Any topic (writer’s choice)

Project description

Yu Tsun, a Chinese professor of English literature, resides in England during World War I. He is secretly a German spy. Expecting to be captured and killed, he resolves to transmit to Berlin a crucial piece of intelligence. To do this, he must first murder a stranger, an innocent civilian named Albert.

At this point in Borges story, there occurs an amazing coincidence. Albert turns out to be a specialist in Chinese culture. He loves the same things Yu Tsun loves. Further, Albert has devoted many years to studying Yu Tsuns great ancestor, Tsui Pen. He has discovered Tsui Pens secret, which involves the identity of a novel and and a labyrinth.

Your paper will be devoted to concidence. There were millions of people in England at that time but by coincidence the one Yu Tsun must kill is the only person alive who could disclose Tsui Pens secret: the secret of the Ancestor. Your paper will be divided into three parts. Begin each part with the title in capitals below. Feel free to introduce your own ideas about coincidence, with examples from your experience or that of friends.


Do you think amazing coincidences like the one in our story ever really happen? Suppose they do. How might the story help us explain them? What sort of universe would they occur in? Read the story carefully and look for clues. You may (but need not) consider the lines about everything happening now to me; about time and its forking paths (Tsui Pens philosophy); about the riddle whose answer is chess. Other bits of the story might also shed light on the question. Choose and focus as you like.


How might Plato help us understand amazing coincidence. You may (but need not) consider the discussion of nous, Mind or Intelligence, in the 6th argument of the Phaedo, as well as patterns in Socrates life.


How might Descartes Meditations help us understand amazing coincidences? If you like, suppose the final truth the highest, most ultimate truth is to be found in the first Meditation, or in the second, or in the third.

You have a two-fold aim. I would welcome insight into coincidence. I would also welcome insights into Borges, Plato, and Descartes. (If you wish, you may substitute for Descartes another philosopher we have studied, or will study, this semester Augustine, Al-Ghazali, Nietzsche, Camus, etc.)

Write clearly. You may consult with others about writing issues, but please do you own thinking. Footnote secondary sources, if you wish to use them (you dont need to). BE SURE TO ANSWER THE QUESTIONS ABOVE; DON’T SLIP INTO MERE SUMMARIES OF THE MATERIAL.

Your paper should be roughly three pages. It will be due at the time of the final exam. I look forward to reading you!

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