Propositional attitudes in fiction

British Journal of Aesthetics 44 (3):261-276 (2004)
Theories that seek to explain the status of psychological states experienced in fictional contexts either claim that those states are special propositional attitudes specific to fictional contexts (make-believe attitudes), or else define them as normal propositional attitudes by stretching the concept of a propositional attitude to include ‘objectless’ states that do not imply constraints such as truth or satisfaction. I argue that the first theory is either vacuous or false, and that the second, by defining the reality of the states in question only nominally, risks having a result similar to the first. Then I put forward an explanation of how propositional attitudes function in fictional contexts which meets the following requirements: (i) does not postulate the existence of attitudes specific to or definitive of fictionality; (ii) does not imply that we transgress our knowledge of the ontological claims of fictions for some attitudes (for example, fear) but not others (belief); (iii) explains how we can adopt normal propositional attitudes towards fictions; (iv) allows explanation of how attitudes adopted during fictional response connect or are relevant to our broader systems of belief and volition.
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DOI 10.1093/bjaesthetics/44.3.261
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