Fictionalism versus deflationism

Amie L. Thomasson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Fictionalism has long presented an attractive alternative to both heavy-duty realist and simple eliminativist views about entities such as properties, propositions, numbers, and possible worlds. More recently, a different alternative to these traditional views has been gaining popularity: a form of deflationism that holds that trivial arguments may lead us from uncontroversial premisses to conclude that the relevant entities exist-but where commitment to the entities is a trivial consequence of other claims we accept, not a posit to explain what makes the relevant claims true. The deflationist's trivial arguments, however, have been attacked by fictionalists, who suggest that the ontological conclusions we get from these arguments should not be taken as serious ontological assertions at all, but rather as implicitly in the context of a fiction or simulation. This paper examines the fictionalist's criticisms of 'easy' arguments for numbers, properties, and other entities, and concludes that they beg the question against the deflationist and so do not undermine the deflationist's position. Close attention to the argument also reveals a crucial disanalogy between overtly fictional discourse and discourse about numbers, properties, and so on, which undermines the case for fictionalism. Finally, I argue that the motivations for fictionalism (particularly those based in its ability to offer a good account of the discourse) are served as well or better by deflationism. Overall, this gives us reason to think that deflationism may provide a preferable approach for those looking for an alternative to both traditional realism and traditional eliminativism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1023-1051
Number of pages29
Issue number488
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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