This article discusses why it is the case that we refuse to accept strange evaluative claims as being true in fictions, even though we are happy to go along with other types of absurdities in such contexts. For instance, we would refuse to accept the following statement as true, even in the context of a fiction: (i) In killing her baby, Giselda did the right thing; after all, it was a girl.
This article offers a sensibilist diagnosis of this puzzle, inspired by an observation first made by David Hume. According to sensibilism, the way we feel about things settles their evaluative properties. Thus, when confronted with a fictional scenario where the configuration of non-evaluative facts and properties is relevantly similar to the actual world, we refuse to go along with evaluative properties being instantiated according to a different pattern. It is the attitudes we hold in the actual world that fix the extension of evaluative terms, even in nonactual worlds. When engaging with a fiction, we (to some extent) leave our beliefs about what the world is like behind, while taking our emotional attitudes with us into the fiction.
To substantiate this diagnosis, this paper outlines a sensibilist semantics for evaluative terms based on recent discussion regarding predicates of personal taste, and explains how, together with standard assumptions about the nature of fictional discourse, it makes the relevant predictions with respect to engagement with fictions.