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Kant's Dog: On Borges, Philosophy, and the Time of Translation by David E. Johnson (SUNY Series in Latin American and Iberian Thought and Culture Series: SUNY Press)

Kant's Dog provides fresh insight into Borges's preoccupation with the contradiction of the time that passes and the identity that endures. By developing the implicit logic of the Borgesian archive, which is most often figured as the universal demand for and necessary impossibility of translation, Kant's Dog is able to spell out Borges's responses to the philosophical problems that most concerned him, those of the constitution of time, eternity, and identity; the determination of original and copy; the legitimacy of authority; experience; the nature of language and the possibility of a decision; and the name of God. Kant's Dog offers original interpretations of several of Borges's best known and most important stories and of the works of key figures in the history of philosophy, including Aristotle, Saint Paul, Maimonides, Hume, Locke, Kant, Heidegger, and Derrida. This study outlines Borges's curious relationship to literature and philosophy and, through a reconsideration of the relation between necessity and accident, opens the question of the constitution of philosophy and literature. The afterword develops the logic of translation toward the secret at the heart of every culture in order to posit a Borgesian challenge to anthropology and cultural studies.

The author, David E. Johnson, is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. This is a volume in the SUNY series in Latin American and Iberian Thought and Culture with Jorge J. E. Graeia and Rosemary Geiisdorter Feal, editors.

As Johnson explains in the introduction to Kant's Dog, the attempt to marginalize Borges's philosophical investment is widespread and often buttressed by his own statements. But Borges's state­ments are not immediately convincingl if only because there remain a few holdouts.

Why is it important for literary scholars to save Borges for literature and from philosophy? What is the philosophical contaminant that threatens to ruin literature? Where does one draw the line between literature and philosophy? What is a philosopher if not someone who reads philosophy, thereby taking the philosophical text 'as an object,' as Cordua and Balderston claim Borges does? But it is not only literary critics and scholars who patrol the border between literature and philosophy and who want to keep Borges on literature's side. Cordua, for one, is an important South American philosopher, author of major works on Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger. How does exploiting and exploring – but also exploding – the literary possibilities of philosophy not amount to doing philosophy? Is the ‘philosophical element,’ so easily determined, so easily isolated from its context and not treated as a`concept? What concept, finally, is not opaque, suggestive but finally indecipherable, untranslatable? What is so unsettling about Borges that so many feel compelled to take a stand on where he stands? It is possible that Borges belongs`on the list of those whose work, as Paul de Man put it, "straddles the two activities of the human intellect that are both the closest and the most impenetrable to each other – literature and philosophy".

Kant's Dog teases out the implications of the accidents of translation. It remarks the impossible relation between the singular or the accidental and the universal or the necessary. Chapter 1, "Time: For Borges," takes its point of departure from Borges's consistent position that the fundamental problem ‘for us’ is time or what he calls the contradiction between the identity that endures and the time that passes away. The chapter pursues Borges's determination of time in order to demonstrate that in his most explicit statements about time, Borges often repeats its most classical philosophical definition. And yet in every case the IBorgesian text also provides the resources for thinking against the philosophical or metaphysical understanding of time. Chapter 1 establishes the temporal logic that organizes the interpretations of Borges and philosophy throughout the remainder of Kant's Dog. After describing the logic of temporality that explains the apparent contradiction between identity and temporality, "Time: For Borges" elaborates the logics of impossibility, the promise, and survival, all of which follow from the structure of time and each of which plays an important role in the chapters that follow. Indeed, the ensuing chapters demonstrate that Borges consistently deploys the logic of temporality that follows ineluctably from his understanding of the intractable contradiction of temporal succession and identity in order to remark – to respond to, to trace, to reinscribe – classic philosophical problems. Central to this chapter is an analysis of time in Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature, in which it becomes clear that Hume's empiricism ineluctably grounds itself in something other than experience, namely, in the enigmatic translating operation of the imagination. Chapter 3, "Kant's Dog," takes up in detail the relation of sensibility and the understanding to temporal synthesis by reading in`"Funes el memorioso [Funes the Memorious]" an oblique reference to Kant's description of the synthesis of time in the operation of transcendental schematism. Taken together Chapters 2 and 3 offer a sustained assessment of the limits of empiricism and transcendentalism. In short, the logic of temporality implicitly at work in the Borgesian text challenges the limits of the transcendental and the empirical.

