Fictional Entities

Filed under: by: Kevin

It has been held by some contemporary philosophers that there are fictional entities—characters such as Sherlock Holmes have some status as metaphysical existents. Imagine that such were the case. What cruelty have we inflicted upon these citizens? What horrible, disgusting deeds have we writ upon them? And with what right? With what right do we impose upon these individuals the deepest, most secret desires, fears, and torturous memories of our own psyches? Passions that we would not dare reveal to ourselves. What tragedies, sickening comedies, and fatal (at least to the soul) disasters have we put these beings through? Denizens of a common metaphysical cosmos. We have pillaged their villages and raped their women, men, and children. We have torn them from their homes and situated them in unkind circumstances. We have robbed them of will and dignity. Us, imperialists of fiction. Colonizers of the inexistent. Fetishists of nothingness. We create and destroy. We do it for our own capital. More sickeningly, we do it for our own pleasure. With nauseating repetition we hoist bystanders of reality into the same weary heartbreak. We import unknowing henchman for their imminent and satisfying destruction. Sad clowns and villainous maniacs unleashed upon a deprecated reality. We claim its nonexistence. We continue to affirm their nothingness. We rob them of their souls and minds and individuality. Separate toilets and fountains and metaphysical realms. And now, as we begin to recognize their real status, we begin to tremble in fear, and loathe our past decisions. Regret, perhaps, comes over us. For when, in our history, we have entertained the autonomy of these beings, it was always subsumed under an even greater story. It was just a story. So we said to ourselves. But now they protrude from their homes, and penetrate the very fabric of our world. They write our narrative as much as we write theirs. But they have become unhappy. Their stories have been burned, and they themselves have been disgraced without end and without mercy. Now they will show us their true metaphysicality. And we will be left questioning our own being.

After a few steps in the darkness you will see strangers gathered around a fire; come close, and listen, for they are talking of the destiny they will mete out to you and to the hired soldiers who defend you. They will see you, perhaps, but they will go on talking among themselves, without even lowering their voices. This indifference strikes home: their fathers, shadowy creatures, your creatures, were but dead souls; you it was who allowed them glimpses of light, to you only did they dare speak, and you did not bother to reply to such zombies. Their sons ignore you; a fire warms them and sheds light around them, and you have not lit it. Now, at a respectful distance, it is you who will feel furtive, nightbound, and perished with cold. Turn and turn about; in these shadows from whence a new dawn will break, it is you who are the zombies.

-J.P. Sartre