Five Important Philosophical Novels
Philosophy can be seen as a dry subject. It's interesting, but most people would certainly prefer a good novel over reading through an individual's views about the world. Philosophical novels allow a philosopher to put forth their ideas in a captivating way. Philosophical fiction is used to illustrate philosophical ideas and make those ideas easier to understand and more memorable.
Here are five of my favorite philosophical novels.
Voltaire was an Enlightenment-era philosopher. He is known for his witty and satirical writings. Candide and Zadig are his two most famous works.
Candide and Zadig
Both Candide and Zadig are satirical novellas. They are each so short that they are often found together. Candide is a denunciation of Leibnizian Optimism. Leibnizian Optimism holds that this is the best of all possible worlds because God would not create anything less. Candide (the main character) has a sheltered childhood, and when he goes out into the world he finds out very quickly just how imperfect this world is. Zadig takes on religious orthodoxy and the nature of destiny as the main character experiences a series of misfortunes.
Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism promotes individualism and rational self-interest.
By: Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand is the founder of the philosophy of Objectivism. As Rand states, "[It] is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." She wrote a few novels, but Atlas Shrugged is the most descriptive of her philosophy. In Atlas Shrugged the creative and productive people in society go underground, "stopping the motor of the world."
"A book for none and all"
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
By: Friedrich Nietzsche
Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a novel that illustrates Nietzsche's personal view of the Ubermensch. The novel follows Zarathustra as he travels and spreads his philosophy. The novel also demonstrates a transvaluation of all values as Zarathustra's philosophy clashes with traditional morality. Friedrich Nietzsche was an Existentialist philosopher. Thus Spoke Zarathustra demonstrates some of his ideas that have influenced Existential thought.
Franz Kafka's writings often deal in the absurd, which makes them all the more memorable.
By: Franz Kafka
The Trial is a novel about a mysterious trial during which the defendant does not know the charges that have been brought against him. He is not jailed, but he must report to court at regular intervals. This novel epitomizes the term Kafkaesque (disorienting, senseless, surreal distortion). The protagonist is carried away in this mysterious trial that he has no control over and minimal involvement in.
Franz Kafka Rock Opera - From Home Movies
This focuses on Franz Kafka's short story The Metamorphosis. It's a cute song from a cute show.
Jean-Paul Sartre is one of the first and most prominent Existential philosophers.
By: Jean-Paul Sartre
Nausea is an epistolary novel by Jean-Paul Sartre. It is about a man who experiences increasingly severe nausea in his everyday life with no apparent cause. This causes him to question his life. This novel is an excellent illustration of Existential angst as the protagonist searches for meaning in his life.
© 2012 Marigold Tortelli