British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol 35, No 3, July, iggi

WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS? THE PARADOXES OF EMBEDDED FICTION
Robin Le Poidevin
I. INTRODUCTION

Downloaded from http://bjaesthetics.oxfordjournals.org/ at The National Library of Israel on July 3, 2012

An embedded fiction is a fiction within a fiction. Lewis Carroll's Alice stones, for example, are novels about dreams, Tom Stoppard's The Real Inspector Hound is a play about a play, John Mortimer's Charade is a novel partly about a film, and Ronald Harwood's The Dresser is a play containing some scenes from Shakespeare. Because an embedded fiction is defined as fictional by something that is itself fictional, we are distanced from it, both logically and, sometimes, emotionally. As Kendall Walton puts if
The couple who 'look at us' from their portrait on the wall of the artist's studio in Velazquez's painting Las Meninas do so less insistently and command less of our attention than the man in the doorway does, the depicted frame separates them from us. Consider a story that ends with the hero waking from a bad dream. The reader, on realizing that it is fictional (in the story) only that it is fictional (in a dream) that monsters were chasing him, not that they really were, heaves a sigh of (fictional) relief'

While watching Michael Frayn's Noises Off, we never lose sight of the fact that what we are watching, for much of the time, is simply a rehearsal of a play (though we may lose sight of the fact that we are watching a play about a rehearsal of a play). On the other hand, we can be more involved in the embedded fiction than in the embedding fiction. Most of the action of The Taming of the Shrew takes place in a play put on for the entertainment of Christopher Sly, a drunk who is duped into thinking he is a lord, but this does not distance us from the central characters. We can, it seems, step into an embedded fiction just as easily as into an unembedded one. We would expect the relationship between an embedded fiction and the fiction within which it is embedded to be the same as that between fiction and the real world. Just as we cannot literally step into the world of a fiction and intervene in its goings on, so Alice cannot actually step into the dream world of the looking-glass, though fictionally she can. But, notoriously, any© Oxford University Press 1995 227

There is no path from one world to another. The theory Walton offers is radically different from that of David Lewis. that we cannot physically intervene in the worlds of fiction. and the other.228 WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS' thing goes in fiction. 2012 .org/ at The National Library of Israel on July 3. (Lewis later amends this formulation.2 In answering it Walton tries to do justice to two well-entrenched intuitions: one. In 'How Remote are Fictional Worlds from the Real World?' Walton summarizes a position akin to Lewis's. Now we can see how Lewis can reconcile the two well-entrenched intuitions: although authors are causally responsible for the concrete tokens which constitute their fictions. Thus. '. causally interact with fictional worlds.) Fictional characters are the possibilia which inhabit these worlds. THE ISOLATION OF FICTIONAL WORLDS 'How remote are fictional worlds from the real world?' asks Kendall Walton. but this does not matter for our present purposes. in deciding to axe a particular character from her novel. II. We cannot prevent Bradley Headstone from attempting to murder Eugene Wrayburn. These intuitions pull in different ways. More precisely.'. and consequently there cannot be causal connections between this and other possible worlds. but simply takes another decision about which world she will describe. For Walton. Walton's account is quite different. they are not causally responsible for the truth of the propositions which those tokens express. on whether such discourse is illuminatingly represented in terms of possible worlds. Let us look at Lewis's account first. In 'Truth in Fiction'3 Lewis presents the view that true statements about fiction are true in virtue of the state of affairs in some logically possible world (or worlds). . that authors generate fictional truths. but are not spatiotemporally related either to the actual world or to each other. and yet Our Mutual Friend is no more than a human creation. and states that he prefers the following account: statements about fiction are to be taken as elliptical for statements beginning 'In the fiction . and there are fictions which break the rules and allow the boundary between embedded and embedding fiction to dissolve. seemingly obliging us to think both that we can. in the title of a well-known paper. or 'It is fictional that . where the operator is analogous to 'It is believed that' or 'It is wished that'. and yet Walton and Lewis both agree that fictional truths are isolated from actual truths. . who offers a 'possible worlds' semantics for discourse about fiction. the novelist does not thereby alter a fictional world. and that we cannot. a fictional world is not a world in which it is true Downloaded from http://bjaesthetics. and to draw some conclusions about our understanding of fictional discourse—in particular. How should we understand these cases' I shall attempt in this paper to define the problems arising from embedded fiction. In other writings4 Lewis defends a 'modal realism': other possible worlds are as real and concrete as the actual world. it is true that p in the fiction F if and only if p is true in worlds where F is told as known fact.oxfordjournals.

