Some of the material in this book was given as lectures at L’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris in 2014. I am grateful to those who attended for their comments and criticism and especially to Pascal Engel for arranging my visit, and for the good philosophical company he has been over many years. Other material was given as an Olazabal Lecture at the University of Miami in 2017; I am grateful to Otávio Bueno and his colleagues for their generous hospitality, and their excellent criticism. Parts have been read at colloquia, workshops, and conferences around the world, and many people deserve my thanks for sitting through these talks and for offering helpful and constructive commentary. The fact that I recall only some of these contributions will not prevent me from thanking those I can remember, some of whom were helpful on several occasions: Catharine Abell, Paloma Atencia-Linares, Nancy Bauer, Jan Berofsky, Otávio Bueno, Simon Blackburn, Noel Carroll, Robyn Carston, Josep Corbi, Julien Deonna, Julian Dodd, Anya Farennikova, Owen Flanagan, Roman Frigg, Manuel García-Carpintero, Berys Gaut, Jonathan Gilmore, Peter Goldie, James Helgeson, Robert Hopkins, Matthew Kieran, Amy Kind, Fred Kroon, Peter Lamarque, Jerry Levinson, Bence Nanay, Fiona Macpherson, Tony Marcel, Aaron Meskin, Margaret Moore, Michael Morris, Adam Morton, Paul Noordhof, Catarina Dutilh Novaes, Elisa Paganini, Elizabeth Picciuto, Jesse Prinz, Jon Robson, Nancy Sherman, Natallia Schabner, Susanna Schellenberg, Barry Smith, Joel Smith, Murray Smith, Kathleen Stock, Mauricio Suárez, Adam Toon, Neil van Leeuwen, Tom Stoneham, Molly Wilder, Dawn Wilson, and Deirdre Wilson.
I’m particularly grateful to Terence Cave, whose Balzan-funded project ‘Literature as an Object of Knowledge’ gave me an ideal group of people to discuss literature and cognition with, including Terence himself; also to Steve Ross, who (literally) went out of his way to argue about the material in Chapter 10. Thanks to Andrew George for helping me understand the Gilgamesh epic, to Michael Devitt and Maria Jodłowiec for reading and commenting on Chapter 5, and to Stacie Friend, Paul Harris, and Fiora Salis for discussion of the topics of this book over a number of years. Special thanks are due to my former student Anna Ichino, now at the University of Milan, for many hours of discussion and collaborative work which resulted in two joint essays on which I draw on in Chapters 2 and 9. I am grateful to her generosity in allowing me to use material from these two essays here. Two readers for the Press (David Davies was one) provided extensive and detailed criticisms and suggestions. This may not be a good book and its faults are (p.viii) all my responsibility, but it is a better one for their work. Thanks, as always, to my editor, Peter Momtchiloff, for good advice, and for patience.
Time to work on this book was generously provided through a Leverhulme Foundation research grant (number RPG-2017-365). A collaboration with psychologist Heather Ferguson and philosopher Stacie Friend, this project aims to produce new empirical and philosophical work on the topic of Part III. In 2014 Peter Lamarque and I held a development grant for work on cognitive and aesthetic values in cultural artefacts as part of the AHRC’s project ‘Culture and Value’ (AH/L005719/1). The workshops we held at that time (and all the delightful discussions we have had since then) have been important for shaping my thinking in this book. Finally, my thanks go to the University of York for granting me research leave, and my colleagues in Philosophy for taking on the extra work that such arrangements always involve.
I have incorporated some material from various publications into the book, always in substantially revised form. Those earlier publications are:
‘Standing in the last ditch: on the communicative intentions of fiction-makers’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism (2014) 72: 351–63.
‘Aliefs do not exist’, (with A. Ichino), Analysis (2010) 72: 788–98.
‘Some ways to understand people’, Philosophical Explorations (2008) 11: 211–18.
‘Tragedy’, Analysis (2010) 70, 1–7.
‘Emotions fit for fictions’, in S. Roeser and C. Todd (eds) Emotions and Values, Oxford University Press, 2014.
‘On getting out of the armchair to do aesthetics’, in M. Haug (ed.) Philosophical Methodology: The Armchair or the Laboratory? Routledge, 2013.
‘Literature and theory of mind’, in N. Carroll and J. Gibson (eds) The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Literature, Routledge, 2015.
‘Truth and trust in fiction’, (with A. Ichino), in E. Sullivan-Bissett, H. Bradley, and P. Noordhof (eds) Art and Belief, Oxford University Press, 2018.
‘Creativity and the insight that literature brings’, in E. S. Paul and S. B. Kaufman (eds) The Philosophy of Creativity, Oxford University Press, 2014.
‘Does fiction make us less empathic?’ Teorema (2016) 25: 3–23.
I thank the editors and publishers concerned for permission to use this material.
I have dedicated this book to the memory of a teacher to whom I owe a great deal: Alan Murray, musician, Anglican, and democratic socialist. Educated at Cambridge in the 1930s, he taught a now inconceivable A-level history syllabus that ended in 1509. (For relaxation there was a Roman Britain paper, with Collingwood’s 1937 (p.ix) work for the Oxford History of England as our guide). His teaching made me imagine (that is the only possible word) a career as a mediaevalist, propelling me into the LSE and a degree in mediaeval economic history, another defunct option. It was no loss to historical scholarship that I moved to philosophy and economics. Occasionally irritated by the arrogance of his sixth form, Mr Murray otherwise displayed a cheerful, reflective calm though his life, I came to know, was not easy.
My greatest debt, as always, is to Martha, Gabriel, and Penny.