Musil’s Imaginary Bridge

Varzi, Achille C.

In a calculation involving imaginary numbers, we begin with real numbers that represent concrete measures and we end up with numbers that are equally real, but in the course of the operation we find ourselves walking “as if on a bridge that stands on no piles”. How is that possible? How does that work? And what is involved in the as-if stance that this metaphor introduces so beautifully? These are questions that bother Törless deeply. And that Törless is bothered by such questions is a central question for any reader of Törless. Here I offer my interpretation, along with a reconstruction of the philosophical intuition that lies behind it all.



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November 14, 2014