Exploding stories and the limits of fiction

Philosophical Studies 178 (3):675-692 (2020)
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It is widely agreed that fiction is necessarily incomplete, but some recent work postulates the existence of universal fictions—stories according to which everything is true. Building such a story is supposedly straightforward: authors can either assert that everything is true in their story, define a complement function that does the assertoric work for them, or, most compellingly, write a story combining a contradiction with the principle of explosion. The case for universal fictions thus turns on the intuitive priority we assign to the law of non-contradiction. My goal in this paper is to show that our critical and reflective literary practices set constraints on story-telling which preclude universal fictions. I will raise four stumbling blocks for universal fictionalists: the gap between saying and making true, our actual interpretive reactions to story-level contradictions, the criteria we accept for what counts as a story in our literary practices, and the undesirability of the universal fictionalist’s closure principles.

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Michel-Antoine Xhignesse
Capilano University


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