Theoretical Entities of Literary Criticism and Science: What Mrs. Gamp and Electrons Do Not Have in Common
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.
KeywordsCreationism in fiction Fictional characters Literary criticism Theoretical entities
- Andreas, Holger. 2013. Theoretical terms in science. In Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Summer 2013 edition), ed. Edward N. Zalta. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2013/entries/theoretical-terms-science/.
- Eder, Jens, Fotis Jannidis, and Ralf Schneider. 2010. Characters in fictional worlds. An introduction. In Characters in fictional worlds. Understanding imaginary beings in literature, film, and other media, ed. Jens Eder, Fotis Jannidis, and Ralf Schneider, 3–64. Berlin: de Gruyter.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Kroon, Frederick, and Alberto Voltolini. 2011. Fiction. In Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Fall 2011 edition), ed. Edward N. Zalta. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2011/entries/fiction/.
- Percival, Philip. 2000. Theoretical terms: meaning and reference. In A companion to the philosophy of science, ed. William H. Newton-Smith, 495–514. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Smith, Barry. 2008. Searle and de Soto: The new ontology of the social world. In The mystery of capital and the construction of social reality, ed. Barry Smith, David Mark, and Issac Ehrlich, 35–51. Chicago: Open Court.Google Scholar
- Thomasson, Amie L. 1999. Fiction and metaphysics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- van Inwagen, Peter. 1977. Creatures of fiction. American Philosophical Quarterly 14: 299–308.Google Scholar
- ———. 1985. Pretense and paraphrase. In The reasons of art, ed. Peter J. McCormick, 414–422. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.Google Scholar
- ———. 2000. Quantification and fictional discourse. In Empty names, fiction and the puzzles of non-existence, ed. Anthony Everett and Thomas Hofweber, 235–247. Stanford: CSLI Publications.Google Scholar
- ———. 2003. Existence, ontological commitment, and fictional entities. In The Oxford handbook of metaphysics, ed. Michael J. Loux and Dean W. Zimmerman, 131–157. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- ———. 2008. Quine’s 1946 lecture on nominalism. In Oxford studies in metaphysics: Volume 4, ed. Dean W. Zimmermann, 125–142. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- ———. 2009. God and other uncreated things. In Metaphysics and God: Essays in honor of Eleonore Stump, ed. Kevin Timpe, 3–20. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- ———. 2014. Dispensing with ontological levels: an illustration. Disputatio 6 (38): 25–43.Google Scholar
- Yagisawa, Takashi. 2001. Against creationism in fiction. Philosophical Perspectives 15: 153–172.Google Scholar