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Literature, Moral Reflection and Ambiguity

  • Craig Taylor (a1)
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  • Published online: 21 December 2010

While a number of philosophers have argued recently that it is through our emotional response to certain literary works that we might achieve particular moral understanding, what has not been discussed in detail in this connection are works which generate conflicting responses in the reader; which is to say literary works in which there is significant element of ambiguity. Consider Joseph Conrad's novel Lord Jim. I argue that in making sense of our potentially conflicting responses to this novel, and specifically to its central character Jim, we may gain a richer sense of the ways in which literature may contribute to moral understanding – in this case by contributing to an understanding of our own character, its blind spots and its limitations.

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Onora O'Neill , ‘Review: The Moral Status of Animals, by Stephen Clark’, The Journal of Philosophy 77 (1980)

Noël Carroll , ‘Art, Narrative and Moral Understanding’, in J. Levinson (ed.) Aesthetics and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Daniel Brudney , ‘Lord Jim and Moral Judgment: Literature and Moral Philosophy’, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 56 (1998), 265–81

J. Wood , ‘Lord Jim and the Consequences of Kantian Autonomy’, Philosophy and Literature 11 (1987), 5774

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  • ISSN: 0031-8191
  • EISSN: 1469-817X
  • URL: /core/journals/philosophy
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