On the Paradox of Fiction and Literary Belief
The paradox of fiction is a philosophical problem that confronts any investigation into the aesthetic reception of fictional works of art. The paradox questions any claim of rationality on the part of the readers/audience by pointing out that genuine emotional responses to explicitly fictional literary works of art is a sign of irrationality or a symptom of pathological delusion. Several thinkers such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Colin Radford, Richard Gerrig, Kendall Walton, Noël Carroll, and J. R. R. Tolkien have attempted to resolve the paradox with their respective solutions. This paper engages in a sustained critique of these various approaches. It concludes that, with the exception of Tolkien’s “secondary belief,” none of these approaches manage to come close to adequately solving the paradox of fiction that is brought about by literary belief in the first place.