About Fiction And Fictionalism

NIMA ABKENAR is a conceptual artist based in US and originally from Iran. In his work, he explores the subtleties of social phenomenon and political events. His dislocation from his native home at 17 has shaped his contextual and conceptual views in art and philosophy. The complexities of abandonment of motherland is especially present in his recent piece, "The Case of Burning a Flag." Abkenar displays a burning Israeli flag, and seeks the unbiased ground of the observer to ontologically execute the complexity of this social-political phenomenon in the context of the artist’s inevitable consequential connection to the event.

Nima’s interest in context has bounded his art practice with alternative non-art spaces such as commercial and deserted buildings. This artist-website is Abkenar's latest project, where he engages with his art-practice as a work of fiction. 


          Devitt (1991) defines realism about Xs as “the view that Xs exist and do so independently of minds, theories, concepts, and the like.” Being a realist about a discourse D, therefore, entails an ontological commitment to the entities that the claim C picks out. In other words, one’s commitment to realism about D leads her to an ontological commitment to compositional parts of D. When dealing with abstract entities, introducing commitment gives rise to a fatal metaphysical issue in the given discourse. To address this issue, realism when encountered with putatively problematic discourses often resorts to a form of Platonism to maneuver around the problem, but of course individual’s access to these platonic entities is a mystery of its own. Fictionalism comes to rescue, whereas Kroon (2011) states it “fictionalism about region of discourse D claims that those participating in D should not have truth as their aim when they accept a sentence from D.” Claims about discourse D are used as a useful fiction and which acting upon them has benefits other than truth (Kroon 2011, p.787).

         The plurality of aesthetics has turned art into a highly technical medium. In the age of highly technical art, the mediators of the commercial and institutional art market - galleries, directors, curators, etc. - restrict the possibilities of art. They constrain art-making to an engagement with a set of enclosure spaces, galleries, museums, institutions, etc. In these enclosure spaces the art-object is categorized, commoditized, and reduced to a material object awaiting sale. The fulfillment of an artistic vision, as a result,  is in full control of a system ran by mediators that have access to resources but have no knowledge authority of art. One pursues fictionalism to venture out these enclosure spaces. The true fictionalism becomes possible with artificial intelligence. Construction and reality coalesce to create a fiction, and the real question becomes "what fiction one wants to tell."

          Based on the referential theory of meaning, the truth falsity of a claim is dependent on the reference of the components of the sentence. The predicate “the sky is blue” is a claim about the “sky” and the state of being assigned to it by the predicate, “is blue.” The truth falsity of the given claim is, therefore, dependent on the referential relation between the entity presented, the “sky,” and the predicate representing it, “is blue.” Committing to the truthfulness of a claim encompasses an ontological commitment to the existence of entities presented by the claim. Basic mathematical claims are based on predicates that refer to subjects that do not have the characteristics of a typical entity – the characteristics of a typical entity being the ability to be picked out by the direct reference theory without further complications. A face value reading of a correctly stated mathematical claim is committed to mathematical entities. While realism about mathematical claims is committed to a face value reading, mathematical objects don’t pick out anything in reality. Realists explain the issue by giving an account of mathematical objects as abstract entities. Metaphysical reading of sorts leads to “a commitment to numbers as Platonic entities, to possible worlds that exist outside of the normal causal order, to subject- independent moral facts, to propositions” and such attempts face conundrums mainly with regard to the true nature of these abstract entities and the metaphysical plausibility of being able to access such entities (Kroon, p.786).

          Fictionalism, on the other hand, avoids such ontological commitment to abstract objects by providing an account of pretense where the moral and mathematical claims (and claims from other problematic discourses) are taken as a useful fiction. “By analogy, we might take fictionalism about Xs to be the view that Xs exist as useful fictions rather than as genuine mind (etc.) independent entities” (Kroon, p.787). Fictionalism about mathematics rejects the idea that mathematical objects (numbers etc.) are abstract objects and argues that in accepting moral claims one takes it as a useful fiction and not as literal truth. The utterance of a fictional sentence is to engage in pretend-assertion. The acceptance of such fictional sentences is to pretend to express beliefs rather than actually expressing beliefs (p.788). “Similarly, many factionalists think that acceptance in a fictionalist spirit is a kind of pretend or make-believe endorsement of the content of a sentence: participants in the discourse immerse themselves in the pretense or make-belief that the world is as the fictionalist hypothesis portrays it to be” (p.788).

Abkenar (2023)