Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Many would acknowledge that works of literature seem have something to teach us about the world. But when one attempts to explain how this might work, one immediately runs into difficulty. In my project, I explain how different philosophers have dealt with this difficulty, as well as other difficulties that emerge from it. Moreover, I suggest propositional-knowledge accounts, or accounts that claim we gain propositional knowledge from reading literature, show we find propositions we believe in literature, not propositions we know. Further, I argue that we are able to gain non-propositional moral understanding from reading works of literature. Because works of literature can offer rich depictions of the inner lives of their characters, they can aid us in the skill of understanding the inner lives of others. Drawing from Iris Murdoch, I claim that our inner lives, or our “total visions of life,” play a significant role in moral life— making our skill of understanding the inner lives of others a type of moral understanding. Finally, I defend my view from those who claim the fact that literature does not engage in a scientific exploration of the human mind means it has little to tell us about our inner lives.
Petroff, Kathryn, "“No Frigate Like a Book”: An Argument for Moral Understanding through Literature" (2018). Honors Theses. 206.