James Joyce's Disengagement from Philosophical and Religious Systems

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Sundermeier, Michael
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Joyce's art Is based upon no particular philosophic or theological system; rather, it is based upon the premise that system, a product of the finite mind, is imposed upon rather than intrinsic to infinite reality and that, therefore, reality cannot be fully comprehended systematically. As an artist, he answers this problem by regarding all systems as partially valid but necessarily defective views of reality and, consequently, by adopting a synthetic approach to systems of reality. He is not eclectic because he does not attempt to judge what particular aspect of a given system has the most validity; such an action would imply a priori qualitative knowledge of reality. Rather, he presents reality under a variety of systematic aspects and invites the reader to observe the correspondences among the various systems. The correspondences in Joyce's works symbolize reality — epiphanize it, to use Joyce's own word — they do not explain it. There is no suggestion in his work that he intends anyone to regard simple correspondence as a proof of a given assertion; It seems that, on the contrary, he regards his approach to reality as Just as limited an approach to the infinity of reality as any system is — because there can be no close correspondence between the finite mind and the infinite reality — but that he also regards his approach as an essentially personal thing, one mind’s view of reality, which cannot exist in the mind of another, since the relationships would then be different, and therefore not subject to objective criticism as a philosophical system. What it all reduces to is that any view of reality is subjective! that man views reality from his standpoint alone; and that he who attempts to view reality from as many points as possible stands a better chance of achieving a more extensive view of reality — not comprehensive because of the disparity between the finite and the infinite — than he who adheres to a system.
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