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Summary Harry Potter is a wizard. But there aren't any wizards. Of course, Harry Potter is a fictional wizard. How are we to account for such fictional truths? Two apparent constraints are that fictions can be impossible, so that it can be fictionally true that something impossible happened, and they can be incomplete, so that neither P nor not-P are true according to the fiction. Some fictional truths seem to be told to us by the narrator, but others are left implicit. How are the implicit truths generated? And do we want to count everything told to us by a narrator as true in the fiction; can't there be unreliable narrators? Finally, is it correct to speak of truth here at all? This depends on substantive assumptions in the philosophy of language.
Key works Lewis 1978 defends a possible worlds semantics of truth in fiction. It is not clear whether Lewis's account provides and adequate treatment of impossible fictions (see Priest 1997 ). Moreover, his account seems to overgenerate fictional truths. In response to these and other problems, Currie 1990 develops an account in terms of a fictional narrator. It is not straightfoward to apply Currie's account to non-literary fictions. Further, Currie provides no explicit account of how the fictional truths are generated. Walton 1990 thinks that we can provide rules of thumb, but is sceptical that we can provide a systematic account of truth in fiction.
Introductions Woodward 2011 provides a short overview. Sainsbury 2009 is a book-length introduction to a variety of issues in the philosophy of fiction.
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  1. Catharine Abell (2012). Comics and Genre. In Aaron Meskin & Roy T. Cook (eds.), The Art of Comics: A Philosophical Approach. Blackwell. 68--84.
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  2. Derek Allan (2001). Literature and Reality. Journal of European Studies 31 (122):143-156.
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  3. Peter Alward, Truth in Fiction.
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  4. Peter Alward (2009). That's the Fictional Truth, Ruth. Acta Analytica 25 (3):347-363.
    Fictional truth is commonly analyzed in terms of the speech acts or propositional attitudes of a teller. In this paper, I investigate Lewis’s counterfactual analysis in terms of felicitous narrator assertion, Currie’s analysis in terms of fictional author belief, and Byrne’s analysis in terms of ideal author invitations to make-believe—and find them all lacking. I propose instead an analysis in terms of the revelations of an infelicitous narrator.
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  5. Jody Azzouni (2010). Talking About Nothing: Numbers, Hallucinations, and Fictions. Oxford University Press.
    Numbers -- Hallucinations -- Fictions -- Scientific languages, ontology, and truth -- Truth conditions and semantics.
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  6. Christopher Bartel (2012). The Puzzle of Historical Criticism. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 70 (2):213-222.
    Works of fiction are often criticized for their historical inaccuracies. But this practice poses a problem: why would we criticize a work of fiction for its historical inaccuracy given that it is a work of fiction? There is an intuition that historical inaccuracies in works of fiction diminish their value as works of fiction; and yet, given that they are works of fiction, there is also an intuition that such works should be free from the constraints of historical truth. The (...)
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  7. Andrea Bonomi & Sandro Zucchi (2003). A Pragmatic Framework for Truth in Fiction. Dialectica 57 (2):103–120.
    In this paper we propose a semantic analysis of sentences of the form "In fiction x, p" based on this picture of context. We argue that the derived contexts for sentences in the scope of "In fiction X" are determined by three factors: what the beliefs of the author are taken to be, the conventions established for the fiction, and a defeasible presumption of reliability of the narrator. We develop a formal implementation based on the notion of a system of (...)
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  8. Tim Button (2012). Spotty Scope and Our Relation to Fictions. Noûs 46 (2):1--16.
    Whatever the attractions of Tolkein's world, irrealists about fictions do not believe literally that Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit. Instead, irrealists believe that, according to The Lord of the Rings {Bilbo is a hobbit}. But when irrealists want to say something like “I am taller than Bilbo”, there is nowhere good for them to insert the operator “according to The Lord of the Rings”. This is an instance of the operator problem. In this paper, I outline and criticise Sainsbury's (2006) (...)
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  9. Alex Byrne (1993). Truth in Fiction: The Story Continued. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71 (1):24 – 35.
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  10. Ben Caplan (2014). Serial Fiction, Continued. British Journal of Aesthetics 54 (1):65-76.
    In ‘Truth, Relativism, and Serial Fiction’, Andrew McGonigal presents new data that a theory of truth in fiction should account for, and argues that the data is best accounted for by his relativist view. I argue against McGonigal’s relativist view and in favour of a more metaphysical view. The key feature of this view is that it is one on which the content of a work of fiction can change over time. Along the way I also argue against Ross Cameron’s (...)
