Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
The phenomenon of fiction provides a topic ripe for philosophical investigation, prompting questions in the philosophy of language, metaphysics, and aesthetics. In this dissertation, I will explore several such questions, ultimately providing an account of the metaphysics of fiction, our reference to fictional objects, and our emotional response to fiction. I will begin by arguing for an artifactual account of fictional objects, on which fictional objects are abstract artifacts created by their authors. In doing so, I will provide reasons to prefer an artifactual account over competing theories, and I will respond to a few basic objections against artifactual accounts. I will argue that creation on the artifactual account should in many ways parallel the creation of material objects and that the artifactual account allows us to refer to actually existing artifacts in our discourse about fiction, while providing a reasonable paraphrase for non-existence claims. Next, I will address predication in fiction. I will provide an account of predication that distinguishes between actual and non-actual predication, which I argue is the best way to make sense of predication in fiction on an account on which fictional objects are abstract. Additionally, I will argue that this account of predication generalizes to non-concretist accounts of possible worlds. After discussing predication in general, I will specifically examine modal properties in fiction, which I will argue do not derive from the essences of fictional objects but rather from fictional accessibility relations between impossible worlds. Finally, I will consider engagement with fiction. I will argue that we are able to engage emotionally with fiction because emotions stem primarily from imagination and not from belief. This answers the paradox of fictional emotions and explains much of the differences between our emotional engagement with works of fiction and real life events. I will argue that this is not only consistent with the metaphysical account of fiction presented earlier in the dissertation but that this metaphysical account allows us to properly identify fictional characters as the objects of our fictional emotions.