In several papers, Petr Koťátko defends an “ontologically modest account of fictional characters”. Consider a position (which I have been defending) that is anything but ontologically restrained: positing fictional characters like Andrei Bolkonsky in War and Peace as abstract artifacts. I will argue, first, that such a position turns out to offer a nice fit with Petr Koťátko’s proposal about narrative fiction, one that fares better than an alternative pretense-based theory that doesn’t posit Bolkonsky as existing in any sense. Second, I will explore a recent challenge by Jeffrey Goodman—which I will call the inadvertent creation challenge—that is originally posed for those who hold that fictional characters and mythical objects alike are abstract artifacts. The crux of the challenge is this: if we think that astronomers like Le Verrier, in mistakenly hypothesizing the planet Vulcan, inadvertently create an abstract artifact, then the “inadvertent creation” element turns out to be inescapable yet theoretically unattractive. Third, based on considerations about actually existing concrete objects being featured in fictional works (as Napoleon is in War and Peace), I argue that regardless of where one stands on mythical objects, admitting fictional characters as abstract artifacts is enough to give rise to the inadvertent creation challenge; yet this very set of considerations serves to undermine the challenge, indicating that inadvertent creation is not nearly as worrisome after all as Goodman is suggesting. Taking fictional characters (and mythical objects) to be abstract artifacts therefore remains a viable option.
Abstract artifacts, mythical objects, realism about fictional characters, semantics of fictional discourse