A Post Make-Believe Definition of Fiction

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The question of what exactly constitutes a work of fiction has been contested for decades, with no clear conclusion. While there are several factions of philosophers, each with their preferred definitions, none are widely accepted definitions. Most, when used, often include some works of nonfiction as works of fiction, or exclude some works that are clearly works of fiction. In this thesis, I will use an interdisci-plinary methodology to provide a new definition of fiction that avoids these pitfalls.
In Chapters 1 and 2, I show that it is implausible to take propositional imagination as a necessary component of a definition of fiction without any further clarification of the role of make-believe imagination in fiction and that a plausible definition of fiction should not include the role of the audience.
In Chapter 3, I evaluate Stacie Friend’s genre approach, as probably the most popu-lar non-make-believe approach.
In Chapter 4, I cover Harry Deutsch’s often-ignored approach, discuss its problems, and outline its contributions.
In Chapter 5, I reject Matravers’s scepticism by showing that there is a meaningful difference between fiction and nonfiction using the findings from social science experiments.
In Chapter 6, I construct my own definition of fiction by interpreting the findings from in Chapter 5 along with the concepts of interior properties, phenomenal con-cept, and end value. I then address the issue of assertions in fiction, why it is such a problem for many existing definitions, and how it can be overcome by my defini-tion.
In Chapter 7, I discuss miscellaneous issues that arise in defining fiction, address them using my definition, and how my account complements an iconic theory in a related debate.
In Chapter 8, I conclude the work with an overview of what I have argued, my defi-nition of fiction, and how I have contributed to several philosophical debates.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorMark Textor (Supervisor) & David Papineau (Supervisor)

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