In This Article Fiction

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Logic and Semantics of Fiction
  • Paradox of Fiction and Emotion
  • Fiction and “Imaginative Resistance”
  • Other Issues about Fiction within Aesthetics
  • Fictionalism

Philosophy Fiction
by
Peter Lamarque
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0045

Introduction

Aspects of fiction or fictionality have long intrigued and puzzled philosophers across a surprisingly wide range of the subject, including metaphysics, epistemology, logic, philosophy of language, and aesthetics. What is fiction exactly, and how is it distinguished from nonfiction? One prominent set of problems relates to fictional names (such as “Sherlock Holmes,” “the Time Machine,” “Casterbridge”), concerning how they might fit into a general semantics for natural languages. Should they be eliminated by paraphrase or should they be acknowledged as proper names, albeit referring to nonreal items? Related problems arise for ontology. Should we admit fictional entities into our ontology, affording them some kind of being (as abstract entities, perhaps, or as possible objects)? Or again, should we find ways to eliminate them? Another difficulty stems from the fact that well-developed fictional characters in realist novels can often seem more real than actual people. Not only are they spoken and thought about but they can also occupy a significant role in ordinary people’s lives, including their emotional lives. How can this be explained? How can people respond with such powerful feelings to beings they know are merely made up? Also, how is it that readers sometimes have difficulty imagining the content of stories? Philosophers writing in aesthetics about literature as an art form have explored the modes of representing fictional characters, the values storytelling might have, and the potential for works of literary fiction to convey truths about the real world. Finally, appeals to fiction are sometimes made to explain whole areas of discourse, such as mathematics or morals, where there is a reluctance to admit familiar kinds of propositions as literal truths because of their ontological commitments. Thus, “fictionalism” has been promoted: the idea that strictly speaking it is better to view the discourse as a species of fiction, even while acting as if the discourse contained straightforward truths.

General Overviews

Two succinct overviews of philosophical debates relating to fiction may be found in Lamarque 2003 and van Inwagen 2003, the former giving particular prominence to issues in aesthetics, the latter to issues in logic. The editors’ introduction in Everett and Hofweber 2000 is a useful survey of central theories in the semantics and metaphysics of fiction, and the volume’s thirteen essays, by different authors, cover a good range of key issues, often in a polemical manner. Howell 1979 also lays out the parameters of the debate about fictional entities in an illuminating way. Eklund 2009 is a comprehensive overview of the currently fashionable “fictionalism,” in its many forms, surveying and assessing arguments for and against it. McCormick, et al. 1998 offers separate perspectives on fiction broadly within the compass of aesthetics: P. McCormick offers a historical overview, W. Iser provides a literary perspective, and C. Wilson considers issues in the epistemology of fiction.

  • Eklund, Matti. “Fictionalism.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2009.

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    A thorough and clearly organized survey of arguments for and against fictionalism in its different forms.

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    • Everett, Anthony, and Thomas Hofweber, eds. Empty Names, Fiction and the Puzzles of Non-Existence. Stanford, CA: Center for the Study of Language and Information, 2000.

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      The editors’ introduction is particularly useful for setting the scene, and the volume’s thirteen papers are grouped under the headings “Empty Names,” “Pretense,” and “Ontology.” Though sometimes technical and intellectually demanding, the essays reveal the depths and difficulties of the issues.

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      • Howell, Robert “Fictional Objects: How They Are and How They Aren’t.” Poetics 8 (1979): 129–177.

        DOI: 10.1016/0304-422X(79)90018-4E-mail Citation »

        A useful critical survey of both realist and eliminativist strategies.

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        • Lamarque, Peter. “Fiction.” In Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics. Edited by Jerrold Levinson, 377–391. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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          A survey of issues about fiction broadly connected with aesthetics, including the “paradox of fiction and emotion.”

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          • McCormick, P., W. Iser, and C. Wilson. “Fiction.” In Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. Vol. 2. Edited by Michael Kelly. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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            Includes a historical overview, literary perspective, and discussion of the epistemology of fiction within the scope of philosophical aesthetics.

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            • van Inwagen, Peter. “Existence, Ontological Commitment, and Fictional Entities.” In The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics. Edited by Michael Loux and Dean Zimmerman, 131–157. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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              A critical survey of prominent ontological approaches including those of Meinong, Wolterstorff, and Thomasson, among others.

