- Why do we enjoy the depiction, in imaginative literature, of situations that typically arouse negative emotions such as pity, sadness, and horror?
- One view, which aims to dissolve rather than solve the problem, is that we do not enjoy them at all. According to this theory — the pure pain theory — the problem does not arise in the first place. But the theory must explain why we chose to undergo such painful experiences. Are we simply aesthetic masochists?
- The pure pleasure theory, by contrast, denies that there are any painful aspects to our experience of such literature. This theory must explain how we can take pure delight in the literary depiction of suffering. Are we simply aesthetic sadists?
- Lying between both extremes is the hybrid theory1, which asserts that there are both painful and pleasant aspects of such experiences. The hybrid theory2 must specify which aspects of the experience are painful and which pleasant.
- In this paper a version of the hybrid theory3 is advanced and defended.
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