About this topic
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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84 found
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  1. II—Genre, Interpretation and Evaluation.Catharine Abell - 2015 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 115 (1pt1):25-40.
    The genre to which an artwork belongs affects how it is to be interpreted and evaluated. An account of genre and of the criteria for genre membership should explain these interpretative and evaluative effects. Contrary to conceptions of genres as categories distinguished by the features of the works that belong to them, I argue that these effects are to be explained by conceiving of genres as categories distinguished by certain of the purposes that the works belonging to them are intended (...)
  2. Comics and Genre.Catharine Abell - 2012 - In Aaron Meskin & Roy T. Cook (eds.), The Art of Comics: A Philosophical Approach. Blackwell. pp. 68--84.
    An adequate account of the nature of genre and of the criteria for genre membership is essential to understanding the nature of the various categories into which comics can be classified. Because they fail adequately to distinguish genre categories from other ways of categorizing works, including categorizations according to medium or according to style, previous accounts of genre fail to illuminate the nature of comics categories. I argue that genres are sets of conventions that have developed as means of addressing (...)
  3. Literature and Reality.Derek Allan - 2001 - Journal of European Studies 31 (122):143-156.
  4. Truth in Fiction.Peter Alward - manuscript
  5. That’s the Fictional Truth, Ruth.Peter Alward - 2010 - 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.
  6. A Pragmatic Framework for Truth in Fiction.Sandro Zucchi Andrea Bonomi - 2003 - Dialectica 57 (2):103-120.
    According to R. Stalnaker, context plays a role in determining the proposition expressed by a sentence by providing the domain of possible worlds that propositions distinguish between: a sentence expresses a proposition by selecting a subset of the set of possible situations given by the context. This is also true for embedded sentences, but these sentences express propositions by selecting subsets out of contexts derived from the basic one. In this paper we propose a semantic analysis of sentences of the (...)
  7. Talking About Nothing: Numbers, Hallucinations, and Fictions.Jody Azzouni - 2010 - Oxford University Press.
    Numbers -- Hallucinations -- Fictions -- Scientific languages, ontology, and truth -- Truth conditions and semantics.
  8. Truth in Fiction, Impossible Worlds, and Belief Revision.Christopher Badura & Francesco Berto - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-16.
    We present a theory of truth in fiction that improves on Lewis's [1978] ‘Analysis 2’ in two ways. First, we expand Lewis's possible worlds apparatus by adding non-normal or impossible worlds. Second, we model truth in fiction as belief revision via ideas from dynamic epistemic logic. We explain the major objections raised against Lewis's original view and show that our theory overcomes them.
  9. The Puzzle of Historical Criticism.Christopher Bartel - 2012 - 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 (...)
  10. A Pragmatic Framework for Truth in Fiction.Andrea Bonomi & Sandro Zucchi - 2003 - 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 (...)
  11. Spotty Scope and Our Relation to Fictions.Tim Button - 2012 - Noûs 46 (2):243-58.
    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) (...)
  12. Truth in Fiction: The Story Continued.Alex Byrne - 1993 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71 (1):24 – 35.
  13. Serial Fiction, Continued.B. Caplan - 2014 - 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 (...)
  14. Fiction, Counterfactuals and Truth.Eros Corazza & Jérôme Dokic - 1993 - 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 (...)
  15. Indexicals, Fictions, and Ficta.Eros Corazza & Mark Whitsey - 2003 - 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 (...)
  16. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Aristotle and the Poetics.Angela Curran - 2015 - Routledge.
    Aristotle’s Poetics is the first philosophical account of an art form and is the foundational text in the history of aesthetics. The Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Aristotle and the Poetics is an accessible guide to this often dense and cryptic work. Angela Curran introduces and assesses: Aristotle’s life and the background to the Poetics the ideas and text of the Poetics , including mimēsis ; poetic technē; the definition of tragedy; the elements of poetic composition; the Poetics’ recommendations for tragic (...)
