Ratio 34 (2):127-136 (2021)

Gilbert Edward Plumer
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (PhD)
I question whether the case for “literary cognitivism” has generally been successfully made. As it is usually construed, the thesis is easy to satisfy illegitimately because dependence on fictionality is not built in as a requirement. The thesis of literary cognitivism should say: “literary fiction can be a source of knowledge in a way that depends crucially on its being fictional” (Green’s phrasing). After questioning whether nonpropositional cognitivist views (e.g., Nussbaum’s) meet this neglected standard, I argue that if fictional narratives can impart propositional knowledge in virtue of their fictionality, it would be largely via a suppositional framework. Yet in many cases, such as Huxley’s Brave New World, the key literary supposition could simply be an epistemic possibility (‘suppose X, which for all we know, occurs sometime’), not counterfactual supposition, that is, distinctively fictional supposition. The best general case for literary cognitivism may be the limited one that literary fiction can alert us to nonactual metaphysical possibilities that may be important for understanding actuality. Yet even here, seemingly possible fictions are often impossible.
Keywords cognitive value of literature  fictionality  impossible fictions  narrativity  propositional and nonpropositional knowledge  suppositional reasoning
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DOI 10.1111/rati.12293
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References found in this work BETA

The Real Foundation of Fictional Worlds.Stacie Friend - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (1):29-42.
Fiction as a Genre.Stacie Friend - 2012 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 112 (2pt2):179--209.
The Wheel of Virtue: Art, Literature, and Moral Knowledge.Noel Carroll - 2002 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 60 (1):3–26.
Cognitivism and the Arts.John Gibson - 2008 - Philosophy Compass 3 (4):573-589.

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