Emily Caddick Bourne

Cambridge University


“Causes and Quasi-Miracles in Narrative Understanding”
Wednesday, 27 January 2016
16:00 Senate House Room 243


Narratives provide understanding of the events they represent, organising them, as David Velleman puts it, into an intelligible whole. What kind of understanding is this, and how do narratives furnish it? We take as a starting point some cases which have proved problematic for accounts which attempt to capture narrative understanding in terms of causal explanation, including, for example, cases of ‘poetic justice’ where fictional characters get their due apparently by happy accident. This leads us to propose a new account of narrative understanding, based on a development of David Lewis’s notion of a ‘quasi-miracle’. We use this to make suggestions about what makes for a remarkable coincidence, the place of normativity in narrative, and how incongruity can contribute to narrative understanding.