The introduction has three informal parts. First, it addresses arguments in defense of the claim that literary works can yield philosophical insights. Novels may, some maintain, function as informal thought experiments, such as intuition pumps and variant case arguments. It reflects as well on claims that fictional narratives may be thought to foster interpretive, discriminative, and empathetic dispositions and capacities. Second, it offers descriptions of the eight chapters of the volume, focusing in particular on the contributions made by each to philosophical discourse. Third, it addresses a widespread (and erroneous) stance discounting Austen as a purveyor of philosophical and other insights on the ground of triviality or narrowness of scope. It is the very narrowness of Austen’s scope, her relentless focus on the everyday, that provides a spotlight on all the minutia of motive and decision and self-deception that so often supply material for philosophical speculation.
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