chapter  27
12 Pages



Few concepts in the arts are as central to our ordinary commerce with art works yet as philosophically problematic as that of fiction. While we seem to have little difficulty employing the concept in everyday life, a number of very thorny problems continue to preoccupy philosophers. Most obviously, the very nature of fiction calls for clarification: what distinguishes those verbally or visually presented representations which are fictions from those which are not? Second, there are questions about the notion of ‘fictional truth,’ or, less paradoxically, ‘truth in a fiction.’ Third, there are possibly deeper questions about what may be termed ‘truth through fiction,’ the capacity of fictions to furnish us with knowledge of the actual world. Fourth there are questions about the mode of existence enjoyed by those characters and events, described in fictional narratives, upon which the truth or falsity of claims made about those narratives seems to depend. Finally, there are apparent paradoxes arising out of our emotional responses to representations acknowledged to be fictional. I shall examine in some detail how the first three questions might be answered, and briefly locate the remaining questions in the broader philosophical terrain.