Fictionalism in ontology is a mixed bag. Here I focus on three main variants—which I label after the names of Pascal, Berkeley, and Hume—and consider their relative strengths and weaknesses. The first variant is just a version of the epistemic Wager, applied across the board. The second variant builds instead on the fact that ordinary language is not ontologically transparent; we speak with the vulgar, but deep down we think with the learned. Finally, on the Humean variant it’s the (...) structure of the ontological inventory, not its content, that may turn out to involve fictional elements. That is, for the Humean the fiction lies, not in the reality of common-sense ontology, but in the laws—of unity, identity, causation, etc.—in terms of which we articulate our experience of that reality. In the end, this is the kind of fictionalism that I find most interesting, sensible, and tenable. And I argue that it is even compatible with the sort of “naive” realism we have all come to appreciate in the work of Paolo Bozzi, to whom the paper is dedicated. (shrink)
Abstract: Suppose you are somewhat persuaded by the arguments for Eliminative Materialism, but are put off by the view itself. For instance, you might be sympathetic to one or more of the following considerations: (1) that folk psychology is a bad theory and will be soon replaced by cognitive science or neuroscience, (2) that folk psychology will never be vindicated by cognitive science, (3) that folk psychology makes ontological commitments to weird or spooky things that no proper science will admit (...) the existence of, (4) that folk psychology seems to lead to a sort of epiphenomenalism (which is yet another thing that’s weird and spooky), and (5) that folk psychology seems to lead to the conclusion that mental content is either determined by things outside the head or is completely indeterminate, neither of which is appealing. Yet in spite of your sympathy for any one of (1)-(5), you may nonetheless cringe at the consequence of them—that is, you may be unwilling to accept the Eliminative Materialist’s radical claim that (i) there are no beliefs, desires, etc., and (ii) we should stop all talk to that quantifies to the contrary. To relieve the conflict, I propose Mental Fictionalism: the view that we are fictionalists about mental states. (shrink)
Is propositional religious faith constituted by belief? Recent debate has focussed on whether faith may be constituted by a positive non-doxastic cognitive state, which can stand in place of belief. This paper sets out and defends the doxastic theory. We consider and reject three arguments commonly used in favour of non-doxastic theories of faith: (1) the argument from religious doubt; (2) the use of ‘faith’ in linguistic utterances; and (3) the possibility of pragmatic faith. We argue that belief is required (...) to maintain a distinction between genuine faith, pretend faith, and fictionalist faith. (shrink)
In this paper I do three things. Firstly, I defend the view that in his most familiar arguments about morality and the theological postulates, the arguments which appeal to the epistemological doctrines of the first Critique, Kant is as much of a fictionalist as anybody not working explicitly with that conceptual apparatus could be: his notion of faith as subjectively and not objectively grounded is precisely what fictionalists are concerned with in their talk of nondoxastic attitudes. Secondly, I reconstruct a (...) logically distinct argument to a fictionalist conclusion which I argue Kant also gives us, this time an argument to the conclusion that it is a good thing if our commitment to the existence of God is nondoxastic. And finally, I argue that this argument is of continuing interest, to Kantians and non-Kantians alike, not only because it raises interesting questions about the relation of morality to belief in God (which go in the opposite direction to most discussions, which focus on whether and to what extent belief in God can be an aid to morality), but also because this ‘Moral Hazard Argument’ seems to be available to religious realists and non-realists alike, thus suggesting that religious fictionalism is not by any means just an interesting version of religious non-realism. (shrink)
Mental fictionalism is the view that, even if mental states do not exist, it is useful to talk as if they do. Mental states are useful fictions. Recent philosophy of mind has seen a growing interest in mental fictionalism. To date, much of the discussion has concerned the general features of the approach. In this paper, I develop a specific form of mental fictionalism by drawing on Kendall Walton’s work on make-believe. According to the approach I propose, (...) talk of mental states is a useful pretence for describing people and their behaviour. I try to clarify and motivate this approach by comparing it to well-known alternatives, including behaviourism, instrumentalism and eliminativism. I also consider some of the challenges that it faces. (shrink)
I discuss an interpretation, recently proposed by Mark Siderits, of the claim that within the Buddhist tradition the self is a convenient fiction. I subsequently propose a novel approach to fictionalism in contemporary metaphysics, outline an application of such an approach to the case of the self and then specify one version of fictionalism combined with some basic tenets of Buddhism.
