Abstract

This essay discusses David Hume’s dismissal of the cognitive value of novels and suggests that his attitude has both aesthetic and epistemological roots. Hume’s neoclassicism imposes formal demands on literature that compromise the evidential value of fictional narratives, and while novelists neglected such demands, Hume believed that even the most realistic narrative would fail at capturing the complex dynamics governing social life. Hume’s views bring into relief a theoretical tension between empiricism and literary cognitivism, a tension that, in turn, sheds light on the work of novelists such as Henry Fielding, whose theory of fiction was informed by the attempt to solve it.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1522-9270
Print ISSN
0039-3657
Pages
pp. 625-648
Launched on MUSE
2014-08-18
Open Access
No
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