Philosophy in Review 40 (3):104-106 (2020)

Rafe McGregor
Edge Hill University
Gregory Currie is one of the world’s preeminent philosophers of art and a highly-respected philosopher of mind. Imagining and Knowing: the Shape of Fiction is his seventh book, with his conspicuous contributions to the analytic tradition of philosophy including the first systematic philosophical aesthetics in no less than two fields, film (Image and Mind: Film, Philosophy and Cognitive Science, 1995) and narrative (Narratives and Narrators: A Philosophy of Stories, 2010). Currie’s trademark approach is the seamless integration of art criticism and aesthetic theory on the one hand with empirical psychology and evolutionary biology on the other and Imagining and Knowing follows suit. His stated aim is twofold: to make a convincing case for the significance of the imagination to the understanding of and engagement with fiction and to make an equally convincing case against the significance of fiction as a source of knowledge. The monograph consists of an introduction, eleven chapters divided into three parts, and a coda. Part I is concerned with making a case for imagining fiction, defending fiction as an utterance over fiction as a genre (Chapter 1) and the role of the imagination in the engagement with fiction (Chapter 2). This role is fleshed out by means of Currie’s conceptions of ‘desires in imagination, or i-desires’ (Chapter 3) and i-emotions (Chapter 4), which also provide neat solutions to both the paradox of fiction and the imaginative resistance debates (56). Part II sets the scene for the case against fictional knowledge, establishing an epistemic taxonomy (Chapter 5), arguing that claims about the cognitive value of fiction should cohere with the findings of experimental psychology (Chapter 6), and debunking evolutionary claims for the significance of fiction (Chapter 7). Part III presents Currie’s deflationary account, tackling each of what he considers to be the four most convincing arguments for learning from fiction in turn: fictional thought experiments (Chapter 8), truth in literature (Chapter 9), the psychology of authors (Chapter 10), and the relationship between fiction and empathy (Chapter 11).
Keywords fiction  cognitive value  epistemology
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