Propositional attitudes in fiction

British Journal of Aesthetics 44 (3):261-276 (2004)
Abstract
Theories that seek to explain the status of psychological states experienced in fictional contexts either claim that those states are special propositional attitudes specific to fictional contexts (make-believe attitudes), or else define them as normal propositional attitudes by stretching the concept of a propositional attitude to include ‘objectless’ states that do not imply constraints such as truth or satisfaction. I argue that the first theory is either vacuous or false, and that the second, by defining the reality of the states in question only nominally, risks having a result similar to the first. Then I put forward an explanation of how propositional attitudes function in fictional contexts which meets the following requirements: (i) does not postulate the existence of attitudes specific to or definitive of fictionality; (ii) does not imply that we transgress our knowledge of the ontological claims of fictions for some attitudes (for example, fear) but not others (belief); (iii) explains how we can adopt normal propositional attitudes towards fictions; (iv) allows explanation of how attitudes adopted during fictional response connect or are relevant to our broader systems of belief and volition.
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