It seems funny that we deeply share the sorrow of

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It seems funny that we deeply share the sorrow of somebody else only or mainly when we know that he or she never existed. But what does it mean that fictional charac-
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ters do not have some kind of existence? According to Meinong (reference) every repre- sentation or judgment has necessarily an object, even though this object is not necessar- ily an existing one. Centuries before Meinong, Avicenna (reference) said that existence was only an accidental property of an essence or substance ( accidens adveniens quiddi- tati ). In this sense there can be abstract objects (like the number 17 of the right angle, which do not properly exist but subsist ) and concrete objects like myself and Anna Karenina, with the difference that I am a Physically Existing Object while Anna is not. Now, today I am not concerned with the ontology of fictional characters. Since the core of my reflections today is why people feel moved by fictional char- acters, I am obliged to consider Anna Karenina as a mind dependent object, or the ob- ject of cognition. In other terms, my approach is not an ontological but a semiotic one. My concern is not in which sense the assertion Anna Karenina committed suicide is true but rather why a normal reader can accept the assertion Anna Karenina committed sui- cide as true even when he or she knows that Anna is a narrative figment? By definition fictional texts clearly speak of non-existing persons and events and from the point of view of truth conditional semantics, a fictional assertion should al- ways tell what is not real-life. In spite of that we do not take fictional assertions as lies. First of all, in reading a piece of fiction we subscribe a silent agreement with its author, who pretends that some- thing is true and asks us to pretend to take it seriously. Secondly, we know that every fiction designs a possible world and all our judgements of truth and falsehood must con- cern that possible world. In this way it is true in the Conan Doyle’s world that Sherlock Holmes lived on Baker Street and false that he lived in Tartu and we can bet our life in this point. Fictional versus historical assertions Is a fictional assertion like Anna Karenina commits suicide by throwing herself in the path of a train as true as the historical assertion Adolf Hitler committed suicide (and his corpse was burned) in a bunker in Berlin ? Our instinctive reaction would be that the as- sertion about Anna refers to an invention while the one about Hitler concerns what was really the case. Thus, to be correct in terms of truth conditional semantics, we should say that it is true that Anna Karenina commits suicide by throwing herself in the path of a train is only another way for saying it is true in this world that in a Tolstoj’s novel it is written that Anna Karenina commits suicide by throwing herself in the path of a train .
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