Reading philosophical novels can be a brilliant way to engage inphilosophical themes, ideas and teachings.
It's quite understandable that someone would find it daunting to deal with a thick, multi-volume work of nonfiction by someone like Arthur Schopenhauer or Immanuel Kant. Find something like Schopenhauer'sThe world as will and representation.on a bookshelf can be a particularly daunting prospect.
It is understandable to see how they choose to delve into philosophical novels. Following narratives and characters in a work of fiction may be a much preferable option.
We don't have to wade our way through complex and convoluted arguments to be enlightened byimportant and valuable philosophy. It can be just as valuable, and perhaps more enjoyable for some, to read a story.
10 of the best philosophical novels ever written
First of all, it will be useful to clarify what we mean when we talk aboutphilosophical novels. They are sharply focused narratives surrounded by deepphilosophical themes.
These books are often discussions of our lives, society, and the world through a philosophical lens, rendered through engaging and provocative narratives and intriguing characters. They encourage us to engage with important and crucial philosophical ideas. That's why they encourage us toThink deeply about our own lives..
Many great works of literature could have made this list. We could cite countless famous novels and notable authors. Many of them have had an incalculable impact on our culture and society. But some are perhaps more widely recognized than others.
Here are 10 of the best and most well-known philosophical novels of all time:
The weird–Albert Camus (1942)
A book that is revered as one of the greatest works of philosophical literature is that of Albert Camus.The weird. This is the story of a man's apathy and carelessness over the death of his mother, only to be drawn into a senseless murder and the events that follow.The weirdis a harsh and chilling investigation into human existence.
The narrative is an exploration of manycolossal questions about our lives.It draws on ideas of the absurd and existentialism to essentially touch on the age-old question that philosophy addresses: the meaning of life.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass–Lewis Carroll (1865,1871)
Although they are two stories, we can consider bothAlice in Wonderlandmithrough the looking glassas a body of literary work. These novels are the most famous examples of the nonsense literary genre. They are also among the best known and most popular.children's storiesof all times.
It is a wonderful expression of a child's imagination, but it is also an intricate study of many subjects. The stories mostly distort and invert logic. Through him is an occult investigation and commentary on Victorian society, morality, philosophy, and all forms of intellectual ideas.
Beneath the absurd images, there are many philosophical questions. You just have to dig really deep to realize they're there.
crime and Punishment– Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866)
Fyodor Dostoevsky's masterpieceis a dark and fascinating examination of human morality.crime and Punishmentfollows Raskolnikov, a former law student, who is smart and talented but lives in abject poverty.
He consciously decides to commit murder by convincing himself that it is morally justifiable. This is the first part of the novel. The rest follows Raskolnikov's difficulty in dealing with and understanding the consequences and ramifications of the act he committed.
It is a philosophical and psychological inspection of your conscience and progressive guilt. This philosophical novel is a masterful exploration of good and evil, and everything in between.
The Karamazov brothers– Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880)
Dostoevsky re-enters the list with his latest novel,The Karamazov brothers. It is a fiery and epic philosophical novel, which follows the character Fyodor Karamazov and his three children, Aloysha, Dmitri and Ivan.
The story is a profoundly profound and intense discussion of important philosophical facets of society. This discussion is a passionate study of faith, free will, and morality. All the brothers reflect and embody different aspects of these ideas and demonstrate the conflicts that arise between them.
An important theme of the novel is the clash between faith and doubt, or between optimism and skepticism. Such conflicts expose the truths and weaknesses of the human condition. They also provide a deeply insightful examination of our existence and society.
Metamorphosis– Franz Kafka (1915)
Another author who appears twice on this list isFranz Kafka. He is generally considered one of the most important figures in 20ºcentury literature His works are strongly expressive of existential philosophy and can often be quite dark and disturbing.
Metamorphosisis perhaps the clearest example of this. One morning, Gregor Samsa wakes up to find himself transformed into a large insect.
He was a successful traveling salesman supporting his family before this unlikely event occurred. But his luck and life dynamics soon change in his new physical form. He is now unable to work or support his family and therefore he is rejected. Gregor becomescompletely isolatedat home and is cruelly treated by his family.
