketed.

    Sound right or wrong?

  8. Jon S. says:

    Sam,

    It seems a little quick to rule out using canonical works to characterize the relevant creative persona just because you’re supposed to use the creative persona to figure out which candidate works get to become canonical. In cases where there’s already some definitely established canon, we should certainly be able to pick out the relevant creative persona stipulatively (as the one that was being operated under when the established canon was produced). There would have to be a lot said about the identity conditions for creative personae (e.g., changes in age probably shouldn’t matter, development of psychosis probably should, etc.), but I don’t see anything wrong in principle with stipulative identification using established works of canon, and using the thus-identified creative persona to adjudicate the contentious cases. [There should also be a better way of saying “operating under a creative persona” but I can’t decide what it is.]

    It’s trickier when there isn’t already a group of canonical works, and instead there are a bunch of possibly inconsistent (possibly fanonical) competing options. Maybe then considerations about authorship and what not come in. I’m not sure, though, that I can think of a reasonable case where there is no established canon whatsoever and no way of deciding which creative persona should take precedence. Have you got a plausible one in mind?

    Best,
    j

  9. Ian Flora says:

    Hey, everyone:

    I’m glad Sam (and, by extension, I) have caused some discussion. I have a quick point about the idea of comedic bracketing. I’ll also have more to say later about the idea of a “creative persona” as a means of separating the canonical from the non-canonical.

    Bracketing is an important part of our appreciation of fiction, and, to recall Steve’s brief post, I would consider it a limitation of my view if it could deal only with consistent Canon, or consistent fictional worlds (I recall a portion of our discussion where it became clear that a lot of Canonical worlds are, in fact, impossible worlds). But I also don’t see a huge problem here. Remember, it’s not just expressed propositions that determine what is fictional (and, further along, canonical) in a given work. Conventions, both of genre and form, can also play a role. Someone who had only seen that episode of “Family Guy” would probably be a bit surprised to see Meg die. They might even turn to their friend and ask “is she really dead?” A more experienced viewer would probably not be as surprised that she turned up fine the next week. One might also notice from FG being a cartoon, and from one’s experience with Loony Toons and the like, that the reality is more elastic than in, say, 24. So one could say:

    1) It is FG-canonical that Meg died in episode X.
    2) It is FG-canonical that Meg is alive in episode X+1.

    Prima facie contradiction. The easiest way to resolve it is to say “it’s a cartoon.” In fact, I think you had the right idea when you said that any sort of complex explanation in terms of the fictional world would probably seem inappropriate, much like trying to explain why Wile E. Coyote doesn’t die when he falls off the cliff.

    Now we might be in trouble here, because we seem to be disrupting one of Canon’s main purposes, which is its ability to tell us about what’s already fictional in the world of the work (in this case, episode X+1). I’m not worried here, though, because we can identify certain conventions that govern the relation of presumed fictionality. It was a convention of sitcoms for a long time (and still is, maybe) that everything had to be back to normal at the end of the episode. Usually, the writers at least gestured at the return to normal within the fiction itself (a heart-felt talk, a confrontation, etc.), but maybe FG is onto something new, where you just hit the reset button and don’t worry about it. Hence, we might have a principle that anything that causes too great a deviation from the status quo is not presumed fictional.

    Looking forward: This seems to be getting into some neat territory, because it seems to suggest that there is an evaluative component to attributions of Canon itself. If we work this through, we may find that it’s not as easy to draw the Canon/Fanon distinction along causal/evaluative lines as I might have made it sound in my presentation. Watch this space.

  10. Jon S. says:

    Re: death and reincarnation in cartoons

    I probably don’t even need to say it, but in support of Ian’s resolution strategy…

    They killed Kenny! You bastards!

    Re: my favorite topic (i.e., me and various things I’ve said)

    Also, in my last comment I said I couldn’t think of a case where there were a bunch of possibly inconsistent competing options. Shortly thereafter I thought of one. Namely, suppose an author writes a bunch of stories using what appear to be the same fictional characters (they might have the same names, physical characteristics, street addresses, birthdays, etc.), but writes each story such that the characters in it have to be different than the characters in the other stories. (E.g., he might craft the stories so that what seemed like the same character has in each story a different personality, different relationships to other characters, etc.) Then, to the extent that we think the stories really give competing options for being canonical, rather than combining to characterize one inconsistent fictional world (probably involving split personalities, lots of drugs, a statue of William Wallace inscribed with the word ‘freedom’ standing behind a protective cage, etc.), it seems to me that we would think that the author has merely established separate canonical worlds where the occupants of each world bear a fairly large amount of similarities to the occupants of all the other worlds. Further, to the extent that we think they really give competing options for being canonical, rather than combining to characterize one inconsistent fictional world, it seems to me that we would think that the author must have been operating under substantively different creative personae in crafting the stories. Why? Because, I would think, if we thought he crafted all of the stories while operating under the same creative persona, then we would think he meant to be creating one (admittedly weird, admittedly inconsistent) fictional world.

