Part of the greatness of great literature consists in the profound, philosophic ideas the works contain. These ideas may not be unknown to philosophy but, when rendered in literary form, they gain an aesthetic force often lacking in the philosophic treatise with its careful train of reasoning. In this insightful study, Burton Porter explores the philosophic content of some outstanding literary works, analysing and evaluating the ideas that drive the narrative. Porter first examines the concept of free will and determinism in Melville's "Moby Dick", placing the quest for the white whale within the context of foreordination, hubris, prophecy, and defiance of divine power. Connections are also drawn to Euripides' "Medea" and Shakespeare's "King Lear" as well as the Old Testament. The good and the right are traced in Anouilh's "Antigone" and Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina", showing the philosophic antagonisms in the literature and in the conflicted minds of the authors. Voltaire' "Candide" and Dostoevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" are then explored insofar as they express the problem of evil - the tension between human suffering on earth and belief in a benevolent, wise, almighty God.
Finally, the nature of the self is investigated in Rilke's "The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge" and Kafka's "The Metamorphosis", focusing on identity and the mind-body problem. Porter makes philosophy come alive by showing its expression in art and revealing the depth of ideas that make literature compelling.
Table of Contents
Introduction - The Relation Between Philosophy and Art; Liberation and Deterministic Perspectives - Melville's Moby Dick; The Good and the Right - Anouilh's Antigone and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina; The Problem of Evil - Goethe's Faust, Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, and Voltaire's Candide; Self, Mind and Body: Kafka's Metamorphosis and Rilke's The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge; Index.
Burton Porter (Springfield, MA) is currently professor of philosophy at Western New England College and a visiting professor of philosophy at Mt. Holyoke College. He is the author or editor of numerous books including Philosophy Through Fiction and Film, The Voice of Reason, and Reasons For Living.