Friend, Stacie. Believing in Stories
2014, in Greg Currie, Matthew Kieran, Aaron Meskin, and Jon Robson (eds), Aesthetics and the Sciences of the Mind, Oxford University Press: 227-48.
Added by: Andrea Blomqvist
Summary: There is a widespread assumption that we can learn facts from fiction: ordinary empirical facts about history, geography, society, biology, and so on. Although nothing about the nature of fiction precludes the acquisition of empirical knowledge, learning facts from fiction is far from straightforward. Fictional texts usually contain a mix of truths and falsehoods and are rarely vetted for accuracy. Readers should tread carefully in forming beliefs from fiction. Do they? According to various psychological studies, they do not. The evidence indicates that for some information, readers are at least as likely to believe what they read in fiction as in non-fiction. Friend claims that these results cast greater doubt on the possibility of empirical knowledge from fiction than standard objections in the literature. Drawing on work by Williamson and Sosa, she proposes that we meet this challenge by appeal to the competences exercised in reading fiction.
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Comment: This paper concerns how we can learn from fiction, and it would be suitable as a required reading in a module on that topic.