oxfordjournals. Fictions are games of make-believe. Fictions. or implied. 2012 . When I make a statement about what happens in a fiction. even when we recognize that the characters are fictional.) So authors are still. To accommodate this. is to formulate a procedure for deciding the truth-value of these unstated propositions. despite the fact that Trollope did not provide this information in the Barchester chronicles The challenge taken up by Lewis. etc.5 It is useful to distinguish between the activities of discussing a fiction on the one hand and reading. performing or entertaining a fiction on the other. a given proposition that is not placed within the fiction operator. a fiction. and in such games we may experience fear and anxiety (or at least quasi-fear and quasi-anxiety). though was entirely ignorant of the Periodic Table. Downloaded from http://bjaesthetics. Rather. we are not (or not always) asserting that it is fictional that p. we pretend —on Walton's account —to believe. though not explicitly stated in a fiction. play. I can cause it to be the case that fictionally p. the words which occur in a particular novel. or assert. What is missing is an account of why fictional characters are often the objects of our emotional states. and others. are what make it fictional that p. Only qua character can I fictionally cause it to be the case that. and hence their authors. but I do not fear that fictionally he will commit a murder. For Lewis it is a consequence of the spatio-temporal isolation between possible worlds. p.. Lewis. Lewis and Walton agree that fictional worlds are isolated from the real world. For Walton. etc. in a sense. for example. Since Lewis's account is concerned only with statements about a fiction. or the actions in a game of make-believe. Walton thinks that it only provides half the story. however.. that the Archdeacon of Barchester lived nearer to London than Aberdeen and had more than a passing acquaintance with Greek and Hebrew. what I assert falls within the scope of the fiction operator. Walton suggests that in asserting some fictional truth. However. Qua author. when reading. Both Lewis and Walton can agree that a proposition is fictional if it is asserted. are nevertheless true in that fiction We know. Part of the motivation for this is that Lewis wants to account for the existence of propositions which. thus causally generate fictional truths. but they differ in their interpretations of this isolation. but this is not the same thing as intervening in the world of the fiction.org/ at The National Library of Israel on July 3. by a fiction.ROBIN LE POIDEVIN 229 that p. there would appear to be no inconsistency in combining his possible worlds account with Walton's fiction-as-make-beheve account. we can generate fictional truths. and this goes together with the doctrine that we cannot causally generate fictional truths. nor that fictionally I cause it to be the case that p. goes on to analyse fictional truth as a species of factual truth: truth in a possible world. but this entails neither that I cause it to be the case that (truly) p. I fear that Bradley Headstone will commit a murder. but rather pretending to assert p. isolated from their characters Although this account neatly explains the isolation of fictional worlds from the real world.

