Synthese 199 (1-2):3169-3188 (2020)

Michel-Antoine Xhignesse
Capilano University
It is widely believed, among philosophers of literature, that imagining contradictions is as easy as telling or reading a story with contradictory content. Italo Calvino’s The Nonexistent Knight, for instance, concerns a knight who performs many brave deeds, but who does not exist. Anything at all, they argue, can be true in a story, including contradictions and other impossibilia. While most will readily concede that we cannot objectually imagine contradictions, they nevertheless insist that we can propositionally imagine them, and regularly do, simply by entertaining a text which prompts us to do so. I argue that this narrative does not bear scrutiny for two main reasons. First, because propositional imagining is beside the point, where truth in fiction is concerned; evaluating truth in fiction engages the cognitive architecture in ways that prohibit the mobilization of merely propositional imagination to that end. And second, because it is not obvious, given the strategies usually suggested, that we ever propositionally imagine contradictions in the first place—in fact, it seems we go out of our way to avoid directly imagining them.
Keywords imagination  impossibility  contradiction  propositional imagining  objectual imagining  occurrent reading  reflective reading  truth in fiction  fiction  literature
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-020-02929-0
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References found in this work BETA

Does Conceivability Entail Possibility.David J. Chalmers - 2002 - In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Conceivability and Possibility. Oxford University Press. pp. 145--200.
Truth in Fiction.David K. Postscripts to Lewis - 1978 - American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (1):37--46.

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Citations of this work BETA

‘Truth in Fiction’ Reprised.Manuel García-Carpintero - 2022 - British Journal of Aesthetics 62 (2):307-324.
On Modality in Fiction.Miloš Kosterec - 2021 - Synthese 199 (5-6):13543-13567.

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