Borges and Plato: A Game with Shifting Mirrors. by Shlomy Mualem

By Shlomy Mualem

This comparative strategy indicates how the Platonic perspective sheds new gentle on Borges' essayistic and fictional paintings. Analyses to which volume his inspiration is deeply rooted in classical philosophical doctrines.

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Additional resources for Borges and Plato: A Game with Shifting Mirrors.

Sample text

Ferrari 48; my translation) Logos is thus perceived by Borges as an intellectual tool, like language, and the mastery use of that tool brings about an awareness of its limitations. In other words, Borges’ conception of logos, his attraction-rejection approach toward pure reasoning, seems to be much more ambivalent than totally negative. I assume that he tends to accept it as a tool, but to reject it as the only tool of consciousness. Mythos, on the other hand, is repeatedly related by Borges to the word “sueño” (dream).

In one of his early essays he tries to justify this tendency, assuming that “even a false fact can be truthful regarded as a symbol” (OC: II, 252; my translation). Nevertheless, in the aforementioned prologue he specifically mentions Butler and Carlyle as the literary forefathers of the fictional essay. Carlyle’s biography Sartor Resartus, which contains wide-ranging excerpts from a non-existent book, deserves special attention. Besides the fact that Carlyle’s work exposed young Borges to the influential philosophies of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, he also seems to have, as Monegal remarks, “developed a format that Borges would take to its most delicate consequences: the fake review of an imaginary work by a non-existent writer” (Monegal 130).

Elsewhere, in a similar discussion with Roberto Alifano regarding the inability to abstractly define poetry, Borges mentions Plato as a thinker who provides an alternative path to the quest for abstract definition (it is possible that he distinguishes here between Plato the narrator and the claims expressed in his dialogues by Socrates): It seems to me that the only possible definition [of poetry] would be Plato’s, precisely because it is not a definition, but a poetic act. 34 On the other hand, it is clear that Borges tends to adopt what can be called the ‘definition-by-mythos’ principle, that is, to the priority of indirect depiction by means of metaphor over abstract 33 34 Alifano, Roberto.

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