Borges was a man of letters. I mean he lived for and through and inside and surrounded by books. As such, he wrote tales about letters.
Contrary to what common sense might suggest, this bibliophile did not write even one praise of reason. On the contrary, he imagined a world that had to fight and deny reason, the world of the labyrinth.
Borges, even if not unknown, is hardly famous or best-seller. Nevertheless, the list of people influenced directly or indirectly by him is (at least) amazing. He has almost become a cultural landmark. This image, of Labyrinth against Reason, was immensely powerful. The idea, that might not be his only or best, has given birth to an ideological (even more than literary) movement. I call this movement “The Dérive Apologists”.
I believe that in the original myth the labyrinth was used to contain the irrational — the Minotaur, the enraged beast, the killer — inside it. It was a product of cunning that would maintain the monster in it’s place. It’s construction is almost always depicted as very geometric, intricate, artful way. And “solving” the Labyrinth — being able to go in and then out of it — is an act of reason: you devise a tool (the thread of Ariadne) or a method (always turning left) that is able to overcome the Labyrinth.
Borges, on the other hand, and this might confer the strength of the metaphor, Borges plays on the feeling of being lost inside the labyrinth. He produces a mix between the passionate craving of solving the labyrinth, of deciphering it, searching for the meaning that contains it’s system — a mix between that and the perplexity of finding an impossible solution. The labyrinth is sewn. It is interwoven. It does not confront the enemy: it traps and attracts Rationality.
The trap is not supposed to criticize or surpass reason, it is supposed to kill it. Makes sense: to criticize is a very rational thing to do, it would be strange to criticize reason. Nevertheless, the labyrinth also tries to turn reason against reason. The labyrinth is a pattern, it is a system, an architecture of ideas. The irrationality it can nurture is not chaos, it is only mess. It is also artificiality, partiality, affectation, obfuscation and unhelpfulness.
The Dérive Apologists wont quote Borges very often, but i had not yet seen an idea that pinpointed so precisely their aims and MO. Their programme is a defence of subjective values without giving up measurability, an attack on reason without giving up objectivity. It is, more than all, a set of moral values that are expressed as logical tenets.
And the problem is not exactly the (seemingly) impossibility of doing so, the self-contradiction, but instead the exaggeration of the results. Irrationality is killed together with Rationality, and only perplexity and expectations remain. The labyrinth turns upon itself and then it contains nothing. It loses the meaning exactly in it’s search for meaning.
Now comprehending a little better this idea, or more precisely having delineated it more clearly to myself, and despite being a convict opponent of Dérive Apology, i can’t deny that i feel a strong affinity to the idea. The freedom to explore any given system beyond the complexity of said system, over- and under-interpreting it, is literally being able to open up new worlds ex nihilo. It is like overcoming the prisons of your mind by relabelling “in” for “out”.
But of course i can never forget that there is Derrida.