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  11. Eros Corazza & Jérôme Dokic (1993). Fiction, Counterfactuals and Truth. Grazer Philosophische Studien 45:117-123.
    An account of the evaluation of fictional discourse in terms of counterfactuals is sketched which accommodates the insights of D. Lewis and G. Evans but is not committed to the existence of possibilia on the one hand and to taking counterfactuals as barely true on the other hand. By adopting a two-step theory of evaluation which does not evaluate expressions (sentences) across possible worlds modal realism is avoided. And the use of a modified incorporation principle saying that every singular reference (...)
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  12. Eros Corazza & Mark Whitsey (2003). Indexicals, Fictions, and Ficta. Dialectica 57 (2):121–136.
    We defend the view that an indexical uttered by an actor works on the model of deferred reference. If it defers to a character which does not exist, it is an empty term, just as ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Ophelia’ are. The utterance in which it appears does not express a proposition and thus lacks a truth value. We advocate an ontologically parsimonious, anti-realist, position. We show how the notion of truth in our use and understanding of indexicals (and fictional names) as (...)
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  13. Gregory Currie (1990). The Nature of Fiction. Cambridge University Press.
    This important new book provides a theory about the nature of fiction, and about the relation between the author, the reader, and the fictional text.
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  14. Gregory Currie (1986). Fictional Truth. Philosophical Studies 50 (2):195 - 212.
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  15. David Davies (1996). Fictional Truth and Fictional Authors. British Journal of Aesthetics 36 (1):43-55.
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  16. Richard Gaskin (1993). The Truth in Fiction. British Journal of Aesthetics 33 (2):177-179.
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  17. Dimitria Electra Gatzia & Eric Sotnak (forthcoming). Fictional Truth and Make-Believe. Philosophia:1-13.
    The statement “Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth” seems true in Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice (even though it may not actually appear in the text) while the statement “Mr. Darcy is a detective” seems false. One explanation for this intuition is that when we read or talk about fictional stories, we implicitly employ the fictional operator “It is fictional that” or “It is part of the story that.” “It is fictional that Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth” expresses a true proposition (...)
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  18. Stavroula Glezakos (forthcoming). Truth and Reference in Fiction. In Gillian Russell & Delia Graff Fara (eds.), Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Language. Routledge.
    Fiction is often characterized by way of a contrast with truth, as, for example, in the familiar couplet “Truth is always strange/ Stranger than fiction" (Byron 1824). And yet, those who would maintain that “we will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology” (Chomsky 1988: 159) hold that some truth is best encountered via fiction. The scrupulous novelist points out that her work depicts no actual person, either living or dead; nonetheless, we (...)
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  19. Richard Hanley (2004). As Good as It Gets: Lewis on Truth in Fiction. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (1):112 – 128.
    David Lewis's approach to analysing truth in fiction, significantly amended by 'Postscripts' in 1983, has been widely criticized on three main grounds, and it seems fair to say that nearly every writer on the subject thinks that one of these grounds is sufficient to show that Lewis is mistaken. I argue that with some minor revision, Lewis's approach survives all extant objections. Indeed, I judge the Lewis approach to be even more successful than Lewis himself seems to think.
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  20. Jonathan Ichikawa & Benjamin Jarvis, A New Objection to Lewis on Truth in Fiction.
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  21. Andrew Kania (2007). Worlds Are Colliding! Explaining the Fictional in Terms of the Real. Philosophical Studies 135 (1):65 - 71.
    I discuss Gregory Currie’s taxonomy of explanations of the fictional. On the one hand, there is an important kind of relation between internal and external explanations of some fictional truths that Currie leaves out, where both are salient and yet in a relation of harmony with each other. On the other hand, I do not see that he has established that there is a genuine relation of tension between some pairs of internal and external explanations, and thus I question the (...)
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  22. Ben Levinstein (2007). Facts, Interpretation, and Truth in Fiction. British Journal of Aesthetics 47 (1):64-75.
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  23. David Lewis (1983). Postscript to Truth in Fiction. In Philosophical Papers. Oxford University Press. 276-280.
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  24. David Lewis (1978). Truth in Fiction. American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (1):37--46.
    It is advisable to treat some sorts of discourse about fiction with the aid of an intensional operator "in such-And-Such fiction...." the operator may appear either explicitly or tacitly. It may be analyzed in terms of similarity of worlds, As follows: "in the fiction f, A" means that a is true in those of the worlds where f is told as known fact rather than fiction that differ least from our world, Or from the belief worlds of the community in (...)
