‘Philosophy’ and ‘Literature’:
Relationships of Genres and the Frontiers of Thought

by Ralph Dumain

Philosophy as a scholarly category

Defining and demarcating “philosophy” from non-philosophy may prove as futile as attempting to  define “art.” The skeptical question “but is it art?” can be supplanted with the potentially more productive question “but is it legitimate art?”. However, if we are to admit everyone’s personal “philosophy” into our discussion, there would be little point in discussing intellectual traditions and serious thinkers at all, as the average person’s “philosophy” generally consists of an incoherent melange of dubious folk wisdom, life experience, clichés, superstitions, tacit metaphysical assumptions, unreflective stereotypes, and scattered reflective ruminations. While Gramsci asserts that “All men are intellectuals, but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals” [1] he is positing a mere potential, or worse, indulging in wishful thinking. Everyone has a tacit world view, of course, but without critical reflection, it is usually an obstacle to be surmounted.

There is a further question of whether philosophy as a category should include orally transmitted ideas or should be confined to written traditions. The capacity for abstract reflection in certain areas must be as old as our species itself. Anthropologist Paul Radin documented the philosophical ruminations of what he posited as the intellectual class in preliterate societies in Primitive Man as Philosopher. [2] There has also been an historic debate within the discipline of African philosophy as to whether ethnophilosophy transcribed from oral traditions legitimately belongs to philosophy. [3]

From the vantage point of modern “Western philosophy” (generally conceived of the totality of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, the philosophy of medieval Christian Europe, and of the modern era issuing out of Europe and spreading around the world, with some acknowledgement of the philosophical contributions of Islamic civilization), there is the question of the evaluation of  the approximate equivalents of “philosophy” in other literate pre-modern civilizations, including whether they can be considered “philosophy” as conceived by Western philosophers at all. The paradigmatic candidates are Indian and Chinese philosophy. Hegel was dubious about both (see his lecture series on the history of philosophy and the history of religion) and Husserl rejected the notion of Indian and Chinese thought as genuine philosophy. [4] Other than an obvious ethnocentrism attributable to this view, the criteria for holding it must be considered: are purported philosophies in other traditions autonomous, distinguishable from religion and other forms of thought; do they constitute a comprehensive systematic or systematizable construct of interconnected abstract concepts, not merely practical wisdom, but theoria?

Note that this labeling is retrospective, from a contemporaneous vantage point where we find an institutional and literary category called “philosophy.” A discussion would be otherwise impossible. Philosophy is now one of a host of academically differentiated disciplines, of relatively recent vintage. In the West, the various natural sciences, and then the behavioral and social sciences, developed and branched off from philosophy, and the nature and purview of philosophy has been thereby affected, and reduced according to prevailing trends. We should focus on the intrinsic nature of these fields of endeavor and the corresponding intrinsic division of labor and not conflate them with their institutionalization.

From our contemporary standpoint there are synchonic and diachronic differentiations and contentions to consider. There are different schools and traditions within philosophy, different styles and criteria of acceptibility. The now virtually universal but highly dubious dichotomy of analytic and continental philosophy is customarily contrasted by their styles as well as concerns.

Depending on the school or tradition within which one is working, we recognize philosophy in the form of logically argued or looser expository prose, philosophical dialogues, or ironic, highly literary texts, or outright subversions of logical argument. We can even recognize antiphilosophy as belonging to the discipline or genre of philosophy. And while there is a contingent of postmodernists (to use the term in its loose popular sense) who would reduce philosophy to literature, the distinction is still readily recognized. We shall soon get to where the boundaries are really uncertain.

Diachronically, we have already considered what might or might not fall within the purview of philosophy as a disciplinary subject field. We recognize a differentiation, however blurred it may be in the past, between philosophy and natural science, and philosophy and religious doctrine. Those who insist on strict logical exposition may wish to exclude those who wrote in fragmentary, aphoristic, symbolic, narrative, or multilayered ironic form, which in some cases would be structurally much closer to “"literature,” such as Kierkegaard or Nietzsche, but we still recognize these thinkers under the rubric of philosophy.

Furthermore, the development of formally logical argument in what we would call “philosophy” in various civilizations developed over time. Greek philosophy did not spring into existence in the logically elaborated schema of Aristotle, but went through development in the pre-Socratics, to the structured dialogic form of Plato, [5] prior to the intervention of Aristotle, the great systematizer. The characteristic properties of Indian and Chinese philosophy differ from the Greek and from one another, but all became more logically elaborated with time. In the modern era we can discern comparable questions about the development of new civilizational traditions. In the periodization of American philosophy, we see unequivocally the traits of systematization when it comes to American Hegelianism, pragmatism, and the schools that follow. What about earlier developments such as Transcendentalism—philosophical or literary? It seems there is a certain arbitrariness; works are classified by what their authors are primarily known for. Otherwise, how could Edgar Allan Poe’s Eureka [6] or Mark Twain’s What Is Man? not be considered philosophy?

There are a number of essential historical questions. How would one demarcate “philosophy” within the more amorphous “history of ideas” (intellectual history)? Also, in various civilizational traditions, how do we place philosophy, and what it encompasses, within the universe of knowledge? This involves two dimensions: on what basis does philosophy as an acknowledged intellectual activity emerge historically within the division of labor and the differentiation of knowledge, and how does it interact or not with other departments of knowledge? How and why did that configuration come about?

The first question leads to another question: how do we establish real as opposed to assumed continuity in the history of philosophy? Does philosophy evolve internally, in reaction to or elaboration of earlier philosophy, or is its development attendant upon wider currents in the development of the thought of an era? [7]

There are of course many instances of placing philosophy within its total social context, diachronically and synchronically, but this is not front-and-center within the teaching of philosophy in the United States. However, these were fundamental considerations elsewhere, for example in Soviet historiography of philosophy, [8] which with the exception of specialists in this area has been written out of the history of  philosophy. In this tradition philosophy must always be calibrated in relation to the state of scientific knowledge and the nature of social organization of its time.

When it comes to non-western traditions, the question of the relationship between what is included in the category philosophy and areas of thought and knowledge outside of it is rarely posed. We are accustomed to Aristotle’s encyclopedic formulation of the branches of philosophy, his development of formal logic, a tightly integrated, logically elaborated metaphysical system, and his excursions into natural knowledge. How does this compare to the configurations of philosophy and the universe of knowledge in the other great ancient traditions of China and India? Why was logic highly developed within Indian philosophy, but mathematics had no part in it while thriving separately? [9] Why was logic least developed in Chinese philosophy? How much did the sciences and philosophy feed off one another in either tradition? When we delve into an intellectual culture, we should attempt to locate all the sources of ontology, epistemology, value, the formal sciences of mathematics and logic, and reflexivity.

