The Truth and Nothing but the Truth: The Habits of Sherlock Holmes

If names from fiction, names like ‘Sherlock Holmes’, fail to refer, and if all simple predicative sentences including a sentence like ‘Sherlock Holmes smokes’ are true if and only if the referent of the name has the property encoded by the predicate, then ‘Sherlock Holmes smokes’ could not be literally true -- call this “non-literalism” about fictional discourse. Still, natural language speakers engage in sensible conversations using these kinds of sentences, and convey information to one another in doing so. What should the non-literalist say about this? Most non-literalists say that fictional discourse is not about the real world, but a story, and the sentences uttered by speakers in such contexts ought not to be taken at face value. Instead, we should represent these sentences as qualified by operators like 'according to the story' or 'it is make-believe that'. First, I argue that these story operator accounts cannot capture all of the true readings of an utterance of a sentence like ‘Sherlock Holmes smokes’. Second, I argue that not only are there other true readings, those readings should be taken as what is literally said by speakers in uttering sentences like ‘Sherlock Holmes smokes’.
Keywords Fictional names  Story operators  Literal truth  Semantics  Pragmatics
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