Stargate: SG-1 and What Sci-Fi Can’t Do

August 10, 2010

I noticed today that my three most recent posts have not been posts at all, in fact, and have instead just been links to other sites. I’ll attempt to rectify that now, and more so, with a rather epically long discussion of the show I’ve been watching most recently – Stargate: SG-1, which ran for 10 seasons and spun off two series, Stargate: Atlantis and Stargate: Universe, as well as two direct-to-DVD movies. I haven’t seen any of it but SG-1 itself and a few episodes of Atlantis, but I think I have a pretty good idea of what the Stargate universe is like.

Before I begin, though, you should read this article: Seeing the truth of the world through science fiction. It’s a good description of what some say sci-fi aspires to, and what I myself have said sci-fi is about on occasion. It reveals to us our own limitations, our inability to find the Ding-an-sich, and the necessity of the attempt to do so. It helps us to understand ourselves. Or, at the Teal’c look-alike at the end of the comical SG-1 episode “200” says,

Science fiction is an existential metaphor that allows us to tell stories about the human condition. Isaac Asimov once said, “Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinded critics and philosophers of today, but the core of science fiction, its essence, has become crucial to our salvation, if we are to be saved at all.”

This is what some say sci-fi tries to do. But… is this really what sci-fi is all about?

SG-1, as I said, went on for ten seasons. For the first eight of them, the central theme of the show was the struggle against an obviously evil race of technologically advanced beings who impersonated gods from ancient mythology. In the last two seasons they go up against a race of evil energy beings of arbitrarily great power who demand everyone worship them. Are they gods or not? What is a god, exactly? How do you decide what deserves worship? These are all interesting questions one would feel compelled to explore coming up against either the Goa’uld or the Ori. All of them are alluded to. None of them are ever really addressed in any meaningful way.

Instead, the show, and the characters, assume that the Goa’uld and Ori are not gods, that they do not deserve worship, that they are instead hostile forces bent on destroying human civilization as we know it. As it turns out, these assumptions are pretty much correct. The Goa’uld are evil, the Ori are evil, end of story. But this isn’t demonstrated by the fact that they’re claiming to be gods deserving worship when they’re really corporeal beings (the Ori aren’t even corporeal… kinda), it’s demonstrated by the fact that they’re mass murderers. The question of whether the claim to be a god in and of itself is ever justifiable is never addressed. This is the question that the “existential metaphor” actually raises, but for the most part it is ignored, though always in the back of the viewer’s mind.

The audience lets the show get away with ignoring this because they’re not worried about the existential questions raised; they’re more interested in the complex mythology being built up around the show. We don’t really stop to think about the nature of godhood; instead, we learn about the society of the Jaffa, and the different Goa’uld System Lords that pose a danger to the Tau’ri, and the different technologies the Ancients left behind to be discovered. The philosophical questions are never at the fore. My conversations with by brothers are never about whether humans or robots, or what it is to be a god, or even whether or not it was ethical to do what a certain character did in a certain situation; instead, we talk about whether there was really a scientific explanation for what happened, or what we think the bad guy will do next, or what a piece of technology discovered in the episode is really capable of.

In other words: if we want to say that the philosophical, existential queries being posed are the important part, and the rest just a way of communicating those queries, then the show is clearly a failure, because what we focus on is invariably the fluff, not the substance. I don’t judge SG-1 by its philosophy (if I did, it would fail) but by its characters, its plotlines, and its worldbuilding/mythopoeia — only the last of which is distinct to science fiction.

Now much of this ability to mythopoeticize comes from the long-form narrative modern television takes. SG-1, like many modern shows, has story arcs running through and even across entire seasons, with various alien civilizations introduced, fleshed out, fought with, defeated, over the course of years of in-world time and dozens of hours of on-screen material. This allows for the material to be explored in great detail, every possible factual question about the in-show universe can be asked and answered — but doing so brings us no closer to unpacking the “existential metaphor.” That metaphor is just as thoroughly explored in a single episode of The Twilight Zone. But I don’t watch The Twilight Zone nearly as much as I do SG-1, or BSG, or Buffy, or Angel. (Those last two are fantasy, but in this post I’m talking less about sci-fi specifically than speculative fiction in general.) I do truly believe that, while The Twilight Zone is in many ways brilliant, it is not as good as these others — but this judgment is clearly not based on the shows’ relative ability to metaphorically moralize.