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  25. David K. Lewis (1983). Philosophical Papers. Oxford University Press.
    This is the second volume of philosophical essays by one of the most innovative and influential philosophers now writing in English. Containing thirteen papers in all, the book includes both new essays and previously published papers, some of them with extensive new postscripts reflecting Lewis's current thinking. The papers in Volume II focus on causation and several other closely related topics, including counterfactual and indicative conditionals, the direction of time, subjective and objective probability, causation, explanation, perception, free will, and rational (...)
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  26. Franck Lihoreau (ed.) (2011). Truth in Fiction. Ontos Verlag.
    The essays collected in this volume are all concerned with the connection between fiction and truth. This question is of utmost importance to metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophical logic and epistemology, raising in each of these areas and at their intersections a large number of issues related to creation, existence, reference, identity, modality, belief, assertion, imagination, pretense, etc. All these topics and many more are addressed in this collection, which brings together original essays written from various points of view by (...)
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  27. Derek Matravers (1997). Truth in Fiction: A Reply to New. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 55 (4):423-425.
    This paper is a response to that of Christopher New. It argues that New has no alternative to an earlier solution I proposed to the problem of specifying the content of a fiction fails, as his solution is in terms of facts external to the game of make-believe being played, while mine was internal. It argues that understanding fiction is only a special case of understanding representation, which can be given a Gricean analysis. It proposes that the inferences crucial to (...)
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  28. Andrew McGonigal (2013). Truth, Relativism, and Serial Fiction. British Journal of Aesthetics 53 (2):165-179.
    This paper presents a novel explanandum for a theory of fictional truth. I explore a range of theoretical treatments of the data, and argue that it motivates the adoption of a distinctive style of relativism about truth-in-fiction.
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  29. Christopher Mole (2009). The Matter of Fact in Literature. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 17 (4):483-502.
    Some works of literature are compromised because their authors get the facts wrong. In other works deviations from the facts don’t seem to matter, and authors quite legitimately make things up. This paper gives an account of the various ways in which matters of fact can make a difference to the aesthetic value of works of literature. It concludes by showing how this account can be applied in determining when a concern with matters of fact is an important part of (...)
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  30. Christopher New (1997). A Note on Truth in Fiction. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 55 (4):421-423.
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  31. Daniel Nolan (2007). A Consistent Reading of "Sylvan's Box". Philosophical Quarterly 57 (229):667 - 673.
    I argue that Graham Priest's story 'Sylvan's Box' has an attractive consistent reading. Priest's hope that this story can be used as an example of a non-trivial 'essentially inconsistent' story is thus threatened. I then make some observations about the role 'Sylvan's Box' might play in a theory of unreliable narrators.
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  32. John F. Phillips (1999). Truth and Inference in Fiction. Philosophical Studies 94 (3):273-293.
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  33. Gilbert Plumer (2012). Cognition and Literary Ethical Criticism. In Frank Zenker (ed.), Argumentation: Cognition & Community. Proceedings of the 9th International Conference of the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation [CD-ROM]. Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation.
    “Ethical criticism” is an approach to literary studies that holds that reading certain carefully selected novels can make us ethically better people, e.g., by stimulating our sympathetic imagination (Nussbaum). I try to show that this nonargumentative approach cheapens the persuasive force of novels and that its inherent bias and censorship undercuts what is perhaps the principal value and defense of the novel—that reading novels can be critical to one’s learning how to think.
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  34. Gilbert Plumer (2011). Novels as Arguments. In Frans H. van Eemeren, Bart Garssen, David Godden & Gordon Mitchell (eds.), Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference of the International Society for the Study of Argumentation [CD-ROM]. Rozenberg / Sic Sat.
    The common view is that no novel IS an argument, though it might be reconstructed as one. This is curious, for we almost always feel the need to reconstruct arguments even when they are uncontroversially given as arguments, as in a philosophical text. We make the points as explicit, orderly, and (often) brief as possible, which is what we do in reconstructing a novel’s argument. The reverse is also true. Given a text that is uncontroversially an explicit, orderly, and brief (...)
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  35. Stefano Predelli (1997). Talk About Fiction. Erkenntnis 46 (1):69-77.
    I present a novel explanation of the apparent truth of certain remarks about fiction, such as an utterance of ''Salieri commissioned the Requiem'' during a discussion of the movie Amadeus. I criticize the traditional view, which alleges that the uttered sentence abbreviates the longer sentence ''it is true in the movie Amadeus that Salieri commissioned the Requiem''. I propose a solution which appeals to some independently motivated results concerning the contexts relevant for the semantic evaluation of indexical expressions.
