Taking the fictional stance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, I set out to answer two foundational questions concerning our psychological engagements with fictions. The first is the question of fictional transformation: How we can see fictional media while also ‘seeing’ those objects as fictional ones? The second is the question of fictional response: How and why we take the objects of fiction to be the types of things that we can respond to and judge? Standard responses to these questions rely on distinct cognitive attitudes like pretense, imagination, and make-believe. I call this position the distinct attitude view (DAV). I argue against the DAV, arguing instead that a psychological framework of fiction can answer the two questions without appealing to distinct mental attitudes. Hence, I call my position the standard attitude view (SAV). The challenge for the SAV is to explain the two questions in terms of everyday mental states and the intentional content of those states. I do so by appealing to the concept of taking the fictional stance. We take the fictional stance when we recognize that the object of our engagement is fictional. I bolster the fictional stance with a commonsense ontology of fiction, a notion of representational seeing, and an analogy with Arthur Danto’s ‘is’ of artistic identification. I conclude by showing how the fictional stance helps to solve the paradox of fiction: a puzzle concerning the nature of our emotional responses towards fictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)766-792
Number of pages27
JournalInquiry (United Kingdom)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 17 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Fictional stance
  • emotions
  • make-believe
  • pretense

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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