What, then, can’t science fiction do? It cannot, except in a very limited sense, actually offer those existential metaphors that its proponents so often say is what redeems it. The fictional world sci-fi presents to us can indeed offer to us a metaphor worth considering — but after the initial presentation, it is not giving us with that metaphor, it is ornamenting the world used to create it and creating complex mythologies around it and making us care about people and civilizations that have never existed and will never exist. That activity of ornamentation is something very different, and it, not the existential metaphor itself, is what lies at the heart of sci-fi and fantasy.

To put it a different way; sci-fi is at its heart concerned not with black and white, but with color. Existential metaphors are black and white. They reveal stark truths about the nature of the human condition. They are also amazingly simple. We are reading The Road in my American Literature class right now. It’s a sublime book. Perhaps it’s a work of science fiction in some vague almost meaningless sense, but at its heart it is no different from his other work, none of which can be called sci-fi, or from even more obviously non-sci-fi fiction. Yes, I suppose it’s set in post-apocalyptic America. But it’s not at all interested in exploring the new make-up of the world, in politics or society or biology. Those are all dead. It is interested in Life and Death and Love and arriving the essence of those things. And it takes place in a world devoid of color. (The Twilight Zone, I note, was shot in black and white, and I seriously doubt a color version would have been an improvement.) It contains elements of sci-fi – primarily the descriptions of how people survive in this post-apocalyptic wasteland – but apart from that there is no world-building going on, no interest in the exterior world — rather the exterior has been reduced to the interior.

Science fiction, on the other hand, is interested primarily in color. Specifically in colors never before seen. Sci-fi isn’t black and white; it tries to show us colors that don’t exist except in our imagination. Consider H.P. Lovecraft’s The Color Out Of Space. A meteor crashes that is made of a material that is not red, blue, green, yellow, nor any color known to man. It sticks around for a while, causes problems, then vanishes. That, not The Road, is science fiction boiled down to its essence — an encounter with the never before seen. Though of course since part of the essence of sci-fi is its baroque density such a boiling down fails to really illustrate by example. This is not to say that works of science fiction can’t be serious, nor that sci-fi cannot reduce the world to black and white. It is rather to say that this is not the essence of sci-fi.

So what exactly is my point? Why does it matter what the essence of sci-fi truly is? Because the nature of sci-fi’s essence determines how we defend it to those who discount its true worth. I want us (“us” meaning those of us who love speculative fiction) to realize that the usual defense of it, that it functions as a metaphor for real life that can reveal things not easily seen in ordinary fiction, does not really hold up under scrutiny. Something else is going on.

What that is, I’m not sure exactly. As I said, I think it has something to do with discovering new colors. But is that really worthwhile? Is that a legitimate endeavor? It may just be ornament for ornament’s sake, beauty for beauty’s sake, the act of subcreation as an exploration of the power of the human imagination. That sounds to me incurably romantic, and I’m not sure it makes for a good defense. But exploring this question will have to wait for another day. I’ve already gotten too far off-topic from my original idea for this post, which was to rant about how naive SG-1 often is. Perhaps another time.

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Curtains, Pasteboard Masks

May 16, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Ahab’s “pasteboard masks.” In chapter 36 of Moby-Dick, “The Quarter-Deck,” Ahab describes to Starbuck why he must kill the white whale:

“All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event – in the living act, the undoubted deed – there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ’tis enough.”

(Moby-Dick 140, Norton Critical Edition)

The physical world is a pasteboard mask put up over the spiritual world, the world of meaning, and what tortures Ahab is that he cannot know what is in that world, because all his knowledge comes from this one. It’s a question of epistemology, really. It’s like Saussure’s “sign=signifier/signified” equation – Ahab continually senses the signifier, the physical world, slipping over and covering up the signified, the spiritual dimension of reality, leaving him unable to perceive it directly.

