Yu Tsun, a Chinese professor of English literature, resides in England during World War I. He is secretly a German spy. Expecting to be captured and killed, he resolves to transmit to Berlin a crucial piece of intelligence. To do this, he must first murder a stranger, an innocent civilian named Albert.
At this point in Borges’ story, there occurs an amazing coincidence. Albert turns out to be a specialist in Chinese culture. He loves the same things Yu Tsun loves. Further, Albert has devoted many years to studying Yu Tsun’s great ancestor, Tsui Pen. He has discovered Tsui Pen’s secret, which involves the identity of a novel and and a labyrinth.
Your paper will be devoted to concidence. There were millions of people in England at that time but — by coincidence — the one Yu Tsun must kill is the only person alive who could disclose Tsui Pen’s secret: the secret of the Ancestor. Your paper will be divided into three parts. Begin each part with the title in capitals below. Feel free to introduce your own ideas about “coincidence,” with examples from your experience or that of friends.
PART ONE. COINCIDENCE IN “THE GARDEN OF FORKING PATHS”
Do you think “amazing coincidences” like the one in our story ever really happen? Suppose they do. How might the story help us explain them? What sort of universe would they occur in? Read the story carefully and look for clues. You may (but need not) consider the lines about “everything happening now… to me”; about time and its forking paths (Tsui Pen’s philosophy); about “the riddle whose answer is chess.” Other bits of the story might also shed light on the question. Choose and focus as you like.
PART TWO. PLATO
How might Plato help us understand “amazing coincidence.” You may (but need not) consider the discussion of nous, “Mind” or “Intelligence,” in the 6th argument of the Phaedo, as well as patterns in Socrates’ life.
PART THREE. DESCARTES
How might Descartes’ Meditations help us understand “amazing coincidences”? If you like, suppose the final truth — the highest, most ultimate truth — is to be found in the first Meditation, or in the second, or in the third.
You have a two-fold aim. I would welcome insight into “coincidence.” I would also welcome insights into Borges, Plato, and Descartes. (If you wish, you may substitute for Descartes another philosopher we have studied, or will study, this semester— Augustine, Al-Ghazali, Nietzsche, Camus, etc.)
Write clearly. You may consult with others about writing issues, but please do you own thinking. Footnote secondary sources, if you wish to use them (you don’t need to). BE SURE TO ANSWER THE QUESTIONS ABOVE; DON’T SLIP INTO MERE SUMMARIES OF THE MATERIAL.
Your paper should be roughly three pages. It will be due at the time of the final exam. I look forward to reading you!
please follow this instruction well and do for every part one page at least and read it carefully
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