The first three chapters of Kant's Dog argue that the time of translation, which informs at the same time the universal demand for translation and its singular impossibility, structures the entire Borgesian archive and, as well, corrupts the distinction between necessity and accidentality, transcendental and empirical, philosophy and literature. Chapters 4 and 5 spell out the implications of the logic of translation for the possibility of decision (hospitality, justice) and the name of God. Chapter 4, "Decisions of Hospitality," begins with a consideration of the problem of the temporality of metaphor in Borges and Aristotle. Following a suggestion of Borges, the chapter turns to the metaphor of hospitality and to the temporal structure of decision in order to establish the parameters for an interpretation of "The Garden of Forking Paths" and its determination of the time of the possible. Chapter 5, "Idiocy, the Name of God," reads across Borges's`interest in the religions of the book (Christianity, Islam, I Judaism) in order to think through his invest­ment in the name of God and to rethink the limits of the idiom and the idios. Finally, the Afterword, "The Secret of Culture," expounds the logic of the secret in order to argue that Borges proposes a relation to the other that – in the figure of the secret, despite all necessary calculations and precautions – remains singular, incalculable, and in jeopardy.

Johnson focuses not on Borges's uses of his`philosophical references, but on how Borges can be brought`into classical debates in philosophy, on time, identity, God, and so forth. His corpus of philosophers is novel in the context of Borges studies – we get Aristotle here more than Plato, Augustine and Aquinas, Maimonides and Averroes,`Hegel and Kant, Agamben and Derrida. The effect is salutary: he shows how Borges's thought takes up, and participates in, some old (and some new) philosophical debates. – Daniel Balberston, Director, Borges Center, University of Pittsburgh, and editor of Variaciones Borges

Kant's Dog is a groundbreaking work that fills a long-lasting hole in Borges scholarship. Johnson beautifully brings together the discourses of literature and philosophy through Borges's work. He provides original and illuminating interpretations of some of the most important texts and problems in Borges's oeuvre. – Kate Jenckes, author of Reading Borges after Benjamin: Allegory, Afterlife, and the Writing of History

Kant's Dog is not simply expository. On the contrary, it pursues a reading strategy that might best be characterized as accidental. Every chapter opens onto the singular, the contingent, following a minor detail, an arbitrary referencel in order to read in – and at the constitutive limit of – the Borgesian archive, its philosophical, hence its fantastic, interlocutors. If it is true that metaphysics belongs to the genre of fantastic literature, then the Borgesian text must of necessity be inscribed within the horizon of metaphysics. It is this double inscription of literature`and philosophy – each inscribed at the limit of the other – that Kant's Dog seeks both to demonstrate and to perform. It does so by translating literature into and as philosophy, philosophy into and as literature. As if there were literature,`as if there were philosophy – the traces of each remaining in and as the other. 

The Human Experience of Time: The Development of Its Philosophic Meaning by Charles M. Sherover (SPEP Studies in Historical Philosophy; Northwestern University Press) First published in 1975 and still without equal, The Human Experience of Time provides a thorough overview of the concept of time in the Western philosophic tradition. Encompassing a wide range of writings, from the Book of Genesis to the work of twentieth‑{century philosophers such as Collingwood and McKeon, all with introductory essays by editor Charles M. Sherover, this anthology offers a synoptic view of the changing philosophic notions of time. The main traditional texts‑from Heraclitus, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Locke, Leibniz, Kant, and Hegel‑appear here alongside offerings from Lotze, Bergson, McTaggart, Russell, Reichenbach, Peirce, Dewey, Heidegger, and others. The Human Experience of Time is not only a historical overview but also a dialectical analysis displaying the diverse approaches to the continuing philosophic exploration of time.

