Can Parables Work?

Philosophy and Theology 23 (1):149-165 (2011)
Abstract
While theories about interpreting biblical and other parables have long realised the importance of readers’ responses to the topic, recent results in social psychology concerning systematic self-deception raise unforeseen problems. In this paper I first set out some of the problems these results pose for the authority of fictional thought-experiments in moral philosophy. I then consider the suggestion that biblical parables face the same problems and as a result cannot work as devices for moral or religious instruction in the way that they are usually understood to work. I examine a number of influential theories about interpretation of the parables which might appear to deflect the problems, and argue that none of them are ultimately successful in doing so
Keywords Thought-experiments  Parables  Reader-response theory
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