Between Fiction and Non-Fiction

7.5 credits

Syllabus, Bachelor's level, 5FT181

Education cycle
First cycle
Main field(s) of study and in-depth level
Theoretical Philosophy G2F
Grading system
Fail (U), Pass (G), Pass with distinction (VG)
Finalised by
The Department Board, 27 February 2023
Responsible department
Department of Philosophy

Entry requirements

57.5 credits in philosophy

Learning outcomes

The aim of the course is to introduce the student to philosophical problems and theories concerning fiction, how they relate to the difference between fiction and non-fiction, and the possibilities for works that include both fictional and non-fictional elements.

After passing the course, the student should be able to:

  • describe the main theories of fiction and their views on the difference between fiction and non-fiction
  • analyze different approaches to the difference between fiction and non-fiction and the philosophical problems they relate to
  • contextualize discussions of fiction and non-fiction within epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of language
  • analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the theories being studied.


This course discusses philosophical theories of fiction and how they account for the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Many philosophers have traditionally held that there is a sharp distinction between fiction and non-fiction, and have regarded this demarcation as of fundamental importance, morally, epistemologically, metaphysically, and in many other ways. Others have questioned this sharp divide between fiction and non-fiction. We will examine some of these debates.

The course aims to look at works that may be described as both fiction and non-fiction, or as neither fiction nor non-fiction. These may include, for example, memoirs, documentaries, the use of perspectival and metarepresentational devices in history writing, certain kinds of religious language, and forms of satire or parody.

We examine such topics mainly from within the philosophy of language, but with a view to particular areas of metaphysics and epistemology.


The course is taught as a combination of seminars and lectures. A high degree of participation in discussion is expected of students. The course is conducted in English.


The examination for the course is an essay of 3000 words on a freely chosen topic related to the content of the course.

If there are special reasons for doing so, an examiner may make an exception from the method of assessment indicated and allow a student to be assessed by another method. An example of special reasons might be a certificate regarding special pedagogical support from the University's disability coordinator.

Other directives

The course may run jointly with the second cycle course 5FT179.

The course may also run jointly with a PhD course. The assessment of PhD students is based upon an essay of 4500 words on a freely chosen topic related to the content of the course.