Truth in Fiction

Rethinking its Logic

  • John Woods

Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 391)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiv
  2. John Woods
    Pages 1-23
  3. John Woods
    Pages 25-47
  4. John Woods
    Pages 49-71
  5. John Woods
    Pages 73-91
  6. John Woods
    Pages 93-112
  7. John Woods
    Pages 113-131
  8. John Woods
    Pages 133-151
  9. John Woods
    Pages 153-172
  10. John Woods
    Pages 173-192
  11. John Woods
    Pages 193-218
  12. Back Matter
    Pages 219-239

About this book


This monograph examines truth in fiction by applying the techniques of a naturalized logic of human cognitive practices. The author structures his project around two focal questions. What would it take to write a book about truth in literary discourse with reasonable promise of getting it right? What would it take to write a book about truth in fiction as true to the facts of lived literary experience as objectivity allows?

It is argued that the most semantically distinctive feature of the sentences of fiction is that they are unambiguously true and false together. It is true that Sherlock Holmes lived at 221B Baker Street and also concurrently false that he did. A second distinctive feature of fiction is that the reader at large knows of this inconsistency and isn’t in the least cognitively molested by it. Why, it is asked, would this be so? What would explain it?

Two answers are developed. According to the no-contradiction thesis, the semantically tangled sentences of fiction are indeed logically inconsistent but not logically contradictory. According to the no-bother thesis, if the inconsistencies of fiction were contradictory, a properly contrived logic for the rational management of inconsistency would explain why readers at large are not thrown off cognitive stride by their embrace of those contradictions. As developed here, the account of fiction suggests the presence of an underlying three - or four-valued dialethic logic. The author shows this to be a mistaken impression. There are only two truth-values in his logic of fiction.

The naturalized logic of Truth in Fiction jettisons some of the standard assumptions and analytical tools of contemporary philosophy, chiefly because the neurotypical linguistic and cognitive behaviour of humanity at large is at variance with them. Using the resources of a causal response epistemology in tandem with the naturalized logic, the theory produced here is data-driven, empirically sensitive, and open to a circumspect collaboration with the empirical sciences of language and cognition.


Semantics of fictional discourse Pretendism Causal response epistemology Semantic illusion Lived readerly experience Inconsistency of fiction Re-engagement psychology Truth-sitedness Fictional nonambiguity Frege-Russell Tarski-Quine-Davidson Edmund Husserl Alexius Meinong Kendall Walton Terence Parsons Dale Jacquette; Francesco Berto Saul Kripke Dom Lopes Graham Priest; Truth-making Inconsistency-management

Authors and affiliations

  • John Woods
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Bibliographic information