I labour upwards into futurity.
William Blake?, 1796
17 September 2006
Borges en Esperanto
Tradukoj de Borges / Borges in Esperanto translations
atestanto, trad. Jorge Camacho
- Tri versioj
de Judaso, trad. Fernando de Diego, La Ondo de Esperanto,
n-ro 6 (37), 1997.
Biblioteko de Babelo, trad. Manuel Giorgini
Skribaĵo de la Dio, elangligis Robert L. Read el traduko
fare de L. A. Murillo, septembro 2004, Austino, Teksaso, Usono
sonĝo de Coleridge, trad. Manuel Giorgini
Edvardso (1812-1892), poemo
de Johano Lopez kaj Johano Ward, verkita de Borges, 1982
kunĵurantoj, poemo verkita de Borges, 1995
Mencioj de Borges / References to Borges in Esperanto
Aliaj tradukoj / other translations:
"La biblioteko de Babelo," trad. Giulio Cappa, en:
Sferoj 2: sciencfikcio kaj fantasto, p.15-24.
"La libro el sablo," trad. Liven Dek, en: Sferoj
4: sciencfikcio kaj fantasto, p.15-20.
Antologio de Borges en Esperanto
eldonota de "Sezonoj". An anthology of Borges' works
is slated for publication by "Sezonoj".
[> Borges Revisited (12): New Refutation
[> William Auld (6 Nov. 1924 - 11 Sept.
16 September 2006
William Auld (6 Nov. 1924 - 11 Sept. 2006)
Preeminent Esperanto poet dies
Auld: Nobel prize-nominated Esperanto poet [obituary] by Paul
Gubbins, The Scotsman, 15 Sept. 2006.
Poet in Esperanto (Text of an address given at St. Andrews University)
by William Auld, The British Esperantist.
- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Esperantlingva Verkista Asocio (Association of Esperantophone Writers)
to Swedish Academy, nominating William Auld for Nobel Prize
Auld [in English], Literatura Galerio de Esperanto
Obituaries, announcements and a personal note in Esperanto follow
Morto de William
Auld (6 nov 1924 - 11 sept 2006)
Auld - silento morta post ruliĝ' lavanga
Perdis Sian Plej Grandan Verkiston, N-ro 243 - Gazetaraj Komunikoj
William Auld [edukado.net]
al William AULD
kandelon omaĝe al William Auld
La enterigo de William Auld okazos la 18an de septembro.
. . .
Reago de Ralph Dumain, la 12-an de septembro
William Auld, la plej eminenta poeto kaj kulturologo esperantista
de nia epoko, mortis hieraŭ je la aĝo 81-jara.
Kompreneble, tia evento je tia aĝo ne estas ŝokiga, tamen
mi larmis kiam mi legis la novaĵon. Mi studis kurson kiun Bill
Auld instruis en Kanado en 1975. Li priskribis sin 'vagabondo'.
Li estis afablega kaj festema homo. Ni studentoj pripagis al universitato
la kurskotizon, sed Bill insistis pagi la vespermanĝon de la
tuta grupo ĉiutage.
Mi ankaŭ korespondis kun li kelkfoje en la 1980aj kaj la fruaj
1990aj jaroj, pri beletro, kulturo, politiko, sekulara humanismo,
kaj historio de Esperanto. Li esprimis pesimismon pri la aktuala
politika situacio, sed lia humanisma sinteno neniam ŝancelis.
Mi dediĉas malmultan atenton al Esperanto nuntempe, sed nun
mi sentas grandan perdon.
Esperanto Study Guide / Esperanto-Gvidilo
(includes interlinguistics links)
16 September 2006
My recent interest in Leibniz was sparked by this book, the most
important philosophical book for a popular audience I've read in
Stewart, Matthew. The
Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God
in the Modern World. New York: Norton, 2006.
In this comparative study Leibniz comes off as a deluded opportunist,
in contrast to Spinoza's radicalism and relative detachment from
mainstream Euro-Christian ideology. Leibniz presents an interesting
paradox of Enlightenment. One wishes that Adorno and Horkheimer
had more to say about Leibniz and Spinoza.
The next major impetus for a return to Leibniz came from a resurgence
of interest in Jorge
Luis Borges. Leibniz was a progenitor of the "universal
character" brought to fruition by John Wilkins and subject
to fictional treatment by Borges.
I decided to review what may still be the largest anthology of
Leibniz' writings in English:
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. Philosophical Papers and Letters,
selection translated and edited with an introduction by Leroy
E. Loemker, 2nd ed. Dordrecht, Holland; Boston: D.
Reidel Pub. Co., 1976 [1969, 1st ed. 1956]). xii, 736
pp. (Synthese Historical Library; v. 2)
My first task was to review the writings pertaining to the universal
characteristic, ars combinatoria, and logical calculus. See “On the General
Characteristic” with listing of other relevant selections in
this volume, and Leibniz on the
Universal Characteristic, quotations from same.
I will save my commentary on these selections for a later date.
I did not review the whole volume, but in the process of perusing
the volume, I hazarded upon some other essays of interest on which
I will comment briefly.
Leibniz' notion that theological questions can be settled by means
of logic is too bizarre for me, but from time to time he shows himself
a diplomatic and intelligent commentator. There are denunciations
of atheism and materialism from time to time. Descartes is praised
and criticized in the same breath quite often. Spinoza is mentioned
and criticized from time to time. Selections specifically on Spinoza
Two Notations for Discussion with Spinoza (1676), pp.
167-169. (I) That a most perfect being exists (Nov. 1676); (II)
2 December 1676.
On the Ethics of Benedict de Spinoza (1678), pp. 196-206.
A few other essays of metaphysical interest (the selection is haphazard):
Dialogue [on the Connection between Things and Words]
(August 1677, pp. 182-185.
Reflections on the Doctrine of a Single Universal Spirit
(1702), pp. 554-560.
Leibniz reviews this concept of a 'world soul'
or universal spirit and finds it wanting, arguing that particular
souls or spirits must also exist as real entities. The single
substance of Spinoza is a similarly deficient idea, as is the
Neo-Cartesian doctrine that only God acts. The creation of new
souls and the soul's immortality are also at issue. Leibniz
also offers a curious argument that souls are accompanied by
material bodies of some sort, a "subtle body" at the
very least (556). The nature of the gestation of animals and
death are also examined. The notion of a single universal spirit,
albeit a poetic idea, is shown to be deficient in explanatory
Considerations on Vital Principles and Plastic Natures, by
the Author of the System of Pre-Established Harmony (1705),
Leibniz argues that vital principles belong
only to organic bodies. Not every portion of matter is animated
though matter consists an infinity of organic bodies. These
vital principles do not change the course of motion. (586) Leibniz
then explains his principle of pre-established harmony.
