Sham Emotions, Quasi-Emotions or Non-Genuine Emotions? Fictional Emotions and Their Qualitative Feel

In Thiemo Breyer, Marco Cavallaro & Rodrigo Sandoval (eds.), Phenomenology of Phantasy and Emotion. Darmstadt: WBG Academic (2022)
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Contemporary accounts on fictional emotions, i.e., emotions experienced towards objects we know to be fictional, are mainly concerned with explaining their rationality or lack thereof. In this context dominated by an interest in the role of belief, questions regarding their phenomenal quality have received far less attention: it is often assumed that they feel “similar” to emotions that target real objects. Against this background, this paper focuses on the possible specificities of fictional emotions’ qualitative feel. It starts by presenting what I call the “phenomenological question” about the qualitative feel of fictional emotions (section 1) and by showing that this is irreducible to questions about their cognitive, intentional, evaluative, and embodied nature (section 2). Drawing on some insights from early phenomenologists, the next two sections elaborate criteria to distinguish between real and sham emotions on the one side (section 3) and between genuine and non-genuine emotions on the other (section 4). Finally, I apply this orthogonal distinction to the particular case of fictional emotions (section 5). The paper argues that fictional emotions are neither sham emotions nor quasi-emotions, but full-fledged emotional experiences, despite them displaying the distinctive phenomenology of emotions experienced as non-genuine. In the particular case of fictional emotions, they are non-genuine because our psychology is in fact in a state dominated by aesthetic enjoyment.

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Íngrid Vendrell-Ferran
University of Marburg


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