:: Buzzwords

In theory

Interview with 3:AM‘s David Winters at HTMLGIANT:

Here I’d be keen to clarify the meaning of “theory.” If I claim that all novels contain a “theory of the novel,” I definitely don’t mean “theory” as in “literary theory.” What I’m talking about comes closer to what cognitive scientists call “theory of mind.” A theory of mind is just an innate ability to intuit what it’s like to have a mind. That’s all. Anyone who has a mind has a theory of mind. Except for some people on the autistic spectrum, so it’s thought. But the point is that a theory of mind is not the same as a philosophy of mind. It isn’t some intellectual endeavour. It’s a common characteristic of nearly everyone’s minds, embedded inside their implicature.

I’d hate to make novels into containers for some kind of philosophical core. A novel’s “theory” about itself, in my sense, is something entirely untheorized, unthematized. That’s why self-consciously “philosophical” novels so often miss the point. I find Thomas Mann fucking boring, for instance. To burden a book with portentous “thought” is just to prevent it from thinking

First posted: Thursday, August 9th, 2012.

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