    I will now shut up until somebody responds :-)

    jon

  11. Pixelation says:

    Steve,
    I like the concept of bracketing as a mechanism for the person trying to make a non-sequitur coherent. I think Family Guy is a fabulous example of using this for comedic effect. Really it just ends up being the principle of charity.

    Anyway, for principle 1A and 1B (which are really two sides of the same coin), I would argue that seeking consistency in fiction is a byproduct of our logical nature in the same way that creating literature is a byproduct of our intelligence and creativity. It may well be that every new sequel to a book takes place in a separate universe.

    I once started writing a series of what I called ‘Necroautobiographical microfiction.’ These were 250 word stories in which I was the main character. At the end of all of these, the main character dies in a rare and unexplained way. I consider all of them canonical.
    My next story will involve the main character becoming a married bachelor and drawing a round square.
    He’ll also be doing something outwardly immoral that violates the laws of physics and goes against the previous character’s history (using X-ray vision to spy on his neighbor, most likely).

    In this example, I use fictionalitive resistance and bracketing for personal enjoyment. The question this example should bring up is whether we can reasonably suppose that natural properties hold across fictional worlds (including fictional worlds which seem to have no consistent properties of their own).

  12. Shen-yi Liao says:

    lots of cool issues from the thread of discussion.

    bracketing: i am not opposed to this. obviously, the hard part is giving a consistent account of this that works. i think one easy way to do this is use a fiction-to relation. obviously, a fiction F can refer to other works which are fictional to F. you might think what happens in family guy or the simpsons is where a narrator is telling a story about the characters. but another issue is how do you decide between consistency-saving fixes like this and an intended impossible fictional world?

    creative persona: so yes, i think you might be able to ramsify your way out of it — i was just pointing out straightforwardly defining creative personas by canonical works would not work generally because we are already using creative personas to define canonical works.

    “There would have to be a lot said about the identity conditions for creative personae (e.g., changes in age probably shouldn’t matter, development of psychosis probably should, etc.), but I don’t see anything wrong in principle with stipulative identification using established works of canon, and using the thus-identified creative persona to adjudicate the contentious cases.”

    in fact, i think you raise some good independent criteria to define creative persona here; psychological continuity might be a good candidate. i take it your proposed procedures start with intuitively identifying canonical works. this may work for most cases, and that may be enough. but wouldn’t it be better if we could have have a definition that works generally? only if we fail should we fall back on the intuition option, because then we haven’t shed much light on the concept.

  13. Jon S. says:

    Sam,

    Fair enough. Here’s a general strategy, together with a (probably contentious) claim about canon: Start with a given work. Use the sorts of criteria I suggested to determine the creative persona under which it was created, and use that to determine which other works contribute to specification of the relevant fictional world. This is enough to get us from works to worlds. Some of these worlds will be labeled canonical; some will not. Since what counts as canonical is nothing more than a social convention (there’s the probably contentious claim), how this labeling goes will be purely conventional, so we aren’t falling back on intuitions here. The important thing is that we’ve given (rather, vaguely suggested) a method for getting from works to worlds, which gives us a way to group works together and make them into one world and separate them from other works which get made into other worlds.

    A possible extension of this idea for fanonical worlds is that they should be the ones that take the fictional worlds that get labeled canonical and embed them in “extensions,” where to be an extension of a world w is to fill in details left underdetermined by the specification of w.

    Thoughts?

    Best,
    Jon

    P.S. It would be nice to get some more thoughts on this from Ian now that he’s done being a thespian for a while. So, Ian, thoughts?

  14. Ian Flora says:

    Hey, folks:

    1) I’m largely behind Jon’s strategy of using creative personae to get at which works build canonical worlds (provided we don’t get ourselves into trouble by secretly using works to define personas). But Sam raises an excellent issue, namely the demands that picking canon out places on the reader. Should we use “saves” to make Canon consistent? Or should we admit that the canonical world is supposed to be inconsistent? My view is that the work itself will tell us. For instance, if an author has a core of similar-lookig characters that keep showing up, the reader will be naturally curious as to whether the stories are all about the same people, i.e. whether the author is building a canonical world. I think what would tell us this, as appreciators, is whether the implicit connections between the works hold up to scrutiny. For some stories, trying to build a timeline is a very rewarding endeavor that elucidates connections and leads to some novel appreciation of the works (an example of this would be the process that Kurt Busiek went through in writing “Marvels”). In others, it’s just frustrating, because it’s clear the author wasn’t thinking about any of the things you’re trying to appreciate. This seems to be a pretty good candidate for an interpretive/evaluative component to canon. I’m not quite sure what I should think about that.

