Abstract

In this article, I argue that the cognitive value of narrative arts is an epistemic understanding of a complex set of facts. My argument is the following: because we are epistemically limited agents (in a sense of our cognitive capacity and motivation), engagement with narrative arts is the optimal way to familiarize ourselves with complex phenomena in the world, such as social injustice, institutional racism, and financial crises. Exemplary narrative works of art possess epistemic features that other epistemic sources, such as scientific articles and newspaper reports, lack. These features are narrative compression, simplified language, engagement with fictional characters, and artistic features. These features make exemplary narrative works of art an optimal way for an average agent to learn about the complex world around them. The article consists of three parts: Knowledge and Understanding, Narrative Arts as Epistemic Sources, and Understanding the Financial Crisis of 2007–8 with The Big Short (2015). In the first part, I introduce concepts of knowledge and understanding and explain why they are important for my claim. In the second part, I present my claim and offer arguments for it. In the third part, I illustrate my claim with the movie The Big Short (2015).

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