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              Metaphysics of Fiction

              Positions on the metaphysics of fiction—notably on the ontological status of “fictional entities”—divide roughly into three: realist views that concede some kind of reality for fictional entities, eliminativist views that seek to remove any such commitment, and views that are skeptical of metaphysical approaches altogether. Items in each of these categories follow.

              Realist Approaches

              In modern discussions, Meinong 1960 (originally published in 1904) is still taken to be the starting point. Meinong postulated different kinds of “being,” of which actual “existence” is but a subclass. His theory was developed and set in the context of modern logic in Parsons 1980, which countenanced a class of “nonexistent objects,” including fictional characters, about which true statements could be made. A different approach, the idea that fictional characters exist as abstract entities of a certain kind, has proved popular. van Inwagen 1977 views characters as “theoretical entities of literary criticism,” comparable in status to plots, meters, and rhyme schemes. Another version is presented in Wolterstorff 1980, which argues that Sherlock Holmes, for example, belongs in the category of kinds— in this case, person-kinds—but he is not a kind of person (i.e., a physical being). One consequence of Wolterstorff’s view is that because kinds are eternal, timeless entities, they cannot be created, only discovered. Salmon 1998, Thomasson 1999, and Lamarque 2003 argue that characters can be both abstract and created. Thomasson 2003 seeks to show how little is involved in granting reality to fictional characters, thus making realism a palatable option. Braun 2005 offers further arguments in favor of realism about fictional objects.

              • Braun, David. “Empty Names, Fictional Names, Mythical Names.” Noûs 39 (2005): 596–631.

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                Defends a version of fictional realism.

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                • Lamarque, Peter. “How to Create a Fictional Character.” In The Creation of Art: New Essays in Philosophical Aesthetics. Edited by Berys N. Gaut and Paisley Livingston, 33–52. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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                  Explores what is required for a fictional character to be created and what the identity-conditions of characters are—that is, what it is for the same or different characters to be depicted.

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                  • Meinong, Alexius. “Theory of Objects.” In Realism and the Background of Phenomenology. Edited by Roderick M. Chisholm. Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1960.

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                    Originally published in German in 1904. Classic defense of the view that there are nonexistent as well as existent objects.

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                    • Parsons, Terrence. Nonexistent Objects. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980.

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                      A fairly technical development of the theory of objects in Meinong 1960.

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                      • Salmon, Nathan. “Nonexistence.” Noûs 32 (1998): 277–319.

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                        Defends the view of fictional characters as abstract entities.

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                        • Thomasson, Amie L. Fiction and Metaphysics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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                          A detailed exploration of the ontology of fiction, arguing that fictional characters are abstract artifacts, standing in complex dependency relations with other items in the world such as authors, texts, and readers.

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                          • Thomasson, Amie L. “Fictional Characters and Literary Practices.” British Journal of Aesthetics 43 (2003): 138–157.

                            DOI: 10.1093/bjaesthetics/43.2.138E-mail Citation »

                            Argues that acknowledging the existence of fictional characters involves minimal ontological commitments and is a consequence of the basic practices of those who deal with works of literature.

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                            • van Inwagen, Peter. “Creatures of Fiction.” American Philosophical Quarterly 14 (1977): 299–308.

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                              Attributes reality to fictional characters as theoretical entities of literary criticism.

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                              • Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Works and Worlds of Art. Oxford: Clarendon, 1980.

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                                A sometimes difficult but influential treatment of, among other subjects, fictional characters as eternal kinds.

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                                Eliminativist Approaches

                                For many philosophers, the realist option of granting some kind of reality to fictional entities is unacceptable. Quine 1953 showed one way in which unwanted ontological commitments might be avoided, through logical paraphrase. Various strategies, often inspired by Quinean paraphrase, have been offered to try to eliminate apparent references to fictional entities. Goodman 1968 gives an account of pictorial representation whereby a picture of a unicorn might be classified as a “unicorn-picture” without commitment to any kind of reality for unicorns. Specific arguments against particular versions of realism are presented in Brock 2002 and Everett 2005. Walton 1990 offers an influential view whereby fictional entities are explained (explained away) in terms of games of make-believe. This idea is taken up in Everett 2007.

