I know that a lot philosophers I have met and a lot of you who read this blog are avid readers of novels. Because of this, I wanted to post a 'bleg' ('an entry on a blog requesting information or contributions' according to Wiktionary…). I'd like to know of novels that feature philosophers (fictional or actual), philosophical texts and books, or philosophical theories in them. If these are moral philosophers or texts or theories in moral philosophy, even better. You can also post good examples from novels as illustrations of philosophical views if you have come across cool ones recently, or cases in which philosophical views have influenced novels too. I'm more interested in more direct connections however. I'm just going start this off with one example I recently happened to come across. This is Justin Cartwright's 2004 novel The Promise of Happiness in which one of the central characters picks up in the middle of the novel Bernard Williams' Morality: an Introduction to Ethics. After this, he considers events in the novel through discussions of reasons-internalism and utilitarianism. Anyway, I would very interested to hear about other novels like this.

55 Replies to “Philosophy in Novels

  1. First, and as a matter of categorical urgency, you should read Iris Murdoch’s The Black Prince. The main character is not a philosopher, but Murdoch is pretty transparently in many of the reflective interludes of the novel. Then there’s her The Philosopher’s Pupil (or the philosopher’s apprentice? anyway you’ll find it quickly enough). And her Under the Net, one of the characters of which is a sort of Wittgenstein figure. Ethics and aesthetics are central themes in Murdoch’s work, all of which is philosophical to a greater or lesser extent.
    There’s also Tibor Fischer’s The Thought Gang, a story of an incompetent philosopher who turned to crime; the novel portrays academia surprisingly well for someone who, as far as I can tell, has no particular connections with that world.
    Then of course there’s Sartre, Camus, Kierkegaard… there’s also a bit of philosophy in Ulysses; and obviously there’s War and Peace and, in their way, Dostoevsky’s great novels…
    It’s also worth looking at R. G. Collingwood’s An Essay on Philosophical Method, the last chapter of which argues that philosophy and literature have a lot in common, and his Principles of Art, which makes similar points near the end.
    The list goes on, I’m sure – this is just the top of my head.
    I should add that every work I’ve mentioned is at least close to a masterpiece, except for The Philosopher’s Pupil, which I wasn’t really convinced by.

  2. Hi James
    thanks. I’ve read quite a few of the Murdoch’s and the many of the other masterpieces which you mention which indeed are masterpieces. Good recommendations in any case. The Thought Gang sounds very interesting – I’ll need to check that – exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.
    Of the classics, if I remember this right, Mr Ramsay in To the Lighthouse is a philosopher…

  3. A few suggestions
    Lars Iyer (sp?) has a trilogy involving the travails of two philosophers – Doubt, Spurious and ?? are the titles.
    Iain Pears – An Instance of the Fingerpost (I believe Locke is a character — it’s been awhile — and the whole novel is steeped in the philosophical (and broader intellectual) ethos of the era.
    The novels of Rebecca Goldstein — esp. The Mind-Body problem (‘nut said) and 36 Arguments against the existence of God. I believe the main character of the latter is actually a psychologist (modelled in Steven Pinker?), but close enough.

  4. Oh! And then there is Annabel Lyon’s duology featuring Aristotle as the central character
    The Golden Mean
    The Good Girl

  5. Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow has an unflattering character based on Bertrand Russell (named Scogan). Thomas Bernhard’s Correction is centred on a character based on Wittgenstein (named Roithamer). Bernhard has another book called Wittgenstein’s Nephew. Bruce Duffy’s The World as I Found It is about Russell, Moore, and Wittgenstein. Penelope Fitzgerald’s Blue Flower is about Novalis and his circle. Irvin D. Yalom has novels called The Spinoza Problem, When Nietzsche Wept, and The Schopenhauer Cure.

