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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 60, Issue 2, June 2020

Stephen Chamberlain
Pages 201-219

Truth, Fiction and Narrative Understanding

This paper defends the cognitive value of literary fiction by showing how Paul Ricoeur’s account of narrative understanding emphasizes the productive and creative elements of fictional discourse and defends its referential capacity insofar as fiction reshapes reality according to some universal aspect. Central to this analysis is Ricoeur’s retrieval of Aristotelian mimesis and mythos and their convergence in the notion of emplotment. This paper also supplements and specifies further Ricoeur’s account by retrieving an Aristotelian concept disregarded by Riceour, namely, synesis (understanding). Although Ricoeur connects narrative understanding to the intelligibility of praxis and in turn phronêsis, as opposed to theoretical knowledge (theōria or epistēmē), he overlooks Aristotle’s discussion of synesis. This paper then clarifies how the fictional truth of narrative understanding remains related to, and yet distinct from, both theoretical discourse (science) and praxis (politics).

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