Double Vision

Double Vision: Moral Philosophy and Shakespearean Drama

Tzachi Zamir
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Double Vision
    Book Description:

    Hamlet tells Horatio that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in his philosophy. InDouble Vision, philosopher and literary critic Tzachi Zamir argues that there are more things in Hamlet than are dreamt of--or at least conceded--by most philosophers. Making an original and persuasive case for the philosophical value of literature, Zamir suggests that certain important philosophical insights can be gained only through literature. But such insights cannot be reached if literature is deployed merely as an aesthetic sugaring of a conceptual pill. Philosophical knowledge is not opposed to, but is consonant with, the literariness of literature. By focusing on the experience of reading literature as literature and not philosophy, Zamir sets a theoretical framework for a philosophically oriented literary criticism that will appeal both to philosophers and literary critics.

    Double Visionis concerned with the philosophical understanding induced by the aesthetic experience of literature. Literary works can function as credible philosophical arguments--not ones in which claims are conclusively demonstrated, but in which claims are made plausible. Such claims, Zamir argues, are embedded within an experiential structure that is itself a crucial dimension of knowing. Developing an account of literature's relation to knowledge, morality, and rhetoric, and advancing philosophical-literary readings ofRichard III, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, andKing Lear, Zamir shows how his approach can open up familiar texts in surprising and rewarding ways.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2743-5
    Subjects: Philosophy, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xvi)

    Hatred, it seems, cannot be bought. They try, several times, doubling and tripling the money owed. But he persists in refusing. No amount of money will buy Shylock. In this he stands alone. Within all other relationships around him, emotions are inseparable from financial gain: Portia and Jessica are rich—not merely fair—a fact that never escapes their lovers or their own perceptions of these lovers. Male friendship too—the idealized commitments between Bassanio and Antonio—is contaminated by financial dependency. Hatred alone achieves purity in the moral cosmos ofThe Merchant of Venice, the only emotion that will...

    • The Epistemological Basis of Philosophical Criticism
      (pp. 3-19)

      Acuckolded man yells at his unfaithful wife. She has just written a letter to her lover, which her husband has intercepted. The betrayed husband describes his own experience through a metaphor of authorship:

      Thou trothless and unjust, what lines are these?

      Am I grown old, or is thy lust grown young,

      Or hath my love been so obscured in thee

      That others need to comment on my text?

      Is all my love forgot which held thee dear,

      Ay, dearer than the apple of mine eye?

      Is Guise’s glory but a cloudy mist,

      In sight and judgment of thy lustful eye?...

    • The Moral Basis of Philosophical Criticism
      (pp. 20-43)

      Orgoglio is too big to wield a mace, so he uses a knotty oak that he has torn out of the earth. His height threatens the sky, and under his feet the ground “groans” for “dread.” He is about to dispatch the knight who now lies helpless before him. A witch, who has tempted the knight away from his rightful mistress, now begs the giant to imprison and enslave the knight rather than kill him. She promises to be his lover. The giant agrees, and the imprisoned knight will remain a captive until he will be rescued by a prince....

    • Philosophical Criticism and Contemporary Literary Studies
      (pp. 44-62)

      Philosophical criticism, I claimed, brings together several strands of thought: the antirationalism of Hamann and his romantic and existentialist offshoots; the neoromanticism of Diamond, Novitz, Falck, and Nussbaum; the new rhetorics of Perelman, Burke, and Booth. All of these have challenged major conceptual distinctions (form/content, emotive/ cognitive, suasion/justification) that underlie the separation of “philosophy” from “rhetoric” that has been a part of philosophical theory and practice since Ramus. Reflection through literature thus presents an alternative to the false rigor of analytical philosophy without adopting the deadening skepticism that underlies so much postmodern thought. This may explain why it is winning...

    • A Case of Unfair Proportions
      (pp. 65-91)

      The degree of his actual ugliness is still difficult to determine. Various sources tell us that he was short, that one of his arms was smaller than the other, that his legs, too, were of unequal size, and that his shoulders were disproportionate. They say that he was not merely crook-backed but had a “mountain on his back,” and that his face was ugly, that he was a crab-faced impotent who was born feet-first and toothed. The historical soundness of this description has been challenged many times.¹ But whether or not it constitutes an adequate portrait of the historical Richard...