Metamorphosisis a disturbing but profound demonstration ofexistential ideasof feeling a sense of confusion and turmoil in an absurd and meaningless world.
the game–Franz Kafka (1925)
Many of Kafka's novels express similar themes, and this is evident in his unfinished story.the game. The protagonist, Joseph K., is suddenly and randomly arrested and put on trial. The character does not know what he is accused of and what he is being judged for. Kafka never reveals this to the reader either.
Joseph K. is consumed by an absurd and mysterious court case where he is oppressed by a strange bureaucratic institution. This could be a metaphor for the alienation of the individual in an unforgiving modern society; or a dark harbinger of the totalitarian regimes soon to emerge in the West.
What stands out is the sadness of the character.feeling of inadequacyand guilt, despite not knowing what he is supposedly guilty of. Kafka expresses the heartbreakingexistential anxietiesof our existence and of the world in which we live again so ominously.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being–Milan Kundera (1984)
We cannot talk about a philosophical novel without considering the work of Milan KunderaThe Unbearable Lightness of Being. It is a novel strongly focused on philosophy and begins with a discussion of a set of conflicting ideas between Friedrich Nietzsche and Parmenides.
The degree of "lightness" and "heaviness" of our existence is the main concern of the novel. They are also the ramifications of our actions and decisions in our lives in terms of these ideas. The story follows Tomas, Sabina (Tomas's lover) and Tereza (Tomas's wife) and how their lives intertwine and develop.
The constant themes of lightness, if our actions have no ramifications in our lives, and weight, if our decisions are of great importance in our lives, constantly loom over the narrative. It is a deeply thoughtful and provocative work and a brilliant novel to read as a way to engage directly with philosophy.
Thus spoke Zarathustra–Friedrich Nietzsche (1891)
Friedrich NietzscheHe is perhaps one of the best known and most influential philosophers of the modern world. In fact, he is first and foremost a philosopher and has written many complex and dense works, but often in a literary and dramatic style.
This we can see inThus spoke Zarathustra, a narrative recounting the preaching and travels of Zarathustra. The character is a prophet-like figure who came to spread his teachings to civilization after meditating for several years on top of a mountain.
The work is a vivid narrative in prose, where Nietzsche clearly expresses many of his most famous ideas, such as thesuper homey,owill to powermieternal return.
1984–George Orwell (1949)
To beclassic dystopian historyof a brutal totalitarian regime is an immensely important literary work.1984tells the story of one of the three totalitarian states, Oceania, where the entire population dutifully obeys its mysterious leader: Big Brother. The Thought Police scan the streets to ensure that people adhere to the party's rigid doctrines.
If people are accused of speaking or thinking badly, they will be punished. The narrative follows Winston Smith, who rebels against the government, is captured, and suffers a terrible punishment as a result. This exposes the reader to the brutal, corrupt, and heinous nature of the all-powerful state.
Orwell's philosophical cautionary tale novel is completely politically focused and is a reflection of the devastating totalitarian regimes of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. It is a meditation on the suffering these regimes inflicted on 20ºEurope century. At the same time, it is also a warning against the rise of such oppressive states in the future.
Or picture of Dorian Gray- Oscar Wilde (1890)
Oscar Wilde's only novel is a sinister tale of the consequences of indulging in lust and vice. Dorian Gray is a young man considered extremely handsome by those he knows.
The fascination with Dorian begins when his portrait is painted by Basil Hallward, who discusses the painting with his unscrupulous friend Henry Wotton. Later, Dorian is corrupted by Henry's ideas about satisfying lustful desires, so he chooses a life of dishonesty and lust, with dire consequences.
The central themes of the novel are morality and the dangers of addiction, and they represent a warning against such a harmful and corrupt lifestyle and an appetite for the superficialities of society.
What can we learn from these novels?
These philosophical novels can be a valuable source of crucial and important insights into many facets of our lives and the societies in which we live. this.
We can often feel confusion, helplessness, and deep anxiety about elements of our existence that we struggle to understand and comprehend.
These novels will enlighten us to understand the complexity and fragility of the human condition. They better prepare us to face the struggles and dilemmas that we will inevitably face.
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Alexander Nyland, BA
contributing writerNolearning mind
Alexander Nyland is an avid writer, blogger and traveler with a BA in Philosophy and English Literature, graduating in 2018 from the University of Sheffield. His particular focus and interests in his studies included cinema and ancient Greek philosophy.
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