Münster, Germany: mentis (2013)

Benjamin Gittel
University of California, Berkeley
This study seeks to contribute to the current debate in literary studies, philosophy, and the history of science about knowledge’s forms of representation and the “knowledge of literature,” while in two respects also going beyond the debate. First, it shows how and why the demand for an alternative non-scientific form of knowledge mediated by literature becomes widespread within a particular constellation in the history of ideas. In particular, it situates this phenomenon within the philosophy of life (Lebensphilosophie) and the so-called philosophy of world views (Weltanschauungsphilosophie) from 1870 to 1930, as well as in the works of Robert Musil. Second, the study shifts the focus of the debate. In this thesis, the focus is not on the question, often discussed with unsatisfactory results, as to whether or not literature in general can convey knowledge. Instead, it asks in which concrete circumstances a specific work of literature conveys knowledge. The conditions in which this is the case — formulated using concepts and insights from analytic philosophy — in amalgamate allow for a clear analysis of Musil's attempts to communicate a “living knowledge” by means of his literary works.
Keywords literature and philosophy  ethical knowledge  epistemic contextualism  historical epistemology  thought experiments  intuition  philosophy of life  knowing-how  knowing-what-it-is-like  knowledge-by-acquaintance
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