Personification without Impossible Content

British Journal of Aesthetics 58 (2):165-179 (2018)
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Personification has received little philosophical attention, but Daniel Nolan has recently argued that it has important ramifications for the relationship between fictional representation and possibility. Nolan argues that personification involves the representation of metaphysically impossible identities, which is problematic for anyone who denies that fictions can have impossible content. We develop an account of personification which illuminates how personification enhances engagement with fiction, without need of impossible content. Rather than representing an identity, personification is something that is done with representations—a matter of use rather than content—and involves only a comparison of possibilities. We illustrate our account using the personification of death in the film Meet Joe Black, and show that there are no grounds for taking it to be fictionally true that there is a metaphysically impossible identity between Death and death.



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Author Profiles

Emily Caddick Bourne
University of Manchester
Craig Bourne
University of Hertfordshire

Citations of this work

Impossible Fictions Part I: Lessons for Fiction.Daniel Nolan - 2021 - Philosophy Compass 16 (2):1-12.
Truth in interactive fiction.Alex Fisher - 2022 - Synthese 200 (6):1-18.
Elusive Fictional Truth.Craig Bourne & Emily Caddick Bourne - 2022 - British Journal of Aesthetics 62 (1):15-31.

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References found in this work

What Metaphors Mean.Donald Davidson - 1978 - Critical Inquiry 5 (1):31-47.
What metaphors mean.Donald Davidson - 2010 - In Darragh Byrne & Max Kölbel (eds.), Arguing about language. New York: Routledge. pp. 31.
Personification and Impossible Fictions.Daniel Nolan - 2015 - British Journal of Aesthetics 55 (1):57-69.

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