On the border between philosophy and literature

Leaving aside for the moment the relationship between philosophy and scientific / natural / empirical knowledge, and between philosophy and religion, that is, the relationship between the subject matters or content of texts, let us turn to boundary questions relating to form.

First, there is the question of poetry. While few now would write philosophical texts in poetic form, that was done in prior epochs, and there is poetry with manifest philosophical content. Didactic poetry, where everything is on the surface, is probably for our purposes little more than versified prose. With symbolism, on the other hand, the meaning is hidden. Hence while a symbolic poem might have philosophical content, philosophy would have to be extracted and made explicit from the latent content, which we usually call “criticism.” A desired genre differentiation should be easily discernible.

Differentiation would seemingly be harder where both “literature” and “philosophy” are written in prose. Note though that no distinction should be considered absolute, as the prosaic (literal) can be found in poetry, and the poetic or symbolic in prose, fictional or nonfictional. Still, it is more germane to our task to explore marks of distinction between philosophy proper and other genres written in prose, beginning with related expository prose—“ideas” or “thought” more generally, and the expression of everyday world views (personal philosophy).

Expositions of ethics or politics as philosophy may be harder to differentiate from ordinary prose, than say obviously more abstract topics pertaining to ontology or epistemology. However, any form of advocacy or expository prose may embed and reference more abstract philosophical, world view ideas. [10] Professional philosophers may write very ordinary prose on a low level of abstraction, while amateur philosophers may write abstractly.

Perhaps a distinction can be made on the basis of intended audience, or marked by publication venue? Should self-publishing mark a boundary? One might look for characteristic terminology, or recognizable philosophical abstractions. Outside of content demonstrably professional in composition or strikingly original, a text might be considered seriously philosophical if it intelligently references the known history of serious philosophy or intelligently addresses current philosophical problems in a fashion not obviously inept or historically obsolete. A telltale positive would be a substantial contribution to a problematic or paradigm. Such criteria would exclude much but not all of self-published philosophy. However, we do recognize popularization of recognized philosophy, in books, periodicals, or podcasts. [11]

The practice of referencing earlier texts, placing oneself with respect to philosophical tradition, also relates to creating new traditions. We will return to this theme later. In transitioning to the next topic, let us be reminded of the difference between philosophical texts written long ago and the formal philosophical papers of professionalized philosophy. The entire history of recognized philosophy involves a number of literary forms, including the dialogue, a form shared with fiction, though generally more restricted in stylistica variation and purpose. [12]

Arthur Danto, in an influential address, tackles the question of philosophy-as-literature, given the postmodern temptation to absorb philosophy as well as other genres within literature. [13] Just as in treating the Bible as literature, treating philosophy as literature radically changes our orientation towards the text. (Historically, the style of holy books has also been taken to be of transcendental significance, either because of their beauty or their crudeness.) The contemporary professional philosophy paper is ideally purged of individual presence. This conforms to the approach to truth endemic to professional philosophy. Danto suggests “that the concept of philosophical truth and the form of philosophical expression are internally enough related that we may want to recognize that when we turn to other forms we may also be turning to other conceptions of philosophical truth.” He considers the un-academic styles of philosophy’s greatest practitioners of earlier eras, e.g. Plato and Descartes. At stake in considering form is the type of reading experienced and performed by the audience. Danto goes through a long list of forms and genres in which the philosophies of the world have been expressed. Perhaps there is an “evolutionary” process at work in the supersession of earlier forms by the professional philosophy paper. “But it is equally arguable that philosophers with really new thoughts have simply had to invent new forms to convey them with, and that it may be possible that from the perspective of the standard format no way into these other forms, hence no way into these systems or structures of thought can be found.”

Danto claims that non-philosophical literature has influenced professional philosophy only with respect to the issue of truth, presenting an obstacle to nearly all theories of meaning in their struggle with fictive reference. Philosophy has done a poor job in explaining the relationship of literature to the world. Literary theory of the sort espoused by Northrop Frye, i.e. that literature as relates only to other literature, mainly its predecessors, is also inadequate. Allusions to prior artworks are of interest mostly to the specialist, but do not explain the meaning of the work. As interesting as taking the text rather than the sentence as the object of analysis may be, the reader is not primarily interested in “intricate networks of reciprocal effects.” Danto presents a complex argument about philosophy, literature, universality, necessity, and metaphor. Virtually indisinguishable texts might in fact belong to different genres. The key lies in the text’s relation to the reader. If literature is just a semantic network, it is not about us, but just a pointless exercise. If philosophy is just literature in this sense, it becomes equally a matter of indifference. Danto concludes (final sentence omitted): “So philosophy is literature in that among its truth conditions are those connected with being read and reading those texts is supposed then to reveal us for what we are in virtue of our reading. Really to reveal us, however, not metaphorically, which is why, I think, I cannot finally acquiesce in the thought that philosophy is literature. It continues to aim at truth, but when false, seriously false, it is often so fascinatingly false as to retain a kind of perpetual vitality as a metaphor.”

I find this argument murky, but I am struck by Danto’s initial observation that reading philosophy as literature is akin to reading the Bible as literature. Our relationship to the truth claims of the text and our own truth claims about it markedly differ as our mode of reading differs.

Up to this point, with the exception of a brief consideration of poetry, we have deployed the notion of “literature” applied to all non-fictional prose. However we choose to distinguish philosophical from other nonfictional prose texts, we enter even more interesting terrain when we enter the domain of fiction.

Philosophical fiction

Not surprisingly, a significant percentage of the sizable literature on the philosophy of literature is devoted to fiction. [14] We could repeat the whole series of questions we put to nonfiction. One could presumably find philosophical content in any specimen of serious fiction, even in pulp fiction. Fiction is a superior vehicle, though, for modeling phenomena that prove challenging for even the most sophisticated of psychological, cultural, and social theories. That is, fiction is a prime vehicle for exploring and expressing the nuances of human development, character, and behavior in context. One could expect ethical, social, and political ideas to be the most likely candidates to find embedded in fiction. To what extent the content could be deemed truly philosophical would presumably depend on the (systematizable) abstract ideas extractable from fictional texts. Abstract ideas might be found directly embedded in the text via the plot, dialogue, or narrator.

Abstract ideas about the human condition, like Existentialism, might constitute the very theme of the text. There are, of course, unambiguously philosophical novels. In addition to those that deal with strictly human issues, the most purely philosophical of fiction is that which deals with metaphysical and epistemological questions. Naturally, the science fiction genre is germane here, but we want to also broach less obvious genre questions. The subgenre of metafiction, because of its reflexive nature, invites the exploitation of philosophical themes. The gold standard of philosophical fiction is the work of Jorge Luis Borges.

