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Bokulich, Alisa, , . Distinguishing Explanatory from Nonexplanatory Fictions
2012, Philosophy of Science 79(5): 725-737.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

Abstract: There is a growing recognition that fictions have a number of legitimate functions in science, even when it comes to scientific explanation. However, the question then arises, what distinguishes an explanatory fiction from a nonexplanatory one? Here I examine two cases – one in which there is a consensus in the scientific community that the fiction is explanatory and another in which the fiction is not explanatory. I shall show how my account of “model explanations” is able to explain this asymmetry, and argue that realism – of a more subtle form – does have a role in distinguishing explanatory from nonexplanatory fictions.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on the philosophy of science or the philosophy of fiction. It is particularly useful for teaching, as it is cutting edge in the philosophy of science but not particularly technical.

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Bokulich, Alisa, , . How scientific models can explain
2009, Synthese 180(1): 33-45.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by:

Abstract: Scientific models invariably involve some degree of idealization, abstraction, or fictionalization of their target system. Nonetheless, I argue that there are circumstances under which such false models can offer genuine scientific explanations. After reviewing three different proposals in the literature for how models can explain, I shall introduce a more general account of what I call model explanations, which specify the conditions under which models can be counted as explanatory. I shall illustrate this new framework by applying it to the case of Bohr’s model of the atom, and conclude by drawing some distinctions between phenomenological models, explanatory models, and fictional models.

Comment: Interesting paper about scientific modelling. It is easy to read and could serve as an introduction to the topic. The paper explores three approaches to Model Explanations: mechanist model explanations, covering-law model explanations, and causal model explanations. The explanatory function in models is illustrated with the example of Bohr’s atom. This article is recommended for undergraduate students.

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Camp, Elisabeth, , . Two Varieties of Literary Imagination: Metaphor, Fiction, and Thought Experiments
2009, Midwest Studies in Philosophy 33 (1):107-130.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Recently, philosophers have discovered that they have a lot to learn from, or at least to ponder about, fiction. Many metaphysicians are attracted to fiction as a model for our talk about purported objects and properties, such as numbers, morality, and possible worlds, without embracing a robust Platonist ontology. In addition, a growing group of philosophers of mind are interested in the implications of our engagement with fiction for our understanding of the mind and emotions: If I don’t believe that Anna Karenina exists, can I really pity her, or hope or desire that she extricate herself from her tragic situation? And why is there no ‘morality fiction,’ analogous to science fiction? I suspect that philosophers have been especially comfortable thinking about fiction because it seems, at least prima facie, to employ the imagination in a way that conforms to a standard model of the mind. Specifically, contemporary philosophers tend to think of imagination as a form of mental pretense. Mental pretense can take two main forms: a cognitive attitude of supposing a set of propositions to be true (make-believe) or else an experiential state of imaging a scenario as if it were before one (imaging). Much of our pretense intertwines the cognitive and experiential modalities, of course. But both share a crucial common feature: all of one’s imaginative effort is invested in pretending that certain contents obtain. In this sense, we can understand imagination as the ‘offline’ simulation of actual beliefs and perceptions (and perhaps other attitudes as well), where we analyze these in the normal way, as states individuated by their attitude and representational content. While I share the burgeoning interest in fiction, I want to suggest that we also have a lot to learn from poetry, and in particular from poetic metaphor. I will argue..

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Coplan, Amy, , . Empathic engagement with narrative fictions
2004, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62 (2):141-152.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: There is still little consensus among scholars regarding how best to characterize the relationship between readers of fictional narratives and the characters in those narratives. Part of the problem is that many of the explanatory concepts used in the debate – concepts like identification and empathy – are somewhat vague or ambiguous. In this article, I consider some recent relevant empirical research on text processing and narrative comprehension and argue for a pluralist account of character engagement, in which empathy plays an important role. In Section I, I review several empirical studies that strongly suggest that readers often adopt the perspective of one or more of the characters in fictional narratives. In Section II, I turn to the concept of empathy and provide an explanation of empathy based on models and research in empirical psychology. I focus in particular on self-other differentiation, a critical feature of empathy that has been underemphasized in the literature. Next I discuss two psychological phenomena that are closely related to empathy and often confused or conflated with it: emotional contagion and sympathy. In the final section of the paper, I employ the account of empathy developed in Section II to address Noel Carroll’s objections to the view that readers typically empathize with fictional characters.

