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Notes and Fragments RAILING AGAINST REALISM: PHILOSOPHY AND TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by S. P. ROSENBAUM The argument of Graheim Parkes's "Imagining Reality in To the Lighthouse" is described by its author as "a railing against the realist position" (p. 35) as he understands it primarily in my article "The Philosophical Reedism ofVirginia Woolf." ' Apart from the question of whemer railing is a useful way of conducting an inquiry into literature and philosophy, Parkes's discussion raises several important issues about these connections. The way diey are raised, however, involves various mistedces and muddles that make a brief reply to his eurticle difficult . To begin with a small reveeding example, Parkes asserts that I miss the irony in Virginia Woolfs use of die letters P, Q, and R to describe Mr. Ramsay's problems of diought (p. 41). Here is what I wrote: "By representing Mr. Ramsay 's thinking as proceeding in die very genered form of conventional logical symbols, Virginia Woolf is wittily extending the standard letters used to symbolize die conditional type of argument, If P men Cf (p. 339, with italics added this time). Parkes's misreading of my text does not inspire confidence when he turns to Virginia Woolfs fiction or G. E. Moore's philosophy. On a more significant issue, Parkes complains that I boggle his mind by saying diat philosophically, Moore influenced Virginia Woolf more man anyone else, whereas Platonic ideas abound in her books (p. 35). Of course they do, but not very much in her epistemology, which was the subject of my eurticle.2 What Peirkes does not mention is that Plato was also a profound influence on Moore's philosophy. One of die reasons Moore's influence on Bloomsbury was so strong is that he reinterpreted Plato for them. In her images and ideas Virginia Woolf was influenced direcdy dirough her reading of Plato etnd also indirectly through the work of Plotinus and Moore. These influences are not easily sepeurated, which is why studies of Platonic emd Neoplatonic influences in her work that ignore Moore's significance are so incomplete. 89 90Philosophy and Literature Peirkes claims mat die evidence of Moore's influence on Virginia Woolf is slight (p. 34), and then he concerns himself with the putative influences of German philosophers for whom mere is no evidence at all. In the fifteen years since I wrote my article, the biographical evidence for Moore's influence has continued to accumulate as Virginia Woolfs letters, memoirs, emd dieiries were published. From her first novel, in which Principia Etnica is quoted emd briefly discussed, down to die recently discovered revised version of her last memoir, in which she reaffirms her deep respect for Moore,3 the indications of Moore's significance for Virginia Woolf ought to convince any disinterested reader. It cannot be dismissed with a sneer about "the voguish fascination of the Bloomsbury Group . . ." (p. 34), especially from someone proposing to study yet again the depth psychology of her fiction via Nietzsche and Heidegger (P- 44). Nothing I say here, of course, will persuade Parkes of the value of philosophical realism for understanding To the Lighthouse because diat philosophy, as he conceives of it in his article, consists of straw. To tedce just one exeimple, Peirkes appeeurs to believe Moore's epistemology etrgues "diat things and persons are what they are independently of human consciousness" (p. 37). There is no space here to explain philosophical realism again to Parkes, odier than to note that it is not inconsistent with the veirious concerns (to use Peurkes's terminology) about "transpersonal imagination" or "participation in phenomena" that he finds so interesting in the novel. But what about die novel? For readers indifferent to whether Moore or Russell, Nietzsche or Heidegger are to be found in To the Lighthouse, the relevant question is what such philosophical interpretations medce of it. To them I ceui only say, reread the novel and then ask yourselves if an account of it diat says nothing about die value of art and almost nodiing about the value oflove bears much resemblance to your reading experience. Parkes thinks the portrait of Mr. Ramsay is unsympathetic because he is criticized emd mocked...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 89-91
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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