SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Indexicals in literary fiction
(Philosophy of Language, English)

The difference between a factual statement and a fictional statement can be elusive from the perspective of semantics. In philosophical semantics, the status of fictional discourse seems heavily dependent on the ontological status of fictional entities. This is because of the problems connected with determining referents of proper names such as "Sherlock Holmes", which do not exist in the actual world. Realist approaches claim that fictional names do refer to something (not necessarily a person), while anti-realists claim that these names do not refer to anything (they can perhaps pretend-refer)(Searle, 1975; Currie, 1990). I argue that only the realist approach can account for the use of indexicals in fiction. Fictional statements containing indexicals - expressions dependent on the context of utterance, such as "I", "here", or "now" - are more problematic than those with proper names. The word "I" used in first person narration seems to refer to a fictional narrator who is a participant of the events described in the story and that is how it is intuitively interpreted. This interpretation must be accessible in order to differentiate fiction from autobiographies, because indexicals cannot have empty uses - whenever used, they will refer to the appropriate element of the context in which they are used. If the fictional context is unavailable, they will default to the context of the author (Kaplan, 1975). Therefore, a mechanism must exist to determine whether a statement using the indexical "I" is a true factual statement about the author, a false factual statement about the author, or a fictional statement made by the author about a narrator. In order to model all of these possibilities, we must assume some form of reference to fictional entities that would differentiate them for authors of fictions. I propose a realist approach to the semantics of fiction based on the distinctions between truth-commitment and content-commitment in fiction-making.

Chair: Hugo Ribeiro Mota
Time: 10:00-10:30, 09. September 2022 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.007

Teresa Flera 
(University of Warsaw, Poland)



Testability and Meaning deco