Philosophy



Literature and Philosophy: Emotion and Knowledge?


Isabella Wheater a1
a1 Keble College, Oxford

Abstract

Nussbaum attempts to undermine the sharp distinction between literature and philosophy by arguing that literary texts (tragic poetry particularly) distinctively appeal to emotion and imagination, that our emotional response itself is cognitive, and that Aristotle thought so too. I argue that emotional response is not cognitive but presupposes cognition. Aristotle argued that we learn from the mimesis of action delineated in the plot, not from our emotional response. The distinctions between emotional and intellectual writing, poetry and prose, literature and philosophy, the imaginative and the unimaginative do not cut along the same lines. That between literature and philosophy is not hard and fast: philosophy can be dramatic (eg Plato's dialogues) and drama can be philosophical (eg some of Shakespeare's plays), but whether either is emotional or not, or written in poetry or prose, are other questions.