Fictionalism and deflationism are two moderate meta-ontological positions that try to occupy a middle ground between the extremes of heavy-duty realism and hard-line eliminativism. Deflationists believe that the existence of certain entities (e.g.: numbers) can be established by means of ‘easy’ arguments—arguments that, supposedly, rely solely on uncontroversial premises and trivial inferences. Fictionalists, however, find easy arguments unconvincing. Amie Thomasson has recently argued that, in their criticism of easy arguments, fictionalists beg the question against deflationism and that the fictionalist (...) alternative interpretation of easy arguments is untenable. In this paper, I argue that both charges are unsubstantiated. Properly understood, the fictionalist’s objection to ‘easy’ arguments takes the form of a dilemma—either the premises of ‘easy’ arguments are not truly uncontroversial or the inferences on which they rely are not truly trivial. Moreover, I argue not only that, contrary to what Thomasson claims, the fictionalist’s interpretation of easy argument is tenable but that the fictionalist might, in fact, have a better explanation of the seemingly trivial nature of the inferences involved in easy arguments than the deflationist’s. (shrink)
CHANGE SLIDE Go through outline of talk CHANGE SLIDE It is my sincerest hope that if there is one thing that people take away from Moral Fictionalism, it is the recognition that standard noncognitivism involves a syndrome of three, logically distinct claims. Standard noncognitivists claim that moral judgment is not belief or any other cognitive attitude but is, rather, a noncognitive attitude more akin to desire; that this noncognitive attitude is expressed by our public moral utterances; and, hence, that (...) our public moral utterances lack a distinctively moral subject matter and so are not answerable to the moral facts. Notice, however, that these are logically distinct claimsthe rst is a psychological claim, the second and third, positive and negative semantic claims, respectively. We can regiment the familiar technical vocabulary as follow: CHANGE.. (shrink)
Fictionalism has recently returned as a standard response to ontologically problematic domains. This article assesses moral fictionalism. It argues (i) that a correct understanding of the dialectical situation in contemporary metaethics shows that fictionalism is only an interesting new alternative if it can provide a new account of normative content: what is it that I am thinking or saying when I think or say that I ought to do something; and (ii) that fictionalism, qua fictionalism, (...) does not provide us with any new resources for providing such an account. (shrink)
The Brock-Rosen problem has been one of the most thoroughly discussed objections to the modal fictionalism bruited in Gideon Rosen’s ‘Modal Fictionalism’. But there is a more fundamental problem with modal fictionalism, at least as it is normally explained: the position does not resolve the tension that motivated it. I argue that if we pay attention to a neglected aspect of modal fictionalism, we will see how to resolve this tension—and we will also find a persuasive (...) reply to the Brock-Rosen objection. Finally, I discuss an alternative reading of Rosen, and argue that this position is also able to fend off the Brock-Rosen objection. (shrink)
Fictionalism is the view that a serious intellectual inquiry need not aim at truth. It came to prominence in philosophy in 1980, when Hartry Field argued that mathematics does not have to be true to be good, and Bas van Fraassen argued that the aim of science is not truth but empirical adequacy. Both suggested that the acceptance of a mathematical or scientific theory need not involve belief in its content. Thus the distinctive commitment of fictionalism is that (...) acceptance in a given domain of inquiry need not be truth-normed, and that the acceptance of a sentence from the associated region of discourse need not involve belief in its content. In metaphysics fictionalism is now widely regarded as an option worthy of serious consideration. This volume represents a major benchmark in the debate: it brings together an impressive international team of contributors, whose essays represent the state of the art in various areas of metaphysical controversy, relating to language, mathematics, modality, truth, belief, ontology, and morality. (shrink)
