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Culture & Religion

Why Read Literature?

Columbia professor of philosophy Akeel Bilgrami asks why we read literature when it contains information more readily found in non-fiction journals. The answer is in the medium’s pathos.

“It is often asked: what is the difference between imaginative literature and other sorts of intellectual endeavor? Are there any kinds of knowledge uniquely available, say, from novels and poems? Why do we read them when we could read books in psychology, sociology, moral philosophy—especially if these are illustrated with vivid examples of ethical, psychological, and social experience? There are many possible answers to such a question, and I want to explore only one of them, the one that has to do with the contrast between the miscellaneous and the integrated. But first I need to address a larger theme—the special forms of knowledge that can accompany emotions.”


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