Jerry Levinson: "Fiction vs Pretense"

The Higher Seminar in Aesthetics

Jerry Levinson, University of Maryland: "Fiction vs Pretense"

The aim of this essay is a straightforward one. I hope to show that contrary to what appears to be widely held, fiction does not essentially involve pretense, and that to think so is a confusion, one source of which may be the theory of fiction offered decades ago by John Searle. More specifically, my claim is that neither the creation nor the appreciation of works of fiction requires or depends on anyone pretending anything, even if an appeal to pretense on the part of consumers of fiction may figure in a viable anti-realist position regarding the ontology of fictional entities, which is not my concern. What I maintain is that the central activity or state involved in creating and appreciating fictions is not pretending, but rather, imagining. Only if one conflates pretense and imagination will pretending strike one as central to what the making and enjoying of fiction involve.