Art Triumphs over Philosophy… as a Hedgehog?

Does art do a better job of conveying the human condition than studying philosophy?

I’m in the midst of reading Muriel Barbery’s incredible novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I admit, I just finished another book that is in my top-ten all-time delicious books, The Matchmaker of Perigord, by  Julia Stuart, and so I am less over-the-moon about Hedgehog (how relative life is!). Barbery writes

One wonders why universities persist in teaching narrative principles on the basis of Propp, Greimas or other such punishing curricula, instead of investing in a projection room. Premise, plot, protagonists, adventures, quest, heroes and other stimulants: all you need is Sean Connery in the uniform of a Russian submarine officer and a few well-placed aircraft carriers.

While I wouldn’t argue that Sean Connery is “everyday” or Hollywood either, I think what Renee, one of the oxymoron protagonists in the story (smart but unschooled, has read Kant and Marx, appreciates Mozart and Vermeer, yet a concierge in an apartment building in France) learns is that life is best learned by living it; it’s found in both the glaring and nuanced realities of life. We just have to learn how to observe it. And who are better observors but artists?

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