Metafiction: the fourth wall against possible world semantics
Deniz Satik
November 2020

Discourse involving non-existent fictional characters, such as "Sherlock Holmes is a detective," is prima facie a source of trouble for the idea that proper names have extensions. Lewis (1978) provides an account of such sentences in which Holmes refers to the individual(s) corresponding to Holmes in the possible worlds similar to the Holmes stories. This paper provides several novel arguments involving metafictional statements, such as "Holmes knows he does not actually exist," or sentences which "break the fourth wall" such as "Holmes spoke to his actual audience" to argue that Lewis cannot account for discourse involving metafiction. In the spirit of Pietroski (2005), this paper argues that, given the peculiarities of discourse involving fiction which we intuitively find true, we ought to give up the idea names refer to objects in the outside world. Rather, we should assume semantic internalism, which claims that expressions do not have extensions; meanings themselves are mental representations.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005569
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Submitted to American Philosophical Quarterly
keywords: fiction, semantics, millianism, extensions, internalism, possible worlds, semantics
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