                                • Brock, Stuart. “Fictionalism about Fictional Characters.” Noûs 36 (2002): 1–21.

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                                  Argues against realist accounts of fictional characters by employing various paraphrase devices, including an operator “according to the realist’s hypothesis” prefixed to critical statements, such as “Scarlett O’Hara is a fictional character,” which might otherwise incur a commitment to fictional entities.

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                                  • Everett, Anthony. “Against Fictional Realism.” Journal of Philosophy 102 (2005): 624–649.

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                                    Rejects those views that posit some kind of reality for fictional entities.

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                                    • Everett, Anthony. “Pretense, Existence, and Fictional Objects.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (2007): 56–80.

                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2007.00003.xE-mail Citation »

                                      Argues against the view of fictional characters as abstract entities and defends a make-believe theoretic account as found in Walton 1990.

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                                      • Goodman, Nelson. The Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1968.

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                                        Develops an eliminativist theory of fictional entities applied to all art forms.

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                                        • Quine, W. V. O. “On What There Is.” In From a Logical Point of View. By W. V. O. Quine, 1–19. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953.

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                                          Classic statement of the use of logical paraphrase to reduce ontological commitments.

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                                          • Walton, Kendall L. “Doing Without Fictitious Entities.” In Mimesis as Make-believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts. By Kendall L. Walton, 385–419. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.

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                                            A subtle and complex discussion of the semantics and ontology of fiction in this important book, aiming to show how commitment to fictitious entities can be avoided in light of the general analysis of fiction in terms of “games of make-believe.”

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                                            Anti-metaphysical Approaches

                                            Not all philosophers agree that there are metaphysical issues at stake arising from fiction. For some, the ease with which we talk about fictional characters should be accepted at face value. There is nothing more mysterious in referring to Sherlock Holmes than referring to Barack Obama. Martinich and Stroll 2007 provides a good example of this approach. Philosophers, Martinich and Stroll believe, get into unnecessary trouble over fiction because they are committed to a principle, the axiom of existence (what is referred to must exist), which should be rejected. A similar view is taken in Rorty 1982 which asserts that analytical philosophers are wrongly obsessed with how language “relates” to the world. Crittenden 1991 also plays down the problems, suggesting our ordinary practices of speaking about fictions have no metaphysical implications.

                                            • Crittenden, Charles. Unreality: The Metaphysics of Fictional Objects. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991.

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                                              Wittgensteinian “language game” approach. Allows legitimacy of fictional entities (as “grammatical objects”), while also denying their existence in the physical world.

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                                              • Martinich, Aloysius, and Avrum Stroll. Much Ado about Nonexistence: Fiction and Reference. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007.

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                                                An approach to fiction influenced by ordinary language philosophy. Rejects the axiom of existence for reference and legitimates reference to fictional characters. Polemical in style and attacks direct reference theories.

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                                                • Rorty, Richard. “Is There a Problem About Fictional Discourse?” In Consequences of Pragmatism. By Richard Rorty, 110–138. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1982.

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                                                  A lively rejection of analytic philosophy’s approach to fictional entities, arguing in effect that most “problems about fictional discourse” are spurious.

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                                                  Logic and Semantics of Fiction

                                                  How can a semantics of natural language accommodate the use of fictional names? As direct-reference theories of names—deriving from John Stuart Mill and Saul Kripke—began to find wide acceptance—that is, the view that proper names directly connect with their denotata without any implied descriptive content—the problem of fictional names became more acute. Fictional names look like proper names but do not act like them. Donnellan 1974, Adams, et al. 1997, Zalta 2003, and Sainsbury 2005 all address the problem of accounting for fictional names in the context of standard theories of reference. Jeremy Bentham, writing in the mid-19th century (see Ogden 1932), was one of the first philosophers to propose a method of paraphrase to distinguish apparent reference from actual reference. The view that what looks like reference might not strictly be reference has been fundamental to logical approaches to fiction. But how can a theory of language explain the act of storytelling, when a speaker appears to be making assertions about the world but is not doing so, only spinning a tale? Searle 1979 was one of the first to apply speech act theory to the problem. A storyteller, Searle argues, is pretending to make assertions, etc., and can be understood by virtue of the existence of storytelling conventions. Currie 1990 explains “fictive utterance” in terms of not a speaker’s pretense but a distinctive kind of intention regarding an audience’s pretense. Another logical issue concerns how readers of fiction draw inferences about what is true in a fictional world (the world of a story). Lewis 1978 offers an account in terms of counterfactual reasoning. This is taken up and criticized in Byrne 1993.