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  36. Graham Priest (1997). Sylvan's Box: A Short Story and Ten Morals. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 38 (4):573-582.
    The paper contains a short story which is inconsistent, essentially so, but perfectly intelligible. The existence of such a story is used to establish various views about truth in fiction and impossible worlds.
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  37. Diane Proudfoot (2006). Possible Worlds Semantics and Fiction. Journal of Philosophical Logic 35 (1):9 - 40.
    The canonical version of possible worlds semantics for story prefixes is due to David Lewis. This paper reassesses Lewis's theory and draws attention to some novel problems for his account.
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  38. F. E. Sparshott (1967). Truth in Fiction. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 26 (1):3-7.
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  39. Amie Thomasson, Fictional Entities.
    The first question to be addressed about fictional entities is: are there any? The usual grounds given for accepting or rejecting the view that there are fictional entities come from linguistic considerations. We make many different sorts of claims about fictional characters in our literary discussions. How can we account for their apparent truth? Does doing so require that we allow that there are fictional characters we can refer to, or can we offer equally good analyses while denying that there (...)
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  40. Cain Samuel Todd (2009). Imaginability, Morality, and Fictional Truth: Dissolving the Puzzle of 'Imaginative Resistance'. Philosophical Studies 143 (2):187-211.
    This paper argues that there is no genuine puzzle of ‘imaginative resistance’. In part 1 of the paper I argue that the imaginability of fictional propositions is relative to a range of different factors including the ‘thickness’ of certain concepts, and certain pre-theoretical and theoretical commitments. I suggest that those holding realist moral commitments may be more susceptible to resistance and inability than those holding non-realist commitments, and that it is such realist commitments that ultimately motivate the problem. However, I (...)
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  41. Alberto Voltolini (2006). How to Get a Non-Intensionalist, Propositional, Moderately Realist Truthconditional Account of Internal Metafictional Sentences. Grazer Philosophische Studien 72 (1):179-199.
    In what follows, I will first try to show that both anti-realist and realist intensionalist truthconditional accounts of internal metafictional sentences (i.e., sentences of the form "in the story S, p") are unsatisfactory. Moreover, I will claim that this does not mean that propositional truthconditional accounts of those sentences are to be dispensed with; simply, one has to provide a non-intensionalist propositional truthconditional account of those sentences. Finally, I will show that this account is fully compatible with a realist interpretation (...)
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  42. Richard Woodward (2012). A Yablovian Dilemma. Thought 1 (3):200-209.
    Stephen Yablo (2001) argues that traditional fictionalist strategies run into trouble due to a mismatch between the modal status of a claim like ‘2 + 3 = 5’ and the modal status of its fictionalist paraphrase. I argue here that Yablo is best seen as confronting the fictionalist with a dilemma, and then go on to show how this dilemma can be resolved.
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  43. Richard Woodward (2011). Truth in Fiction. Philosophy Compass 6 (3):158-167.
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  44. John Zeimbekis (2004). Propositional Attitudes in Fiction. British Journal of Aesthetics 44 (3):261-276.
    Theories that seek to explain the status of psychological states experienced in fictional contexts either claim that those states are special propositional attitudes specific to fictional contexts (make-believe attitudes), or else define them as normal propositional attitudes by stretching the concept of a propositional attitude to include ‘objectless’ states that do not imply constraints such as truth or satisfaction. I argue that the first theory is either vacuous or false, and that the second, by defining the reality of the states (...)
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  45. Zsófia Zvolenszky, Abstract Artifact Theory About Fictional Characters Defended — Why Sainsbury’s Category-Mistake Objection is Mistaken. Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics Vol. 5/2013.
    In this paper, I explore a line of argument against one form of realism about fictional characters: abstract artifact theory (‘artifactualism’, for short), the view according to which fictional characters like Harry Potter are part of our reality, but (unlike concrete entities like the Big Ben and J. K. Rowling), they are abstract objects created by humans, akin to the institution of marriage and the game of soccer. I will defend artifactualism against an objection that Mark Sainsbury (2010) considers decisive (...)
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  46. Zsófia Zvolenszky (2012). Against Sainsbury’s Irrealism About Fictional Characters: Harry Potter as an Abstract Artifact. Hungarian Philosophical Review (Magyar Filozófiai Szemle) (4):83-109.
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