Most philosophical accounts of the puzzle of emotional engagement with characters we know to be fictional treat our emotion as static. This essay argues that it's part of the way humans interact with each other as a social species that a highly dynamic form of noncausal willing and noncausal bargaining enters into all our cooperative relationships with each other. Such bargaining can be illuminated by game theory and, in particular, by the version of prisoner's dilemma known as “Newcomb's problem.” Newcomb's problem models some of our most important relationships with each other and also some of the most central aspects of our relationship with narratives whose outcomes we care intensely about even though our caring cannot affect those outcomes. Fictional characters are especially immune to the exercise of a reader's or audience's will, so Newcomb's problem is particularly relevant to the noncausal nature of the bargaining that readers engage in.
William Flesch; Narrative and Noncausal Bargaining. Novel 1 May 2012; 45 (1): 6–9. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-1541288
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