Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jesse Prinz

Subject Categories



aesthetics; emotion; fiction; perception; philosophy of mind; theory of mind


The goal of my dissertation is to provide a comprehensive account of our psychological engagements with fiction. While many aestheticians have written on issues concerning art and ethics, only a few have addressed the ways in which works of fiction offer problems for general accounts of morality, let alone how we go about making moral judgments about fictions in the first place. My dissertation fills that gap. I argue that the first challenge in explaining our interactions with fiction arises from functional and inferential arguments that entail that our mental states about fictional entities are non-genuine. This means that our mental states during our engagements with fiction are different in kind from typical beliefs, emotions, desires, etc. that we have in real-life contexts. I call this position the Distinct Attitude View (DAV). In its place, I propose a common-sense, standard attitude view (SAV): the idea that our psychological interactions with non-real entities can be explained in terms of the intentional content of those states as opposed to a distinct type of mental state. In expanding the SAV, I develop several independent accounts of social cognition, emotions, and moral judgments. I also show how the SAV can dissolve standard problems in the philosophy and psychology of aesthetic experience: the paradox of fiction, the problem of imaginative existence, and the sympathy for the devil phenomenon, amongst others.

Included in

Philosophy Commons



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