  6. Robert Musil completed a dissertation under Stumpf’s supervision in Berlin. His dissertation was about Mach. Musil was offered an academic position in philosophy at Graz. He declined the offer to write philosophical novels. There’s an upcoming issue of The Monist devoted to Musil. Another philosophical Austrian novelist is Hermann Broch, who attended some of the Vienna Circle’s meetings.

  7. David Foster Wallace’s The Broom of the System involves a signed copy of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. I haven’t read the whole book, so I don’t know how this could be, considering that Wittgenstein died before the Investigations were published, but I would expect Wallace to have known that.

  8. Neal Stephenson’s Anathem. The central characters are scientist/mathematician/philosophers on an Earth-like world in which all of the intellectuals sequestered themselves in monastery-like communities thousands of years ago. Parts of it read like a bizarre intro text with all the names changed. N.B.: It’s over 900 pages long.
    Also, though they’re not as overtly philosophical, Stephenson’s philosophical background is evident in a number of his other books. Also, many of them are really good.

  9. Taking the Devil’s Advice, by Anne Fine, has a philosopher as a central character. Good book, but the philosophical content is more for the purposes of fleshing out the character.
    So obvious you must have thought of it but forgot to mention it: The Name of the Rose.
    If you said a little more about why you’re interested, the advice you’re getting might be better directed. Would Pale Fire be relevant? Or If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler?

  10. Another great philosophical novelist (in addition to Musil and Broch) is George Eliot. She translated Feuerbach and became a champion of Comte. Probably her most philosophical work is Daniel Deronda. There’s also Thomas Mann, who was strongly influenced by Nietzsche and Schopenhauer and mentions one of Schop’s works in Buddenbrooks. There’s lots of philosophy in Borges, who liked Schopenhauer and several early moderns.

  11. Jussi: I was stunned and delighted to find that a primary character in Edward St. Aubyn’s first book in the Patrick Melrose series, Never Mind, is a philosopher (at Oxford, I think) working on the issue of personal identity, and he’s essentially mouthing the views of Derek Parfit in Reasons and Persons. There are extensive, serious discussions of the issue (including talk of fission), and it’s relevant to one of the overall themes of the series, namely, is it one’s body or one’s psychology that’s essential to preserving who one is across time? The character, though, is nothing like Parfit himself, as he is a grasper, someone desperate to be included in the inner circle of the filthy (in all senses) rich.

  12. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage is named after something by Spinoza. In Maugham’s book, he mentions Kuno Fischer and says the main character attended Fischer’s lectures on Schopenhauer. Maugham himself had attended those lectures.

  13. Here are a few. I stuck to novels written in English and published in the last 100 years.
    J.M. Coetzee, “Elizabeth Costello” – Two of the chapters narrate a lecture on animals and our relationship to them given by the novel’s namesake. In the lecture, Costello discusses Nagel’s “What Is It Like To Be A Bat?” and her daughter in law is a philosopher with whom she has a difficult relationship. This and other works of Coetzee’s have been discussed by a lot of philosophers recently.
    Roberto Bolano, “The Savage Detectives” – One of the peripheral characters is a student, then a professor, of philosophy. Mention is made of Nietzsche, Solomon Maimon, Hermann Cohen, Emil Lask, and more Neo-Kantians.
    Penelope Fitzgerald, “The Blue Flower” – The novel is about Novalis. The Schlegels, Schiller and Goethe all make appearances.
    Saul Bellow, “The Adventures of Augie March” – The first sentence of the novel makes reference to Heraclitus. Quite a lot of other references to philosophers throughout the novel.
    Bellow, “Herzog” – The central character talks quite a lot about philosophy and writes a letter to Heidegger.
    Jonathan Franzen, “The Corrections” – One of the characters is said to be heavily influenced by Schopenhauer. Another discusses the Frankfurt School a bit. These are more significant than mere name-dropping, and they have an important role in the novel.