The illusion that the wall between fiction and embedded fiction has been broken down is easy to create with a play. literally. propositions which are true in virtue of there being another possible world in which Fido remains untouched by post-structuralist malaise. when reading the novel we engage with the first-order game of make-believe in which someone is really eating a macaroon and Fido is only fictionally eating a bone. qua Birdboot. The embedded fiction thus appears to absorb part of its surroundings. but then the characters of the first-order game disappear (they have to: since Fido is a real being in this second-order game. In Lewis's terms. the embedded fiction is just as isolated from the embedding fiction as we are. But this is not at all the same as sharing a platform with the characters of the play. Suppose a novel to contain a passage like this: Wearily. but it is fictional that it is fictional that Fido remained untouched by post-structuralist malaise. two of the characters in the thriller momentarily step outside to comment critically on the performance. by means of a fiction.oxfordjournals. Birdboot and Moon are two critics watching a performance of what begins as a parody of a Mousetrap-style thriller. however. Perhaps this is simply a trompe-l'oeil. there can be no such character as the literary creator of Fido6). I pushed away the half-consumed macaroon and started to think about my central character.230 WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS' Now let us apply both Lewis's and Walton's treatments to embedded fictions. playing out roles that fuse their lives in the thriller with their lives as critics. In Walton's terms. Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds presents us with Dermot . We can. engage in the second-order game in which Fido is really eating a bone. More problematic than The Real Inspector Hound is an example borrowed from Walton. Fido I started to write Fido remained untouched by the post-structuralist malaise hovering around the bed-sitter He had his bone That was enough It is fictional that the author is thinking about Fido. Does he thereby. As the action proceeds. there is a possible world in which there is an author expressing. Meanwhile. share a platform with the actors of the play. however. III. It will. It is true that Birdboot steps onto the stage where the thriller is taking place in order to answer the fictional telephone that is fictionally ringing (which is also a real telephone that is really ringing). On both accounts. if we choose. both Birdboot and Moon are drawn into the drama. PATHOLOGICAL FICTIONS Downloaded from http://bjaesthetics.org/ at The National Library of Israel on July 3. for the audience can. wreck the performance. It is also true that he addresses the characters of the thriller. become part of the thriller? Arguably not. 2012 What happens when the barrier between fictional worlds is violated? In The Real Inspector Hound. however. Stepping on stage to prevent Macbeth stabbing Duncan will not save the king.

O'Brien's story is seriously problematic because it breaks the rules of embedded fiction: it is a pathological fiction. The ravishing takes place in the embedded fiction. for the purposes of having her defiled by the base John Furnskey. But some fictions contain inconsistencies. Is it fictional that Trellis ravishes Sheila. In the course of writing this story he creates. Walton's theory does not require of any proposition within the scope of the 'It is fictional that' operator to be consistent. But there can be no such resolution of O'Brien's novel. A possible world cannot be completely specified by a finite set of propositions. within the scope of the fictional operator. We can easily imagine a novel in which an author writes a novel in which she ravishes another character. so nothing that involves a contradiction can obtain at a world. but a set of worlds which are similar in certain relevant respects. Now any actual fiction contains only a finite set of propositions. we can simply say thatp is true in a sub-set of these worlds. The following considerations may be sufficient: possible worlds are logically possible worlds. Here the author qua author ravishes the character. implicitly or explicitly. 2012 .oxfordjournals. The author appears qua author in the embedding fiction.) But in fact merely inconsistent fictions need pose no problem for Lewis's theory. I cannot construct a coherent fiction in which there are causal links between the embedded fiction and the fiction in which it is embedded. then the operator should be iterated in reports of what happens in fictions within fictions. Hence. in contrast to Lewis.7 In contrast to merely inconsistent fictions. and so specifies. But perhaps we do not need such an outre case to demonstrate the falsity of that account. Here. and one we cannot accommodate within Lewis's account. is a serious case of intervening in fiction. If any statement about what happens in a fiction occurs. qua character in the embedded fiction. the ravishingly beautiful Sheila Lamont So ravishing is Miss Lamont. There is a further. that Trellis ravishes her himself. but not both at the same time. Just as I cannot intervene in another possible world. What is problematic about At Swim-Two-Birds is that. both for Lewis and for Walton. to the extent of making her pregnant. Lewis's fictional worlds are just as isolated from each other as they are from this world. in reporting what happens in these fictions. An author (or fictional author) can appear qua character or qua author in her novel. an author who conceives the idea of writing a story about the consequences of wrong-doing. Downloaded from http://bjaesthetics. there is no consistent way of placing the operators.ROBIN LE POIDEVIN 231 Trellis. Therefore the propositions of a fiction cannot be considered to be true in virtue of what obtains in a possible world. not just one world. or is it fictional that it is fictional that he ravishes her? The answer must be 'both' —surely a contradiction.org/ at The National Library of Israel on July 3. on Lewis's account. Let us suppose that the fiction contains both the proposition p and the proposition Not-p. (Note that. not the embedding fiction. formal problem. however. Since the fiction corresponds to a set of worlds. surely. so I cannot coherently suppose there to be a possible world in which I intervene in another possible world. and false in another subset.

