The Ontology of Fiction: A Study of Dependent Objects

Dissertation, University of California, Irvine (1995)

Authors
Amie Thomasson
Dartmouth College
Abstract
In the dissertation I defend the view that there are fictional characters and develop the Artifactual Theory of fiction, according to which fictional characters are non-concrete entities dependent on authors, texts and readers. I argue that our best theory of intentionality asserts that all intentional acts have objects, even if these objects are fictional, for otherwise one cannot adequately analyze our apparent experiences of fictional characters. ;Since I treat fictional characters as dependent entities, the central chapters are dedicated to developing a general theory of existential dependence on the basis of which one can offer a clear analysis of fictional objects and dependent entities of all kinds. I begin with an historical study of dependence, proceed to a thematic study of existential dependence, and finally provide a formal model for the state of affairs ontology lying behind these definitions of dependence. ;This work on dependence provides the groundwork for delineating a system of ontological categories that reveals that fictional characters are not uniquely peculiar entities, but rather share important features with other dependent entities such as stories, works of music, theories, tools, churches, and universals. Most importantly, since fictional objects fall into the same category as literary works, one gains no parsimony by rejecting fictional objects and rephrasing apparent talk about them in terms of talk about stories. ;I return to address various problems which many have thought arise in the case of fictional objects, offering first a theory of how fictional names refer, secondly, a means to analyze predications of fictional objects and finally, identity conditions for fictional objects. I close by comparing the Artifactual Theory to other theories of fiction including Fregean and Pretense views, Meinongian theories, and the theories of Crittenden and van Inwagen. While prior studies treat fictional objects as presenting a strange special case, on my view fictional characters are simply some of the many kinds of familiar dependent entities. Consequently, this work on fiction serves as a case study that can help us to understand the structure of dependent entities of all kinds in the world around us
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