Master of Arts (MA)


Philosophy and Religious Studies

Document Type



In the philosophy of fiction, there is a major debate between those who hold realist theories (theories which incur the existence of entities independent of human cognition) and those who hold anti-realist theories (theories which incur the existence of no independent entities). With this debate in mind, the primary goal of this essay is to construct a mentalist theory of fictional entities and worlds. Besides the mentalism constructed herein, three other theories are outlined and held to the same explanatory standards as the focal theory: two augmentations of modal realism (Lewis’ concrete realism and van Inwagen’s abstract realism), and a form of fictionalism which adopts as its fiction the abstract realist ontology. But these alternate theories are explored only insofar as they assist us in understanding which explanatory paths are fruitful and which not. These four theories – concrete realism, abstract realism, fictionalist anti-realism, and mentalist anti-realism – are measured against each other using two standards: (a) their ability to explain the facts and intuitions which we have about fictional discourse, and (b) their ability to provide consistent interpretations of the literally contradictory sentences in fictional discourse. A theory which leaves one of these features unexplained or brings in ad hoc devises for the purpose of explaining facts about fictional discourse is considered inferior to a theory which does not. Concrete realism fails test (a) because it is a pure realism; abstract realism, on the other hand, passes test (a) because it incorporates a deflationary notion of fictional worlds and is thus not a pure realism but a hybrid of realism and anti-realism. Fictionalist anti-realism also passes both tests, but it fails to be a genuine anti-realism. These various failures and the solutions to these failures lead us to adopt a pretense-based Collingwoodian mentalism which, is a pure and genuine anti-realism. This realism is found to pass both tests, and its interpretations of sentences spoken in fictional discourse are also found to be superior in both simplicity and faithfulness to their uninterpreted (and literally contradictory) counterparts.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Jon Cogburn