Pale Fire Solved

Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 211)


Such diverse philosophers as Davidson, Derrida and Goodman have given arguments supporting the claim that unrevisable interpretations of artworks are impossible. Although this view has been supported by appeal to radical his-toricism, Heidegger’s account of language and the deconstrunionists’ texts, it may be defended by quite respectable philosophical arguments. An ideal interpretation, Alexander Nehamas writes, “would account for all the text’s features”; to interpret is to place that text “in a context which accounts for as many of its features as possible.”1 All interpretations thus are partial for the ultimately trivial reason that, just as no map can represent all features of what it maps, so “no reading can ever account for all of a text’s features.” To interpret is “to understand an action” and this to “understand an agent and therefore other actions and agents as well…” Hence “each text is inexhaustible: its context is the world.” Just as there is no way that the world is independently of how it is described, so there is no way that an artwork is apart from how it is interpreted; different descriptions of the world or an artwork point out different features or describe differently given features of those entities.


Spatial Metaphor Detective Story Future Interpretation Ideal Interpretation Mountain Resort 
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    Thanks to Arthur Danto, Alexander Nehamas, Marianne Novy, Mark Roskill; for the last two words of my essay-Dana Scott; and to Richard Hennessy, whom this essay is for.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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