Can Literary Fiction be Suppositional Reasoning?

In Catarina Dutilh Novaes, Henrike Jansen, Jan Albert Van Laar & Bart Verheij (eds.), Reason to Dissent: Proceedings of the 3rd European Conference on Argumentation, Vol. III. London, UK: College Publications. pp. 279-289 (2020)
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Abstract

Suppositional reasoning can seem spooky. Suppositional reasoners allegedly (e.g.) “extract knowledge from the sheer workings of their own minds” (Rosa), even where the knowledge is synthetic a posteriori. Can literary fiction pull such a rabbit out of its hat? Where P is a work’s fictional ‘premise’, some hold that some works reason declaratively (supposing P, Q), imperatively (supposing P, do Q), or interrogatively (supposing P, Q?), and that this can be a source of knowledge if the reasoning is good. True, I will argue, although only within the context of judicious critical interpretation. Further evident constraints include that the form of the suppositional reasoning needs to be declarative or imperative, and that the fictional ‘premise’ of the work needs to be a metaphysical counterfactual possibility, not merely a temporal counterfactual and not merely an epistemic possibility or probabilistic supposition.

Author's Profile

Gilbert Edward Plumer
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (PhD)

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