Recently I read a short polemical book by a political philosopher in which he claimed that the works of Shakespeare, while entertaining and emotionally engaging, lacked intellectual content by comparison with the works of the great philosophers. If it were wisdom and knowledge that one was after, it was to the latter that one would turn. Literature was for entertainment, intelligent or not as the case might be. What applied to Shakespeare must, a fortiori, apply to all other literature, for by general consent the works of Shakespeare contain the richest description of the human condition ever written. Nor do we seriously expect that body of work ever to be surpassed. This being the case, philosophy was for thinkers, literature for those in need of light relief from the hard work of genuine thought.

This view, with which I am not sympathetic, supposes that everything truly important can be said, or is best said, in straightforwardly...


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