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In Memoriam: Peter Kivy (1934-2017)

Peter Kivy was a leading figure in aesthetics and taught for many years at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, where he was emeritus. He was interviewed as part of the End Times series for at 3:AM

An extract:

‘But, lo and behold, when we enter the realm of philosophy of literature, we discover that we do not really know what enthralls us about narrative fiction. We do not know why story-telling so enthralls us. And, again, the philosopher’s instinct is to find something beyond the story, hidden in the story, which, on first reflection, we have missed, that does enthrall us, and for reasons that we do understand. And, not surprisingly, the philosopher comes up with knowledge. For, as Aristotle long ago put it: “learning things is most enjoyable, not only for philosophers but for others equally, though they have little experience of it” (Poetics IV).

Well, this horse won’t run either. I by no means have given up the idea that silently read fiction can be a source of knowledge. But I have become more and more convinced that it is a philosopher’s obsession to place so much emphasis on it in the philosophy of literature. The story is the thing. And until we understand our enthrallment with story-telling, we will not understand literary fiction.’

First posted: Sunday, May 7th, 2017.

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