Conversations About the End of Time by Stephen Jay Gould, Umberto Eco, Jean-Claude Carrire, Jean Delumeau (Fromm) There is nothing special`about the year 2000, yet the start of the third millennium proved a focus for many deep anxieties and expectations. Four of the world's boldest and most celebrated thinkers: Stephen`Jay Gould, best-selling Harvard paleontologist; Umberto Eco, Italian novelist and professor of semiotics; Jean Delumeau, French historian; and Jean-Claude Carrire, playwright and critic offer a vast range of insights into how we make sense of time: paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould on dating the Creation, evolutionary "deep time," and the need for ecological ethics on a human scale; Umberto Eco, on the brave new world of cyberspace and its likely impact on memory, cultural continuity, and access to knowledge; screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrire on "the art of slowness" and attitudes toward time in non-Western cultures; and Catholic historian Jean Delumeau on how the Western imagination has always been haunted by ideas of the Apocalypse. Each scholar is given a chapter. The format of question-and-answer is not too distracting and makes for a relatively comprehensible and quick read. Although there are some slightly awkward translations of idiomatic expressions, the insights that these well-rounded scholars provide are attention rousing and revelatory.

The issue of the human meaning of time has vast extensions into theoric evolution as well as the underlying structure of experience. In Synchronicity: Through the Eyes of Science, Myth and the Trickster by Allan Combs, Mark Holland, Robin Robertson (Marlowe & Company) the authors revisit an idea and experience that Carl Jung coined. The term "synchronicity" Jung sought to describe meaningful coincidences that conventional notions of time and causality do not explain. Working with the great quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli, Jung sought to reveal these coincidences as phenomena that involve mind and matter, science and spirit, thus providing rational explanations for parapsychological events like telepathy, precognition, and intuition. Synchronicity reexamines the work of Jung and Pauli, as well as noted scientists Werner Heisenberg and David Bohm; identifies the phenomena in ancient and modern mythologies, particularly the Greek legend of Hermes the Trickster; and illustrates it with engaging anecdotes from everyday life and literature. Definitely an approachable update of the idea made respectable by Swiss psychologist.


Of Tragedy, Poetry, Fiction, and Thought

by David Farrell Krell

University of Chicago Press

$14.95, paper; 181 pages, notes, bibliography, index



Time inhabits the literate ruminations of Krell upon nine writers: Heidegger, Derrida, Blanchot, Holderlin, Nietzsche, Trakl, Empedocles, Kafka, and Garcia Marquez. Krell uses the phases of the moon as a unifying theme in this approach to a unique poetics, inspired principally by Heidegger. The complex blending of reading and cross readings of these author's who comment upon the same themes provides metamorphic and metaphoric consolidation of basic themes of transition.

|font color="#000000">Table of Contents:

1. The Sensuality of Tragedy, the Tragedy of Sensuality
Antiquity and Modernity: The Epochal Suspension of Empedocles
Time, Tragic Downgoing, Affirmation
Sensual Tragedy, Tragic Sensuality
2. Stuff. Thread. Point. Fire: Holderlin's Dissolution
The Reproductive Act
The Bypassed Terminus
At the Burning Point
Digression on Heidegger and Innigkeit
3. The Source of the Wave: Rhythm in the Languages of Poetry and Thinking
The Animating Wave
Rhythms of Presencing and Absencing
4. The Lunar Voice of the Sister
The Selenic Situation of the Sister
Upon the Being and Breast of a Girl
The Generation of the Unborn
Evil Most Furious. Dissension between Brother and Sister
How to Gain a Sister?
In (the) Place of God
One Geschlecht: (S)he-lovers, Sea-lovers
5. "I, an Animal of the Forest...": Blanchot's Kafka
The Feminine World and Literary Ambiguity
The Animal Kingdom of the Writer
Solitude, Silence, and the Sister
The Narrative Voice
An Incarnation Openly Bearing Its Emptiness
The Burrow
The Moss
6. Lunar Solitudes: The Eternal Return of Gabriel Garcia Marquez Eternal Recurrence? of the Same?
Solitudes of Love and Rancor
The Solitude of Parchment


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