To recap: two criteria come to mind for judging genre, the nature of the work itself, and the status of the author. There is the relation of the author and the individual work to the body of the author’s work. What is the author primarily known for? Is a fictional work with philosophical content characteristic of the body of work as a whole, perhaps an illustration of the philosophy in fiction? Is a putatively philosophical work ancillary to the overall literary oeuvre? Let us sample a handful of authors to illustrate the variations.

Edgar Allan Poe was most famous for his poetry and innovative fiction, but he also toyed with the ideas of his time, with fads, susceptibilities to hoaxes, etc. He also wrote tongue-in-cheek stories addressing philosophical ideas. See for example “Mellonta Tauta.” But Poe was also serious about his own philosophical ideas, which he expounded in his Eureka. Poe considered this his summa, but it is not referenced in the history of American philosophy.

Mark Twain, in addition to his obvious fame as the great originator in American literature, is also known for his skeptical satires on religion, most notably Letters from the Earth. Several of his nonfiction works are no longer priorities for any but real Twain aficionados. Twain’s book What is Man? is undoubtedly philosophical: in it Twain argues against free will and for determinism and simultaneously for moral idealism and perfectability. Some critics discount Twain as a philosopher, but there is no reason this work should be excluded from the genre, whether or not his argument brings something new to the issue. Twain as a master stylist crafted a more literary and colorful narrative format than most would in arguing the same position. His book raises a familiar dilemma; the paradox of determinism and moral perfectionism. Twain reminded me of Spinoza. I thought I was the first to think to compare them, until I found someone else who did. [15]

Aside from not being trained or accredited in philosophy, and being primarily creative writers rather than abstract thinkers, one could not say that the literary oeuvres of Poe and Twain are expositions of a definite philosophical system in literary form. It is different for other writers. Though generally not recognized by academic philosophers, Ayn Rand is known as a philosopher/thinker first and her fiction as a direct embodiment of her philosophy. In her case, her fictional characters and exposition are as wooden and one-dimensional as her philosophy expressed in essay form.

Jean-Paul Sartre is known as a philosopher who also wrote fiction and plays embodying his philosophy. Richard Wright was primarily a literary writer, who eventually joined Sartre’s social circle in Paris and wrote his own philosophical novel, The Outsider (1953), infused with the existentalist framework of Kierkegaard. Wright was an autodidact; he never graduated high school. He read widely and injected scattered references to other phenomenological philosophers into The Outsider. [16]

Charles Johnson is a Black American writer best known for his philosophical fiction, e.g. Middle Passage (1990), but he is also a professionally trained philosopher writing nonfiction, including philosophical works, e.g. Being and Race: Black Writing since 1970 (1988).

Rebecca Goldstein started out as a professional philosopher, but given the severely restrictive world of analytical philosophy, she began writing philosophical fiction, beginning with the novel The Mind-Body Problem (1983). Eventually she turned to writing popular philosophical biography, with books on Spinoza and Gödel, and a book on Plato and philosophy’s continuing relevance.

In this section we have approached the question of genre boundaries not by examining the texts themselves, but via the overall genre positioning of the authors and their relation to the universe of knowledge, with implications for the genre reception of their prospective audiences. Authorial intention, the mode of institutionalization of the author, and other extratextual factors constitute one mode by which some analysts of genre make genre distinctions. 

We could have used this approach for poets and poetry as well. It is of course easier to recognize a poem as a poem even if it is a philosophical one. There are poets who also write expository philosophical prose. Presumably there are philosophical poems that could be also classified as works of philosophy. There are poets who are of especial philosophical interest, for the formal structure of their work as well as the content. [17] We could also ask of poetry as of philosophical fiction, whether certain ideas or insights are uniquely expressible through poetic or fictional (or dramatic) means rather than discursive logical presentation. (We could pose the question also with respect to  nonfiction text with unusual or avant-garde formats, or which utilize irony, allegory, or symbolism.)

However we may wish to draw a boundary, the art of philosophical analysis or criticism is important on either side of it. Philosophy: An Innovative Introduction: Fictive Narrative, Primary Texts, and Responsive Writing is a unique philosophy textbook co-authored by Michael Boylan and Charles Johnson. [18] As I mentioned, Johnson is both a credentialed philosopher and a distinguished fiction writer. Using both philosophical and literary texts (several written for this textbook), the authors seek to guide the student to analyze and produce logical, deductively argued texts and indirect  (fictive) narratives.

Borges and genre-bending

Borges is the most influential author of philosophical fiction of the past century. Unique properties of his work can be found in his fictional works that look like essays and essays that border on fiction. More importantly, the fiction for which he is most famous are logical extrapolations of metaphysical ideas in narrative form taken to extreme conclusions. Were it not for markers of fictional status and disclaimers in Borges’s essays, one might conclude that Borges believes in the arguments to be found in his works. His literary philosophical experiments and the complex tacit logical structures of his fictions probably could not have been produced by someone doing straightforward philosophy. Whereas we know the purpose behind Kierkegaard’s multilayered use of irony (and assumed identities via pseudonyms), Borges’s philosophical thought experiments do not serve an unambiguous purpose. Borges himself evinces skepticism about his own arguments for idealism. [19] Still, Borges’s fictional work (and perhaps slightly less controversially, his essays) are so essentially philosophical there is a real temptation to admit Borges into the terrain of “philosophy.”

The richest assemblage of work on this question and on the philosophy/literature genre question in general I have seen is the anthology Literary Philosophers: Borges, Calvino, Eco. [20]

Jorge J. E. Gracia presents a novel position in judging Borges’s tale “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”: “A literary work is distinguished from a philosophical one in that its conditions of identity include the text of which it is the meaning. Thus literary works are untranslatable. A philosophical work should be translatable. A literary text is essential to the work it expresses, but a philosophical text is not.” [21] “Translatable” here does not refer to languages, but to the translatability of content into a variety of texts. Gracia explores the complications in determining the relations between “work” and “text,” concluding that “Pierre Menard” is not fully translatable, hence belongs to literature rather than philosophy. (By this criterion Sartre’s philosophical treatises would be fully translatable, but not his novels and plays.) This may well be, but I have my reservations about the unrestricted translatability of philosophical texts. If a collection of texts represents a philosopher’s (quasi-)system of thought, then presumably the system of ideas takes precedence over specific textual incarnations. Suppose however, that like literary texts, the ideational content of some philosophical works is inexhaustible and not fully paraphrasable. Individual philosophical texts may remain indispensable even when expositors (usually others) clarify their systems of ideas in other works. In this way, the relationship between primary philosophical text and secondary exposition could be considered analagous to the relation between a literary work and a corresponding work of literary criticism. Still, a truly literary work exceeds the systematizable ideas that can be extracted from it, so Gracia does have a case.

