The idea of what I call “the moral imagination” is one that has been around as long as literature itself (and the oral tradition before that), but it is almost unknown in our day, and seldom discussed. This term refers to the idea that reading good, worthwhile literature (particularly works that have survived the test of time – centuries or even millennia) can help to form our character — our imaginations as well as our intellect. As individuals and as a society, we need stories that are both compelling and challenging, full of truth about the human condition and our relation to the world around us, as well as transcendent reality. These are stories of lasting value that do more than merely entertain — they connect us to a deeper truth and, often, ground us in our own cultural tradition. They help us understand how we ought to live, and the consequences of our actions.
The idea that fictional literature can, and should, both instruct and delight is an ancient one – Aristotle and Cicero both wrote about the “philosophical” value of literature – but it is an idea that has largely been abandoned in the modern world, which prefers novelty and entertainment to timeless truth or deep meaning. Yet there are still a few books being written that fulfill the edifying role of great literature and, from time to time, I’ll write about them, as well as more ancient stories.
At any rate, one of the things I like to explore on this blog is the way great literature, when read well, with understanding, and not simply “consumed” as entertainment, can help us to glimpse truths that can change our lives. Such literature helps form our moral imagination.
Below are links to all the posts in this category.
0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 Recently I wrote about literature
as being capable of conveying, and even discovering, truth, which can be
called “poetic knowledge.” Both Aristotle
and St Thomas Aquinas upheld a similar view, Aristotle by ...