About this topic
Summary We routinely appear to quantify over and refer to fictionals characters. For example, it appears to be true that there are characters in some 19th-century novels who are presented with a greater wealth of physical detail than is any character in any 18th-century novel. Such reference and quantification appears to commit us to an ontology of fictional characters. But what are these things? A clue and another argument for realism is that it is true that Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes. So fictional characters look to be artifacts, but how can this be? Realists about fictional characters try to provide a clear account of the nature of these characters. The realist, however, faces a problem since it is also true that Sherlock Holmes does not exist. So there seem to be sentences that pull us to realism and sentences that push us toward irrealism. 
Key works Parsons 1980 provides an account of fictional characters as eternal Meinongian non-existent objects. Construed as such, fictional characters have clear identity conditions. Such a treatment is found by many to be implausible in the extreme. A more popular view treats fictional characters as created. Kripke 2013 provides the intuitive case for an ontology of fictional characters as abstract artifacts. Thomasson 1999 takes up these themes and develops them in more detail. Such realism faces two serious threats, both of which have been pushed by Anthony Everett. First, how can the realist account for true fictional negative existentials (Everett 2007), second can they provide a coherent metaphysics (Everett 2005)?
Introductions Friend 2007. For a book-length treatment see Sainsbury 2009.
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268 found
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  1. Review of Anthony Everett, The Nonexistent. [REVIEW]Catharine Abell - 2016 - British Journal of Aesthetics 56 (2):209-212.
  2. The Semantics of Fictional Names.Fred Adams, Gary Fuller & Robert Stecker - 1997 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 78 (2):128–148.
    In this paper we defend a direct reference theory of names. We maintain that the meaning of a name is its bearer. In the case of vacuous names, there is no bearer and they have no meaning. We develop a unified theory of names such that one theory applies to names whether they occur within or outside fiction. Hence, we apply our theory to sentences containing names within fiction, sentences about fiction or sentences making comparisons across fictions. We then defend (...)
  3. Representation and Closure in Contemporary Philosophy of Language.Mark Richard Alfino - 1989 - Dissertation, The University of Texas at Austin
    This dissertation examines the general problem of how to give a philosophical account of the nature of representation by looking at three specific philosophies of language and the philosophic treatment of fictional discourse. I argue that Edmund Husserl, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and J. L. Austin all try to give accounts of meaning by arguing for what I call a "closure of meaning" in language. The closure thesis is the claim that some set of criteria can exhaustively determine the ways in which (...)
  4. Reading, Writing, and Speech Act Theory: Prolegomena to Any Future Logic of Fiction.Peter Alward - unknown
    meaning of a proper name is simply its referent.[1] This thesis, however, brings with it a whole host of problems. One particularly thorny difficulty is that of negative existentials, sentences of the form ‘N does not exist’ (where ‘N’ is a proper name). Intuitively, some such sentences are true, but the direct reference theory seems to imply that they must be either false or meaningless. After all, if the meaning of a name is just its referent, then a sentence such (...)
  5. Revealing Positions: The Role of Point of View in the Understanding of Utterances.Rhonda Anderson - 2003 - Dissertation, Mcmaster University (Canada)
    Explanations of how we understand some types of utterances often involve appeals to either speaker meaning or context. I suggest that these devices are inadequate for explaining how we understand utterances using the word 'I', metaphorical statements, and statements in and about works of fiction. Instead, I argue that in order to explain our understanding of such utterances, we need to appeal to point of view. ;I deal with each type of utterance separately, in each case building on a philosopher's (...)
  6. Failed Reference and Feigned Reference: Much Ado About Nothing.Kent Bach - 1985 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 25:359-374.
    Nothing can be said about a nonexistent object, but something can be said about the act of attempting to refer to one or, as in fiction, of pretending to refer to one. Unsuccessful reference, whether by expressions or by speakers, can be explained straightforwardly within the context of the theory of speech acts and communication. As for fiction, there is nothing special semantically, as to either meaning or reference, about its language. And fictional discourse is just a distinctive use of (...)
  7. Fictional Objects in Literature and Mental Representations.Jay E. Bachrach - 1991 - British Journal of Aesthetics 31 (2):134-139.
  8. Truth in Fiction, Impossible Worlds, and Belief Revision.Christopher Badura & Francesco Berto - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-16.
    We present a theory of truth in fiction that improves on Lewis's [1978] ‘Analysis 2’ in two ways. First, we expand Lewis's possible worlds apparatus by adding non-normal or impossible worlds. Second, we model truth in fiction as belief revision via ideas from dynamic epistemic logic. We explain the major objections raised against Lewis's original view and show that our theory overcomes them.
