Senior Seminar: Fiction and Fictionalism
PHIL 483, Sec. 1001: MW 11:30am-12:45pm in CBC C115
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Spring 2017

Professor: James Woodbridge
email address:
Course Webpage:
Office Hours:  M 2:30pm-4pm, T 12:30pm-2pm, and by appointment
Office: CDC 426
Office Phone: 895-4051
Dept. Phone: 895-3433


This course functions as a capstone course or a culminating Senior Seminar for the Philosophy major. The focus for this term is a number of issues at the intersection of philosophy of language, aesthetics, and metaphysics, arising, one the one hand, out of consideration of the nature of fiction, and, on the other hand, out of certain ways one might appeal to fiction in philosophical theorizing. The first of these sources is investigated by what we can call philosophy of fiction. It attempts to answer questions like the following. What makes a text a work of fiction, as opposed to non-fiction? How important are the author's intentions to something's being a work of fiction? How should we understand the sentences used in a work of (literary) fiction? Are all/any of them either true or false? Are they neither? How should we understand claims made about what a work of fiction portrays, such as "Harry Potter is a British citizen"? Do fictional names, such as 'Hermione Granger', name anything? Do fictional characters/places/objects exist? In what sense might they? How might one maintain that they do not? The second source of the issues we will investigate pertain to a theorizing approach that we can call fictionalism. This approach raises a number of questions: What makes a philosophical account a fictionalist account? What role does the notion of fiction play in such an account? What motivates fictionalism? What benefits can fictionalism offer? For what topics is it plausible or illuminating? What problems/objections do fictionalist accounts face? What responses can fictionalists make?

Learning Objectives:
To demonstrate knowledge about central problems pertaining to fiction itself, fictionalism,
     as well as some basics of philosophy of language and metaphysics.
Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:
     Identify central issues or debates in philosophy of fiction and pertaining to fictionalist accounts,
     Articulate and, when appropriate, compare or contrast, different views that might be taken with
          respect to these issues,
     Summarize major motivations or arguments for these alternative positions,
     Present significant objections that have or could be raised to these positions,
     Assess the relative merits of these arguments and objections.


Book (available at The UNLV Bookstore):
Sainsbury, R. M. Fiction and Fictionalism. New York: Routledge Press, 2010.
There will also be frequent online required readings available via WebCampus.


Requirements.............................................Percent of Final Grade
Class Participation......................................................10%
First Paper...................................................................30%
Second Paper...............................................................30%
Final Exam..................................................................30%

About the Requirements:

Class Participation--This requirement covers a couple of things things. First, there is your contribution during class. Class attendance is thus necessary. However, to do well you must do more than just attend. You are expected to show up having read the assignment for the day and ready to talk about it. Second, everyone must make at least six contributions to the Electronic Discussion Board (accessible via WebCampus) during the term: three before March 11th and three after.

The First Paper--There will be a 6-8 page paper due in early March. Topics will be distributed 12 days before the paper is due. Papers are due at the beginning of class on the due date.

The Second Paper--There will be a second 6-8 page paper due in late April. Again, topics will be handed out 12 days before the paper is due, and all papers are due at the beginning of class on the due date.

The Final Exam--There will be a timed (2 hour), in-class final exam given on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 10:10am, in our regular classroom. The final will consist of a choice of essay questions.

Note: All course requirements must be satisfactorily completed in order to pass the course. More than 3 unexcused absences reduces your final grade by 1/3 of a letter grade, more than 5 is a full letter grade deduction, more than 8 is automatic failure of the course.


This is an upper-level philosophy course, and nominally a seminar, so while I will present some material, our class meetings should also include a lot of student discussion, not just lectures. I hope that you will all have views about the theories we are going to examine, and I want you to express and explore those views whenever possible. It is typical of philosophical topics that people's views on them will differ. You are encouraged to question your classmates (and me) whenever anyone says something you disagree with, but on either side of this sort of exchange, everyone should always keep in mind that expressing disagreement is not a personal attack. Philosophical discussion thrives under this kind of interaction and often stems from disagreement. At the same time, philosophical discussion aims at reaching some sort of agreement. We probably won't reach agreement every time, but we should aspire towards it.


In recent years a further comment about classroom etiquette has become necessary. Engaging in activities like text messaging, surfing the web, Facebooking, tweeting, etc. during class is entirely inappropriate. In fact, it is extremely rude and highly disrespectful of our joint enterprise of teaching and learning. Whether you presume you are not interfering with anyone else is irrelevant. It is not a question of what you are caught doing; it is a matter of what you do, noticed or not. I expect everyone to behave appropriately during class, engaging with our cooperative project and refraining from inappropriate activities.


The readings for the course include both selected chapters from the Sainsbury book, along with several online readings that will be uploaded to WebCampus.

A note about the readings: Philosophical writing is often subtle and difficult. Do not be fooled by the shortness of any assignment into thinking that it will take little time. These readings should be read at least twice. I recommend a first time straight through, then a second time slowly while taking notes.

The course units and readings for them are as follows.

1. Philosophy of Fiction

Sainsbury, Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5, 6
Currie, "The Concept of Fiction" (Ch. 1 of The Nature of Fiction) (online)
Searle, "The Logical Status of Fictional Discourse" (online)
Walton, Mimesis as Make-Believe, Chapters 1, 2, 4, 10 (online)
Woodward, "Walton on Fictionality" (online)
Friend, "Imagining Fact and Fiction" (online)
Friend, "Fiction as a Genre" (online)
Lewis, "Truth in Fiction" and "Postscript" (online)
Woodward, "Truth in Fiction" (online)
Kroon and Voltolini, "Fiction" in SEP (online)
Thomasson, "Speaking of Fictional Characters" (online)
Thomasson, "Fictional Characters and Literary Practices" (online)
Zvolenszky, "Abstract Artifact Theory about Fictional Characters Defended" (online)
Friend, "Fictional Characters" (online)
Everett, "Against Fictional Realism" (online)

2. Fictionalism

Sainsbury, Chapters 7, 8, 9, 10
Kalderon, "Introduction" to Fictionalism in Metaphysics (online)
Kroon, "Fictionalism in Metaphysics" (online)
Caddick Bourne, "Fictionalism" (online)
Eklund, "Fictionalism" in SEP (online)
Armour-Garb and Woodbridge, Pretense and Pathology, Chapter 1
Field, "Introduction" to Realism, Mathematics and Modality (online)
Leng, "Mathematics and Make-Believe" (Ch. 7 of Mathematics & Reality) (online)
Rosen, "Modal Fictionalism" (online)
Joyce, "Moral Fictionalism" (online)
Kroon, "Descriptivism, Pretense, and the Frege-Russell Problems" (online)
Stanley, "Hermeneutic Fictionalism" (online)
Richard, "Semantic Pretense" (online)
Armour-Garb and Woodbridge, Pretense and Pathology, Chapter 2 (online)
*The instructor of this course reserves the right to change any aspect of the syllabus, with the understanding that any such changes will be announced in class.