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This paper explores a categorical dimension of morality that is part of our everyday lives. Through a reading of Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, I argue that the philosophical importance of literature cannot be reduced to the ways in which it illustrates philosophical views. Borrowing thrust from Iris Murdoch and Stanley Cavell, I contend that the deeper significance of literature is not dependent upon the presence of “philosophy” in novels. Literature can help us see how moral lives take shape in language, and enable us to gain an understanding of how philosophical problems often arise by means of philosophical abstractions.