Under fiction I mean anything that has a plot: science fiction or fantasy, literature or films, etc.

Philosophical ideas occur in fiction here and there, but majorly, since authors were not in academic philosophy I guess most of their ideas were just old and already thought about, However, I'm not sure it is always that way. Although many ideas, maybe most a human can produce, already were expressed, ability to produce entirely new idea, as I see it, is not that much dependent on knowledge of other ideas. So, I expect at least some ideas were taken from fiction.

What fiction actually contributed to philosophy, if any?

  • Simple googling easily finds Wikipedia's Philosophy and Literature or SEP's Fiction. This is not an SE question, one can write multi-volume books about philosophical ideas coming from fiction, and some philosophical works, like Plato's dialogues or Nietzsche's Zarathustra, are semi-fictional. – Conifold Aug 27 '18 at 21:52
  • I think @Conifold has been a little harsh here - a question very similar to this one about prominent works of fiction in prominent philosophical works could well be quite reasonable if you were to be clear about what you were looking to achieve with your asking - but you definitely need to narrow the scope of your question. – Paul Ross Sep 1 '18 at 6:49

Albert Camus wrote novels and stories which were considered philosophical. He did not consider himself a philosopher, however, according to Ronald Aronson:

Albert Camus (1913–1960) was a journalist, editor and editorialist, playwright and director, novelist and author of short stories, political essayist and activist—and, although he more than once denied it, a philosopher. He ignored or opposed systematic philosophy, had little faith in rationalism, asserted rather than argued many of his main ideas, presented others in metaphors, was preoccupied with immediate and personal experience, and brooded over such questions as the meaning of life in the face of death.

Camus would be one example of someone writing fiction that was used by philosophers. He expressed "existentialist questions" and is associated with the "philosophy of the absurd". One of his works linked to philosophy is The Myth of Sisyphus.


Aronson, Ronald, "Albert Camus", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2017 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2017/entries/camus/.


One very nice recent example is the book Philosophers Explore The Matrix, consisting of serious articles by philosophers about that movie. Of course many of these ideas were around before that movie, and I believe that is a more general phenomenon: fiction and philosophy (and other disciplines) contribute to each other in both directions and it may be difficult to establish conclusively where an idea first originated.

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