Fiction and Emotion: The Puzzle of Divergent Norms

British Journal of Aesthetics 60 (4):403-418 (2020)
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A familiar question in the literature on emotional responses to fiction, originally put forward by Colin Radford, is how such responses can be rational. How can we make sense of pitying Anna Karenina when we know there is no such person? In this paper I argue that contrary to the usual interpretation, the question of rationality has nothing to do with the Paradox of Fiction. Instead, the real problem is why there is a divergence in our normative assessments of emotions in different contexts. I argue that explaining this divergence requires a more nuanced account of the rationality of emotion than has previously been proposed. One advantage of my proposal over alternatives is that it helps to explain one way we can learn emotionally from fiction and imagination.



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Stacie Friend
Birkbeck, University of London

Citations of this work

Emotion in Fiction: State of the Art.Stacie Friend - 2022 - British Journal of Aesthetics 62 (2):257-271.
Opacidade literária como conhecimento literário.Washington Morales Maciel - 2022 - Veritas – Revista de Filosofia da Pucrs 67 (1):e40357.

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References found in this work

Fearing fictions.Kendall L. Walton - 1978 - Journal of Philosophy 75 (1):5-27.
How Can We Be Moved by the Fate of Anna Karenina.Colin Radford & Michael Weston - 1975 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 49 (1):67 - 93.
Emotion.Ronald de Sousa - 2007 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The irrationality of recalcitrant emotions.Michael S. Brady - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 145 (3):413 - 430.

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