  17. The Nature of Fiction.Gregory Currie - 1990 - 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.
  18. Fictional Truth.Gregory Currie - 1986 - Philosophical Studies 50 (2):195 - 212.
  19. Fictional Truth and Fictional Authors.David Davies - 1996 - British Journal of Aesthetics 36 (1):43-55.
  20. Explicitism About Truth in Fiction.William D’Alessandro - 2016 - British Journal of Aesthetics 56 (1):53-65.
    The problem of truth in fiction concerns how to tell whether a given proposition is true in a given fiction. Thus far, the nearly universal consensus has been that some propositions are ‘implicitly true’ in some fictions: such propositions are not expressed by any explicit statements in the relevant work, but are nevertheless held to be true in those works on the basis of some other set of criteria. I call this family of views ‘implicitism’. I argue that implicitism faces (...)
  21. Can Fiction Be Stranger Than Truth?: An Aristotelian Answer.David Gallop - 1991 - Philosophy and Literature 15 (1):1-18.
  22. Las normas y su puesta en vigor: respuesta a Josep Corbí.Manuel Garcia-Carpintero - 2017 - Critica 49 (145):113-132.
    En su discusión “Obras de ficción, formas de conciencia y literatura”, Josep Corbí formula una serie de críticas certeras a mis ideas sobre la distinción que he hecho entre ficción y no ficción en Relatar lo ocurrido como invención. En esta nota de respuesta expongo primero de forma sucinta el núcleo de esas ideas y después proporciono las que considero las razones más decisivas para adoptarlas, a pesar de las dificultades que señala Corbí.
  23. Norms of Fiction-Making.Manuel García-Carpintero - 2013 - British Journal of Aesthetics 53 (3):339-357.
    I provide a variation on ideas presented by Walton and Currie, elaborating the view that fictive utterances are characterized by a specific form of illocutionary force in the family of directives – a proposal or invitation to imagine. I make some points on the relation between the proposal and the current debates on intentionalist and conventionalist views, and I discuss interesting recent objections made by Stacie Friend to the related, but crucially different, Gricean view of such force advanced by Currie (...)
  24. The Truth in Fiction.Richard Gaskin - 1993 - British Journal of Aesthetics 33 (2):177-179.
  25. Fictional Truth and Make-Believe.Dimitria Electra Gatzia & Eric Sotnak - 2014 - Philosophia 42 (2):349-361.
    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 (...)
  26. Is Dumbledore Gay? Who's to Say?: Truth in Fiction and Authorial Authority.Tamar Szabó Gendler - 2011 - The Philosophers' Magazine (52):94-97.
  27. Truth and Reference in Fiction.Stavroula Glezakos - forthcoming - 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 (...)
  28. As Good as It Gets: Lewis on Truth in Fiction.Richard Hanley - 2004 - 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.
  29. Lewis on Truth in Fiction.Richard Hanley - 2004 - In Frank Jackson & Graham Priest (eds.), Lewisian Themes: The Philosophy of David K. Lewis. Oxford University Press. pp. 113.
  30. Engaging with Works of Fiction.Wolfgang Huemer - forthcoming - Rivista di Estetica 70 (1/2019).
    The contemporary debate in the philosophy of literature is strongly shaped by the anticognitivist challenge, according to which works of literary fiction (that contain propositions that are neither literally true nor affirmed by the author) cannot impart (relevant) knowledge to the readers or enrich their worldly understanding. Anti-cognitivists appreciate works of literary fiction for their aesthetic values and so risk to reduce them to mere ornaments that are entertaining, but eventually useless. Many philosophers have reacted to this challenge by pointing (...)
  31. Cognitive Dimensions of Achieving (and Failing) in Literature.Wolfgang Huemer - 2012 - In J. Dreiber, E. Konrad, T. Petraschka & H. Rott (eds.), Understanding Fiction. mentis. pp. 26-44.
  32. Gibt es Fehler im fiktionalen Kontext? Grenzen der dichterischen Freiheit.Wolfgang Huemer - 2010 - In Otto Neumaier (ed.), Was aus Fehlern zu lernen ist in Alltag, Wissenschaft und Kunst. LIT Verlag. pp. 211-227.
  33. Fiction, Truth, and Reference.Harrington Vose Ingham - 1974 - Dissertation, University of Southern California
  34. Worlds Are Colliding! Explaining the Fictional in Terms of the Real.Andrew Kania - 2007 - 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 (...)
  35. Fiktion, Wahrheit, Interpretation: Philologische und philosophische Perspektiven.Eva-Maria Konrad, Thomas Petraschka, Jürgen Daiber & Hans Rott (eds.) - 2013 - Mentis.
