Learning from fiction 1

Gregory Currie, Heather Ferguson, Jacopo Frascaroli, Stacie Friend*, Kayleigh Green, Lena Wimmer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

The idea that fictions may educate us is an old one, as is the view that they distort the truth and mislead us. While there is a long tradition of passionate assertion in this debate, systematic arguments are a recent development, and the idea of empirically testing is particularly novel. Our aim in this chapter is to provide clarity about what is at stake in this debate, what the options are, and how empirical work does or might bear on its resolution. We distinguish between merely influencing people’s opinions and providing genuine learning, where the latter requires that the source of the change in opinion should be reliable. Other important ideas here are the extent to which authors of fiction may be considered to provide testimony, or something like it, and the possibility of recognizing an unstated purpose in the project of the fictional work. We ask whether fictions can furnish us not merely with ideas but with reasons for believing them, perhaps by constituting thought experiments. We consider whether the focus should be on understanding rather than on knowledge, and whether fictions can inform us about the qualities of another’s experiences. We briefly describe some experimental work of recent decades and suggest that the evidence for learning from fiction is currently meagre.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Fiction and Belief
EditorsAlison James, Akihiro Kubo, Françoise Lavocat
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781003119456
ISBN (Print)9780367635152
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2023

Publication series

NameRoutledge Literature Handbooks
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group


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  • Belief, imagination, and the nature of fiction

    Friend, S., 22 Dec 2023, The Routledge Handbook of Fiction and Belief. James, A., Kubo, A. & Lavocat, F. (eds.). 1 ed. New York: Taylor and Francis, p. 15-27 13 p. (Routledge Literature Handbooks).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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