Letters to Nicolas Raymond (1714-15), pp. 654-660. Letter
IV: 11 February 1715, pp. 658-660.
Note argument against metempsychosis (658),
on the basis that it necessitates inexplicable discontinuous
leaps, contrary to the nature of space, motion, and the natural
I noted a few interesting tidbits pertaining to ethical, legal,
political, and anthropological questions.
From the Ethical and Legal Writings (1693-1700). IV. On
Natural Law, pp. 428-429.
Reflections on the Common Concept of Justice (1702?),
Remarks on the Three Volumes Entitled Characteristics of
Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, . . . (1711-1712),
[> My Yiddishe
[> Borges blog
[> William Auld (6 Nov. 1924 - 11 Sept.
[> October Reading
14 September 2006
The Jazz Avant-Garde (3)
I mentioned the web site Perfect
Sound Forever in the previous entry. It is extremely rich in
material. This time I'll mention two pieces on Sun Ra:
Space Is the Place: Interview with John F. Szwed by Billy
Bob Hargus (August 1997)
Sun Ra and
his Intergalactic Harmonies by Scott McFarland (February 1997)
Here's another piece on Sun Ra from a different site:
Ephrata (F-Ra-Ta) to Arkestra by David Stowe. Esoterica,
V (2003): 1-26.
Parallels are drawn between German mystic,
musician, and utopian community leader Conrad Beissel and Sun
Ra, on the basis of migration patterns, esoteric and muscial
interests, creation of spiritual music communities, and ultimate
destination of Philadelphia. Both their trajectories are summarized,
and so one gets a capsule history of Sun Ra's intellectual development
in relation to the impact of America's inhospitable racism in
Birmingham and Chicago and Sun Ra's conscientious objection
during World War II. Ra underwent an intensive reading program
consisting, inter alia, of Egyptology, Hermetic literature,
theosophy, and etymology. His interest in Kabbalah fueled his
propensity for punning, wordplay, and reading esoteric significance
into all words, taken, as I recall and documented here, to ridiculous
lengths. Sun Ra revised a key ingredient of the Afro-American
folkore on which he also drew, repudiating Moses and the Exodus
story and affirming Egypt as a great civilization instead of
an evil slave-state. Most of the information on Sun Ra is taken
from John Szwed's biography.
As this site is devoted to esoterica, the author
is content to cite parallels with implicit approbation, yet
this summary alone suffices to convince the critical reader
of the pitiful nature of Sun Ra's ultimately reactionary ideological
position, perhaps to be designated in an even less respectful
manner as his crackpot world view. (Even so, some sifting is
warranted, as there are some uplifting tidbits of Sun Ra's wisdom
in a mix of decidedly varied quality.) There are numerous lessons
in this, but consider for a moment the double alienation involved.
Sun Ra sought to negate the imposition of a particular social
position imposed upon him, which led to a double negationfirst,
of the perspective of white society, secondly, of the 'mainstream'
perspective of Afro-American culture. A mystical perspective
on history and one's social role was the vehicle for doing this,
hardly unique for someone in Ra's position. Such a position
led others to orthodox Islam, the Nation of Islam, other cults
and sects, homegrown mysticisms, religious eclecticism, not
to mention non-mystical alternatives which would demand separate
investigation. One conspicuous aspect of Ra's ideology, concomitant
with what one would now term its Afrocentric component, is its
conservative authoritarianism, with a different twist from that
of Elijah Muhammed's fascist personality cult (and from cultural
nationalisms to come). Muhammed sought to establish a petit-bourgeois
power base in the ghettoes of America. Sun Ra's mythocracy certainly
was no such political/economic power move, but a curious attempt
to establish a cultural power center, which, by its very nature,
could only capture limited attention based on countercultural
inclinations among the black populace and not a mass following.
For a different calibration of African-American and European avant-gardes,
check out this recent book:
Sun, Southern Moon: Europe's Reinvention of Jazz by Mike Heffley
See also Mike Heffley's
web site. Heffley has engaged in a diversity of enterprises,
including extensive scholarship on Anthony Braxton.
[> I Dream Too Much]
[> The Jazz Avant-Garde (2): Music and the
13 September 2006
Music and the Avant Garde
on Music and the Avant Garde: Considerations of a Term and its Public
Use by Chris Cutler. May 2005. Appears on the noteworthy web
This is in many ways a remarkable essay. A lot can be learned about
the driving logic of European avant-gardes, anyway. Here are my
(1) Tail wagging the dog: If you can flesh out this sketch with
further knowledge of avante-gardes (e.g. the recent Dada retrospective
at the National Gallery of Art), you'll get a panormaic view of
how avant-gardes attempted to redefine the culture, but also how
in the end they get re-absorbed into it. (Note books by Diana Crane
and Serge Guilbaut.)
(2) The cultural order is now qualitatively different from the
past. I'm not sure what the author means by this:
In short, it [avant-garde rock] has been colonised,
flattened and neutralised and all the history has been drained
out of itin part because all the history is currently being
drained out of history.
In my interpretation, I'd say this is true, though Cutler is not
(3) Cutler doesn't locate specifically enough, with references
to larger social/cultural changes, why the avant-garde is now dead,
other than having completed its work, which indeed, I think it has.
My position is that something has definitively changed in the past
qaurter century. It's senseless to attempt to pinpoint a cutoff
datehistory doesn't work like thisbut there's a definitive
difference (in the USA, and perhaps other Western countries) between
the world of the 1970s and the new cultural mode of being that firmed
up in the 1980s.
(4) This essay confirms my life-long disdain for John Cage. (And
for more damning evidence.)
(5) After reviewing a century of European and white American avant-gardes,
Cutler finally turns his attentionin Section XII, Dominoes
to Black American avant-garde jazz. What Cutler says about it rings
true, but there's much more to be said, especially about possible
differences between the black avant-garde and some of its white
counterparts. This dovetails into my personal biases and memories
of the 1970s.
(6) While generalizations are a mine-field, I'll hazard mine, because
there's an important principle involved. The situation of black
artists prior to the 1980s was qualitatively different in key respects
from that of whites who were just as much in opposition to the mainstream
social and cultural order. The difference, however, is that blacks
had different raw material to draw upon and somewhere to go. The
"literature of exhaustion," the culture of decay, dissolution,
and dehumanization, would be mighty hard to find among black avantgardists,
though similar tones of existentialism and alienation would certainly
be sounded. This contrast was very striking to me 30 years ago,
as I turned my back on the culture of nihilism and meaninglessness.
Noticeable to me in this regard is the loss of deliberativeness
and intention and the cult of randomness (which is not necessarily
the ideology of free jazz, which needs to be analyzed and criticized
separately). See my brief comments on Christopher
Lasch's The Minimal Self.