Deborah Knight argues, contrary to Martha Nussbaum, that we cannot turn literary authors into philosophers. Not only that, but “what we do when we talk about them constitutes literary analysis, possibly even literary criticism.” [22] We can incorporate philosophical content of literary works into philosophical discussions, and we can even do literary criticism with philosophical content, but as other literary critics do.

I suppose that this position is consistent with Gracia’s. I find it difficult to accept. I would be more inclined to agree if the literary excess or the opacity of the literary intent is such that renders its meaning disputable, and thus its interpretability demands an extra layer of analysis than philosophical judgment alone would require.

Compare this situation to that of dispute over ethnophilosophy in African philosophy. Paulin Hountondji argues that the oral traditions of African cultures or its doctrinal gatekeepers (the originators of “sage philosophy”) are not to be considered to fall within philosophy proper, but that the written works of those who document and systematize these ideas do constitute philosophy. [23] How should we judge Knight or Gracia in light of Hountondji, or vice versa?

Henry Sussman identifies Borges and others as parodists of philosophical systematization. [24] He also suggests that asystemic writers like Borges operate in collusion with these same systems, and he poses the question, what are systems? Sussman lays out in detail 12 points of what properties systems in the Borgesian concept possess. Borges’s “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” is the most fully elaborated—and systematic—specimen of asystematic construction. Borges’s fictional “counteruniverse” is a systematic impersonal structure. I believe this means that writers like Borges tend to reproduce the systematicity they purportedly parodically subvert, but from which they never really escape. What could be the payoff for genre analysis? Sussman, enthralled by the likes of Foucault and Derrida, probably has a different agenda from mine. For me, the fictional positing of a systematic idealist cosmos would make manifest the absurdity of idealism when taken to its logical conclusion. This would also be a double inversion, perhaps unintentionally, as Borges presents himself adhering a good deal of the time to idealist premises. Perhaps fiction here operates in a way that mere discursive exposition could not.

Wladimir Krysinski rejects a univocal definition of metafiction and is interested in the different reflexive functions it serves for various authors. [25] Krysinski identifies three underlying principles of Borges’s discourse: (1) hermeneutical infinite, (2) cosmological infinite, (3) metaknowledge. From Krysinski’s characterization, it seems that the subject of Borges’s work is the nature of literature itself. While this is one function that reflexivity serves, there must be more to it than this, to do justice to the metaphysical anxiety present in so much of Borges’s work.

Lois Parkinson Zamora has much more to say, addressing Borges’s background and influences, his relationship to avant-gardes, his interest in “monstrous” combinatorics— in imaginary beings, theology, lists, even the nature of genres: [26]

For Borges, literary genres are like his monsters: “useful Platonic archetypes.” Like the child who has “already seen the tiger in a primal world of archetypes” and thus recognizes a tiger in the zoo, so too the reader recognizes literary works in relation to their generic type. Both imaginary beings and works of literature involve the relation of particular instances to overarching categories, the relation of singularity to universality. If, as I have argued, Borges’s monsters unsettle these relations by means of combinatory devices, so, too, his generic experiments during the 1920s and 1930s reflect Borges’s ars combinatoria. His literary forms are metaphorical monsters by his own definition: they are unexpected combinations of disparate parts from fiction, myth, philosophy, theology, bestiaries, travel narrative, folktale, epic, allegory, and from a vast array of historical periods and world cultures, combined to create narrative structures whose “ends are unknown to us.”

William Irwin finds that attempts to define and demarcate philosophy and literature have failed, and so he begins from the standpoint of Wittgenstein’s notion of family resemblance, which he modifies to discriminate more rigorously between genuine and misattributed family members, dubbing his version “necessary-condition-family-resemblance.” [27] Irwin reviews a number of definitions of both literature and philosophy. He posits authorial intent as a necessary but not sufficient condition to place a work in either category. He also makes room for recognizing the presence of the content of one category in the other: a work of literature (non-philosophy) may nonetheless contain or embody a philosophy; a work of philosophy (non-literature) may also be literary. Irwin insists that classification can proceed only on a case-by-case basis, so in the case of Borges, he examines the perennial favorite, “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” concluding that it belongs to the genre of literature, not philosophy.

At this point, I have covered the issues from just about every conceivable angle, [28] but I need to mention one more. Evgenia Cherkasova takes up Borges’s notion of metaphysics as a branch of fantastic literature. [29] Sideshadowing, a notion borrowed from Gary Saul Morson, “represents the idea that every situation, imaginary or real, comprises not only what happens but also what might have happened.” “Philosophical practice is by nature self-reflective and self-referential.”

Uncompromising readiness to uncover the limitations of one’s thought and language—to identify the boundaries of one’s discourse—is a crucial part of philosophy’s sideshadowing activity. One may argue that reflecting on one’s own reflection is a pointless game, somewhat akin to a pursuit of one’s own shadow. Yet it can also be seen as a productive, if paradoxical, activity of reason taking up its own limits—bringing into view the hidden shadows of rationality itself. Such an activity does come up against the realm of the unknown and unthinkable. Having reached these boundaries some philosophers have insisted on staying within, while others tried to push against them.

Cherkasova mentions Kant, Descartes, Husserl, Kafka, and Calvino. Finally, he turns to Borges’s story “Funes the Memorious.”

This certainly is an apt characterization of Borges’s philosophical performance.  I am hoping that this essay is more than a pointless game, and perhaps I will be vindicated as I approach the punchline.

Philosophy of history of philosophy: Hegel, Soviet philosophy, and uneven development

Hegel, in his preface to the Philosophy of Right, arguing for a politics rooted in what is, speculatively formulated, not what should be, insists that “. . . every one is a son of his time; so philosophy also is its time apprehended in thoughts.” This much-abused quote does not spell out the nature of philosophy or what delimits it from thought in general. For that, one must turn to Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy, in whose preface Hegel insists on the unity of history and system of philosophy, and its necessary self-development through concretion. The integration of the competing philosophies of the past is a task of the present, of systematization rather than mere cataloging. Hegel also recognizes relationships of philosophy with contemporaneous social influences and other manifestations of spirit, seen as a unity stemming from a single source. Philosophy cannot rise above its time, but it is the thinking of what is substantial in its own time. Thinking is negation of immediacy, and comes to its fullness with the decline of the world of which is a part.

Hegel recognizes the socially embedded relationship of philosophy with politics, religion, science, etc., but seeks to extract that which is specifically philosophical (and hence autonomous) from this matrix. He distinguishes philosophy from empirical natural science and especially from religion, which also contains philosophical content. Hegel links philosophy intrinsically to the notion of freedom, and thereby excludes Oriental thought from the category of philosophy. He recognizes essentially two epochs of philosophy, the Greek and the Germanic. Of note in his roster of modern philosophers is the mystic Jakob Boehme, who would not be given so prominent a place by others.

