The New York Times | The Philosophical Novel

Great Article in The New York Times Book Review section last week. Can philosophy be literary? Can literature also be philosophical? Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Sartre would certainly be cases to argue in the affirmative. And there is lots of room for gray in between, as the opening Iris Murdoch example indicates. Both literature and philosophy “seek to ask big questions, to locate and describe deeper truths, to shape some kind of order from the muddle of the world” — but how would we go about defining the relationship between the two disciplines?
On philosophy vs. literature:

“Philosophy is written for the few; literature for the many. Philosophy is concerned with the general and abstract; literature with the specific and particular. Philosophy dispels illusions; literature creates them. Most philosophers are wary of the aesthetic urge in themselves.”

On ‘the psychology of philosophy’:

“[H]ow we tackle intellectual problems depends critically on who we are as individuals, and is as much a function of temperament as cognition. Embedding a philosophical debate in richly imagined human stories conveys a key aspect of intellectual life. You don’t just understand a conceptual problem, she says: ‘You feel the problem’.”


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

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