The key difference between philosophy and literature is that the philosophy mainly concerns theoretical concepts whereas the literature mainly concerns fiction.
Philosophy is basically the study of knowledge while literature is the study of written work. Philosophy studies matters such as existence, mind, nature, reason and knowledge. In contrast, literature studies are written or oral work with superior artistic or intellectual merit.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Philosophy
3. What is Literature
4. Side by Side Comparison – Philosphy vs Literature in Tabular Form
What is Philosophy?
Philosophy is basically the study of knowledge. Some definitions of philosophy are as follows:
- Investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods (American Heritage Dictionary)
- The study of the most general and abstract features of the world and categories with which we think: mind, matter, reason, proof, truth, etc. (Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy)
- The study of the ultimate nature of existence, reality, knowledge and goodness, as discoverable by human reasoning (Penguin English Dictionary)
As these definitions imply, philosophy studies fundamental problems concerning concepts such as existence, reason, knowledge, mind, values, and language. It also searches logical answers for fundamental and abstract questions such as ‘do we have a free will?’, ‘what is a mind?’, ‘is it possible to know about things that we cannot touch, see or hear? etc. Rational argument, systematic presentation, critical discussion, and questioning are some methods that help philosophers to answer these philosophical questions.
It is also important to note that in the past philosophy covered various bodies of knowledge including medicine, physics, economic, linguistics, and astronomy. Today these bodies have separate academic disciplines. However, there are some sub-fields of philosophy as follows:
- Moral and political philosophy
- Philosophy of science
What is Literature?
Basically literature refers to written work, particularly those with superior artistic or intellectual merit. As a subject, literature mainly refers to the study of written work. However, it is important to note that modern literature studies also include oral literature, i.e., texts that are sung or spoken.
It is possible to classify literature according to a variety of forms including genre, origin, language, historical period, and subject matter (For example, medieval literature, romantic literature, modernism literature, African-American literature, gothic novels, Haiku, sonnet, etc.) The field of literature also has complex concepts such as literary criticism, literary theory, literary language, and literary devices. It is necessary to study these concepts in order to study literature further.
Although philosophy and literature are two different fields, the boundaries between them blur when you study a book that has philosophical touch. For example, you may study works of authors like Voltaire, Rousseau or Sartre for literature; but since the content of these works is philosophical, the study of these work is also related to philosophy.
What is the Difference Between Philosophy and Literature?
Basically, philosophy is the study of knowledge while literature is the study of written work. The term literature is more often associated with fiction while philosophy is associated with theoretical or non-fictional.
Summary – Philosophy vs Literature
Philosophy and literature are two interesting fields whose boundaries sometimes overlap. The key difference between philosophy and literature is that the philosophy mainly concerns theoretical concepts whereas the literature mainly concerns fiction.
1. “Philosophy.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 June 2018. Available here
2. “Literature.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 June 2018. Available here
1.’Philosophy’ by Nick Youngson (CC BY-SA 3.0) via The Blue Diamond Gallery
2.’3324039′ by ThorstenF (CC0) via pixabay
very good article
ABINAYA M says
One thing I want to say as a literature scholar that is literature is not only about written works or fiction. It is about life. when philosophy is perfect and clarifying, literature is both the real and imaginary. but in showcasing the life as imperfect and beautiful as real. so, Philosophy is a theory of life and literature is an application of life.