School of History, Philosophy and Culture

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  • Philosophy through fiction

    Doing philosophy differently by telling stories

    Philosophy allows you to tell stories through thought experiments, using the imagination to investigate the nature of a principle. An example is Philippa Foot’s trolley scenario, where you have to choose between witnessing five people on the tracks being killed by a trolley, or pulling a lever that diverts the trolley to one unsuspecting person, saving five and killing one.

    Philosophers have also written longer, richer stories to explore their ideas. Famous examples include novels by Simone de Beauvoir, Iris Murdoch, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Fiction allows us to explore ideas that cannot be easily dealt with in the format of an academic article or monograph, and helps us to reach a broader audience.

    This project provides philosophers with both the motivation and skills to write fiction. We run a competition, where the winner is published in Sci Phi Journal, for a short story that explores philosophical ideas in a novel way. We are also offering a workshop on fiction writing for philosophers, which provides training and mentoring for philosophers who are new to fiction or want to improve their skills. We are also in the process of editing a volume of philosophical short stories.

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