                                                  • Adams, Fred, Gary Fuller, and Robert Stecker. “The Semantics of Fictional Names.” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 78 (1997): 128–148.

                                                    DOI: 10.1111/1468-0114.00032E-mail Citation »

                                                    Seeks a unified theory of names, including fictional names, based on a theory of direct reference. Comparisons are made with Currie 1990 and Walton 1990 (cited under Eliminativist Approaches).

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                                                    • Byrne, Alex. “Truth in Fiction: The Story Continued.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71 (1993): 24–35.

                                                      DOI: 10.1080/00048409312345022E-mail Citation »

                                                      Raises criticisms of Lewis 1978 and Currie 1990.

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                                                      • Currie, Gregory. The Nature of Fiction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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                                                        An important and influential account that views fiction as a distinctive mode of communication, partially based on a Gricean-type intention that readers take up an appropriate attitude (e.g., make-believe) toward what they read.

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                                                        • Donnellan, Keith. “Speaking of Nothing.” Philosophical Review 83 (1974): 3–32.

                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2183871E-mail Citation »

                                                          An early, often cited attempt to find an account of fictional names consistent with direct reference theories.

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                                                          • Lewis, David. “Truth in Fiction.” American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (1978): 37–46.

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                                                            A highly influential account of fiction in terms of counterfactual reasoning and possible worlds.

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                                                            • Ogden, C. K. Bentham’s Theory of Fictions. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1932.

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                                                              Thought to be a precursor of 20th-century logical analysis, Bentham’s theory of fiction and paraphrase is here assembled, by C. K. Ogden, from different parts of Bentham’s writing.

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                                                              • Sainsbury, R. M. Reference without Referents. Oxford: Clarendon, 2005.

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                                                                Defends a negative free-logic view of empty names, steering a course between Millian and descriptivist accounts.

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                                                                • Searle, John R. “The Logical Status of Fictional Discourse.” In Expression and Meaning: Studies in the Theory of Speech Acts. By John R. Searle, 58–75. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

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                                                                  Classic exposition of a speech-act analysis of fictional discourse resting on the idea of pretended illocutionary acts.

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                                                                  • Zalta, Edward N. “Referring to Fictional Characters.” Dialectica 57 (2003): 243–254.

                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1746-8361.2003.tb00269.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                    Addresses the question of how names of nonexistent objects acquire their denotation. Suggests that storytelling is a kind of “baptism.”

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                                                                    Paradox of Fiction and Emotion

                                                                    Two important papers, Radford 1975 and Walton 1978, started a debate that has resisted any clear resolution since. The basic issue is this: How can audiences experience emotions such as fear, pity, love, and envy toward fictional characters when they know the characters are merely fictional? The problem arises because emotions of that kind appear to involve beliefs about their objects, not least being that those objects exist. Walton argues that it is only make-believe that audiences experience these emotions (in standard cases), they do not really do so, whereas Radford holds that audiences are simply irrational in responding emotionally as they do. Joyce 2000 criticizes Radford’s irrationality claim; Kim 2005 seeks to explore it more deeply. Neill 1991 raises problems for Walton, and Walton 1997 refines the original analysis. Lamarque 1981 also takes issue with Walton 1978 and suggests a new line, that an audience’s thoughts arising from the fiction can be the cause of the emotions. Meskin and Weinberg 2003 takes a not dissimilar line to Lamarque 1981 but in the context of “cognitive architecture.”

                                                                    • Joyce, Richard. “Rational Fear of Monsters.” British Journal of Aesthetics 40 (2000): 209–224.

                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/bjaesthetics/40.2.209E-mail Citation »

                                                                      Criticizes Radford 1975. Offers arguments that emotional responses to fiction can be rational.

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                                                                      • Kim, Seahwa. “The Real Puzzle from Radford.” Erkenntnis 62 (2005): 29–46.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1007/s10670-004-4701-2E-mail Citation »

                                                                        A careful examination of some of the key arguments, notably in Radford 1975 and Walton 1978, stressing the importance of causal factors as opposed to conceptual ones in the formulation of the problem.