    Der Band vereint aktuelle Beiträge zu den Themenschwerpunkten Fiktion, Wahrheit und Interpretation im Hinblick auf fiktionale literarische Texte. Im Einzelnen werden Fragen wie die folgenden diskutiert: In welchem Verhältnis stehen Literatur und Wahrheit? Welche Rolle spielen Intentionen für die Interpretation? Sind fiktionale Texte ausschließlich fiktional? Lässt sich die Sprechakttheorie für die Beschreibung der in fiktionalen literarischen Texten enthaltenen Sätze fruchtbar machen? Warum nehmen wir Anteil an fiktionaler Literatur, obwohl wir wissen, dass die beschriebenen Personen und Ereignisse nicht real sind? Die (...)
  36. Reasoning to What is True in Fiction.Peter Lamarque - 1990 - Argumentation 4 (3):333-346.
    The paper discusses the principle by which we reason to what is ‘true in fiction’. The focus is David Lewis's article ‘Truth in Fiction’ (1978) which proposes an analysis in terms of counterfactuals and possible worlds. It is argued thatLewis's account is inadequate in detail and also in principle in that it conflicts radically with basic and familiar tenets of literary criticism. Literary critical reasoning about fiction concerns not the discovery of facts in possible worlds but the recovery of meanings (...)
  37. Facts, Interpretation, and Truth in Fiction.Ben Levinstein - 2007 - British Journal of Aesthetics 47 (1):64-75.
  38. Postscript to Truth in Fiction.David Lewis - 1983 - In Philosophical Papers. Oxford University Press. pp. 276-280.
  39. Truth in Fiction.David Lewis - 1978 - 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 (...)
  40. Philosophical Papers.David K. Lewis - 1983 - 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 (...)
  41. Truth in Fiction.Franck Lihoreau (ed.) - 2011 - 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 (...)
  42. Lying and Fiction.Emar Maier - forthcoming - In Jörg Meibauer (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Lying. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Lying and fiction both involve the deliberate production of statements that fail to obey Grice’s first Maxim of Quality (“do not say what you believe to be false”). The question thus arises if we can provide a uniform analysis for fiction and lies. In this chapter I discuss the similarities, but also some fundamental differences between lying and fiction. I argue that there’s little hope for a satisfying account within a traditional truth conditional semantic framework. Rather than immediately moving to (...)
  43. More on Fictional Names and Psychologistic Semantics: Replies to Comments.Emar Maier - 2017 - Theoretical Linguistics 43 (1-2):103-120.
  44. Truth in Fiction: A Reply to New.Derek Matravers - 1997 - 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 (...)
  45. Truth, Relativism, and Serial Fiction.Andrew McGonigal - 2013 - 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.
  46. The Value of Literature.Rafe McGregor - 2016 - Rowman & Littlefield International.
    The Value of Literature provides an original and compelling argument for the historical and contemporary significance of literature to humanity.
  47. Literary Thickness.Rafe McGregor - 2015 - British Journal of Aesthetics 55 (3):343-360.
    In this paper, I shall demonstrate the value of the concept of literary thickness – i.e. form-content inseparability – as a tool of literary appreciation. I set out the relationships between non-fiction, fiction, literature, and poetry in Section 1 and sketch a preliminary definition of literary thickness in Section 2. I argue that a convincing account of reference in literary fictions can be provided by means of literary thickness in Sections 3 and 4. I argue that the match between authorial (...)
  48. James's Conception of Novelistic Truth and His Aesthetic of Fiction.Bianca-Marina Mitu - 2009 - Analysis and Metaphysics 8:99-103.
  49. Fiction's Ontological Commitments.Christopher Mole - 2009 - Philosophical Forum 40 (4):473-488.
    This article examines one way in which a fiction can carry ontological commitments. The ontological commitments that the article examines arise in cases where there are norms governing discourse about items in a fiction that cannot be accounted for by reference to the contents of the sentences that constitute a canonical telling of that fiction. In such cases, a fiction may depend for its contents on the real-world properties of real-world items, and the fiction may, in that sense, be ontologically (...)
  50. The Matter of Fact in Literature.Christopher Mole - 2009 - 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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