Prop oriented make-believe is make-believe utilized for the purpose of understanding what I call “props,” actual objects or states of affairs that make propositions “fictional,” true in the make-believe world. I, David Hills, and others have claimed that prop oriented make-believe lies at the heart of the functioning of many metaphors, and one variety of fictionalism in metaphysics invokes prop oriented make-believe to explain away apparent references to entities some find questionable or problematic (fictional characters, propositions, moral properties, numbers). (...) Elisabeth Camp has argued against my and David Hills’ views of metaphor. Her arguments, many of them echoed by Catharine Wearing, demolish a very implausible account of metaphor, but leave entirely untouched the views that Hills and I actually proposed. Clarifying what we say about metaphor serves also as a defense of fictionalist theories that invoke prop oriented make-believe. (shrink)
This paper surveys contemporary accounts of error theory and fictionalism. It introduces these categories to those new to metaethics by beginning with moral nihilism, the view that nothing really is right or wrong. One main motivation is that the scientific worldview seems to have no place for rightness or wrongness. Within contemporary metaethics there is a family of theories that makes similar claims. These are the theories that are usually classified as forms of error theory or fictionalism though (...) there are different ways of accepting some form of the view that nothing is really write or wrong. A range of different ways of going in the light of such a realization is also proposed. The resulting taxonomy of positions is quite complicated and sometimes surprising. One surprise will be that some positions plausibly classified as error theories or forms of fictionalism do not quite seem to be forms of nihilism. (shrink)
Fictionalism plays a significant role in philosophy today, with defenses spanning mathematics, morality, ordinary objects, truth, modality, and more.1 Fictionalism in the philosophy of science is also gaining attention, due in particular to the revival of Hans Vaihinger’s work from the early twentieth century and to heightened interest in idealization in scientific practice.2 Vaihinger maintains that there is a ubiquity of fictions in science and, among other things, argues that Nietzsche supports the position. Yet, while contemporary commentators have (...) focused on fictionalism in Nietzsche’s moral philosophy, his view of fictions in science has remained largely unexamined.3 In this article, I begin... (shrink)
Until recently philosophy of religion has been almost exclusively focused upon the analysis of western religious ideas. The central concern of the discipline has been the concept God , as that concept has been understood within Judaeo-Christianity. However, this narrow remit threatens to render philosophy of religion irrelevant today. To avoid this philosophy of religion should become a genuinely multicultural discipline. But how, if at all, can philosophy of religion rise to this challenge? The paper considers fictionalism about religious (...) discourse as a possible methodological standpoint from which to practice a tradition-neutral form of philosophy of religion. However, after examining some of the problems incurred by fictionalism, the paper concludes that fictionalism and religious diversity are uneasy bedfellows; which implies that fictionalism is unlikely to be the best theory to shape the practice of philosophy of religion in a multicultural context. (shrink)
We argue that if Stephen Yablo (2005) is right that philosophers of mathematics ought to endorse a fictionalist view of number-talk, then there is a compelling reason for deflationists about truth to endorse a fictionalist view of truth-talk. More specifically, our claim will be that, for deflationists about truth, Yablo’s argument for mathematical fictionalism can be employed and mounted as an argument for truth-theoretic fictionalism.
I explore some of the reasons why, under specific circumstances, it may be rational to make-believe or imagine certain religious beliefs. Adopting a jargon familiar to certain contemporary philosophers, my main concern here is to assess what reasons can be given for adopting a fictionalist stance towards some religious beliefs. My understanding of fictionalism does not involve solely a propositional attitude but a broader stance, which may include certain acts of pretence. I also argue that a plausible reason to (...) be fictionalist about a specific set of religious beliefs and practices has to do with the value of some artistic creations; namely, those that require the adoption of a religious point of view for their understanding. (shrink)
Our paper consists of three parts. In the first part we explain the concept of mental fictionalism. In the second part, we present the various versions of fictionalism and their main sources of motivation.We do this because in the third part we argue that mental fictionalism, as opposed to other versions of fictionalism, is a highly undermotivated theory.
