Skip to content

Latest updates

Subscribe for updates
Receive our latest news, features author insights, previews, giveaways, events, and more.
31 August 2023

The Reading Doctor: Psychology and Philosophy

Kia ora and welcome to the Reading Doctor! Each week, literary critic and devoted reader Dr Louise recommends books to us on a particular theme, or responds to reader questions. Submit your questions for her here:

This week, our Reading Doctor responds to a reader request:

I'm looking for a fictional drama book for someone who loves psychology and philosophy combined.

Fiction allows for the exploration of the psychology of philosophy, transforming philosophical discourse into demonstration, by manifesting, mythologising, exemplifying and testing what might otherwise be abstract ideas.

  • In Sarah Quigley’s controversial novel, The Suicide Club, a trio of teenagers undergo experimental treatment in a picturesque Belgian spa town to save them from themselves.
  • George Eliot translated Spinoza into English and novelised his ideas of moral philosophy into the Victorian epic, Middlemarch, telling the many stories of life in an English midlands town.
  • Often characterised as a Platonist, Iris Murdoch explores the tension between art and philosophy in The Black Prince, about a writer caught up in that tension; in its allusions to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Murdoch’s novel also highlights the play’s philosophical concerns and quagmires.
  • Setting historical grand narratives against personal tragedies, The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears features three men across the centuries and examines the ways in which they resolve moral and ethical conflicts, all refracted through a classical philosophical text.
  • The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada is described as a proletarian novella, set in an unnamed factory compound, exploring ideas about reality, meaning and labour in the modern world.
  • Heaven, by Mieko Kawakami, tells the story of a schoolboy bullied by his classmates; it was inspired by the work of Nietzsche and offers a philosophical reflection about violence against the weak, and how morality can be a verb.
  • Narrated by an inmate of Bedlam, London’s notorious mental asylum, Charlotte Randall’s The Curative offers an inside look at psychiatric treatment and reflects on freedom, love and the nature of happiness.
  • A study of group psychology, The Secret History by Donna Tartt follows a group of clever students carving out a new way of thinking and living beyond the norms of conventional morality.
  • Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, Klara and the Sun, asks what it means to be human in the age of artificial intelligence.
  • In White Noise, Don DeLillo explores theories of death and mortality, the media, and contemporary American culture, in a postmodern novel which combines philosophy and social comedy.

Got a question for the Reading Doctor? Submit it anonymously here: