Why Study Literature?

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Kooker
 
Reply Wed 9 Apr, 2008 01:50 pm
 
Khethil
 
Reply Sat 19 Apr, 2008 11:44 pm
@Kooker,
That's a whole lot of directions to be going in at once! :p

But if I take your meaning correctly, I'd agree. As to the basic question of Why Study Literature, its most poignant benefit I've found is the expansion of one's own mind.

Language compartmentalizes our memories. We who speak English primarily, think in English! Thus it seems to follow that as one's vocabulary, ability to express ideas and conceptualize increases, so does one's mind. Perspicuousness is invaluable! Communication, on the whole, lacks with most people. The ability to express yourself (and think clearly, with exactness), I believe, is in direct proportion to an individual's command of language.

The best way I know to expand ones' vocabulary and conceptualization skills is through literature.
 
saiboimushi
 
Reply Sun 27 Apr, 2008 04:06 pm
@Khethil,
Quote:
Subsequently, to ask the question: "What transferable skills does an English degree give you?" is to succumb to the influence of the corporate imagination before you have given yourself the opportunity for growth.

The study of English literature democratizes identity by widening the space of language through metaphor. No one metaphor, imagination, or myth stands atop the study of literature-to find yourself, look through the eyes of your own mind, unfetter your Fancy[1], as your own path is but a metaphoric step away.


I love metaphor because some things cannot be expressed without it. And I love it even more for the fact that most people could never understand it even if their lives depended on it. For when you use metaphor, you never are at risk of throwing pearls before swine. Nietzsche understood well that writing is as much of a means of concealment and exclusion as it is a means of communication and inclusion. You find your true equals in the people who appreciate your writing, and those who do not understand--well, they were never meant to understand, and it is better they never do, both for themselves and for you.

The best writing is not so much an act of expression as it is a search for true companionship. Never say too much, and never say it too plainly, lest you invite a host of fools to your sacred inner world, which they will defile and stereotype at the expense of your dignity and virtue. Readers who assume that a writer's first (or even their second and third) meaning is their "true" one, have been gently led into the sheepfold where they can do no mischief. There are realms beyond common apprehension that only a chosen few can inhabit, and there are different levels of truth for different souls. A writer who attempts to exhaust his vision, perhaps for the benefit of all "humanity," is himself an all-too-human animal if he is ever so effective as to succeed. And the one who is called "arrogant," who is condemned as an obfuscator--he pays the price for a love so deep that it requires only the best and highest of objects.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Mon 28 Apr, 2008 02:15 pm
@Kooker,
If the metaphor is not understood, the metaphor is useless. Some people, due to the lack of education, miss metaphors, and a great deal more. But this notion that the uneducated are best left in the dark, I think, is a dangerous leap towards elitism; saving decent education for the elite has been a hallmark of exploitation, and a necessary condition for the development of a society of elitism.

Nietzsche had no problem with elitism, instead, he chose to be elitism's greatest voice, and I still respect his mark of genius as a thinker. However, I think we can all agree that an interest in applying the principles of elitism to a human population, like applying the principles of strong determinism, is wholly misguided and destined to be catastrophic.

Fears of losing dignity for the uneducated reading and misunderstanding your work is nothing more than vanity. Even Nietzsche is read and misunderstood by the less fortunate, at the expense of his "dignity", or rather, popular perception. There is another old Chinese saying, Confucian, which I will inaccurately represent because I do not want to go searching the Analects for it: "It is best to be liked by good people, and hated by bad people".
Fear of losing virtue for having the uneducated reading and misunderstanding your work is just plain silly. At best, they can only tarnish the image others have of you - but why should you care? If I save a life, and somehow come out looking like a murderer, the fact that I saved a life does not change. Any virtue you have better run deeper than other people's opinion - if not, I fear you have no virtue to speak of.

Nietzsche was brilliant. But instead of keeping some people too dumb to understand him, we should educate everyone so that everyone can read him, understand him, and make the reasonable decision to reject his philosophy.

Seriously, though, the digs at 'Stache Man aside, it is a shame that some people cannot understand metaphor, that most people are completely lost when they read Nietzsche, and many others. There is no benefit to keeping them uneducated, unless by benefit you mean the proceeds from the exploitation of those with sub-par educations. Writers need to have enough confidence in their work to not worry about being misunderstood - someone will understand, and when he does, you have your credit. Socrates is only held in higher esteem for being executed for corrupting the youth. The ignorance of post-plague Athens has not caused Socrates any loss of dignity or virtue. If anything, general opinion of the man has only grown over the centuries.

