Truth in Fiction: Rethinking its Logic

Cham, Switzerland: Springer Verlag (2018)
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This monograph examines truth in fiction by applying the techniques of a naturalized logic of human cognitive practices. The author structures his project around two focal questions. What would it take to write a book about truth in literary discourse with reasonable promise of getting it right? What would it take to write a book about truth in fiction as true to the facts of lived literary experience as objectivity allows? It is argued that the most semantically distinctive feature of the sentences of fiction is that they are unambiguously true and false together. It is true that Sherlock Holmes lived at 221B Baker Street and also concurrently false that he did. A second distinctive feature of fiction is that the reader at large knows of this inconsistency and isn't in the least cognitively molested by it. Why, it is asked, would this be so? What would explain it? Two answers are developed. According to the no-contradiction thesis, the semantically tangled sentences of fiction are indeed logically inconsistent but not logically contradictory. According to the no-bother thesis, if the inconsistencies of fiction were contradictory, a properly contrived logic for the rational management of inconsistency would explain why readers at large are not thrown off cognitive stride by their embrace of those contradictions. As developed here, the account of fiction suggests the presence of an underlying three - or four-valued dialethic logic. The author shows this to be a mistaken impression. There are only two truth-values in his logic of fiction. The naturalized logic of Truth in Fiction jettisons some of the standard assumptions and analytical tools of contemporary philosophy, chiefly because the neurotypical linguistic and cognitive behaviour of humanity at large is at variance with them. Using the resources of a causal response epistemology in tandem with the naturalized logic, the theory produced here is data-driven, empirically sensitive, and open to a circumspect collaboration with the empirical sciences of language and cognition.



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Born on January 6th, 1854, Sherlock Holmes died on March 5th, 1927. He was a consulting detective from 1881 and 1904, when at age 50 he retired to a small farm in the South Sussex Downs. A Study in Scarlet, the first of the Holmes stories, appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887. The last one,... see more

Models and Formal Representations

All logicians of fiction, and several non-logicians too, take it as a given that logic-based semantics of literary discourse would be seriously incomplete if it omitted to explain how reference, truth and inference operate in such contexts. Logicians, both mathematical and philosophical, have built ... see more


A datum of considerable interest is what Sherlock himself says his name is. In previous chapters I’ve had more to say about Sherlock the man than about “Sherlock” the name. In the present one, I’ll say something further about the name. When I say that Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 B. C. and was c... see more

What Readers Know

When we read a fictional work, we are made to believe and know things that obtain in the story. When we grasp the author’s sentences we are induced to draw inferences about what else obtains in the story. What stands out about these commonplaces is how effortlessly we arrive at those beliefs and the... see more

Putting Inconsistency in Its Place

We’ve known from early on that the inconsistency problem is the central challenge for any theory of truth for fiction constructed in the manner of the one developed here. The inconsistency problem is yet another example of a problem with a huge scholarship in ready wait. Inconsistency has dominated ... see more

Salty Tears and Racing Hearts

Philosophical theories of fiction pivot on relational considerations. Semantic theorists are interested in semantic relations. Do we refer to fictional beings and events? Do fictional sentences relate to things in ways that assign them truth values? Do fictional sentences stand in inferential relati... see more

Suboptimality and Pretence

Both individually and overall, works of fiction are interesting. They interest in myriad ways. Readers are interested in what happens next and how the story ends. Although he will have his own readerly interests, an aesthetician will also have interests more uniquely his own. He may be interested in... see more


One of the most important data for a logic of fiction is the structural complexity of the make-up of fictional discourse. On my analysis of it, the sentences of fictional discourse subdivide into at least seven different types. The taxonomy isn’t mathematically crisp. In some cases there might be ca... see more

A Research Model for Fiction

A research model sets targets for theory, and mandates ways of reaching them with force and conviction. A suboptimal model is one that does well at home but goes astray under adaptation either by misjudging a theory’s target, or by authorizing methods of enquiry and analysis, without sufficient rega... see more

Other Things Sherlock Isn’t

Sherlock is a man of parts. He is as fully accoutred an object as Doyle is and, unlike Doyle, he is a being of two kinds. He is a man of the human kind and a human of the fictional kind. There are several other interesting things that Sherlock might or might not be.

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Citations of this work

Normative Fiction‐Making and the World of the Fiction.Manuel García-Carpintero - 2019 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 77 (3):267-279.
Impossible Fictions Part I: Lessons for Fiction.Daniel Nolan - 2021 - Philosophy Compass 16 (2):1-12.
Exploding stories and the limits of fiction.Michel-Antoine Xhignesse - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (3):675-692.
Semantics and Truth.Jan Woleński - 2019 - Cham, Switzerland: Springer Verlag.

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Naming and Necessity: Lectures Given to the Princeton University Philosophy Colloquium.Saul A. Kripke - 1980 - Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Edited by Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel.
Two Dogmas of Empiricism.W. Quine - 1951 - [Longmans, Green].
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On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme.Donald Davidson - 1973 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 47:5-20.

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