    • Upon One Bank and Shoal of Time
      (pp. 92-111)

      They considered him honest and “loved him well,” a valiant, worthy gentleman. A brave man, the bridegroom of Bellona, the Roman war goddess. He won “golden opinion from all sorts of people,” but all that changed. Instead, he became despised for his treachery and feared for actions that knew no moral bounds. From murdering his king to killing his past friends, from that to infanticide, Macbeth’s story, at least from the perspective of others, is one of a change in reputation.¹ Yet, from his own point of view—an outlook that never experiences a good name or, for that matter,...

    • Love Stories
      (pp. 112-128)

      Philosophers often talk of the inappropriateness of philosophy, the sense of its simplicity in discussing love. Expressing such dissatisfaction is common, and is routinely made in many philosophical writings on the topic.¹ This chapter aims to explain the epistemological basis of this dissatisfaction, as well as to say how we may avoid it. I begin with the process of falling in love inRomeo and Juliet.

      Let us begin by sensing something of the evasive quality ofRomeo and Juliet. The play does not seem complex. Indeed, it looks rather simple in the range of meanings to which it is...

    • Making Love
      (pp. 129-150)

      The oppositions between love and reason, romance and reflection, passion and marriage, emotion and insight underlie many passages in Shakespeare.¹ Such distinctions constitute a theme that should be all too familiar for contemporary ears, versed in rhetoric espousingcarpe diemas opposed to staleness, intensity to a blunt and indistinguishable experience. In contrast,Antony and Cleopatracaptures the subtleties of a mature love, both in terms of perceiving, maintaining, expressing, and respecting it, and in the struggles these involve. The play attempts the difficult task of articulating something that is unmistakably a form of love and yet never overwhelms, is...

    • On Being Too Deeply Loved
      (pp. 151-167)

      I readOthelloas a detailed portrayal of an erotic refusal on Othello’s part. This reading is continuous with the corpus of scholarship on the play that (mostly implicitly) avoids the assumption that Iago’s insinuations suffice to explain Othello’s actions. Arthur Kirsch followed F. R. Leavis in highlighting how Iago simply echoes Othello’s own words in the “temptation scene,” thereby emphasizing that “the process we are witnessing is fundamentally an internal one” (1978, p. 733). As for attributing the tragic outcome to Iago’s demonic rhetorical capacities that Othello is supposedly helpless to resist, this option is no longer persuasive since,...

    • Doing Nothing
      (pp. 168-182)

      Hamletplays many games with ears, hearing, and audibility. Norman Holland (1958) claims that the wordearfigures twenty-five times inHamlet, more than any other of Shakespeare’s works. Mary Anderson (1991) counts at least 184 references to eyes, ears, seeing, and hearing in the first two acts. Ears differ from eyes—the other faculty heavily alluded to in the play—in their constitution as entrance. Unlike other sense organs, the ear promises almost limitless exploration of interiority. Such a metaphorical identification of the ear as the body’s gate is made explicit not only in the allusion to Horatio’s “fortified”...

    • King Lear’s Hidden Tragedy
      (pp. 183-204)

      “Do your worst, blind Cupid, I shall not love.”¹ Lear articulates this dismal sentiment to Gloucester in that moving scene in which the two wronged fathers meet: one at the height of his madness, the other blind and full of self-hatred after his failed suicide attempt. The moment is one of an agonizing realization that the pain of mistrust has gone so deep that one is sealed off from love. After leveling accusations at his daughters, which is what Lear was doing in his previous stage appearance, he reaches the state in which even anger is not experienced.

      Lear’s “hidden”...

  7. Appendix A: A Note on Learʹs Motivation
    (pp. 205-210)
  8. Appendix B: A Note on Shakespeare and Rhetoric
    (pp. 211-212)
  9. Works Cited
    (pp. 213-224)
  10. Index
    (pp. 225-234)