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Res Philosophica

Volume 97, Issue 4, October 2020

Daniel Nolan
Pages 661-685

Imaginative Resistance and Modal Knowledge

Readers of fictions sometimes resist taking certain kinds of claims to be true according to those fictions, even when they appear explicitly or follow from applying ordinary principles of interpretation. This “imaginative resistance” is often taken to be significant for a range of philosophical projects outside aesthetics, including giving us evidence about what is possible and what is impossible, as well as the limits of conceivability or readers’ normative commitments. I will argue that this phenomenon cannot do the theoretical work that has been asked of it. Resistance to taking things to be fictional is often best explained by unfamiliarity with kinds of fictions than any representational, normative, or cognitive limits. With training and experience, any understandable proposition can be made fictional and be taken to be fictional by readers. This requires a new understanding both of imaginative resistance and what it might be able to tell us about topics like conceivability or the bounds of possibility.

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