Contemplation and Hypotheses in Literature

Philosophical Frontiers 5 (1):73-83 (2010)
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Abstract

In literary aesthetics, the debate on whether literary fictions provide propositional knowledge generally centres around the question whether there are authors’ explicit or implicit truth-claims in literary works and whether the reader’s act of looking for and assessing such claims as true or false is an appropriate stance toward the works as literary works. Nevertheless, in reading literary fiction, readers cannot always be sure whether the author is actually asserting or suggesting a view she expresses or presents because of the artistic and imaginative nature of the work. In this essay, I shall argue that in addition to asserting and suggesting, authors make use of a third way of conveying knowledge by their works: they invite the reader to genuinely or extra-fictionally contemplate unasserted thoughts or viewpoints to a given issue, or they offer hypotheses or provide the reader fictional material for constructing a hypothesis. The aim of this essay is to examine this rather unanalyzed but extremely wide grey zone: the author’s act of ‘contemplating’ and the cognitive value of its products which I shall call ‘literary hypotheses.’

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Jukka Mikkonen
University of Jyväskylä

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