Article/Publication Details

The Truth about Sherlock Holmes

Organon F, 2017, vol. 24, No 3, pp. 339-365.
Language: English
File to download: PDF*

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Abstract

According to possibilism, or non-actualism, fictional characters are possible individuals. Possibilist accounts of fiction do not only assign the intuitively correct truth-conditions to sentences in a fiction, but has the potential to provide powerful explanatory models for a wide range of phenomena associated with fiction (though these two aspects of possibilism are, I argue, crucially distinct). Apart from the classic defense by David Lewis the idea of modeling fiction in terms of possible worlds have been widely criticized. In this article, I provide a defense of a possibilist account against some lines of criticism. To do so, I assume that names for fictional characters are directly referential and a possible-worlds model that accommodates transworld identity. On this background, I argue, it is possible to construct an elegant model of fictional discourse using familiar models of information exchange in ordinary discourse, and I sketch how this model can be used to i) make a natural distinction between fictional and counterfactual discourse, ii) account for creativity, and iii) sustain a natural definition of truth-in-fiction that avoids certain familiar objections to possibilism. Though I set aside questions about the metaphysical commitments of a possible-world interpretation here, there is accordingly reason to think that the battle over possibilist treatments of fiction will have to be fought over metaphysical foundations rather than technical shortcomings.

Keywords

creativity, fiction, non-actualism, possibilism, truth-in-fiction

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