Why Literature Matters: The Aporetic Approach

Jeremy Hadfield at his own website:

Having “been reduced to the perplexity of realizing that he did not know… he will go on and discover,” Plato writes of the boy who “feels the difficulty he is in” after attempting to solve Socrates’ riddles. Socrates argues that “by causing him to doubt and giving him the torpedo’s shock” of his own ignorance, “he will push on in the search gladly, as lacking knowledge; whereas then he would have been only too ready to suppose he was right.” Encountering contradictions and complexity beyond his comprehension plunged the boy into aporia — an impasse, a quandary one cannot resolve, a state of puzzlement, a doubting and bewilderment, a being-at-a-loss. Aporia is the dazzling of the mind by the intricacy of existence. While this state seems empty, the paucity of knowledge in aporia is fertile. Specifically, aporia created by literature offers the following routes of learning: it fosters epistemic humility by revealing our uncertainty, broadens our possibilities by expanding our imaginative horizons, and promotes existential authenticity.

This paper focuses on aporetic literature, a genre of fiction that is usually long-form, complex, and narrative or poetic. Fiction itself is characterized by the way it “invites imaginings.” What distinguishes aporetic literature is a specific “mode of persuasion” distinct from the realist mode of persuasion.

More here.