There is no straightforward inference from there being fictionalcharacters to any interesting form of realism. One reason is that “fictional” may be an intensional operator with wide scope, depriving the quantifier of its usual force. Another is that not all uses of “there are” are ontologically committing. A realist needs to show that neither of these phenomena are present in “There are fictionalcharacters”. Other roads to realism run into difficulties when negotiating the role (...) that presupposition plays when we make intuitive evaluations of the truth or falsehood of sentences involving fiction, for we may presuppose things we do not believe. This means that a judgment of truth, implicitly relative to a presupposition we do not believe, can be sincerely made by someone who, from a more austere perspective, would regard the judgment as false. (shrink)
If there are no fictionalcharacters, how do we explain thought and discourse apparently about them? If there are, what are they like? A growing number of philosophers claim that fictionalcharacters are abstract objects akin to novels or plots. They argue that postulating characters provides the most straightforward explanation of our literary practices as well as a uniform account of discourse and thought about fiction. Anti-realists counter that postulation is neither necessary nor straightforward, and (...) that the invocation of pretense provides a better account of the same phenomena. I outline and assess these competing theories. (shrink)
The challenge of handling fictional discourse is to find the best way to resolve the apparent inconsistencies in our ways of speaking about fiction. A promising approach is to take at least some such discourse to involve pretense, but does all fictional discourse involve pretense? I will argue that a better, less revisionary, solution is to take internal and fictionalizing discourse to involve pretense, while allowing that in external critical discourse, fictional names are used seriously to refer (...) to fictionalcharacters. I then address two objections to such realist theories of fiction: One, that they can’t adequately account for the truth of singular nonexistence claims involving fictional names, and two, that accepting that there are fictionalcharacters to which we refer is implausible or ontologically profligate. (shrink)
Despite protestations to the contrary, philosophers have always been renowned for espousing theories that do violence to common-sense opinion. In the last twenty years or so there has been a growing number of philosophers keen to follow in this tradition. According to these philosophers, if a story of pure fic-tion tells us that an individual exists, then there really is such an individual. According to these realists about fictionalcharacters, ‘Scarlett O’Hara,’ ‘Char-lie Brown,’ ‘Batman,’ ‘Superman,’ ‘Tweedledum’ and ‘Tweedledee’ (...) are not denotationless terms, but names that really refer. What is truly surprising about this situation is that almost no one has inveighed against this unfortunate real-ist tendency. My aim here will be to challenge this new orthodoxy, and to defend an anti-realist position against the arguments proffered by the realist. (shrink)
This essay explains why creationism about fictionalcharacters is an abject failure. Creationism about fictionalcharacters is the view that fictional objects are created by the authors of the novels in which they first appear. This essay shows that, when the details of creationism are filled in, the hypothesis becomes far more puzzling than the linguistic data it is used to explain. No matter how the creationist identifies where, when and how fictional objects are (...) created, the proposal conflicts with other strong intuitions we have about fictionalcharacters. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us Digg Reddit Technorati What's this? (shrink)
I argue that the ontological status of fictionalcharacters is determined by the beliefs and practices of those who competently deal with works of literature, and draw out three important consequences of this. First, heavily revisionary theories cannot be considered as ‘discoveries’ about the ‘true nature’ of fictionalcharacters; any acceptable realist theory of fiction must preserve all or most of the common conception of fictionalcharacters. Second, once we note that the existence conditions (...) for fictionalcharacters (established by those beliefs and practices) are extremely minimal, it makes little sense to deny the existence of fictionalcharacters, leaving anti-realist views of fiction unmotivated. Finally, the role of ordinary beliefs and practices in determining facts about the ontology of fictionalcharacters explains why non-revisionary theories of fiction are bound to yield no determinate or precise answer to certain questions about fictionalcharacters, demonstrating the limits of a theory of fiction. (shrink)
The author engages a question raised about theories of nonexistent objects. The question concerns the way names of fictionalcharacters, when analyzed as names which denote nonexistent objects, acquire their denotations. Since nonexistent objects cannot causally interact with existent objects, it is thought that we cannot appeal to a `dubbing' or a `baptism'. The question is, therefore, what is the starting point of the chain? The answer is that storytellings are to be thought of as extended baptisms, and (...) the details of this response receive attention in the paper. Once the storytelling is complete, and the characters have been baptized, a priori metaphysical principles linking the storytelling with the realm of nonexistent objects provide the referential, non-causal connection between the names used in the storytelling and the objects denoted by such names. [This is the original English version of an article that first appeared in German translation, translated into German by Arnold Günther and published in the Zeitschrift für Semiotik 9/1-2 (1987): 85-95. The version that appears here is, for the most part, unaltered.]. (shrink)
Stephen Schiffer holds that propositions are pleonastic entities. I will argue that there is a substantial difference between propositions and fictionalcharacters, which Schiffer presents as typical pleonastic entities. My conclusion will be that if fictionalcharacters are typical pleonastic entities, then Schiffer fails to show that propositions are pleonastic entities.
