The Novel and the Nature of Philosophical Argumentation

A Study of Iris Murdoch’s, Martha Nussbaum’s and Cora Diamond’s Philosophy of Literature

Iris Murdoch, Martha Nussbaum and Cora Diamond share a common interest in questions concerning the role and function of fiction in philosophical argumentation. Further, they all seem to share the thought that there are some aspects of philosophy that cannot be communicated in classical philosophical argumentation, but need a fictional form for it to be adequately expressed, communicated and conveyed. The question is, then, whether or not there are any philosophical thoughts and/or insight that require literary expression, and, further, if this is true, does it require a reevaluation of some dominant conceptions concerning the nature of philosophical argumentation. Three questions guide this research project: (1.) In what way, and for what reason, can literature (fiction) be ascribed a special and crucial role in philosophical reflection? (2.) Is there a certain type of philosophical reasoning, or a certain field of inquiry in philosophy, that requires a literary form if they are to be dealt with properly? (3.) In what ways are our common and widely accepted theories and norms of philosophical argumentation challenged by these discussions concerning the nature of philosophical argumentation and of the communication of philosophical thoughts? To deal with these questions, this research project will investigate Iris Murdoch’s philosophical and fictional writings, as well as the debate concerning these topics initiated by Nussbaum and Diamond, in the aftermath of Murdoch’s work.

A project funded by the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (Riksbankens jubileumsfond). Contact: Niklas Forsberg.