Monday, July 13, 2009

Novels and Aristotelian Philosophy

In light of the previous post on learning from literature, it seemed good to take Martha Nussbaum's Love's Knowledge off the shelf for a bit of reading. Here is Nussbaum making one of the points I made toward the end of my last post, from a different angle and in different terms (Maggie Verver is a character in Henry James's The Golden Bowl):

And we now see another way in which novels can play an important role in the articulation of an Aristotelian morality. For novels, as a genre, direct us to attend to the concrete; they display before us a wealth of richly realized detail, presented as relevant for choice. And yet they speak to us: they ask us to imagine possible relations between our own situations and those of the protagonists, to identify with the characters and/or the situation, thereby perceiving those similarities and differences. In this way their structure suggests, as well, that much of moral relevance is universalizable: learning about Maggie Verver's situation helps us understand our own.

[Martha Nussbaum, Love's Knowledge, Oxford UP (New York: 1990) p. 95.]

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