21 August 2017

from The Sea, The Sea, History, chapter 3 (Iris Murdoch)

'We are such inward secret creatures, that inwardness is the most amazing thing about us, even more amazing than our reason.  But we cannot just walk into the cavern and look around.  Most of what we think we know about our minds is pseudo-knowledge.  We are all such shocking poseurs, so good at inflating the importance of what we think we value.  The heroes at Troy fought for a phantom Helen, according to Stesichorus.   Vain wars for phantom goods.  I hope you will allow yourself plenty of reflections on human vanity.  People lie so, even we old men do.  Though in a way, if there is art enough it doesn't matter, since there is another kind of truth in the art.  Proust is our authority on French aristocrats.  Who cares what they were really like?  What does it mean even?'

'I should say it meant something simple and obvious, but then I am no philosopher!  And I should say that it mattered too.  It matters to the historian, it even mattters to the critic.'  Nor did I care for 'we old men'.  Speak for yourself, cousin.

'Does it signify what really happened to Lawrence at Déraa?  If even a dog's tooth is truly worshipped it glows with light.  The venerated object is endowed with power, that is the simple sense of the ontological proof.  And if there is art enough a lie can enlighten us as well as the truth.  What is the truth anyway, that truth?  As we know ourselves we are fake objects, fakes, bundles of illusions.  Can you determine exactly what you felt or thought or did?  We have to pretend in law courts that such things can be done, but that is just a matter of convenience.  Well, well, it doesn't signify.  I must come and see your seaside house and your birds.  Are there gannets?'

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