In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Fictionalism

  • Introduction
  • Overview and Collection
  • Field’s Mathematical Fictionalism
  • Mathematical Fictionalism after Field
  • Yablo’s Figuralism
  • Modal Fictionalism
  • Philosophy of Science
  • Composition
  • Existence, Non-Existence, and Identity
  • Truth, Propositions, and Propositional Attitudes
  • Fictional Entities
  • Morality
  • Further Sightings: Religion and Pseudonymity
  • Debating Fictionalism

Philosophy Fictionalism
David Liggins
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0034


The term “fictionalism” is defined in many different ways. The most common definition is along these lines: fictionalism about a discourse claims that the sentences of the discourse are useful but does not claim that they are true. Typically, fictionalists will deny that sentences of the discourse are true. Thus a fictionalist in the philosophy of mathematics may say that mathematical sentences (such as “2 + 2 = 4”) are useful but false: numbers are (in some sense) “useful fictions.” Fictionalists will typically recommend that we should carry on using the sentences in question, accepting them without believing them. This is known as “revolutionary fictionalism.” According to “hermeneutic fictionalism,” we do not currently believe what the sentences say (even if we seem to believe them). Fictionalist approaches have been discussed with respect to many different discourses. This bibliography provides a highly selective guide to the burgeoning literature, chosen on the basis of importance, influence, and accessibility. Fictionalist accounts of mathematical, moral, and possible-worlds talk have been the subject of especially intense debate; but fictionalist treatments of a great number of other discourses have been offered. It is worth noting that fictionalist positions are not always given the name “fictionalism.”

Overview and Collection

Although surveys of fictionalism are rare, the excellent Eklund 2007 is available for free online. Kalderon 2005 includes papers on various forms of fictionalism (mathematical, moral, modal, etc.).

  • Eklund, Matti. Fictionalism. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2007.

    Excellent critical survey of fictionalism, covering the varieties of fictionalism, arguments for and against fictionalist views, and reflections on the broader philosophical significance of fictionalism.

  • Kalderon, Mark, ed. Fictionalism in Metaphysics. Oxford: Clarendon, 2005.

    Valuable collection that includes papers on many different forms of fictionalism (mathematical, moral, modal, etc.).

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