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Volume 50 • Number 3

July 2013


An Enactivist Approach to the Imagination: Embodied Enactments and "Fictional Emotions"

by José Medina

While in the movies or reading a novel, how can we feel terrified by monsters, ghosts, and fictional serial killers? And how can we feel sad or outraged by depictions of cruelty? After all, we know that the imagined threats that we fear do not exist and, therefore, pose no real threat to us; and we know that the instances of cruelty that bring tears to our eyes have not happened. And yet, the fear, the sadness, or the outrage experienced in our imaginations feels very real. This is the so-called paradox of "fictional emotions." This and related paradoxes have become recalcitrant problems for a purely representational approach to the imagination that tries to accommodate the imagination in a belief-desire psychology, explaining our imaginings as mental states that are similar to beliefs or desires in some ways but not others—as "quasi-beliefs" or "quasi-desires." This representational approach can be seen, for example, in Kendall Walton's (1990, 2006) influential account of the imagination as "make-believe," or in Shaun Nichols and Stephen Stich's boxological account of the imagination as a "pretend box," which is in close interaction with the suspiciously similar "belief box" (according to their "single code hypothesis"; see Nichols and Stich 2000; and also Nichols 2003, 2004).

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ISSN: 2152-1123