Why are we deeply moved by the misfortune of Anna Karenina if we are fully aware that she is simply a fictional character who does not exist in our world?But what does it mean that fictionalcharacters do not exist? The present article is concerned with the ontology of fictionalcharacters. The author concludes thatsuccessful fictionalcharacters become paramount examples of the ‘real’ human condition because they live in an incomplete world what we (...) have cognitive access to but cannot influence in any way and where no deeds can be undone. Unlike all the other semiotic objects, which are culturally subject to revisions, and perhaps only similar to mathematical entities, the fictual characters will never change and will remain the actors of what they did once and forever. (shrink)
In this paper I argue against Divers and Miller's 'Lightness of Being' objection to Hale and Wright's neo-Fregean Platonism. According to the 'Lightness of Being' objection, the neo-Fregean Platonist makes existence too cheap: the same principles which allow her to argue that numbers exist also allow her to claim that fictional objects exist. I claim that this is no objection at all" the neo-Fregean Platonist should think that fictionalcharacters exist. However, the pluralist approach to truth developed (...) by WQright in 'Truth and Objectivity' allows us to salvage our intuitions about the metaphysicial lightweightness of fictionalcharacters: truth for discourse about fictionalcharacters fails to exert 'Cognityive Command', whereas truth about arithmetic does. (shrink)
The problem of intersubjective identification arises from the difficulties of explaining how our thoughts and discourse about fictionalcharacters can be directed towards the same (or different) characters given the assumption that there are no fictional entities. In this paper I aim to offer a solution in terms of participation in a practice of thinking and talking about the same thing, which is inspired by Sainsbury's name-using practices. I will critically discuss a similar idea that was (...) put forward by Friend in terms of participation in what Perry calls a notion-network. I will then argue in favor of Sainsbury's baptism-based approach against Perry's information-based approach and I will answer some recent objections that Friend put forward against the former. (shrink)
As the frequent use of metaphors like friendship or relationship in academic and colloquial discourse on serial television suggests, long-term narratives seem to add something to the spectator's engagement with fictionalcharacters that is not fully captured by terms such as empathy and sympathy. Drawing on philosophical accounts of friendship and psychological theories on the formation of close relationships, this article clarifies in what respect the friendship metaphor is warranted. The article proposes several hypotheses that will enhance cognitive (...) theories of character engagement. Spectators tend to like what they have been exposed to more, and the feeling of familiarity is pleasurable. Familiar characters are powerful tools to get the spectator hooked. Furthermore, by generating an impression of a shared history, television series activate mental mechanisms similar to those activated by friendship in real life. These factors, and several others, create a bond with characters in television series that tends to be described in everyday language as a sort of friendship. (shrink)
Some entities, such as fictionalcharacters, propositions, properties, events and numbers are prima facie promising candidates for owing their existence to our linguistic and conceptual practices. However, it is notoriously hard to pin down just what sets such allegedly “language-created” entities apart from ordinary entities. The present paper considers some of the features that are supposed to distinguish between entities of the two kinds and argues that, on an independently plausible account of what it takes to individuate objects, (...) the criteria let in more than friends of the strategy might be happy with. (shrink)
In Naming and Necessity Kripke argued against the possible existence of fictionalcharacters. I show that his argument is invalid, analyze the confusion it involves, and explain why the view that fictionalcharacters could not have existed is implausible.
Osborne argues against the idea that Aristotle thinks that friends are useful for assisting us towards self-knowledge, and defends instead the idea that friends provide an extension of the self which enables one to obtain a richer view of the shared world that we view together. She then examines similar questions about why the good person would gain from encountering fictionalcharacters in literature, and what kinds of literature would be beneficial to the good life.
