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2006.05.23 =>

A Truly Wonderful Proof, But the Margin is Too Small to Contain It

Ego certe, quod intrepidus de meo corde pronuntio, si ad culmen auctoritatis aliquid scriberem, sic mallem scribere ut quod veri quisque de his rebus capere posset mea verba resonarent, quam ut unam veram sententiam ad hoc apertius ponerem, ut excluderem ceteras quarum falsitas me non posset offendere.

For my part I declare resolutely and with all my heart that if I were called upon to write a book which was to be vested with the highest authority, I should prefer to write it in such a way that a reader could find re-echoed in my words whatever truths he was able to apprehend. I would rather write in this way than impose a single true meaning so explicitly that it would exclude all others, even though they contained no falsehood that could give me offence.

—Augustine, Confessions, 12.31

Wenn ich ein Buch schriebe “Die Welt, wie ich sie vorfand,” so wäre darin auch über meinen Leib zu berichten und zu sagen, welche Glieder meinem Willen unterstehen und welche nicht etc., dies ist nämlich eine Methode, das Subjekt zu isolieren, oder vielmehr zu zeigen, dass es in einem wichtigen Sinne kein Subjekt gibt: Von ihm allein nämlich könnte in diesem Buche nicht die Rede sein.—

If I wrote a book “The world as I found it,” I should also have therein to report on my body and say which members obey my will and which do not, etc. This then would be a method of isolating the subject or rather of showing that in an important sense there is no subject: that is to say, of it alone in this book mention could not be made.

—Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 5.631

I think those two quotes, taken together, are a pretty good explanation of why Ulysses has the form it does. In about five years I should be able to explain why; and then maybe there will be a point to all this.


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