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Is listening to a classic book on tape, unabridged, sufficient to be able to

Is listening to a classic book on tape, unabridged, sufficient to be able to claim to have read it?

Here's a somewhat differently slanted view -- in favour, perhaps, of being a bit "daft"! :-)

No matter how many times I read three-year old Daisy her favourite book, no matter how well she knows it by heart, she hasn't read it herself. She can't read.

No matter how many times the adult illiterate listens to a tape a complete reading of e.g. Bleak House, no matter how well he knows the book as a result, he hasn't actually read it. He can't read either. (The blind person who can read braille, of course, can read Bleak House.)

The audiences that heard bards sing The Iliad were fortunate indeed. But most never read it. They couldn't read. (And what about audiences before it was written down?) Similarly for the groundlings at early performances of Shakespeare.

There's a difference between having read a work and knowing it well. You can read something without, as a result, remembering a word (as on long haul flights!); and you can know it very well without ever reading it.

Sure, since we tend to assume that reading and a certain acquaintance with a book go together, we do loosely ask "have you read X?" when we mean "do you know X?", or some such. But still, loose talk is loose talk. And listening to a classic book on tape, unabridged, is not sufficient to be able to claim to have read it. An illiterate person would plainly not be telling the truth in saying that he had read Bleak House after listening to a tape, since he can't read.

Yes and no. On the one hand, yes, of course, because you have received the content and presumably gained all or most of the benefits that one gets by reading the book, such as the moral lessons, the aesthetic insights, the entertainment value, the psychological insights, etc. And remember that before printing presses, almost all knowledge and stories were transmitted orally. The only reason you could not claim to have read it is that you did not read it. And there are some differences between getting information by reading it and by hearing it and some advantages of each. In short, if someone is daft enough to complain that you didn't really read a book after you've spent hours listening to it, ask them if they'd make the same complaint to a blind person (or to someone who sat through Homer's telling of The Iliad or to someone who saw a Shakespeare play performed). And then ask them if they ever read the book...

Can we learn anything from fiction?

Can we learn anything from fiction?

Yes. Lots.

That's the easy answer. The hard answer isexplaining how we could possibly learn anything true from a series offalse statements. One answer is that good works of fiction use falsestatements to describe deep truths about human nature, emotions,relationships, morality, and the meaning of life. They do so by creating a world of characters and events that does not actually exist but that shares enough common features with our world that we can learn from them. Most importantly, the fictions may share the deep (and general) truths about human nature, etc. with our world, and they may do so because the writer has a deep understanding of these truths.

Fiction also explores the boundaries of the possible and teaches us to think about these possibilities. Philosophy often works in this way. By considering what is possible but not actual we learn something about our world and ourselves. Science fiction and philosophical thought experiments sometimes differ only in that the science fiction tends to be better developed and better written.

Yes. Lots. That's the easy answer. The hard answer isexplaining how we could possibly learn anything true from a series offalse statements. One answer is that good works of fiction use falsestatements to describe deep truths about human nature, emotions,relationships, morality, and the meaning of life. They do so by creating a world of characters and events that does not actually exist but that shares enough common features with our world that we can learn from them. Most importantly, the fictions may share the deep (and general) truths about human nature, etc. with our world, and they may do so because the writer has a deep understanding of these truths. Fiction also explores the boundaries of the possible and teaches us to think about these possibilities. Philosophy often works in this way. By considering what is possible but not actual we learn something about our world and ourselves. Science fiction and philosophical thought experiments sometimes differ only in that the science...