Philosophical perspectives on literary value

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Book chapter

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The quality of literature : linguistic studies in literary evaluation

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John Benjamins Publishing Company


Meta-axiological distinctions introduced here introduced here include cognitivism and non-cognitivism on the status of evaluative discourse, as well as revisionary and non-revisionary positions. I argue that anti-realist and error-theoretical views of evaluative claims tend to be revisionary in ways that conflict with the realist orientation of much evaluative discourse, yet I contend that this does not provide a decisive reason in favor of cognitivism. While categorical aesthetic imperatives are hard to justify, some of these hypothetical imperatives have important implications in arguments over literary value. Dispositional accounts of value and 'ideal judge' conditions are also canvassed. In what follows I shall take up some central issues in meta-axiology, the branch of philosophy that engages in second-order reflection over values and evaluative discourse (for background, Darwell et al. 1993; Sinnott-Armstrong & Timmons 1996). My highly selective survey will be conducted with an eye to the implications of key philosophical strategies for questions pertaining to the topic of literary value. I propose no systematic theory of the latter, but do schematically indicate what I take to be some cogent basic assumptions and lines of future enquiry.



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Copyright © 2008 John Benjamins Publishing Company

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ISBN of the source publication: 9789027233363

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Recommended Citation

Livingston, P. (2008). Philosophical perspectives on literary value. In W. van Peer (Ed.), The quality of literature: Linguistic studies in literary evaluation (pp. 209-221). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. doi: 10.1075/lal.4.15liv