Essay on Analyis of Knowledge of a Possibility by JUllary Putnam

Decent Essays
The value of literature as a source of knowledge is a timeless debate that varies depending on how knowledge is defined. I will adopt Hillary Putnam’s theory of “Knowledge of a Possibility” (Putnam 488) in “Literature Science, and Reflection” (1976), and focus on the value of literature as a source of conceptual knowledge. The emergence of the novel brought with it conventions for a more realistic writing style that aimed to appeal to the common readers. Variations of the degree of realism ranged from writing that tried to present a fully authentic experience of life, known as Formal Realism, and writing that offers some authentic aspects of life but also conserves characteristics of classic genres of epics and romances. These…show more content…
The criterion for knowledge is rather complex and Putnam addresses literary knowledge in “both the empirical and conceptual elements” (Putnam 488). On the one hand, there are the conceptual elements of knowledge, those that can be considered “knowledge of possibility” (Putnam 488) that allow us to think of new possibilities through “conceptual discovery” (Putnam 488). Conceptual knowledge allows readers to get a sense of what something is like or provide insight to another person’s beliefs. There are not necessarily claims to truth in this form of knowledge, but in some instances the hypotheses we obtain from literature may be tested confirmed through personal experience, and consequently may be confirmed or falsified. On the other hand there is empirical knowledge, which is gained through observations, scientific experimentation, and evidence. In this context, Putnam rejects the ability of literature to provide readers with empirical knowledge. In his example about The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing, Putnam suggests that the book provides knowledge of “what it was like to be a communist in the 1940s” (Putnam 489) but offers a disclaimer “you may say to yourself this is what it must have been like; have no right to say “I know what this is what it was like”” (Putnam 489). Despite this distinction, Putnam still asserts the value of knowledge in literature “Dorris
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