Literature, Philosophy & the Imagination

Literature, Philosophy & the Imagination

Literature, Philosophy & the Imagination

Literature, Philosophy & the Imagination

Excerpt

The aim of this book is to provide a philosophical account (and to this extent, perhaps, a philosophical justification) of the humanities. In this respect--and in absolutely no other--it may be compared with Kant Critique of Pure Reason, which, in the eighteenth century, aimed to provide just such a justification for Newtonian science. I agree with Kant that the human Understanding is the "faculty of the mind" upon which natural science is founded, and my own modest addition is that the Imagination is that human faculty from whose active functioning the humanities stem.

Kant's justification of seventeenth-century science took plane geometry and mathematical physics for granted. In effect he said: "If we assume that Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics are the most reliable repositories of our knowledge about the world, what must be the structure of the human mind that could produce them?" In analogous fashion I take metaphysical constructions, the Russian novel, Greek tragedy, and the lyrics of Rilke, Wallace Stevens, and Hoelderlin for granted. And my question then is: "If we assume that such works as Hamlet, Richard III, Oedipus Rex, Four Quartets, Plato Dialogues, Don Quixote, and the plays of Schiller, Brecht, and Pirandello are among the most brilliant repositories of poetic making and human culture, what must be the structure of the human minds that could produce them? . . ."

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