Can literature, and more generally art, be philosophical? If so, how? Given that philosophy is thought to be all about argument and given that literature largely does not do arguments but something rather different, a puzzle is generated about how literature and art can be philosophical. One answer would be to say that philosophy is about more than argument which re-raises the question about what philosophy is. Another line of investigation would be to take a close look at purportedly philosophical literature and art so as to ask how exactly it manages to do philosophy. Does literature simply illustrate philosophical claims, problems or ideas? Or does literature do something deeper than that? Does it “enact” philosophy in a way that is not reducible to either argument or illustration? Further, when literature is philosophical, is its philosophical achievement communicable by non-literary means?
By the end of this course, students will have thought more deeply about the nature of art and literature, the nature of philosophy and ways in which they do and do not overlap. Students will also have developed their ability to discern and critically evaluate arguments in philosophical texts and philosophical ideas in art and literary works. They will have further developed their argumentation and writing skills and become better able to articulate their own positions on the key questions.
Students are required to attend classes and finish the readings prior to class and are strongly encouraged to participate in discussion.
- One, ungraded 15-minute class presentation, typically on the assigned reading.
- One 2000 word term paper assessed according to accuracy, clarity, organization, strength of argument and originality.
The final grade is based on 20% classroom participation, 80% term paper.