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Mazes and Amazements

Borges and Western Philosophy

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Shlomy Mualem

Borges gained his first lessons in philosophy from his father while still a young boy – an intimate home schooling that grew into a long-term obsession. Its ubiquitous presence in his thought and writing has made him one of the most distinctive literary philosophers in the West, expressing itself in a wide-ranging array of fictional essays, metaphysical parables, philosophical poetry, and multifaceted literary artifacts. In contrast to the prevailing perception of Borges as a «dogmatic sceptic» for whom philosophy serves solely aesthetic or rhetorical purposes, this volume proposes a novel approach for understanding Borges as an intellectual, together with an interpretive structure for comprehending his work, based on a systematic examination of the complex relations between literary writing and Western philosophy in his œuvre. Offering a reading of selected Borgesian texts in the light of the Western philosophers of whom he is most enamoured, and analyzing the way in which philosophical theories underpin his texts, it illustrates the fundamental tension of Borges’ writing as a manifestation of what he calls the «intellectual instinct.»

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Abbreviations vii Acknowledgements ix Introduction 1 Part I Philosophical Inquisitions 5 Chapter 1 Labyrinthal Paradigms: Western Philosophy in Borges’ Oeuvre 7 Chapter 2 Literary Philosophers: Mythos and Logos in Borges and Plato 29 Chapter 3 Philosophy and Ideology: Dialectical Orientalism in Borges’ Writings 55 Part II Comparative Perspectives 81 Chapter 4 Borges and Schopenhauer: Microcosms and Aesthetic Observation 83 Chapter 5 Borges, Heraclitus, and the River of Time 101 vi Chapter 6 A View from Eternity: The Archetypal Quest 127 Chapter 7 Borges and Levinas Face to Face: Writing and the Riddle of Subjectivity 153 Chapter 8 Narrative Aspect Change and Alternating Systems of Justice: A Wittgensteinian Reading of Borges 183 Chapter 9 Borges, Wittgenstein, and Kierkegaard on the Boundaries of Language: Mystical Silence and Indirect Communication 197 Chapter 10 Borges and Berkeley: Idealism and the Ontology of the Fantastical Object 215 Bibliography 241 Index of Names 251 Index of Subjects 253

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