How I Really Feel About JFK

In Matthew Kieran & Dominic McIver Lopes (eds.), Imagination, Philosophy and the Arts. Dordrecht, Netherlands: pp. 35-53 (2003)
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The most well-known and controversial solution to the paradox of fiction is Kendall Walton’s, according to whom pity of (say) Anna Karenina is not genuine pity. Walton’s opponents argue that we can resolve the paradox of fiction while preserving the intuition that our response to Anna is ordinary, run-of-the-mill pity; and they claim that retaining this intuition explains more than Walton’s approach. In my view, the arguments of Walton’s opponents depend on idiosyncratic features of examples involving purely fictional characters like Anna Karenina. What is really at issue is the fact that we respond emotionally to fiction in ways that are not explained by our beliefs, but instead by what we imagine. That this is the crux of the paradox of fiction becomes clear only when we consider fictions about real persons and events. And I contend that once we turn our attention to these cases, Walton’s theory proves significantly more explanatory than the opposition.

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Stacie Friend
University of Edinburgh


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