Literal Truth and the Habits of Sherlock Holmes

Abstract
Because names from fiction, names like ‘Sherlock Holmes’, fail to refer, and because it has been supposed that all simple predicative sentences including a sentence like ‘Sherlock Holmes smokes’ will be true if and only if the referent of the name has the property encoded by the predicate, many philosophers have denied that the sentence or an utterance of the sentence ‘Sherlock Holmes smokes’ could be true, or at least, it cannot be true taken at face value. Despite this, natural language speakers appear to engage in sensible conversations using these kinds of sentences, and appear to convey information to one another in doing so. At least one response open to the the pure non-literalist is to maintain that the utterances of the sentences by speakers engaged in such conversations are literally false, but that those utterances should be interpreted as pragmatically conveying information about what is true according to the story. First, I argue that these pragmatically oriented story operator accounts cannot capture all of the true readings of an utterance of a sentence like ‘Sherlock Holmes smokes’. Indeed, as I also note, these objections apply to any story operator account of fictional discourse, semantic versions too. Second, I offer arguments that not only are there other true readings, but that those readings should be taken as what is literally said by speakers in uttering sentences like ‘Sherlock Holmes smokes’.
Keywords Fictional names  Story operators  Literal truth  Semantics  Pragmatics
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