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Philosophy and Poetry

11 July 2011


Philosophy certainly has connections with science but it is not itself a science. Nor is it literature. But it is related to literature in a way that excessive emphasis on science can obscure. In this paper I defend the rather old-fashioned view that philosophy is essentially linguistic. I also argue, less conventionally, that there is an unavoidable personal aspect to at least some philosophical problems, and in answering them we must speak for ourselves without being able to count on every other speaker of our language agreeing with us or even understanding what we say. Where the rules of our language are not set we must, so to speak, make them up for ourselves as we go. In this way philosophy requires the kind of linguistic creativity more often associated with poetical kinds of literature. Drawing on the work of Cora Diamond and Alice Crary, I argue that philosophy should be regarded as, not identical with, but continuous with poetry.


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