Fictional names and fictional discourse

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Panizza, Chiara (2017)
  • Publisher: Universitat de Barcelona
  • Subject: Semàntica (Filosofia) | Semantics (Philosophy) | Semántica (Filosofía) | Cognitivisme | Reference (Philosophy) | Ciències Humanes i Socials | 16 | Referencia (Filosofía) | Cognitivism | Cognitivismo | Referència (Filosofia)

[eng] In this dissertation I present a critical study of fiction, focusing on the semantics of fictional names and fictional discourse. I am concerned with the issue of whether fictional names need to refer, and also with the related issue of whether fictional characters need to exist, in order to best account for our linguistic practices involving fictional names. Fictional names like ‘Sherlock Holmes’, ‘Anna Karenina’, ‘Emma Woodhouse’ and ‘Don Quixote of La Mancha’ ordinarily occur in different contexts of discourse, in which we think and talk about fictional characters in ways that show that our pre-theoretical intuitions regarding the use of fictional names often tend in opposite directions. Given the conflicting intuitions about our linguistic practices when fictional names are involved, theories of fiction have ended up giving away some intuitions in order to favor others. In the contemporary philosophical debate about fiction, there are two main streams of theories of fiction: irrealist theories that state the lack of reference of fictional names, and realist theories that state that fictional names refer to fictional characters. If we assume that fictional names do not refer to fictional characters, as irrealists do, then semantic questions arise regarding how best to make sense of the apparent phenomena of reference and truth in fictional discourse. If, on the other hand, we assume that fictional names refer to fictional characters, as realists do, then semantic questions arise concerning the contexts of discourse in which there is reference and truth about fictional characters, together with metaphysical questions about the nature of those characters. This dissertation consists of six chapters. After presenting the data and desiderata for my research in Chapter 1, in Chapter 2 I address what I consider to be two of the most influential irrealist proposals, Kendall L. Walton’s (1990) and Mark Sainsbury’s (2005 and 2009). Both proposals make sense of fictional names and fictional discourse without invoking fictional entities. In Chapters 3, 4 and 5 I address three main realist theories of fiction, according to which fictional names refer to fictional characters: Meinongianism, Possibilism and Creationism. Even if the three theories endorse the ontological claim that there are fictional entities, they disagree about the metaphysical nature of such entities. After arguing for pros and contras with respect to the semantic account of fictional names and discourse put forward by any such realist view, I endorse the realist stance known as creationism. The label ‘creationism’ is used in philosophical jargon to denote a family of theories that hold the metaphysical thesis that fictional characters exist as artefacts, really created by authors in making works of fiction, and so really existing; they are not concrete individuals (they are not real people, places, animals, or whatever) as they do not have a spatio- temporal location – they are abstract. In chapter 6 I put forward arguments in favor of creationism that are not broadly metaphysical in nature, but are instead founded in our understanding of storytelling practices and fictional discourse. My research focuses on the issues of how and when we refer (mentally and linguistically) to fictional characters, assuming that they are abstract created artefacts. In the view I defend in this dissertation, fictional names – as much as ordinary non-fictional names – play two crucial roles, one semantic and the other cognitive: on the one hand, they provide a particular individual as their semantic contribution to the meaning of the sentences in which they appear; on the other hand, they are triggers of significance for our cognitive minds. Fictional names are rated as directly referring expressions, leading to singular thoughts and de re pretendings about fictional characters. This view on fictional names accounts for the object-directedness of thoughts and discourse about fictional characters.
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