A syncretistic ontology of fictional beings
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In T. Koblizek, P. Kot'atko & M. Pokorny (eds.), Text + Work: The Menard Case. Litteraria Pragensia 89-108 (2013)
In the camp of the believers in fictional entities, two main paradigms nowadays face each other: the neo-Meinongian and the artifactualist.1 Both parties agree on the idea that ficta are abstract entities, i.e. things that exist (at least in the actual world) even though in a non-spatiotemporal way. Yet according to the former paradigm, ficta are entities of a Platonic sort: either sets of properties (or at least ‘one-one’ correlates of such sets) or generic objects. According to the latter paradigm instead, fictional beings are abstract artifacts, in the sense that they are cultural constructions like games, laws and institutions. Traditionally, these paradigms conceive themselves as mutually exclusive. In what follows, however, I will try to show that this conception is ungrounded. For a fictional entity is a compound entity made both of a property set and of the cultural practice-type that makes its own existence possible. This makes a fictum at least a ‘many-one’ correlate of a set, insofar as different practice-types may turn the same set of properties into different fictional individuals. In this sense, the present proposal is ontologically syncretistic, for it attempts at combining the neo-Meinongian and the artifactualist paradigm. Yet it is even more conciliatory than that. Recent disbelievers in ficta have maintained that as far as fiction is concerned, there is nothing more than fictional discourse itself, which consists in nothing but make-believe linguistic acts in which we pretend that there are things like fictional beings. Yet I take this make-believe practice precisely as the cultural practice such that a fictum not only depends on it but also is partially constituted by it.
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