Fiction as a Logical, Ontological, and Illocutionary Issue
This essay examines some of the theses proposed by Felix Martínez-Bonati in Fictive Discourse and the Structures of Literature, using them, as well as some proposals by Lubomír Dolezel, as building blocks in an attempt to formulate answers to the following philosophical questions: (1) Can the sentences of fiction be truth-functional; (2) Do fictional characters possess only those properties which are specified by the text, or do they present, like the ontologically complete inhabitants of the real world, an infinite number of properties ? (3) What distinguishes the act of writing fiction, in illocutionary terms, from other modes of expression ? Felix Martínez-Bonati’s discussion of the unreliable narrator is shown to impose a positive answer to the first of these questions, at least for realistic narrative fiction: if narrators can be unreliable, their declarations are neither automatically true nor automatically false, but susceptible of either truth or falsity with respect to the fictional world. It is argued, however, that due to differences in the semantic structure of fictional universes, neither the logical nor the ontological question can receive a unified answer for all types of fiction. This leaves the illocutionary level as the only viable basis for a general characterization of fiction. It follows that fictionality is a way of speaking rather than a way of being or a predictable relation to truth.
The Modal Structure of Narrative Universes