Academic journal article Theory in Action

Cien Años De Soledad: The Critique of Sophism and Pseudo-Science

Academic journal article Theory in Action

Cien Años De Soledad: The Critique of Sophism and Pseudo-Science

Article excerpt

I first read One Hundred Years of Solitude in 1982 for an undergraduate seminar that explored the philosophical novel. Later, I would read Cien años de soledad many times in Spanish as well as scores of articles to understand its philosophy, which Kay Garcia broadly defines as, ". . .el mensaje filosófico de la obra: que todo está escrito, no se puede escapar del destino. La vida es una serie de repeticiones de lo ya hecho, de lo ya escrito, con pequeñas diferencias significativas" (75). Few of the studies that I have read seem to incorporate Socrates' s ideas into their analyses. Of course some of them mention bits and pieces of Socrates's dialogues that are detailed in Plato's works, but only as they are convenient to manipulating text. Some are utterly absurd and lack a critical perspective despite including copious research. Consequently, Clive Griffin acknowledges that, "García Márquez is aware of his readers and sets out to dupe them, just as he later claimed, possibly with some measure of truthfulness, to have planted banana skins in One Hundred Years for the critics whom he so despises to slip on" (62-63). I believe that Garcia Márquez explores the dialectic between knowledge and wisdom, between having useless information and the practical application of knowledge to improve oneself and/or society. At the same time, he lampoons Sophists-pseudointellectuals and scholars who do not or cannot think critically or logically, yet vehemently argue to convince their listeners or readers that their knowledge is fundamentally sound. Most especially, García Márquez uses his knowledge of pharmaceutical products and home remedies to satirize the quacks and charlatans who offer "Plato's Pharmacy" as a diagnostic to interpret the novel.

The title of the novel presents a philosophical dilemma for the reader due to the temporal constraint of one hundred years as well as the nebulous meaning of solitude. Scholars have neglected one aspect of solitude even though they have focused on the individual, collective, geographical, and cultural solitude of the Buendia clan, Macondo, and Latin America. To wit, "To live alone one must be an animal or a godsays Aristotle. There is yet a third case: one must be both-a philosophef (Nietzsche 33). The philosopher delights in the contemplative life and the search for wisdom and knowledge; however, not all of the characters in the novel lead a philosophical life, but they do tend toward the extremes of action or meditation.

For Socrates, all learning was merely remembering prior knowledge. Plato attributes this remark to Socrates:

The soul, then, as being immortal, and having been born again many times, and having seen all things that exist, whether in this world or in the world below, has knowledge of them all; and it is no wonder that she should be able to call to remembrance all that she ever knew about virtue and about everything; for as all nature is akin, and the soul has learned all things, there is no difficulty in her eliciting, or as men say "learning," out of a single recollection, all the rest, if a man is strenuous and does not faint; for all inquiry and all learning is but recollection. (Meno 37)

Socrates 's thoughts on memory and recollection suggest that the soul is the source of omniscience; hence, this notion contradicts the biblical idea that mankind suffers exile from the Garden of Eden as punishment for breaking the taboo against eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Numerous studies read Cien años from a biblical perspective, but Paul Borgeson alludes to a parody of the Bible without negating the struggle between Good and Evil in Judeo-Christian terms. He writes:

Esta sed de saber y de conocer, desde luego, también se cifra en otras imágenes: la piedra filosofal, la transubstanciación del oro, y otras. Así, el motivo de la búsqueda del conocimiento no sólo forma parte del mito del pecado original; también nos ayuda a comprender varias de las paradojas que nos presenta la novela. …

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