For a stark comparison of the difference in orientations, check
out this film footage juxtaposing Rahsaan Roland Kirk and John Cage:
(1966-67), Pt. 1, "Sound"
(1966-67), Pt. 2, "Sound"
(1966-67), Pt. 3
Here Cage demonstrates yet again what a useless jackass he was,
as opposed to where real cultural vitality could be found. You see,
by the late '70s, I could no longer tolerate white people wallowing
in their own excrement, which is why, when I was first unexpectedly
exposed to punk, I violently rejected it. I was grooving on Sun
Ra and wasn't going to allow the culture of self-debasement to invade
I don't claim that this objectionable mentality is characteristic
of all or most white avant-gardists, by any means, but it does bear
mentioning, because of the particular historical situation and orientation
of black artists having to fight for something. (See, e.g.,
John Coltrane on Black Music and
(7) There never was an impermeable barrier between black and white
avant-garde and experimental musics. There is too much detail to
detail here. I've seen Oliver Lake and Roscoe Mitchell in tails
as composers and/or performers of the same kind of disjointed squawk
music produced by academic music departments. I've seen "new
music" concerts featuring a diversity of performers. Upon occasion
I noticed some perceptibly different approaches. For example, the
World Saxophone Quartet would excite me where others would kill
me with tedium (including a famous minimalist composer whose name
slips my mind). Anthony Braxton can't even be categorized. This
is a jumble, but there's so much to be said, for another time, I
(8) Another interesting ideological component within the black
avant-garde is the presence of mysticism, eclectic or homegrown
(Coltrane, Sun Ra, Braxton, etc.).
There is growing scholarship on this. (I should compile a more general
bibliography on the subject, but see my Braxton
bibliography.) But now that intellectual work is reaching a
critical mass (when not degraded by postmodernism), there's more
to be said critically in retrospect, and with a view to the specific
social positioning engendering such mysticism. (Note my original
perspective: The Jazz Avant-Garde,
Mysticism & Society: Meaning, Method & the Young Hegelians.)
While we are at it, here is my reaction to Jazz:
Myth and Religion by Neil Leonard (New York: Oxford University
Interesting, but somewhat different from my perspective.
Or, more accurately, a number of distinguishable phenomena are
bundled together in the book, which I would be interested in distinguishing
so as to concentrate on the more serious aspects. That is, there
are several cult-like aspects to jazz, but the aspect of ritualism
and spirituality that interests me the most is the experience
of playing and hearing the music itself, rather than hero worship,
personality cults, orthodoxies, etc.
The book covers the gamut of "religious"
phenomena, from charisma to cultism. This is not really the basis
of my interest. Its relation to my interest is my need to differentiate
between what really matters and the rest of this crap which to
me is all about power and alienated social relations. That is
part of the jazz story, too. Also, the glorification of ego-tripping,
pimp-styling, etc. Everything is fused together in a single given
situation, to be sure, but I'm interested in making distinctions
that the ideologists do not understand. The author of this book
does not seem to be concerned about analyzing the differentiations
I have in mind. Oddly, that neocon prig Martha Bayles seems to
be fairly intelligent about these matters, at least when it comes
to Miles Davis. [7-8 February 2004]
(9) "It's the '70s, stupid!" I say this whenever
it's time to examine how we got to where we are today. This slogan
is relevant to Cutler's thesis, but I'm not going to proceed down
that path at this moment. Anyway, that era has ended. Rather than
being nostalgic, I'll make only a few critical comments, as I've
expounded on the general topic elsewhere. An explosive, high-energy
historical moment is difficult to sustain. There's a meltdown, a
cool-down, and ultimately reversion to a more stable form of expression.
Both the high points and the weak points deserve to be preserved
in memory. Random noise as the ultimate expression of the dubious
ideology of total spontaneity ultimately becomes boring. Music without
structure cannot create passion and is thus a waste of time, with
this one exception: energy music can lose structure without becoming
pointless if it sustains emotional meaning, as in fact did
happen sometimes. (But how many saxophonists can scream like Pharoah
Sanders?) On the other hand, as this geriatric avant-garde music
of the '60s and '70s entered the 21st century, it was already degenerating
into noodle doodle as tedious and insufferable as anything Caucasian
'new music' could bore the crap out of us with. (I noticed young
folksmigrants from the rock fringedigging on the Visions
Festival in New York while a friend and I were bored out of our
gourd.) But, on the flip side, there is an ideological dimension
in the reprehensible attempts of Wynton Marsalis and Ken Burns to
bury the '60s historically. From the standpoint of what Marsalis
is attempting to preserve, it must be noted that American music
can't survive as a museum piece like the European classics. There
must be a vital link between the production of music and the changing
context of sensibility. Then, if one's cultural ground erodes, one
must figure out how to mourn the past. But there's another past
to mournthat of the '60s and '70s. Anthony
Braxton has spoken eloquently on the finest elements of his
generation and the heritage that has been lost for a larger public.
It's time to revisit and reassess this historical development.
While you are at it, check out the numerous invaluable archival
video offerings on YouTube.
Written 7-13 September 2006
[> I Dream Too Much]
[> The Jazz Avant-Garde (3)]
5 September 2006
Borges Revisited (12):
New Refutation of Time
This essay has been anthologized repeatedly. I am working from
"New Refutation of Time" (1947), translated by Ruth L.
C. Simms, in Borges, A Reader: A Selection from the Writings
of Jorge Luis Borges, edited by Emir Rodriguez Monegal and Alastair
Reid (New York: Dutton, 1981), pp. 179-191.
The prologue is dated 1946. The entire piece concatenates two versions
of the essay from 1944 and 1946. Borges is aware of the contradiction
in the very title. The prologue begins thusly:
If published at the middle of the eighteenth
century, this refutation (or its name) would endure in the bibliographies
of Hume and perhaps would have been mentioned by Huxley or Kemp
Smith. Published in 1947after Bergsonit is the anachronous
reductio ad absurdum of an obsolete system or, what is
worse, the feeble machination of an Argentine adrift on the sea
of metaphysics. Both conjectures are verisimilar and perhaps true;
to correct them I cannot promise a startling conclusion in exchange
for my rudimentary dialectic. The thesis I shall expound is as
ancient as Zeno's arrow or the chariot of the Greek king in the
Milinda Pañha; whatever novelty it possesses consists
in the application of Berkeley's classic instrument to that end.
Berkeley and his successor, David Hume, abound in paragraphs that
contradict or exclude my thesis; nevertheless, I believe I have
deduced the inevitable consequence of their doctrine.
The first version of the actual essay begins with this declaration:
In the course of a life dedicated to literature
and, occasionally, metaphysical perplexity, I have perceived or
sensed a refutation of time, which I myself disbelieve, but which
comes to visit me at night and in the weary dawns with the illusory
force of an axiom.
