Contingency and Necessity

The Monist 97 (1):86-103 (2014)
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This paper argues that the problem of how to act in the face of radical contingency is of central importance in Musil’s novel and intimately connected to what Musil calls the sense of possibility. There is a variety of different strategies by which individuals, and the state of Kakania as a whole, deal with contingency, and they all involve a claim to a kind of grounding or necessity; for example, the Parallel Campaign is one big attempt to ground Kakania in what can be perceived as a form of metaphysical necessity. With the figure of Ulrich, Musil radicalizes the problem by showing the consequences of viewing even the relationship one has to one’s own self as contingent – the ultimate outcome of which is self-alienation.

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Barbara Michaela Sattler
University of St. Andrews


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