The Real Foundation of Fictional Worlds

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (1):29-42 (2017)
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I argue that judgments of what is ‘true in a fiction’ presuppose the Reality Assumption: the assumption that everything that is true is fictionally the case, unless excluded by the work. By contrast with the more familiar Reality Principle, the Reality Assumption is not a rule for inferring implied content from what is explicit. Instead, it provides an array of real-world truths that can be used in such inferences. I claim that the Reality Assumption is essential to our ability to understand stories, drawing on a range of empirical evidence that demonstrates our reliance on it in narrative comprehension. However, the Reality Assumption has several unintuitive consequences, not least that what is fictionally the case includes countless facts that neither authors nor readers could ever consider. I argue that such consequences provide no reason to reject the Reality Assumption. I conclude that we should take fictions, like non-fictions, to be about the real world.

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Author's Profile

Stacie Friend
University of Edinburgh

Citations of this work

Co‐Identification and Fictional Names.Manuel García-Carpintero - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 101 (1):3-34.
Perspectives in imaginative engagement with fiction.Elisabeth Camp - 2017 - Philosophical Perspectives 31 (1):73-102.
Normative Fiction‐Making and the World of the Fiction.Manuel García-Carpintero - 2019 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 77 (3):267-279.
Extracting fictional truth from unreliable sources.Emar Maier & Merel Semeijn - 2021 - In Emar Maier & Andreas Stokke (eds.), The Language of Fiction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Exploding stories and the limits of fiction.Michel-Antoine Xhignesse - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (3):675-692.

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Is conceivability a guide to possibility?Stephen Yablo - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (1):1-42.
Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts.Kendall L. Walton - 1990 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 49 (2):161-166.

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