The Cognitive Role of Fictionality

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2019)
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Abstract

The question of the cognitive role of fictionality is this: what is the correct cognitive attitude to take to p, when it is fictional that p? We began by considering one answer to this question, implicit in the work of Kendall Walton, that the correct response to a fictional proposition is to imagine that proposition. However, this approach is silent in cases of fictional incompleteness, where neither p nor its negation are fictional. We argue that that Waltonians should embrace a pluralistic account of the cognitive role of fictional incompleteness: in some cases of fictional incompleteness, we are permitted to resolve the incompleteness during our engagement with the target fiction, and in other cases, we are obliged not to resolve the incompleteness. But though pluralism is accommodated by Walton’s wider account of fictionality, it puts tension on his motivating idea that fictionality stands to the imagination as truth stands to belief. And so we develop a rival conception of the cognitive role of fictionality that is built around a different analogy: on this evidentialist approach, (known) fictionality stands to the imagination as evidence stands to credence.

Author Profiles

Robert Williams
University of Leeds
Richard Woodward
Humboldt University, Berlin

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