Truth, fiction, and literature: a philosophical perspective

New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Stein Haugom Olsen (1994)
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This book examines the complex and varied ways in which fictions relate to the real world, and offers a precise account of how imaginative works of literature can use fictional content to explore matters of universal human interest. While rejecting the traditional view that literature is important for the truths that it imparts, the authors also reject attempts to cut literature off altogether from real human concerns. Their detailed account of fictionality, mimesis, and cognitive value, founded on the methods of analytical philosophy, restores to literature its distinctive status among cultural practices. The authors also explore metaphysical and skeptical views, prevalent in modern thought, according to which the world itself is a kind of fiction, and truth no more than a social construct. They identify different conceptions of fiction in science, logic, epistemology, and make-believe, and thereby challenge the idea that discourse per se is fictional and that different modes of discourse are at root indistinguishable. They offer rigorous analyses of the roles of narrative, imagination, metaphor, and "making" in human thought processes. Both in their methods and in their conclusions, Lamarque and Olsen aim to restore rigor and clarity to debates about the values of literature, and to provide new, philosophically sound foundations for a genuine change of direction in literary theorizing.



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Setting the Scene

This chapter sets the stage for the discussions in the subsequent chapters. It presents a ‘no-truth’ theory of literature. That is, it is argued that, inter alia, that the concept of truth has no central or ineliminable role in critical practice. The point is not, of course, that critics h... see more

Metaphysics and Fictions

This chapter considers pressures of a metaphysical nature, suggesting how they might be resisted sufficiently to retain both the distinctiveness of the practice of storytelling and the substance of our later view about literature and its relation to truth. The discussion focuses on certain... see more

Literature as Philosophy

Literary works cannot be construed simply as one among other discourses with the primary intention of advancing truths. This argument, along with the argument against the Theory of Novelistic Truth, is based on a conception of truth and truth-telling which is located within a nexus of acti... see more

The Mimetic Aspect of Literature

Thematic statements and thematic concepts are integrated into philosophical discourse in a different way from that of the discourse belonging to literary practice. Of course, there are analogies between philosophical and literary discourse. In philosophical works thematic statements and th... see more


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Author's Profile

Peter Lamarque
University of York

Citations of this work

Models and fiction.Roman Frigg - 2010 - Synthese 172 (2):251-268.
Models and representation.Roman Frigg & James Nguyen - 2017 - In Lorenzo Magnani & Tommaso Bertolotti (eds.), Springer Handbook of Model-Based Science. pp. 49-102.
Fiction as a Genre.Stacie Friend - 2012 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 112 (2pt2):179--209.
The limits of spectatorial folk psychology.Daniel D. Hutto - 2004 - Mind and Language 19 (5):548-73.

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