  9. Lamarque, P.-Fictional Points of View.S. Bates - 1998 - Philosophical Books 39:78-80.
  10. Objects Analysed: Brentano's Way Toward the Identity of Objects.Wilhelm Baumgartner - 1989 - Topoi 4 (S):20-30.
  11. Of Fictional Corporeality.M. Bernard - 2002 - Revue Internationale de Philosophie 56 (222):523-534.
    No categories
  12. Modal Meinongianism and Fiction: The Best of Three Worlds.Francesco Berto - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 152 (3):313-35.
    We outline a neo-Meinongian framework labeled as Modal Meinongian Metaphysics (MMM) to account for the ontology and semantics of fictional discourse. Several competing accounts of fictional objects are originated by the fact that our talking of them mirrors incoherent intuitions: mainstream theories of fiction privilege some such intuitions, but are forced to account for others via complicated paraphrases of the relevant sentences. An ideal theory should resort to as few paraphrases as possible. In Sect. 1, we make this explicit via (...)
  13. Mistake is to Myth What Pretense is to Fiction: A Reply to Goodman.Björn Lundgren - 2017 - Philosophia 45 (3):1275-1282.
    In this reply I defend Kripke’s creationist thesis for mythical objects against Jeffrey Goodman’s counter-argument to the thesis, 35–40, 2014). I argue that Goodman has mistaken the basis for when mythical abstracta are created. Contrary to Goodman I show that, as well as how, Kripke’s theory consistently retains the analogy between creation of mythical objects and creation of fictional objects, while also explaining in what way they differ.
  14. Don, Peggy, and Other Fictional Friends? Engaging with Characters in Television Series.Robert Blanchet & Margrethe Bruun Vaage - 2012 - Projections 6 (2):18-41.
    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 fictional characters 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 (...)
  15. The Truth About Fictional Entities.H. Gene Blocker - 1974 - Philosophical Quarterly 24 (94):27-36.
    The usual strawsonian account of referring won't do for fictional entities. The problem is that we still don't have a sufficiently clear notion of ordinary referring, And the root of this problem is that referring is still perceived in terms of a paradigm relation of a description to an existing thing. But that relation is preceded by the more fundamental relation of thought to an object of thought, Whether real or imaginary. The conclusion reached is that fictional reference is an (...)
  16. Fictional Objects, Edited by Stuart Brock and Anthony Everett. [REVIEW]Emily Caddick Bourne - 2017 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 95 (4):810-813.
  17. Fictionalism About Fictional Characters Revisited.Stuart Brock - 2016 - Res Philosophica 93 (2):1-27.
    Fictionalism about fictional characters is a view according to which all claims ostensibly about fictional characters are in fact claims about the content of a story. Claims that appear to refer to or quantify over fictional objects contain an implicit prefix of the form “according to such-and-such story. In "Fictionalism about Fictional Characters", I defended this kind of view. Over the last fourteen years, a number of criticisms have been leveled against this variety of fictionalism. This paper reconsiders the initial (...)
  18. The Creationist Fiction: The Case Against Creationism About Fictional Characters.Stuart Brock - 2010 - Philosophical Review 119 (3):337-364.
    This essay explains why creationism about fictional characters is an abject failure. Creationism about fictional characters 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 (...)
  19. Fictionalism About Fictional Characters.Stuart Brock - 2002 - Noûs 36 (1):1–21.
    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 fictional characters, ‘Scarlett O’Hara,’ ‘Char-lie Brown,’ ‘Batman,’ ‘Superman,’ ‘Tweedledum’ and ‘Tweedledee’ are not (...)
  20. Creatures of Fiction.Stuart Ross Brock - 2002 - Dissertation, Princeton University
    My starting point is the controversial assumption that fictional characters---like Batman, Emma Bovary and Wuthering Heights---do not exist. It is my contention that there simply are no such things. My aim is to show how we might learn to live without them, how we can make sense of talk purportedly about them, and how we can have emotional responses that seem to be directed towards them.
  21. Fictional Objects.Stuart Brock & Anthony Everett (eds.) - 2015 - Oxford University Press.
    Eleven original essays discuss a range of puzzling philosophical questions about fictional characters, and more generally about fictional objects. For example, they ask questions like the following: Do they really exist? What would fictional objects be like if they existed? Do they exist eternally? Are they created? Who by? When and how? Can they be destroyed? If so, how? Are they abstract or concrete? Are they actual? Are they complete objects? Are they possible objects? How many fictional objects are there? (...)
  22. Charles Crittenden, Unreality: The Metaphysics of Fictional Objects. [REVIEW]Curtis Brown - 1992 - Philosophy in Review 12 (3):177-179.
