The Consolations of Literature

Maria Antonaccio

in A Philosophy to Live By

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199855575
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933198 | DOI:
The Consolations of Literature

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This chapter extends Murdoch’s retrieval of metaphysics into the debate over the role of literature in ethical inquiry. It challenges one of the standard interpretations of Murdoch as an antitheorist who defended the moral efficacy of art and narrative over “theory.” Although Murdoch was one of the first to argue that literature is “a way to understand and picture human situations,” she was not an antitheorist strictly speaking. Rather, her understanding of metaphysics offers a more complex notion of what it means to “theorize” in ethics than the definitions of theory often assumed by antitheorists. This chapter amplifies some of the implications of the distinction between form and contingency discussed in Chapter 2. I argue that Murdoch’s criticism of the way in which the unities of aesthetic form in literature can offer false consolation provides a test against which antitheorist claims about the moral efficacy of literature can be evaluated.

Keywords: theory and antitheory; rationalism; metaphysics; language; narrative; literary turn; reflexivity; the novel; realism; postmodernism

Chapter.  13689 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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