The value of literature, religion, and philosophy is dependant on not only social and temporal contexts but also the state of the other two components. All three ideas act as courses to examining what humanity is all about. But, without any one of them, there would be a missing puzzle piece in figuring out the nature of humanity. I contend that the relative value of literature, religion, and philosophy is in the interconnection of all three in figuring out the self, meaning, and virtue.
Literature provides a metaphorical analysis of value and meaning. Alasdair MacIntyre discusses the value of Jane Austen’s work in evaluating virtue in society. MacIntyre seemed to feel that Austen was a final outcry for the virtue of past. Austen discussed the value of “constancy,” which fit in well with Homeric virtue. Thus, literature is seen as a form of value guide to be interpreted by the public.
To get to the point of literature, however, requires the use of philosophy. Macintyre discusses Athenian Greek virtues as portrayed by Plato, Sophocles, and Sophists. Their ideas of virtue, such as narrative construction and justice, have been influential in some ways to all literature. Philosophy is the catalyst between human ingenuity and the realization of value and virtue to be told to the world. Philosophy on its own could not possibly dominate literature. The more conventional and passive alternative to philosophy is religion. Religion is a necessary partner of literature and philosophy because it drives the dichotomy of knowledge. The marketplace isn’t run merely by philosophers but also priests and monks.
One interesting exception to this relationship is Jorge Luis Borges’ works in “Labryinths.” These stories don’t necessarily seem to be driven by the rationality of religion or philosophy. While a direct connection cannot be made, a closer examination indicates influences on Borges by Greek and Christian thought. In “Avatars of the Tortoise,” Borges is showing the regression within Greek mathematical thought. This is an obvious reference to how knowledge (philosophy) is infinite in its regression to absurdity. Without the influence of philosophy, he would have been incapable of producing such a work.
Borges aside, most literature (if not all) is influenced by the conflicts between philosophy and religion. Without those two driving forces, literature would not exist. Likewise, without literature, philosophy and religion would never become part of conventional discourse. All three means are bound toward the end of describing humanity.