  14. Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust has several mentions of Hegel. Friedrich Engels is one of the characters. In 1888, Mary Augusta Ward (aka Mrs. Humphry Ward) published Robert Elsmere, in which a character’s Anglican faith is upset by reading Schelling. This character takes up T. H. Green’s views. One of the other characters is based on Benjamin Jowett (the Plato translator). More recently, there’s Jennie Erdal’s Missing Shade of Blue.

  15. a lot of good novels mentioned. To add a few to the mix. two of my favorite philosophical fiction writers are kazenzakis and Hesse. These might seem out of date in some ways but, there is no way to read Zorba or the last temptation of christ, or steppenwolf or magister ludi without much coming to thought.

  16. A Landing on the Sun by Michael Frayn is a wonderful novel. It is part thriller and part a discussion of the nature of the good. A main character seems to me to be based on Phillipa Foot. It is also very funny.
    Goldstein’s Mind-Body Problem has characters based on Kripke and Nagel.

  17. Walter Abish’s novel How German Is It has a character named Brumhold, who is based on Heidegger. Merleau-Ponty appears in the second-last installment of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time (Temporary Kings) as Leon-Joseph Ferrand-Seneschal (although that identification is more speculative). In addition to Huxley’s Scogan, Bertrand Russell was the basis for Sir Joshua Malleson in D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, for Thornton Tyrell in Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, and for Mr. Apollinax in a poem by T. S. Eliot. Maupassant wrote a short story called “Beside Schopenhauer’s Corpse”. And there’s Leibniz as Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide.

  18. I second Stephenson’s Anathem, and would just like to add the philosophically relevant note that a central piece of the narrative of the book is based on Lewisian notions of possible worlds, where in the story different possible worlds have begun colliding (that is, causally interacting) with one another. Stephenson lists his philosophical acknowledgements (stretching from Leibniz on) for the novel at his homepage: http://www.nealstephenson.com/anathem/acknow.htm
    Also, although possibly stretching the category of “novel” somewhat, it’s probably worth noting the fun graphic novel (comic book) account of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, & co by Apostolos Doxiadis and others: Logicomix (http://www.logicomix.com).

  19. Peter Watts: Blindsight… has to do not so much with the nature of consciousness, but what it is “for”, whether its an evolutionary dead-end, and how intelligent creatures without consciousness might be like–and how they would react to communication from creatures (us) with consciousness. Also has vampires (not sparkly ones though). It’s available for free under Creative Commons.

  20. Wow! Wonderful suggestions everyone! I’ve read and heard of some of these but a lot of the mentioned books are new to me. Thanks so much to all of you.
    Jamie, I didn’t have any specific purpose in mind, at least initially. Mainly I wanted to get interesting books to read that have some connection to philosophy. This aim has been served brilliantly. This has given me other ideas too though. I’ve heard of Pale Fire and If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller but not read them (they’ll be on my list now…).
    Given that I am in Birmingham, I should mention David Lodge’s Thinks which features Nagel’s “What is it like to be a bat?” and Jackson’s “Epiphenomenal Qualia” in a hilarious way and his Changing Places where the disagreement between Popperians and Kuhnians is prominent.

  21. David Markson’s novel Wittgenstein’s Mistress is wonderful.
    (Novels with titles like that are generally abysmal. This one isn’t.)

  22. I think one of the most underrated philosophy-influenced novelists is Raymond Queneau, known for the playfully experimental Exercises in Style and the novel-turned-Louis Malle film Zazie in the Metro. Queneau studied philosophy at the Sorbonne and helped edit Kojeve’s lectures on Hegel. His most philosophical work (though rather obliquely) is Chiendent (Bark Tree or Witch Grass).
    Fernando de Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet, Henri Barbusse’s Enfer (Hell) are full of Sartrean themes, and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Blood of Others is a philosophical story about the legitimate use of violence (less known but better than Sartre’s Dirty Hands and Camus’ Just Assassins on the same theme).
    Someone mentioned Thomas Mann: his Dr. Faustus has a character based on Nietzsche, and his Magic Mountain has a character based on Gyorgy Lukacs.
    Other possibilities: Voltaire – Candide, Diderot – Jacques the Fatalist, Swift – Gulliver’s Travels, Shelley – Frankenstein, Melville – Moby Dick, Hardy – Jude the Obscure, Ionesco – Rhinoceros, Gide – The Immoralist, Unamuno – Mist, Svevo – Zeno’s Conscience, Golding – Lord of the Flies, Vonnegut – Cat’s Cradle, Houellebecq – Elementary Particles.

