Emotion and the Arts

By Mette Hjort; Sue Laver | Go to book overview
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10
Evaluating Emotional Responses to Fiction

PAISLEY LIVINGSTON & ALFRED R. MELE

Philosophical discussion of emotional responses to fiction has been dominated by work on the paradox of fiction, which is often construed as asking whether and how we can experience genuine emotions in reaction to fiction. One may also ask more generally how we ought to respond to fictional works, a question that has to do both with what we should do when reacting to fiction and with what we should and should not let happen to us. Is it possible to delineate any principles regarding the rationality, and more generally, the appropriateness of emotional responses to fiction?

We begin with some background on the paradox of fiction and on emotion. In section II, we investigate the topic of norms relative to aesthetic and artistic responses to fictional works, beginning with Gregory Currie's thought- provoking remarks on the matter. In section III, we move on to a proposal of our own on this topic.

In the sphere of emotions, as elsewhere, ordinary linguistic practices often leave it open whether types or tokens are at issue. Our concern here is with emotion-tokens, particular instances of pity, fear, joy, and the like. Unless we indicate otherwise, our use of emotion-terms is intended to designate tokens. Even among pertinent tokens, there is a difference between a long-standing condition of a given type and particular episodic states of the same type that are partially derivative from, or "activations of," the prolonged condition. Contrast, for example, a man's long-standing fear of snakes with the episodic fear

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