Moral Dispositions and the Psychology of Fiction

Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison (1999)

Abstract
In this essay, I defend a particular view of how fiction affects our conception of the real world, our emotions, and our moral dispositions. Moreover, I aim to show how each of these elements are interconnected, such that an adequate understanding of one entails an adequate understanding of the others. In particular, I argue that fiction is especially adept at modifying the conceptual schemas that shape our classifications of and responses to persons, actions, and events in the real world. I further argue that contrary to a number of widely influential positions, our emotional responses to fiction are neither irrational nor of a special class; rather, despite superficial differences, they are the product of the very mechanisms which generate our garden-variety emotional responses to actual objects. Finally, I argue that the capacity for fiction to affect our conceptual schemas, and emotions in the manner I propose suggests a significant role for fiction in the development of moral motivation and the adoption of reasons in moral judgments
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