Argumentation 4 (3):333-346 (1990)

Peter Lamarque
University of York
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 in interpretative frameworks. The model theoretic approach fails to account for common literary or rhetorical devices like unreliable narration, connotation and point of view. And in explaining indeterminacy of content in terms of truth-value gaps it gives too simplistic an account of critical reasoning about character motivation and thematic development. A more adequate account of content-indeterminacy can be provided through a comparison of the interpretation of fiction with the interpretation of human action. A broader motif in the paper is the underlying tension between what is required for the logic of fiction and what is required for the aesthetics of fiction
Keywords Fiction  truth  reasoning  literary criticism  interpretation  aesthetics  David Lewis
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DOI 10.1007/BF00173970
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