I first discussed the significance of Jules de Gaultier’s philosophy in Jack London’s work in my article “Jack London’s Medusa of Truth,” published by Philosophy and Literature in 2002 (26.1). This article offers a more systematic approach to the kind of dialectical philosophy that Gaultier and London shared, and which accounts for London’s eureka response when Benjamin De Casseres first introduced him to the French philosopher’s conception of reality (le réel) as “a fact of opposition between two states of one and the same force,” in a form of conflict between powers of impulsion/flux and arrest. Throughout his writing career, London had been articulating and negotiating the same kind of dialectical conflict, notably the tension between his radical nihilism, the “white logic” of naturalism, and his existential need for some vitalistic impulsion, a “Maya-Lie,” what Gaultier would term bovarysme and define as “the power given man to see himself other than what he is” (“le pouvoir départi à l’homme de se concevoir autre qu’il n’est”). Saddled with Nietzsche’s intellectual conscience, London would have to cope dialectically with the inherent contradictions and partial answers of his existential position, in terms of which any synthesis of transcendence must necessarily be precarious and intermittent.


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