Fiction, Self-Knowledge and Knowledge of the Self

Tilmann Köppe, Julia Langkau


The claim that literary fiction is a valuable source of knowledge can be confronted with the following skeptical objection: on a standard account of the conditions for both the possession and transmission of knowledge, fiction cannot be considered a source of knowledge, for we are not justified in believing any claims from fiction. Our paper argues that the skeptic is wrong. We will start by introducing the notion of self-knowledge, the knowledge a person has of their own conscious attitudes, and distinguish it from knowledge of the self. Both kinds of knowledge concern a person’s beliefs about herself, but they differ in their precise scope and justificatory conditions. We will then argue that the self-knowledge one easily gains by reading fiction is an important route to knowledge of the self, which in turn is hard to obtain, and that a case can be made for literary fiction being an especially valuable source of knowledge of the self.