Knowledge and imagination in fiction and autobiography

Metaphilosophy 37 (2):259–276 (2006)
Autobiographies are particularly interesting in the context of moral philosophy because they offer us rare and extended examples of how other people think, feel and reflect, which is of crucial importance in the development of phronesis (practical wisdom). In this article, Martha Nussbaum's use of fictional literature is shown to be of limited interest, and her arguments in Poetic Justice against the use of personal narratives in moral philosophy are shown to be unfounded. An analysis of Aristotle's concept of mimesis shows that Nussbaum's claims for fictional literature also apply to personal narratives. A case is then made for the importance of personal narratives in developing practical wisdom, and three sub-genres of autobiography are discussed: (1) the confession, (2) the apology and (3) the testimonial. These sub-genres exemplify some of the unique features of personal narratives.
Keywords Aristotle  fiction  Nussbaum  phronesis  autobiography  mimesis  moral philosophy
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