Here we have the first systematic theory of the history of philosophy. The various elements that have to be coordinated are there, but schematized in a distorted form driven by the unsustainable metaphysics of Geist.

Of greatest interest to this essay would be the relation of philosophy and literature. Hegel’s aesthetics are treated separately in his Lectures on Fine Art, wth his tripartite conception of symbolic, classic, and Romantic art. For Hegel, poetry, particularly dramatic poetry, is the highest form of art, and his treatment ends with comedy.

Note Hegel’s critique of irony, particularly his negative reaction to Friedrich Schlegel’s approach. [30]  For us, comedy, with irony as its mechanism, is the epistemological art par excellence.

Hegel was cognizant of the secularization of art in modernity and concerned with art as the expression of inner freedom and art’s relation to the Absolute. Given the notion of art as the embodiment of truth in sensuous form, art reaches its terminus and can no longer embody the supreme function, though it will continue in a lesser role. In opposition to Schelling, Hegel places philosophy above art.

We should keep Hegel’s notions in mind when we turn to the conceptually expressive potentials of literature and philosophy. Which genre can ultimately express what and where would it fall short? Hegel rejected irrationalism, particularly the unapproachable hieratic intuitionism of Schelling’s philosophy. Philosophy must be publicly accessible, expressed in an elaborated, logical form. This may be so, but even if so, the question is not exhausted, for different genres may express the same underlying ideas in different fashion and thus may be revelatory in different ways.

Furthermore, we are interested in the empirical history of philosophy rather than its ideal recasting, and its relationship to other literary forms. Literature itself has evolved much further beyond Hegel’s place and time, most obviously in fiction. In addition to the logical systematization and comprehensiveness that Hegel knew as philosophy, in Hegel’s German culture intimate relationships existed between philosophy and literature.  In the empirical world, this was not the case everywhere. We shall turn to the topic of uneven development shortly.

The Soviet approach to philosophy as a historical phenomenon is more satisfactory than Hegel’s philosophy of the history of philosophy in principle, though the Soviets’ execution did not necessarily live up to its principle. The professionalization of Soviet historiography of philosophy in the 1960’s enabled an approach less bounded by dogmatic polemics. [31] Since the post-Stalin Soviet approach allowed the acknowledgment of the progressive aspects of intellectual patrimony, philosophies of the past could be treated with critical objectivity up until the appearance of Marx and Engels. As Marxism-Leninism was supposed to have solved the intractable problems of philosophy, the enforced Soviet ideology tended to freeze the historical picture at this point. Soviet philosophy continued to provide insightful critiques of positivism and irrationalism, but one could not claim that it sublated all philosophy up to its present (and in fact, no one has really succeeded in this). But Soviet historians of philosophy could be more generous at times even to post-Marxian bourgeois thought. [32]

However useful one approach or the other may be in assessing philosophy’s progress in relation to the evolution of knowledge and society, they both leave out aspects of the development germane to our present concern. Since we mentioned Hegel, let us pick an example.

In contrast to the interaction of philosophy and literature in the German milieu, we see a highly uneven development in Britain during the same historical period. The conduit for German philosophy’s importation into Britain was not British philosophers, consumed by empiricism, but literary people, poets like Coleridge and literary kibitzers like Henry Crabb Robinson. Coleridge wrote prose as well as poetry, but whether he is considered original or derivative it seems he would belong to the history of philosophy. And we know that John Stuart Mill harked back to Coleridge as a counterbalance to the lopsidedness of the philosophical heritage he inherited. Taking these and other historic examples, localized in time and place, philosophy seems to be its time only partially apprehended in thought.

Novelty . . . and the autodidact

Standing outside the normal process by which intellectual traditions are transmitted, the autodidact may embody the spirit of his age in an unusually direct way. For the same reason, his relation to the past is apt to be distorted: his intellectual roots descend haphazardly, putting down feelers here and there as they happen to find nourishment.

— George W. Stocking, Jr. [33]

We have been pursuing, alternately, the questions of form and content in relation to genre. We have touched on the question of whether the historical trajectory of philosophical development in national or civilizational traditions follows an evolutionary development which can be related to genre manifestations and boundaries (and relatively recently in time, professionalization). The question of originality also surfaced when comparing the literary exploitations of philosophical ideas to their presence in texts traditionally categorized under the rubric of philosophy. Now let us consider whether literary people have dealt with the reality of their age and anticipate the future in ways the “professional” philosophers have missed.

The most obvious candidates can be found in one genre, or a genre within a genre—namely, science fiction. By its very nature, science fiction thrives on the future, and on philosophical conundrums raised by science, technology, and social change. While precedents can be found in earlier centuries, the 19th century gave birth to science fiction and the future. One conventional starting point is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). Science fiction, whether its innovations become part of reality or forever remain in the realm of the imaginary, has presented us with ontological, epistemological, social, political, ethical, and existential dilemmas which could not have emerged prior to a stage of scientific and technological development at which future, potential, or merely speculative possibilities could be delineated.

There are numerous science fiction authors who have presented fundamental philosophical challenges. I will just cite a few: H. G. Wells, Olaf Stapledon, Philip K. Dick, Samuel R. Delany, Stanislaw Lem. Lem is known also for his major philosophical treatise Summa Technologiae (1964). Given how many key works were completed prior to the technological explosion of the past 35 years or so and yet remain strikingly contemporary, one wonders whether there is anything fundamentally new to imagine beyond variations on established themes, or whether human imagination has reached the end of the line.

But now I wish to return to two prior historical moments to address my key questions. I have already mentioned British Romanticism in relation to philosophy, with the briefest mention of how it contrasted with the German situation. While Coleridge represents the “right” wing of British Romanticism, Shelley and Byron also grapple with philosophical concepts (Shelley more so) from the “left.” However, all three poets came out of a highly educated social stratum. By contrast, William Blake, an autodidact and radical artisan, does not all fit with any officially recognized intellectual tradition. [34] Blake, except for an early defense of Thomas Paine in his notebooks, is quite at odds with the Enlightenment, but he does not really belong to the Counter-Enlightenment either. Blake cannibalizes Biblical and other sources for his unique perspective, not to turn the clock back but to jump ahead of the historical conjuncture in which he finds himself and envision an apocalypse which will overturn the oppressive social system in which he finds himself. Blake certainly did not write in any way a philosopher of our time or his would deem acceptable. Even by poetic criteria some of his poetic works are so obscure on account of the individual mythology that Blake created, that a century had to pass before his mythology could be deciphered. (Also, while there have been upsurges of Blake’s popularity among the intelligentsia and beyond at key historical moments, Blake did not fully find his audience both academic and popular until the 1960s.) The esoteric side of Blake and his paradoxical relationship to modern ideas notwithstanding, Blake penetrated more deeply into the logic of domination than his contemporaries, seeing the bourgeois order (religion and clerisy, marriage and sexual relations, child-rearing, poverty and charity), its philosophy and unexamined assumptions, as yet another oppressive stage of class rule. Blake’s philosophical positioning is unique to his situation and could not be duplicated in another era. [35]

