Sunday Book-Thought 95

If the present argument is correct, then the dulce et utile dichotomy, which has provided the framework for every discussion of the relationship between philosophy and literature since Plato, is inadequate. Literature must be worthwhile, but its value does not consist in its being either dulce or utile. Literature exercises the intellect rather than the emotions, but it does not instruct in the sense in which philosophy can be said to instruct. Literature does not compete with philosophy, nor does it complement it. Literature and philosophy meet in thematic concepts, but it is not a meeting which leads to marriage or even to holding hands. The relationship is a more distant one: literature and philosophy are neighbours in the same important area of culture.
– Stein Haugom Olsen, The End of Literary Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 195.

Sunday Book-Thought 56

What I have really been discussing here is story’s capacity to create a special kind of ethical discourse. Emma and Mansfield Park are novels, not philosophy, but in them the representation of human actions and especially the evaluation of the worthiness or culpability of those actions is clearly based on an ethical theory that Austen forthrightly deploys as the touchstone for her judgments about her characters’ ethical agency. To see these judgments worked out, to participate in them as readers, and to recognize them as active principles of everyday conduct rather than as yes-or-no answers to Sunday school questions about “how to be good” is to receive the kind of practice at moral deliberation that all of us need if we are to be liberated from the clichés, prejudices, catchwords, and knee-jerk reactions of everyday society.
Marshall GregoryShaped by Stories: The Ethical Power of Narratives (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009), pp. 189-190.