  23. I don’t think anyone has mentioned *Sophie’s World* which is all about philosophy (nice introduction for young readers).
    And I’m not sure if anyone mentioned Rebecca Goldstein’s or David Foster Wallace’s novels. I’d have to think more about it and not sure if these count for your interests, but I’d guess there are quite a few philosophical allusions in DH Lawrence, TS Eliot (plays, and he was cuckolded by Russell!), and Kurt Vonnegut. Not novelists per se, but I think Dante has some philosophers in some level of hell (or better places) and surely Shakespeare references some philosophers.

  24. Not quite what you requested, but William Gass is emeritus in the philosophy department at WUSTL and is one of the more important American writers of recent vintage (so I say). Central characters in The Tunnel and Middle C are professors of history and music, respectively, but they’re pretty recognizable portraits of the anxiety and self-doubt of a lot of philosophers. Those books are gigantic and difficult, though rewarding, reads. Omensetter’s Luck is smaller and easier to take in, and it is absolutely beautiful.

  25. I am not a philosopher, so I can not give you any direct reference to philosopher influences, but the following authors are very good (in my humble opinion) writers, and for a typical undergraduate, may prompt good discussions on making moral choices for the greater good, and whose good.
    Donna Leon who writes mysteries that take place in Venice, Italy. Her main character is Commissario Guido Brunetti. He is philosophical in his way, his wife is a professor of English at the University and the descriptions of Venice, food and human actions are wonderful.
    Daniel Silva’s main character is Gabriel Allon, who is an Israeli art restorer, spy and assassin. Allon is a compelling character. I suggest starting with the first of the series so that you can understand Allon’s motivations. Not saying they are right or wrong. Just saying start with the first in the series, The Kill Artist, 2000.
    Mark Burnell’s books can be difficult to find in the U.S., but he has a female protagonist, Stephanie Patrick, a former government worker, and now an assassin (do you sense a theme here). His books The Third Woman, Gemini, and Chameleon are excellent. I have not read any of his others.
    I do not recommend any of the Alexander McCall Smith books on The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. But, that is just my opinion.

  26. Philip Kerr’s A Philosophical Investigation is a good semi-futuristic thriller involving a serial killer who uses the code name “Wittgenstein”. In addition to direct references to Wittgenstein and other philosophers, there are extended discussions on topics like nature vs. nurture, rehabilitation vs. retributive punishment, and the morality of suicide.

  27. I recommend
    – Nick Hornby’s How to Be Good, and
    – Rebecca Goldstein’s The Mind-Body Problem.
    I’ve also wanted to read
    – Bernard Suits’ The Grasshopper,
    though it’s not a novel; it’s a philosophical dialog.

  28. This may almost be the reverse of what you have described, but Professor Craig Taylor from Flinders University in South Australia has written Sympathy: A Philosophical Analysis in which he discusses characters in literature to explain different aspects of cultural relativity, moral agency and sympathy. I know drawing on fictional characters from literature is perceived as a controversial choice when there is information relating to ‘real live’ human experience to draw from however it is thought provoking nonetheless.
    PS: I’m really looking forward to your discussions this year! Thanks for your hard work and dedication.