In this paper I want to show that the idea supporters of traditional creationism (TC) defend, that success of a fictional character across different works has to be accounted for in terms of the persistence of (numerically) one and the same fictional entity, is incorrect. For the supposedly commonsensical data on which those supporters claim their ideas rely are rather controversial. Once they are properly interpreted, they can rather be accommodated by moderate creationism (MC), according to which (...) class='Hi'>fictionalcharacters arise out of a reflexive stance on a certain make-believe process. For MC, success of a fictional character across different works amounts to the fact that, first, different work-bound ficta are related with each other by means of a relation weaker than numerical identity, transfictional sameness, and second, that all those ficta are related by transfictional inclusion to a fictum that in some sense gather them all, the so-called general character. Since a general character is an abstract constructed entity, moreover, the more those particular ficta are generated, the more general fictionalcharacters including all of them arise. (shrink)
Fiction is often characterized by way of a contrast with truth, as, for example, in the familiar couplet “Truth is always strange/ Stranger than fiction" (Byron 1824). And yet, those who would maintain that “we will always learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology” (Chomsky 1988: 159) hold that some truth is best encountered via fiction. The scrupulous novelist points out that her work depicts no actual person, either living or dead; nonetheless, we (...) use names from fiction in ways that suggest that we take these names to refer. Philosophers who investigate fiction aim to reconcile such apparently incompatible phenomena, and, in general, to account for the myriad ways that we talk, think, and feel about fiction. (shrink)
If Socrates is portrayed holding one view in one of Plato's dialogues and a different view in another, should we be puzzled? If (as I suggest) Plato's Socrates is neither the historical Socrates, nor a device for delivering Platonic doctrine, but a tool for the dialectical investigation of a philosophical problem, then we should expect a new Socrates, with relevant commitments, to be devised for each setting. Such a dialectical device – the tailor-made Socrates – fits with what we know (...) of other contributions to the genre of the Sokratikos Logos, to which Plato was neither the first nor the only contributor. (shrink)
In this paper, I make two claims: an opera’s music, both vocal and instrumental, is part of the ontology of its fictional world, and song constitutes the normative mode of communication and expression in the fictional world. I refute Carolyn Abbate’s influential arguments that both of these claims are untrue. Abbate’s contention that opera characters do not have epistemic access to the music is based on false premises and gives rise to serious interpretive problems. My account of (...) operatic metaphysics refines and extends the work of Edward T. Cone and Peter Kivy. Where I diverge from their respective accounts is in my contention that the orchestral music typically does not have a fictional author. Often its real author is the only agent to which it may be logically attributed. (shrink)
Is it ever bad to take pleasure in the suffering of fictionalcharacters? I think so. I attempt to show when and why. I begin with two powerful objections to my view: (1) engaging with fiction is akin to morally unproblematic autonomous fantasy, and (2) since no one is harmed, it is morally unproblematic. I reply to the objections and defend a Moorean view on the issue: It is intrinsically bad to enjoy evil, actual (past, present, or future) (...) and merely imagined. In support, I offer four examples. Then I argue against Moore's claim that it is equally bad to delight in fictional suffering as it is to enjoy actual suffering. Finally, I argue that even though it is bad to enjoy imagined suffering, the power of fiction is often mitigating. The moral problems are more often with the works of fiction than with the audience. (shrink)
Regarding certain fictionalcharacters (and situations) F, it is simultaneously true that: (1) We have genuine and rational emotional responses towards F (2) We believe that F is purely fictional At the same time, it is also true that: (3) In order for us to have genuine and rational emotional responses towards a character (or situation), we must not believe that the character (or situation) is purely fictional.
Fictional realism, i.e., the view that because fictions exist, fictionalcharacters exist as well, has recently been accused of leading to inconsistency generated by phenomena of indeterminacy and inconsistency in fiction. We examine in detail four arguments against fictional realism, and present a version of fictional realism which can withstand those arguments.