Skipping ahead to another critical historical moment, let us consider another autodidact, who contributed something original to fiction—Herman Melville. In Moby Dick (1851), Melville wrestled with the fundamental, irresolvable philosophical and social contradictions of his time. [36] We see the clash of perspectives: primitive religion and superstition, Christianity, empiricism, rational calculation and the profit motive, and Ahab’s peculiar form of superstition and rebellion against the cosmic order that represents what is new in society and augurs the future. [37] As with other practitioners of philosophical bricolage, one has to trace Melville’s relation to Calvinism, Transcendentalism, German philosophy, and other sources.

The punchline

At this point, one might perceive this essay as a collection of various literary and philosophical specimens—more varied than usual and not obviously locatable in a specific critical-philosophical lineage—strung together into an inconclusive argument. Each section of this essay is inconclusive, as my purpose was to summarize and illustrate just about every approach and consideration germane to the philosophy-and-literature genre question, from the vantage points of form and content.

I have not only “overextended” myself in terms of the scope of material covered, but there is also a conspicuous omission. I do not find it fruitful to consider philosophy as merely one form of literature, or to reduce it to edifying conversation, or to demonstrate the instability of textual meaning. Anyone interested in what is loosely termed “postmodernist” approaches can find an abundance of such material elsewhere. I do not consider any of that useful for my purpose. A preoccupation with the subversion of meaning is intellectual parasitism; I am seeking out truth content. The deconstructive approach may also institute new forms of philosophical writing, but to what end?

I have also deliberately bypassed the ideologically conceived dichotomy of the pseudo-categories of “continental” and analytical philosophy. This mapping of the philosophical terrain is neither legitimate nor exhaustive.

Why then is it so important to focus on the genre question, if it is not merely a pedantic exercise? Does it matter whether the history of philosophy should be demarcated from “intellectual history” as a whole, or even more broadly, the entire history of ideas whether promulgated by those labeled intellectuals or not?

A narrow justification, though perhaps not of interest to the average person, would be that at least we might learn something of the properties of different kinds of texts, or of the properties they are ascribed as they are socially instituted/institutionalized.

The bigger payoff is what can be learned of the novelty, development, communicability, and apprehension of conceptual structures via the various textual genres. My original goal was to pose the genre question in relation to academic specialties in philosophy having coalesced relatively recently, particularly “Africana Philosophy,” an overarching category comprising the entire African diaspora, including other named specialties “African Philosophy,” originating as a coordinated area of study in 1945, and more recent codifications of “Black” or “African American Philosophy” and even “Afro-Caribbean Philosophy.” This entire “tradition,” created by academic fiat, draws its sources—not without controversy—from a number of genres. I realized that I could not pursue any thesis I was formulating without a preliminary formulation of the general question of genre.

If philosophy as we know involves systems of abstract concepts as its highest formulation, how do they evolve?  Do we find ideas first elaborated explicitly, systematically, and logically, and then expressed in other ways in order to make them comprehensible and demonstrate their applicability? Do we begin with symbolic constructs or narratives, and later extract the systems of ideas implicit in them? In what ways, and with respect to which sorts of ideas, do we find novelty emerging?

All these questions are delineated according to the output of the past two centuries. When we find ideas embodied in the category of literature, are the ideas themselves new, or do they offer something different? We know that literature has the virtue not only of illustrating concepts in the abstract but demonstrating how human beings function in situo. Hence we have existentialist fiction as well as explicit logical expositions. Borges deals not in our customary life dilemmas, but shows us the consequences of what the world would be like if structured according to certain philosophical notions and reveals the metaphysical anxiety generated by the possibilities of doubling and infinite regress. Science fiction has given us new existential conundrums to unravel.  Interestingly, our high tech world of the past 35 years has made our living more abstract, and now even science-fictiony, yet many of the originators of ideas second-nature to younger generations have not felt comfortable with the world they anticipated. [38] Comedy, the epistemological genre par excellence, has become the most efficacious vehicle of social critique, but it has also been easily coopted by the culture industry into the culture of cynicism that pretends to be above it all while being bound and binding others to the status quo.

The final and most important question concerns the future. If there is more novelty to be gained in our way of thinking, from where will it come, that is, in addition to a massive political/cultural shift that would foster qualitative novelty? From revolutionary new scientific discoveries and theories? From philosophy? From literature and the arts? From direct or indirect discourse? From explicit reasoning or the exploitation of irony? Will we just play out our existing stock of ideas until terminated by our likely self-destruction, or can we anticipate a leap to be made? I hope that this idiosyncratic survey of the genre question serves to stimulate the elaboration of a global historical perspective on these fundamental questions.

Notes

1. Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. New York: International Publishers, 1971.

2. Paul Radin, Primitive Man as Philosopher, foreword by John Dewey (1927). 2nd rev. ed. New York: Dover Publications, 1957.

3. Paulin J. Hountondji, African Philosophy: Myth and Reality, trans. Henri Evans with the collaboration of Jonathan Rée, introduction by Abiola Irele. 2nd ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996. 1st English edition, 1983.

4. Edmund Husserl, “Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man,” lecture delivered by Edmund Husserl, Vienna, 10 May 1935; referred to also as “The Vienna Lecture.”

5. See Andrea Wilson Nightingale, Genres in Dialogue: Plato and the Construct of Philosophy. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. This is a study of the development of Platonic dialogue as a conscious constrast to other forms of discourse.

6. See The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Harold Beaver. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1976.

7. See Philosophy and Its Past by Jonathan Rée, Michael Ayers, Adam Westoby. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: The Humanities Press, 1978.

8. In addition to surveys in English of Soviet philosophy, there are several books published by the erstwhile Soviet publishing house Progress Publishers in Moscow, most notably those authored by Theodore I. Oizerman. See especially Problems of the History of Philosophy (1973), and Principles of the Theory of Historical Process in Philosophy with A.S. Bogomolov (1986). See my reviews of both books. All of my works cited can be found on my web site autodidactproject.org.

9. J. N. Mohanty, Explorations in Philosophy: Essays by J.N. Mohanty. Volume 1: Indian Philosophy; ed. Bina Gupta. New Delhi; Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

10. For a striking study of this phenomenon see: Maurice S. Lee, Slavery, Philosophy, and American Literature, 1830-1860. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

11. See Philosophy Now’s guidelines for authors: philosophynow.org/authors. Note that the submission guidelines for The Philosophers' Magazine are more stringent, as the magazine’s mission is to popularize academic philosophy. See pdcnet.org/tpm/Submission-Guidelines for guidelines; the online site and magazine itself can be found at philosophersmag.com.

