2013年6月23日 星期日

Does Great Literature Make Us Better?

這篇文章的含意很深遠。包括我們透過所謂的個案研究分析來學道德等等方式 都是可質疑的. 

Does Great Literature Make Us Better?By GREGORY CURRIE June 24, 2013
閱讀文學會提高我們的道德水平嗎?高利·居里 2013年06月24日
You agree with me, I expect, that exposure to challenging works of literary fiction is good for us. That's one reason we deplore the dumbing-down of the school cu​​rriculum and the rise of the Internet and its hyperlink culture. Perhaps we don't all read very much that we would count as great literature, but we're apt to feel guilty about not doing so, seeing it as one of the ways we fall short of excellence. Wouldn't reading about Anna Karenina, the good folk of Middlemarch and Marcel and his friends expand our imaginations and refine our moral and social sensibilities?
If someone now asks you for evidence for this view, I expect you will have one or both of the following reactions. First, why would anyone need evidence for something so obviously right? Second, what kind of evidence would he want? Answering the first question is easy: if there's no evidence – even indirect evidence – for the civilizing value of literary fiction, we ought not to assume that it does civilize. Perhaps you think there are questions we can sensibly settle in ways other than by appeal to evidence: by faith, for instance. But even if there are such questions, surely no one thinks this is one of them.
What sort of evidence could we present? Well, we can point to specific examples of our fellows who have become more caring, wiser people through encounters with literature. Indeed, we are such people ourselves, aren't we?
I hope no one is going to push this line very hard. Everything we know about our understanding of ourselves suggests that we are not very good at knowing how we got to be the kind of people we are. In fact we don't really know , very often, what sorts of people we are. We regularly attribute our own failures to circumstance and the failures of others to bad character. But we can't all be exceptions to the rule (supposing it is a rule) that people do bad things because they are bad people.
We are poor at knowing why we make the choices we do, and we fail to recognize the tiny changes in circumstances that can shift us from one choice to another. When it comes to other people, can you be confident that your intelligent, socially attuned and generous friend who reads Prou​​st got that way partly because of the reading? Might it not be the other way around: that bright, socially competent and empathic people are more likely than others to find pleasure in the complex representations of human interaction we find in literature?
There's an argument we often hear on the other side, illustrated earlier this year by a piece on The New Yorker's Web site. Reminding us of all those cultured Nazis, Teju Cole notes the willingness of a president who reads novels and poetry to sign weekly drone strike permissions. What, he asks, became of “literature's vaunted power to inspire empathy?” I find this a hard argument to like, and not merely because I am not yet persuaded by the moral case against drones. No one should be claiming that exposure to literature protects one against moral temptation absolutely, or that it can reform the truly evil among us. We measure the effectiveness of drugs and other medical interventions by thin margins of success that would not be visible without sophisticated statistical techniques; why assume literature's effectiveness should be any different?
我們經常聽到一種來自另一邊的說法,今年《紐約客》網站上一篇文章就闡述了這個問題。作者特胡·寇爾(Teju Cole)指出:有個總統,雖然讀小說、讀詩,但仍願意簽署每周無人飛機空中打擊同意書,這令我們想起了​​那些有文化的納粹。作者發問:“文學曾引以為豪的能激發讀者共鳴和同情的力量”如今變成什麼樣了?我並不太喜歡這個主張,不僅僅是因為我還並未被針對“無人飛機”的這個道德案例說服。任何人都不應該聲稱,文學閱讀經歷足以完全保護個人免受道德誘惑影響,或足能改善我們之中真正邪惡的人。我們衡量藥品和其他醫療干預的效力,總是通過衡量其成功性的細微邊際差異實現,這無法脫離精密的統計技術;那麼為什麼要想當然地假定文學的效力就與之全然不同呢?
We need to go beyond the appeal to common experience and into the territory of psychological research, which is sophisticated enough these days to make a start in testing our proposition.
Psychologists have started to do some work in this area, and we have learned a few things so far. We know that if you get people to read a short, lowering story about a child murder they will afterward report feeling worse about the world than they otherwise would. Such changes, which are likely to be very short-term, show that fictions press our buttons; they don't show that they refine us emotionally or in any other way.
