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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 56, Issue 1, March 2016

Stephen Chamberlain
Pages 5-21

The Virtue of Fictional Wisdom
An Aristotelian-Thomistic Account

This paper defends the cognitive value of literary fiction by offering an account of fictional truth and wisdom that is based upon Aristotelian-Thomistic principles. It first shows how Aristotle’s notion of understanding (sunesis) as an intellectual virtue provides the foundation for the possibility of fictional truth and wisdom. Second, it considers how Aquinas’s notion of the cogitative faculty or ratio particularis elucidates the faculty that is employed in the act of perception (aísthēsis) that is essential to the virtue of understanding. Third, the author shows how Martha Nussbaum’s contemporary account of deliberative imagination clarifies these classical notions of understanding and the cogitative faculty. Finally, the author argues that these central concepts, when connected to literary fiction, provide philosophical justification for the claim of fictional truth and in turn knowledge or wisdom.

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