Theoretical Entities of Literary Criticism and Science: What Mrs. Gamp and Electrons Do Not Have in Common

Part of the Münster Lectures in Philosophy book series (MUELP, volume 4)


Within van Inwagen’s theory of fictional characters, we can distinguish between two claims: First, van Inwagen claims that fictional characters such as Mrs. Gamp do exist. Second, he claims that these characters are theoretical entities of literary criticism. The main target of this paper is to show that this second claim is misleading. In particular, we will argue that the analogy between fictional entities and other theoretical entities in scientific disciplines, for example, electrons, does not help us get a better understanding of the nature of these characters. Moreover, van Inwagen’s picture leaves many pending questions about the ontological status of fictional characters and about the nature and aims of literary discourse. In light of our criticism, Mrs. Gamp and electrons do not have as much in common as van Inwagen’s theory suggests.


Creationism in fiction Fictional characters Literary criticism Theoretical entities 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophisches SeminarWWU MünsterMünsterGermany

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