That sneaky intentional fallacy fallacy

From: James Cole (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Mar 27 2009 - 15:14:09 PDT

A distinction has to be made between using contextual evidence and
committing the intentional fallacy. The intentional fallacy* doesn't mean
that the artist can't shed some insight on the work. Obviously, if a person
writing about it in an academic journal can offer an interpretation, so can
the maker. It would be absurd to say that everyone but the maker is welcome
to an interpretation of a work. The intentional fallacy arises when the
maker isn't offering an interpretation, but is claiming that there is
content in the work that the work does not really contain.

If Barbara Rubin says "Chirstmas on Earth is about the life of Abraham
Lincoln" and I said "Christmas on Earth is about the life of Abraham Lincoln
because Barbara Rubin says it is," I'd be committing the intentional
fallacy. There's nothing about Abe Lincoln in the film. But we're not
really talking about content, we're talking about the title and which title
is truer to the artist's intention. And, if we're talking about what the
artist intended, then it seems pretty silly to bring the intentional fallacy
into the mix.

Furthermore, we're not talking about something where any of us has immediate
access to the work. Since it's near impossible to see and not very much has
been written on it, we've sort of got to take whatever evidence we can
find. I think the evidence that Christmas on Earth was, in part, intended
to shock and upset audiences is pretty clear. Certainly, there are very few
places where you could show it where it wouldn't be somewhat shocking, and
there would have been far less in the early 60's.


*which is not really a logical fallacy, but a term coined by some critics in
the middle part of last century. I've heard people suggest that the logic
behind the logical fallacy is itself pretty fallacious (begging the
question), in that it already assumes that a work's meaning is entirely
contained within the work itself. A lot of pages have been written about
this on both sides by people more trained in the rigors of logic than me, so
I'm just throwing this out there.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.