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Pre-College Program Category: Humanities/Language/Writing

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  • The fundamental questions we’ll be asking are about truth and meaning in fiction, questions that turn out to be central to human culture. What is truth? Most philosophers would agree on this minimal criterion: if a sentence is true, there’s something that makes it true. But what makes something true in fiction? Not some fact about the world, but some fact about our socially-derived right to come to more or less definite conclusions about what happens in fictional worlds, conclusions which seem to require a strong focus on what meanings we want to commit ourselves to. Our mutually agreed upon sense of rights such as this has an origin in human evolution—in what’s come to be called “the evolution of cooperation”—and so in our evolved psychology as organisms who cooperate in unprecedented ways. People have evolved to give each other such rights—rights to mutual interpretation—and therefore to give each other a right to demand social justice, and to define what that demand means. So literature speaks to a lot of surprisingly fundamental issues in raising the questions: What is meaning in fiction? and: How are truth and meaning related to each other there?We won’t so much be trying to answer these questions once and for all as trying to make them exciting and real. The questions matter more than their answers, but possible answers are always interesting in the ways they add nuance to our understanding of the questions they address. In pursuing these questions, we will explore a variety of texts and interdisciplinary approaches, including plays, novels, and poems, as well as important philosophical essays and studies from behavioral economics and game theory.

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  • Eligibility:

    rising seniors