Narrative Fiction as a Source of Knowledge

  • Mitchell Green
Part of the Argumentation Library book series (ARGA, volume 31)


In this essay I refine and extend a defense of literary cognitivism (the view that works of literary narrative fiction may serve as sources of knowledge –and not merely belief– in a way that depends crucially on their being fictional) that I and others have provided in earlier publications. Central to that defense is a refinement of Aristotle’s idea of successful dramas as unfolding with “internal necessity”, in light of which I distinguish those forms of narration that show, rather than merely state, that something is so. Literary narrative fiction also often takes the form of a thought experiment, and I distinguish among three aims of such experiment: to make claims (didactic), to exhort to action (directive) and to stimulate inquiry (interrogative). In developing this approach I defend a view of the author of a literary narrative fiction as being in conversation with her readers, and to that end draw upon a view of conversation as driven by an evolving common ground shared among interlocutors. I close with a discussion of some important pitfalls to which narration in literary fiction is prone, and of how in such cases narration’s epistemic value depends primarily upon on our taking the author’s word for how things are.


Thought Experiment Acceptance State Transcendental Argument Narrative Fiction Literary Fiction 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ConnecticutStorrsUSA

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