The Reality of Fiction

(This was my final paper for Philosophy. Do not fret, it is anything but dry; I thought many of you would enjoy it.)

“I don’t believe anything, but I have many suspicions.” - Robert Anton Wilson

My name is Samantha Dickinson (you can call me Sam).  You might find this surprising, considering that the name above this paper is “Kenneth Rountree,” but this is most certainly a falsehood, although it is also a truth.  I am a writer. Ken, as he prefers to be called, is one of my characters (Did I not cleverly name him?  Ken means “born of fire,” and his middle name [Arthur] means “noble.”  Don’t they explain his spark and arrogance quite well?).  It is particularly sad, though, because this character is deluded enough to think not only that he is real, but that I am the fictional character.  This is exactly why I am writing through him today.  Although nobody can prove that Ken is or is not a fictional character, I can certainly raise doubts.
First of all, certain events in Ken’s life are not realistic because the plot elements are so ridiculous.  Two years ago Ken locked his keys in the car at a McDonald’s restaurant (a play on MacDougal’s so I wouldn’t get sued).  After the police unlocked his door and got his keys out, he headed to his second class of that day.  He took a shorter, more unfamiliar route to Orange County Community College that day.  There just happened to be enough foliage blocking a stop sign (there are pictures in his world to prove it) and so he ended up crashing into a car with his van.  Two weeks later he gets the most insane idea that he is going to join the Navy because he has no discipline in his life, and that he clearly needs to be punished or something stupid like that.  They’d love to have him, as he scored nearly perfect score on the ASVAB. However the day he goes to sign up, he cannot because he has an outstanding ticket (the running of the stop sign) that is to be resolved the next day.  After he goes to the court date, he realizes that he doesn’t really want to join the Navy after all.  A series of seemingly unrelated events turns into something so bizarrely convoluted, that how could it not be fiction?
The world in which Ken lives is subject to dismissal as a cruel fiction, a lie that I told because of my pure cynicism.  Your United States is run by someone who won a dubious election, immediately had an attack on a famous public building, blamed an ethnic minority for the tragedy (and, indeed, all your tragedies) before there was any evidence whatsoever, and suspended civil liberties “temporarily” with the “Patriot” Act.  After this, he starts attacking people left and right preemptively for dubious reasons.  Does this not sound exactly like a certain Chancellor who rose to power and started World War Two?  I mean, sure, that could happen I suppose.  But would the American people be stupid enough to elect them a second time?  That was a little joke on my part, the author of your farcical world.
Then there’s the question of the characters that Mr. Rountree surrounds with himself with, all also of my creation.  The people in his life are too bizarre not to be in some sort of twisted comedy.  Take the instance of Professor Givant (as it would be customary to give examples that one would be familiar with).  He has heard from other people who took his Philosophy class that he told a dead baby joke on the first day of class.  Because Ken is deluded by the fact that he enjoys dead baby jokes, he does not realize until this very moment that if a professor were to tell a dead baby joke, they would most certainly risk being fired because some pinhead who thought it wasn‘t funny decided to have a fit.  Some people have no sense of humor (What has four legs and one arm?  A Doberman in a playground!).  His personality is more telling, however.  A college professor that not only questions his student’s thoughts, but his own thoughts instead of didactically drilling opinions into the minds of his students?  Someone who doesn’t care if you’re a Catholic, a Satanist, or part of the Church of Subgenius as long as you are a thinking one?  Someone who can consider St. Thomas Aquinas, Nietzsche, and the Buddha as valid philosophical thinkers each with their own good points?  He sounds too much like a warped mixture of Socrates, Dumbledore from the popular Harry Potter series in his world, and a philosophy professor that I once had.  Actually, maybe I should work on him a bit more.  I’m not sure that he comes off as realistic a character as Ken does.  No offense, but you can probably tell you‘re in a rough draft.
