Within contemporary analytical philosophy there continues to be a lively debate about the emotions we feel for fictional characters. How, for example, can we feel sad about Anna Karenina, despite knowing that she doesn't exist? I propose that we can get a clearer view of this issue by turning to Spinoza, who urges us to take a different approach to feelings of this kind. The ability to keep our emotions in line with our beliefs, he argues, is a complex skill. Rather than asking why we depart from it in the case of fictions, we need to begin by considering how we get it in the first place. Spinoza also considers the value of this skill. In his account, fictions function rather like Donald Winnicott's transitional objects. They enable us to negotiate the boundary between the real and the imaginary in a way that contributes to our philosophical understanding. These Spinozist proposals, I contend, suggest that the questions dominating current debate need to be reformulated.
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DOI 10.1017/s1358246118000759
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How Can We Be Moved by the Fate of Anna Karenina?Colin Radford & Michael Weston - 1975 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 49 (1):67 - 93.
Spinoza's Account of Akrasia.Martin Lin - 2006 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 44 (3):395-414.

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