then. then Trellis does not even exist (since real people are not the creations of fiction-writers.232 WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS' O'Brien's novel generates another paradox. do not force us to give up our game of make-believe The plight of L. turns up in the flesh to reveal himself as one of the characters created by the author. and so cannot do any ravishing. and who has come to exact revenge for being given an irredeemably nasty personality. is not true to our experience. But perhaps this is precisely what makes Walton's account so plausible.S. it is not appropriate to engage in a game of make-believe with them This is in part what makes games of make-believe disanalogous to games of sporf one who breaks the rules of. Hartley's author. are we to engage with At Swim-Two-Birds7 If we imagine Trellis to be real.oxfordjournals. is unlikely to be seen —except perhaps by the academic spectator— as making a witty allusion to the nature of the game. then of course we would not expect accounts of ordinary fiction to apply. P. According to Walton. Or at least. Downloaded from http://bjaesthetics. and so cannot be ravished by him. we participate in a game of make-believe. 2012 . Our enjoyment and understanding of this kind of fiction depends upon our grasping the fact that it breaks the rules of 'normal' fiction and so draws our attention to those rules. before the introduction of Trellis. Taking this line would mean that we could retain Lewis's account of truth in fiction for ordinary fictions. We may call such fictions 'meta-fictions'' part of their theme is fiction itself. Perhaps.' (in the short story of that name) continues to fill us with horror even when. rugby football. indeed especially when. How. W. but not so strange that we cannot engage with it in a game of make-believe When we are told that Trellis ravishes Sheila. apparently a counter-example to the account. when we engage with a fiction. If there is an embedded fiction. for unless something like it were not correct. could not work as it does. do we suddenly realize that we are reading a work of meta-fiction and give up our game of make-believe? Do we simply look on it as an amusing exercise which exploits the ambiguities of the relationship between author and character? If so. If we imagine Sheila to be real. there is no role for Trellis to play). we can find examples of embedded fictions which. in which we imagine what is stated in the fiction really to be happening. This suggestion of discontinuity. who is pursued in a series of increasingly threatening messages signed 'W. A knowing snigger hardly seems the appropriate reaction to the story. is strange. although they break the rules. What this suggests is that there is a discontinuity between what happens before the rules are broken and what happens afterwards. The problem is that we are asked to engage in incompatible games of makebelieve. then our participation in the first-order game requires us to regard the embedded fiction as fictional. say. then.org/ at The National Library of Israel on July 3. by admitting that it is simply a category mistake to invoke the apparatus of possible worlds for meta-fictions. I submit. The beginning of At Swim-Two-Birds.S. then Sheila is fictional. At Swim-Two-Birds.

King Lear is —at least in this context —an embedded fiction.oxfordjournals. that it is behevedk that p' does not entail 'It is believed. I suggest. we will need to introduce a technical device to represent the fact that beliefs are indexed to particular believers: 'It is believed.. In the case of embedded fictions which do not have a life outside their embedding fictions.. In these rules 'It is fictional. then. that Cordelia survives Lear. that Cordelia survives Lear. in contrast. that p' is to be read 'It is believed by person 1 that p'. as well as those of others I suggest that these rules are precisely mirrored by those governing the fiction operator. In looking at the inferential patterns which characterize the belief operator when it is iterated. that p' does entail 'It is believed. that p' So beliefs can be self-embedded: we can have beliefs about our own beliefs.r that it is fictional K. However. that' is to be read 'In the fiction i it is the case that': (c) 'It is fictional. as the two are. The crucial rule for our present purposes.e Ua. setting aside controversial cases of self-deception. Drn.ROBIN LE POIDEVIN 233 Something more. We can then summarize the logic of the belief operator as follows (a) 'It is believed. we cannot be mistaken about our own beliefs: (b) 'It is believed. But of course it does not have a happy ending.. however.^UC. that p' We assume here that 1 and k are non-identical. that it is fictionalk thatp' does not entail 'It is fictionalk that// Part of the action of The Dresser concerns performances of King Lear. the embedding fiction cannot misrepresent the embedded fiction. so it is not fictional K. must be said about pathological fictions. Since The Dresser represents King Lear as fictional. Like 'it is fictional that'.. 'it is believed that' can be iterated when we want to talk about beliefs about beliefs. To participate in The Dresser is to make-believe that King Lear has a happy ending. This rule captures the fact that we can be mistaken about other people's beliefs.org/ at The National Library of Israel on July 3. formally very similar. though unlike most embedded fictions it also has a life of its own as an unembedded fiction. is the counterpart of (b): Downloaded from http://bjaesthetics.. 2012 . and how they relate to normal fiction IV. SELF-EMBEDDED FICTION AND REFLEXIVE REPRESENTATION Let us pursue Walton's remark that 'it is fictional that' is to be understood as analogous to 'it is believed that' The analogy here is quite a close one. Now let us suppose (what is in fact false) that The Dresser represents Cordelia as surviving her father to be Queen of England So it is fictional™. that it is believed.

