To speak of an ethics in the work of Jorge Luis Borges is, in some sense, be exposed clearly to the accusation of trying a without sense, an absurd (almost write a story borgeano). For who is explicitly stated to be skeptical, and that on the basis of skepticism, defending its adherence to the Conservative Party; how to search for a consistent ethic? By the way that specific positions Borges had many, and so stated; but from there to be able to apply a code of ethics-a conceptual framework consistent – would be to go against what is stated by the author himself.
In the end, it is easy to find in Borges statements that tell us how inscrutable the universe: ‘there is No intellectual exercise that is not useless’ in the Pierre Menard. Or, at the beginning of On the Vathek William Beckford ‘so complex is reality, and so fragmentary, and so simplified the story’. Of the same tenor, one of my favourites, in Inferno I, 32 in the Doer:
In a dream, God declared to him the secret purpose of his life and work; Dante, astonished at the end knew who he was and what he was and blessed the bitterness. The tradition relates that, upon waking, he felt that he had received and lost an infinite thing, something that could not recover, nor glimpse even, because the machine world is very complex for the simplicity of men
The final words that, in fact, repeating the beginning of the text where it refers to the same thing, but around a leopard (and the simplicity of beasts)
However, it is possible to extract an ethical vision of the texts of Borges, and one that is consistent with the inescrutabilidad of the world. The texts crucial, I think, are two. One is at the end of the Story of the Warrior and the Captive:
The figure of the barbarian who embraces the cause of Ravenna, the figure of the european woman who chooses the desert, may seem antagonistic. However, the two snatched a momentum secret, an impetus deeper than the reason and the two followed that momentum that you would not have known to justify.
The other text is in the story immediately following in The Aleph, in the Biography of Tadeo Isidoro Cruz:
Any destination, long and complicated, actually consists of only one moment, the moment in which a man knows forever who he is.
What both events have in common is the idea of fidelity to a destination. It is clear that the fidelity is not at the origin -in the first both cases, ‘defect’ to their origins-. It is clear also that this faithfulness is not, in fact, something ‘chosen’ -is not faithfulness to a project of be-. What is true to what, to put it another way, it is called to do and to be.
It is possible to observe the relationship between the Biography of Tadeo Isidoro Cruz, and the text on Dante: In both cases, the central issue is to know who it is. The complexity of the world, that goes beyond the simplicity of the people, makes it unfeasible to be able to have a method to determine who it is; what it allows is some time to know without knowing why we know (taking the knowledge of the craftsman, not the philosopher’s thinking in how the greeks thought about it). And once knowing that, then you have to do is to follow that identity.
The importance of follow that destiny, follow what that is, it can also be observed in several texts of Borges. In A prayer of Praise of the Shadow:
The process of the time is a web of effects and causes, so ask for any favor, however slight, is to ask that you will break a link in that frame of iron, is to ask has already been broken. No one deserves such a miracle.
And more succinctly in Another Poem of the Gifts, on the Other, The Same:
Thanks I want to give to the divine
maze of effects and causes
The surrender to the fate that is to one, love – (and showing that in spite of all his love for Schopenhauer there is some Nietszche in Borges), is compatible with, at the same time accept that the world and the destination are inentendibles (which are a maze to the end of the day). The phrase of surrender to the target well can be interpreted as a lack of freedom. And yet, in the two quotes that we used as a sample of the attitude is the reverse. It is the surrender to self, to let it be, it is precisely when individuals fail to effectively be free. And do what they are required to do in both are true to themselves, while they themselves are fighting for Ravenna, leaving with the indians, not to consent to the crime that killed a brave.
Both requirements -the duty to follow the fate, but in a world that cannot be known – converge in another requirement:
41. Nothing is built on stone, everything on sand, but our duty is to build as if it were stone sand (Fragments of an Apocryphal Gospel, in Praise of Shadow)
Ultimately, although every thing is sand, the whole of things -of which his own destiny is part – yes it is made of stone. And if good men nothing can be promised, because mortals are; you can also remember that in the promise there is something immortal.