If so in logical terms the truth about anna would be

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If so, in logical terms the truth about Anna would be true de dicto and not de re , and from a semiotic point of view it would concern the plane of expression and not the plane of content (or, in Saussure’s terms, the level of the signifier and not that of the signified ). We can make true statements about fictional characters because what happens to them is recorded in a text, and a text is like a musical score. It is true that Anna Karen- ina commits suicide by throwing herself in the path of a train in the same way in which it is true that Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is in C minor (and not in F major like his Sixth ) and begins with “G, G, G, E flat”. However, such a position is not completely satisfying from the point of view of the experience of a reader. By disregarding a lot of problems concerning the reading of a
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score as a complex process of interpretation, let us say that a musical score is a semiotic device which tells one how to produce a given sequence of sounds, and only after the transformation of a series of written signs into sounds the listeners can say that they are enjoying the Fifth Symphony (and this happens even to a very skilled musician, able to read the score silently, but in fact reproducing the sounds in his mind). When we say that it is true in this world that in a Tolstoj’s novel it is written that Anna Karenina com- mits suicide by throwing herself in the path of a train we simply say that it is true in this world that on a given printed page there is a sequence of written words by pronouncing which (even though only mentally) the reader will afterwards realize that there should be a narrative world where persons like Anna and Vronskij exist. But when speaking of Anna Karenina or Vronskij, we usually do not consider any longer the page where we read about their vicissitudes but rather speak of them in the same way as if they were “persons”. Do not forget that our problem is why we can be emotionally moved by the deeds of fictional characters. In spite of every logician nobody is supposed to weep be- cause Tolstoj wrote that Anna Karenina died . This is none of our business. One feels moved, at most, because Anna Karenina died — even if one ignores that it was Tolstoj who first wrote it. Nobody can reasonably deny that Hitler and Anna Karenina are two different kinds of entity, with a different ontological status. Hitler existed physically and Anna did not. In spite of this we can say that not only fictional assertions but also the histori- cal ones are de dicto : the students who write that Hitler died in a bunker in Berlin sim- ply state that this is true according to their history textbook. In other words, except for judgments depending on my direct experience (of the kind it’s raining ), all the judg- ments I can make on the grounds of my cultural experience (that is, all those concerning the information recorded in an encyclopaedia) are based on textual information and, even though they seem to express de facto truths, they are merely de dicto .
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