To reveal the life of its theories, philosophy needs art. With this declaration Dr. Alex Voorhoeve encapsulates the essence of the current LSE Arts public exhibition Facts, Fiction and Philosophy. This compact and accessible exhibition explores the close intertwinement of philosophy with the arts, particularly the profound link between philosophical ideas and creative writing. It illustrates how complex theoretical questions of reality, human existence, freedom and morality have historically inspired some of humankind’s greatest works of fiction, drama and poetry.
The exhibition begins by taking you back to the ancient world and subsequently invites you to a journey through various philosophical and literary interconnections. 14 sizeable boards form the core of Facts, Fiction and Philosophy and present parallels between select philosophers and writers.
Friedrich Nietzsche’s proclamation of the death of God and moral bankruptcy in the 19th century, for example, provided for a climate of modernism that was to influence innumerable forthcoming literary works. George Bernard Shaw, a Nietzschean among playwrights (and founding member of LSE), set out to unveil the comfortable as uncomfortable in addressing moral, economic and political issues. Significance in shaping modernist thought may further be attributed to the work of French philosopher Henri Bergson, who colossally influenced literary giants, such as James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Henrik Ibsen and Virginia Woolf.
In the existentialist writings of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus philosophy and literature further blend most naturally. Sartre’s prominent philosophical work Being and Nothingness offers a brilliant theory of being and is accompanied by his novel Nausea and plays such as Huis Clos or The Flies that bare striking insight into lived experience. Existentialist themes of relativity, absurdity and anxiety came to form the integral part of Ionesco, Stoppard or Becket’s exploration of the human condition.
Fiction, poetry and drama are compelling mediums for the exploration of changing social and moral attitudes. By placing the singular story within the larger context of human existence, fundamental questions of life are tackled. Facts, Fiction and Philosophy offers an intellectually stimulating insight into the medium of creative expression. The exhibition emphasises literature’s profound portrayal of the human spirit and offers a comprehensive overview of the longstanding relationship between literature and philosophy and the latter’s inevitable need for literary exemplification. Comments by academics, numerous illustrations, students’ own poetic explorations of philosophical ideas and a short film will leave you inspired to go and read (more) literature.
The displayed authors further include Plato and Thomas More, Baruch Spinoza, Goethe and Coleridge, Dostoevsky and the utilitarian thinkers, Martin Heidegger and Paul Celan, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Isaiah Berlin, Milan Kundera, Wittgenstein and Tom Stoppard.