Gideon Rosen’s [1990 Modal fictionalism. Mind, 99, 327–354] Modal Fictionalist aims to secure the benefits of realism about possible-worlds, whilst avoiding commitment to the existence of any world other than our own. Rosen [1993 A problem for fictionalism about possible worlds. Analysis, 53, 71–81] and Stuart Brock [1993 Modal fictionalism: A response to Rosen. Mind, 102, 147–150] both argue that fictionalism is self-defeating since the fictionalist is tacitly committed to the existence of a plurality of worlds. (...) In this paper, I develop a new strategy for the fictionalist to pursue in response to the Brock–Rosen objection. I begin by arguing that modal fictionalism is best understood as a paraphrase strategy that concerns the propositions that are expressed, in a given context, by modal sentences. I go on to argue that what is interesting about paraphrastic fictionalism is that it allows the fictionalist to accept that the sentence ‘there is a plurality of worlds’ is true without thereby committing her to the existence of a plurality of worlds. I then argue that the paraphrastic fictionalist can appeal to a form of semantic contextualism in order to communicate her status as an anti-realist. Finally, I generalise my conception of fictionalism and argue that Daniel Nolan and John O’Leary-Hawthorne [1996 Reflexive fictionalisms. Analysis, 56, 26–32] are wrong to suggest that the Brock-Rosen objection reveals a structural flaw with all species of fictionalism. (shrink)
This paper distinguishes revolutionary fictionalism from other forms of fictionalism and also from other philosophical views. The paper takes fictionalism about mathematical objects and fictionalism about scientific unobservables as illustrations. The paper evaluates arguments that purport to show that this form of fictionalism is incoherent on the grounds that there is no tenable distinction between believing a sentence and taking the fictionalist's distinctive attitude to that sentence. The argument that fictionalism about mathematics is ‘comically (...) immodest’ is also evaluated. In place of those arguments, an argument against fictionalism about abstract objects of any kind is presented in the last section. This argument takes the form of a trilemma against the fictionalist. (shrink)
This paper attacks the modal ontological argument, as advocated by Plantinga among others. Whereas other criticisms in the literature reject one of its premises, the present line is that the argument is invalid. This becomes apparent once we run the argument assuming fictionalism about possible worlds. Broadly speaking, the problem is that if one defines “x” as something that exists, it does not follow that there is anything satisfying the definition. Yet unlike non-modal ontological arguments, the modal argument commits (...) this “existential fallacy” not in relation to the definition of ‘God’. Rather, it occurs in relation to the modal facts quantified over within a Kripkean modal logic. In brief, we can describe the modal facts by whichever logic we prefer—yet it does not follow that there are genuine modal facts, as opposed to mere facts-according-to-the-fiction. A broader consequence of the discussion is that the existential fallacy is an issue for many projects in “armchair metaphysics.”. (shrink)
Hermeneutic fictionalism about mathematics maintains that mathematics is not committed to the existence of abstract objects such as numbers. Mathematical sentences are true, but they should not be construed literally. Numbers are just fictions in terms of which we can conveniently describe things which exist. The paper defends Stephen Yablo’s hermeneutic fictionalism against an objection proposed by John Burgess and Gideon Rosen. The objection, directed against all forms of nominalism, goes as follows. Nominalism can take either a hermeneutic (...) form and claim that mathematics, when rightly understood, is not committed to the existence of abstract objects, or a revolutionary form and claim that mathematics is to be understood literally but is false. The hermeneutic version is said to be untenable because there is no philosophically unbiased linguistic argument to show that mathematics should not be understood literally. Against this I argue that it is wrong to demand that hermeneutic fictionalism should be established solely on the basis of linguistic evidence. In addition, there are reasons to think that hermeneutic fictionalism cannot even be defeated by linguistic arguments alone. (shrink)
