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Emotion, Fiction and Rationality

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Teroni Fabrice,
Project Modes and Contents
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal The British Journal of Aesthetics
Volume (Issue) 59(2)
Page(s) 113 - 128
Title of proceedings The British Journal of Aesthetics
DOI 10.1093/aesthj/ayz015


The aim of this article is to explore in a systematic way the rationality of emotions elicited when we engage with works of fiction. I first lay out the approach to the emotions on which my discussion is premised. Next, I concentrate on two facets of emotional rationality—the first pertains to the relation between emotions and the mental states on which they are based, the second to the relation between emotions and the judgements and behaviour they elicit. These observations about emotional rationality are then applied to emotions elicited by works of fiction. After having distinguished several families of emotions, I concentrate on what I call blob-emotions (for example, one is terrified by the monster on the screen) and emotions-for (for example, one is afraid for a character in the movie). I argue that, given their nature as direct responses to a restricted range of stimuli, blob-emotions are not irrational. As regards emotions-for fictional entities, I emphasize that a subject’s rationality shows in the way her emotions-for respond to evidence. On this basis, I discard an influential reason to think that emotions-for fictional entities are irrational. Finally, I offer an argument to conclude that they are typically correct and rational.