Pleasurably Regarding the Pain of Fictional Others

Authors
Aaron Smuts
Rhode Island College
Abstract
Is it ever bad to take pleasure in the suffering of fictional characters? I think so. I attempt to show when and why. I begin with two powerful objections to my view: (1) engaging with fiction is akin to morally unproblematic autonomous fantasy, and (2) since no one is harmed, it is morally unproblematic. I reply to the objections and defend a Moorean view on the issue: It is intrinsically bad to enjoy evil, actual (past, present, or future) and merely imagined. In support, I offer four examples. Then I argue against Moore's claim that it is equally bad to delight in fictional suffering as it is to enjoy actual suffering. Finally, I argue that even though it is bad to enjoy imagined suffering, the power of fiction is often mitigating. The moral problems are more often with the works of fiction than with the audience.
Keywords art and morality  fantasy  imagination  fiction  emotions
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