Fiction and emotion: The puzzle of divergent norms

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

A familiar question in the literature on emotional responses to fiction, originally put forward by Colin Radford, is how such responses can be rational. How can we make sense of pitying Anna Karenina when we know there is no such person? In this paper I argue that contrary to the usual interpretation, the question of rationality has nothing to do with the Paradox of Fiction. Instead, the real problem is why there is a divergence in our normative assessments of emotions in different contexts. I argue that explaining this divergence requires a more nuanced account of the rationality of emotion than has previously been proposed. One advantage of my proposal over alternatives is that it helps to explain one way we can learn emotionally from fiction and imagination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-418
Number of pages16
Journal British Journal of Aesthetics
Issue number4
Early online date9 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Fiction
  • emotion
  • Colin Radford
  • paradox of fiction
  • rationality of emotion


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