Saturday, March 22, 2003

Memory & Metaphysics

After many years of meaning to do so, I finally read Giuseppe di Lampedusa's THE LEOPARD. As an Evidence teacher -- and just as a simple human being -- I was struck by the following passage in the book's last chapter, "Relics":

If Tassoni had told the truth, then the long hours spent in savoring her hatred before her father's picture ... had been stupidity .... From the timeless depth of her being being a black pain came welling to spatter her all over at that revelation of the truth.

But was it the truth? Nowhere has truth so short a life as in Sicily; a fact has scarcely happened five minutes before its genuine kernel has vanished, been camouflaged, embellished, disfigured, squashed, annihilated by imagination and self-interest; shame, fear, generosity, malice, opportunism, charity, all the passions, good as well as evil, fling themselves onto the fact and tear it to pieces; very soon it has vanished altogether. And poor Concetta was hoping to find the truth of feelings that had never been expressed but only glimpsed half a century before! The truth no longer existed. Precarious fact, though, had been replaced by irrefutable pain.


Speaking of Charles Peirce (as I did in a recent post) I (once again, finally!) purchased a copy of Louis Menand's book THE METAPHYSICAL CLUB (2001). The book was well reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. I sense that the book will charm, but also edify, partly by making connections between the Americans and broader European intellectual trends. Will my hopes be met? In any event the telling of the story of the main characters -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, William James, Charles Peirce, and John Dewey -- surely cannot entirely disappoint!

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