Philosophy & Literature

O.G. Rose
23 min readDec 21, 2022

Inspired by Parallax Sangha #8: O.G. Rose — Literature, Philosophy, and Tragedy

Photo by Victoria Strukovskaya

Speaking of literature and philosophy together can land you in trouble: when I was in college, I cannot count how many times I was shutdown for trying. I’ve never understood how the two could be separated, but this notion seems widespread, and not just from the side of English Departments. Philosophers will also be quick to disregard literary considerations from philosophical works, but why? From the people I knew, most of them interested in philosophy were also artists, and most of them found themselves interested in philosophy because of stories. They played Final Fantasy VII, saw Ghost in the Shell, read Lord of the Rings — and these stories were the gateways into interest in philosophy. I know that’s the case for me; additionally, I wanted to write stories and found it was impossible to do so in a manner I cared about without philosophical dilemmas or “big stakes.” I cannot prove it, but I would wager more people are interested in philosophy because of stories than might remember or care to admit, because it’s almost like a badge of honor to act as if our interest in philosophy was derived from “disinterest” and “non-subjective” reasons. But I’m not sure if this is true to life, which suggests that perhaps separating philosophy and literature will result in the devolution of both: it I think philosophy needs literature just as much as literature needs philosophy.

The reason literature and philosophy have been split perhaps starts in Plato, where poets are banished from the Republic. I already discussed this topic at Voicecraft when considering “Philosophy & Art,” whereas here I hope to focus more on literature, but I will still again note the work of Dr. Lake. From the paper, I note that ‘Patrick G. Lake makes an interesting argument […] that Plato is not against art in general, but against art that can’t be made to fit ‘within a philosophical project,’ which is why Plato allows Homer into the Republic. Dr. Lake also notes how ‘Socrates is open to ‘a defense of poetry […] that it is not only ‘pleasurable […] but also ‘beneficial,’ ’ which ironically means that our interpretations of Plato’s banishment that philosophy and literature should be divided is the exact opposite of what is suggested by Plato. Rather, philosophy and poetry must always be together: separating them through a misinterpretation of Plato would then have us, following that very misinterpretation, moralize leaving them separated. And so turns our world today.

The division between Analytical and Continental Philosophy may also be part of the problem, as well as “the object/subject divide.” The majority of people today have come to believe that subjects and objects should be considered separately, which means subjectivity is a threat to objectively (we are arguably all still Kantians). This means philosophy must be more scientific and mathematical, but why then do philosophy versus science? Gradually, philosophy has come to be seen as a waste of time, with Dr. Hawking even claiming that philosophy died. Philosophy is then forsaken, and that leaves literature to attempt to be itself without philosophical involvement, which means it is the kind of art that cannot be part of the Republic. But what do we care if philosophy is dead? There is no Republic, right? And so we are allowed to enjoy literature, but according to Plato it cannot be “beneficial” anymore, only “pleasurable,” which indeed many people seem to realize: the majority of my professors claimed that the point of literature was “pleasure” (a notion that seemed horrifically wrong to me even if I couldn’t articulate why, as does the notion “life is about being happy”). Why not watch Netflix then? Reading Cervantes wasn’t pleasurable — who were we fooling? And so both philosophy and literature suffer…

In my own work, I consider phenomenology often, which is very literary in my opinion, but that requires a disregard of “the subject/object divide,” and also an ontological belief that reality isn’t reducible to its smallest parts. Yes, things are partly their smallest parts, but not ultimately: the parts are not more real than the whole. They are equally real (though I will admit that I have sympathies for Dr. Terrence Deacon’s claim that the whole is more real than the parts), as it is the case that human subjectivity is as real as our experience of objects. Perhaps facts upon which we can all agree should be uniquely privileged in classrooms because of “tragic” conditions of finitude and human intersubjectivity (as argued by Jonathan Rauch in Kindly Inquisitors), but that is entirely different from arguing that “facts are most real” metaphysically and philosophically. Yes, perhaps facts are unique in helping people talk “across” subjectivities, but that simply means that facts play a unique and even necessary role in society and politics: we should not confuse this “tragic pragmaticism” with validating “an ontological hierarchy.” But, indeed, this mistake is widespread, which can neurotically lead us into acting as if we don’t subjectively consider the world when we obviously do in hopes of aligning ourselves with “facts” and “objectively,” which we can associate with “truest reality.” This results in strange pathological and neurotic behavior, but such is reasonable if subjectivity is an illusion.

