Singular Terms, Identity, and the Creation of Fictional Characters

  • 1 Center for Philosophy of Sciences of the University of Lisbon Campo Grande, Lisboa, Portugal


How to interpret singular terms in fiction? In this paper, we address this semantic question from the perspective of the Artifactual Theory of Fiction (ATF). According to the ATF, fictional characters exist as abstract artifacts created by their author, and preserved through the existence of copies of an original work and a competent readership. We pretend that a well-suited semantics for the ATF can be defined with respect to a modal framework by means of Hintikka’s world lines semantics. The question of the interpretation of proper names is asked in relation to two inference rules, problematic when applied in intensional contexts: the Substitution of Identicals and Existential Generalization. The former fails because identity is contingent. The latter because proper names are not necessarily linked to well-identified individuals. This motivates a non-rigid interpretation of proper names in fiction, although cross-fictional reference (e.g. to real entities) is made possible by the interpretative efforts of the reader.

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