Since she is fictional. There is a close relationship between a self-embedded fiction and what Walton calls a 'reflexive representation'. To understand 'it is fictional that' is. so is Trellis. In such cases. we might well treat this as a self-embedded fiction because it suggests that the confessions are coloured by the fictional nature of the protagonist.org/ at The National Library of Israel on July 3. Swm. or as part of a fiction within which the main text is embedded. they become part of the same fiction. simm-Two-smb that it is fictional^. 2012 . that p' does entail 'It is fictional. In neither case would the fiction be one that represented itself as fictional. 'what follows is an entirely fictional account'. The objection to Lewis.. it involves no contradiction to say.m. in those worlds where i is told as known fact. It represents itself as a real telephone (though no-one is actually fooled by this). that i is fictional' is true if and only if. for some state of affairs s in the fiction. i is fictional. But if i is fictional in those worlds.rds that Trellis ravishes Sheila. Hence it is fictional. however. but we do not lose sight of the fact that Sheila remains fictional. that it is fictional. a fiction can be 5e//-embedded: it can represent its own statements as fictional.rds that Trellis ravishes Sheila.8 Consider a toy telephone Its (partial) resemblance to a real telephone invites the child playing with it to makebelieve that it is a real telephone. in part. If I am right in treating 'it is fictional that' as structurally identical to 'it is believed that'.. to understand the rules which govern it. it cannot be told as known fact.Two-B. We would treat this either as a sincere (though possibly redundant) statement by the author.oxfordjournals. A fiction that represents itself as fictional is not just a special case which can be ignored by theories of normal fiction. The novel thus generates the fictional truth that it is a diary. is that the Downloaded from http://bjaesthetics.234 WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS' (d) 'It is fictional. just as we would expect Confessions of a Vicar to be coloured by the clerical nature of the protagonist. if a novel were entitled Confessions of a Fictional Character. Some novels also exhibit this reflexivity. then. On the other hand. Lewis must therefore reject selfembedded fiction as incoherent. However. there is no consistent possible worlds interpretation of (d). What I want to suggest is that a self-embedded fiction is a species of reflexive representation' it represents itself as fictional.-B. It represents itself as a diary. On Lewis's account. This may involve some subtlety on the part of the author Suppose that the main text of a novel was preceded by the words. then we cannot save Lewis's theory by the simple expedient of taking At Swim-Two-Birds and the like as beyond the pale. It is fictional^. that p' Like belief. Sw. 'It is fictional. It illustrates a formal property of the fiction operator. including (d) above.Tw<. both that it is fictional that s and that it is fictional that it is fictional that s I think this is the correct way to describe At SwimTwo-Birds. Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea begins with an 'Editor's Note' which tells us that what follows was found among Antoine Rocquentin's papers. for one and the same thing cannot be treated as factual and as fictional at the same time by the same person. When the barrier between the world of Trellis and the world of Sheila dissolves.

