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Fictionalism - PHI00099M

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Mary Leng
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

In this module we will consider the attractions and fallbacks of adopting fictionalist attitudes to a range of domains of discourse. Fictionalists about a discourse typically hold that there is some advantage to be gained to participating in that discourse, but also hold that we have no reason to believe that claims uttered in the context of engaging with the discourse are true. A paradigm case is fiction itself: what we gain in enjoyment from telling and listening to fictional tales does not depend on those tales being true. But fictionalism has been advocated about a range of other domains too: mathematics, modality, morality, religion, scientific models, and more. We will consider arguments for various forms of fictionalism, as well as the question of whether fictionalisms of any sort can succeed in their typical aims of helping us to avoid unwanted ontological commitments.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

Subject content

  • To consider the prospects for fictionalism as a strategy for avoiding problematic ontological commitments.

  • To examine some specific forms of contemporary fictionalism, including at least mathematical, modal, moral and religious fictionalism, including challenges to these views.

  • To reflect on metaontological questions concerning how we should go about answering

Academic and graduate skills

  • To develop students’ interpretative skills, by careful study and discussion of contemporary philosophical research..

  • To develop students’ writing skills, by writing an essay on fictionalism

  • To develop students’ analytical skills, by encouraging them to consider arguments for forms of fictionalism as present in the contemporary literature, and to defend or challenge these arguments.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should be able to:

  • Explain and evaluate various forms of fictionalism.

  • Articulate and contribute to recent debates over particular forms of fictionalism.

  • Critically evaluate fictionalist attempts to preserve our ability to engage in discourse without incurring problematic ontological commitments.


Task Length % of module mark
Summative Assessment
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Summative Assessment
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback will be given in accordance with the policies of the University and Philosophy Department

Indicative reading

Frederick Kroon, Stuart Brock, and Jonathan McKeown-Green, A Critical Introduction to Fictionalism (Bloomsbury, 2019)

Bradley Armour-Garb and Frederick Kroon, Fictionalism in Philosophy (OUP, 2020)

Mark Eli Kalderon, Fictionalism in Metaphysics (OUP, 2005)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.