  23. Masks, Names and Characters in New Comedy.Pg Brown - 1987 - Hermes 115 (2):181-202.
  24. Fictional Entities and Augmented Reality: A Metaphysical Impossibility Result.Jeff Buechner - 2011 - Journal of Evolution and Technology 22 (1):53-72.
    The transhumanism project will gain momentum with advances in technology, in basic science and in philosophy, as well as in bioethics. However, there are minefields that jeopardize this progress – one such minefield is a fundamental problem in pure philosophy: fictional entities and how we refer to the nonexistent. In the absence of solutions to the problems that arise in this area of philosophy, progress in the technology necessary for augmented reality will be considerably impeded. I will argue there are (...)
  25. Spotty Scope and Our Relation to Fictions.Tim Button - 2012 - Noûs 46 (2):243-58.
    Whatever the attractions of Tolkein's world, irrealists about fictions do not believe literally that Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit. Instead, irrealists believe that, according to The Lord of the Rings {Bilbo is a hobbit}. But when irrealists want to say something like “I am taller than Bilbo”, there is nowhere good for them to insert the operator “according to The Lord of the Rings”. This is an instance of the operator problem. In this paper, I outline and criticise Sainsbury's (2006) (...)
  26. Book Review: 'Fiction and Fictionalism' by Mark Sainsbury. [REVIEW]Emily Caddick Bourne - unknown
    What is a fictional character? Nothing, according to Mark Sainsbury. Yet it is true to say that there are fictional characters. How? Because there are fictions according to which there are specific individuals. And it can be true to say that Anna Karenina is more intelligent than Emma Bovary. How? Because the truth-value of the sentence is to be assessed under the (false) presupposition that there are such people as Emma and Anna. And it is true to say that Conan (...)
  27. The Real Problem with Fictional Feelings.Emily Caddick Bourne - unknown
  28. The Ontological Status of Fictional Entities.Jean Andre Cadieux - 1976 - Dissertation, University of Minnesota
  29. A Fictional Realist.Ross P. Cameron - 2013 - In Christy Mag Uidhir (ed.), Art and Abstract Objects. Oxford University Press. pp. 179.
  30. Against a Defense of Fictional Realism.B. Caplan & C. Muller - 2014 - Philosophical Quarterly 64 (255):211-224.
  31. Creatures of Fiction, Myth, and Imagination.Ben Caplan - 2004 - American Philosophical Quarterly 41 (4):331-337.
    In the nineteenth century, astronomers thought that a planet between Mercury and the Sun was causing perturbations in the orbit of Mercury, and they introduced ‘Vulcan’ as a name for such a planet. But they were wrong: there was, and is, no intra-Mercurial planet. Still, these astronomers went around saying things like (2) Vulcan is a planet between Mercury and the Sun. Some philosophers think that, when nineteenth-century astronomers were theorizing about an intra-Mercurial planet, they created a hypothetical planet.
  32. On Some Affective Relations Between Audiences and the Characters in Popular Fictions.Noël Carroll - 2011 - In Amy Coplan & Peter Goldie (eds.), Empathy: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives. Oxford University Press. pp. 162.
  33. Do Creatures of Fiction Exist?W. R. Carter - 1980 - Philosophical Studies 38 (2):205 - 215.
  34. All the Things You Are.Roberto Casati & Achille C. Varzi - 2000 - In Gabriele Usberti (ed.), Modi dell’oggettività. Bompiani. pp. 77–85.
    An imaginary dialogue between Andrea Bonomi and Gonzalo Pirobutirro (the main character of Gadda’s novel La cognizione del dolore) aiming to challenge Bonomi’s tenet that a work of fiction defines a domain of objects which is closed with respect to the actual world.
  35. Ficta as Contingently Nonconcrete.Lightfield Ceth - 2014 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 21 (4):431-457.
    Fictional realism allows direct reference theorists to provide a straightfor- ward analysis of the semantics of fictional discourse by admitting into their ontology a set of objects (ficta) that serve as the referents of fictional names. Ficta may be modeled using an axiomatic object theory, but actualist interpretations of the formalism have been the subject of recent objections. In this paper, I provide an interpretation of object theory’s formalism that is consistent with actualism and avoids these objections. Drawing on insights (...)
  36. Brentano Husserl Und Ingarden Über Die Intentionalen Gegenstände.Arkadiusz Chrudzimski - 2005 - In Existence, Culture, and Persons: The Ontology of Roman Ingarden. Ontos.
