By W. V. Quine

ISBN-10: 0674323513

ISBN-13: 9780674323513

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But many men say that there is written upon the tomb thus: Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam rexque futurus [Here lies Arthur, the once and future King]. (MD, 516) Here, the return of Excalibur to the Lake without suffering destruction or even damage figures the hoped-for indestructibility of its wielder, and of the kingdom he forged by its ability to destroy all other weapons used against it (hence the etymology of its name––‘Excalibur’ means ‘cut-steel’). The Arthurian myth is thus unwilling to contemplate the reduction of its central object either to fragments or to an underlying plasticity: it withdraws into the fathomless depths of a lake, but it does so intact and with no hint that its watery resting place might dissolve its integrity.

Unluckily an author’s creative power does not always obey his will: the work proceeds as it can, and often presents itself to the author as something independent or even alien. (MM, 350) This is a fascinatingly double-minded account of the formal peculiarities it undertakes to explain. On the one hand, the originality and importance of the subject matter engenders a range of assertions that cannot be said often enough (so that even more extensive repetition than is manifest in this book would be internally justified); but on the other, this repetition is clumsy and disadvantageous to the reader, and represents a failure of the author’s creative power (so that there can only be merely external explanations of it).

In the myth of the Ring, creation is a matter of moulding and remoulding white-hot fluid––an essentially plastic substance which no sooner coalesces into a concrete particular than it dissolves, only to realize itself in another concrete particular. The possible range of such realizations is neither predetermined nor wholly unconstrained; identity is essentially malleable, its metamorphoses allowing for creativity whilst always presupposing continuity at a fundamental level. A striking aspect of Wittgenstein’s critical discussion of the Theatetus myth is that it not only focuses on the presuppositions of its compositional model of identity, but also criticizes it in a way which pushes us in the direction of the Wagnerian myth.

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From a Logical Point of View: Nine Logico-Philosophical Essays by W. V. Quine


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