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Dumb Beasts and Dead PhilosophersHumanity and the Humane in Ancient Philosophy and Literature$
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Catherine Osborne

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199282067

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199282067.001.0001

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Introduction: On William Blake, Nature, and Mortality

Introduction: On William Blake, Nature, and Mortality

(p.3) 1 Introduction: On William Blake, Nature, and Mortality
Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers

Catherine Osborne (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This introductory chapter presents a discussion of Blake's ‘Auguries of Innocence’ and ‘The Fly’, and of an extract from Shakespeare's Henry IV Part One. It illustrates the claim that not all philosophical persuasion takes the form of academic argument; that literature can be more effective in this role; that moral understanding involves having one's sensibilities aligned with genuine value, so as to be able to see it right; and that science cannot tell us what to value, or how to construct a moral taxonomy. The chapter compares the appreciation of value in nature with the appreciation of value in art, and questions the idea that human life is of supreme value, just in virtue of being human.

Keywords:   Blake, Shakespeare, The Fly, Auguries of Innocence, literature, moral understanding, mortality, science, argument, value

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