Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

On the Mood for Fiction

20 December 2023  |  15:00  |  Seminari de Filosofia UB


How should we think of the utterances that convey (literary) fictions? Searle (1974/5) (and before him MacDonald (1954), with more compelling arguments) influentially argues that they are (non-deceptive) mere pretense – the simulation of acts like assertions or questions. They don’t constitute sui generis, dedicated representational practices of a specific kind, fictionalizing, on a par with assertions or questions. This has been the standard view in analytic philosophy until the 1990s, casually endorsed already by Frege, and then by many others like Austin, Kripke and van Inwagen. Even though authors including Alward (2009), Predelli (2019, 2020), and Recanati (2021) still endorse the view, Walton (1990) and others provide in my view decisive objections (cf. in particular de Gaynesford 2009), mostly predicated on its lack of explanatory power for different aspects of fictionality that good theories should and can provide. Walton himself also rejects views of the kind MacDonald and Searle question, which take fictionalizing to be a sui generis speech act, but his arguments are uncompelling; Currie (1990) nicely articulated one such account inside a Gricean framework, showing its explanatory power. Recently other writers have argued that a more conventionalist, Austinian framework provides better accounts, including García-Carpintero (2013),  Abell (2020) and Bergman & Franzén (2022). While following Currie I suggested classifying speech acts of fictionalizing as directives, the latter authors defend classifying them as declarations – like giving out players, naming ships or sentencing offenders. In my paper I'll question the declaration view, but I'll also explore another alternative to the directive account, by considering whether fictionalizings are a variety of constative act, along lines that Predelli (1997), Recanati (2000), and Reimer (2005) have theorized.