    2) About the conventionality of canon: That I can’t really agree with, and here’s why. Suppose the third season of a TV show is really crappy, and no fan pays any attention to it. They write their own stories to fill in what happened, and think of the third season as an embarrassment. There could be wide-spread consensus that one just doesn’t think about the third season. I submit that, nevertheless, if a fan wanted to build an interpretation of events that occur in season 2 using events in season 3 as explanantes, he would be able to insist on doing so, overriding all of the fan embarrassment and taboo. Why? Because it happened; it’s canon, regardless of what people might like to think. Of course, you could say that there’s a convention that events derived from sanctioned works have overruling power in disputes of that sort, and so this is not a counterexample to conventionalism. But then I’d have to ask you what would count as a non-conventionalist criterion.

    3) Fanon and extensions: I think the extension idea works for one kind of fanon, namely what I call “Playful exploration,” where fans speculate on things left unsaid, without offering corrections. I do, however, identify two different types of Fanon where a straight-forward extension idea won’t do the trick: corrective exploration (where events are posited that, while unsaid, were clearly far from the canonical creator’s mind, like Uhura being a strong, independent woman and leading an away team) and corrective defiance (where events are posited such that not-p, where canon expressly says p). I call all of these Fanon because they are all sets of propositions derived from a fanonical base. But you could say we’re just dealing with some homonymy here, and so all of them deserve different treatments. I’d need some considerations that there is a deep distinction between the three, though.

    P.S. If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say “fanonical base,” the short of it is that it’s a subset of canonical propositions. A proposition is fanonical, then, if it is a member of a canonical base or generated from a canonical base using appropriate principles. A lot of work will go into saying what would constitute “appropriate.”

  15. Ian Flora says:

    Oops!

    Those last two “canonical”s in my comment should read “fanonical.” Damn you, jargon!

  16. Jon S. says:

    Ian,

    Thanks for responding to the call. I will now endeavor to show you that you actually agree with me in all important details.

    Re: 1) I think you already agree that we agree here. Happy dance.

    Re: 2) I think you’re just fastening on the wrong convention in thinking that the third season shouldn’t count as part of canon. Alternatively, you might think (although I don’t, really) that there are two properly canonical worlds, such that one of which (call it “w”) includes the third season, and the other of which (call it “Ian Proops forgot my name”) is a proper initial segment of w, which stops after the second season. Let’s name this tv show “Scotland Sucks.” Then we’ll consider w the canonical world of the official (or, say, marketed) version of “Scotland Sucks” and we’ll consider Ian Proops forgot my name the canonical world of the good version of “Scotland Sucks”. Did I really just suggest that one tv show should generate two worlds, both of which count as canonical? Yes, yes I did, mainly because all the fans (as you’ve stipulated) will consider Ian Proops forgot my name the canonical world for “Scotland Sucks,” which they consider to be a good show that ran for two seasons, and other people (like the show’s writers) will consider w the canonical world for “Scotland Sucks,” which they consider to be a good show that ran for 3 seasons but was abandoned but some uppity self-righteous “fans” after the second season. That means there are two separate conventions in play, both of which are part of the society in which both w and Ian Proops forgot my name are considered by certain disjoint groups of people to be canonical. I think the Ian Flora deep down inside of you will agree to that, so now I’ll tell you what a non-conventional criterion would be.

    Suppose that your favorite atheist writes a novel that has a canonical world with no God in it and stipulates that the canonical world of said novel is possible. Then suppose that the Pope comes along and says, “Wait a minute. The canonical world of this novel has to be possible. Therefore there has to be a God in it, because God is a necessary being and all that jazz.” Then we would say, “Listen, Mr. Pope, this canonical world does not have a God in it. The work clearly implies that it lacks anything nonphysical. I mean, the title is even ‘A novel that generates a possible canonical world that doesn’t have a God in it,’ and the author gave a lot of interviews to that effect, and all of the fans conceive of the work as such, etc., etc. And so, Mr. Pope, no convention compatible with the canonical world of the novel can require there to be a God in said world.” And then suppose the Pope says, “Well, if it’s a possible world, then it’s got to have God in it.” Let’s also stipulate that all of this happens in Sweden after there’s a large earthquake and it becomes separates from all other countries, and is filled only with atheists, so that the Pope has no power to impose conventions of his own. Then I think his attempt to claim that the canonical world of the novel must, by (necessary, as it were) convention, have God in it will seem to lack the force of conventions we should be worried about. I suspect that makes the point clear enough that you can dissent if you wish.

    Re: 3) I was just going to say, “OK, then let’s make them extensions of a large-enough subset of the propositions true in the canonical world,” which is just to say that they should be extensions of fanonical bases in your terminology. Also, who the hell is Uhura? Just checking.

    So, where are the disagreements still lurking?

    Best,
    j

  17. […] Argument and Reality Apologetics), I thought I would bring up an old post. Back in March, I made a post at Go Grue! summarizing and discussing some issues that came up in Ian Flora’s work on the relationship […]

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