Can Literature Tell the Truth better than other arts or other Areas of Knowledge?
When we say "removed from life and experience," we're referring to the fact that philosophy is, to many people, a dry, lifeless abstraction of all that lives and is vibrant. Yes, we may appreciate certain philosophical insights and incorporate them into our lives, but how many of us can walk around declaring, after Schopenhauer, that it were better never to have been born
In this vein, we must acknowledge that the literary artist is closer to what we call life; he is less brutally frank; he paints a picture we can associate with - rather than go into abstractions that demand a painful process of intellectual mapping for sense to arise. Here, we need to bring in the concept of "levels" or "planes," by means of an illustration. Something at a higher "level," as we will refer to it, deals less with the nitty-gritty of things - it either overlooks them, or assumes prior knowledge of them. This is in contrast to something at a lower "level," where things are spelled out in painful detail.
We have, then, literature at a higher level - something more human, something that speaks of you and me - and philosophy at a lower level, something that carries seemingly obscure but sometimes painfully accurate representations of what the truth is all about. of what the truth is all about. Many say the truth is already within us, and all that any work of art can do is to awaken it; to bring to life that within us which existed
as mere potential knowledge and insight.
To illustrate this better, think of the smile of the Mona Lisa, to use a clichd example. If not for the "idea" of a smile - including the knowledge of how it connects to us, what it means, what it can imply, what facet of humanity it represents - were not all within us, how would the Mona Lisa ever impress The artist, naturally, assumes - at a subconscious level - that we know what a smile is and what it represents; only then can he go forth and base his creation upon it!
Coming back to philosophy, can literature tell the truth better Literature is not fact; philosophy can be. (We are here leaving out literature that is indeed fact, for the reason that it does not paint a picture one subconsciously deciphers, such as works of non-fiction or textbooks. Such works serve only to convey information.) The only conclusion we can get at is that it depends entirely upon the consumer of the art. There are those among us who prefer to feel another person's pain brought to us by a literary work of art; then there are those who like to have pain defined. There are those who can be inspired by a novel, having deeply felt the ups and downs in the life of a protagonist; then there are those who, for inspiration, would prefer to follow through to Nietzsche's conclusion that weakness is the greatest sin. Some of us appreciate the beauty simply of the manner in which the follies and strengths of human nature are brought out in Steinbeck's The Pearl; some prefer "cutting to the chase," as it were, and digest philosophical aphorisms and maxims on human nature with glee.
Dare we propose that literature is the childlike counterpart of philosophy That literature simplifies philosophy That people who have not