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A Non-Cognitivist Response to 'The Philosophy of Horror'

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posted on 2023-03-11, 03:56 authored by Fleming, Cameron

I argue throughout this thesis against Noel Caroll’s claims in The Philosophy of Horror, in particular his definition of horror, his solution to the paradox of fiction, and finally his solution to the paradox of horror. My responses to each will show why Caroll is wrong, and lead to a non-cognitive theory of horror artworks. Carroll defines art-horror as being a particular type of artwork which features category breaking monsters, this is the first facet I argue against. He then provides a cognitive response to the paradox of fiction, thereby buying in to the need to respond to the paradox. Finally, he argues that our engagement with horror can be explained through cognitive pleasure granted by our curiosity. This last argument suggests that we still feel pain from the experience of horror, however it is compensated by our engagement with the ratiocination provided throughout the narrative. First, I define horror artworks using the phenomenology of horror, arguing against both Carroll’s entity definition and Freeland’s event-based definition. Secondly, I will be taking a non-cognitive approach to emotions which will allow me to account for a much larger range of horror artworks than cognitivists, which includes Caroll. Considering that the paradox of fiction relies on cognitive emotional theories, supporting a non-cognitive theory is effectively a solution to this “paradox.” Finally, I respond to Carroll’s solution to the paradox of horror, providing what is called a “constitutive” theory of horror which suggests that within certain limits we should explore emotions through fiction even if they are painful.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Bacharach, Sondra