There are other reasons why treating “stories like fictions” and thus “a waste of time” (though nobody says this directly) is likely self-defeating. I spoke about it with the magnificent Pae Veo in O.G. Rose Conversation #83, which I wrote about in “Humans Paint In ‘The State of Nature,’ ” but basically there is good reason to believe that there is something about art which is wired into the very essence of human beings. I often mention G.K. Chesterton and his point that we know cavepeople liked to paint, and we also know that storytelling and oral traditions are ancient parts of human history. More must be said, but the point is that there is “reason to think” art and creativity are essential parts of human existence, and so anything which threatens art and creativity threatens human essence. The stakes are high, which suggests why the question matters regarding, “How do philosophy and literature relate?” (which brings to mind “What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?”)

Kids are obsessed with stories and creativity, and they’re also obsessed with asking, “Why?” In children, we see a remarkable blend of art and creativity, and Nietzsche calls his highest metamorphosis “the child.” Children also seem uniquely “intrinsically motivated,” which might suggest the bringing creativity and philosophy together can help us with problems of boredom, seeing little reason to live, and the overall “Meaning Crisis” (as Dr. Vervaeke calls it). In my view, “the problem of motivation” is severe today, and my experience has lead me to believe that bringing philosophy and art together can go a long way to helping with this problem (I also see Nietzsche as a thinker concerned with deconstructing “Bestow Centrism,” which leads us into a life of creativity and thought, for we need nothing outside of ourselves to create or think). Perhaps not, but I think children are a case study suggesting that this angle is worth considering.

I

In The Iconoclast, Samuel Barnes brilliantly argues that philosophy is “The Meta-Question,” and notes how everything can be a topic of philosophy. There can be a “philosophy of science,” a “philosophy of family,” even “a philosophy of philosophy.” Similarly, I think it is possible to have a “story” of just about everything: a “story of family,” a “story of work,” even a “story of story.” René Girard warned that it is similarity which breeds conflict more than difference, and perhaps it is precisely because of this “meta-dimension” of story and philosophy that we see the two so often in conflict. Regardless, it also seems equally difficult to avoid philosophy and story, for I naturally experience the world in a manner that makes it material for story and seem like it’s part of a story, as I cannot avoid thinking, which means I’m naturally inclined to deal with the material of philosophy. Memory seems structured according to narrative, and understanding something as meaningful almost seems like it must entertain philosophy (however basic of a level). I have argued elsewhere that philosophy is where we end up if we think long enough, and similarly story seems to be where we end up the moment we connect points of our experience together into something meaningful. It is precisely because both story and philosophy are uniquely “meta” that we seem capable of always employing them and furthermore must employ them. Otherwise, our meaning-making capacities would be limited, and perhaps evolutionarily this would hinder our survival. Hard to say.

Mr. Barnes make the case for the omnipresence of philosophy beautifully in his text, and so I will focus alternatively on the omnipresence of story, which will suggest that we need to practice story in more difficult forms, as found in literature, so that we might master it and live better lives (as is the case with philosophy). My thinking is indebted to Davood Gozli and John David, with whom I read Hayden White, a genius who made clear that history is literature, and so disregarding literature would be for philosophy to disregard history as well. Ultimately, without ideas, we could not make stories, but without stories ideas would be fragments we could not assemble into works we understood or that could motivate us meaningfully. In my opinion, philosophy generally came to disregard “the problem of motivation” by handing it off to economics, and I think in this act philosophy also lost its interest in narrative. But this hurts philosophy in more areas than just motivation, such as philosophy’s very capacity to ground itself in lived, embodied, and “em-storied” experience.

