By Jason Puskar
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Additional resources for Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity, and the Production of Chance
In Indian Summer (1886), a middle-aged lover falls from a cliff when a horse rears. The most brutal accidents occur during Howells’s political phase in the late 1880s. ”7 Just two years later, in The Shadow of a Dream (1890), Howells repeated Peck’s accident with a different minister, James Nevil. While saying good-bye to Basil March, Nevil steps down from the train just as it starts to move and is promptly crushed between the Pullman car and an archway. 8 Between the publication of Annie Kilburn and The Shadow of a Dream, and so bookended by the accidental railroad deaths of these two ministers, Howells published A Hazard of New Fortunes, his most sustained inquiry into the place of chance and accident in modern life.
When we ask what caused the man’s death, different social, political, and institutional frames of reference yield equally valid answers: “A medical man may say that the cause of his death was suffocation by water entering the lungs. ”37 Green’s skepticism undermined two traditional instruments of reason, necessity and causation, which in Green’s view were value-laden constructions masquerading as actual facts. But it was Dewey who finally turned this strain of skepticism against chance itself. 38 Causes and effects may seem to hang together naturally and necessarily, but for all we know things may work differently tomorrow, or in another part of the world, or for some other reason altogether.
Peirce even insisted that what seem to be scientific laws are merely habits of nature, equivalent to habitual ways of thinking but actually resident in the material world. Most other pragmatists tended to think of law and necessity as habits of thought, ossified into incontrovertible statements. In the case of legal pragmatists such as Nicholas St. 36 He used the case of a drowned man as an example. When we ask what caused the man’s death, different social, political, and institutional frames of reference yield equally valid answers: “A medical man may say that the cause of his death was suffocation by water entering the lungs.
Accident Society: Fiction, Collectivity, and the Production of Chance by Jason Puskar