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Mazes and Amazements

Borges and Western Philosophy


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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This volume was published with the generous help of the Zabludovsky Foundation at Bar-Ilan University. The fruit of long-term study of Borges and his philosophical perplexities, I hope it reflects the still, small voice of intellectual pleasure that accompanied its composition. It is dedicated to my wife, Orit, and three sons, Avishay, Matan, and Yuval, my constant companions in weaving the way through the wonderful maze that is life. My deep thanks, too, to Liat Keren for her elegant and meticulous transla- tion and editorial polishing of the chapters.

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