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Res Philosophica

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published on November 21, 2015

Erik Schmidt
DOI: 10.11612/resphil.2016.93.2.9

Knowing Fictions
Metalepsis and the Cognitive Value of Fiction

Recent discussions about the cognitive value of fiction either rely on a background theory of reference or a theory of imaginative pretense. I argue that this reliance produces a tension between the two central or defining claims of literary cognitivism that: (1) fiction can have cognitive value by revealing or supporting insights into the world that properly count as true, and (2) that the cognitive value of a work of fiction contributes directly to that work’s literary value. I address that tension by looking at the formal devices present in a work of fiction that enable it to realize the fictional world described by a text. When we focus on those formal elements, we can identify a connection between a work of literary fiction and the insights we gain through an encounter with the fictional world that work realizes.

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