In a note to G.R.S. Mead’s "Quests Old and New", where he found a section devoted to Hans Vaihinger’s main ideas, Fernando Pessoa reflects on the consequences of the fictionalist approach to both our perception of the I and the value of consciousness. These questions correspond to some statements that we find in Nietzsche’s writings, which in particular Vaihinger refers to in his Die Philosophie des Als-ob. Our aim is thus to compare Nietzsche’s and Pessoa’s view of the I and (...) consciousness, and to deal with their psychology by making reference to Vaihinger’s fictionalism. (shrink)
According to John Mackie, moral talk is representational (the realists go that bit right) but its metaphysical presuppositions are wildly implausible (the non-cognitivists got that bit right). This is the basis of Mackie’s now famous error theory: that moral judgments are cognitively meaningful but systematically false. Of course, Mackie went on to recommend various substantive moral judgments, and, in the light of his error theory, that has seemed odd to a lot of folk. Richard Joyce has argued that Mackie’s approach (...) can be vindicated by a fictionalist account of moral discourse. And Mark Kalderon has argued that moral fictionalism is attractive quite independently of Mackie’s error-theory. Kalderon argues that the Frege–Geach problem shows that we need moral propositions, but that a fictionalist can and should embrace propositional content together with a non-cognitivist account of acceptance of a moral proposition. Indeed, it is clear that any fictionalist is going to have to postulate more than one kind of acceptance attitude. We argue that this double-approach to acceptance generates a new problem – a descendent of Frege–Geach – which we call the acceptance–transfer problem. Although we develop the problem in the context of Kalderon’s version of non-cognitivist fictionalism, we show that it is not the non-cognitivist aspect of Kalderon’s account that generates the problem. A closely related problem surfaces for the more typical variants of fictionalism according to which accepting a moral proposition is believing some closely related non-moral proposition. Fictionalists of both stripes thus have an attitude problem. (shrink)
Questions regarding what exists are central to various forms of Buddhist philosophy, as they are to many traditions of philosophy. Interestingly, there is perhaps a clearer consensus in Buddhist thought regarding what does not exist than there may be regarding precisely what does exist, at least insofar as the doctrine of anātman (no self, absence of self) is taken to be a fundamental Buddhist doctrine. It may be noted that many forms of Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy in particular are considered to (...) offer a quite austere ontology—a rather ‘empty’ account of what exists. Continuing in this vein of ontological austerity, here I will attempt to lay out a relatively novel approach to Buddhist ontology, viz. Buddhist fictionalism. (shrink)
Modal fictionalists face a problem that arises due to their possible-world story being incomplete in the sense that certain relevant claims are neither true nor false according to it. It has recently been suggested that this incompleteness problem generalises to other brands of fictionalism, such as fictionalism about composite or mathematical objects. In this paper, I argue that these fictionalist positions are particularly threatened by a generalised incompleteness problem since they cannot emulate the modal fictionalists’ most attractive response. (...) I then defend mathematical and compositional fictionalism by showing that the reasons for which the incompleteness problem has been thought to affect them are mistaken. This leads to the question of whether there are other fictionalist positions to which the problem does in fact generalise. I give a general account of the features of a fictionalist position that generate the incompleteness problem and argue that whenever a fictionalist position does exemplify these features then the problem can be addressed in analogy to the modal fictionalists’ preferred response. (shrink)
In this paper, after clarifying certain features of Gideon Rosen’s Modal Fictionalism, I raise two problems for that view and argue that these problems strongly suggest that advocates of a “Deflationist Strategy” ought not to endorse, or adopt Rosen-style Modal Fictionalism.
