Fiction, pleasurable tragedy, and the HOT theory of consciousness

Philosophical Papers 29 (2):107-20 (2000)
Abstract
[Final version in Philosophical Papers, 2000] Much has been made over the past few decades of two related problems in aesthetics. First, the "feeling fiction problem," as I will call it, asks: is it rational to be moved by what happens to fictional characters? How can we care about what happens to people who we know are not real?[i] Second, the so-called "paradox of tragedy" is embodied in the question: Why or how is it that we take pleasure in artworks (e.g. tragedies) which are clearly designed to cause in us such feelings as sadness and fear?[ii] Various solutions to these puzzles have been proposed, but my primary aim is neither to offer a novel solution nor to summarize and critique most of the alternatives.[iii] My focus instead will be on the issue of consciousness and, more specifically, to view these problems from the point of the view of the so-called "higher-order thought theory of consciousness" (the HOT theory). Although some work on these puzzles have raised important questions about the nature of consciousness and "aesthetic experience," no attempt has yet been made to examine them in light of a specific theory.
Keywords Consciousness  Epistemology  Fiction  Tragedy  Feagin, S  Radford, C
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