Saturday, February 18, 2006
De Nobis Ipsis Silemus
Beckett fact no. 44.
In 1755 a massive earthquake destroyed Lisbon.
His belief in providence greatly shaken, Voltaire wrote his Poème sur le Désastre de Lisbon.
Philosophers describe the belief that thought exists independently of external circumstances as the 'Lisbon Earthquake Error'.
In his Murphy notebook, Beckett quotes extensively from Fielding's Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon.
The earthquake gave Kant too a lot to think about, as captured in an image from Beckett's French poem ainsi a-t-on beau: sur Lisbonne fumante Kant froidement penché.
He clung on doggedly enough to the principle of disinterested judgement to write 'De nobis ipsis silemus' ('on ourselves we are silent', i.e. I leave myself out of the account) in the introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason twenty-six years later, and which the Unnamable quotes with despairing sarcasm. But when Watt talks about 'Lisbon's great day' I'm sensing the despairing sarcasm has just about routed the disinterestedness.