This essay will be concerned with an evaluation, modification and critique of van Inwagen’s famous argument for the existence of fictional characters. Firstly, a reconstruction of the original argument will be provided and three different challenges for the original version of the argument will be pointed out. Secondly, there will be a more detailed investigation of the weaknesses pointed out. It will be shown how they can be cleared, and a modified, less problematic, alternative version of the argument will be proposed. Thirdly and finally, three different possible options that an irrealist concerning fictional characters has to respond to our modified argument will be evaluated. The view will be defended that the irrealist can make use of a substitutional interpretation of specific fictional generalisations based on a negative free logic to undermine the modified argument in a plausible way.
I would like to thank the following people for helpful discussions or critical comments: Tobias Klauk, Stefano Predelli, Peter Ridley, Peter Sutton, Mark Textor, Wilfried Keller and an anonymous reviewer of American Philosophical Quarterly.
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