From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Philosophical fiction refers to works of fiction in which a significant proportion of the work is devoted to a discussion of the sort of questions normally addressed in discursive philosophy. These might include the function and role of society, the purpose of life, ethics or morals, the role of art in human lives, and the role of experience or reason in the development of knowledge. Philosophical fiction works would include the so-called novel of ideas, including a significant proportion of science fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, and Bildungsroman. The modus operandi seems to be to use a normal story to simply explain difficult and/or dark parts of human life.
There is no universally acceptable definition of the philosophical novel, but certain novels would be of key importance in its history. Voltaire's Candide (1759) is the first clear example in literary history. Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus, Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, and Tolstoy's War and Peace are all canonical examples of the philosophical novel. Later examples would include such among the novels of Aldous Huxley as After Many a Summer and Island, as well as novels by Iris Murdoch and Anthony Burgess.
Novels that might qualify as philosophical novels in terms of subject matter but which proceed by non-discursive means (such as allegory) would be excluded. Richard Adams's Watership Down, for example, would qualify as having social structures as its subject matter but would be excluded on the grounds that the exploration of these subjects is entirely inferred rather than being the subject of overt discussion or debate.
Prominent philosophical fiction
- This is only a list of the major philosophical fiction. For all philosophical novels, see
There is no universally acceptable definition of philosophical fiction, but certain works would be of key importance in its history.
|Ibn Tufail||Philosophus Autodidactus||(12th century)||Early example|
|Ibn al-Nafis||Theologus Autodidactus||(13th century)||Early example|
|Thomas Carlyle||Sartor Resartus||Canonical|
|Goethe||Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship||Canonical|
|Tolstoy||War and Peace||Canonical|
|Robert Musil||The Man Without Qualities||Canonical|
|Ayn Rand||Atlas Shrugged|
|Ayn Rand||The Fountainhead|
|Milan Kundera||The Unbearable Lightness of Being|
|Most of the novels by Albert Camus and Hermann Hesse|
|Aldous Huxley||After Many a Summer|
|Novels by Iris Murdoch, Anthony Burgess, Jean Paul Sartre, Andre Malraux, Marcel Proust Stendhal|
|C.S. Lewis||Space Trilogy|
|Friedrich Nietzsche||Thus Spoke Zarathustra||Perhaps the most well-known example of a philosophical novel.|
Novel of Ideas