Four main issues have occupied center stage in the analytic-cognitivist work on horror: (1) What is horror? (2) What is the appeal of horror? (3) How does it frighten audiences? and, (4) is it irrational to be scared of horror fiction?
Contrary to the emotions we feel in everyday contexts, the emotions we feel for fictional characters do not seem to require a belief in the existence of their object. This observation has given birth to a famous philosophical paradox (the ‘paradox of fiction’), and has led some philosophers to claim that the emotions we feel for fictional characters are not genuine emotions but rather “quasi-emotions”. Since then, the existence of quasi-emotions has been a hotly debated issue. Recently, philosophers and psychologists (...) have proposed to solve this debate by using empirical methods and experimentally studying differences between ‘real’ and ‘fictional’ emotions. In this paper, our goal is to assess the success of these attempts. We begin by surveying the existing empirical literature and stressing the methodological problems that plague most studies that might seem relevant to the debate, before focusing on recent studies that avoid this pitfall. We then argue that, due to conceptual problems, these studies fail to be relevant to the philosophical debate and emphasize new directions for future empirical research on the topic. (shrink)
The chapter considers the “paradox of fiction,” understood as the claim that it is in some sense irrational or inappropriate to respond emotionally to mere fictions. Several theorists have held that special features of imagination, or other “arational” mental reflexes, play a role in its resolution. I argue, to the contrary, that imagination need not enter into the solution, and that the paradox can be resolved in a way that shows our responses to fictions to be reasonable and warranted, even (...) if our emotional reactions to fiction are caused by beliefs and desires. Coming to terms with the paradox requires both properly understanding the “rug-pull” structure of the examples used to motivate it, and appreciating the specific emotional norms relevant to fiction appreciation. Related proposals by Livingston & Mele (1997) and Gilmore (2011) are discussed; their relevance to and coherence with the present account are explained. [This is Chapter 11 of Explaining Imagination.]. (shrink)
Cinema struggles with the representation of inner-speech and thought in a way that is less of a problem for literature. Film also destabilises the notion of the narrator, be they omniscient, unreliable or first-person. In this article I address the peculiar and highly unsuccessful cinematic innovation which we can call the ‘first-person camera’ or ‘first-person’ film. These are films in which the camera represents not just the point-of-view of a character but is meant to be understood as that character. Very (...) few such films have been made, and I will concentrate on the way in which speech and thought are presented in Lady in the Lake (Robert Montgomery, 1947) and Dark Passage (Delmer Daves, 1947). I use Jacques Derrida’s critique of the idea of ‘hearing oneself speak’ and phenomenology’s dream of direct experience to explore the generally understood failure of such films and conclude by considering the implications of such a technique for a homunculus theory of mind. (shrink)
Using Twin Peaks' Agent Dale Cooper as an example, we explore the paradox of fiction. Employing resources from Aimee Thomasson's account of fictional characters in conjunction with some research on parasocial interaction, we make offer a potential solution for the paradox.
If feeling a genuine emotion requires believing that its object actually exists, and if this is a belief we are unlikely to have about fictional entities, then how could we feel genuine emotions towards these entities? This question lies at the core of the paradox of fiction. Since its original formulation, this paradox has generated a substantial literature. Until recently, the dominant strategy had consisted in trying to solve it. Yet, it is more and more frequent for scholars to try (...) to dismiss it using data and theories coming from psychology. In opposition to this trend, the present paper argues that the paradox of fiction cannot be dissolved in the ways recommended by the recent literature. We start by showing how contemporary attempts at dissolving the paradox assume that it emerges from theoretical commitments regarding the nature of emotions. Next, we argue that the paradox of fiction rather emerges from everyday observations, the validity of which is independent from any such commitment. This is why we then go on to claim that a mere appeal to psychology in order to discredit these theoretical commitments cannot dissolve the paradox. We bring our discussion to a close on a more positive note, by exploring how the paradox could in fact be solved by an adequate theory of the emotions. (shrink)
Imagination contributes to human agency in ways that haven't been well understood. I argue here that pathways from imagistic imagining to emotional engagement support three important agential capacities: 1. bodily preparedness for potential events in one's nearby environment; 2. evaluation of potential future action; and 3. empathy-based moral appraisal. Importantly, however, the kind of pathway in question (I-C-E-C: imagining-categorization-emotion-conceptualization) also enables engagement with fiction. So human enchantment with fiction is a consequence of imaginative pathways that make us the kind of (...) agents we are. Finally, I use this approach to address imaginative resistance and the paradox of fiction. [The version archived here is a penultimate draft. Please email me at [email protected] to receive a pdf of the final in accordance with fair use.]. (shrink)
Many philosophers have attempted to provide a solution to the paradox of fiction, a triad of sentences that lead to the conclusion that genuine emotional responses to fiction are irrational. We suggest that disagreement over the best response to this paradox stems directly from the formulation of the paradox itself. Our main goal is to show that there is an ambiguity regarding the word ‘exist’ throughout the premises of the paradox. To reveal this ambiguity, we display the diverse existential commitments (...) of several leading theories of emotion, and argue that none of the theories we consider are committed to notions of ‘exist’ employed by the paradox. We conclude that it is unclear whether or not there remains a paradox of fiction to be solved—rather than to be argued for—once this ambiguity is addressed. (shrink)
The most well-known and controversial solution to the paradox of fiction is Kendall Walton’s, according to whom pity of (say) Anna Karenina is not genuine pity. Walton’s opponents argue that we can resolve the paradox of fiction while preserving the intuition that our response to Anna is ordinary, run-of-the-mill pity; and they claim that retaining this intuition explains more than Walton’s approach. In my view, the arguments of Walton’s opponents depend on idiosyncratic features of examples involving purely fictional characters like (...) Anna Karenina. What is really at issue is the fact that we respond emotionally to fiction in ways that are not explained by our beliefs, but instead by what we imagine. That this is the crux of the paradox of fiction becomes clear only when we consider fictions about real persons and events. And I contend that once we turn our attention to these cases, Walton’s theory proves significantly more explanatory than the opposition. (shrink)