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Philosophical perspectives on fictional characters
New Literary History: A Journal of Theory and Interpretation
  • Paisley Nathan LIVINGSTON, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
  • Andrea SAUCHELLI, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
Document Type
Journal article
Publication Date
The Johns Hopkins University Press

This paper takes up a series of basic philosophical questions about the nature and existence of fictional characters. We begin with realist approaches that hinge on the thesis that at least some claims about fictional characters can be right or wrong because they refer to something that exists, such as abstract objects. Irrealist approaches deny such realist postulations and hold instead that fictional characters are a figment of the human imagination. A third family of approaches, based on work by Alexius Meinong, seeks an alternative to the realist/irrealist dilemma. Neo-Meinongian theories rely upon a distinction between being and existence, the key contention being that unlike human beings, fictional characters have only the former. Having surveyed relevant work by contemporary metaphysicians and philosophers of language, this paper discusses issues related to the distinction between characters and other aspects of the content of fictions, including the relation between personality theory and literary conceptions of character.

Funding Information
We are grateful for support for this research provided by a Hong Kong UGC-funded Direct Research Grant administered by Lingnan University.
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Copyright © 2011 The John Hopkins University Press

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Citation Information
Livingston, P., & A. Sauchelli (2011). Philosophical perspectives on fictional characters. New Literary History, 42(2), 337-360. doi: 10.1353/nlh.2011.0016