Life must be led in the dark: Hans Vaihingers **The philosophy of as if** in William Gaddiss **The recognitions**Life must be led in the dark: Hans Vaihingers **The philosophy of as if** in William Gaddiss **The recognitions**
Faculty of Arts. Linguistics and Literature
Literature and Modernity
Orbis litterarum. - Copenhague
65(2010):5, p. 372-387
University of Antwerp
In an interview with Tom LeClair, William Gaddis suggests that The Recognitions (1955) is infused with a nostalgia for order, a hope that there are origins of design (LeClair 2007, 19). Gaddis is fascinated by the tension between order and chaos (p. 25) and has clearly turned it into one of the central themes of his first novel. Both the protagonist and his father are seriously affected by this tension. They are visibly struggling to come to grips with the confusing world surrounding them and long for a system through which they might comfortably approach reality. Though the novel alludes to many different doctrines, myths or beliefs, they do not lead to the resolution of this struggle. Gregory Comnes points out that rival systems of order in Gaddiss novel constantly conflict but never resolve (Comnes 1994, 41). The Recognitions harbors a refusal to reflect the superiority of any one system (p. 41) and exposes the inadequacy of these frameworks to touch upon the essence of reality. The artificiality of essentialist frameworks is emphasized by, among others, several references to Hans Vaihingers The Philosophy of As If. Despite the fact that Steven Moores Readers Guide to William Gaddiss The Recognitions covers these references, there has been no further attempt to fully gauge the relevance of Die Philosophie des Als Ob (Gaddis 2003, 530).1 This essay will concentrate on the tragic character developments of Wyatt Gwyon and his father, the Reverend Gwyon, as a direct result of conflicting frameworks and interpret them in light of the As If philosophy. A heightened awareness of what Vaihinger designates as fictions will not only elucidate the parallel between the evolutions of both the younger and the elder Gwyon, but also clarify the rather ambiguous presence of religion within the novel.