Steven Wandler, Boston University
Steven Wandler is a graduate student at Boston University. He is currently working on his dissertation, a study of the relationship between luck and narrative in twentieth-century American fiction.
Luck in Narrative, Luck as Narrative
This paper investigates the conference topic of "unseen influences" by exploring the relationship between luck, narrative, and narrative structures. While much has been argued and written about the influence and impact (and definition) of luck itself, little attention has been paid to precisely how our characterizations, definitions, and use of the concept of luck depend on the narrative context in which luck is represented. Thus, rather than focusing on the role of luck in particular narratives, my paper focuses on the role of narrative in particular instances of luck. The ultimate argument of my paper is that narrative structures (meaning not only the narratives of particular fictional or literary works, but also the more abstract narrative structures in and through which we represent our selves and our world) naturally work to reduce luck to the merely epistemic -- that is, to a notion of luck that is seen only in terms of how much or how little it "reveals" of what is in fact the case. I further argue that, by applying the ideas underlying the concept of "moral luck" as developed by Thomas Nagel and Bernard Williams, we can move beyond the limitations of this epistemic luck to a deeper understanding of how luck actually functions: ontologically.