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K. L. Evans
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The aim of this thoroughly unconventional work is to demonstrate that Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations are, in effect, one and the same book. Whale! not only successfully reveals the vital intersections between Melville and Wittgenstein but also makes a compelling argument for why such intersections are essential to understanding common political projects in literature and philosophy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9577-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preamble
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    ONE QUESTION UNDERLIES ALL OFMOBY DICK:“So what’s eating you?” Many readers of the novel have put this question to its author, coming up with pat explanations of what is called Melville’s pessimism, or madness—even genius—as a response to his father’s breakdown or his poverty or his sexuality or his marriage, instead of asking the question of themselves, which is really what should be asked, and is asked, by Melville, and not rhetorically, What is eatingus, what is eatingyou?

    The whaling business is not a safe one. One of the inspirations for Melville’s narrative is...

  5. 1 A Tale of Attachment
    (pp. 1-25)

    IF WHAT FEELS LIKE the willful destruction inMoby Dickis a sign not of the ruin of despair but of a kind of vandalism of that ruin—or if the violence of this story forsakes an original violence for commentary, the way graffiti defaces an already demolished edifice—then what feels like destruction may simply be a refusal to turn away from the wreck, a gesture that directs the attention of passersby to injury that should not be viewed with accustomed indifference but examined, as if for clues as to its cause. If we are talking about vandalism, and...

  6. 2 A Common Account of Shipping
    (pp. 26-52)

    TO SHIP IS NOT AN INDEPENDENT AND PRIVATE EVENT but, like consciousness, a catalog of material engagement with the world. It is not independent because any sea - bound vessel floats on a supportive sea (even though the bedrock of this support is conditional, a vague hope at the bottom of an impossible depth). It is not private because like all phenomenal experience it is hampered by connection to the world, to wind and wave. Under sail a ship can never take the shape of an objective narrative but must remain an interpretation of its own influence and association.


  7. 3 The Politics of Whale
    (pp. 53-61)

    HOW DOES AHAB MANAGE TO USE WORDS like he means them, so that he is not always caught in the trapping of a word or disappointing himself by searching for its underpinning but knows how to hunt it directly? How does he know whatwhalemeans—or, what is it that saves this wordwhalefrom being a private thing? For the skeptic, one’s whale is a private matter. Ahab claims his whale is public — and if any two imposing schemes endorse different judgments, then one has to hunt down the source of the discrepancy.

    Do each of us say...

  8. 4 Confessions of a Captain
    (pp. 62-86)

    IF IT IS TO BE PURSUED HONORABLY, all philosophy must begin with a confession. What might be said to get in the way of one’s understanding is often not bad equipment, or missing perspicuity, but a tendency to lie to oneself about oneself. Lying to oneself distinguishes a genuine from a false style, since a reluctance to descend into one’s own untidiness— because it is too hard or too painful— ensures a cursory or perfunctory treatment of the matter at hand. Lying to oneself involves underestimating the immoderate infl uence of one’s own beliefs. A philosopher must understand belief as...

  9. 5 Crossing the Line
    (pp. 87-109)

    STARBUCK, SURE OF HIS OWN BRAND OF AFFECTION, thinks his captain antipathetic, unyielding, unconcerned with public opinion. But when Ahab insists his attachment to the whale is not the willed investment of a signatory but the involuntary instrumentality of a participant, he underscores human involvement in its own narrative. Ahab eschews the precious image of man as a detached observer and recognizes himself as one thing among many floating in an unpredictable sea. He knows his buoyancy is dependent on circumstance; that he may at any moment go down; that his health and happiness are tentative and conditional; that he...

  10. 6 A Leaky Boat
    (pp. 110-137)

    IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE FISHERY, a whale needs no secret code. The whale itself is the Rosetta: feed it the barest theme and it takes on a certain, unmistakable shape. But say I shout from the riggings of thePequod,“Whale!” How does my sentence manage to represent? How does my “Whale!” cross the distances between speakers and remain recognizable? How do you understand this whale? How do you understand“this”? As Wittgenstein says inPhilosophical Investigations,“The whole idea of understanding smells fishy here.” Meaning is slick and unfettered. As long as there is no connection between...

  11. Swan Song
    (pp. 138-150)

    I HAVE TRIED TO EXEMPT, from the wrongness of Ahab’s life, any conclusion that he was wrong about hiswhale.But the truth of his one great insight still leaves the twisted, stinking hulk of this story intact. IfMoby Dickis, as I believe it to be, a story to live by, it is only fair to consider the ethical implications of Ahab’s position, both prior and subsequent to his garroting by the harpoon’s line. Is his death — by his own instrument, in a swamped boat after witnessing the sure destruction of his ship, so that before his neck...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 151-160)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 161-162)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 163-163)