Abstract

In Saul Bellow's 1970 novel Mr. Sammler's Planet, the eponymous narrator states that society should resist its temptation to "explain," and should instead concentrate on "distinguishing"; the goal, he suggests, is to attain a level of perception in which meaning is found within the world, rather than imposed upon it. This idea runs to the core of Bellow's work, which often suggests that there are some intangible truths — morality, for instance — that are not merely human constructions, but have an objective ontological presence. These truths, Bellow's work playfully suggests, can be discovered if one attempts to collapse the false divide between subject and object. Once one accepts the troublesome idea of "truth in subjectivity," one can begin to "distinguish" between self-imposed concepts and "natural knowledge." This article traces this concept in Bellow's mid-period work in relation to his ethical theory, and argues that it has its roots in the writing of two key influences, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his follower Rudolf Steiner.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1464
Print ISSN
0022-281X
Pages
pp. 75-91
Launched on MUSE
2010-01-14
Open Access
No
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