On Philosophy and Poetry

  • Jennifer Anna Gosetti-FerenceiEmail author


Philosophical debates about poetry center on its relation to truth. While even its critics tend to admit that poetry can convey truth, others propose a mode of truthfulness that is distinctly poetic. Phenomenological hermeneutics claims that poetry enacts a form of revealing disclosure, while critical theory promotes poetry predominantly in its illusory character . These positions will be considered against the backdrop of the historical debate and the tension therein between poetry’s mimetic relation to reality and its generation of images and ideas. Poetry both reveals reality and creates ideas in light of possibility, generating alternatives to the real that may be revelatory by contrast. Poetry’s truest disclosures may pertain not so much to the world itself than to the ways we experience and come to know it.


Phenomenology Truth Revealing  Hermeneutics Poetry Poetic truth 


  1. Adorno, Theodor W. 1992. Notes to Literature, Vol. II. Edited by Shierry Weber Nicholsen. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Aristotle. 1995. Poetics. Translated by Stephen Halliwell. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Auerbach, Erich. 2003. Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bishop, Elizabeth. 1983. The Complete Poems 1927–1979. New York, NY: Farrar Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  5. Black, Max. 1979. More about Metaphor. In Metaphor and Thought, ed. Andrew Ortony. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. 1983. Biographia Literaria Part II. Edited by W. J. Bate and James Engell. The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Volume 7. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 1997. The Complete Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Edited by William Keach. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  8. Currie, Gregory. 1995. The Moral Psychology of Fiction. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73 (2): 250–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. ———. 2013. Does Fiction Civilize Us? New York Times, Sunday Review, June 2.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 2016. Literature and Theory of Mind. In The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Literature, ed. Noel Carroll and John Gibson. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Elliott, Raymond Kenneth. 2006. Aesthetics, Imagination and the Unity of Experience. Edited by Paul Crowther. Hampshire, UK and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  12. Feagin, Susan L. 1983. The Pleasures of Tragedy. American Philosophical Quarterly 20 (1): 95–104.Google Scholar
  13. Frost, Robert. 1979. The Poetry of Robert Frost, Complete and Unabridged. Edited by Edward Connery Latham. New York, NY: Henry Holt.Google Scholar
  14. Gadamer, Hans-Georg. 1986. On the Contribution of Poetry to the Search for Truth. In The Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays, ed. Robert Bernasconi, 105–115. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gasché, Rodolphe. 1991. Foreword. In Friedrich Schlegel, Philosophical Fragments, trans. Peter Firchow. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gibson, John, ed. 2015. The Philosophy of Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Gosetti-Ferencei, Jennifer. 2004. Heidegger, Hölderlin, and the Subject of Poetic Language. New York, NY: Fordham University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. ———. 2006. The Poetics of Thinking. In Literature and Philosophy: A Guide to Contemporary Debates, ed. David Rudrum. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 2014. The Mimetic Dimension: Literature Between Neuroscience and Phenomenology. British Journal of Aesthetics 54 (4): 425–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hammerstein, Kai. 2002. The German Aesthetic Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heidegger, Martin. 1971. Poetry, Language, and Thought. Translated by Albert Hofstadter. New York, NY: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  22. Hölderlin, Friedrich. 1917. Das älteste Systemprogramm des deutschen Idealismus: Ein handschriftlicher Fund. Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften.Google Scholar
  23. ———. 1988. Essays and Letters on Theory. Translated and edited by Thomas Pfau. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  24. Horace. 1965. The Art of Poetry. In Classical Literary Criticism, trans. T.S. Dorsch. New York, NY: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  25. Hume, David. 2006. On Tragedy. In Essays Moral, Political, and Literary, 221–230. New York, NY: Cosimo.Google Scholar
  26. Kant, Immanuel. 1987. Critique of Judgment. Translated Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.Google Scholar
  27. Land, Nick. 1991. Art as Insurrection: The Question of Aesthetics in Kant, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. In Nietzsche and Modern German Thought, ed. Keith Ansell-Pearson. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Lauer, Gerald. 2009. Going Empirical: Why We Need Cognitive Literary Studies. Journal of Literary Theory 3 (1): 145–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lawrence, D.H. 2002. Song of a Man Who Has Come Through. In The Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions.Google Scholar
  30. Macaulay, Thomas Babington. 1892. Select Essays of Macaulay: Milton, Bunyan, Johnson, Goldsmith, Madame D’Arblay. Edited by Samuel Thurber. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  31. Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2002. Phenomenology of Perception. Translated by Colin Smith. New York, NY and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Murray, Penelope, ed. 1997. Plato on Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1954. ‘Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense’. In The Portable Nietzsche, trans. and ed. Walter Kaufmann. New York, NY: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  34. ———. 1966. Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York, NY: Vintage.Google Scholar
  35. Novalis. 1997. Philosophical Writings. Translated by Margaret Mahony Stoljar. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  36. Nussbaum, Martha. 1990. Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. ———. 1997. Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life. New York, NY: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  38. Paul, Samuel Elliott, and Scott Barry Kaufman, eds. 2014. The Philosophy of Creativity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Peacock, Thomas Love. 1875. The Works of Thomas Love Peacock, Including His Novels, Poems, Fugitive Pieces, Criticisms, Etc. Edited by Henry Cole. London: R. Bentley & Son.Google Scholar
  40. Perry, Ralph Barton. 1902. Poetry and Philosophy. The Philosophical Review 11 (6): 576–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Plato. 1937. Republic. Translated by Paul Shorey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  42. ———. 1983. Two Comic Dialogues: Ion and Hippias Major. Translated by Paul Woodruff. New York, NY: Hackett.Google Scholar
  43. Pollock, Benjamin. 2010. Franz Rosenzweig’s “Oldest System-Program”. New German Critique 111: 59–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Raylor, Timothy. 2016. Hobbes on the Nature and Scope of Poetry. In The Oxford Handbook of Hobbes, ed. Al P. Martinich and Kinch Hoekstra, 603–623. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Ricoeur, Paul. 1978. The Metaphorical Process as Cognition, Imagination, and Feeling. In On Metaphor, ed. Sheldon Sacks, 141–157. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  46. Rilke, Rainer Maria. 1942. Sonnets to Orpheus (bilingual edition). Translated by M.D. Herter Norton. New York, NY and London: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  47. Rimbaud, Arthur. 1975. Letter of 15 May 1871. In Lettres du voyant, ed. Gérald Schaeffer. Geneva: Librairie Droz.Google Scholar
  48. Searle, John R. 1975. The Logical Status of Fictional Discourse. New Literary History 6 (2, Winter): 319–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Shier, Flint. 1983. Tragedy and the Community of Sentiment. In Philosophy and Fiction: Essays in Literary Aesthetics, ed. Peter Lamarque, 73–92. Aberdeen University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Stevens, Wallace. 1997. Collected Poetry and Prose. New York, NY: Library of America.Google Scholar
  51. Sydney, Sir Philip. 2002. An Apology for Poetry, or in Defense of Poesy. Edited and translated by R.W. Maslen. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Tate, William. 2010. Something in Us Like the Catbird’s Song: Wallace Stevens and Richard Wilbur on the Truth of Poetry. Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 13 (3): 105–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Walton, Kendall. 1990. Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  54. Wilbur, Richard. 1997. The Catbird’s Song: Prose Pieces 1963–1995. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations