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Reading Circle - Ficciones, March 2008

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Sonia
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PostPosted: Thu 10 Apr, 2008  Reply with quote

I stopped reading it...

...oops. grin


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Bruno
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Apr, 2008  Reply with quote

Tlön, Uqbar etc.
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Basilus West
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Apr, 2008  Reply with quote

And from this you can deduce what is slightly ironic in Tlön (but perhaps it had been said in some post above). When Borges says something like: "On Tlön, all the sciences were subdued to psychology" or "On Tlön, philosophy was considered as fantastic litterature", you can suppress "on tlön" and you get the basement of Borges' thought. This is not so different by the way from what Nietzsche said once about philosophy, that is, philosophers first create a morale in order to justify their own behavior, then they create a philosophy in order to justify their morale, then they present the whole in the reverse order.

And that's the reason why the end of the Tlön may look like, if not real, say possible. It just asserts that humankind is crazy (what is suggested by the reference to WWII events), that any form of craziness may be good enough for it, and that what looks crazy today will be the reason of tomorrow.


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Bruno
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Apr, 2008  Reply with quote

Bas wrote:
And from this you can deduce what is slightly ironic in Tlön (but perhaps it had been said in some post above). When Borges says something like: "On Tlön, all the sciences were subdued to psychology" or "On Tlön, philosophy was considered as fantastic litterature", you can suppress "on tlön" and you get the basement of Borges' thought.

yes Which leads us to a very important question: have we been reading fantastic literature, or have we been reading philosophy? How are the logical grounds of science or the solid pilars of democracy any more valid than the fictions of Borges?

Bas wrote:
This is not so different by the way from what Nietzsche said once about philosophy, that is, philosophers first create a morale in order to justify their own behavior, then they create a philosophy in order to justify their morale, then they present the whole in the reverse order.

That's more like something Foucault would say. Although I agree with you that Borges himself draws a lot from Nietzsche. The whole subverting human knowledge into psychology is very cool. siiw And very hard to escape, also.

Bas wrote:
And that's the reason why the end of the Tlön may look like, if not real, say possible. It just asserts that humankind is crazy (what is suggested by the reference to WWII events), that any form of craziness may be good enough for it, and that what looks crazy today will be the reason of tomorrow.

Unfortunately, people still don't know what to do with that. lachtraan They keep saying "post modernists have dissolved the subject" and that we're living a "crisis of sense" --- not to mention Lyotard's ("who rhymes with...", sorry, couldn't resist lach1) name for it --- but the truth is, humankind has come to a great joint realisation, namely that there are no solid grounds in the realm of knowledge, and they still don't know what to do with it. Until people get the gist of Tlön, Uqbar, we're cursed into living, ourselves, into real life-size instances of Tlön.

(For those interested, a list of other pretty cool stories by Borges in that sense: "On Rigor in Science", "The Lottery in Babylon", "The Zahir", "The Library of Babel", "The Book of Sand", "Blue Tigers" (one of the most brilliant stories of all time), "The Aleph"... and my recently personal favourite: "Three Versions of Judas").


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double-o-darko
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PostPosted: Wed 23 Apr, 2008  Reply with quote

Ok.... sorry for the delay, but suggestions for May's Reader's Circle, anyone? I'm open to anything but I would rather have someone else recommend the book because then I know (hopefully) at least one other person will read the book, too.

Off topic: Did anyone else find what Borges said about animals 'living in the moment' and humans living in a string of connected moments interesting? I actually loaned the book to my pops so I can't get the exact quote but it was in one of the last Ficciones and it really struck me as interesting and accurate in one way. But in another way I found it inept because animals do remember- when a dog is disciplined for acting a certain way, memory usually serves the animal well enough to change his/her behavior. From this perspective there is some serial order that is grasped by animals other than humans. I think that Borges really made an interesting point, though the analogy may not have been what I would consider 100% right-on. If I had a choice between the two, I often think that I would seriously consider living in one continuous moment than to live in an ever-changing sea of them, although I don't feel as if though I ever would come to such a conclusion in the end. There is something so pure and beautiful about abandoning all logic and experience and following heart, instinct and intuition. Just another little passage I found interesting.


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Bruno
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PostPosted: Wed 23 Apr, 2008  Reply with quote

Well you'll be pleased to know both you and Borges can be right. smile What happens is, the human brain has more than one mean of storing memories. Other animals have both as well, especially big mammals, but one of the two systems is extremely developed only in humans.

I don't remember names, and can't be bothered checking, wikipedia is your friend here, but consider the following sets of impressions and how they trigger stuff in your head: snakes, fire, your parents, a good friend, these ideas, a mathematical formula. Notice how, as you move from the former to the latter, the impressions that these ideas trigger feel less and less "primitive"? Well, the thing that I'm calling your "primitive" memory (which is the set of phenomena which strikes you at the thought of snakes, or fire, and still quite clearly when you think about your parents, but less so) is the memory backing up your instincts and conditioning.

For instance: you know what a snake is from past experience (live or otherwise), and you've learned to fear snakes. The very thought of a snake, unless you're a biologist or something, is somewhat irrational and causes lots of interesting effects in your body, but also intelective in that you're rushed to "get out". And that is one kind of memory, which is stored somewhere at the back of your brain and is much faster than the other kind.

The "human" memory is associated with the middle of your brain, that is, the Broca Field. It's a symbolic memory, in which memories can be arranged --- for instance, but not just --- along a time line. It is able of introspection, ordenation and projection: in that sense, this memory isn't just trained for a trigger-->reaction pattern, but it can actually reason from heterogeneous past experience and conceive projections of possible future implications to current actions, balance those implications and chose for the best action. This memory, as you can see, is radically associated with intelect --- although it has been observed in other animals. I'm guessing that it's been observed in less complex forms, as so far it's unshakable scientific belief that only very few other animals are capable of minimum language, but it's not, by all means, an exclusively human treat.

So there you have it. Both you and Borges are right: other animals do have a perception of time, and some of them are even capable of abstracting it. But on the other hand, humans are the only known species to have a symbolic memory so complex and to base their almost every action on a linguistical projection derived from that memory. In other words: animals only experience the present/i] and are conditioned for future reaction based on [i]impressions which are always ultimately perceived as present; humans, on the other hand, are able to bring back the past through symbolic conventions, and so they're capable to treat them as past: because they're symbols.

Think of your parents: there's an impression to them, that is, a very present and physical sensation of comfort and whatnot which is triggered by the notion of them. There is, on the other hand, the whole set of symbols connected to them: family, the familiar structure, their names, stereotypes you associate with their personalities, facts from the past etc. That's the human memory. Of course I'm exaggerating a hole between the two memories which in practise doesn't exist: they're interchangeable and work together most of the time. But you get the idea.


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