by M. Munro

One who excels at sending forth the unorthodox is as inexhaustible as Heaven.[1]

“The world is everything that is the case.”[2] In that case, serious question: How is “the world” to be understood? In other words, how does what the world is like—what is “the case”—permit something like “what the world is like” to be thinkable?

Borges recounts an apposite tale, one he calls “a miracle of courtesy”: “The Buddha must cross the desert at midday. The gods, from their thirty-three circles, each throws down a parasol to him. The Buddha, not wishing to offend any of the gods,

multiplies himself into thirty-three Buddhas, so that each of the gods sees, from above, a Buddha protected by the parasol which he threw him.[3]

“What we call ‘case,’” Giorgio Agamben writes, “is the fiction according to which the probable and the possible ‘fall’ into reality, while the opposite is true; when considered in a certain way, it is the real that suspends its reality and can thus fall into itself as merely probable.”[4] It might therefore be said to be the case—when considered in a certain way—that what is the case is a case of being always one way or another, however improbably, held in suspense. A reality that is not one, merely, that, when it comes down to it, courteously does not fail to rise to the occasion.


Image: Torley via Flickr (cc)


[1] Sun Tzu, The Art of War, trans. Ralph D. Sawyer, with Mei-chün Lee Sawyer (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1994), 187. Emanuele Coccia, “Like an Atmosphere: Philosophy as a Climate of Knowledge,” The Brooklyn Rail, September 1, 2016,  “The emergence of philosophy has not been a single, definitive historical event. Rather than a discipline notable for its purpose or method, or for questions and objectives universal across space and time, philosophy is a sort of atmospheric condition, arising suddenly—everywhere and at all times. It can hold sway over human knowledge for a certain period, but also abruptly vanish, often for reasons unknown, just as mild spring weather or a storm can dissipate at a moment’s notice. In this sense the notion of a progressive or even nonlinear history of thought is, like the existence of an archive, a canon, or a patrimony of philosophical works or texts, illusory. There is only a meteorology of thought.”

[2] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus LogicoPhilosophicus, trans. C.K. Ogden (New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1922), 25, Cecile Malaspina, An Epistemology of Noise (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), 2: “A curious reversibility of information and noise thus becomes apparent: too much information, and also the repetition of the same information ad nauseam, becomes noise, whereas information that is radically new falls on deaf ears when context and criteria of pertinence are lacking to adequately distinguish information from noise.” Hence the question, at 12: “How much variety, and hence how much uncertainty can we retain, without dissolving the very movement of thought, whose emergence we only begin to comprehend?”

[3] Jorge Luis Borges, “Buddhism,” Southern Cross Review 48 (August-September 2006),

[4] Giorgio Agamben, What is Real? trans. Lorenzo Chiesa (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2018), 33. Inger Christensen, The Condition of Secrecy: Selected Essays, trans. Susanna Nied (New York, NY: New Directions, 2018), 78-9: “About this conversation: maybe we could try altering the terms of what we call paradise. If paradise is not only missing, but also in an absolute sense nonexistent—because it’s not even we who will enter paradise, but only the dust that all of us, without exception, will some day become—then maybe, just by thinking differently, we could give paradise a new address.”

About the Author:

M. Munro is author of the open access chapbook, Philosophy for Militants (punctum books, 2017). The Map and the Territory will be published by punctum books in fall 2020.