Fictional objects

Bill Vallicella and Ed Ockham have been discussing 'fictional objects'.   Ed says that
1. Sherlock Holmes is a purely fictional character
has to be understood as
2. Someone made up a story about a person called ‘Sherlock Holmes.'
Bill says,
But (2) does not unpack the meaning of (1): it goes beyond it. It adds the controversial idea that purely fictional objects have no status whatsoever apart from the mental activities of novelists and other artistically creative persons.
I sometimes think that Bill doesn't see how radical Ed's thinking is.   If I've understood Ed correctly he will say that (2) explains how we must understand the predicate '--- is a purely fictional character'.   That there is  such a predicate does not imply that there is a concept of 'purely fictional character'.  Furthermore, he would not countenance 'purely fictional character/object' appearing in subject position in a sentence, so Bill's remark begs the question against Ed. For Ed there simply are no such things.   Bill has a bit of a nerve describing Ed's position as 'untenable'.

One of Ed's ideas is that some predicates have to be understood in terms of sentence transformations.  I have taken this idea and tried to apply it to terms like 'past' and 'possible' used adjectivally. See here and here, for example.  This has not gone down well.

Bill's case that Ed's view is untenable because his (2) expands on the meaning of Bill's (1) relies on there being a clear meaning to (1).   But this is exactly the issue under discussion.  If Bill's claim is that (1) does have a clear meaning by virtue of its simple structure of name-copula-article-adjective-noun, and the appropriate composition of meanings of the terms involved then I can only point towards the difficulties inherent in this view:

1. SH is a pipe-smoking, violin-playing, cocaine-addicted, crime-solving character.  If he is also a fictional character then perhaps ACD should have had Dr Watson see a psychiatrist.

2.  Anthony Burgess's novel 'Earthly Powers' presents itself as the memoirs of playwright and short-story writer Kenneth Toomey.  It makes sense to me to say that the characters that appear in Toomey's works are fictional fictional characters.  If 'fictional' functioned as an ordinary adjective then this would tell us no more than saying they were fictional characters.  Compare with 'female female Roman'.  But it does tell us more.  It tells us something about the nesting of texts within texts---the relativity of texts, if you like.

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