12. See: Mark D. Jordan, “A Preface to the Study of Philosophic Genres,” Philosophy and Rhetoric, vol. 14, no. 4, Fall 1981, pp. 99-211. Michael A. Peters, “Academic Writing, Genres and Philosophy,” Educational Philosophy and Theory, vol. 40, no. 7, December 2008, pp. 819-831. Michael A., Peters, ed., Academic Writing, Philosophy and Genre. Chichester, West Sussex, UK; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009.

13. Arthur C. Danto, “Philosophy and/as/of Literature,” Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, vol. 58, no. 1, September 1984, pp. 5-20.

14. For a general survey of the field see A Companion to the Philosophy of Literature, ed. Garry L. Hagberg and Walter Jost. Chichester, West Sussex, UK; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

15. See Joseph B. Yesselman, “Mark Twain and Spinoza: A Spinozistic Commentary on Mark Twain’s What is Man?,” last rev. September 18, 2006. Also of interest is Patrick J. Keane, “Mark Twain, Nietzsche, and Terrible Truths that can Set Us Free,” Numéro Cinq Magazine, vol. IV, no. 5, May 2013.

16. On Wright’s reading and sources, see Michel Fabre, Richard Wright: Books & Writers. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1990.

17. For the philosophical import of 20th century poet Wallace Stevens, see Simon Critchley, “Philosophy as Poetry: The Intricate Evasions of As,” in What Philosophy Is: Contemporary Philosophy in Action, ed. Havi Carel and David Gamez, with a foreword by Simon Blackburn (London; New York: Continuum, 2004), pp. 185-200.

18. Michael Boylan and Charles Johnson, Philosophy: An Innovative Introduction: Fictive Narrative, Primary Texts, and Responsive Writing. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2010.

19. On the peculiarity of Borges’s work see first my essay “Borges Ironizing Idealism: I Dream Too Much,” then my detailed analyses of “The Congress,” “The Aleph,” and “Pierre Menard.” My Borges web guide links to materials on my web site and elsewhere.

20. Literary Philosophers: Borges, Calvino, Eco, ed. Jorge J. E. Gracia, Carolyn Korsmeyer, Rodolphe Gasché. New York: Routledge, 2002. Most of the Borges-related essays are available online. For contents and links see my Borges web guide. The essays can be found on the criticism page of the Borges Center: borges.pitt.edu/criticism/articles-books-dissertations. The introductory essay by Carolyn Korsmeyer, “Literary Philosophers: Introductory Remarks,” pp. 1-13, aptly summarizes the issues related to genre, but is not available online.

21. Jorge J. E. Gracia, “Borges’s ‘Pierre Menard’: Philosophy or Literature?”, in Gracia et al, pp. 85-107. See also my commentary: “Borges Revisited (10): ‘Pierre Menard’: Philosophy or Literature?”.

22. Deborah Knight, “Intersections: Philosophy and Literature, or Why Ethical Criticism Prefers Realism,” in Gracia et al, pp. 15-26. See pp. 24-25. Not online.

23. See Hountondji.

24. Henry Sussman, “The Writing of the System: Borges’s Library and Calvino’s Traffic,” in Gracia et al, pp. 149-164.

25. Wladimir Krysinski, “Borges, Calvino, Eco: The Philosophies of Metafiction,” in Gracia et al, pp. 185-204.

26. Lois Parkinson Zamora, “Borges’s Monsters: Unnatural Wholes and the Transformation of Genre,” in Gracia et al, pp. 47-84. See pp. 65-66 for quotation and its context.

27. William Irwin, “Philosophy and the Philosophical, Literature and the Literary, Borges and the Labyrinthine,” in Gracia et al, pp. 27-45.

28. For additional references, see my bibliography on Philosophical Style.

29. Evgenia V. Cherkasova, “Philosophy as Sideshadowing: The Philosophical, the Literary, and the Fantastic,” in Carel and Gamez, pp. 200-208. The quotes come from p. 201, 203, and the long quote from p. 204.

30. Jamila M. H. Mascat, “When Negativity Becomes Vanity: Hegel’s Critique of Romantic Irony,” Stasis, 2013, no. 1, pp. 230-245. http://www.stasisjournal.net/all-issues/1-politics-of-negativity/13-when-negativity-becomes-vanity-hegel-s-critique-of-romantic-irony.

31. Evert van der Zweerde, Soviet Historiography of Philosophy: Istoriko-filosofskaja Nauka. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997. (Sovietica; v. 57) See also my “Soviet Historiography of Philosophy: Review Essay.”

32. John Ryder, Interpreting America: Russian and Soviet Studies of the History of American Thought; foreword by Nikita Pokrovsky, Moscow State University. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1999.  See also my review: http://autodidactproject.org /bib/pragmabib-a.html#rydera.

33. George W. Stocking, Jr., Victorian Anthropology (New York: Free Press; London: Collier Macmillan, 1987), p. 112.

34. E. P. Thompson deals with Blake’s placement in the antinomian tradition in Witness Against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law. New York: The New Press, 1993.

35. For my musings on Blake’s significance see my collocations of e-mails: “William Blake in the Universe of Knowledge: Philosophy, Genres, & Critical Method” and “William Blake and Quantum Mechanics — NOT! Blakes for Our Time?”.

36. My inspiration for approaching Melville comes from C.L.R. James, Mariners, Renegades, and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In, with an introduction by Donald E. Pease. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College: University Press of New England, 2001. Original publication, 1953. James reads the hero of Moby Dick as the crew and Ahab as the totalitarian type of the future.

37. See my essay “Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and the Contradictions of Modernity.” On the central difficulties of interpreting the novel see my short piece “FEEDBACK: Melville the ‘Atheist’.”

38. See, e.g., interview with Stanislaw Lem, Shargh daily newspaper: english.lem.pl/home/interviews/qsharghq-daily-newspaper.

1 February 2015
© 2015 Ralph Dumain
4th Draft, not to be reproduced or published.


Links

Dewey, John. Foreword to Primitive Man as Philosopher (1927), by Paul Radin. 2nd rev. ed. New York: Dover Publications, 1957.

Gramsci, Antonio. Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. New York: International Publishers, 1971.

Husserl, Edmund. “Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man,” lecture delivered by Edmund Husserl, Vienna, 10 May 1935; referred to also as “The Vienna Lecture.”

Hegel, G. W. F. Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T. M. Knox. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.

