Reactionary Fictionalism

Southern Journal of Philosophy 58 (2):238-263 (2020)
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Fictionalism is the view that the claims of a target discourse are best seen as being fictional in some way, as being expressed in some pretense manner, or as not being about the traditional posits of the discourse. The contemporary taxonomy of fictionalist views is quite elaborate. Yet, there is a version of fictionalism that has failed to develop and which corresponds to the earliest form of the view found in the history of philosophy, East and West. I call this view “reactionary fictionalism.” I argue that traces of reactionary fictionalism can be found in Classical Daoism, Madhyamaka Buddhism, and Pyrrhonian Skepticism. Reactionary fictionalism is a kind of fictionalism that differs from both the hermeneutic and revolutionary kinds discussed today. Hermeneutic fictionalism says we already treat the claims of a target discourse in a fictional manner. Revolutionary fictionalism recommends we all start treating the claims of a target discourse in a fictional manner for reasons mostly of social utility. Reactionary fictionalism recommends, by contrast, that only those concerned with obtaining maximal therapeutic release from the pathology of literally asserting genuine beliefs in the claims of a target discourse should react in a pretense manner to inescapable contexts demanding the use of the claims of that discourse. I aim to show that reactionary fictionalism was a technique utilized in premodern skeptical traditions as a means for enduring one's condemnation to near‐permanent sociality. I recommend slotting reactionary fictionalism into our present taxonomy once we note that employing fictionalism can have a primarily therapeutic motivation and not merely a semantic, epistemic, or metaphysical one.



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Jason Dockstader
University College, Cork

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References found in this work

Parts of Classes.David K. Lewis - 1991 - Mind 100 (3):394-397.
Hermeneutic fictionalism.Jason Stanley - 2001 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 25 (1):36–71.
Moral Error Theory.Wouter Floris Kalf - 2015 - Londen, Verenigd Koninkrijk: Palgrave Macmillan.
Moral fictionalism versus the rest.Daniel Nolan, Greg Restall & Caroline West - 2005 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (3):307 – 330.
A Pyrrhonian Interpretation of Hume on Assent.Donald L. M. Baxter - 2016 - In Diego Machuca & Baron Reed (eds.), Skepticism: From Antiquity to the Present. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 380-394.

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