Attending Emotionally to Fiction

Journal of Value Inquiry 46 (4):449-465 (2012)
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This paper addresses the so-called paradox of fiction, the problem of explaining how we can have emotional responses towards fiction. I claim that no account has yet provided an adequate explanation of how we can respond with genuine emotions when we know that the objects of our responses are fictional. I argue that we should understand the role played by the imagination in our engagement with fiction as functionally equivalent to that which it plays under the guise of acceptance in practical reasoning, suggesting that the same underlying cognitive-affective mechanisms are involved in both activities. As such, our imaginative engagement with fiction un-problematically arouses emotions, but only to the extent that we are not occurrently attending to our epistemic relation to the fiction i.e. fully attending to the fact that the object of our response is merely fictional. In order to illuminate this idea I examine a recent proposal that the phenomenology of attention is partially non-attributive, and I argue that emotional phenomenology too shares this characteristic
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