Literary Works and the Metaphysics of Influence
When interpreting literary works, interpreters almost always rely on connections between the literary works and other aspects of our world – e.g., historical time periods, cultures, other artworks, artistic movements, and so on. But how can we explain both the nature and role of these connections? I argue that this can be fruitfully explained with reference to relations that exist between literary works and other aspects of human culture, which is a class of relations that I call ‘interpretation-relevant relations.’ I also argue that an important component of these relations is a mind-independent connection of influence between the relata. Finally, I argue that these interpretation-relevant relations (with the component of influence) can be taken to be real, mind-independent elements of the world, if we recognize that literary works are public artifacts and so are part of the fabric of human culture, which depends on human minds for its existence and persistence but not for its ontological nature. All of this can hold even if interpretations are the products of individual minds interacting intentionally with literary works.
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