Once Upon a Time is a collection of essays in the philosophy of literature with two central themes: the significance of story –telling for us and the question of whether the novel, perhaps the art form most closely associated with story-telling, is a legitimate source of human knowledge. Leading philosopher of art Peter Kivy explores why human beings are so enthralled by being told stories and whether story-telling is a significant source of knowledge. Starting with a study of Aristotle's Poetics, Kivy then undertakes a critical discussion of Noel Carroll’s suggestion that our interaction with the artists of the past is a kind of “conversation.” He goes on to defend the thesis that one of the legitimate artistic pleasures we take in novel-reading is the acquiring of knowledge and, furthermore, that the silent reading of a novel is a kind of performance, making the novel one of the performing arts. The volume concludes with a chapter about jokes, and, in particular, whether it is immoral to tell or be amused by an “immoral” joke. This volume of essays is a must-read for anyone seriously interested in literature and the conceptual problems it may raise for philosophers.
Preface / 1. The Actual, the Possible and the Probable: Problems in Poetics IX / 2. Criticism, Communication, Conversation, Craft / 3. Facts From Fictions / 4. Knowledge and Novel Knowledge / 5. Swept Up in the Story / 6. Tell Me a Story! / 7. The Dancer and the Dance: On Reading as Performance / 8. Joking Morality / Bibliography / Index
Peter Kivy was Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Rutgers University. His many published works include De Gustibus: Arguing About Taste and Why We Do It (2015), Music Alone: Philosophical Reflections on the Purely Musical Experience (2009), The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics (2004) and Antithetical Arts: On the Ancient Quarrel Between Literature and Music (2009). Several of his books have been translated into Chinese, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish. He was a former Guggenheim Fellow and a past President of the American Society for Aesthetics.
Aaron Meskin is the Head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Georgia.
We want to be told a story almost as much as we want to breathe. But why? The answer is classic Kivy, a healthy serving of common sense spiced with eloquence, wit, and an unforgettable personal voice. A book to take to heart.