In Antonio Tabucchi's La Testa Perduta di Damasceno Monteiro, the reader is pulled into a detective murder-mystery dealing with decapitation, murder suspects named il Grillo Verde, and tripe. Of particular interest, however, is the character of Don Fernando, a lawyer whose mind flies from topic to topic such that he seems to know everything about anything but who nonetheless is weighed down by his obesity. In this paper I plan to argue that Don Fernando's metaphysical presuppositions about the rationality of the world around him grant him the means by which to control that same world. It follows that I will first need to describe in what exactly Don Fernando's worldview might be said to consist. More specifically, I will show that he considers the world to be rational insofar as the human experience therein is calculable or predictable. Interestingly enough, his understanding of rationality proves itself to be peculiar on two points: First, while manifestations of rationality in the world are typically viewed positively by the philosophers who posit them, Don Fernando judges the world negatively, concluding that it operates according to an insopportabile logica ; and second, the kinds of human phenomena he takes to be predictableand thus rationalare those which are depicted in philosophical thought as contributing to the irrationality of the world.
[...] Then again, given Fermino's admiration of him, I feel compelled to say at least a few words about his view of the world and the nature of human existence. In History and Class Consciousness, Lukács argues that history is a forward- moving, rationally evolving process in which the past, present, and future are all equally real parts of a larger historical whole (p.181). Specifically, he states that must be able to comprehend the present as a becoming” and that the present, past, and future are all “equally concrete” or parts of a larger, evolving historical process in which the current reified and reifying capitalist economic system will be ultimately overthrown (pp.203-04). [...]
[...] While it seems peculiar for Don Fernando to criticize the world he has constructed qua its rationality, he really can be seen as creating a distance between himself and the notions of time and space he desires to control. Whether or not the world might ultimately best be conceived as rational or irrational, it is interesting that Don Fernando uses a discourse of predictability to define rationality. His mastery of the Swiss timetable only serves to emphasize that his underlying concern is the relation between knowledge and power. [...]
[...] Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company. Tabucchi, Antonio La Testa Perduta di Damasceno Monteiro. Milan: Feltrinelli Weber, Max From Max Weber, translated and edited by H.H. Gerth and C.W. Mills. New York: Oxford University Press. p.166. Unless otherwise noted, all references refer to La Testa Perduta di Damasceno Monteiro by Antonio Tabucchi. p.121. Ibid. p.166. p.186. p.185. [...]
[...] If the world is rational, and rationality consists in the general predictability of human experience, then knowledge is the key to predictive power. Moreover, because he can be said to control or have power over the phenomena he predicts, Don Fernando must distance himself from the world. If he did not criticize human behaviour for its insopportabile logica, he would find himself a subject of the very time and space he seeks to master, and for the same reason, he can never actually go on one of the trips depicted in the Swiss timetables. [...]
[...] For example, consider how Don Fernando mocks the alibi of murder suspect Titanio Silva, saying Silva needs to come up with dichiarazione un po' più logica.” More specifically, Don Fernando knows, not only that Silva is manipulative, but also in what exactly Silva's false alibi will consist, even stating with conviction: “Sono certo che questa è la sua ultima versione e sono anche certo che sarà quella che userà al processo. To contrast, in Ancient Greek thought people exhibit rational behaviour when they act with an eye towards self- improvement, towards “learning and wisdom.” In the Republic, for example, Socrates states that when a person exists within a “rational order,” he or she is compelled to imitate the order in an attempt to become as much like the order as possible—that is, to “become as divine and ordered as a human being The implication is that rational human behaviours consist in the cultivation of intuitively desirable attributes like harmoniousness. [...]
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