Imagination and the Paradox of Fictional Emotions

Pease, Jacob Jerod, Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia
Devereux, Daniel, Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia

There are numerous ways in which we may emotionally react to a fictional work. We may become indignant for having to pay eight dollars to see a film. We may respect a director’s decision to cast normal looking people in the lead roles. We may become bored in reading a book because it is too long, or resentful because it was written by a Nazi. We can feel awe towards the stuntmen for the feats they performed in order to create a film, and we can feel sorry for those real people whom the fictional work will adversely affect. Responses such as these to fictional works are common, but they are not the type of emotional responses with which I will be primarily concerned in this thesis. Instead, I will be dealing with the emotions we have toward what we know to be fictional characters, things and events: we may, for example, feel pity for characters, fearful in response to situations they face, indignant that their world is being destroyed, or happy that all of their problems are resolved in the end. Despite the common occurrence of such emotions, it is puzzling why they should be felt at all. This puzzlement is at the heart of the philosophical problem known as the “paradox of fictional emotions.” It will be my goal in this thesis to discuss the nature of this problem, and to offer a solution to it by giving an account of how we react to fictional characters, things and events.

MA (Master of Arts)
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