Philosophy and the Novel

Philosophy and the Novel by Alan H. Goldman

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Alan H. Goldman presents an original and lucid account of the relationship between philosophy and the novel. In the first part, on philosophy of novels, he defends theories of literary value and interpretation. Literary value, the value of literary works as such, is a species of aesthetic value. Goldman argues that works have aesthetic value when they simultaneously engage all our mental capacities: perceptual, cognitive, imaginative, and emotional. This viewcontrasts with now prevalent narrower formalist views of literary value. According to it, cognitive engagement with novels includes appreciation of their broad themes and the theses these imply, often moral and hence philosophical theses, which are therefore part of the novels literary value.Interpretation explains elements of works so as to allow readers maximum appreciation, so as to maximize the literary value of the texts as written. Once more, Goldmans view contrasts with narrower views of literary interpretation, especially those which limit it to uncovering what authors intended. One implication of Goldmans broader view is the possibility of incompatible but equally acceptable interpretations, which he explores through a discussion of rival interpretations of ErnestHemingways The Sun Also Rises. Goldman goes on to test the theory of value by explaining the immense appeal of good mystery novels in its terms. The second part of the book, on philosophy in novels, explores themes relating to moral agency--moral development, motivation, and disintegration--in JaneAustens Pride and Prejudice, Mark Twains Huckleberry Finn, John Irvings The Cider House Rules, and Joseph Conrads Nostromo. By narrating the course of characters lives, including their inner lives, over extended periods, these novels allow us to vicariously experience the characters moral progressions, positive and negative, to learn in a more focused way moral truths, as we do from real life experiences.
Publication Date:
04 / 04 / 2013

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