We have learned that people are apt to pick up (purportedly) factual information stated or implied as part of a fictional story's background. Oddly, people are more prone to do that when the story is set away from home: in a study conducted by Deborah Prentice and colleagues and published in 1997, Princeton undergraduates retained more from a story when it was set at Yale than when it was set on their own campus (don't worry Princetonians, Yalies are just as bad when you do the test the other way around). Television, with its serial programming, is good for certain kinds of learning; according to a study from 2001 undertaken for the Kaiser Foundation, people who regularly watched the show “ER” picked up a good bit of medical information on which they sometimes acted. What we don't have is compelling evidence that suggests that people are morally or socially better for reading Tolstoy.
我們還了解到,人們很容易接受虛構故事中作為背景信息陳述或暗示的(據稱)事實。奇怪的是,如果故事背景設定遠離讀者家鄉,那麼讀者更容易受影響。德波拉·普林提斯(Deborah Prentice)與她的同事曾於1997年發表了一項研究。研究顯示,普林斯頓大學的本科生讀同一個故事,當故事背景設置在普林斯頓本校時,他們讀後的反應比背景設在耶魯大學時弱。 (普林斯頓人也不必擔心,因為耶魯人在面對相對應的同等測試時,結果一樣。)另外,電視上連續播放的節目,也有益於某些特定學習過程。據2001年凱撒基金會(Kaiser Foundation)進行的一項研究顯示,經常觀看連續劇《急診室的故事》(ER)的人,從節目中獲取了不少醫學信息,而且時常學以致用。但我們目前還沒有令人信服的證據表明,閱讀托爾斯泰的人在道德層面或社會層面優人一等。
Not nearly enough research has been conducted; nor, I think, is the relevant psychological evidence just around the corner. Most of the studies undertaken so far don't draw on serious literature but on short snatches of fiction devised especially for experimental purposes. Very few of them address questions about the effects of literature on moral and social development, far too few for us to conclude that literature either does or doesn't have positive moral effects.
There is a puzzling mismatch between the strength of opinion on this topic and the state of the evidence. In fact I suspect it is worse than that; advocates of the view that literature educates and civilizes don't overrate the evidence — they don't even think that evidence comes into it. While the value of literature ought not to be a matter of faith, it looks as if, for many of us, that is exactly what it is.
Now, philosophers are careful folk, trained in the ways of argument and, you would hope, above these failings. It's odd, then, that some of them write so confidently and passionately about the kinds of learning we get from literature, and about the features of literature that make it a particularly apt teacher of moral psychology. In her influential book “Love's Knowledge,” Martha Nussbaum argues that the narrative form gives literary fiction a peculiar power to generate moral insight; in the hands of a literary master like Henry James, fiction is able to give us scenarios that make vivid the details of a moral issue, while allowing us to think them through without the distortions wrought by personal interest.
如今,哲學家個個小心謹慎,接受過論證的訓練,你可能期望他們總能避免這樣的疏忽或失誤。但奇怪的是,他們中有些人,寫到我們從文學中能學到的各種東西時,或寫到文學具有種種特質,尤其適合充當道德心理學教師角色時,總是充滿了信心和熱情瑪莎·努斯鮑姆(Martha Nussbaum)在她的暢銷書《愛的知識》(Love's Knowledge)中辯稱:敘事形式使得文學小說具有生成道德洞察力的獨特能力;在如亨利·詹姆斯(Henry James)這樣的文學大師手中,小說能夠給我們提供各種場景,生動描繪某個道德議題的細節,讓我們得以在不受個人興趣曲解的影響下,透徹思索這些問題。
I'm not inclined to write off such speculations; it is always good to have in mind a stock of ideas about ways literature might enhance our thought and action. But it would be refreshing to have some acknowledgment that suggestions about how literature might aid our learning don't show us that it does in fact aid it. (Suppose a schools inspector reported on the efficacy of our education system by listing ways that teachers might be helping students to learn; the inspector would be out of a job pretty soon. )
我並不想要徹底摒棄這樣的思辨;心裡有這麼一些想法,認為文學足以提高我們的思想和行動,畢竟總是件好事。但是,文學可能於我們的學習有益,而這樣的心理暗示並不能向我們證明,它的確就於我們的學習有益——適當接受並且承認這個觀點,亦可令我們神清氣爽。 (假設某個學校的督學,就我們的教育系統功效做報告,僅僅列出了老師可能幫助學生學習的方法,那麼這個督學可能很快就會丟飯碗了。)
I'm confident we can look forward to better evidence. I'm less optimistic about what the evidence will show. Here, quickly, is a rea​​son we already have for thinking the idea of​​ moral and social learning from literature may be misguided.
