Make Believe

The Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology | Lund University

Jukka Mikonen

The Literary-Fictive Stance and Considerations of Truth

Kendall Walton, Gregory Currie and Peter Lamarque and Stein Haugom Olsen define the audience’s appropriate attitude toward a fictional story in terms of ‘make-believe.’ When reading fictional literature, these philosophers propose, the audience is to make-believe the content of the work. Nevertheless, literary fictions may, for example, also make or imply assertions or draw the audience’s attention to the states of affairs in the actual world.


How the reader should respond to fictive utterances that, by their form or content, call for considerations of truth? Walton and Currie think that fictions may be used in asserting, for instance, and that a proposition in fiction (or a complete story) may be intended to be both imagined and believed. Lamarque and Olsen, in turn, argue that fictions may be approached from ‘internal’ and ‘external’ points of view and that propositions in fiction may be reflected as constituents of the fictional world and in application beyond it. Nevertheless, Walton and Currie do not comprehensively discuss the issue, whereas Lamarque and Olsen argue that considering fictional propositions for their truth is an unsophisticated activity and endangers the fictive stance, not to mention the ‘literary stance’.


In my presentation, I shall discuss the nature of the literary-fictive stance and its relation to considerations of truth. After examining Walton’s and Currie’s ‘make-believe/belief model’ and Lamarque and Olsen’s view of different perspectives to fiction, I shall propose that a comprehensive engagement with a literary fiction involves reflecting fictional propositions in relation to reality. Moreover, I shall argue that considerations of truth come in various forms and need not be insensitive to the work’s status as a work of fiction and a literary work.

About Jukka Mikkonen:

I am a researcher at the philosophy department at the University of Tampere, Finland, and a doctoral student at the literature department at the University of Eastern Finland.

In my PhD thesis "Philosophy through Literature: The Cognitive Value of Philosophical Fiction" (2011), I examine how philosophical literary fictions convey truths and propositional knowledge.

I am interested in virtually every issue in literary aesthetics. Currently I am writing a study on how literary works improve one's understanding.