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Robert Howell

Literary Fictions, Real and Unreal


ISBN: 978-3-88405-509-0

Price: €38.00 (including 19 % tax)


Abstract

Howell begins with two contemporary accounts of fiction: realism, defended by van Inwagen, Salmon, Thomasson, and the authors; and Walton’s make-believe view. Realists take characters such as Anna Karenina to be existent, abstract objects of reference and predication. Make-believe theorists deny that characters exist. We merely pretend to refer to and describe them. One might try combining these views. But Everett’s problems about ontic indeterminacy and logical incoherence disprove realism. Make-believe views also fail, for (as realists urge) claims such as “Tolstoy’s character is female” are true, actual-world assertions, not pretenses. We can, however, provide a theory that supersedes both these views. According to this theory, in reading fiction we assume, nonconsciously, that terms such as “Anna Karenina” are rigid designators. We assert such claims only within the scope of this assumption. These claims are genuine assertions, but they hold true only at the world of the fiction. After developing this view, I compare literary and scientific fictions briefly.

About the Author

Robert Howell is professor of philosophy at the University at Albany, SUNY (State University of New York at Albany), and a graduate of the University of Michigan (Ph.D.) and Kenyon College (A.B.). He has taught also at the University of Illinois (Urbana), Stanford University, and, as a visitor, at The Johns Hopkins University and Moscow State University. His research has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the Fulbright program. He has published essays on the semantics and metaphysics of fiction and on the ontology of art. In addition, he works in the history of modern philosophy, focusing on Kant’s theoretical philosophy. (See especially Kant’s Transcendental Deduction, 1992.) The Kantian tradition has deep relations to recent work on fiction - some well-known, some unexpected - which he hopes to explore in future research.


 





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