And Ahab’s solution is to punch through – to find what lies beyond. But what really fascinates me about this is that finding out what lies beyond is the same thing as fixing what lies beyond. The relationship between signifier and signified is, after all, arbitrary, and forever shifting. I like to think of it (and I believe I read I came across this metaphor in Derrida, but I can’t find a quotation; in any case, Derrida certainly talks constantly about slipping and covering over) as a piece of paper lying on top of a desk. The paper is the physical world and the desk the spiritual. At one moment, a given point on the page may be over a given point on the desk, but trying to actually look at that part of the desk will require moving the piece of paper, at which point the two points are no longer lined up; that point on the page is now over a different point on the desk. There is no fixed relationship between the two. Ahab doesn’t just want to see what lies beyond, then, for what lies beyond is always changing. He want to find a way to fix what lies beyond in place – even if he fixes it at nothingness. He would rather have nothing than not know what he has.

And this lines up nicely with the constant mention of Ahab as self-crucified. Because the image of crucifixion, specifically of using nails to pierce the victim’s hands and feet, involves both striking through the physical body, that is, the pasteboard mask, and fixing the physical body in place using the very holes struck through it. In crucifying himself, Ahab attempts to transcend his physical body and to fix his own meaning (a rather gnostic quest, it seems to me). But in doing so he is destroyed.

So I’ve been thinking along these lines for the last several weeks, and wondering how it applies to the Christian understanding of Christ. Is Ahab, the exemplar protagonist-villain-as-anti-Christ in literature, actually like Christ in the nature of his crucifixion? Does that nailing involve a similar fixing of signifier to signified? Is the crucifixion like God taking a hammer and nail and pound his son into the physical world and out the other side, fixing it to – what, himself?

I wasn’t really sure how orthodox this explanation of the image of crucifixion was, but then in one of the readings for Mass today, I came across this:

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, ‘ by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, ‘ and since we have a great priest over the house of God, ‘ let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

(Hebrews 10:19-22, RSV)

That was good timing, I think. In this passage, St. Paul says that Christ has through his death and resurrection opened up a path through his flesh – the curtain, the pasteboard mask – which we must follow if we are to enter the sanctuary – the area of fixed meaning.

So that’s interesting. But this all leaves me slightly confused; because if God needed to nail signifier and signified together through the crucifixion in order to fix meaning, doesn’t that mean the Crucifixion (and the Incarnation as well – but, in this understanding, they seem roughly equivalent, since God entering the world is the same as God nailing through it) was necessary from the beginning of creation? In what sense, then, was it caused by the Fall?

I have three thoughts on the matter. The first, is that the Fall can be considered akin to the first sliding of the piece of paper across the table. Before it, the world was perfect, but fragile; aligned correctly, but unfixed. After it, God “realized” that he needed to nail it down. It doesn’t fit, of course, to say that God “realized” it; but the basic idea is that Creation occurred in two steps, the first, the laying down of the piece of paper, the second, the nailing in. And the nailing in occurred immediately after the laying down, but because the nail was placed in time, we perceive it as occurring billions of years after the creation of the universe.

My second thought is that I need to re-read what Gerard Manley Hopkins had to say about the matter. Because, as I recall, he talked a lot about the connection between creation and the Incarnation, and his idea of “instress” and “inscape” seems somehow related to all of this, though I’m not quite sure how, honestly. I don’t have an amazing conceptual grasp of GMH’s theology, though what I know of it, I find quite fascinating.

My third thought is that perhaps the reason the image doesn’t really fit with the gap between Creation and Fall – and in fact seems to imply that they were the same thing (which sounds like heresy) – is that any imagistic way of understanding theology is inherently flawed, and only useful in a limited context. This may well be the case. But then again, it may not.

“All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event – in the living act, the undoubted deed – there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask!”

Causal Reduction

May 15, 2010

An interesting essay:

http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/thinking-again

But also an eminently frustrating one. Why? Because, while I agree with most of what the author says, I don’t buy most of her arguments. She seems to rely more on rhetoric – and she does write beautifully – than on logic. And she’s more interested in saying that we just can’t know most things than in saying what she thinks we can know.

Her basic point, though, I think is a good one; the mere fact that we can describe the mechanical functionings of our brains perfectly (and we can’t even do that) does not imply that there’s nothing more to them. She doesn’t use this language, but I think it mostly boils down to scientists thinking that because they’ve identified the material and efficient causes of things, they have proven that the formal and final do not exist. Which is kind of absurd.


