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).