Philosophy as Literature

posted by ush on 2008/08/14 10:04

[ Call for Papers ]

It is amazing how fast methods and disciplines are ageing. The following Call for Papers sounds already oldfashioned, though its questioning rhetoric and style, and the seductive powers of language is far from irrelevant. I think, the topic deserves to be central: 

Philosophy as Literature. A Special Issue of The European Legacy

Guest Editor: Costica Bradatan (The Honors College, Texas Tech University)

The issue will feature a conversation on the relationship philosophy-literature with Giuseppe Mazzotta (Sterling Professor of the Humanities for Italian, Yale University), Alexander Nehamas (Edmund N. Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities, Princeton University) & Simon Critchley (Professor of Philosophy, The New School for Social Research).

Call for Papers:

Like novelists, historians or columnists, philosophers, too, are writers. They make sophisticated use of language, and employ – whether deliberately or not – specific rhetorical and stylistic devices, as well as certain repertoires of metaphors, images and symbols. As writers, philosophers also have to adjust their writing to specific audiences, tailor it to serve specific purposes, and strategically choose one genre over another, with all its rules, protocols, and constraints. In short, it is crucial for philosophers – if they are to persuade readers – to advance their ideas following certain aesthetic rules, rhetorical procedures and strategies of persuasion. This has led some authors to speak of "the literariness of philosophical texts" (Berel Lang) as something indistinguishable from the philosophical substance and relevance of those texts.

A writer’s relationship to language, writing and weaving of narratives in general is always complex. For, if we are to believe Heidegger, although "man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, …in fact language remains the master of man." Therefore, it might well be the case that – as often happen with writers – philosophers, too, go through some peculiar experiences: sometimes, for example, they become so completely seduced by language that they almost lose themselves in the act of writing and come to utter whatever language compels them to; some other times, they become so deeply caught up in their own discourse that it becomes difficult for them to separate from it: on such occasions they are not very different from those novelists who end up becoming characters in the narratives they are weaving.

The implication is that a work of philosophy might well be seen as a work of (literary) art, as an autonomous world, for whose creation the author’s personal vision, imagination, playfulness and inventiveness play a major role. In other words, according to this view, The Critique of Pure Reason is, in a fundamental way, much closer to Hamlet or The Brothers Karamazov than to, say, On the Origin of Species.

With this in mind, some scholars of philosophy have been in a position to say that philosophy is nothing other than literature. Others, more cautious, have allowed philosophy to be literature only to some degree or under circumstances. Then, there are, of course, those for whom philosophy does not have anything to do with literature. 

We invite submissions dealing with the multifaceted relationship between philosophy and literature, some aspects of which have been pointed to above. Interdisciplinary approaches (combining, for example, philosophy, literary theory and intellectual history) are particularly encouraged.

Here are only some of the possible topics:

  • The employment of literary categories (genre, tropes, narrative, plot, point of view, etc.) in the production of philosophical texts
  •  The genres of philosophical writing (dialogue, treatise, meditation, journal article, etc) and their significance for the content of those writings; how exactly the adoption of a certain genre shapes the philosophizing in question
  • Philosophical styles: styles of writing / styles of philosophizing; "the anatomy of the philosophical style" (Berel Lang)
  • The variety of literary practices in the history of philosophy
  • The philosophers’ rhetoric; philosophy of rhetoric / rhetoric of philosophy
  • Canons and canonization in the history of philosophy
  • Author/authorship/authority in the production of philosophical texts; author’s "voice"; the use of personae, masks, masquerades;
  • Philosophy as expression of the self (philosophy and autobiography)
  • The art of the "literary philosophers" (Plato, Augustine, Giordano Bruno, Vico, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Unamuno, Benjamin, Sartre, Camus, Cioran, etc)
  • Recent philosophizing on the relationship philosophy-literature (contributions dedicated to the work of Jacques Derrida, Richard Rorty, Paul Ricoeur, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Theodor Adorno, Stanley Cavell, Alexander Nehamas, Slavoj Zizek, Jean-Luc Nancy, Berel Lang, Iris Murdoch, Simon Critchley, etc)
  • Literary theorists/historians on the relationship philosophy-literature (contributions dedicated to the work of Mikhail Bakhtin, Roland Barthes, Rene Wellek, Wolfgang Iser, Hayden White, Giuseppe Mazzotta, Umberto Eco, etc)

Deadline for submissions: January 1, 2009
Length: 6000 words

All articles and reviews submitted to The European Legacy undergo peer-review. Manuscripts and Notes, typed double-spaced, should be submitted to the Guest Editor as e-mail attachments, using WordPerfect or Microsoft Word. The author’s full address should be supplied as a footnote to the title page. Manuscripts should be prepared in accordance with the Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition.

You can submit your contributions to:  Please allow at least 4-6 months for the review process and editorial decisions. Receipt of materials will be confirmed by email

Unless otherwise noted in this Call for Papers, the Instructions for Authors on the journal’s webpage are adopted for this issue:


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