Literature and philosophy

So here's a question. I've been thinking idly about how fun it will be to do an episode on Dante eventually (my first intellectual love). Also, writing an episode about adab (improving Arabic literature) and philosophy. This made me think: what other "literary" figures are there who would merit an episode in the History of Philosophy podcast?

Ed Mannino's picture

Nobel Prize winner Albert

Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus for sure.

Peta 's picture

Anita Brookner - for bringing

Anita Brookner - for bringing French aestheticism in to butt horns with the genre of women's writing

dave's picture

Dostoyevski maybe? Voltaire

Dostoyevski maybe? Voltaire as well but i'm sure he's on your list anyway

Freddie's picture

Sartre through the most

Sartre through the most productive period of his life? Kafka? The Modernist movement? Shakespeare? Rousseau was primarily a fiction author although he liked to blend his literature and thought together like in Émile, and his Confessions is quite like, and almost as influential, as Augustine's.

Philosophy Grad Student's picture

Of prose writers, I would

Of prose writers, I would suggest Montaigne, Voltaire, Virginia Woolf/Bloomsbury more generally, although the former two would probably have been included on philosophical merits anyway. Of poets, John Donne and TS Eliot jump to mind.

Peter Tarras's picture

Dante's contemporary

Dante's contemporary Francesco Petrarca for being one of the most important exponents of humanism. And for the sake of completeness Boccaccio as well.

Gizawi's picture

If you are covering the

If you are covering the history of philosophy without any gaps, and you are now adding the layer of literary works, does that mean you will cover De Sade? Maybe we can all live with some gaps?

Also Chinese and Indian philosophy are exactly what you are looking for. Both are very literary traditions. The foundational texts to Confucianism and Taoism are literary classics. Later on the Five Classics of Literature appear with some philosophical entries: The Golden Vase is an intricate critique of Neo-Confucianism by a Confucian of Hsun-Tzu's school disguised as an erotic novel (De Sade would be happy) Journey to the West is a Taoist reworking of a Buddhist story that has many Buddhist themes seen through Taoist eyes. It is also a possible spiritual sequel to the Ramayana. As for Indian philosophy, just a quick browse on the subject will speak for itself: Mahabharata, Ramayana (as well as its localizations into various languages and its sectarian retellings), Ancient Tamil Poetry, etc.

JMW's picture

T.S. Eliot seems to refer to

T.S. Eliot seems to refer to Dante as poet, philosopher, and mystical theologian in his "Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry" lectures. I would say, with a commentator above, that Eliot could qualify as a literary figure who constitutes a whole chapter in the history of philosophy alongside figures like Jacques Maritain and Joseph Pieper (i.e. those who tried to recover contemplation, including philosophical and literary contemplation, as a complete way of life).

You might also consider those poets Santayana calls philosophical poets, e.g. Goethe.

Evan Roane's picture

I recommend Iris Murdoch's

I recommend Iris Murdoch's philosophical and literary works for the subject of an episode. You might be able to get Scott More ( to do a Skype interview.

Philosophy Grad Student's picture

Also, Goethe!

Also, Goethe!

Charles's picture

Those that come to mind for

Those that come to mind for me include:
- Tolstoy
- Kazantzakis (of Zorba fame; could be thought of as a Greek existentialist)
- Camus (clearly)
- Orwell (as a political philosopher)

John Taylor's picture

Professor, I have been


I have been greatly enjoying your podcasts "without gaps" so far.

Might I suggest the Czech writer, John Amos Comenius for your philosophy without gaps? It would be a big gap to leave him out, especially for the philosophy of education and peace. I just read Comenius and World Peace/Comenius ind der Weltfriede, which shows that German academics are much more aware of his importance than the English speaking world. On the cover is a quote from Albert Schweitzer,

"He is the first philosopher who time and time again found himself required to tackle the problem of peace. With him, philosophy dares to enter the spheres of politics."

Peter Adamson's picture

Thanks for the suggestions

Thanks for the suggestions everyone! Will be a while before I get to most of them though...

Yannick Kilberger's picture

No love for the classics? The

No love for the classics? The Iliad, Odyssey, Gilgamesh's epic, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides...

Ken's picture

Rumi! I mean you are already

Rumi! I mean you are already in his neighborhood now,

Peter Adamson's picture

Yes, I'm planning to cover

Yes, I'm planning to cover Rumi in fact, when I look at philosophy's relation to Sufism.

Marcus's picture

Kafka and Dostoyevsky for

Kafka and Dostoyevsky for sure... and Tolstoy.

Peter Adamson's picture

The Russians have come up a

The Russians have come up a lot in discussions I've had on this, made me realize I may need a whole miniseries some day on Russian philosophy. I love the idea of doing Kafka!

Aron's picture

I think the notebooks

I think the notebooks Leonardo Da Vinci when you get to the Renaissance, especially his views on science, on the nature of the universe etc. And another I would definitely suggest are the writings of Galileo to show the break from Christian Aristotelianism that he symbolised as the father of modern Astronomy.