Art, Fiction, and Explanation
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This dissertation consists of four stand-alone chapters that address topics at the intersection of art, fiction, and explanation. Chapter 1, “the nature of the interaction between moral and artistic value,” aims to elucidate what it means to say that a work’s moral virtue or defect is an artistic virtue or defect. I address this question by showing that the following two strategies commonly used to establish such a claim are not successful: (1) appealing to the counterfactual dependence of the work’s artistic value on its moral virtue or defect; and (2) arguing that the work is artistically valuable (or defective) and morally valuable (or defective) for the same reasons. Chapter 2, “aesthetic explanation,” argues for the psychological account of aesthetic explanation (i.e., the explanation of the aesthetic by the non-aesthetic), according to which the presence of certain non-aesthetic properties explains the presence of a certain aesthetic property just when the observer’s experiences of the non-aesthetic properties cause their experience of the aesthetic property. I demonstrate how this account illuminates the selectivity of aesthetic explanation—the phenomenon of aesthetic explanation citing only some of the non-aesthetic properties on which an aesthetic property supervenes—, drawing an analogy between the selectivity of aesthetic explanation and causal explanation. Chapter 3, “the fictionality puzzle, fictional truth, and explanation,” proposes that what is true in fiction is determined by inference to the best explanation. I show that this account of fictional truth provides a novel solution to the fictionality puzzle, which concerns why certain kinds of deviant claims, such as deviant moral claims (e.g., female infanticide is permissible), are difficult to make true in fiction, whereas other kinds of deviant claims, such as deviant scientific claims (e.g., time travel is possible), are regularly true in fiction. Chapter 4, “aptness of fiction-directed emotions,” argues that the criteria governing the epistemic appropriateness of emotions directed towards fictional entities are analogous to the criteria governing the epistemic appropriateness of emotions directed towards real entities. In both cases, an emotion is epistemically appropriate if and only if it is fitting, justified, and salience-tracking, and these notions are understood in analogous ways.