Literature, Moral Reflection and Ambiguity

Philosophy 86 (1):75-93 (2011)
While a number of philosophers have argued recently that it is through our emotional response to certain literary works that we might achieve particular moral understanding, what has not been discussed in detail in this connection are works which generate conflicting responses in the reader; which is to say literary works in which there is significant element of ambiguity. Consider Joseph Conrad's novel Lord Jim. I argue that in making sense of our potentially conflicting responses to this novel, and specifically to its central character Jim, we may gain a richer sense of the ways in which literature may contribute to moral understanding – in this case by contributing to an understanding of our own character, its blind spots and its limitations
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DOI 10.1017/S003181911000063X
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