Interpretation is unavoidable, and stories are interpreted, which doesn’t mean everything we interpret is a story, but it does mean everything is “similar enough materially and ontologically” for interpretation to be everywhere possible. This “similarity” seems to be “aesthetic-ness,” per se, which is discussed in “The Blank Canvas” by O.G. Rose as how “all information is taken in”; as a result, philosophy must always be “about something aesthetic,” as story must always be about the same. Science must be as well, yes, but we cannot have “a science of” everything like we can a philosophy and story of everything, which means that philosophy and art are things which average people employ and enact constantly (perhaps without realizing it): ideas and aesthetics simply compose the mass majority of our everyday lives, whereas to really do science I must follow a particular method (possibly in a laboratory). The special method of science can be precisely why it is so special, so please do not take what I am saying as a hit against science. Rather, my interest is in considering philosophy and literature, and my point is that the two seem radically connected in phenomenological experience, and since they are so connected and unique as “meta-dimensions,” I think there is reason to believe they have something to do with another.

Considering the following list:

Dogs
Blue
Mountains
Science
Mathematics
Sam
Dirt
This Grain of Dirt

A philosophy and story of all of these is possible. Some easier than others (“the story of dogs” seems easier to imagine than “the philosophy of dogs”), yes, but the point is that it’s always possible. “The Story of Blue” quickly sounds like we’re going to get into the history of the color, it’s different uses, what it means to people, what is symbolizes, and so on. “The Philosophy of Dogs” could be about the inaccessible subjective experience of dogs (in honor of Thomas Nagel), the way people think about owning and training dogs, and so on. In “Getting to Philosophy,” I noted something Raymond K. Hessel brought up on how basically every page on Wikipedia eventually leads to the Philosophy page, and I would wager that something similar probably applies to Literature. I don’t know, but I would be surprised if every Wikipedia page didn’t eventually lead to a work of Literature, suggesting again overlap between the fields.

As experience itself is unavoidable (only nothing is something that cannot be experienced), so philosophy and story seem unbound and able to be applied to anything, which might suggest that something about philosophy and story is part of the very essential structure of experience. Experience is more real than raw material facts for us, even if there is a sense in which facts are more real between people (for they better conform interpretation to them versus be conformed to interpretation, though not perfectly), and since everything we undergo is experienced, this would suggest that we are perpetually in the business of living according to something that seems to essentially combine the material of story and philosophy. Taking them both seriously then would suggest that we take seriously our very experience, which I would wager we must take seriously if we are to be human well (for whom experience seems so unique and important).

If we correctly interpret a text, no bells rings to confirm we’ve succeeded; likewise, if we find the right philosophy, we never know it for sure. Both fields force us to come to terms with something that we believe in and for ourselves, which is a remarkably difficult accomplishment. This is existentially destabilizing, as is encounter with difference in general (partly precisely because we can never enter other minds). Philosophy, literature, and difference are all similar in their inability to ever grant us certainty, and this too would suggest overlap between literature and philosophy. Experience is a thing which is uncertain in its very character, and if we go through life never considering literature and story, then if we one day find ourselves having to confront the nature of experience and subjectivity (say under Pluralism), we will not be ready for it and likely respond poorly — which might have severe political and sociological consequences.

In my opinion, a philosophy which took literature seriously would be less prone to fall into empty nihilism and relativism, for we would find ourselves having to decide if “the impossibility of knowing the author’s intention” means “reading is a waste of time” or if that means we are in the business of interpretation and owning the distinction between “coherence” and “correspondence” (as discussed throughout O.G. Rose, such as The Conflict of Mind). If we associate “possibility of knowing objective truth” with “worth doing,” then we’ll quickly cease reading — as is the case with living everyday life. Certainty is impossible, and literature can be training in how to come to terms with that reality.