  29. Hi Jussi
    It may be a stretch to call Casaubon in George Elliot’s Middlemarch a philosopher, but he certainly offers a cautionary tale to all academics. Lots of good examples can be extracted from that great novel, one of my favourites being Bulstrode’s self-deception in giving the servant the key to the drink’s cabinet (I won’t expand the description for fear of being a plot spoiler for those who have not read it…)
    ‘If this is a man’ by Primo Levi is somehow philosophical in revealing an essential humanity which survives despite the most extreme suffering. A recent Guardia article about it is here http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/apr/05/rereading-if-this-is-man

  30. Jussi, I don’t know if this is quite what you want, but I teach a ‘Why Be Moral?’ course, the second half of which is literature-based. (The first half is mainly Plato). Below is the syllabus with the books and the essay/questions which should enable you to see why I think that most of these fictions are philosophically significant. I should add, however, that in my view there is nothing of any significance to be learned from THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (despite the echoes of Plato ) partly because of the moral and intellectual confusion that characterized its author. .
    Week 7 B: the Picture of Dorian Gray
    B. “According to McGinn ‘To reject the morality in the name of love and beauty is to negate one’s aim.’ (Ethics Evil and Fiction, p. 138) ‘Beauty and evil cannot coexist… the fate of Dorian Gray exemplifies this truth’ (p. 140). The fate of Dorian Gray may exemplify this alleged truth but Oscar Wilde’s novel does nothing to prove it. Discuss.”
    See McGinn, Wilde , Ellman,
    Week 8: Laclos – Le Liaisons Dangereuses
    A. a) Why does Mme de Merteuil, who avoids writing love letters for fear of compromising herself, engage in such a very revealing – and ultimately highly compromising – correspondence with Valmont?
    b) ‘It is no accident that Valmont and Merteuil come into conflict since each aspires to be worshipped as a god by the other.’ Discuss.
    B Most of us would not choose to be either Valmont or Merteuil – but is whatever is the matter with them due to their amoralism or to some other complication of causes?
    Supplementary Questions
    1) When the makers of Cruel Intentions set out to update Dangerous Liaisons, they decided (like Laclos) to make the chief characters very rich. Would the story make sense if ‘Merteuil’ and ‘Valmont’ were merely middle class or even poor? And if not. why not?
    Week 9: Dostoevsky – Crime and Punishment / Raskolnikov
    A. ‘Insoluble questions confront the murderer; unsuspected and unanticipated feelings torment his heart. Divine truth and justice, the earthly law claim their rights and he ends up being compelled to give himself up. Compelled so that even if he perishes in penal servitude, nonetheless he might once again be united to men. ‘ Does Dostoevsky’s precis (from his famous letter to Katkov) correspond to the novel he eventually wrote?
    B. Does Crime and Punishment succeed as an immanent critique of the Napoleon idea?
    See Crime and Punishment and the works of criticism listed in the Bibliography. Of these Mochulsky and Frank DMY are the best. I also recommend Hook, The Hero in History.
    Supplementary Questions
    Compare and contrast Dostoevsky’s critique of the Napoleon idea in Crime and Punishment with Tolstoy’s critique in War and Peace.
