Maître de conférences

Chargé de recherches FNRS & Fonds assoc.


Faculté de Philosophie et lettres
Département de philosophie
Philosophie analytique et de la logique
Faculté de Philosophie et lettres
Département de philosophie

Adresse ULiège
Bât. A1 Philosophie analytique et de la logique
place du 20-Août 7
4000 Liège
Téléphone de service
+32 4 3665599
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Diplômes universitaires
2019: PhD (Institut Jean Nicod - ENS, PSL)
2016: Cogmaster (EHESS-ENS-P5)
2014: LoPhiSc (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)


Link to CV and PhD dissertation

Abstract of current postdoc project: A new defence of antirealism in the philosophy of fiction

Do fictional characters exist? Well, obviously, if they are fictional characters, they should not exist. After all, that's what fiction is all about. Do fictional names name? Well, obviously, if they are fictional names, they should name. After all, that's what names are all about.

It might never have struck you before, but these two obvious intuitions conflict, given other assumptions about reference. If one refers to something, then that something must exist in some sense. Equivalently, if a thing does not exist, one cannot refer to it. Linguistic reference, thus conceived, is a relation between a thing and a speaker: a relation presupposes the existence of its relata. So we are left with an alternative: either say that fictional characters exist in some sense (that is called "realism about fictional characters") or say that fictional names do not name (that is called "antirealism about fictional characters").

The debate between realists and antirealist is going on for at least 20 years and it is still an open debate. In this debate, a lot of light has been shed on a distinction between two broad contexts of use for fictional names. Fictional names can be used in fictional texts to invite a reader to imagine some fictional situation: for instance, by reading the opening sentence of Jane Austen's Emma:

(1) Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence.

you should imagine a healthy, witty young woman whose feelings and sentiments will distract you upon reading the novel. However, fictional names can also be used in metafictional contexts, as for instance in an encyclopedia entry, where the reader should look at the fictional character from an external perspective. If you read

(2) Emma Woodhouse is a fictional character and main protagonist of Jane Austen's Emma.

you are not supposed to imagine the young woman, but on the contrary entertain the idea of an entity belonging to our world, more precisely to our world's literary history. Emma Woodhouse the young lady to be imagined, I call the "flesh-and-blood individual"; and Emma Woodhouse the cultural item, I call the "individual of paper". This intuitive distinction has been made precise using the notions of truth and reference, for it seems clear that what we can truly say of the individual of paper does not apply to the flesh-and-blood individual.

Using this distinction, a version of realism has gained a lot of attention, i.e. the so-called "hybrid account" of fictional characters, according to which individuals of paper do exist, while fictional flesh-and-blood individuals do not. They thus hold that fictional names are polysemous, since they change their meaning depending of the context of use: in fictional contexts like (1) they do not refer whereas in metafictional contexts like (2) they do refer. The realist research program today consists in explaining the details of this polysemy view and thus explain the systematic conceptual links there are between fictional flesh-and-blood individuals and individuals of paper.

In this research project, I argue that realism is false and misleading. I defend a version of antirealism whose central tenet is: fictional characters do not exist. See the full description of this project for more details about my argumentative strategy.

Domaine de recherche

  • Philosophie analytique
  • Logique
  • Ontologie
  • Métaphysique
  • Esthétique

Fonctions ou mandats

  • Mandat de Chargé de recherches FNRS (2022-25)

Cours ULiège

Philosophie du langage, 30h Th, LECLERCQ Bruno, ROUILLÉ Louis

Questions de philosophie des sciences, 30h Th, BOUQUIAUX Laurence, PONCIN Pascal, ROUILLÉ Louis

Logiques modales, 30h Th, ROUILLÉ Louis