Make Believe

The Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology | Lund University

Jérôme Pelletier

Flitting back and forth between imaginings

The fiction of most works is to claim that the characters and events represented have empirical reality. But some works of art invite also their viewers or readers to imagine that some characters and events are fictional. In these works, not only a fictional world is represented, but also the same world or part of it is represented as fictional.

In the talk, I draw some philosophical consequences for Walton’s theory of fictional truth of the recognition that many representational works of art may induce us to imagine that there is an x as well as the proposition that it is fictional that there is an x.

To properly understand these works, one needs to do various imaginings and to flit back and forth between these imaginings. For instance, the Vermeer painting A Lady Seated at the Virginal (ca. 1675) depicts a painting hanging on the wall behind the main subject. The model for this picture within the picture was Dirck van Baburen’s The Procuress (1622). I think that a proper appreciation of the Vermeer painting requires that we are to imagine the content of the van Baburen painting hanging on the wall as real and also that we are to imagine it to be fictional as well as the relations between the fictional world of the Vermeer painting and the fictional world of the van Baburen painting.

One and the same work may invite us to imagine various fictional worlds and their relations. Consequently, I claim that it is necessary to admit that a reader or a viewer is invited to recognize different fictions, different fictional worlds and also the relations between these worlds to properly understand and appreciate such works.

About Jérôme Pelletier

Maître de conférences. Department of Philosophy - University of Brest (France) and Institut Jean-Nicod (Paris)

Interests: Philosophy of Language, Cognitive Philosophy, Aesthetics

In these three domains, I have been especially interested in how we should understand what it is that is most distinctive and important about our engagements with fictions.

I am now currently leading a research project bringing together researchers in the field of social sciences as well as specialists in affective neuroscience. The project aims at understanding the art of expressing emotions in Chinese calligraphy.

I have submitted a second interdisciplinary project (Philosophy/Neuroscience) which aims at understanding the nature of our emotional responses towards fictions and the role of the cognitive background therein.