Literature and philosophy

Posted on ..

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 on 5 June 2013

Nobel Prize winner Albert

Nobel Prize winner Albert Camus for sure.

Peta on 6 June 2013

Anita Brookner - for bringing

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

dave on 6 June 2013

Dostoyevski maybe? Voltaire

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

Freddie on 6 June 2013

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 Gra… on 7 June 2013

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 on 8 June 2013

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 on 8 June 2013

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 on 12 June 2013

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.

Philosophy Gra… on 23 June 2013

Also, Goethe!

Also, Goethe!

Charles on 24 June 2013

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 on 26 June 2013

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."

In reply to by John Taylor

Karl Young on 6 July 2022

Comenius in the English speaking world

Yes, Comenius sounds important (though said by someone who’s lack of knowledge should preclude comment !). But I just wanted to say re. your comment about his low profile in the English speaking world, that maybe this segment on Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time will help a little;

In reply to by John Taylor

Peter Adamson on 6 July 2022


Yes absolutely - as it happens I just heard the same BBC show mentioned in the other comment here, which was very interesting. So I made a mental note to cover him when I get to the 17th century. As it happens I will be mentioning him in passing also very soon, in the episode on Ramus.

Peter Adamson on 27 June 2013

Thanks for the suggestions

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

Yannick Kilberger on 28 June 2013

No love for the classics? The

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

Ken on 2 July 2013

Rumi! I mean you are already

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

In reply to by Ken

Peter Adamson on 2 July 2013

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 on 6 August 2013

Kafka and Dostoyevsky for

Kafka and Dostoyevsky for sure... and Tolstoy.

In reply to by Marcus

Peter Adamson on 6 August 2013

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 on 31 August 2013

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.

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