In my talk with Dr. Cadell Last on “Absolute Knowing,” I made a distinction between “The Truth” and “The Absolute,” with the first being “everything that is the case” (alluding to Wittgenstein) and the second being “everything that is the case, plus us (ever-reconstituting everything)” (which I associate with Hegel). Literature is clearly in the business of “The Absolute,” while philosophy has been able to act like it could be in the business of “The Truth,” a move literature cannot so readily make — but regardless both have suffered due to the focus on “The Truth” at the expense of “The Absolute.” Hayden Wright provides further reason to emphasize “The Absolute” in warning that ‘all discourse constitutes the objects which it pretends only to describe realistically and to analyze objectively,’ and this would suggest that philosophies of “The Truth” are in denial of their real character (as is perhaps natural though if it has no training in literature to handle existential anxiety).¹ Wright further claims:

‘[…] discourse itself must establish the adequacy of the language used in analyzing the field to the objects that appear to occupy it. And discourse effects this adequation by a prefigurative move that is more tropical than logical.’²

This suggests Foucault, who Wright speaks on, and also suggests why associating “literature with truth” and “philosophy with rationality” (in my language) might be useful. Wright seems to suggest that “all thought is literary thought,” for thought can never escape a discourse which partly constitutes it; likewise, philosophy can never escape being constituted by a subjectivity. Both are known through and with subjectivity, and yet cannot be reduced to taste.

It is noteworthy how both philosophy and literature seem to be matters of opinion but also not. How Fiction Works by James Wood is a masterful account of how:

1. ‘First person narration is generally more reliable than unreliable,’ precisely because it doesn’t deny the subjectivity we can’t escape.³

2. The advantages of ‘indirect style’ in its invitation for us to ask about narration.⁴

3. How ‘the longer finger of […] irony’ touches everything.⁵

4. How characters must dialogue using ‘the words they might us.’⁶

5. The superiority of ‘thisness,’ meaning description which kills abstraction in favor of particularity.⁷

And so on. Again, there is something about literature which is a matter of taste, and yet at the same time there are indeed principles which constitute “good literature” versus “bad literature.” I also see an overlap in what Wood writes:

‘We grow, as readers, and twenty-year-olds are relative virgins. They have not read enough literature to be taught by it how to read it.’⁸

I think the same applies to philosophy: we don’t know how to philosophize until after decades of philosophizing. This suggests there is something “alive” and “aging” about both fields, which is also problematic, because we can decide at twenty that “there is nothing to them,” and in fact we will never undergo counter-experiences to make us realize otherwise. If we spend our free time not reading or philosophizing, then we will indeed live a life that seems to confirm “there is nothing to them” — we will lose something and also lose the capacity to recognize we lost something (a point which brings Kierkegaard’s “total despair” to mind). Similarly, if we approach philosophy and literature incorrectly, nothing will occur to make us realize we approach them incorrectly — a point which can produce anxiety. Fortunately, a life without any anxiety is hardly lived.

II

Thinking is always prefigured, and what we experience is only meaningful if we think about it (we dialectically “read” the world through a dance between thinking and perceiving). I think in a language, and if a book is translated from German to English, my thinking is bound within and to that translation if I only know English (a point that suggest “the true isn’t the rational”). To train in literature is like “entering a new language” and for us to train in “thinking the nonrational,” which is somewhat paradoxical and yet necessary (for we are “contradictory beings,” A/B). Failure to think literarily is for us to surrender capacities for us to have some control and say over how our thinking is “prefigured,” which would make us vulnerable to “capture” (Deleuze). Furthermore, arguably all topics of thought are translated into literature, so failure to think literarily could be failure to think. Hayden White has us ask, “What isn’t a genre of literature?” — and we might answer “science,” but how often is science presented to us as a mere chronicle of facts and information? Rarely, and if it is, we don’t care much for it.

‘Truth was not equated with fact,’ White tells us, ‘but with the combination of fact and the conceptual matrix within which it was appropriately located in the discourse.’⁹ This beautifully captures how philosophy and literature interweave together and why we are in the business of “The Absolute” not just “The Truth.” Until we know the story of something, we arguably don’t know “it” but only “an abstraction of it.” To be educated is to know stories, it seems, for stories capture the many layers of a phenomena (however imperfectly), and to know things without all those dimensions is not to know them much at all. How different the world might be if instead of “just the facts” we said “just the story”…

Great literature somehow “points beyond itself” without making that external dimension explicit, which is very strange. How do symbols work? How do we “know” there is a subtext? This is all very mysterious and suggests how we can look at “the thing of a bookcase” and think “the idea of a bookcase,” layering reality like a painting. The strangeness of this act is so common that we lose a sense of the strangeness, but literature can help remind us of our active role in understanding the role, for we must actively think while reading versus passively receive. The more we accept our activity in experiencing the world, the more we might realize our need to own and condition our subjectivity and experience — a thought we will not have if we overly ascribe to the possibility of “objectivity.”

