[The] puzzles and paradoxes of philosophical reflection are not best aired in the narrow, arid corridors of philosophical tracts; and that Plato was wrong to think that literature had nothing to offer philosophy. It is one thing to study John Stuart Mill’s defence of utilitarianism in ethics; quite another to read the passage in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866), where Raskolnikov tests utilitarianism to its limits by taking an axe and cleaving an old lady’s head in two. Illustrations of this sort might even persuade us that moral philosophy needs the novel for the fullest possible expression of its aims.That was the best part of this essay, which is on the rapidly disappearing field of philosophical novels.
Even with that wonderfully rich treasure trove of philosophical novels, it appears that academia routinely misuses and abuses them. If ever a Russian literature (in translation) course, for instance, is offered at most colleges and universities that are not the big-time research universities, it seems like that the focus is on the stories and rarely ever on the philosophical issues.
I spent three years in college and wrote three and a half stories but I read everything I could get my hands on. White Teeth is really the product of that time; it's like the regurgitation of the kind of beautiful, antiquated, left-side-of-the-brain liberal arts education which is dying a death even as I write this. Generally, an English Lit degree trains you to be a useless member of the modern worldWhen increasingly students are not led towards reading and understanding some of those masterful and insightful works, well, it becomes difficult for them to appreciate many other things in life, including this awesome satire from The Onion:
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