Intentional fallacy (was Re: Contact off-list/on-list)

Subject: Intentional fallacy (was Re: Contact off-list/on-list)
From: "Dick Margulis " <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 29 Jun 2002 10:36:18 -0400


Rhetoric is a subject near and dear to the hearts of techwrlers, and Emily's post--the second in a row in which her reading of my words differs substantively from what I thought I wrote--led me to type "intentional fallacy"--a term recalled from that ancient realm called English 119--into Google.

Here's what I found (at http://www.english.upenn.edu/~jlynch/Terms/Temp/intentional.html):

"Intentional Fallacy

"The _intentional fallacy_ is a term used by two important New Critics, Wimsatt and Beardsley, to describe what they considered the error of assuming a text means what its author intended it to mean.

"For Wimsatt and Beardsley, meaning was to be determined solely from close reading of a text: since we have no way of knowing what an author (at least a dead one [Note: I checked this morning's obits; I may be old by techwr-l standards; but I am not yet dead.]) meant to say, we can only assume that the meaning of a text must be derived from reading it closely. They suggested that even when we have statements about the author's intention (such as diary entries, critical essays, or new works from living authors), the text means only what it says. Even if Keats were to rise up out of his grave and tell us 'That's not what I meant,' the New Critic
would be able to respond, 'But that's what you said, so that's what it means.'

"Wimsatt and Beardsley were also responsible for formulating the affective fallacy.

"From the Guide to Literary Terms by Jack Lynch."

[Note the correct substitution of single quotes for double quotes in the internal quotations and the correct use of double quotes for a multi-paragraph quoted passage, according to US punctuation rules ;-)]

So then I followed the link to affective fallacy, a term I had never run across before:

"Affective Fallacy

"The _affective fallacy_ is a term used by two important New Critics, Wimsatt and Beardsley, to describe what they considered the error of assuming a text's meaning can be described in terms of its effect on the reader.

"For Wimsatt and Beardsley, meaning was to be determined solely from close reading of a text. Any one reader's private reactions to a text are likely to be biased and uncritical: a reader with certain personal associations will make connections that have nothing to do with the poem.

"Wimsatt and Beardsley were also responsible for formulating the intentional fallacy.

"From the Guide to Literary Terms by Jack Lynch."

I pass these on without further comment, except to say that I think they are as relevant to the writing and editing of technical prose as they are to the analysis of literary prose or poetry. I think they are also interesting in terms of the way we interpret and respond to some of the more polemical posts on this list.

Dick

Emily Berk <emily -at- armadillosoft -dot- com> wrote:
[snip]
>
>As someone who responded with considerable fervor to one of your recent posts, I wanted to let you know that I never even contemplated hating you. I don't know anything about you except that you posted something on techwr-l.
>

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