We live among people, and that means we live “between” people, worldviews, ideas, interpretations, and the like. Great literature often takes place “between” philosophies versus directly embody or depict a single philosophy, which helps it avoid propaganda and also can prove truer to life. Furthermore, knowing people often requires knowing what they don’t say more than what they do, and literature is an art in the unstated in the stated. This is subtext, and a philosophy which isn’t trained in literature will likely lack subjective and “between”-considerations, as will we as human beings. Phenomenology, in my view, is particularly at a loss without any honoring of subtext and “the between,” and so I don’t think it is by chance that the division of literature and philosophy has been accompanied by a degrading of phenomenology. Ironically, we come to (“practically”) treat subtext as if it not there and/or inaccessible, which primes us to be Kantians. Due to socialization, I also think that deep differences tend to be found in subtext and “the not present,” and so a people who cannot think “the not here” (and ultimately “the here/there,” as I discuss with Hegel) will also be a people for whom difference is not deeply experienced. We might praise diversity, but we will not honor it.

A few more points regarding literature and philosophy:

1. There is something about literature that doesn’t seem to care if we like it. This is dangerous, for could make literature elitist and totalitarian, but there’s another way in which it seems “non-taste”-based because it is true somehow, like mathematics. Math doesn’t care if we like it, and there is something about great works of literature that seem to suggest something true about the whole human condition even if we cannot put it into words. I don’t want to push this point too far, but indeed it feels like we can intuit that literature is great regardless how we feel about it (though that is precisely why it can used as power over us, like science, I would warn).

2. Literature is unique in putting a voice in our head and training us to hear a voice inside of us that isn’t (so much) our own. In this way, it can train us to be empathic and think according to a different subjectivity, which seems utterly necessary if we are to “become-other” like Hegel teaches (A/B).

3. Literature is a refined and often more demanding form of story: it is move advanced training at the gym, per se. To gain mastery over our subjective and intersubjective lives, literature is likely necessary, as regularly exercise and weight-lifting is necessary if we are to accomplish great physical tasks.

4. Arts train us in interpretation to do better, not to simply dismiss what we see as interpreted (a grave Postmodern mistake). Literature uniquely trains us in the interpretation and functioning of subjectivities, precisely in so deeply involving narrative voices and “voices in our heads.” If we disregard literature, our intersubjective capacities will suffer, and we will likely not grasp the depths of “tragedy” (“tradeoffs of competing goods”).

5. Art is a source of mental models, and without literature we will be missing mental models.

6. Literature seems strongly tied to memory, and if “memory is the mind’s air,” then a lack of literature will entail a lack of memory that will greatly hinder thinking. Augustine suggested that memory is where in the mind we encounter God, that belief in God is founded not in a “climbing to” (as is impossible for the finite), but “a realization back” (which puts God in control). Perhaps something similar applies to our humanity? Perhaps humanity cannot be “thought to” only “realized back?” Perhaps identity can only emerge from the experiences we’ve been through not thoughts (which are always more future based and thus abstract)?

7. Our response to literature might reflect our general response to Pluralism, either in a place of trying to erase subjectivity or instead wrestle with and grasp “essential difference.”

8. I would argue that ideas can be easier to rationalize than stories (which are more like webs of ideas that are not bound to a single ideology), and so stories might help us combat confirmation bias. Perhaps the brain wants to believe that literature and subjectivity don’t matter, for then it will not have to change or take into consideration other minds. “Solipsism” might be what every brain “naturally” tries to believe, for this provides us with ultimate “confirmation bias” and guarantees that we never have to change.