Arithmantic Poetics

March 7, 2010

I recently re-watched the Stanley Kubrick movie The Shining, and afterwards went to Wikipedia to find out what changes Kubrick had made to the Stephen King original. When I did so, I was struck by one change in particular: the number of the haunted room was 217 in the book and 237 in the movie.

Why would Kubrick bother to change this? What difference does it make either way? It doesn’t matter for the overall plot; but then, being true to the original number doesn’t either. It’s a throwaway detail, and thus should be selected to add to the texture of the whole. The room is haunted, and ought to fill the audience with a sense of dread; my theory is that Kubrick thought “237” sounded scarier than “217”.

Don’t laugh at the idea of numbers having a certain feel. I’ve already talked about how one- or two- digit numbers usually function as symbols for specific ideas. I believe three- or four- digit numbers function differently in art; while too indefinite to have specific symbolic meaning, they can convey vague associations of significance, thus giving the thing numbered a numinous quality.

How does this work? I believe we instinctively three- or four- digit numbers as sequences, and thus attempt to impose order on them by finding in them mathematical patterns. But simultaneously, they are too short to determine whether or not the patterns we find really hold. This seems to work best with increasing sequences; I suspect this is why Kubrick changed “217” to “237”. The former just feels like a basically random number, while the latter gives the impression of an increasing sequence, but we can’t quite place what it is (no interesting mathematical pattern that I know of begins 2-3-7). Thus it has resonances of the numinous.

There are, in fact, a lot of fun three- or four- digit patterns, and the best place to find them is on a digital clock. These are those times when, if I happen to glance at the clock during that minute, I get a vague feeling of significance that I know is false, but which I find sublime nonetheless. This can apply to the date as well; for example, I’m not sure why, but two days ago was March 5th, and though I know of nothing important that happened on 3-5, it nevertheless felt somehow meaningful. Perhaps it was because 3-15 is something (Ides of March) and 3-25 is something (Annunciation).

Finally, though it runs somewhat counter to the point of this post, I’ll list some times of day that are interesting because they follow identifiable patterns:

  • 11:23 (Fibonacci time)
  • 12:34 (arithmetic time)
  • 12:48 (geometric time)
  • 1:36 (triangular time)

And here are some that are meaningful through association with other numerical sequences, not through their own merit:

  • 12:25 (Christmas time)
  • 3:14 (Pi time)

Those Who Live and Die for Numerology

January 4, 2010

During my Junior Poet panel I was asked a question about the first line of Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves – my exemplary poem which I have discussed elsewhere – involving medieval numerology. It starts with a string of six unimposing adjectives, then an ellipsis (“…”), then on the eighth beat, the adjective “stupendous.” The professor drew a parallel between this and the six days of creation, the day of rest, and the “eighth day” that is ETERNITY. 8=eternity.

I’d never heard of anything like that, though, and so answered with a “nope, never heard of that, sorry, interesting though.”

Anyway, that got me thinking a bit about numerology in general. What are we to make of using certain numbers to symbolize metaphysical concepts? And, even if we do decide it’s a good move, are we to take those symbols as anything more than conveniences?

I tend towards it being a good idea, mainly because my attitude is “the more symbols the better,” and many of them are so intuitive they will be used anyway. But, is there anything more to them?

From what I’ve read, a traditional Christian numerology would go something like this:

  1. unity – duh
  2. duality – duh
  3. divinity – Trinity, duh
  4. creation – 4 cardinal direction, 4 elements; humanity – one more than 3, so not divinity, and the 4 humors
  5. law – the Pentateuch
  6. incompleteness – one less than 7; humanity – man created on 6th day; evil – 3(divinity)x2(duality)=opposition to God
  7. perfection – on the 7th day God rested; concord between earth and heaven – 3(divinity)+4(creation,humanity)
  8. eternity, super-perfection – one more than 7
  9. super-holiness – 3(divinity)x3(divinity) (from Dante’s Vita Nuova)
  10. government – 10 Commandments, 5(law)x2(duality)
  11. ?
  12. Israel – 12 Tribes, etc
  13. treachery – Judas was the 13th at the Last Supper, one more than 12

Then there’s more stuff like 40=tribulation, 100=even more perfection, 666=lots of evil, etc. But I don’t like those because they’re relics of the base 10 system (which as I’ve said before is bad because it’s not universal). So – what about these?