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Elgin, Catherine, , . Understanding and The Facts
2007, Philosophical Studies 132: 33-42.
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Added by: Giada Fratantonio, Contributed by:

Abstract: If understanding is factive, the propositions that express an understanding are true. I argue that a factive conception of understanding is unduly restrictive. It neither reflects our practices in ascribing understanding nor does justice to contemporary science. For science uses idealizations and models that do not to mirror the facts. Strictly speaking, they are false. By appeal to exemplification, I devise a more generous, flexible conception of understanding that accommodates science, reflects our practices, and shows a sufficient but not slavish sensitivity to the facts.

Comment: This paper could be used in an undergraduate or graduate course on epistemology, philosophy of science, or any area in which the nature of understanding is at issue. The paper is quite brief and not particularly technical. It makes a good case for a claim that initially sounds very counterintuitive, so can serve as a good prompt for a discussion.

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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.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

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.

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.

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Friend, Stacie, , . The pleasures of documentary tragedy
2007, British Journal of Aesthetics 47 (2):184-198.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: Two assumptions are common in discussions of the paradox of tragedy: (1) that tragic pleasure requires that the work be fictional or, if non-fiction, then non-transparently represented; and (2) that tragic pleasure may be provoked by a wide variety of art forms. In opposition to (1) I argue that certain documentaries could produce tragic pleasure. This is not to say that any sad or painful documentary could do so. In considering which documentaries might be plausible candidates, I further argue, against (2), that the scope of tragic pleasure is limited to works that possess certain thematic and narrative features.

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Gendler, Tamar Szabó, , Karson Kovakovich. Genuine Rational Fictional Emotions
2006, In Matthew Kieran (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art. Blackwell 241-253.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: The “paradox of fictional emotions” involves a trio of claims that are jointly inconsistent but individually plausible. Resolution of the paradox thus requires that we deny at least one of these plausible claims. The paradox has been formulated in various ways, but for the purposes of this chapter, we will focus on the following three claims, which we will refer to respectively as the Response Condition, the Belief Condition and the Coordination Condition.

Comment: This paper introduces the paradox of fiction, briefly discusses some challenges faced by those attempting to solve it, and offers a solution grounded in Damasio’s research into the role of emotions in guiding action. It provides only a limited discussion of the previous debate, which makes it less suitable as an introductory text; it is best used in senior aesthetics classes or as a further reading. Its engagement with psychological literature means it can inspire discussions on the relations between philosophical and empirical explanations.

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Keeshig-Tobias, Lenore, , . The Magic of Others
1990, In Language in Her Eye: Views on Writing and Gender by Canadian Women Writing in English, edited by Libby Scheier, Sarah Sheard and Eleanor Wachtel: Coach House Press
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Added by: Erich Hatala Matthes, Contributed by:

Summary: In this short selection, Keeshig-Tobias (Ojibway) raises questions about representation and authenticity in fiction about Native people written by non-Native authors. With reference to certain Native belief systems, she contextualizes why the telling of a story could be viewed as theft in a way that might seem counter-intuitive to a liberal Western audience.

Comment: This is a useful piece to pair with any of the more theoretical writings on cultural appropriation. It articulates some Native perspectives on cultural appropriation that may be less familiar to students, as well as pointing out problems with some of the assumptions on which defenses of cultural appropriation sometimes depend.

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Kind, Amy, , . The Puzzle of Imaginative Desire
2011, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89(3): 421-439.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Abstract: The puzzle of imaginative desire arises from the difficulty of accounting for the surprising behaviour of desire in imaginative activities such as our engagement with fiction and our games of pretend. Several philosophers have recently attempted to solve this puzzle by introducing a class of novel mental states – what they call desire-like imaginings or i-desires. In this paper, I argue that we should reject the i-desire solution to the puzzle of imaginative desire. The introduction of i-desires is both ontologically profligate and unnecessary, and, most importantly, fails to make sense of what we are doing in the imaginative contexts in question.

Comment: Kind provides good arguments against accepting the existence of “i-desires”. This article would be useful to teach in the context of philosophy of mind, as well as in philosophy of art and fiction, as it engages with some of the issues surrounding “make-believe”.

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Liao, Shen-yi, , Gendler, Tamar Szabó. Pretense and Imagination
2011, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews 2 (1):79-94.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Abstract: Issues of pretense and imagination are of central interest to philosophers, psychologists, and researchers in allied fields. In this entry, we provide a roadmap of some of the central themes around which discussion has been focused. We begin with an overview of pretense, imagination, and the relationship between them. We then shift our attention to the four specific topics where the disciplines’ research programs have intersected or where additional interactions could prove mutually beneficial: the psychological underpinnings of performing pretense and of recognizing pretense, the cognitive capacities involved in imaginative engagement with fictions, and the real-world impact of make-believe. In the final section, we discuss more briefly a number of other mental activities that arguably involve imagining, including counterfactual reasoning, delusions, and dreaming.

Comment: Imagination and pretense are closely related concepts. This article could be used in teaching to get students thinking about the relationship, as well as introduce them to the vast psychological research that has been done on pretense play.

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Macdonald, Margaret, , . The Language of Fiction
1954, Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 28 (1):165-196.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: The opening sentence of Jane Austen’s novel Emma is a sentence from fiction. Emma is a work in which the author tells a story of characters, places and incidents almost all of which she has invented. I shall mean by ” fiction ” any similar work. For unless a work is largely, if not wholly, composed of what is invented, it will not correctly be called ” fiction “. One which contains nothing imaginary may be history, science, detection, biography, but not fiction. I want to ask some questions about how an author uses words and sentences in fiction. But my interest is logical, not literary. I shall not discuss the style or artistic skill of any storyteller. Mine is the duller task of trying to understand some of the logic of fictional language; to determine the logical character of its expressions. How do they resemble and differ from those in other contexts? What are they understood to convey? Are they, e.g., true or false statements? If so, of or about what are they true or false? If not, what other function do they perform? How are they connected? These are the questions I shall chiefly discuss.

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Morrison, Margaret, , . Fictions, representations, and reality
2009, In Mauricio Suárez (ed.), Fictions in Science: Philosophical Essays on Modeling and Idealization. Routledge.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

Summary: Uses Maxwell’s model of the ether as a case study in accounting for the role of fictions in science. Argues that we should understand idealisation and abstraction as being different from fiction. Fictional models for Morrison are those that are deliberately intended to be such that the relationship between their structure and the structure of the concrete systems they model is not (immediately) apparent. This is different from mere idealisation, where certain structural features are omitted to make calculations more tractable.

Comment: Very useful as a primary or secondary reading in an advanced undergraduate course on philosophy of science (or perhaps on philosophy of fiction). It is philosophically sophisticated, but also treats the science in enough detail to provide students with some clear ideas about the nature of scientific representational practices themselves. Would be appropriate in sections on scientific representation or modelling.

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Pointon, Marcia, , . Portrait, Fact and Fiction
2013, in: Portrayal and the Search for Identity, Reaktion Books, pp. 23-46.
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Added by: Hans Maes, Contributed by:

Summary: Considers portraiture an unstable, destabilizing, potentially subversive art through which uncomfortable and unsettling convictions are negotiated. As such, it is primarily an instrumental art form, a kind of agency. Also argues that there is an element of the fictive involved in all portrait representations. Explains how portraiture is a slippery and seductive art.

Comment: Useful in discussing portraiture, as well as depiction and representation in general.

Artworks to use with this text:

Garibaldi at Caprera, frontispiece of G.M. Trevelyan, Garibaldi and the Thousand, May 1860 (1931 edition)

A reproduction of a photograph of a copy of a many times copied portrait of the guerilla leader. Devoid of monetary or aesthetic value. Not very likely that Garibaldi looked like this or posed for the artist. The portrait works to endow the historical narrative with its illusion of a unified subject.

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Robinson, Jenefer, , Ross, Stephanie. Women, Morality, and Fiction
1990, Hypatia 5 (2):76-90.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Christy Mag Uidhir

Abstract: We apply Carol Gilligan’s distinction between a “male” mode of moral reasoning, focussed on justice, and a “female” mode, focussed on caring, to the reading of literature. Martha Nussbaum suggests that certain novels are works of moral philosophy. We argue that what Nussbaum sees as the special ethical contribution of such novels is in fact training in the stereotypically female mode of moral concern. We show this kind of training is appropriate to all readers of these novels, not just to women. Finally, we explore what else is involved in distinctively feminist readings of traditional novels

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