Thursday, April 12, 2012

Top 10 philosophers' novels

Seán McGrady was raised in Belfast, immersed in the religious and political ideas that defined the Irish Troubles. A former university lecturer in philosophy, he lives in York, England. His latest novel is The Backslider.

"The philosophical novel is the continuation of philosophical reflection by other means," he wrote in the Guardian. "To do justice to the nature of ontological concepts, Plato required a mythological approach in order to illuminate the distinction between essences and existence, which resisted conceptualisation. To do justice to the totality of human experience, existentialism denied objectifying knowledge. Justice was eminently done in some cases, their place in history of philosophical ideas assured and their literary merit lauded. Others failed to hit their desired target but were nonetheless notable for daring to articulate the philosophical idea in this form, and being popularly successful, if not philosophically original."

One of McGrady's top ten philosophers' novels:
The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Stranger combines splendidly with Sartre's The Age of Reason. In the latter, Mathieu, a philosophy teacher, is trying to find ways to rid himself of every form of human commitment, hoping that, by doing so, he finds freedom. In doing so, he risks himself, a freedom without a bond is empty and meaningless. It is total subjectivity. He is his own judge and his own victim. On the other hand we have Meursault, in The Stranger, who has no such will to freedom. He is conditioned in every respect. He could not be his own self in his actions "like the mother is in the child" (Nietzsche). Rather than act, he is acted upon, and his world too is empty and meaningless as, in a sense, there is no self.
Read about another novel on the list.

The Stranger is on R.J. Ellory's five best list of French noir fiction. Meursault is one of Marcel Berlins's six top literary killers.

--Marshal Zeringue