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Volume 46 • Number 2

April 2009



Fictional Characters as Abstract Objects: Some Questions

by Reina Hayaki

Sir Arthur Conan doyle wrote fifty-six short stories and four novels about Sherlock Holmes, collectively known as the Canon. The following are all true facts about the Canon:

(1) It is true according to the Canon that Sherlock Holmes is a detective.

(2) It is true according to the Canon that Queen Victoria hired a private consulting detective, gave him an emerald tiepin, and offered him a knighthood which he refused.

(3) The Canon is about Sherlock Holmes.

(4) The Canon is about a brilliant private detective who solves many crimes that baffle Scotland yard.

(5) The Canon is also about Queen Victoria (among other things).

This paper argues that the truth of these and similar facts creates some tension for the theory that fictional characters are abstract objects. A proponent of this theory will have to treat sentences (1) and (2) as disanalogous, and (3) to (5) as similarly disanalogous, in a way that undercuts part of the motivation for accepting an ontology of fictional characters.

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American Philosophical Quarterly is published by the University of Illinois Press on behalf of North American Philosophical Publications.

ISSN: 2152-1123