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Fiction and Flatland’s Theory of Imaginary Worlds

In this piece, Nozick proposes the idea of multiple fictional universes within one another. This means that the author who created one fictional universe is actually a character in another fictional universe whose author is also a character, and so on. This concept is similar to the main themes in Abbott’s “Flatland”, seeing as both explore the possibility of multiple levels of reality. In both “Fiction” and “Flatland”, the individuals living on a specific level of reality (whether it’s the square’s two dimensional world or the characters in a certain story) believe that world to be their reality.

However, in both pieces, it turns out that that specific level of reality is not the ultimate reality. Both of these works are trying to convey the idea that the only way we are able to perceive reality is through our subjective perspective and this subjectivity consequently limits our view of the entire reality. The square and the characters in the fictional story are all unable to see higher dimensions due to their subjective point of view. We are locked into our specific dimensions or fictional worlds and are unaware of how many higher realities there are.

Additionally, Nozick’s idea of the author being outside of the characters’ realm is similar to how the three dimensional sphere came from outside of the narrator’s dimension. This indicates a higher being, the possibility of someone omnipotent looking down upon us. This higher being represents objective reality. It is more extensive and “higher” than subjective reality because it is not limited by individual point of view.

Nozick’s fictional universe scenario brings to mind Descartes’ dream argument. These two can be compared and contrasted in terms of their relationship to reality. Dreaming and being in a fictional world are similar because we in both instances we are not aware that what we are currently experiencing is not real. However, dreaming and living in a fictional world are different because a dream implies that the dreamer can wake up to an underlying reality. In order for there to be a dream, there must exist a waking world where things are real. In a fictional story though, the characters are stuck in that fictional world. Unlike the dreamer, it is impossible for them to wake up and see reality because everything they do is determined by the author. Even if they are able to have realizations about the nature of their circumstances, those realizations are also fictional because they are merely aspects of the story which are determined by the author. As Nozick puts it, “could not any proof be written into a work of fiction and be presented by one of the characters?”

Lastly, Nozick’s suggestion that all of the characters’ thoughts and actions are a product of the writer’s intent parallels Berkeley’s belief that humans act only because God wills it. In this case, Nozick’s author and berkeley’s God are synonymous. In both cases, this is meant to convey the idea of a universe that is governed by a single creator. Consequently, the universe is a result of that single creator’s intentions, as explained by Nozick’s quote:“If this is a work in which the author expresses himself, we can draw inferences about his facets, while noting that each such inference we draw will be written by him.”

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