There has recently been considerable interest in accounts of fiction which treat fictionalcharacters as abstract objects. In this paper I argue against this view. More precisely I argue that such accounts are unable to accommodate our intuitions that fictional negative existentials such as “Raskolnikov doesn’t exist” are true. I offer a general argument to this effect and then consider, but reject, some of the accounts of fictional negative existentials offered by abstract object theorists. I then (...) note that some of the sort of data invoked by the abstract object theorist in fact cuts against her position. I concludle that we should not regard fictionalcharacters as abstract objects but rather should adopt a make-believe theoretic account of fictionalcharacters along the lines of those developed by Ken Walton and others. (shrink)
The first question to be addressed about fictional entities is: are there any? The usual grounds given for accepting or rejecting the view that there are fictional entities come from linguistic considerations. We make many different sorts of claims about fictionalcharacters in our literary discussions. How can we account for their apparent truth? Does doing so require that we allow that there are fictionalcharacters we can refer to, or can we offer equally (...) good analyses while denying that there are any fictional entities? (shrink)
We refine a line of feminist criticism of pornography that focuses on pornographic works' pernicious effects. A.W. Eaton argues that inegalitarian pornography should be criticized because it is responsible for its consumers’ adoption of inegalitarian attitudes toward sex in the same way that other fictions are responsible for changes in their consumers’ attitudes. We argue that her argument can be improved with the recognition that different fictions can have different modes of persuasion. This is true of film and television: a (...) satirical movie such as Dr. Strangelove does not morally educate in the same way as a realistic series such as The Wire. We argue that this is also true of pornography: inegalitarian depictions of sex are not invariably responsible for consumers' adoption of inegalitarian attitudes toward sex in reality. Given that pornographic works of different genres may harm in different ways, different feminist criticisms are appropriate for different genres of pornography. (shrink)
I advance an objection to Graham Priest’s account of fictional entities as nonexistent objects. According to Priest, fictionalcharacters do not have, in our world, the properties they are represented as having; for example, the property of being a bank clerk is possessed by Joseph K. not in our world but in other worlds. Priest claims that, in this way, his theory can include an unrestricted principle of characterization for objects. Now, some representational properties attributed to (...) class='Hi'>fictionalcharacters, a kind of fictional entities, involve a crucial reference to the world in which they are supposed to be instantiated. I argue that these representational properties are problematic for Priest’s theory and that he cannot accept an unrestricted version of the principle of characterization. Thus, while not refuting Priest’s theory, I show that it is no better off than other Meinongian theories. (shrink)
The fictional monster Cthulhu was created by HP Lovecraft. Therefore there is some thing, Cthulhu, that Lovecraft created. Cthulhu is a fictional being, so there are fictional beings. You can’t kick a fictional being, so they are abstract. Thankfully, all of this is compatible with a sparse nominalistic ontology. What is important for the nominalist is that a world of concreta suffices to ground all truths, and fictional beings have their grounds in concrete acts of (...) interpretation. Or so I will argue. Along the way we’ll deal with indeterminate identity of fictionalcharacters, as well as making some general remarks about metaontology. (shrink)
In this paper I examine the psychological traits that can play a constitutive role in having an evil character, using a recent affect-based account by Colin McGinn as my starting point. I distinguish several such traits and defend the importance of both affect and action-based approaches. I then argue that someone who possesses these characteristics to the greatest possible extent—the purely evil individual—can actually be less depraved than one whose character is not so thoroughly penetrated by such traits. To illustrate (...) the contrast I have in mind, I use two fictionalcharacters, each of whom exemplifies a different kind of moral extreme: Claggart, from Melville’s Billy Budd, and Wilde’s Dorian Gray. (shrink)
Problems concerning identity in possible worlds and the view that proper names are rigid designators pose no threat to the doctrine that names of fictionalcharacters (fictional names) are referential. Some philosophers, notably Saul Kripke and David Kaplan, have held otherwise; but a close examination of their arguments discovers fatal flaws in them. Furthermore, the most readily available proposals for the alternative functions of fictional names — that is, proposals in which fictional names are not (...) referential — are open to objections of a principled kind. This raises serious doubts that any such alternative could work. (shrink)
Using a theoretical framework derived from my ongoing engagement with what I have called a ‘Gynocentric matrix’ of Indic sensibility, along with James Hillman’s polytheistic psychology and Wallace Stevens’ notion of a Supreme Fiction, this paper offers a reading of Jhumpa Lahiri’s (b. 1967) short stories beyond postcolonial criticism. Stemming from a depth consciousness where life, living and death, joy, indifference and sorrow, generation, de/re-generation, and transformation are intricately intertwined, Lahiri’s fictional multiverse, opposed to universe, is peopled by a (...) new generation of characters who speak to the soul of the reader, while in the process, she sculpts a reality that does not tolerate any homogenizing impulse in the name of an abstract unity. (shrink)
This challenging study places fiction squarely at the center of the discussion of metaphysics. Philosophers have traditionally treated fiction as involving a set of narrow problems in logic or the philosophy of language. By contrast Amie Thomasson argues that fiction has far-reaching implications for central problems of metaphysics. The book develops an 'artifactual' theory of fiction, whereby fictionalcharacters are abstract artifacts as ordinary as laws or symphonies or works of literature. By understanding fictionalcharacters we (...) come to understand how other cultural and social objects are established on the basis of the independent physical world and the mental states of human beings. (shrink)
[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 fictionalcharacters? 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. (shrink)