One reason people like Martha Nussbaum have argued for the benefits of literature is that literature, or fictional narrative of real quality, deals in complexity. Literature turns us away from the simple moral rules that so often prove unhelpful when we are confronted with messy real- life decision making, and gets us ready for the stormy voyage through the social world that sensitive, discriminating moral agents are supposed to undertake. Literature helps us, in other words, to be, or to come closer to being, moral “experts.”
The problem with this argument is that there's long been evidence that much of what we take for expertise in complex and unpredictable domains – of which morality is surely one – is bogus. Beginning 50 years ago with work by the psychologist Paul Meehl, study after study has shown that following simple rules – rules that take account of many fewer factors than an expert would bother to consider – does at least as well and generally better than relying on an expert's judgment. (Not that rules do particularly well either; but they do better than expert judgment.)
這種說法的問題就在於,長期以來均有證據表明,在復雜和未知領域內——道德必然就是這樣的一個領域——我們所以為的專家意見,大部分都是冒牌貨。從五十年前心理學家保羅·米爾(Paul Meehl)的成果開始算起,一個又一個研究都證明:遵循簡單規律——即相較於專家考量而言考慮因素少得多的規律——結果至少都和依靠專家判斷一樣好,或通常情況下更好。 (這並不是說遵循規律就特別好,而是說遵循規律結果確實優於專家判斷。)
Some of the evidence for this view is convincingly presented in Daniel Kahneman's recent book “Thinking Fast and Slow”: spectacular failures of expertise include predictions of the future value of wine, the performance of baseball players, the health of newborn babies and a couple's prospects for marital stability.
有關這一觀點,丹尼爾·卡尼曼(Daniel Kahneman)在其新近著述《思考:快與慢》(Thinking Fast and Slow)中展示了一些令人信服的證據:就葡萄酒的未來價值、棒球運動員的表現、新生嬰兒的健康情況,以及一對夫婦對婚姻穩定度的前景期望等問題,專家做出的預測大​​錯特錯,令人嘆為觀止。
But why, I hear you say, do you complain about people's neglect of evidence when you yourself have no direct evidence that moral expertise fails? After all, no one has done tests in this area.
Well, yes, I grant that in the end the evidence could go in favor of the idea that literature can make moral experts of us. I also grant that moral thinking is probably not a single domain, but something that goes on in bewilderingly different ways in different circumstances. Perhaps we can find kinds of moral reasoning where experts trained partly by exposure to the fictional literature of complex moral choice do better than those who rely on simple moral rules of thumb.
I haven't, then, in any way refuted the claim that moral expertise is a quality we should aspire to. But I do think we have identified a challenge that needs to be met by anyone who seriously wants to press the case for moral expertise .
Everything depends in the end on whether we can find direct, causal evidence: we need to show that exposure to literature itself makes some sort of positive difference to the people we end up being. That will take a lot of careful and insightful psychological research ( try designing an experiment to test the effects of reading “War and Peace,” for example). Meanwhile, most of us will probably soldier on with a positive view of the improving effects of literature, supported by nothing more than an airy bed of sentiment .
最終一切都取決於我們能否找到直接因果證據:我們需要展示的是,就我們最終成為什麼樣的人而言,文學經曆本身是否對其產生了某種積極的改變。這需要耗費大量細心以及深刻的心理學研究。 (比如嘗試設計一個實驗,驗證讀《戰爭與和平》的影響。)與此同時,就文學改善讀者的效果而言,我們大多數人可能會繼續堅守積極的觀點,雖然毫無任何依據可言——支持我們的無非是多愁善感的鄉愿。
I have never been persuaded by arguments purporting to show that literature is an arbitrary category that functions merely as a badge of membership in an elite. There is such a thing as aesthetic merit, or more likely, aesthetic merits, complicated as they may be to articulate or impute to any given work.
But it's hard to avoid the thought that there is something in the anti-elitist's worry. Many who enjoy the hard-won pleasures of literature are not content to reap aesthetic rewards from their reading; they want to insist that the effort makes them more morally enlightened as well. And that's just what we don't know yet.
Gregory Currie is a professor ​​of philosophy at the University of Nottingham.