Knowledge from Fiction and the Challenge from Luck

In: Grazer Philosophische Studien

In order for true beliefs acquired from reading fiction to count as knowledge proper, they must survive ‘the challenge from luck’. That is, it must be established that such beliefs are neither luckily true, nor luckily believed by readers. The author considers three kinds of true belief a reader may, she assumes, get from reading fiction: a) those based on testimony about empirical facts; b) those based on ‘true in passing’ sentences; and c) those beliefs about counterfactuals one may get from reading a ‘didactic’ fiction. The first group escape the challenge from luck relatively easily, she argues. However, things turn out to be more complicated with the second group. The author examines Mitchell Green’s suggestion, effectively, that knowledge of fictional genre may see off the challenge from luck here, but rejects this in the form presented by Green, adapting it substantially to offer beliefs of this kind a more promising escape route. The author finishes by following Green’s lead once again, and discussing the category of ‘didactic’ fiction, as he calls it. She argues that any true beliefs about counterfactuals gained from such fictions are likely to be lucky. The author concludes however that things are much more promising for any true beliefs gained about oneself as a result of engaging with what Green calls an ‘interrogative’ fiction.

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