I think my attributions for 1, 2, and 3 are not only inarguable, they’re unavoidable – the numbers don’t just represent those things, they are those things. Heck, my faith demands that I treat the number 3 with a strange sort of mysticism; God is triune and yet united. Here the symbols are not just symbols, they have real substance.

What about the rest of them? 4 as “creation” is fairly omnipresent – corners of the earth, elements, cardinal directions, humors – and it makes sense with it coming after 3=God. But in the end, is it any more than a convenient symbol? We no longer believe in the 4 elements or humors. On the other hand, creation really is determined by 4 dimensions – height, width, depth, time. So I’m willing to grant 4 a tentative place in canon of “real numerology.” And the same with 6, 7, and 8, all of whose meanings can be derived from only what we’ve said 1-4 are. But those associations are weaker.

I don’t really buy 5 and 10 as law and government, though – both because those are based entirely on revelation, not nature, and so seem are more likely to be human inventions, and because I don’t like the numbers 5 and 10 to begin with. (Personal grudge, I suppose.) 9 as super-holiness seems suspect as well; if squaring a number had that effect, why isn’t 4, uh, what, super-dualistic? I don’t even know what 11 would be; 12 as Israel I’ll buy as a useful symbol, but not as anything sacramental in nautre; and the same with 13 as treachery.

The issue with all of this, of course, is that different cultures have different numerologies. For example, in Oriental cultures 4 is death (though actually that works here, with 4 as creation/man… OK, take a different example). And if different people find different symbols in numbers, can any of them really be inherent?


Life as Inductive

November 20, 2009

It’s strange how quickly we can form habits. For example, there is a certain apartment in the student apartment complex on campus that I have visited around 50 times this semester; 50 is not that large a number, yet whenever I’m in the vicinity I instinctively gravitate towards it. And I can even still feel the tug of the apartments and dorm rooms I often visited last semester, even though I don’t even know the people who live there now.

These sorts of habits are good evidence, I think, for my idea that life is inductive. What do I mean by that, exactly? It’s hard to explain, but basically, I mean that the mysterious process of sensory experience being translated into thought is one not of distillation, but of induction. We do not just boil down the complexity of everything we see into something manageable; rather, we take a finite set of data and extrapolate general laws that will explain that finite data set.

Look at language. I have read or heard any given word a finite number of times. The data set of the contexts in which I have heard the sound of the word or seen the sight of it is finite. Yet what I understand the word to mean, while based on those experiences, is not reducible to them; moreover, I could show those experiences to someone else who had never heard this particular word before and they might well achieve a different understanding of the word. I take this to mean that my understanding of the word is infinite – unable to be captured within a purely finite universe.

This inductive power, I think, is essentially what we mean when we say that humans are “rational animals,” and say that it is this rationality that makes us spiritual as well as physical. If our ability to conceptualize involves moving from the finite to the infinite, it means we transcend the physical universe through our reason.

Incidentally, I suspect that what I’ve written above is essentially what Thomas Aquinas was getting at with his own discussion of reason as necessarily immaterial. But since language is an attempt to communicate thoughts, which are infinite, through the physical world, which is finite, reading the words on the page is not enough; we still have to move from them to the infinite thought Aquinas meant to communicate. And often we can only do this through a process that superficially resembles mere rephrasing of what we have read.


Mysteries Are Not Secrets

August 9, 2009

There’s a type of story called an “ontological mystery” (beware: I linked to tvtropes.org, an extremely addicting website). In an ontological mystery, “the characters are locked in, have no idea how they got there, why they’re there, or how to get out, nor do they know exactly who is behind their predicament, if anyone.” A few examples of ontological mysteries are the movie The Cube, the television show Lost, and Sartre’s play No Exit.

Now, I like ontological mysteries. When they’re done right. But I don’t like it when the mystery of “why they’re there” turns out to be reducible to the secret of “how they got there”. The entire appeal of an ontological mystery is that these people in this bizarre(ly simple) universe are seemingly there for a reason, a reason that’s not reducible to the fact that they were put there.

