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How to Do Things with Fictions$
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Joshua Landy

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195188561

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195188561.001.0001

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Antithesis and Tranquility

(p.124) 5 Beckett
How to Do Things with Fictions

Joshua Landy

Oxford University Press

How can we quiet the mind? How can we prevent it from endlessly worrying away at philosophical questions that (according to Beckett at least) serve only to keep us awake at night, with no hope of ever being resolved? Simply ignoring them is not an option, since they lurk around the corner of every decision; nor will argument suffice, argument being merely a continuation of philosophy. What we need, again, is not a theory but a method, one in which each claim is systematically juxtaposed against its opposite, together with evidence just compelling enough to allow the two of them to cancel each other out. It is this method that Beckett’s Trilogy—Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable—crucially offers its readers. A latter-day work of ancient skepticism, it begins from the same premise (intractability), aims at the same telos (ataraxia), and employs the same devices (antilogoi) along the way. What it provides, in the end, is not insight and not inspiration but the opportunity to detach ourselves from our desire for certainty and to achieve, for the first time, an enduring peace of mind.

Keywords:   Beckett, ataraxia, ancient skepticism, antilogoi, antithesis, philosophical therapy, Schopenhauer, Sextus Empiricus

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