Accounts of modality in terms of fictional possible worlds face an objection based on the idea that when modal claims are analysed in terms of fictions, the connection between analysans and analysandum seems artificial. Strong modal fictionalism, the theory according to which modal claims are analysed in terms of a fiction, has been defended by, among others, Seahwa Kim, who has recently claimed that the philosophical objection that the connection between modality and fictions is artificial can be met. I (...) propose a new way of spelling out the intuition of artificiality and show that strong modal fictionalism should be rejected. (shrink)
One of the most central ideas of secular, humanistic morality is the thesis of intrinsic and equal human worth. Paradoxically, it is very hard to place this thesis in a secular worldview, because an indifferent universe can not make room for intrinsic values and a priori human rights. Nevertheless, it would not be a good solution to jettison the whole human rights discourse. Therefore, this paper proposes the stance of moral fictionalism: to believe that the discourse entails or embodies (...) a theory that is false, but to carry on employing the discourse, as if this were not the case, because it is useful to do so. As such, the ideas of intrinsic and equal human worth can be the subject of ëdisbelieving acceptanceí by the secular moral philosopher. (shrink)
As a descriptive theory, moral fictionalism proposes that moral claims are typically based on the fundamental error of attributing moral values with an objective, independent status that they cannot possess. This illusory belief in the reality of moral values has been aptly described as naïve moral realism. Yet, the assumed prevalence of moral realism, however naïve, is a crucial question that has not been adequately defended by proponents of moral fictionalism and is found to be inconsistent with much (...) empirical research in moral psychology that reveals a much more sophisticated understanding of the meanings of moral beliefs and judgements. In addition to these empirical weaknesses, moral fictionalism tends to rely on a naïve interpretation of: (1) the conceptual validity and scope of the cognitivivist/non-cognitivist distinction (2) the categoricity of moral judgements (3) the descriptive language of moral discourse These serious flaws provide good reason for describing the theory itself as naïve moral fictionalism. (shrink)
In this book, Bradley Armour-Garb and James A. Woodbridge distinguish various species of fictionalism, locating and defending their own version of philosophical fictionalism. Addressing semantic and philosophical puzzles that arise from ordinary language, they consider such issues as the problem of non-being, plural identity claims, mental-attitude ascriptions, meaning attributions, and truth-talk. They consider 'deflationism about truth', explaining why deflationists should be fictionalists, and show how their philosophical fictionalist account of truth-talk underwrites a dissolution of the Liar Paradox and (...) its kin. They further explore the semantic notions of reference and predicate-satisfaction, showing how philosophical fictionalism can also resolve puzzles that these notions appear to present. Their critical examination of fictionalist approaches in philosophy, together with the development and application of their own brand of philosophical fictionalism, will be of great interest to scholars and upper-level students of philosophy of language, metaphysics, philosophical logic, philosophy of mind, epistemology, and linguistics. (shrink)
Fictionalist approaches to ontology have been an accepted part of philosophical methodology for some time now. On a fictionalist view, engaging in discourse that involves apparent reference to a realm of problematic entities is best viewed as engaging in a pretense. Although in reality, the problematic entities do not exist, according to the pretense we engage in when using the discourse, they do exist. In the vocabulary of Burgess and Rosen (1997, p. 6), a nominalist construal of a given discourse (...) is revolutionary just in case it involves a “reconstruction or revision” of the original discourse. Revolutionary approaches are therefore prescriptive. In contrast, a nominalist construal of a given discourse is hermeneutic just in case it is a nominalist construal of a discourse that is put forth as a hypothesis about how the discourse is in fact used; that is, hermeneutic approaches are descriptive. I will adopt Burgess and Rosen’s terminology to describe the two different spirits in which a fictionalist hypothesis in ontology might be advanced. Revolutionary fictionalism would involve admitting that while the problematic discourse does in fact involve literal reference to nonexistent entities, we ought to use the discourse in such a way that the reference is simply within the pretense. The hermeneutic fictionalist, in contrast, reads fictionalism into our actual use of the problematic discourse. According to her, normal use of the problematic discourse involves a pretense. According to the pretense, and only according to the pretense, there exist the objects to which the discourse would commit its users, were no pretense involved. My purpose in this paper is to argue that hermeneutic fictionalism is not a viable strategy in ontology. My argument proceeds in two steps. First, I discuss in detail several problematic consequences of any interesting application of hermeneutic fictionalism. Of course, if there is good evidence that hermeneutic fictionalism is correct in some cases, then some of these drastic consequences would have to be accepted.. (shrink)
In this paper we introduce a distinct metaethical position, fictionalism about morality. We clarify and defend the position, showing that it is a way to save the 'moral phenomena' while agreeing that there is no genuine objective prescriptivity to be described by moral terms. In particular, we distinguish moral fictionalism from moral quasi-realism, and we show that fictionalism possesses the virtues of quasi-realism about morality, but avoids its vices.
This paper develops a novel version of mathematical fictionalism and defends it against three objections or worries, viz., (i) an objection based on the fact that there are obvious disanalogies between mathematics and fiction; (ii) a worry about whether fictionalism is consistent with the fact that certain mathematical sentences are objectively correct whereas others are incorrect; and (iii) a recent objection due to John Burgess concerning “hermeneuticism” and “revolutionism”.
