Interpreting Fictions

  • Gregory Currie


A young governess is given charge of two orphaned children by their guardian. The children have been exposed to an immoral liaison between their former governess and the odious Peter Quint, both now dead. The new governess becomes aware that the dead have returned to complete their corruption of the children, who pretend to be unknowing of their presence. She confronts the boy with the ghost of Quint. The boy dies in her arms.


Belief Attribution Coherence Theory Tribute Belief Assertibility Condition Ghost Story 
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  1. 3.
    I realise that at least some of these putative features of belief are controversial (see e.g. Robert Stalnaker, Inquiry, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1984)Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    This is Hilary Putnam’s characterisation of realism in Meaning and the Moral Sciences (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978), pp. 123–40.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    The determinacy of mentalistic attribution has been challenged by a number of writers, most famously Quine. The most recent, and most radical, challenge is that of Kripke, in Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982).Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    See T. Parsons, Nonexistent Objects (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    In fact there is an alarming tendency in the current literature to go to the opposite extreme. See Steven Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels, ‘Against Theory’, Critical Inquiry, 8 (1982), pp. 723–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 12.
    The example is due to David Lewis (‘Truth in Fiction’, in Philosophical Papers, Vol. 1 [London: Oxford University Press, 1984]).Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    See Frank Jackson, Conditionals (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987), p. 10.Google Scholar
  8. 20.
    ‘Relativism’ is a somewhat adaptive term, and the sense I ascribe to it in what follows is just one of the senses it may bear. For some writers its meaning is close to what I here call ‘anti-realism’ (see e.g. Joseph Margolis, ‘Robust Relativism’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 35 (1976), pp. 37–46).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 22.
    This argument corresponds to, or at least has close affinities with, one of the more interesting lines of thought recently pursued by Stanley Fish. But in Fish’s exposition it is mixed up with a number of others which I regard as straightforwardly mistaken. See e.g. his ‘Normal Circumstances... and Other Special Cases’, in Is There a Text in This Class? (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980). A good account of some of Fish’s errors is to be found in Peter Kivy, ‘Fish’s Consequences’, British Journal of Aesthetics, 29 (1989), pp. 57–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory Currie

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