Public Defense of László Kajtár on Philosophical Issues in the Study of Narrative

Doctoral Defenses
Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Monument Building
Senate Room
Monday, March 27, 2017 - 4:00pm
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Monday, March 27, 2017 - 4:00pm to 7:00pm

The Department of Philosophy cordially invites you to the Public Defense of the PhD Dissertation
László Kajtár
Philosophical Issues in the Study of Narrative

Supervisor: David Weberman
Members of the Defense Committee:
Stacie Friend (University of London)
Peter Lamarque (University of York)

Chair: Hanoch Ben-Yami


The dissertation concerns various issues in aesthetics and the philosophy of mind and language in connection to the notion of ‘narrative’. Narratives are ubiquitous in human life as human beings are engaged in storytelling across times and cultures, and stories are fundamental in making sense of certain phenomena, in offering explanations that lead to understanding of events and actions. Written as a collection of connected but independent articles, the dissertation first elaborates a novel definition of narrative: most narratives artefacts are patchworks of narrative and non-narrative elements. I describe three essential aspects of narrative artefacts: 1) being representations of events and actions; 2) ones that typically make sense of what they represent; and 3) as products of intentions. After that the dissertation puts forth arguments concerning central topics: first, I argue, against the orthodoxy, that fiction cannot be true. Second, I make the claim that the most important knowledge from engaging literary narratives is experiential. Third, I outline the robust role that empathy plays in understanding narrative works of art. Fourth, I make the case that certain interpretive projects do not have to refer to the intentions of artists to arrive at a correct interpretation. Fifth, many think that persons constitute themselves, in some sense, by telling stories, however, I argue that the role of telling stories in everyday life is not metaphysically constitutive but communicational: stories we tell reveal who we are, intentionally and unintentionally. Lastly, against the dominant position, I defend the view that all narrative, fiction and nonfiction, require and engage the imagination in some way.

The dissertation contributes to the philosophical study of narrative by establishing strong connections with central areas of philosophy. Personal identity is a significant topic in the philosophy of mind as are empathy and imagination, while the issue of fiction is important in the philosophy of language and in metaphysics, and learning from literary narratives concerns conceptions of knowledge in epistemology. In addition, studying narrative is not only relevant for central areas of philosophy but also for other disciplines, such as literary and film studies, psychology and cognitive science.