On the one hand, of course this is what ontological mysteries are. “Ontological” means “metaphysical”, directing us to the idea “final causes”, and “mystery” comes from the same root as “mystical”; both of these are clues leading me to the idea that an ontological mystery’s primary focus is on the numinous, that the final cause is what is secret here, not the material or efficient. But often supposed ontological mysteries seem to lose their way, and forget what they’re supposed to be about, so I can’t just make that claim. Rather, I’d like to argue, by presenting examples, that the quality of an ontological mystery story is fairly directly correlated to how well-done the exploration of this metaphysical question is, and not at all correlated to whether there is an answer at all to the question of material and efficient causes.

So what is the ontological mystery in The Cube? The characters speculate about how they got there. A military-industrial complex conspiracy? An ultra-rich sociopath? Punishment for their sins? No, none of these. It turns out it is simple governmental neglect – a mistake, an abberation, something completely meaningless. At least, the how they got there is meaningless, an explanation that brings them no closer to any understanding of their situation.

Where The Cube gets interesting is in two places: how they end up finding their way around the cube without dying, and what ends up happening to the different characters. How do they find their way around? By using mathematical formulas – the numerical labels on the cubes use prime numbers to designate the “safe” cubes, there is an elaborate mathematical formula that helps them find their way to the edge of the cube and get out. And what happens to the characters? They are all punished – by the cube itself and by each other – and in the end Kazan, the autistic man, is the only one to escape from the cube. The cube seems to be some sort of trial, or perhaps even is purgatory, but what is considered pure is not goodness, in the moral sense. It is simplicity of being and mathematical perfection. That aspect of the movie is interesting; really, given how mediocre the acting is and how simplistic the set designs are, that’s all the movie has going for it.

What about Lost? I remember how at the beginning of the show, there were numerous theories as to what the people on the island were. A common one was that they were in purgatory, being punished for their sins by the Island. I never really bought that, but it was at least interesting.

Where the show really went downhill, I think, was when it just continued stating explicitly “the Island is meaningful” without ever showing us any evidence of that, and then giving us simple cause-and-effect answers for the numerous questions they raise. All right, so we find out in season 2 that the plane crash was caused by Desmond failing to “push the button” – but who cares? What we really want to know is why the plane crashed, what the purpose of the Island is – but all they’ll offer us is  vague “everything happens for a reason” aphorisms, and reveal ever more complex layers of “how” – the Dharma Initiative, the various stations, the Others.

Basically, none of it ever seems to actually amount to anything. By the end of the final season, yes, they’ll probably have wrapped up all of the loose ends and so no one will be able to ask “what made X happen?”, but the writers of the show have basically convinced me that the only grand purpose behind everything that’s happened is that the writers needed everything to fit together or there’d be no show. (Incidentally, this is my dad’s main complaint with Battlestar Galactica, and where I disagree with him about the show – he thinks that the final season was just about tying up loose  ends and was never anything more than that.)

My final example is No Exit – in my opinion clearly the best ontological mystery of these three, and the best of these three period, really. So what is No Exit’s ontological mystery? The fact of where they are is fairly quickly found out – they are in Hell. The question is, why are they in Hell? What are they being punished for? The answer at first appears to be,”Garcin slept around and deserted from the army, Inez killed her lover, Estelle drowned her child”.

But, while these are the physical manifestations of the reasons for their punishments, they completely fail to say why they are in Hell – they more answer the question of “how did they get to Hell?”. In the end, they all went to Hell because they acted ‘in bad faith’, which doesn’t mean they did any particular action a particular way, but roughly means that they did what they did with the wrong intentions. Their actions point towards what their sins were, but what they did to get to Hell is in the end  not the same as why they went to Hell, they’re just related. That’s actually one of the main points of the play, I think. And it’s part of what makes No Exit a much better work of art than either of my other two examples – that it fully understands its nature as an ontological mystery, and part of how the plays functions is as an explanation of how ontological mysteries differ from mere secrets.

To close, I’m going to try to make two contrasting lists of words. “Why” versus “how”; “reason” versus “cause”; “truth” versus “fact”; “mystery” versus “secret”. Does that division basically get across the idea of what I mean by the title of this post?


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