This refutation permeates all his books and is anticipated in early
poems, stories, and essays. Now it is time to consolidate the argument.
It is driven by 'Berkeley's idealism and Leibniz's identity of indiscernibles',
with contributions by Schopenhauer and Hume. Borges proposes to
take idealism a step further. Once the Cartesian ego is rejected,
and all that remains are impressions, the order and continuity of
time is open to question. Borges tries out a couple of thought experiments.
The first is Huckleberry Finn awakening on the river at night. The
second denies the simultaneity of two unconnected events in 1824.
Each event is an island.
The universe, the sum of all the events, is a
collection that is no less ideal than that of all the horses Shakespeare
dreamedone, many, none?between 1592 and 1594.
(Note how characteristically Borgesian this statement is.)
Next, Borges works on a different argument: the numerous repetitions
of experience make separate events merge into one another, and allegedly
separate moments become identical.
Having postulated that identity, we must ask:
Are those identical moments the same? Is a single repeated
term enough to disrupt and confound the series of time? Are
the enthusiasts who devote a lifetime to a line by Shakespeare
not literally Shakespeare?
(Think how many times Borges says this in his work.)
As for the ethics of this system, Borges doesn't take a stand,
but cites the Mishnah, George Bernard Shaw, and C. S. Lewis.
Yet another segment of Borges' argument goes like this. Language
is temporal and unequipped for the eternal. Borges recounts an experience
from a story of his written in 1928he has described a similar
or identical situation elsewherein which past and present
experience merge into an undifferentiated whole, which he correlates
with 'eternity' (and immortality). It is the repetition of the same,
and thus the nullification of time.
The second version of the essay, comprising the second part of
the published piece, recounts the history of idealism, the hoariest
of philosophies. Borges reviews Berkeley's argument against the
independent existence of matter as well as Spencer's inadequate
attempt to refute it, and from there Borges pursues an argument
parallel to that in the first version (part) of the essay, with
the addition of Chuang Tzu's famous dream.
Tying it all together:
To deny time is really two denials: the denial
of the succession of the terms of a series, the denial of the
synchronism of the terms of two series. In fact, if each term
is absolute, its relations are reduced to the consciousness that
those relations exist.
The negation of time can take on different interpretations. Borges
takes the opposite approach of Bradley: he rejects the whole in
order to glorify the parts. Schopenhauer makes a comparable statement.
A Buddhist text denies the continuity of time altogether, recognizing
only the reality of individual moments, only of the present moment.
And yet, and yetto deny temporal succession,
to deny the ego, to deny the astronomical universe, are apparent
desperations and secret assuagements. Our destiny (unlike the
hell of Swedenborg and the hell of Tibetan mythology) is not horrible
because of its unreality; it is horrible because it is irreversible
and ironbound. Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river
that carries me away, but I am the river; it is a tiger that mangles
me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am
the fire. The world, alas, is real; I, alas, am Borges.
This must be the most thoroughgoing and revealing metaphysical
essay in Borges' oeuvre. It was on the basis of this essay that
I defined Borges over three decades ago. (The conclusion to Avatars
of the Tortoise is next in rank in my memory.) I plan to write
an extended analysis with this essay as the capstone, but for now
I'll outline a few thoughts.
(1) How does this essay fit into the genre schema of Jorge
Gracia: does it belong to philosophy or literature? But for
the prologue and the concluding statement cited above, it could
just about pass for philosophy. It is, admittedly, highly literary,
with passages too literary and text-specific to be considered merely
a philosophical tract; still, this is a borderline case. (But really,
in comparison with some of Nietzsche's texts?) As a thought experiment
it fits into philosophy, but as the author raises doubt as to his
commitment to his own argument, it might be taken for a mere literary
exercise. But then, what is the role of irony in philosophy?
(2) The fact that Borges was a literary man rather than a professional
philosopher probably gave him latitude to take certain conceits
to their logical conclusions, shamelessly exploiting the ultimate
consequences of subjective idealism as well as esoteric lore without
inhibition, thus teaching us something about the idealist and esoteric
modes of thought without insinuating acceptance by us. I want to
explore further what that something is and how it would look from
a de-alienated perspective.
(3) For all of my adult life, Borges was for me the ideal idealist
philosopher. I never took idealism seriously, but Borges made it
interesting and spurred idealism to its ultimate absurd conclusion.
I considered this as a reductio ad absurdum argument, not
remembering that Borges himself characterizes his argument in this
fashion. I may also have forgotten that Borges undermines his own
text by claiming to disbelieve in it and finally wistfully resigning
himself to reality.
(4) Three decades ago I did not consider this in terms of genres
and probably not with regards to the philosophical import of intended
irony. But from my current perspective I see irony as enhancing
the epistemological value of the text. (See the conclusion to my
review of Gracia.) Perhaps an analogy can be
drawn from René Menil's contrast
between Césaire and Senghor.
[> Borges (11): More Essays]
[> Borges en Esperanto]
4 September 2006
Borges Revisited (11):
More Essays: Lectures & Prologues
More from Selected Non-Fictions [SNF], edited by
Eliot Weinberger; translated by Esther Allen, Suzanne Jill Levine,
and Eliot Weinberger. (New York: Viking, 1999). Final section of
the book is section VII: Dictations 1956-1986. Borges' lectures
and prologues are very interesting; my goal here though is only
to single out passages relevant to the themes I'm exploring.
The Enigma of Shakespeare (Lecture) (1964) [SNF,
Borges discredits the hypothesis that someone
other than ShakespeareBacon or Marloweauthored Shakespeare's
[...] Coleridge used Spinoza's vocabulary in
praise of Shakespeare. He said that Shakespeare was what Spinoza
calls "natura naturans," creative nature: the
force that takes all forms, that lies as if dead in rocks, that
sleeps in plants, that dreams in the lives of animals, which
are conscious only of the present moment, and that reaches its
consciousness, or a certain consciousness in us, in mankind,
the "natura naturata."
Hazlitt said that all the people who have existed
in the universe are in Shakespeare; that is, Shakespeare had
the power to multiply himself marvelously; to think of Shakespeare
is to think of a crowd. However, in Marlowe's work we always
have a central figure [....] The other characters are mere extras,
they barely exist, whereas in Shakespeare's work all the characters
exist, even incidental characters. [....]
In a letter to Frank Harris, Bernard Shaw wrote,
"Like Shakespeare I understand everything and everybody;
and like Shakespeare I am nobody and nothing." And here
we arrive at the true enigma of Shakespeare: for us, he is one
of the most visible men in the world, but he was certainly not
that for his contemporaries. [...] 
