Speaker: Erik Hoel, Columbia University

Abstract: What is the place of the novel in the age of the iPad? Do writers currently suffer from “HBO anxiety”? I’ve tried to bring in the scientific issues around consciousness in a way that illuminates this question, and maybe help answer an age-old one: what is fiction for? The essay my talk is based on was itself a homage/extension of David Foster Wallace’s 1993 essay on the relationship between television and fiction, “E Unibus Pluram.” There he explored how fiction is a cure for loneliness. But how exactly does fiction cure loneliness? My answer is that it solves what philosophers have historically called “the problem of other minds.” In a world where mind has a vanishing hold as an explanatory domain, novels are therefore irreplaceable as a medium.


  • Ayako Fukui, Araya BI Tokyo
  • David Fergusson, New College in the University of Edinburgh
  • Ed Turner, Princeton University
  • Erik Hoel, Columbia University
  • Linda Cooper, Institute for Advanced Study
  • Michael Rassias, ETH Zurich
  • Michael Solomon, RWJ Barnabas University Hospital & Medical Society of New Jersey
  • Olaf Witkowski, Earth-Life Science Institute
  • Piet Hut, Institute for Advanced Study
  • Will Storrar, Center of Theological Inquiry

Thursday, September 29, 12:30 p.m.
Institute for Advanced Study, 1 Einstein Drive, West Building Seminar Room, 2nd floor
Host by the Program in Interdisciplinary Studies