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                                                                        • Lamarque, Peter. “How Can We Fear and Pity Fictions?” British Journal of Aesthetics 21 (1981): 291–304.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/bjaesthetics/21.4.291E-mail Citation »

                                                                          The original statement of what has come to be known as thought theory, the idea that a fiction can instill frightening thoughts in an audience which may cause (genuine) fear. Involves a rejection of Walton 1978.

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                                                                          • Meskin, Aaron, and Jonathan M. Weinberg. “Emotions, Fiction, and Cognitive Architecture.” British Journal of Aesthetics 43 (2003): 18–34.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/bjaesthetics/43.1.18E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Criticizes simulationist approaches to fiction (e.g., Walton 1997) and develops an approach drawing on cognitive science.

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                                                                            • Neill, Alex. “Fear, Fiction, and Make-Believe.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 49 (1991): 47–56.

                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/431648E-mail Citation »

                                                                              Critical analysis of Walton 1978 highlighting problems, in particular with the example of fear.

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                                                                              • Radford, Colin. “How Can We Be Moved by the Fate of Anna Karenina?” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 49 (1975): 67–80.

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                                                                                Arguably the paper that launched the “paradox of fiction” debate. Defends the view that many emotional responses to fiction, although quite natural, are irrational.

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                                                                                • Walton, Kendall L. “Fearing Fictions.” Journal of Philosophy 75.1 (1978): 5–27.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.2307/2025831E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  Undoubtedly the most important paper in the debate over the paradox of fiction. Walton’s example of Charles, who watches a horror movie of a green slime and experiences “quasi-fear,” has been endlessly debated.

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                                                                                  • Walton, Kendall L. “Spelunking, Simulation, and Slime: On Being Moved by Fiction.” In Emotion and the Arts. Edited by Mette Hjort and Sue Laver, 37–49. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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                                                                                    Refinements to Walton 1978, incorporating elements of “simulation theory” into the analysis.

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                                                                                    Fiction and “Imaginative Resistance”

                                                                                    There is an ever-growing body of literature on what is known as the “puzzle of imaginative resistance” (note that Matravers 2003 and Walton 2006, among others, are uncomfortable with that designation). How is it that readers of works of fiction sometimes find it quite easy to follow the imaginings prescribed by the works but other times find it virtually impossible to do so? Initially, for example, in Walton 1994 and Gendler 2000, the focus was on an apparent asymmetry between moral and nonmoral cases, the former thought to be more open to “resistance.” But it is now generally agreed (see Weatherson 2004 and Walton 2006) that there are other equally compelling nonmoral examples of problems with imagining. Nichols 2006 is a useful collection of papers, written by key contributors, that draw out the important issues. It is apparent that the problem is at its most interesting and perplexing when it engages deeply with the very nature of fictional storytelling: the role of narrators (Matravers 2003), the intelligibility of fictional content (Stock 2005), and the relation between fiction and imagination (Moran 1994).

                                                                                    • Gendler, Tamar Szabó. “The Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance.” Journal of Philosophy 97 (2000): 55–81.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2678446E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      An early and influential characterization of the “puzzle,” one of the first to identify the failure of a reader to imagine something as a kind of “resistance,” an unwillingness rather than an inability to imagine.

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                                                                                      • Matravers, Derek. “Fictional Assent and the (So-called) “Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance.” In Imagination, Philosophy and the Arts. Edited by Matthew Kieran and Dominic M. Lopes, 91–106. London: Routledge, 2003.

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                                                                                        Seeks to explain the phenomenon in terms of the trust that a reader places in a fictional narrator with regard to the narrator’s epistemological position vis-à-vis the events described.

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                                                                                        • Moran, Richard. “The Expression of Feeling in Imagination.” Philosophical Review 103 (1994): 75–106.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2185873E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          An important and wide-ranging treatment of not only issues surrounding how difficult it can be to imagine certain states of affairs in fiction, but also the paradox of fiction, critical of the make-believe account. Available online.

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                                                                                          • Nichols, Shaun, ed. The Architecture of the Imagination: New Essays on Pretence, Possibility, and Fiction. Oxford: Clarendon, 2006.

