Literature and Truthfulness

In James Maclaurin (ed.), Rationis Defensor. pp. 23-31 (2012)
Abstract
How should we characterise the view that we can learn about the mind from literature? Should we say that such learning consists in acquiring knowledge of truths? That option is more attractive than it is sometimes made to seem by those who oppose propositional knowledge to practical knowledge or “knowing how”. But some writers on this topic—Lamarque and Olsen—argue that, while literature may express interesting propositions, it is not their truth that matters, but their “content”. Matters to what? To literary criticism, they reply: there is no place in criticism for “debate about the truth or falsity of general statements about human life or the human condition.” I argue, to the contrary, that ideas of truth and truthfulness are woven into the fabric of a kind of criticism that is widespread now and comes with a long and distinguished history.
Keywords Philosophy of Literature  Knowledge and Truth
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