Jim Hamilton

Professor of Philosophy, Kansas State University

Visit Jim Hamilton’s website here.


Did Hamlet really just kill Polonius?
Wednesday, 19 September 2012

One might think of this paper as exploring some of aspects of the machinery involved in an information processing story about spectating. The exploration is prompted by three facts. First, most spectators see any theatrical performance – even within the literary tradition of theater – but once. Second, most spectators do not know, with any precision whatever, what sorts of things will be presented to them in the course of a performance. This latter fact has a special bite when we consider performances of kinds or in styles with which a spectator is unfamiliar. Third, most spectators are able to describe what they have seen in pretty much the same way that most other spectators will describe it. (They will differ as to what it means; but that is a different matter). These facts together suggest that spectators might employ a kind of information processing in which, under conditions of uncertainty, they form expectations and refine them in light of new experiences which they have reason to take as evidence. While acknowledging the mis-directing force of certain kinds of heuristic “priors” (which Kahneman and Tversky first demonstrated), the account models spectating using standard Bayesian theory about belief-formation and belief-revision coupled to a specific means by which spectators’ priors get formed.