Immortality (Lecture) (1978) [SNF, 483-491]
Borges analizes the belief in immortality and
finds the possibility of personal immortality undesirable as it
is unlikely. He examines alternative notions, and concludes that
the ego is the least important entity to survive. The experiences,
perceptions, thoughts, and feelings, detached from the ego, are
reenactments of what existed in the past; they merge into one
another and survive impersonally.
We could say that immortality is necessarynot
the personal, but this other immortality. For example, each
time that someone loves an enemy, the immortality of Christ
appears. In that moment he is Christ. Each time we repeat a
line by Dante or Shakespeare, we are, in some way, that instant
when Dante or Shakespeare created that line. Immortality is
in the memory of others and in the work we leave behind. What
does it matter if that work is forgotten?
I have devoted the last twenty years to Anglo-Saxon
poetry, and I know many Anglo-Saxon poems by heart. The only
thing I don't know is the names of the poets. What does it matter,
as long as I, reciting the poems from the ninth century, am
feeling something that someone felt back then? He is living
in me in that moment, I am that dead man. Every one of us is,
in some way, all the people who have died before us. And not
only those of our blood.
Of course, we inherit things in our blood.
I knowmy mother told methat every time I recite
English poems, I say them in the voice of my father, who died
in 1938. When I recite Shakespeare, my father is living in me.
The people who have heard me will live in my voice, which is
a reflection of a voice that was, perhaps, a reflection of the
voice of its elders. The same may be said of music and of language.
Language is a creation, it becomes a kind of immortality. I
am using the Castilian language. How many dead Castilians are
living within me?
Every one of us collaborates, in one form or
another, in this world. Every one of us wants this world to
be better, and if the world truly became better that eternal
hopeif the country saved itselfand why can't the
country save itself ? we would become immortal in that
salvation, whether they know our names or not. That is the least
important; what matters is that immortality is obtained in works,
in the memory that one leaves in others.
My opinions do not matter, nor my judgment;
the names of the past do not matter as long as we are continually
helping the future of the world, our immortality. That immortality
has no reason to be personal, it can do without the accident
of names, it can ignore our memory. For why should we suppose
that we are going to continue in another life with our memory,
as though I were to keep thinking my whole life about my childhood
in Palermo, in Adrogué, or in Montevideo? Why should
I always return to that? It is a literary recourse; I could
forget all that and keep on being, and all that would live within
me although I do not name it. Perhaps the most important things
are those we don't remember in a precise way, that we remember
To conclude, I would say that I believe in
immortality, not in the personal but in the cosmic sense. We
will keep on being immortal; beyond our physical death our memory
will remain, and beyond our memory will remain our actions,
our circumstances, our attitudes, all that marvelous part of
universal history, although we won't know, and it is better
that we won't know it. [490-491]
Prologue: Charles Howard Hinton, Scientific Romances
(1986) [SNF, 508-510]
Hinton has been virtually forgotten, but he was
a pioneer of science fiction (antedating Wells), writing fiction
as well as philosophical treatises on four-dimensional geometry
and flatlands. (Aficionados of Edwin Abbott's Flatland
likely know of Hinton and the late 19th century preoccupation
with the fourth (spatial) dimension.
[> Borges (12)]
[> Borges (9): Essays]
[> Borges (10): Pierre Menard]
4 September 2006
Ernest Gellner Resource Page
- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Gellner, 1925--1995 (Notebooks)
by RBJ on: Words and Things; by Ernest Gellner
Strange Death of Ordinary Language Philosophy by T. P. USCHANOV
Gellner and Modernity.
Chapter One - Introduction by Michael Lessnoff
Two books of special importance:
Words and Things, A Critical Account of Linguistic Philosophy
and a Study in Ideology. London: Gollancz; Boston: Beacon,
Language and Solitude: Wittgenstein, Malinowski and the Habsburg
Dilemma. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
The first book made history. The second is an extraordinary critique
Others have a less favorable view of Gellner's Words and Things.
Uschanov's analysis begins by claiming that Ernest Gellner was all
wrong. (But what about golf?) Gellner was especially wrong about
Wittgenstein, but he was also wrong about ordinary language philosophy
(OLP), says Uschanov. I had some problems with Uschanov's analysis,
but it stimulated some general thoughts
on the social history of philosophy.
3 September 2006
Borges Revisited (10):
Pierre Menard: Philosophy or Literature?
Gracia, Jorge J. E. Borges's Pierre Menard: Philosophy
or Literature?, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism,
vol. 59, no. 1, Winter 2001, pp. 45-57.
The following was written 25 July 2004.
. . . a couple of summers ago . . . asked for my opinion on why
we seem to be unable to deploy a perceived conceptual structure
within a literary work to capture the full content of that work.
For some reason this article reminds me of that conversation.
Gracia commences with a quote from Mahler, which seems to address
the same problem:
It is a peculiarity of the interpretation of
works of art that the rational element in them (that which is
soluble by reason) is almost never their true reality, but only
a veil which hides their form. Insofar as a soul needs a bodywhich
there is no disputingan artist is bound to derive the means
of creation from the natural world. But the chief thing is still
the artistic conception. . . . [In Faust] everything points with
growing mastery toward his final supreme momentwhich, though
beyond expression, touches the very heart of feeling.
From this, Gracia adumbrates the modernist view of the difference
between philosophy and art: philosophy is translatable while art
is not. The postmodernist argument, on the other hand, erases the
distinction and reduces or identifies philosophy and literature.
This has become an issue for Latin American philosophers as their
tradition seems to be favored by the postmodern but not by the modern
view. The most cited author in this regard is Jorge Luis Borges,
a philosophical as well as literary author. So is Borges' short
story "Pierre Menard, the Author of the Quixote" philosophy
or literature, and if there is a distinction between the two genres,
what is it?
Gracia has a surprising answer:
My thesis about Borges's "Pierre Menard"
in particular is that it is a literary work and text rather than
a philosophical one. My thesis about philosophy and literature
in general is that literary works are distinguished from philosophical
ones in that their conditions of identity include the texts they
express. Moreover, literary texts are distinguished from philosophical
ones in that they express literary works.
Gracia's schema is based upon a distinction between work and text.
A work is the meaning of certain texts. A text is a group of entities
related to a meaning. Then,
A literary work is distinguished from a philosophical
one in that its conditions of identity include the text of which
it is the meaning." Thus literary works are untranslatable.
A philosophical work should be translatable. A literary text is
essential to the work it expresses, but a philosophical text is
Gracia pursues the arguments for and against this curious thesis.
Various properties of literary texts including the style distinguish
them from philosophical texts. Though "Pierre Menard"
has philosophical characteristics, it can be shown to be not fully
This theory runs into a number of problems, so Gracia pursues the
links between identity, identification, and causation. By the stringent
criteria outlined here, several works commonly accepted as part
of philosophy might have to be expelled and pushed into literature.