    See (apart form the Dostoevsky readings) War and Peace, Hook Hero Frank BRR, ch. 4, Lieven Russia Againt Napoleon and Zamoyski 1812.
    Outline and discuss Tolstoy’s critique of the Napoleon idea in War and Peace
    Readings as above minus the Dostoevsky.
    Week 10: Dostoevsky – Demons / Stavrogin
    A . a) ‘Raskolnikov subscribes to a superman ethic but Stavrogin rejects morality altogether.’ Discuss.
    b) Compare and contrast Raskolnikov and Stavrogin.
    B a) Why does Stavrogin eventually kill himself?
    b) Is Pyotr Verkhovensky an amoralist or the proponent of a perverted ethic?
    See Crime and Punishment and The Devils/Demons/The Possessed. See also the works of criticism listed in the Bibliography especially **Mochulsky and **Frank DMY. You may care to check out my ‘Stavrogin: Critical Study of an Amoralist’.
    Week 11: Shakespeare – Henry IV, Henry V, Richard III.
    A. ‘Falstaff is an amoralist but the moral characters in Henry IV and Henry V are an unappetizing bunch. Three are true (as opposed to stage) Machiavellians – the King, Prince Hal and Prince John – whilst a fourth – namely Hotspur – subscribes to the antiquated and irresponsible code of the warrior caste’. Discuss with special reference to Henry IV Part 1.
    See Henry IV, Part 1 and Hunter ed., especially the essays by Bradley, John Dover Wilson and Empson. See also Machiavelli, The Prince and Viroli, Machiavelli On the whole I would not bother with Holderness
    B. ‘It is better to be Falstaff than to be Stavrogin but even being Falstaff has its drawbacks and these are due, in part, to his amoralism.’ Discuss with special reference to Henry IV Part 2.
    See Shakespeare, Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 and Hunter ed., especially the essays by Bradley, John Dover Wilson and Empson. See also Machiavelli, The Prince. On the whole I would not bother with Holderness.
    Week 12: Shakespeare – Henry IV, Henry V, Richard III
    A Is Henry V a celebration of a Christian King or an ambivalent critique of a Machiavellian King?
    See Shakespeare Henry V, Machiavelli, The Prince, Earle, Henry V, Bradshaw, Prologue and ch. 1, Quinn ed. especially the essay by Gould (though many of the others are worth a look) and the essay by Dollimore and Sinfield in Holderness ed.
    B ‘Richard III is a stage Machiavel based on a vulgarized misunderstanding of Machiavelli’s ideal but Henry IV and V are the real thing , the kind of princes Machiavelli had in mind.’ Discuss.
    See Shakespeare Richard III, Henry V, Machiavelli, The Prince, Earle, Henry V, Bradshaw , Prologue and ch. 1, Quinn ed. especially the essay by Gould (though many of the others are worth a look) and the essay by Dollimore and Sinfield in Holderness ed.
    Supplementary Questions
    1. ‘Falstaff pays a price for being an amoralist but Hal pays nearly as high a price for being a Machiavellian moralist’ Discuss.
    Week 13: Jane Austen – Persuasion
    a) ‘Mr William Elliott in Persuasion is a sensible knave who manages to live a tolerably happy and successful life despite his knavery’. Discuss.
    b) Austen seems to think that sensible and – even foolish knaves – can often have tolerablyly happy and successful lives.
    B. Austen agrees with Hume that (absent considerations of a future state) there is no compelling argument that can reason a sensible knave into virtue. Nonetheless they both think that knaves are not to be envied.’ Discuss.