Are fictional characters such as Sherlock Holmes real? What can fiction tell us about the nature of truth and reality? In this excellent introduction to the problem of fictionalism R. M. Sainsbury covers the following key topics: what is fiction? realism about fictional objects, including the arguments that fictional objects are real but non-existent; real but non-factual; real but non-concrete the relationship between fictional characters and non-actual worlds fictional entities as abstract artefacts fiction and intentionality and the problem of (...) irrealism fictionalism about possible worlds moral fictionalism. R. M. Sainsbury makes extensive use of examples from fiction, such as Sherlock Holmes, Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary and examines the work of philosophers who have made significant contributions to the topic, including Meinong, David Lewis, and Bas Van Fraassen. Additional features include chapter summaries, annotated further reading and a glossary of technical terms, making _Fiction and Fictionalism_ ideal for those coming to the issue for the first time. (shrink)
Questions about necessity (or what has to be, or what cannot be otherwise) and possibility (or what can be, or what could be otherwise) are questions about modality. Fictionalism is an approach to theoretical matters in a given area which treats the claims in that area as being in some sense analogous to fictional claims: claims we do not literally accept at face value, but which we nevertheless think serve some useful function. However, despite its name, “Modal Fictionalism” (...) in its usual manifestations is not primarily fictionalism about claims of necessity and possibility, but rather a fictionalist approach to claims about possible worlds. (For instance, modal fictionalism is not normally fictionalist about the claim that “it is possible that there be a species of tail-less kangaroo”, but rather about the claim that “there is a possible world in which there is a species of tail-less kangaroo”.) The practice of taking possible worlds to be merely convenient fictions, or of treating talk about possible worlds as being useful without being literally correct, is quite common in philosophical circles. It is only recently, however, that philosophers have seriously examined the implications of taking possible worlds to be merely fictional objects, like Sherlock Holmes or a frictionless surface. (shrink)
Andrew Eshleman has argued that atheists can believe in God by being fully engaged members of religious communities and using religious discourse in a non-realist way. He calls this position 'fictionalism' because the atheist takes up religion as a useful fiction. In this paper I critique fictionalism along two lines: that it is problematic to successfully be a fictionalist and that fictionalism is unjustified. Reflection on fictionalism will point to some wider problems with religious anti-realism.
Here I explore the prospects for fictionalism about the mental, modeled after fictionalism about possible worlds. Mental fictionalism holds that the mental states posited by folk psychology do not exist, yet that some sentences of folk psychological discourse are true. This is accomplished by construing truths of folk psychology as “truths according to the mentalistic fiction.” After formulating the view, I identify five ways that the view appears self-refuting. Moreover, I argue that this cannot be fixed by (...) semantic ascent or by a kind of primitivism. Even so, I also show that the “self-refutation” charges are subtly question-begging. Nevertheless, the reply reveals that a mental fictionalist ought to be a kind of quietist. (shrink)
Mathematical fictionalism (or as I'll call it, fictionalism) is best thought of as a reaction to mathematical platonism. Platonism is the view that (a) there exist abstract mathematical objects (i.e., nonspatiotemporal mathematical objects), and (b) our mathematical sentences and theories provide true descriptions of such objects. So, for instance, on the platonist view, the sentence ‘3 is prime’ provides a straightforward description of a certain object—namely, the number 3—in much the same way that the sentence ‘Mars is red’ (...) provides a description of Mars. But whereas Mars is a physical object, the number 3 is (according to platonism) an abstract object. And abstract objects, platonists tell us, are wholly nonphysical, nonmental, nonspatial, nontemporal, and noncausal. Thus, on this view, the number 3 exists independently of us and our thinking, but it does not exist in space or time, it is not a physical or mental object, and it does not enter into causal relations with other objects. This view has been endorsed by Plato, Frege (1884, 1893-1903, 1919), Gödel (1964), and in some of their writings, Russell (1912) and Quine (1948, 1951), not to mention numerous more recent philosophers of mathematics, e.g., Putnam (1971), Parsons (1971), Steiner (1975), Resnik (1997), Shapiro (1997), Hale (1987), Wright (1983), Katz (1998), Zalta (1988), and Colyvan (2001). (shrink)