    In der Geschichte der Philosophie finden wir viele Intentionalitätstheorien, die spezielle Gegenstände zur Erklärung des Intentionalitätsphänomens einführen. Solche Theorien wurden in erster Linie von Philosophen eingeführt, die durch Franz Brentano beeinflusst waren. Gegenstände, um die es hier geht, werden üblicherweise intentionale Gegenstände genannt. Eine Theorie der intentionalen Gegenstände, die vom ontologischen Standpunkt aus betrachtet besonders detailliert ausgearbeitet ist, hat Roman Ingarden formuliert. Auch Ingardens Theorie ist daher Gegenstand einer oft geäußerten Kritik. Man behauptet, dass alles, was intentionale Gegenstände leisten, auch (...)
  37. Fictional Entities: Talking About Them and Having Feelings About Them.Ralph W. Clark - 1980 - Philosophical Studies 38 (4):341 - 349.
  38. Narrative and Character Formation.Tom Cochrane - 2014 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 72 (3):303-315.
    I defend the claim that fictional narratives provide cognitive benefits to readers in virtue of helping them to understand character. Fictions allow readers to rehearse the skill of selecting and organizing into narratives those episodes of a life that reflect traits or values. Two further benefits follow: first, fictional narratives provide character models that we can apply to real-life individuals (including ourselves), and second, fictional narratives help readers to reflect on the value priorities that constitute character. I defend the plausibility (...)
  39. Fictional Realism and Metaphysically Indeterminate Identity.Wouter A. Cohen - 2017 - Analysis 77 (3):511-519.
    Fictional realists maintain that fictional characters are part of the world’s ontology. In an influential article, Anthony Everett argues that the fictional realist is thereby committing herself to problematic entities. Among these are entities that are indeterminately identical. Recently, Ross Cameron and Richard Woodward have answered Everett’s worry using the same strategy. They argue that the fictional realist can bypass the problematic identities by contending that they are merely semantically indeterminate. This paper concisely surveys Everett’s original argument, Cameron’s and Woodward’s (...)
  40. Fictional Names and Narrating Characters.David Conter - 1991 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 69 (3):319 – 328.
  41. Sweet Nothings.Gabriele Contessa - 2012 - Analysis 72 (2):354-366.
    [This paper is part of a book symposium on Jody Azzouni's Talking about Nothing: Numbers, Hallucinations, and Fictions].
  42. Who is Afraid of Imaginary Objects?Gabriele Contessa - 2009 - In Nicholas Griffin & Dale Jacquette (eds.), Russell Vs. Meinong: The Legacy of "On Denoting". Routledge.
    People often use expressions such as ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Pegasus’ that appear to refer to imaginary objects. In this paper, I consider the main attempts to account for apparent reference to imaginary objects available in the literature and argue that all fall short of being fully satisfactory. In particular, I consider the problems of two main options to maintain that imaginary objects are real and reference to them is genuine reference: possibilist and abstractist account. According to the former, imaginary objects (...)
  43. Characters and Contingency.Gregory Courrle - 2003 - Dialectica 57 (2):137–148.
    One way creatures of fiction seem to differ from real things is in their essential properties. While you and I might not have done many of the things we did do, Anna Karenina could not, surely, have been other than a lover of Vronsky. Is that right? Not straightforwardly: while it is true that “Necessarily, someone who was not a lover of Vronsky would not be Anna” it is also true that “Someone who was necessarily a lover of Vronsky would (...)
  44. Abstract Generationism: A Response to Friedell.Wesley D. Cray - 2017 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 75 (3):289-292.
  45. Unreality: The Metaphysics of Fictional Objects.Charles Crittenden - 1993 - Philosophical Review 102 (4):608-611.
  46. Thinking About Non-Being.Charles Crittenden - 1973 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 16 (1-4):290 – 312.
    There are genuine references to non?existent objects, as can be seen through elucidating reference in common language and applying the criteria enumerated to expressions used in writing and speaking about fiction. The concept of a fictitious entity is simply accepted in the adoption of the ?language?game? of fiction and has no undesirable ontological consequences. To think otherwise is to fail to attend to the conceptual status of such talk. Accounts of fictional discourse by Russell, Ryle, and Chisholm are found objectionable. (...)
  47. Fictional Existence.Charles Crittenden - 1966 - American Philosophical Quarterly 3 (4):317 - 321.
  48. The Nature of Fiction.Gregory Currie - 2008 - Cambridge University Press.
    This important book provides a theory about the nature of fiction, and about the relation between the author, the reader and the fictional text. The approach is philosophical: that is to say, the author offers an account of key concepts such as fictional truth, fictional characters, and fiction itself. The book argues that the concept of fiction can be explained partly in terms of communicative intentions, partly in terms of a condition which excludes relations of counterfactual dependence between the world (...)
  49. On Being Fictional.Gregory Currie - 1997 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 55 (4):425-427.
  50. The Nature of Fiction.Gregory Currie - 1990 - Cambridge University Press.
    This important new book provides a theory about the nature of fiction, and about the relation between the author, the reader, and the fictional text.
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