Counterfactual claims about fictional characters: philosophical and literary perspectives

Luis Galván 1
  • 1 Department of Philology, University of Navarra, E-31009, Pamplona, Spain
Luis Galván

Abstract

The problems of making and evaluating counterfactual claims about fictional characters cannot be adequately handled without taking into account the practices of literary criticism, interpretation, and re-creation. The direct-reference theory of names explains only a subset of the phenomena of fiction and explains away the rest as irrelevant or pseudo-problems, whereas some criticisms of that theory bring in metaphysical concepts that may obscure the issue. This paper suggests that the indeterminacy of fictions and the conventions of the aforementioned practices are sufficient basis for explaining and assessing such counterfactual claims. In this view, fiction ceases to be understood as a phenomenon sui generis; it is instead an institutionalized use of the stipulative or computational aspects of language that are at work in other areas as well. Thus, these results can be brought into line with recent ideas in the fields of the philosophy of mathematics, relevance theory, and cognitive studies.

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The Journal of Literary Semantics has pioneered and encouraged research into the relations between linguistics and literature. Widely read by theoretical and applied linguists, narratologists, poeticians, philosophers and psycholinguists, the journal publishes articles of a philosophical or theoretical nature that attempt to advance our understanding of the structures, dynamics, and significations of literary texts.

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