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Fellow seminar: Literature, Knowledge, and Epistemic Trust

16 May @ 16:30 - 18:00

Kalle Puolakka (RevHum Fellow, Mar ‘24 – Jul ‘24) will present his project on:

Literature, Knowledge, and Epistemic Trust

on 16 May 2024 (Thursday) at 16:30 h.

Abstract: Philosophers have been interested in the epistemic and cognitive value of literature ever since Plato and Aristotle. Does literature convey knowledge? What sort of knowledge does it afford? After reviewing the contemporary discussion on the topic in philosophical aesthetics, as well as its ancient roots in the debate between Plato and Aristotle over the educational significance of poetry, I single out one concept for closer examination, experiential knowledge. Proponents of the idea of experiential knowledge, which is sometimes also called “phenomenological knowledge” or “subjective knowledge”, argue that literary works can give knowledge about what it is like to experience something, that is, how experiences feel like and how the world appears from a certain point of view.

In the second part of the presentation, I outline three important aspects of my own account of how literary works can be vehicles of experiential knowledge. First, showing the ways in which John Dewey’s philosophy of experience and especially his notion of undergoing illuminates the character of the literary experience behind the experiential knowledge literary works can afford. Second, I respond to some ethical worries relating to experiential knowledge, especially having to do with the question whether it is sometimes even preposterous morally to claim to know what others’ experiences feel like. Third, I argue that especially literary works that exemplify epistemic virtues like intellectual honesty, intellectual courage, open-mindedness, as well as intellectual carefulness and thoroughness should be regarded as strong epistemic media for giving readers a sense of what the experiences they deal with are like. The philosophical points of the paper are illustrated with a look at the experience of social death articulated in Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved (1987).

Moderated by Nadezhda Alexandrova.


16 May
16:30 - 18:00


Centre for Advanced Study Sofia


Centre for Advanced Study Sofia
7B Stefan Karadzha St, entr. 3
Sofia,‎ ‎1000‎ ‎Bulgaria
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