Reading for Opacity and the Cognitive Value of Literary Fiction


  • Arthur Cools University of Antwerp



Literary fiction, cognitive value, interest at a distance, opacity, experience of reading fictional narratives


This article addresses the question of the cognitive value of literary fiction starting from Peter Lamarque’s opacity thesis. My intention is to articulate the cognitive value of literary fiction in accordance with the opacity thesis avoiding the pitfall of formalism to which the opacity thesis risks to be reduced. In a first part, I examine Lamarque’s opacity thesis and discuss the problems of the distinction between opacity and transparency in case of literary fiction. In a second part, I thematize the reader’s interest in reading literary fiction and I analyze it in terms of an interest at a distance. This examination enables me to articulate the cognitive value of literary fiction as intrinsic to the reader’s experience of literary fiction. The main argument for this approach is based upon an observation that I borrow from Roman Ingarden’s reflections on the literary artwork, according to which the reader’s focus on the literary fictional narrative as a whole distinguishes the reading experience of literary fiction. I argue that this focus on the narrative as a whole leads beyond a propositional understanding of the experience of literary fiction and helps us to better understand the reader’s interest in reading literary fiction.

Author Biography

Arthur Cools, University of Antwerp

Full Professor, Department of Philosophy






Is there truth through literature?