9. How can we know people if we don’t know their stories? We are more so reflected in the stories we consider most important than our ideas, and yet there is also something about “our deepest beliefs” that are important to our identity. This radical value and way identity seems to be reflected in ideas and stories further suggests overlap.

10. I think Philosophy which takes Lacan, Freud, and psychoanalysis seriously (say Continental Philosophy) more easily accepts the idea that philosophy needs literature, for the mind often works often in and through itself stories.

11. It seems natural for us to reference stories in conversation, as if the brain requires them to think well. Perhaps this suggests how the brain thinks in terms of metaphor and analogy, as discussed by Douglas Hofstader in Surfaces and Essences and George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in Metaphors We Live By? Indeed, this everyday tendency to allude to the arts might suggest an “essential operation” of the brain, which is to say that training in literature might be for us to train this essential feature. I believe it was Walker Percy who said a novel was basically an extended metaphor or a point that could be said no other way, and in this we can see the novel as advanced training in metaphoric reasoning. If metaphors and the brain are profoundly connected, then training in them could be paramount for empowering the mind.

12. A philosophy ignorant of literature may also prove ignorant of how self-deception, irony, etc. creep into our lives unnoticed.

13. We are motivated by experiences more than ideas, and so “storied ideas” are more likely to motivate than raw premises.

14. If nonrationality is the only way to avoid Nash Equilibria, then literature might be training in what can save philosophy, whereas unaided philosophy, which we are “always already” employing, will doom us.

III

Literature is not visual, and perhaps this is a reason why it can uniquely help us learn about ourselves and how our minds works, which a philosopher needs to be in the business of understanding. We rarely see ourselves but in a mirror, and even then we don’t see our brains. We see the bodies (and, if say surgeons, brains) of others, but they are not us: “we” as thinking entities are radically veiled and yet not veiled at all, for “thinking beings” entail concealment in their very operation. If our brains were visible, they would not work, and so there is something about “invisibility” which is essential to the very operations of life. If we do not come to terms with this, as perhaps literature can so emotionally and existentially train us, then we may act in a manner that cause life to function poorly.

Religions trained people for centuries in “living with the unseen,” and I would argue that this is a practical and “down-to-earth” skill, for we are unseen to ourselves. We are “(un)seen,” per se, and always must be such to function, as a book must be words on paper that aren’t just words on paper. Our most immediate experience is literary, and so failure to habituate ourselves to literature could prove an act which disregards our very immediacy. It only follows that our philosophy would suffer accordingly. Lastly, when we read literature, we enter a strange mental space where we are “here and yet there”: we are reading words on paper, yet also in “the movie in our head” of the story. This for me replicates “self-forgetfulness” (to allude to Timothy Keller), which I discuss extensively as a needed foundation for sociopolitical thinking, and of which is necessary for “communal ontology” and “becoming-other” in Hegel (as I discussed with Paul Robson). For me, this means literature can train us to practice “self-forgetfulness,” without which becoming Hegelian and making “The Absolute Choice” becomes impossible — but that must be discussed at another time.

At the end of the day, theory is unavoidable: we must live our lives through ideas, however good or bad they might prove. Ideas are unbound in being imagined, and so we are not limited in what we can think, which is both a blessing and a curse, for it is easy for us to think of that which will not work in or correspond with the world (utopian projects, idealisms, etc.). But imagination also provides us space for degrees of freedom from necessity and causation, which is a blessing (assuming we can handle the anxieties of freedom), and so ideas matter — the trick is learning to keep them in a place where they “correspond” with reality.

“Thinking” and “imagination” are often considered apart, but all thinking is through an act of imagination, as all imagination entails thinking. This is explored further in “Thinking Here and Thinking There” by O.G. Rose, which though focused on the relation between memory and imagination applies just as well to thinking. If this is the case, then training “imagination” is an act which trains thinking, and if thinking is impossible without imagination, then philosophy without literature is likely engaged in self-effacement. This is the case mentally, in our own minds, but there is also a risk of self-effacement in ideas coming to be that which cannot be realized into the world due to practical limitations — which is far higher if we haven’t submitted our philosophies to “The Story Test” (as I’ll call it).