Of course, maybe no one will understand you. And that's Nietzsche's attraction in the first place. Instead of following Nietzsche, and cutting yourself off from the world, hiding away in your own mind as it drifts further and further from reality, go out into the world. Not all of us are great writer, I'm terrible. If no one understands what you write, find another profession, and write in your spare time.
 
saiboimushi
 
Reply Mon 28 Apr, 2008 08:15 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Perhaps my search has carried me here to this very place and time. Smile To disagree as you have done, is to see what I have seen. And when we see the same thing, we are the same soul--even if we disagree about what it is we're looking at.

But yes, I am an elitist, though I would not go so far as to use the term "vain." But I suppose it depends on how you evaluate that term. It depends on what level of truth you and I are on.

Is it even good to help other people? The answer to the question is not the point of the question--the point of the question is what it does to us when we really, truly ask it. Nevertheless, I defy you or anyone to show me the truth. I will provoke you as if you were an angry spirit, so that you will manifest yourself before my eyes and make me a true believer! Do not think that you, a person of higher sensibilities, can live well with mere belief, even if you yourself claim to know that it is less than wisdom. Ask yourself, "Have I begun to suffer yet?" If the answer is yes, then come suffer with me!

And let us not exhaust this debate, lest we come to a resolution too soon--and hence to the end of our companionship.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Tue 29 Apr, 2008 03:52 pm
@Kooker,
Quote:
Perhaps my search has carried me here to this very place and time.


Your own two feet, anyway.

Quote:
But yes, I am an elitist, though I would not go so far as to use the term "vain." But I suppose it depends on how you evaluate that term. It depends on what level of truth you and I are on.


Vanity is an expression of pride.

Quote:
Is it even good to help other people? The answer to the question is not the point of the question--the point of the question is what it does to us when we really, truly ask it.


I could be wrong, but when you ask yourself 'is it good to help others?' and somehow turn the question around and make it about yourself, this is vanity.

Is it good to help others? If you are helping others, it is good for those you help.

Quote:
Nevertheless, I defy you or anyone to show me the truth. I will provoke you as if you were an angry spirit, so that you will manifest yourself before my eyes and make me a true believer!


One minute we cannot show you truth, the next you want to believe!

Quote:
Do not think that you, a person of higher sensibilities, can live well with mere belief, even if you yourself claim to know that it is less than wisdom. Ask yourself, "Have I begun to suffer yet?" If the answer is yes, then come suffer with me!


Why should I think that "mere belief" is enough to "live well"?
A point of information - we all suffer. No one is excluded from suffering. Better we all come suffer together, than for me to come suffer with you or anyone else.

If you would like to carry on the discussion, a new thread is certainly a good idea.
 
saiboimushi
 
Reply Tue 29 Apr, 2008 05:35 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Quote:
If you would like to carry on the discussion, a new thread is certainly a good idea.


No, it's quite alright. Farewell, my friend ... and friends Surprised
 
Fido
 
Reply Fri 9 May, 2008 10:11 pm
@Kooker,
Kooker wrote:

You make it sound like like a dog cannot like getting his tummy rubbed because he cannot examine life abstractly through a medium of language. I would suggest that to be rational we must relate our thoughts, one to another. But to exist we need only feel, much as animals feel, and seek out the object of desire instinctively. We live on two planes, so to speak, while simple animals live only on one. Divide us between emotional and rational, or religio and ratio, and however you view us we are what we have always been augmented by abstraction. I am not going along with those who talk about the parts of a man in either a primitive sense or in the present tense. We are all divided from each other, but only rarely is a person divided within himself. As each person grows they give up nothing, and rather forget about methods that did not work, but whether a person is a child or an ancient, they use all they have and are, to face the world. Language and labels complicate the situation. It is best to remember that labels are for the world, and not for people, and that saying what we are, and saying what others are adds immeasurably to our problems without adding significantly to our solutions. Does science, psychology, or anthropology tell you better what a person is than common sense?
 
Arouet
 
Reply Sat 10 May, 2008 01:52 am
@Fido,
Obligatory trite response: We study literature so we can seem educated. Real response: I love the angle you've taken on this. I know a few philosophically-inclined authors and I'll discuss this with them next time I see them.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Sat 10 May, 2008 06:57 pm
@Kooker,
Why study philosophy?

Philosophy is simply a form of literature.
 
Fido
 
Reply Sat 10 May, 2008 08:25 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
Why study philosophy?

Philosophy is simply a form of literature.

But what isn't philosophy. Even fiction represents truth, and all non fiction is fiction. Everything we see is like white light, seeming to be one thing and containing all others.
 
Kooker
 
Reply Wed 11 Jun, 2008 03:07 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
Why study philosophy?

Philosophy is simply a form of literature.


Philosophy is a form of language. Literature has a quality that is only particular to literature--hence why we can differentiate between a philosophical treatise and a "work of literature."

