Beliefs and the fictional narrators

Matravers, Derek (1995). Beliefs and the fictional narrators. Analysis, 55(2) pp. 121–122.



In his book The Nature of Fiction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) Greg Currie makes the following proposal concerning the contents of works of fiction: 'Fs(P)' is an abbreviation of 'P is true in fiction S', where P is some proposition and S is some work of fiction.

'Fs(P)' is true iff it is reasonable for the informed reader to infer that the fictional author of S believes that P. (p. 80)

In reading a fiction we engage in a make-believe, and the fictional author is that fictional character constructed within our make-believe whom we take to be telling us the story as known fact. Currie's view applies a general account of communication (the mechanism described by Grice) to understanding fiction. This is an advantage for a number of reasons, not least that the capacities I use to understand a novel do seem to be those I use in understanding written factual information. From what the fictional author 'says', we infer what he believes; reading a book is 'an exploration of the fictional author's belief structure' (p. 76). From this simple and plausible basis, Currie gives a convincing philosophical account of the nature of fiction. Convincing though the account is, it cannot be quite right.

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