Philosophical Papers

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Fiction, Pleasurable Tragedy, and the HOT Theory of Consciousness

Rocco J. Gennaro


The ‘feeling fiction problem' asks: is it rational to be moved by what happens to fictional characters? The so-called ‘paradox of tragedy' is embodied in the question: Why or how is it that we take pleasure in artworks which are clearly designed to cause in us such feelings as sadness and fear? My focus in this paper is to examine these problems from the point of view of the so-called ‘higher-order thought theory of consciousness' (HOT theory) which says that the best explanation for what makes a mental state conscious is that it is accompanied by a thought that one is in that state. I examine the feeling fiction problem in light of the HOT theory and through a critique of Colin Radford's view. For example, I argue that Radford equivocates in his use of the term ‘aware' in his response to some of the proposed solutions to the feeling fiction problem. Finally, I show how Susan Feagin's approach to the paradox of tragedy can be analysed and supported by the HOT theory.
AJOL African Journals Online