فلسفة is generally understood by many of us as the science/study of the fundamental problems that arise from various abstract or real things. Various questions that we come across – on an almost routine basis – like “What is the purpose of life?” or “What is the best goal in life?” or “What or who is god?” or “Why are some people poor and some rich” etc. All these questions when given a proper forum to debate lead us to varied answers from each and every individual. They represent the deeper recess of thought and reason within a person. On the other side, literature is most commonly considered as the written form of anything i.e. to say any writing is considered as literature. This definition is considered time-tested, many minor variations in the modern period have arisenwhich have come to include oral literature – things which are passed down generations by word of mouth. It is from this minor definition that stems our interest about the connection between philosophy and literature. Literature is broadly divided into Prose and Poetry, most of us are familiar with poetry but furthermoreprose includes various different forms of writings like Dramas, Novels, short stories etc.
When we come to the inter-relation between philosophy and literature, as discussed earlier philosophy is the deeper reflection of any art, object or idea. Hence, the philosophy of literature can be considered as a deeper rumination on the meaning of literature. It could start with a very easy question like “What is the meaning of the term Literature?” which could yield a complex opinion or it could be a more depth question like “What could possibly be the author’s state of mind when he was writing about the terrible death of lord Ullin’s daughter?” which could be even more complicated answers. Philosophy of a given piece of literature shapes our thoughts and influences our opinions about the work. When we read a poem, the literary meaning could be very simple like say the setting sun was becoming red in colour and the knight’s shining armour was also turning red due to blood, where as its philosophic word meaning could be that the knight lay dying, breathing his last as life was draining away from him just as the brightness of the setting sun was dulling out. The reddening of the sun as well as the knight’s armour indicates the loss of vitality in their bodies leading to death in the case of knight and night in the case of the sun.
Human mind has the gift of imagination. Philosophy is born out of this ability to imagine. When we read a piece of fiction, we tend to imagine various aspects about the characters given in the book, fictional species, fictional technologies, environments and other elements. When we look into any piece of literature, an avid reader would delve into the fictional world created by the writer, they can associate with various elements in the fictional world. But, if one takes a deeper look into the work of fiction, one can see the nature of the author’s mind, to a certain degree the reader can get a vague picture of the author’s mind-set. The work reflects the philosophy of the author, what he believes in, how he interprets his culture, how he reacts or responds to things and incidents around him etc. Some works of fiction can however be used as a medium to put across the philosophic ideas of the author, for example the children’s stories (which included a moral at the end) that we all grew up listening to were – if we reflect on them – were indeed told to us in such a way so that it would get our attention, make us experience that world as if it were real, so that in the end when we were told the moral we could almost immediately associate with it, it would make a deep impact on the tuned minds and the philosophy stay for a long time. It is indeed this very reason that many of our religious and ethical books are written in the form of stories and poems: the factor being simple. To get the attention of the reader and sink in the philosophy in a long-lasting manner.
Philosophy and literature each are intertwined and influence each other in a myriad ways. This influence as mentioned earlier can be seen in many modern literary works, down to even comic books. When one looks from the other way around i.e. Literature influencing philosophy, it may not be clear at first, but as we ponder upon the statement we can observe that although philosophy can survive without the express requirement of literature (written work) when we consider the modern interpretation of literature it includes oral literature. Even if the number of people who write and/or read are very less in numbers compared to the large population of humanity, the number of people who listen to songs, stories and other forms of infotainment it is indeed a huge number. Given this strength and method, it is clear how many old woman’s tales have survived the test of time only by the word of mouth and without the need to be recorded in written form, although they underwent various minor changes as they travelled to different parts of the world this can amount to the diverse philosophies of people living in different parts of the world.
The best example of philosophy and literary interpretation can be seen in the recent movie ‘The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey’ there is a scene where the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman) wishes the wizard Gandalf ( played by Ian McKellen)‘Good Morning’, the wise old wizard rambles out four different interpretations of those two simple words. This can strongly explain that looking at any piece of literature, the understanding that one draws out from it is clearly influenced by the philosophy in which that particular individual is attuned to and believes in. Summarizing the above detailed contemplation of the relation between Philosophy and Literature, It is statable that philosophy influences the way we see the world and literature is a precious medium to propagate Philosophy.