Existence, Ontological Commitment, and Fictional Entities

Peter van Inwagen

in The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780199284221
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

Existence, Ontological Commitment, and Fictional Entities


This article begins with a brief exposition of a theory that has been presented in various publications. Then it describes two other non-Meinongian theories of the ontology of fiction, those of Nicholas Wolterstorff and Amie Thomasson. Wolterstorff and Thomasson's theories are, in a sense, in substantial agreement with this article's; they differ from this one in being much more specific about the metaphysical nature of fictional characters. A non-Meinongian theory of fiction (that is, a theory of fiction that allows only one sort of existential quantifier) must answer questions such as: How are we to deal with the fact (or is it a fact?) that when fictional discourse is translated into the quantifier-variable idiom, it can be seen to imply that fictional characters like Tom Sawyer and Mr Pickwick are or have being, that they exist?

Keywords: existence; non-Meinongian theories; ontology of fiction; fictional characters; existential quantifier; ontological commitments

Article.  14733 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Metaphysics

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »