by James Joyce
Ulysses Life, Consciousness, and Existence Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph), except for the "Circe" episode, which is (Chapter.Line) and the "Penelope" episode, which is (Chapter.Page). We used the Vintage International edition published in 1990.
"Pornosophical philotheology. Metaphysics in Mecklenburg street!" (15.21)
Lynch here derides Stephen's philosophizing as they approach Bella Cohen's brothel in "Circe." He combines four terms: pornography, philosophy, philology (the study of languages), and theology. How is this actually a good catch phrase for the view of life promoted in the book? Where are some instances of two seemingly disparate things being brought together, e.g. the sexual and the religious? Is there any philosophy in the book that is not woven tightly into the details of daily life?
"How? Very unpleasant. Noble art of self-pretence. Personally, I detect action. (He waves his hand.) Hand hurt me slightly. Enfin, ce sont vos oignons. (To Cissy Caffrey.) Some trouble is on here. What is it precisely?" (15.962)
These lines come from the end of "Circe" immediately after Private Carr asks Stephen how he would like to be hit in the jaw. Drunk as he is, Stephen is still speaking some truth. In particular, he does detest action and maintain a theory of passivity. For Stephen, what matters is intensity of thought and firmness of conviction. How can passivity be a theory of life? What external circumstances of Stephen's (his life in Ireland, the influence of England the Church, his own guilt) might shape his particular theory of life?
Did Stephen participate in his dejection?
He affirmed his significance as a conscious rational animal proceeding syllogistically from the known to the unknown and a conscious rational reagent between a micro- and a macrocosm ineluctably constructed upon the incertitude of the void. (17.149)
Alright, let's parse this. First, Stephen is a rational person who knows some things and doesn't know others. He can use logic ("proceed syllogistically") from the things he knows to other things he doesn't know. As a "reagent," one who acts in the world, Stephen lives between his own world of Dublin and teaching ("micro-") and the great big universe that he doesn't understand ("macrocosm"). According to the skeptical position, nothing can ever be known for certain because your mind could be deceiving you in some way or another. Thus, Stephen's life is "constructed upon the incertitude of the void." How might this complex philosophical thought be comforting for Stephen?