  31. Jussi, I would also recommend “If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler” by Italo Calvino, as it is one of my favourite books. In fact, a most of Calvino’s books have some sort of philosophical element to them. Probably the most philosophical of his books is “Mr. Palomar”. For starters, the chapters have a Tractatus-like numbering system. The 27 stories are organized into three parts – 1,2,3 – each divided into three sub-parts – 1.1,1.2,1.3, etc – each again divided into three stories – from 1.1.1 to 3.3.3. The digits not only organize the stories by order, but by content (1=visual experience, 2=language and culture, 3=metaphysics) story titles include “The Infinite Lawn” (about the problem of defining the boundaries of a lawn) and “Learnig To Be Dead” (where Mr. Palomar tries to practice what it is like to be dead). I’d suggest picking up “Mr. Palomar” before “If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler”, since the entire book is quite short and each of the stories is only a few pages long.
    Another interesting read is “The Intuitionist” by Colson Whitehead. In an alternate history of New York, elevators are the king of transportation. There are two schools of elevator repair – intuitionists and empiricists. The book actually deals more with issues of race and gender, as the main character is a triple-minority (aside from being an intuitionist, she is both black and female). I’m not sure I actually understood what the book was saying, but I enjoyed trying.

  32. Laurence Sterne mentions Locke several times in Tristram Shandy. There’s a large literature about Locke’s influence on the novel.

  33. Elegance of the Hedgehog by philosophy professor Muriel Barbery. Several mentions of Kant and Husserl and a critique of phenomenology. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig.
    Kafka’s of course philosophical but it’s long been difficult to identify his influences. There’s more being written now about Max Weber’s influence, channeled via Max’s brother, Alfred, who taught Kafka in law school. Also, Kafka attended classes taught by Brentano’s students, Ehrenfels and Marty. It’s hard to find direct influence, but many of Kafka’s friends were more serious about these philosophers and traveled to meet Brentano. Barry Smith has a paper about possible Brentanian influence on Kafka.

  34. In Austerlitz, W. G. Sebald compares the main character to Wittgenstein. Also, borrowing from the Tractatus, Sebald has the main character compare language to an ‘old city’. Wittgenstein was one of the main characters in Terry Eagleton’s novel Saints and Scholars. Ingeborg Bachmann published a couple of papers on Wittgenstein. Her novel Malina, which was translated into English in 1991, was motivated by Wittgenstein’s views. According to Marjorie Perloff (in Wittgenstein’s Ladder), it was Bachmann who persuaded a German publisher to issue Wittgenstein’s main works in “accessible paperback” versions.

  35. I disagree with one poster’s dismissal of Wilde’s Portrait of Dorian Gray. His Decay of Lying is perhaps the better piece, but both are worth reading and philosophically thought provoking.

  36. To Yan. Perhaps ‘nothing to be learned’ is an exaggeration, but the book certainly fails to provide adequate reason to accept the trite moral pointed up by Colin McGinn.
    An interesting book which is a sort of novelistic critique of the moral effects of predestinarian Calvinism is James Hogg’s ‘Confessions of a Justified Sinner’
    For a novelistic exploration of the anarchist ideal, I recommend Ursula K le Guin’s ‘The Dispossessed’ (It has just occurred to me that the title may be partly intended as an allusion to Dostoevsky’s ‘Demons’ which used to be translated as ‘the Possessed’.) The founding mother of the other-worldly anarchism, which dominates an entire planet in this story, is inspired by, if not modeled on, Emma Goldman.
    It is not a novel of character, but I think it is possible to read Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy as an SF exploration of the idea a predictive social science which *some* of its votaries thought Marxism to be. Hari Seldon’s psychohistory is like the Marxism of Engels’ ‘Socialism: Utopian and Scientific’ raised to the max.

  37. Hopeful Monsters by Nicholas Mosley, winner of the 1990 Whitbread Award. Mosley studied philosophy for a year at Oxford before going off to fight in WWII. This book includes some reflections on Wittgenstein.
    Next, two philosophical novels translated into English and published by Northwestern University Press: Conversations With Spinoza by Goce Smilevski, translated from Macedonian; and How to Quiet a Vampire by Borislav Pekic, translated from Serbian.
    Several novels by Richard Powers (esp. Echo Maker which features a character who has Capgras Syndrome).
    There’s a Young Adult novel by Lucy Eyre called If Minds Had Toes, which is organized around a bet between Socrates and Wittgenstein.

  38. A few books that have yet to be mentioned: The short stories in Greg Egan’s Axiomatic are philosophically rich. Tom McCarthy’s Remainder is a wonderful novel about memory, identity and obsession. Quincas Borba by Machado de Assis and Traveller of the Century by Andres Neuman deal with philosophical themes.
    I’d second Calvino, Frayn’s A Landing on the Sun, St. Aubyn’s Never Mind, and The Intuitionist. The Iyer trilogy and The Thought Gang are fun, too.
    The Promise of Happiness is excellent indeed!