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                                                                                            A useful set of papers by distinguished contributors exploring aspects of the imagination in relation to fiction, including the “imaginative resistance” issue.

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                                                                                            • Stock, Kathleen. “Resisting Imaginative Resistance.” Philosophical Quarterly 55 (2005): 607–624.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.0031-8094.2005.00419.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                              A helpful critical overview of the debate. Suggests the core issue—why readers of fiction sometimes fail to imagine something—can be explained in terms of the “contingent incomprehensibility” of the propositions to be imagined.

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                                                                                              • Walton, Kendall L. “Morals in Fiction and Fictional Morality.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 68 (1994): 27–50.

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                                                                                                An important contribution, exploring the asymmetry between moral and nonmoral content in works of fiction.

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                                                                                                • Walton, Kendall L. “On the (So-called) Puzzle of Imaginative Resistance.” In The Architecture of the Imagination: New Essays on Pretence, Possibility, and Fiction. Edited by Shaun Nichols, 137–148. Oxford: Clarendon, 2006.

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                                                                                                  A useful extension of Walton 1994, disentangling different elements of the “puzzle,” not least between an “aesthetic puzzle,” a “fictionality puzzle,” and several “imaginative puzzles.”

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                                                                                                  • Weatherson, Brian. “Morality, Fiction, and Possibility.” Philosophers’ Imprint 4 (2004): 1–27.

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                                                                                                    Argues that the “puzzle of imaginative resistance” does not arise only in cases of moral deviance, and proposes an explanation that turns on the role of “higher-level concepts” in conceiving a work’s content. Available online.

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                                                                                                    Other Issues about Fiction within Aesthetics

                                                                                                    Many other issues arise about fiction within aesthetics. One concerns the capacity of works of fiction to convey truths and knowledge; the issue is less whether it is contingently possible for readers to learn things from fiction but whether this is one of the literary values of fiction. Lamarque and Olsen 1994 argues that it is not, whereas Carroll 2002 suggests ways that it might be. Other questions about value arise for fiction. Is the aesthetic value of a literary work of fiction affected by its moral stance? Carroll 1996 and Gaut 2007 argue that it is, Anderson and Dean 1998 that it is not. This debate has had considerable impact on aesthetics. Still on value, Feagin 1996 argues that the appreciation of works of fiction is integrally tied to a reader’s affective responses. Walton 1990 is a revered contribution to the theory of representation, defending the ideas (1) that all representations are fictions, and (2) to be fictional is “to possess the function of serving as a prop in games of make-believe.” For Walton, all pictures are fictions.

                                                                                                    • Anderson, James, and Jeffrey Dean. “Moderate Autonomism.” British Journal of Aesthetics 38 (1998): 150–166.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1093/bjaesthetics/38.2.150E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Criticizes Carroll 1996 in defense of a form of aesthetic autonomy.

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                                                                                                      • Carroll, Noël. “Moderate Moralism.” British Journal of Aesthetics 36 (1996): 223–238.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1093/bjaesthetics/36.3.223E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        Argues that at least in some cases, notably but not exclusively in works of literary fiction, a “moral defect” can be an “aesthetic defect.”

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                                                                                                        • Carroll, Noël. “The Wheel of Virtue: Art, Literature, and Moral Knowledge.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 60 (2002): 3–26.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/1540-6245.00048E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Argues that works of literary fiction can act like thought-experiments and thereby enhance moral understanding. Takes on Lamarque and Olsen 1994.

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                                                                                                          • Feagin, Susan. Reading with Feeling: The Aesthetics of Appreciation. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                            A detailed exploration of emotional and other affective responses to works of literary fiction arguing that these responses are at the heart of literary value.

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                                                                                                            • Gaut, Berys. Art, Emotion, and Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                              A sophisticated study of the relations between art and morality defending the view that the aesthetic value of works of art, particularly works of fiction, is bound up with their ethical stance.

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                                                                                                              • Lamarque, Peter, and Stein Haugom Olsen. Truth, Fiction, and Literature: A Philosophical Perspective. Oxford: Clarendon, 1994.

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                                                                                                                Presents an account of both fiction and literature in terms of “practices,” arguing that truth is not central to either.

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                                                                                                                • Walton, Kendall L. Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.

