To which philosopher it may concern,
I recently been perplexed by the following logical puzzle (or what seems to be, anyway):
Working at a used bookstore, I and the rest of the staff are constantly asked about where to find books. One of my co-workers had the following exchange with a customer and couldn't make anything of it:
Customer: "I am looking for a particular book."
Co-worker: "Well is it fiction or non-fiction?"
So far, this is what I've come up with:
(1) The customer is looking for a book that is neither fiction nor non-fiction, which would mean that it can't be both fiction and non fiction (which is quite common, e.g., historical fiction).
(2) If non-fiction is the opposite of fiction (and not considered as a separate entity), then was the customer contradicting himself and as a result saying absolutely nothing?
(3) If fiction is defined as something that isn't true, and non-fiction defined as something that IS true, then the...
Your definition of fiction and non-fiction (your point (3)) seems flawed. For one thing, a lot of what commonly goes under the non-fiction heading is false, at least in part. Think of an book about the bombing of Pearl Harbor which, although marketed as an accurate historical account, is full of errors. So, what's characteristic of a work of non-fiction is that it presents its content to be a true account of something in the real world. Correspondingly, fiction might then be defined as a work that does not present its content to be a true account of something in the real world. Not presenting its content as true, such a work thus cannot be false (in relation to the real world) either. Someone who claims that Mark Twain's book is incorrect in some of what it says about Huckleberry Finn hasn't understood that this was meant to be a work of fiction. Works of fiction are neither true nor false much like -- to use a favorite example of Sidney Morgenbesser's -- the number 3 is neither married nor...