He has known other such characters that you would not be familiar with, so please bear with me, fictional professor of my fictional character.  There were two people that he once knew that seriously believed that they were reincarnated from a separate reality in which elves and faeries are at war with trolls and boggarts.  They no longer consider themselves human beings, but something “better than human,” for reasons that Ken cannot fathom.  There was another such person that believed all of reality was a strange game that was being played by outside forces for pleasure, and that most people in his reality were just stock characters designed to add conflict, realism, and flavor to a game that would otherwise be boring.  He knew another person that actually believed that Objectivism was actually objective.  My naïve character, Kenneth Rountree, actually said that all three of these realities could be true (although he was most doubtful of Rand being objective).  He is most fond of the game idea, however, since it would explain why a lot of people look and act the same.  I think that’s very cute.  If I could, I’d pat him on the head.
Since I am writing my character writing me into his philosophy paper, I guess it would only be fair to examine my own existence as well.  I am being written by Ken Rountree, who thought of me a long time ago for one of his silly little stories in high school.  But as soon as he started writing about me, I informed him that he was being absolutely ridiculous, as I was writing about him at the same time.  He is just as convinced of his reality as I am convinced of mine, and so it is really difficult to assess whether or not either of us is real.  To paraphrase Robert Nozick, I can make Ken say “I think, therefore I am” all I want (or, possibly, he can make me say the same).  Does that prove either of our existences?  That probably depends on how you look at it.  The only possibilities are that either one is more real than another (either myself or Ken), or that we are just as real as one another (that is, not real at all, or both real in separate dimensions, or realms, or whatever).  I think for myself, as Ken thinks for himself.  A good character is not merely an extension of the author, but an autonomous being.  As Galatea is real to Pygmalion, is not Ken real to me?  Am I not real to Ken, for that matter?  Ken is fond of the idea that good fiction is the result of an author successfully tapping into another dimension, where the characters exist (or perhaps they create characters to exist in separate dimensions).
Does it matter if any one of us is fictional?  To paraphrase Shylock, has not a character eyes?  Has not a character hands, organs, senses, dimensions, affections, passions?  Is Shylock’s plight of being Jewish in a country which hates Judaism any less real if he is fictional?  Did not the same thing happen in historical Italy?  Is Gandhi any less real if he is fictional, for that matter?  Did the Indian people not suffer at the hands of the British Empire, whether it was history or fiction?  Furthermore, if it does not matter if these people are fictional or not, should we even examine whether or not figures such as the Buddha, Socrates, and Jesus Christ exist (will I ever get tired of question marks)?  If any of those three people somehow found out one hundred percent that they were fictional characters, then they would continue on the same path.  They would not care that their world is fictional because they still have to live in it, and it was their job to be agents of change.  Furthermore, if they found out they were fictional, they would know for certain that their teachings were being recorded, and they would most likely be happy to know that whatever is “real” out there (or another fictional universe, perhaps) would be learning from them.  Just because someone is fictional, that does not make them any less real.
I propose that it doesn’t matter whatsoever if I’m fictional or not, because I will act the same exact way whether I am fictional or not.  I will make my own choices, I will have my own principals and ideas, and they will be separated from my alleged author.  I believe that this is a point that Ken and I agree on… unlike the merit of that ghastly classic punk and metal that he listens to.  Has he never heard of Igor Stravinsky?  Oh, I guess he likes him, too… he can’t have terrible taste.  I hope that I have placed enough doubt in your mind of your own existence, as well as this alleged “Ken” character that either I created or created me or none of the above.  Why?  Because I’ve placed enough doubt on my own existence that it makes me sick.  I think that I’m going to go crawl into a cave, philosophy makes me sick.  And I am not being silly, Ken!  You’re just saying that because you enjoy this nonsensical prattling!

“Reality is only an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” - Albert Einstein

Nice one, Sam.

I liked it.

I think that is a wonderful text that describes in a lot of pretty words how authors, or at least all that I know of, think about their characters.

The only thing that I don’t really like is that you have some comments in () that are a bit unnecessary and takes the attention away from what you’re saying.
Other than that it is, as I said, a wonderful text.

That was a good read, thanks for posting that. It was an interesting read… you certainly are a madman. hahah.

I like it. I’ve already decided it doesn’t matter if I’m real or not, since I’ll never know though. >.>

Everyone’s a madman for philosophy class. :ulty:

Yeah, same applies for the Fine Arts program. My drawing teacher last year kept calling the whole class madmen. Even the females.