Nihilism, Errancy, and Truth in Pirandello's Cosi E (Se Vi Pare) (1)

By Petruzzi, Anthony | Italica, Fall-Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Nihilism, Errancy, and Truth in Pirandello's Cosi E (Se Vi Pare) (1)


Petruzzi, Anthony, Italica


INTRODUCTION: THE AMBIGUOUS FORMS OF NIHILISM

Luigi Pirandello's Cosi e (se vi pare) (hereafter as Cosi e) dramatizes the way that truth has become a problem in the post-modern era. Friedrich Nietzsche's discussion of how both the pre-modern Christian and modern scientific conceptions of truth require a "metaphysical faith" (Basic 588) offers a coherent framework to interpret Pirandello's analysis of the problem of truth. According to Nietzsche, both pre-modern and modern notions of truth are metaphysical because "truth was posited as being, as God, as the highest court of appeal--[therefore] truth was not permitted to be a problem at all" (Basic 588-89; author's emphasis). In Cosi e, Pirandello investigates the confluence of pre-modern Christian-moral and modern-scientific views of truth and the problems that are inherent in each framework; at the same time, he suggests how the various approaches to truth linger and remain historically as a sediment whenever one tries to analyze the problem of truth. (2) Pirandello's analysis of truth in Cosi e permits truth to appear in a way that goes beyond the pre-modern, which posits truth as ontological substance beyond time and the world, and modern model, which posits truth as an objective substance that can be represented if we use the correct scientific method. I will analyze the ways that Pirandello's play enacts a post-modern model of truth, which is characterized as an event, an arriving withdrawal, and as a particular affective relationship to that event. (3) The event occurs in ec-static moments that open up the possibility for decisive action, and for the freedom to constitute a new order of life, what Martin Heidegger would call, a new way of being-in-the-world.

Pirandello's analysis speaks directly to Nietzsche's contention that metaphysical faith is, from start to finish, a form of nihilism because it precludes any ambiguity within the concept of truth; metaphysics demands an affective fidelity to either a belief that truth is unchanging, or a belief that truth is objective and fixed. In either case, truth is an essence thought to be outside of temporality. Because Cosi e ends with the townspeople's inability to establish the objective truth of the Ponza-Frola family, who are at the center of the play, many critics have asserted that Pirandello's play is a "paradigm" of relativistic nihilism. But, while assessing this claim, we should heed Nietzsche's warning that "Nihilism ... is ambiguous" (Will 17). Each definition of nihilism is framed by how the concept of truth is interpreted. Because there are several failed attempts in Cosi e to reach certitude about the "true" state of the Ponza-Frola family, the theory of relativistic nihilism interprets the failure to grasp the 'truth' of the Ponza-Frola family to mean that Pirandello either rejects the possibility of knowing the truth or he believes that truth is relative. However, this interpretation recognizes only one version of nihilism in Cosi e: the rejection of the modernist view of truth, that there is a correct method that can reveal the objective "thing in itself." Pirandello's rejection of this view of truth (which I will call "modernity" (4)) does not justify the assertion that Pirandello claims truth (as the title of his play ironically puts it) is whatever one thinks it is, i.e., subjective relativism. There is another more "ambiguous" version of nihilism, which I will argue more accurately describes Pirandello's philosophical position in Cosi e; the more ambiguous version is characterized by a particular affective relationship to nihilism, in people, like Nietzsche, who Gianni Vattimo has identified as an "accomplished nihilist" ["il nichilista compiuto," "Apologia" 27]. Vattimo uses the idea of an accomplished nihilism to describe those who "refuse to propose a means for a critical 'overcoming'" of the pre-modern and the modern view of truth because "any call for 'overcoming' would involve remaining captive to the logic of development" used by the theological tradition of pre-modernity or the ontological tradition of objective presence of modernity ("Introduction" 2; "rifiutandosi pere di propome un 'superamento' critico, per la buona ragione che questo avrebbe significato rimanere ancora prigionieri della logica di sviluppo propria di questo stesso pensiero," "Introduzione" 10]. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Nihilism, Errancy, and Truth in Pirandello's Cosi E (Se Vi Pare) (1)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.