The philosophy of Virginia Woolf
Following an Introduction which explains how "philosophy" is intended, Chapter 1 describes a scale of characters' 'at-homeness' in the body. VW’s awareness of the body's role is seen as preliminary to her concept of identity. Chapter 2 elucidates the concept of identity that emerges from the novels. Identity and self are distinguished and self shown to be analogous to 'soul'. Experiences recorded in VW's diary are shown to be significantly related to her fiction: her idea of 'reality' is related to her idea of soul, or self. Chapter 3 examines the view of human relationships that is found in the novels. Again, passages from the diary are shown to be closely related to VW’s fiction. Relationship points up a lack in human life, reflecting the concept of identity and self outlined above. Chapter 4 intends to balance the pessimism of the earlier chapters. The development of VW's aesthetic is traced, and To the Lighthouse seen as a successful exemplification of her concept of art's potential for transcendence. The second part of the chapter examines The Waves, seeing it as a product of crisis, and a failure as a work of art. Chapter 5 focuses on VW's sense of the numinous, the 'lack' that has been revealed in the world described by the first four chapters. The religious contours of VW's beliefs and questions emerge more clearly. Time is identified as the key issue. Chapter 6 is a close reading of the 'Time Passes' section of To the Lighthouse which shows that it is intimately related not only to the rest of that novel, but to the entire emergent "philosophy" of VW. Chapter 7 examines temporality in the novels in general, especially as manifested by the fact of death. VW’s concept of time is seen to be essentially Romantic. Chapter 8: Between the Acts is seen as the most confident and direct embodiment of VW’s faith in 'reality'. The autobiographical and other writings of the last few years of VW's life are seen as an illuminating context for her last novel. The modes of literary creation are ultimately seen to share the mode of being of 'soul' (or self) and, 'reality'. An appendix gives brief outlines of various concepts of the self from Socrates to R.D. Laing.