Aesthetic Debunking and the Transcendental Argument of the Novel
Gilbert Plumer has recently argued in his (2017) that psychologically rich novels offer the reader an opportunity to draw a transcendental inference: what seems to us believable about the psychology of the characters, can be inferred to be actually true about real human psychology. We propose, first, to disambiguate a key term of art in Plumer’s argument, “believable”. Given that disambiguation, the empirically contingent nature of one of Plumer’s premises comes into view. We raise two main lines of empirically-motivated debunking arguments against that premise, drawing particularly upon the psychological literatures about processing fluency, and the illusion of explanatory depth. We then conclude with some further implications for naturalistic approaches to aesthetics, and the relevance of such debunking arguments.
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