First-Year Studies: Philosophy and Literature

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Literature isn’t very interesting, unless it is thoughtful. Shakespeare’s greatness as a poet is inseparable from his greatness as a thinker. Insofar as philosophy is written down, philosophy is always literature. Accordingly, the greatest philosophers are always aware that how they write is inseparable from what they mean to say. This course will have two concerns: first, to study the thought of some great thinkers who are either philosopher-poets or poet-philosophers; second, to understand through them the complicated relation between philosophy and literature. What is at stake is not simply two alternative ways of expressing thought but two competing views of the nature of thought and of things. We will study philosophic and literary works concerned with the nature and importance of such things as art, science, politics, morality, and, of course, poetry and philosophy. Authors will include Homer, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Descartes, Swift, Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Twain.