Science without experiment is hypothesis, and I think the same applies to philosophy without story or embodiment. Now, it’s not always possible to live out every possible detail of a philosophy in one’s own life, and even if we could, that would only be one example according to whatever obstacles we happened to have thrown us, so the robustness of this support and evidence could be questioned. If we take our ideas though of Christianity and force Alyosha to live them out in the context of Ivan and Dimitri Karamazov, then we test them before critique and the possibility of living them. Dostoevsky for me is a prime example of someone who tests ideas in stories, not because that’s his objective, but precisely in trying to write great literature he cannot help but in the process test ideas in a genuine “showing.” Literature doesn’t test unless it is literature, and that means literature must try to be true to itself versus try to be “something that tests philosophy.” When it tries to test, it fails as a test.

As discussed in “Fiction Is the Mathematics of the Humanities” by O.G. Rose, literature can be seen as a “proof” of philosophical notions (following Austin Farrer), and for me literature functions as a “proof” for A/B versus A/A ontology. This is to say we likely are more Hegelian than Aristotelian (despite my love of Aristotle), and even if this is not ultimately the case, literature provides “good reason to think” in terms of Hegel versus Aristotle. Without literature, whether we end up as Hegelians, Aristotelians, Heideggerians, etc. just seems to be a matter of taste, a matter of personal preference for one “narrative structure” versus another. Yes, we certainly come to think Aristotle is more right than Plato if we prefer him, but why? Frankly, it often just seems to be a matter of opinion relative to factors that are hard to quantify, regardless how valid they might be. And by this, please don’t mistake me as saying that “proofs” and “qualifications” are necessary or that it is wrong to believe x without them; rather, I mean to say that literature can be extremely helpful for having “reason to think” Hegel is more right that Berkley (for example). Literature functions as a “proof” for how people are and the world works, and from this we can gain “reason to think” what the ontological nature of being might be like. Ultimately, I think literature leads us to a place where there is “reason to think” we need Absolute Knowing, but that claim must be justified elsewhere. Additionally, I will note that I also think economics and sociology are powerful tests of philosophy, which is to say that if a philosophy cannot be translated into economic or sociological terms, there is very good reason to be skeptical of it — but I will leave my thoughts on this “socioeconomic test” to Belonging Again.

In closing, I think accepting the validity of literature will also lead us to a place where we cherish phenomenology and the “common life” which David Hume defended, and that philosophy without literature is far more likely to fall into the mistakes of “autonomous rationality” which O.G. Rose has warned against constantly. Literature is a revelation that rationality is always organized relative to truth, and furthermore that life is more A/B than A/A. If that is the case, there is work for us to do — art demands practice.

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Notes

¹White, Hayden. Tropics of Discourse. “Introduction.” Baltimore and London. The John Hopkins University Press, 1978: 2.

²White, Hayden. Tropics of Discourse. “Introduction.” Baltimore and London. The John Hopkins University Press, 1978: 2.

³Wood, James. How Fiction Works. New York, NY: Farrer, Straus and Giroux, 2008: 5.

⁴Wood, James. How Fiction Works. New York, NY: Farrer, Straus and Giroux, 2008: 10.

⁵Wood, James. How Fiction Works. New York, NY: Farrer, Straus and Giroux, 2008: 25.

⁶Wood, James. How Fiction Works. New York, NY: Farrer, Straus and Giroux, 2008: 26.

⁷Wood, James. How Fiction Works. New York, NY: Farrer, Straus and Giroux, 2008: 67.

⁸Wood, James. How Fiction Works. New York, NY: Farrer, Straus and Giroux, 2008: 66.

⁹White, Hayden. Tropics of Discourse. “The Fictions of Factual Representation.” Baltimore and London. The John Hopkins University Press, 1978: 123.

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O.G. Rose

Iowa. Broken Pencil. Allegory. Write Launch. Ponder. Pidgeonholes. W&M. Poydras. Toho. ellipsis. O:JA&L. West Trade. UNO. Pushcart. https://linktr.ee/ogrose