____________. Lectures on the History of Philosophy, 1805-6, trans. E. S. Haldane, 1892-6: see section on “Oriental Philosophy”.

Keane, Patrick J. “Mark Twain, Nietzsche, and Terrible Truths That Can Set Us Free,” Numéro Cinq Magazine, vol. IV, no. 5, May 2013.

Lem, Stanislaw, interview. Shargh daily newspaper.

Literary Philosophers: Borges, Calvino, Eco, ed. Jorge J. E. Gracia, Carolyn Korsmeyer, Rodolphe Gasché. New York: Routledge, 2002. Essays online at Borges Center:

Gracia, Jorge J. E. “Borges’s ‘Pierre Menard’: Philosophy or Literature?”, pp. 85-107.

See also Dumain’s commentary: “Borges Revisited (10): ‘Pierre Menard’: Philosophy or Literature?”.

Irwin, William. “Philosophy and the Philosophical, Literature and the Literary, Borges and the Labyrinthine,” pp. 27-45.

Krysinski, Wladimir. “Borges, Calvino, Eco: The Philosophies of Metafiction,” pp. 185-204.

Sussman, Henry. “The Writing of the System: Borges’s Library and Calvino’s Traffic,” pp. 149-164.

Zamora, Lois Parkinson. “Borges’s Monsters: Unnatural Wholes and the Transformation of Genre,” pp. 47-84. See also excerpts: Borges’s Monsters & Ars Combinatoria.

Mascat, Jamila M. H. “When Negativity Becomes Vanity: Hegel’s Critique of Romantic Irony,” Stasis, 2013, no. 1, pp. 230-245.

Mill, John Stuart. “Bentham” (1838) and “Coleridge” (1840), in The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume X—Essays on Ethics, Religion, and Society, ed. John M. Robson, intro. F.E.L. Priestley (Toronto: University of Toronto Press; London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985).

____________. On Bentham and Coleridge, with an introduction by F. R. Leavis. New York: Harper & Row, 1962. (Originally 1950.) Excerpts.

See also Dumain’s commentary: John Stuart Mill & the Dualities: Bentham & Coleridge.

The Philosophers' Magazine. Submission guidelines.

Philosophy Now guidelines for authors.

Oizerman, Theodore I. Problems of the History of Philosophy, translated from the Russian by Robert Daglish. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1973. (Original publication, 1973.) Link may be inactive. Contents & excerpts.

See also Dumain’s review.

Oizerman, Theodore I.; Bogomolov, A. S. Principles of the Theory of Historical Process in Philosophy, translated by H. Campbell Creighton. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1986. Contents.

See also Dumain’s review.

Poe, Edgar Allan. Eureka: A Prose Poem. New York: George P. Putnam, 1848.

_____________. “Eureka: A Prose Poem,” in The Science Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, ed. Harold Beaver. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1976.

_____________. “Mellonta Tauta.”

Excerpts from “Eureka” & “Mellonta Tauta”: Beyond Deduction and Induction: Towards Perfect Truth According to Edgar Allan Poe.

Rée, Jonathan. “Philosophy and the History of Philosophy,” in Philosophy and Its Past by Jonathan Rée, Michael Ayers, Adam Westoby (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: The Humanities Press, 1978), pp. 1-39. Excerpts.

___________. “Proletarian Philosophy: A Version of Pastoral?”, Radical Philosophy, no. 44, Autumn 1986, pp. 3-7.

Robinson, Henry Crabb. Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson (1869). Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, & Company, 1898.

Thompson, E. P. Witness Against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law. New York: The New Press, 1993.

See excerpts: E.P. Thompson on William Blake & Intellectual Traditions.

Twain, Mark. What Is Man? and Other Stories. 1906.

Yesselman, Joseph B. “Mark Twain and Spinoza: A Spinozistic Commentary on Mark Twain’s What is Man?,” last rev. September 18, 2006.

Zweerde, Evert van der. Soviet Historiography of Philosophy: Istoriko-filosofskaja Nauka. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997. (Sovietica; v. 57)

See also Dumain’s review: Soviet Historiography of Philosophy: Review Essay.

By Ralph Dumain:

African Philosophy, Politics, and the Division of Labor: Reading Essential Readings

Borges Ironizing Idealism: I Dream Too Much

Borges Revisited (10): ‘Pierre Menard’: Philosophy or Literature?

FEEDBACK: Melville the ‘Atheist’

Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and the Contradictions of Modernity

John Stuart Mill & the Dualities: Bentham & Coleridge

On the Contributions of John McClendon and Stephen Ferguson to the APA Newsletter on Philosophy and the Black Experience

Review: John Ryder, Interpreting America: Russian and Soviet Studies of the History of American Thought

Review: Theodore I. Oizerman, Problems of the History of Philosophy

Review: T. I. Oizerman & A. S. Bogomolov, Principles of the Theory of Historical Process in Philosophy

Soviet Historiography of Philosophy: Review Essay

William Blake and Quantum Mechanics — NOT! Blakes for Our Time?

William Blake in the Universe of Knowledge: Philosophy, Genres, & Critical Method

Bibliographies & Web Guides:

Biographical and Psychological Dimensions of Philosophy: Selected Bibliography

Irony, Humor, & Cynicism Study Guide

Jorge Luis Borges: Selected Study Materials on the Web

Philosophical Style: Selected Bibliography

Philosophy and the Division of Labor: Selected Bibliography

Philosophy of History of Philosophy & Historiography of Philosophy: Selected Bibliography

Reflexivity & Situatedness Study Guide

Salvaging Soviet Philosophy (1)

Wisdom, Philosophy & Everyday Life — Theoretical Perspectives: An Unconventional Guide

Additional References (2016- )

Bailey, Scott G.F. Sideshadowing and the Battle Against Inevitability, The Literary Lab (blog), January 25, 2011.

Lem, Stanislaw. “Todorov’s Fantastic Theory of Literature” (Polish 1973, English 1974), Science Fiction Studies, #4 (Volume 1, No. 4), Fall 1974. Reprinted in Microworlds: Writings on Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Franz Rottensteiner (New York: Harvest / HBJ, 1986), pp. 219-220. See also Stanislaw Lem on Borges & genre.

Morson, Gary Saul. “Sideshadowing and Tempics,” New Literary History, vol. 29, no. 4 [Critics without Schools?], Autumn, 1998, pp. 599-624.

Watson, Donald. Review Article: Boundaries of Genre (Gary Saul Morson, The Boundaries of Genre: Dostoevsky’s Diary of a Writer and the Traditions of Literary Utopia), Science Fiction Studies, #27 (vol. 9, part 2), July 1982.

Gary Saul Morson: Genre, Utopia, Sideshadowing, Tempics, Prosaics, Parody, Misanthropology, Philosophy, Literary Theory, Borges: Select Bibliography



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