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Friday, 1 November 2013

Kripke: nested existence, sponsored existence

In the third lecture of Reference and Existence (John Locke Lectures, 1973), Kripke presents details of his account of fictional characters. They do exist, not in a vast weak Meinong-land because there actually have been many novels in the actual world. The existence of these characters are nested in a pretense - Doyle's novel creates a pretense in which Holmes exists. It exists in a pretense, in that nested way - sponsored by something concrete that created it (a performer, a writer, a director, or a phenomenon of light and darkness that can create ghosts). I always thought that fictional characters were partly sponsored by writers and readers (creators and consumers). The sponsoring, however, is not enough to make them plainly existing or real. Sponsoring, here, I use to translate Souriau's instauration (see old posts in this blog). Kripke is saying less than that: they have a different sort of existence, not weaker but dependent on something else concrete. Being fictitious is a way to exist - and being fictitious (like being made of this wood for a table) is something essential to Holmes (or to unicorn, to Zeus etc). As such, being fictitious is something that cannot be changed when the concrete item moves to different possible world. Fiction is world-invariant.

It is interesting that after his second lecture, he got asked when was Frankenstein born. If he had a taste for boutades, he could have answer in a Latour-like way: since the publishing of the novel (1818), Victor Frankenstein existed since 1771 (the date when he was born according to the novel). Kripke doesn't do much different - he talks about two senses of coming to existence. One is nested, another is not. Only one depends on the other, or rather both depend on each other in different ways - a novel cannot be published unless something is said about its characters. Kripke is really moving here in a territory where Souriau finds his different modes of existence.

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