Hence Gracia attempts to address this problem by pursuing these
However, what happens if we are able, e.g. in the case of Descartes'
Discourse on Method, to establish that this is a work of
philosophy, a text of philosophy, a work of literature, and a text
of literature? Gracia offers to alternative solutions: (1) Two Text-Two
Work alternative, (2) One Text-One Work alternative, which he prefers.
Postscript: After I first arrived in Washington, I embarked
upon two projects in my free time. I read Ralph Ellison's Invisible
Man, Washington being a good place for that, and I began to
research the question of philosophical style. Those interested
in the latter may wish to take a look at my selected
bibliography on the subject:
I re-read Gracia's article within the past two months. Wrapping
my head around his thesis is still an effort, but I'm better prepared
to accept his thesis with respect to Borges after reading a considerable
body of Borges' fictional and non-fictional (not always easy to
distinguish) output. Borges' work obviously has considerable philosophical
content, but there is a narrative dimension in it which may be said
to transgress the bounds of the philosophical genre, assuming that
all recognized philosophical works can be jammed into that category,
an assumption I still tend to balk at. Aren't there philosophical
texts of a highly literary nature bound to their formand what
about irony? I think that several of Borges' essays might qualify
as philosophy, but I'll grant that the fiction is more tightly bound
to the form and thus not paraphrasable without loss of its identity.
"Pierre Menard" is not only a philosophical thesis; it
is a literary fable or tale.
Then there's an additional question not posed by Gracia: what changes
about philosophy when it takes up residence as literature? Does
philosophy then have a greater latitude of being taken ironically?
See my essay For Rene Menil, Caribbean
[> Borges (11): More Essays]
[> Borges (9): Essays]
[> Borges (3):
Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote]
3 September 2006
Contractions and Expansions
In My Solitude (written 13 August 1997)
As for me, my clarity grows stronger each day. My
project this week is to achieve clarity without putting myself in
proximity to too much stimuli which will provoke my anger. Last
week I mixed my clarity with my fury. I don't plan to overcome my
anger at all, but I do plan to aim for crystal clarity whatever
my emotional state, and to arrange my life as much as possible to
avoid excessive doses of other people's noise which would only provoke
my own irritation. Rather than being either a space cadet or a totally
down-to-earth person, I am negotiating those two extremes by means
of a tightly organized dialectical relationship between the inspired
world of the mind and the horribly tough world of everyday life.
Hence my powers of observation grow more acute as I survey the relationship
between my own mind and the conversations that other people are
holding. I make new advances each day. You would not believe how
rich in detail and moral lessons are each mundane event of waking
It is painful at times to be in this position, but I'm luckier
than most, because I have much leeway in disposing of my time and
energy, while most people are crushed by the social routine, mostly
of holding down a job, and the unpleasantness of social relations.
But I'm listening more closely to people's conversation, which is
mostly insipid, but which reflects the burden they are under. Is
it any coincidence that the conversation at the café today
was all about two and only two topics: racism and computers? I tried
to inject some clarity even in my cautious interventions into other
people's conversation. Not every one can listen or understand. Which
means I have to be even more razor sharp. But I'm telling you, this
is an exacting discipline. I have to do it, because I can and nobody
else can. It is an exacting discipline, and how awful it is that
as difficult as it is to be a human being under any circumstances,
a human being under capitalism in this epoch, it is even more outrageous
that one cannot simply be a human being first without this heavy
oppressive burden of race hanging over one's entire life. The fundamental
issue, though is the human dilemma, and how sadly not just our bodies
are limited by circumstance, but our emotions and thoughts.
Anyway, I am trying to evolve a new literary form in which to express
this clarity. It involves a continuous, alternating unpacking and
repacking of tropes, of abstractions and details, contractions and
expansions, a dialectical interchange between the outward and the
inward, as one disappears to emerge converted into the other. It
is a severe discipline, that not many people understand because
of their inner static. Intellectuals are the worst. Still sad are
people who have keen minds but expend them completely in the banalities
of social living, lacking that divine spark that raises one above
the merely utilitarian. Yet that divine spark gets no free ride
floating about on nothing; it has to test itself in bitter experience.
The results of this methodology, written in this new formthis
is what I need to publish.
Searching for Literary Form (written 14 August
I have spent the past week at an ultrasonic pitch of psychic intensity,
writing like a madman, undoubtedly convincing all my friends that
I am one. Doesn't bother me. Gone fishing for souls. Having a great
time, but everybody can't be here.
Now before one adapts to whatever form is necessary to circulate
in this world, one has to discover one's own form and see if it
lives up to its own logic. If one is strong enough and the light
breaks, that form will find a place for itself. Either way, it has
to be what it is first before it can adapt to something else.
Now how to aggregate an accumulation of densely packed (oy!) missives?
I don't just want to unpack my tropes in usual trite fashion. I
may have to untrope or retrope somebody else's unpacking, I may
have to repack somebody else's tropes or untropes. May have to continually
pack and unpack my own. So how about this?
A literary entity called CONTRACTIONS AND EXPANSIONS. Section
one: Series of missives written in chronological order, with some
kind of numbers attached. Curious combination of packed and unpacked
material. This is contraction or tension (though possibly containing
some orgasmic releases).
Second section: expansions or releases, guess this would have to
be unpackings keyed to the numbers in section one. How to unpack
and lay out all the items neatly and clearly arranged? How to avoid
giving into the temptation to repack? How does this form differ
from the usual form of text and footnotes (or in the case of the
catalog, footnotes and text)? How does it differ from The Ancient
Mariner, or other renegades and castaways?
[I wrote this a few days ago after reflecting on a week's worth
of my e-mails, in which several communications involved extreme
oscillations between abstract and concrete discursive prose and
highly compact (packed) metaphorical and even poetic expressions.]
Further Meditations on Adorno (written 3 March
Adorno's introversion in the face of external defeat reminds me
of my own intense meditations of August 1997, in which I face the
tortuous inversions of materiality to ideality and back again, both
unpacking and densely repacking my tropes, culminating in my projected
work "Contractions and Expansions" . . .
Gutei's Finger (Zen koan) (written 26 August
I think the reason I remember this koan
translation] alone after three decades or more is because it
made perfect rational sense to me. Otherwise, I am rather averse
to the whole procedure. All the times I have seen this koan quoted,
until I surfed the net for it tonight, the very ending, which includes
commentary by Mumon, has been omitted. The heretofore missing piece
actually spoils for me what is otherwise a perfect parable. In my
view, the finger (or thumb as it is often translated) is itself
irrelevant: just about any gesture would do, as long as the logic
of the scenario were preserved. I insist on making sense out of
things, and the commentary by Mumon, which of course I am taking
as is without regard to whatever context is relevant to understanding
these stories, doesn't gel for me.
Of course there is a reason I made a point
of looking up this parable today. Walking from my house to the subway
after firing off the post about the Wittgenstein
article, which inspired me for reasons having nothing to do
with Wittgenstein per se (except as a person at odds with his environment),
and which made me late for a rendezvous, all of a sudden I was able
to articulate a number of principles that followed from my final
. . . another
piece in the giant jigsaw of the reconstruction of the history
of ideas in the face of a perpetual historical amnesia in which
it is also impossible to map the territory until decades after
those who created it are gone. . . . I'll note a paradox I see
here in adjudicating the relationship between the specialized
and the popular. Whether there is yet another metaphilosophical
layer of historico-philosophic explanation that sublates the author's
view is another discussion, but note that his very specialized
treatment of this subject matter is of much greater popular value
than his article on philosophy as social service industry. It
is vital to see the implications of this. The just-plain-folks
approach to making philosophy and its history intelligible becomes
as impossible as the ahistorical, asociological technocratic approach.
. . . the most disturbing aspect of the popularizing efforts of
the British magazines as well as books is their naivete about
what it means to serve as a conduit between professional philosophy
and the public under market conditions. It is impossible to do
justice either to the particular or the universal, and it becomes
impossible to map the territory in any other but a provincial
manner no matter how diversified and pluralistic the dominant
philosophical culture within a given linguistic sphere has become.
[25 August 2004. See Gellner]
I don't expect this to be intelligible as it because it is just
a tiny window onto a big project of mine. But for me a number of
abstract principles fell into place as I walked in the hot sun to
the metro stop, and out of them I coined a number of aphorisms,
a form which is very useful as its concentrated austerity implies
volumes. So I made mental notes of six or seven ideas in the midst
of my postmortem review of the above commentary, and then repeated
them mentally so I could write them down later in the subway train.
Along the way I remembered this koan. I don't recall what prompted
it at the moment, but I've had it in mind for some time to look
up because it is apropos to a number of my arguments regarding intellectual
independence and how thinking things through from the inside out
differs from parroting ideas.
Or, in another scenario: simply using source texts as so much
offal for mechanical processing by the sausage grinders of theory
factories, which in my work over a dozen years is all I saw people
do. If you think Wittgenstein and Popper were irascible, you should
have seen me slugging it out with the likes of what academia produces
in social theory, cultural studies, and literary criticism aaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrgh!
In the summer of 1997, after hitting a brick wall with these people,
several of them gathered into a single room, at an event made possible
in part by my organizational role, I came to some drastic conclusions,
and was subsequently forced into a mode of expression in which I
had to retreat from the explicit, logical elaboration of ideas into
a highly concentrated, condensed, packed, aphoristic, ironic form
of expression, which also takes a great deal of concentration and
logical insight to effect, because I could not trust my audience,
and my only recourse was to embody an irreconcilable difference
of perspective in the form as well as content of expression. (Years
later I tried to explain my literary form to a friend, but I failed
completely. He did suggest, however, that I take a look at the form
of Philosophical Investigations, advice I have yet to follow.)
So everything I wrote for the next couple of months involved a sequence
of contractions (aforementioned condensations) and expansions (logical
elaborations), back and forth in rapid succession from one pole
to the other, which coincided precisely with intense psychological
fluctuations. And in this process I detected an overall pattern,
a dizzying logic of inversions, which felt something like what Blake
must have felt turning the perceptible physical and social universe
inside out, bringing to light the complementary logical structure
and inverse properties of a mental universe unknown to official
societya process he called Mental War.
3 September 2006
Le Violon de Rothschild
(1996) is a beautiful film; too bad it's not available on DVD or
VHS. It's about Shostakovich's love for Jewish music and its suppression
by Stalin. Jews got soul, man. Afer seeing the film I looked through
Shostakovich's memoirs in English translation for this quote, but
I couldn't find it. I remember it differently than quoted below,
but this is all I got:
Too many of our fellow citizens have been killed and no one knows
where they are buried. Who can erect a monument to their memory?
Music alone can do it.
3 September 2006
Borges Revisited (9):
Borges' essays appear in several volumes, the earliest in English
being Other Inquisitions (1937-1952) (1964). The most comprehensive
collection is Selected Non-Fictions [SNF], edited
by Eliot Weinberger; translated by Esther Allen, Suzanne Jill Levine,
and Eliot Weinberger. (New York: Viking, 1999). The next largest
selection is in the out-of-print Borges, A Reader: A Selection
from the Writings of Jorge Luis Borges [BAR], edited
by Emir Rodriguez Monegal and Alastair Reid (New York: Dutton, 1981).
I shall draw on these latter two volumes for my review, indicating
with initials which volume(s) the essays mentioned can be found
in. See earlier Borges entries for links and mentions of other essays.
The Perpetual Race of Achilles and the Tortoise (1929) [SNF,
A Summary of Zeno's Paradox, its refutations
by Aristotle, Bergson, and Russell, and the view of William James.
Borges' returned to this subject later. See also "Avatars
of the Tortoise" (1939).
The Doctrine of Cycles (1936) [BAR, 65-71; SNF, 115-122]
The combinatorics underlying Nietzsche's argument
for Eternal Return are destroyed by Cantor's work on infinite
sets. There is a precedent in Augustine's refutation of the Stoics
and Pythagoreans. Mill also refutes Nietzsche avant le lettre.
Nietzsche denied atomic theory and attempted to emplor thermodynamics.
A History of Eternity (1936) [SNF, 123-139]
An examination, inter alia, of the impossible
doctrines of (Neo-)Platonism. There is also a consideration of
realism vs. nominalism. Finally, Borges reiterates his 'impoverished'
'personal theory of eternity', based on an experience of the erasure
of time distinctions, published in his 1928 book The Language
of the Argentines.
Ramón Llull's Thinking Machine (1937) [SNF, 155-159]
Borges assesses Llull's thinking machine (composed
of movable disks enabling myriad combinations of elementary ideas)
useless, an absurdity for philosophical purposes but perhaps useful
as a literary device. Borges adduces two diagrams, the first a
diagram of divine attributes, the second, of Llull's thinking
machine. It unworkability is illustrated by Borges using one of
his favorite symbols, a tiger. The device is ridiculed in Swift's
Gulliver's Travels. Of the first diagram, Borges suggests
that the theological subject matter would not be rewarding today.
We now know that the concepts of goodness,
greatness, wisdom, power, and glory are incapable of engendering
an appreciable revelation. We (who are basically no less naive
than Llull) would load the machine differently, no doubt with
the words Entropy, Time, Electrons, Potential Energy, Fourth
Dimension, Relativity, Protons, Einstein. Or with Surplus
Value, Proletariat, Capitalism, Class Struggle, Dialectical
Materialism, Engels. 
When Fiction Lives in Fiction (1939) [SNF, 160-162]
On infinite regress in literature and art (story
within story within story . . . picture within picture within
picture . . . ). Conclusion:
Arthur Schopenhauer wrote that dreaming and
wakefulness are the pages of a single book, and that to read
them in order is to live, and to leaf through them at random,
to dream. Paintings within paintings and books that branch into
other books help us sense this oneness.
E. S. Pankhurst, Delphos, or the Future of the International
Language [review] (1939) [SNF, 194-195]
Borges takes up artificial language in later
essays and stories. Projects, languages and figures mentioned
here are: John Wilkins, Letellier, Volapük (Schleyer), Esperanto,
Neutral Idiom, Interlingua (Peano), Dr. Henry Sweet, with a sample
sentence in Idiom Neutral.
The Total Library (1939) [BAR, 94-96; SNF, 214-216]
Borges traces the lineage of the notion of the
Total Library and links it to the combinatorics of atomism and
Raymond Llull. People cited include Democritus, Leucippus, Aristotle,
Cicero, Leibniz, Pascal, Swift, Nietzsche, T. H. Huxley, Lewis
Carroll, Gustav Theodor Fechner, Kurd Lasswitz, Theodor Wolff.
Avatars of the Tortoise (1939) [BAR,
105-109; not in SNF]
On Zeno's paradox and infinite regress. Cast:
Zeno, Plato, Aristotle, Hui Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Agrippa, Acquinas,
Lotze, Bradley, Lewis Carroll, William James, Russell; and Schopenhauer
and Novalis on the dreamed world. This is up near the top of Borges'
essays illustrating his central themes. See also "The Perpetual
Race of Achilles and the Tortoise" (1929).
Let us admit that which all idealists admit:
the hallucinatory nature of the world. Let us do that which
no idealist has done; let us search for the unrealities which
confirm that nature. [108-109]
Time and J. W. Dunne (1940) [SNF, 217-219]
On Dunne's theory of time, based on an infinite
regression of time lines.
Book review: Edward Kasner & James Newman, Mathematics
and the Imagination (1940) [SNF, 249-250]
On 4-dimensional geometry, inifinity, paradoxes,
The Creation and P. H. Gosse (1941) [SNF, 222-224]
On causality, determinism, and linear vs. cyclical
timeMill, Laplace, Nietzsche, Spinoza, Russell, Chateaubriand,
creationism vs. evolutionism, and Gosse, who postulated 'a rigorously
causal, infinite time that has been interrupted by a past Act:
the Creation.' The remains of the entire chain of evolutionary
causality exist, but only those Creatures which postdate the Creation
Circular Time (1941) [SNF, 225-228]
Cast: Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Hume, Schopenhauer,
John Wilkins' Analytical Language (1942) [BAR, 141-143;
'The Analytical Language of John Wilkins' (originally
'El idioma analítico de John Wilkins' ) by Jorge Luis Borges
by Lilia Graciela Vázquez
by Will Fitzgerald
original & English translation
Prologue: Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener
(1944) [BAR, 148-149, SNF, 245-246]
Mostly on Moby-Dick. On the commonality
of both works:
It is as if Melville had written, "It's
enough for one man to be irrational for others and the universe
itself to be so as well." Universal history prolifically
confirms that terror.
A Note on the Peace (1945) [SNF, 212-213]
This short essay begins:
A worthy air of the Englihs nominalists, H.
G. Wells repeats that to speak of the desires of Iraq or the
perspicacity of Holland is to fall into foolish mythologies
[...] To this admonition, we may respond, with the nominalist
Hume, that every person is equally plural and consists of a
series of perceptions [....]
Borges sets aside his customary nominalism to
celebrate England's victory in the war.
Our Poor Individualism (1946) [BAR, 167-168; SNF, 309-310]
Against the Platonic conception of the State,
nationalism, and national character. The Argentine cannot identify
with the State; only personal relations are real to him, in contrast
to the mentality of Europeans and North Americans. In a world
menaced by communism and Nazism, Argentine individualism, dubious
as it might be, may yet provide an antidote to statism.
The First Wells (1946) [BAR, 171-172; not in SNF]
Borges' affirms Wells' nominalism, but criticizes
Wells for not always practicing what he preaches. Spinoza is also
mentioned: God neither loves nor hates anyone. See also "A
Note on the Peace" (1945).
As long as an author merely relates events
or traces the slight deviations of a conscience, we can confuse
him with the universe or with God; but when he descends to the
level of pure reason, we know he is fallible. [....] God must
not theologize [...] 
On Oscar Wilde (1946) [BAR, 177-178; SNF, 314-316]
In the middle of the review: "Wilde has
been accused of practicing a kind of ars combinatoria,
in the manner of Ramón Llull'. A footnote mentions Leibniz's
A New Refutation of Time (1944-47) [BAR, 179-191; SNF, 317-332]
This is Borges' most important statement of his
engagement with idealism. I will discuss this separately
at a later date.
Prologue: Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-worship and the
Heroic in History; Ralph Waldo Emerson, Representative Men
(1949) [SNF, 413-418]
While one detractor of Emerson denigrated Emerson
as an 'American Carlyle' manque, Borges deems them total opposites.
His admiration for Emerson is boundless. Carlyle was a rigid Calvinist
malgre lui. Russell and Chesterton back up Borges' political assessment:
More important than Carlyle's religion is his
political theory. His contemporaries did not understand it,
but it can now be summed up in a single household word: Nazism.
From Someone to Nobody [From Someone to No One] (1950) [BAR,
238-240; SNF, 341-343]
From polytheism to monotheism to pantheism and
negative theology. On God and Shakespeare as everyone and no one.
To be something is inexorably not to be all
the other things; the confused intuition of this truth has induced
mankind to imagine that being nothing is more than being something
and is, in some way, to be everything. This fallacy is inherent
in the words of that legendary king of India who renounces power
and goes out to beg in the streets [. . .] [342-343]
See also > Borges
Pascal's Sphere (1951) [BAR, 240-142; SNF, 351-353]
On universal history and the cosmic sphere, from
the ancient Greeks to Pascal. Universal history may consist of
variations of a few metaphors. For Bruno, the prospect of an infinite
universe was a liberation, for Pascal, a nightmare.
Prologue: Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles (1955)
Fulsome praise for Bradbury, with mention of
precursors: Lucian of Samasota, Ariosto, Kepler, John Wilkins
(of 'universal character' fame), Wells.
SNF: I have only to finish section VII. Dictations
1956-1986. Will report back.
Other Inquisitions (1937-1952): Includes For Bernard
Shaw. There is an essay on Shaw of interest to me; perhaps this
is the one.
[> Borges (11): More Essays]
[> Borges (10): Pierre Menard]
[> Borges (8):
Still More Poems]