then its description of itself as fictional is correct and so it is actually true. 2012 . and so it is true. then there will be a proposition in its set representing all the propositions of some sub-set as fictional. PARADOXES: SEMANTIC. so there is no contradiction and no paradox.org/ at The National Library of Israel on July 3. then its description of itself as false is correct.oxfordjournals. however. But then it is one of those sets that do not contain themselves as members. Since. even though there is a conversational implication of falsehood. If it is false. If the sentence is indeed fictional. namely false. 'fictional' does not formally entail falsehood. and since it is the set of those sets. however. SET-THEORETICAL AND EPISTEMIC I cannot pretend that the rules governing the logic of the fiction operator say everything that needs to be said about O'Brien's bizarre narrative. Perhaps. it does contain itself as a member. namely fictional. it does not contain any sets that are members of themselves. not fictionally so. so any account of them should do justice to their paradoxical nature. I have been unfair to that analysis. Thus it is both true and false. These cases raise all kinds of issues. This sub-set constitutes the embed- Downloaded from http://bjaesthetics. However. however. but my target so far has been the possible worlds analysis of fiction. it does not contain itself as a member. then it is what it • says of itself. But if it is true. Russell's paradox is a well-known example: is the set of all and only those sets that are not members of themselves a member of itself or not? If it is then it contains a member (viz. and hence not actually true. v. If the fiction embeds another fiction. and since no consistent possible worlds analysis can be given of such a fiction. of which the Liar is the best known: This sentence is false If the above sentence is true then it is what it says of itself. Are self-embedded fictions paradoxical? We can distinguish between different kinds of paradox. Hence it both does. Another kind of paradox is the set-theoretical paradox. such an analysis cannot be correct. What if no consistent analysis of fictional truths can be given' After all. Can we generate a semantic paradox of this kind from a self-embedded fiction? The analogue of the Liar would be thisThis sentence is fictional This is paradoxical if we take 'fictional' to imply 'not actually true'. contain itself as a member.ROBIN LE POIDEVIN 235 notion of a self-embedded fiction is formally consistent. and does not. itself) which contains itself as a member. some fictions are paradoxical. 9 We can represent an embedded fiction in terms of set theory by treating a fiction as the set of all its constituent propositions. One involves the notion of truth: the semantic paradox.

what I cannot do is to entertain a proposition as fictional and as true at the same time. even though the proposition it expresses may be true. But it is not just Lewis's account which involves an epistemic element. Moore's paradox is in this category. but I do not believe that p' is not an assertion I can intelligibly make. CONCLUSION Downloaded from http://bjaesthetics.n The fictional author is supposed to be a reliable narrator who presents the fiction as truth. VI. a proposition is true in a fiction if it is true in those worlds where the fiction is told as known truth A self-embedded fiction would therefore involve the incoherence of being told as known truth and as fiction. Since this is incoherent. are best seen as self- .) The fictional author of a self-embedded fiction would therefore present the narrative both as fiction and as truth.oxfordjournals. and which therefore appear to be incoherent. for example. then the fiction is not se//-embedded. the paradox dissolves once one realizes that a proposition can be both fictional and true at the same time. On Lewis's account. 2012 I have attempted to argue that certain fictions which break the rules of normal fiction.10 There is no contradiction in supposing that a proposition corresponds to both of these at the same time Finally. however. for this would involve adopting incompatible perspectives on a proposition This is why asserting something to be fictional conversationally implies that it is false: the speaker is treating a proposition as fictional rather than as truth What I want to suggest is that certain treatments of self-embedded fiction generate an epistemic paradox. if the proposition does belong to that set. On his analysis. A proposition is fictional if it corresponds to some fiction. as follows. Gregory Curne has also provided an account of truth in fiction which exploits the notion of belief. p is true in fiction F if and only if it is reasonable for the informed reader to infer that the fictional author of F believes that p. true if it corresponds to the facts. I can readily concede that there are some truths that I happen not to believe. for then the set would contain a proposition which is not fictional.org/ at The National Library of Israel on July 3. (One only needs to add that the fictional author is located in another possible world to obtain a variant of Lewis's account." Here now is the fictional parallel Although I can entertain the idea that a given proposition is both fictional and true (I could imagine. but I cannot both sincerely assert a proposition and sincerely assert that I do not believe it to be true. It might appear that a self-embedded fiction appears to generate a set-theoretical paradox akin to Russell's.23fi WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS" ded fiction. we can define the epislemic paradox—one concerning belief. 'p. Curne too must reject self-embedded fiction. then it falsifies itself. Does the proposition which represents the propositions of a self-embedded fiction as fictional belong to the set of those propositions or not' If not. but true Again. that —unbeknownst to Dickens — Our Mutual Friend corresponds to actual fact). but rather embedded within some other fiction On the other hand.