  39. Charles Pigden,
    It’s been some time since I’ve read it, so that may well be true.
    I do think that in general this is common in philosophical literature–the ideas become philosophically weaker in the literary presentation. But that’s a philosophical, not literary, flaw. I think philosophical literature is best at just suggesting philosophical themes and questions in an artistically interesting way, posing problems not answering them.
    This of course means that some worthy examples of philosophical literature aren’t so useful in a philosophy and literature course of the sort you posted, since they either fail to present philosophical answers and reasons or do so in a vague, unconvincing way. (Fortunately, few have been convinced by Raskolnikov’s weak arguments for experimental nihilism!)
    In any case, if I recall correctly, I think the Decay of Lying gives a more compelling account of some of the ideas in Portrait of Dorian Gray. So maybe paired together, they would be a better fit for a philosophy and literature course.

  40. German author Robert Gernhardt wrote a philosophcial novel named “Ich Ich Ich”. Some anecdotes about the Frankfurt School in there.
    Gernhardt and his colleague Eckhard Henscheid often cite the Frankfurt School, Hegel etc. in ironical ways. The are called the New Frankfurt School.
    Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard often mentions Wittgenstein and Schopenhauer.
    Polish authur Stanislaw Lem wrote novels full of philosophical questions about science and future.
    Daniel Kehlmann studied philosophy in Vienna. His “Vermessung der Welt” is also a book about the uses of science for men.
    Bertolt Brecht wrote a short story named “Der verwundete Sokrates”.

  41. Ricardo Piglia’s novel Artificial Respiration makes reference to Wittgenstein. Richard Wollheim published a novel in 1969 called A Family Romance. Raja Rao taught philosophy in Texas and published novels, some of which explore Vedantic philosophy. French philosophy professor Michel Henry published five novels, but I don’t think they’ve been translated into English. Eliette Abécassis is a philosophy prof at Caen who has several novels, but they haven’t been translated into English. At least two movies have been based on her books (listed on IMDb). Alan H. Goldman’s new book Philosophy and the Novel is being published by Oxford this year.

  42. Samantha Harvey has an M.A. in philosophy and has two novels: The Wilderness (about memory loss) and All is Song, which is about a “middle-aged, middle-class Socrates” in England (quoting from Carol Birch’s review in the Guardian). Alex Kasman has a website called ‘Mathematical Fiction’, which has some overlap with philosophy. It’s via that site that I learned of The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez. According to the blurb on Amazon, “Martinez, a novelist and math Ph.D., writes with a restrained, elegant style sprinkled with brief disquisitions on Gödel’s theorem, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and Wittgenstein’s paradox, which demonstrates “the impossibility of establishing an unambiguous rule.””

  43. I’m shocked that no one has mentioned the detective novel based on the story of Richard Montague’s death. It’s called — you guessed it — The Semantics of Murder.

  44. French philosophy instructor Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès published a novel that won the Medicis Prize (2008) and was short-listed for a Goncourt. It’s been translated into English as Where Tigers Are at Home. It involves someone translating a biography of Athanasius Kircher. One character makes journal entries that “reach into Wittgenstein and other modern philosophers (in a style reminiscent of Markson…).” (Quoting from Grant Barber’s review at the Three Percent site)

  45. I see Neal Stephenson’s Anathem is mentioned, as well as a general recommendation for his other books, but I thought I’d specifically point out the Baroque Cycle, by the same author. It’s a trilogy and each book is ~900pp, so it’s not something you would set out to read on a weekend, but you asked about specific mentions of philosophers – it’s got several of the great natural philosophers and mathematicians of the 17th and 18th centuries.
    An author I don’t see anybody else has mentioned is Robert J. Sawyer. Some of his better novels, philosophically, are _The Terminal Experiment_, _Calculating God_, and _Factoring Humanity_.

  46. In Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage, the character Miriam Henderson reflects on the ideas of Emerson and J. M. E. McTaggart. Also, May Sinclair, an early modernist, mentions Schopenhauer in Mary Olivier. Sinclair, though chiefly a novelist, wrote two philosophy books that were favorably reviewed by Bertrand Russell.

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