Perspectives in imaginative engagement with fiction

Philosophical Perspectives 31 (1):73-102 (2017)
Authors
Elisabeth Camp
Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Abstract
I take up three puzzles about our emotional and evaluative responses to fiction. First, how can we even have emotional responses to characters and events that we know not to exist, if emotions are as intimately connected to belief and action as they seem to be? One solution to this puzzle claims that we merely imagine having such emotional responses. But this raises the puzzle of why we would ever refuse to follow an author’s instructions to imagine such responses, since we happily imagine many other implausible things. A natural response to this second puzzle is that our responses to fiction are real, and so can’t just be conjured up in response to an author’s demands. However, this simple response is inadequate, because we often respond differently to people and events in fiction than we would if we encountered them in real life. Solving these three puzzles in a consistent way requires the notion of a “perspective” on a fictional world. I sketch an account of this intuitive but frustratingly amorphous notion: perspectives are tools for organizing our thinking, which can in turn alter our emotional and evaluative responses. Cultivating a perspective can be illuminating, entertaining, or corrupting — or all three at once.
Keywords Imagination   Resistance
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Reprint years 2018
DOI 10.1111/phpe.12102
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