What that quality is, is difficult to pinpoint when looking at literature and philosophy in a broad sense.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 11 Jun, 2008 06:04 pm
@Kooker,
We can describe literature all day long, but what separates those airport romance novels from real literature is the subject - and the subject of literature is the conflict between a man and himself.

Philosophy is literature without a story. Literature explores themes like morality with a character, while philosophy explores themes like morality with deliberate argumentation.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Wed 11 Jun, 2008 09:45 pm
@Kooker,
Kooker wrote:
Philosophy is a form of language. Literature has a quality that is only particular to literature--hence why we can differentiate between a philosophical treatise and a "work of literature."
Can we differentiate so well? Some of the great philosophical works by Camus and Sartre are novels and short stories. Some of the great novels in history communicate philosophical ideas with far more clarity than any philosophical treatise. Plato's writings were decidedly literary and Aristotle's were decidedly technical. I'd argue that Dostoyevsky did more for modern philosophy than his contemporary Nietzsche, despite the fact that they shared some ideas. Why? Because the philosophical writing is just a sterile distillation of pre-existing cultural currents. But while the philosophical treatise influences other philosophers, the novel influences a much wider audience -- and in the case of great novels actually delivers philosophy.

Quote:
What that quality is, is difficult to pinpoint when looking at literature and philosophy in a broad sense.
It's not so black and white, except that the 'treatise' is basically a technical document.
 
Fido
 
Reply Fri 13 Jun, 2008 09:55 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Didymos Thomas wrote:
We can describe literature all day long, but what separates those airport romance novels from real literature is the subject - and the subject of literature is the conflict between a man and himself.

Philosophy is literature without a story. Literature explores themes like morality with a character, while philosophy explores themes like morality with deliberate argumentation.

I agree with this mostly, but no matter where art points its lense, humanity is the subject. And as for philosophy, that person who tilts at ignorance find a foe mightier than Beowolf's worm.
 
Kooker
 
Reply Sun 15 Jun, 2008 07:05 am
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
Can we differentiate so well? Some of the great philosophical works by Camus and Sartre are novels and short stories. Some of the great novels in history communicate philosophical ideas with far more clarity than any philosophical treatise.


This is an age-old debate, what do we prize in categorization: form or content? Which is primary? (Perhaps, more accurately, the two are related and inseparable)

I would suggest that one way of distinguishing literature from philosophy is logic. Philosophy is bound by logic, literature is not. There may be logical literature, but there may not be illogical philosophy.
 
midas77
 
Reply Sun 15 Jun, 2008 09:11 am
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
Why study philosophy?

Philosophy is simply a form of literature.


Oh no, philosophy is not a form of literature, in the strict sense. In a broader sense may be, because to express one's thought one must express it through words.

Why study literature? WHy study philosophy? The term study gives so much nuance that I don't like to use that word. I don't study literature, I don't study philosophy. I feel its a chore, It is something that gives pleasure in itself hence i don't study. Philosophy can not be thought, it can be acted upon. Literature is not read, it is consumed.
 
Aedes
 
Reply Mon 16 Jun, 2008 01:17 pm
@Kooker,
Kooker wrote:
I would suggest that one way of distinguishing literature from philosophy is logic. Philosophy is bound by logic, literature is not.
I don't think philosophy is bound by logic, despite its desire to be so. Most of philosophy is based on arguments derived from premises, assumptions, prejudices, and intuitions, none of which is actually founded in logic. So the form of philosophy may be logically bound, but its content is not any more so than other literature.
 
Arjen
 
Reply Mon 16 Jun, 2008 01:37 pm
@Aedes,
Why study? Study is a simplification of nature/reality.
 
Fido
 
Reply Mon 16 Jun, 2008 05:13 pm
@Aedes,
Aedes wrote:
I don't think philosophy is bound by logic, despite its desire to be so. Most of philosophy is based on arguments derived from premises, assumptions, prejudices, and intuitions, none of which is actually founded in logic. So the form of philosophy may be logically bound, but its content is not any more so than other literature.


Philosophical writing is a form of literature, and literature, to be good, must also deal with the human condition, and in a sense, philosophy is not bound by logic because the biggest part of it is about finding what is and how we know it. In addition logic tells much of the behavior of physical reality, but the dominant reality of our lives is moral. We know how to live in the physical world, but we do not have a moral logic for not overpopulating it and killing ourselves for sport. The nature of truth in the physical world can be arrived at in a straight forward and logical manor. Moral truths do not present as a target that can be seen through a scope, but as a destination requiring travails, and ardour to reach. The story of humanity is a moral story, and every story has a moral.
 
 

 
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