24.4.12

On Philosophical Novels

From Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky to Sartre and Bernhard
Leo Tolstoy reading, pencil portrait by Ilya Repin (1891)
Jennie Erdal writes a survey of the philosophical novel in the Financial Times, and Geoff Dyer lists five examples of memorable philosophical fiction:
At St Andrews University in the early 1970s, philosophy was still a required subject for entry into an honours course. To leave the way clear for reading modern languages, I decided that the requirement would best be dispatched in my first year. Before I knew it, I was hooked and ended up dropping one of the languages in favour of a joint degree in moral philosophy and Russian. For me it seemed the dream ticket. Russian literature was awash with existential difficulties and moral disorder, from the problem of free will in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (1880) to the meaning of life itself in Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869) – not to mention all the ungovernable passions, suicide, murder and suffering humanity encountered along the way. Philosophy on the other hand, with its categorical imperatives and systematic approach to concepts of right and wrong, would provide a disciplined moral analysis. [Read More]
Also at A Piece of Monologue: