from Tractatus



If a truth has a word lurking behind it, it means that the word is denying the truth. It would be equally suspect in the opposite case, because no word can be in possession of truth. Does a word have anything in common with truth? If truth is one part of a word, does this mean that if the word did not exist, the truth would not exist either? And what, then, would be the difference between truthfulness and truth?

We know what white lies are—but can there also be white truths? And where would we find mirrors set up in such a way as to reveal them to us?

Continuity is what, as a possibility, legitimizes the present in that while one part of an extrapolation is now in the past, its other part is, as a possibility, still in the future, which may at any point tip over into the past.

The penalty for joy’s tending to return is contentment. In other words, contentment, unlike discontent, is always the same. Discontent is, conversely, a way of persuading joylessness that it, too, is actually joy: the joy at joylessness having the potential to become joy and so inhibit the joy that we know from its tendency to return.

A form is a content that precedes another content—either by way of supporting it, or by way of undermining it. Hence it is also the vehicle of a truth, especially in the event that the content itself is not such a vehicle.

A word is a form in which something that exists comes up against something that does not. Like any form, it, too, likes to demand a content, hence it is predestined to serve communication.

Equilibrium is when inevitability becomes a matter of course.

Is not the quest for human perfection (which is at once an awareness of perpetual imperfection) merely a quest to purge time of the momentum of perpetuality and thereby come closer to eternity, which may at any moment burst in on perpetuality and steal time from it?  

Even the past is a possibility—depending on what we are able to see in it. In this sense the past is the future.

Each and every thought commences with silence. Because silence has an inkling. An inkling of the presence of sound.

A thought is the presence of sound. And when one thought follows on from another, that’s the presence of music.

Music is a structure of the present, which is, at the same time, the presence of a structure. An extraneous element that disturbs this structure is a story.

A story is the story of a story. For this reason a story cannot be even a part of the present.

An assertion is true when its form becomes content. But is truthfulness an inherent attribute of form, or is it the added value by which the connection between a concrete form and concrete content is brought about? And what does it actually mean for something to be “concrete” in this way? 

In the event that time has no structure, we have no means of gaining cognition of it. That, then, is what time shares with space.

The time of which we are a part is simultaneously the time that comes upon us at every moment as something new and something previously unknown. There are two ways of dealing with this: either by subtracting that which is coming from that which, interiorized by us, is already here, or, conversely, by recourse to the permanent process that enables us to add what is coming to the sum of what we have interiorized. 

Top is an extrapolation of bottom. If we seek to extrapolate hori­zontally (for example, the surface of some water that is completely motionless), our extrapolation is the same at every stage.

For believers, their faith is something like intimate expectancy. And it is that very intimacy that raises doubts in non-believers.

Form is a content that forms and is formed (also by the content). In this sense, form is a display of secondariness, but this secondariness is, at the same time, the key to some primariness that is possible for precisely that reason. And if a reason is but a form of some cause (and of the logically conditioned sequentiality that arises from it), then what can, and does, become of it is that sought-for content that has not been determined a priori.

If we are not minded to deny belief as such, we have to believe in something concrete. But to believe in something concrete means to project it. And if anyone only ever projects that which he has to project, he is denying the possibility of giving concrete form to his belief as a belief in something that also may, and does, have concrete contours.

An experiment may be autonomous, but never authentic (since one part of it is the eye of the observer).

A hope that is not permanent (that is, in terms of eternity) can at least linger (that is, in terms of time). And that is the very difference between eternity and time.

Even if the truth were true, does not the faculty of ours by which we are able to discern it have perforce to describe it at the very outset as false? And at the next step, is it not forced to approach it from the position of a further falsehood that is an inversion of the original one? And if the second falsehood is a mirror image, is not the first the very mirror in which it is being mirrored? Where in all this is there still some truth that is obviously different by nature from falsehood, which in order to come to light necessarily requires an additional image of that which it is not?

No story can hold its own in opposition to another.

