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Literature and Knowledge

  • Catherine Wilson (a1)

There is probably no subject in the philosophy of art which has prompted more impassioned theorizing than the question of the ‘cognitive value’ of works of art. ‘In the end’, one influential critic has stated, ‘I do not distinguish between science and art except as regards method. Both provide us with a view of reality and both are indispensable to a complete understanding of the universe.’ If a man is not prepared to distinguish between science and art one may well wonder what he is prepared to distinguish between, but in all fairness it should be pointed out that the writings of anti-cognitivists contain equally strenuous statements of doctrine. For I. A. Richards, poetry consists of ‘pseudo-statements’ which are ‘true’ if they ‘suit and serve some attitude or link together attitudes which on other grounds are desirable’.

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1 Herbert Read, Education Through Art. Quoted in M. Rader and B. Jessup, Art and Human Values (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976), 254.

2 I. A. Richards, ‘Poetry and Beliefs’ in Weitz (ed.), Problems in Aesthetics, 2nd edn (New York: Macmillan Co., 1970), 569.

3 Morris Weitz, Philosophy in Literature (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1963), 78-84.

4 Peter Jones, Philosophy and the Novel (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 47-49.

5 John Hospers, ‘Implied Truths in Literature’, in Levich (ed.), Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Criticism (New York: Random House, 1963), 367.

6 S. T. Coleridge, Shakespearean Criticism quoted in Weitz, op. cit., 59.

7 Morris Weitz, ‘Does Art Tell the Truth?’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research III, No. 3 (March 1943), 345.

8 Dorothy Walsh, Literature and Knowledge (Middletown, Ct: Wesleyan University Press, 1969), 96.

9 Monroe Beardsley, Aesthetics (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1958), 383.

10 Walsh, op. cit., 104.

11 Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1920).

12 D. Z. Phillips, ‘Allegiance and Change in Morality’ in Philosophy and the Arts, VI (Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures) (New York: St Martin's, 1973). 54-58.

13 L. Auchincloss, ‘Edith Wharton and her New Yorks’ in Edith Wharton: A Collection of Critical Essays, I. Howe (ed.). Quoted in Phillips, op. cit., 56.

14 Phillips, op. cit., 58.

15 This paper was orignially read at the 1980 sessions of the American Society for Aesthetics in Milwaukee, USA.

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
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