pp Mimesis as Make-Believe. Leeds LS2 9JT. 'Truth in Fiction'. pp 11-23 . that is. coherently. pose a problem for certain theories of fiction. England Downloaded from http://bjaesthetics. which has tried to show that. American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (1978). actually believe. as fictions which represent themselves as fictional I have also tried to show that such fictions are not intrinsically inconsistent.13 The problem still remains of how we are supposed to engage with selfembedded fiction. however. 3 David Lewis. 1986) This part of the theory is developed further in Walton. Or does it' We can pretend to believe—to make-believe—something that we could not. but from their reflection in a lookingglass Velazquez himself appears in the main picture. they are not worlds within worlds. in that the attempt to apply those theories to self-embedded fiction generates an epistemic paradox: the fiction is supposed to be sincerely entertained as truth and as fiction at the same time. This paradox is generated both by David Lewis's possible worlds account. ch 7 4 >99o). and in Philosophy LXXV (1978). Massachusetts Harvard U P . we cannot engage with such fiction. must avoid this epistemic paradox. In so far as playing a game of make-believe is pretending that certain fictional propositions are true.oxfordjournals. Mimesis as Make-Believe On the Foundations of the Representational Arts (Cambridge. University of Leeds. Journal of 5-27. contain an embedded fiction The couple in the painting (Philip IV of Spain. 1983) This manoeuvre will not deal with other inconsisten- Walton. it seems that. whatever fictions within fictions are. Philosophical Papers Vol I (Oxford U P.ROBIN LE POIDEVIN ' 237 embedded. 'Fearing Fictions'. after all. The correct theory of truth in fiction. in fact. 13 Robin Le Poidevin. They do. Such an account would take us beyond the scope of this paper. 2012 REFERENCES 1 Kendall L Walton. and by Gregory Curne's fictional author account. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 37 (1978). and the reflection tells us whom he is in the process of painting 2 7 6 5 Or can there' This issue is taken up in section IV See Lewis's Postscript B to 'Truth in Fiction'. p 284 Las Mennias does not. pp 37-46 See especially his On the Plurality of Worlds (Oxford Basil Blackwell.org/ at The National Library of Israel on July 3. At Swim-Two-Birds eludes us yet again. But what is to prevent us make-believing that we are brains in a vat? This sketch of an answer hardly amounts to a convincing account of how we can engage with self-embedded fiction. It has been suggested14 that we cannot coherently believe ourselves to be nothing more than brains kept alive in a laboratory and stimulated by an (of course) insane scientist in such a way that it seems to us that we occupy bodies and can interact with the world. Department of Philosophy. are we not required to entertain a self-embedded fiction both as fiction and as truth? Since this would be to require the impossible. in David Lewis. if it is to include self-embedded fictions. 'How Remote are Fictional Worlds from the Real World"''. and his second wife) do not look at us from a portrail.

pp 24-3$ Byrne . see Mark Sainsbury. 1990). Paradoxes (Cambridge U P .238 WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS' tion The Story Continued'. in 'Truth in Fic- Downloaded from http://bjaesthetics.offers the following analysis (I have paraphrased somewhat) it is true in fiction Fthat/i if and only if the (ideal) reader could infer that the (re-constructed) author is inviting the reader to make-believe that p Here no-one is credited with the capacity to entertain F as fiction and as truth simultaneously 14 By Hilary Putnam. Philosophical Papers (London George Allen and Unwin.org/ at The National Library of Israel on July 3. 2012 . but then we need only suppose that there are worlds which approach very closely to the fiction 8 Mimesis as Make-Believe. ch 1 15 Earlier versions of this paper were presented at seminars at Leeds and Essex I am very grateful to those present for their comments cies.oxfordjournals. 1981). in Reason. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71 (1993). p 543 12 Gregory Curne. but it is not crucial to the argument " G E Moore. 1988) 10 I assume the correspondence theory of truth here for convenience. Truth and History (Cambridge U P . pp 117-21 9 For a discussion of the Liar and Russell's paradox. 1959). The Nature of Fiction (Cambridge U P . such as a time-travel story in which the time-traveller changes the past. p 80 13 One account which does avoid paradox is Alex Byrne's suggestion.

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