Can interior actions have exterior manifestations if interior and exterior are but abstract notions invented by us? Or, conversely, are interior actions—and their exterior manifestations—the reason why these notions have been abstracted by us?

Truth and the possibility of knowing it are two different things.

By imagining a thought as something that has a beginning and an end, we are subordinating the possibility of the thought to a newly formed structure that does have a beginning and an end. But why should a thought only be thinkable when we repeat it in some appropriate way?

Memory is the area of contact between two faculties: that of remembering and that of forgetting. Both assume a content to which they relate. But their being alternatives means that if a content is a component of memory, only one half of it is memory.

Existence—and this needs to be put quite plainly—can never be an existential requirement, for that would be like saying that this or that momentary impulse is requisite to the spectrum of the emotions. Existence is more a territory within which existential processes are indeed played out, though not they alone. Hence it is just as neutral as a tautology, or as a musical instrument to coax sound from which needs the application of targeted effort. But can targeted effort be applied to something that is a given?

Non-existence is not merely the negation of existence, but also the very definition of this negation. And so it is with any negation.

If time had an inner core and an outer shell, duration could be said to be its core and that which endures its shell. Though then any coexistence with time would split the existing into what actually endures, and what, as non-coexisting, merely manifests itself as enduring. But what follows from that for the process of reproduction?

Back in the day, John Cage knew that for silence to convey something it must first be held up to the listening ear. But not until we replace the ear that listens with the eye that sees shall we appreciate what silence and a mirror have in common.

If thinking about thinking inhibits thinking, and if thinking about doing inhibits doing and so forth, what, then, does it mean to be thinking about something in relation to something we are thinking about?

Joy is more than just a pleasure. It can easily, like any profession of faith, be a pain as well.

The urge to repeat things stems directly from an awareness of unrepeatability. And the more often a thing is repeated, the less able are we to take in the act of repetition, much as when we extrapolate something (for example, π as a number).

Something that is not because it will not come about (for example, a pain will not just happen) and something that is not because it does not exist (for example, non-pain).

If that which is possible is part of the notion of possibility, then reality is also part of the same notion.

The past is a possibility that will have become sated by reality.

Believing in reason means having some emotional tie to it. The question is, how does one form an emotional tie to something that one cannot see? The first step is perhaps to form an image of what is reasonable. Then one can try to find this image first within one’s own self and then in places where one may not actually be, but which are always there within the reach of one’s particular imaginative powers, or one’s power to extrapolate. Each extrapolation that we make augments our image of what seems reasonable, permitting us to deduce that the cause of this reasonableness really is reason.

What truth has in common with morality is a matter not of truth, but of morality. This being so, truth is a static power, and the entire dynamics of morality is based on its active attitude to what it, morality, deems to be the truth at a given instant.

Pathos is the way to condense time into a single specific moment. If we wish to avoid pathos, suffice it to focus on the everyday in the regular iteration of its moments, avoiding any tendency to elevate one moment over another. 

It being possible to err means that an error is possible. In which case, infallibility is also possible—at the very least the idea of it. (And within that concept even a god who is infallible.)

From the law of gravity it follows that, unlike order, which has a vertical structure, chaos is structured horizontally. But is not then a fragment merely a manifestation of order?

The purpose of philosophy is not to give us ideas but to teach us to think.


Translated from the Slovak by David Short

Róbert Gál is a Slovak writer and editor based in Prague, Czech Republic. His writing brings together philosophy, poetry, and prose to create experimental forms that draw on literary traditions while subverting the expectations of language and genre. Four of Gál’s books have been translated from Slovak into English and published with highly regarded presses like Dalkey Archive and Twisted Spoon.

David Short taught Czech and Slovak at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, from 1973 to 2011. In addition to academic books in the fields of art, literature, linguistics, and semantics, he has translated many works by modern Czech authors, above all, Bohumil Hrabal. In 2018 he received the Jiří Theiner Award, which recognizes those who significantly help spread and promote Czech literature abroad.

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