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"INELUCTABLE MODALITY" IN JOYCE'S ULYSSES JOHN KILLHAM Almost the first difficulty the reader of Ulysses meets is the phrase which opens the third, or Proteus, chapter. This phrase, "Ineluctable modality of the visible," is soon afterwards paralleled by another, "ineluctable modality of the audible"; and the word "ineluctable" is characteristically harped upon thereafter.' Following Stephen Dedalus's thought, although a fascinating exercise in source-hunting, is not as easy as it might be for several reasons. Sometimes he is toying with notions that arise unbidden (in a spirit of idle and amused self-communing), sometimes playing the fool ( though with reason in his madness), as in the scene in the National Library, and finally for a good part of the evening he is drunk. Stephen's reflection on the "ineluctable modality" of what he sees as he walks on Sandymount strand is obviously not to be taken as the beginning of a serious and sequential argument. He is in a somewhat jocose mood. He is feeling a sense of relief and liberation at having left his home in the Martello tower and the job of schoolmaster in Mr. Deasy's school. His mind flows from association to association as freely and fondly as the waves of the sea mix and merge near at hand. All this must be admitted. Nevertheless, although his thoughts have this in common with the protean element, they differ in one important respect. His thoughts may freely Row, but they Row from point to point. His reRections may take odd turns, but one knows, or can find out, where one is. In this instance, one can be quite sure that "ineluctable modality" has a precise meaning; and this is well, for it not only shows Stephen's penchant for speculation, but has much to do with the meaning of the whole book. In this paper I want to suggest that the usual interpretation is mistaken. There is no denying that the word "modality" has a wide variety of meanings and that the phrase in which it occurs in Ulysses is so invertebrate that the word "ineluctable" plays a dubious syntactical role. If we assume, as some do, that the expression relates to some philosophic system, we are faced with the difficulty of deciding which. The most likely, one would think, would be Kant's, because Stephen Volume XXXIV, Number 3, April, 1965 270 JOHN KILLHAM Dedalus is obviously, throughout the whole of Ulysses, preoccupied with how we know. Kant's epistemology rests upon the idea that we cannot know "things in themselves"; our knowledge is conditioned by the nature of our sensibility and our understanding. Our sensibility enables us to apprehend phenomena in terms of time and space; our understanding further to experience quantity, quality, relation and modality (Modalitiit). Modality, for Kant, is that prior condition of the understanding enabling us to distinguish between "things" as actual, possible, or necessary, and if we apply the idea to Joyce, we have a sense something like: "What we understand by seeing (or hearing) is in the category of ineluctable, that is, necessary." This does not make very good sense, even if we take it as meaning that if we see something it must exist-for the eye is easily deceived. If we persist in looking for a philosophical source for "ineluctable modality" we can turn from epistemology to logiC. Logicians use the term in reference to propositions which are not simply true or false, but to be regarded as possible or problematical. This obviously cannot relate to our case. Nor, one would think, could a slightly different sense of the term in Aristotelian logic. (In this, propositions can again be classified according to modality, but this time on the ground of their asserting something to be pOSSible, or necessary.) Yet an Aristotelian construction is frequently put upon the phrase-Professor Tindall in A Reader's Guide to James Joyce, for instance, writes that "manifested reality consists of the inevitable but temporary forms of the visible and the audible," while Mr. Joseph E. Duncan has given a full-scale article to establishing that "modality" extends to all Aristotle's thought, not simply to a concept of his logic...


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