On Literary Works as Simulations that Run on Minds

Emotion Review 1 (1):35-36 (2009)

This commentary discusses Oatley's proposal that literary works considered as simulations that run on minds can fulfill similar epistemic functions as computer simulations of mental processes. Whereas in computer simulation, both the input data and the computations to be performed on these data are explicit, only the input is explicitly known in the case of mental simulation. For this reason, literary simulations cannot play exactly the same epistemic role as computer simulations. Still, literary simulations can provide knowledge (e.g., about the phenomenal quality of emotions or about possible emotional dynamics) that is relevant for emotion science: it adds to the corpus of facts about emotions that need to be explained, and it may suggest hypotheses about the constitution of the mechanisms that generate emotions. In addition, the hypotheses suggested by a literary simulation can be tested in new mental simulations. However, at least for the purpose of hypothesis testing, the simulation of a multiplicity of experimentally manipulated scenarios should be more revealing than that of a single literary work describing only one possible course of events
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DOI 10.1177/1754073908097183
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Imagining and Believing: The Promise of a Single Code.Shaun Nichols - 2004 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 62 (2):129-39.
The Foundations of Character.Alexander F. Shand - 1921 - Philosophical Review 30 (6):637-637.

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