• Phenomenology, Fiction, and Emotions: A Merleau-Pontian Answer to the Paradox of Fiction

    David Markwell (see profile)
    Philosophy, Continental, Literature--Philosophy, Emotions (Philosophy)
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Sussex Phenomenology Graduate Conference: The Work of Phenomenology and the Work of Art
    Conf. Org.:
    University of Sussex
    Conf. Loc.:
    University of Sussex
    Conf. Date:
    12-13 June, 2015
    Continental philosophy, Literature and philosophy, Philosophy of emotion
    Permanent URL:
    This paper offers an explanation of how phenomenology can be used to provide a solution to the so-called paradox of fiction. The paradox of fiction asks: how is it that we have a real emotional response to fictional characters or situations when we do not believe that these characters or situations actually exist? This paper will attempt an answer to this so-called paradox by arguing for a phenomenological solution that utilises Merleau-Ponty’s highly ontological approach to aesthetics. For Merleau-Ponty, the work of art is an expression of a particular artist’s lived point of view on the intersubjective world of experience. The work of art is an artefact of that expression that can then be re-experienced by those who engage with the work mediated through their own lived experience. What one responds to when one has an emotional reaction to a piece of fiction is not the character per se, but rather the possibility of a different lived perspective on the world that the character opens up for the reader. The emotional response then is to the expression of the possible point of view on the world, and the existence of the character as such is inconsequential. By providing an expression of different points of view on the world, fiction allows for the development of one’s emotional life through the phenomenological engagement with those emotions in a controlled environment. This phenomenological approach to fiction bears not just on one’s emotional development, but it also fosters the development of one’s aesthetic, ethical, and inter-personal life. Since first person description of lived experience is a hallmark of phenomenology, fiction, by providing phenomenologically rich descriptions of how other people experience the world is of the utmost importance to phenomenology.
    Last Updated:
    7 years ago
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