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                                                                                                                  One of the most significant works in aesthetics over the past fifty years. Develops a theory of representation and fiction in terms of “games of make-believe.”

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                                                                                                                  Fictionalism

                                                                                                                  Fictionalism takes different forms and is applied to different areas of discourse (mathematics, morality, modality, science, etc.). Broadly, it is the idea that taken literally, certain sentences within the discourse are not true but can be used—and might be useful—if considered as a species of fiction, perhaps prefaced with some such operator as “according to the fiction.” An early version may be traced to Vaihinger 1923, whose ideas in turn originate in Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Vaihinger’s philosophy of “as if” elaborated the notion of “conscious falsehoods” or “fictions of convenience” in science, law, and other areas. Eklund 2009 and Sainsbury 2010 give useful surveys of the different applications and kinds of fictionalism, and Kalderon 2005 is an illuminating collection of papers arguing for different positions under this broad heading. Yablo 2001 categorizes species of fictionalism. Different fictionalist applications are exemplified as follows: to mathematics (Field 1989), to modality (Rosen 1990), to moral sentences (Joyce 2005), to discourse about ordinary objects (van Inwagen 1990), and to names and identity statements (Kroon 2004). It should be noted that many of these applications draw on theories of fiction, including that of Kendall Walton, which appear elsewhere in this entry.

                                                                                                                  • Eklund, Matti. “Fictionalism.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta. 2009.

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                                                                                                                    A helpful characterization of fictionalism in its different forms and an assessment of arguments for and against it.

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                                                                                                                    • Field, Hartry. Realism, Mathematics, and Modality. Oxford: Blackwell, 1989.

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                                                                                                                      An important version of fictionalism applied to mathematics.

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                                                                                                                      • Joyce, Richard. “Moral Fictionalism.” In Fictionalism in Metaphysics. Edited by Mark Eli Kalderon, 287–313. Oxford: Clarendon, 2005.

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                                                                                                                        A defense of moral fictionalism, the view that moral statements taken literally are untrue but that there are practical benefits in pretending that they are true and moral properties are genuinely instantiated.

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                                                                                                                        • Kalderon, Mark Eli, ed. Fictionalism in Metaphysics. Oxford: Clarendon, 2005.

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                                                                                                                          A useful collection of eleven essays by prominent contributors covering fictionalism applied to a range of areas of discourse.

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                                                                                                                          • Kroon, Frederick. “Descriptivism, Pretense, and the Frege-Russell Problems.” Philosophical Review 113 (2004): 1–30.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1215/00318108-113-1-1E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Application of a pretense and make-believe framework to negative existentials, identity statements, and reference.

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                                                                                                                            • Rosen, Gideon. “Modal Fictionalism.” Mind 99 (1990): 327–354.

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                                                                                                                              Argues that talk about possible worlds is comparable to fictional talk so that “There is a (nonactual) possible world at which there are blue swans” is analogous to “There is a brilliant detective at 221b Baker Street.”

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                                                                                                                              • Sainsbury, R. M. Fiction and Fictionalism. New York: Routledge, 2010.

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                                                                                                                                An accessible introduction to different varieties of fictionalism in the context of theories of fictional objects and fictional semantics.

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                                                                                                                                • Vaihinger, Hand. The Philosophy of “As If.” Translated by C. K. Ogden. London: Kegan Paul, 1923.

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                                                                                                                                  An early version of “fictionalism,” defending the idea that fictions can be useful in scientific or other theories. Originally published as Die Philosophie des Als Ob (Berlin: Verlag von Reuther and Reichard, 1911).

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                                                                                                                                  • van Inwagen, Peter. Material Beings. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.

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                                                                                                                                    A study of the ontology of ordinary objects with the consequence, among others, that there are no tables or chairs. The denial that there are such things is comparable to Copernicus’s denial that the sun moves, but ordinary talk about chairs (or the sun) is said to be consistent with this metaphysical denial.

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                                                                                                                                    • Yablo, Stephen. “Go Figure: A Path through Fictionalism.” In Figurative Language. Edited by Peter A. French and Howard K. Wettstein, 72–102. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 25. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                      Useful categorization of different kinds of fictionalism, including instrumentalism, meta-fictionalism, object-fictionalism, and figuralism.

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