Definition of Magic in Three Throws of the Die
The title of this essay matches its ambition: its purpose is nothing less than to define magic in modern philosophical terms. Yet the Wittgensteinianism of the title also reflects the irony of this ambition: through the metaphor of a thrice thrown die, the essay foregrounds the aleatoriness of its argument and the elusiveness of its object. Magic, it will be argued here, is a quality that is ascribed to a given object, and it is in that ascription, in the predicative assertion that a thing possesses magic, that its logic must be sought. However, rather than scan the history of esoteric or occult thought for such assertions, the essay will draw upon Ludwig Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions to argue that magic is not so much a quality in itself as it is the emotional transformation of a pre-existing quality. Following Sartre’s view that emotion effects a magical transformation upon the world, the essay will conclude by arguing that the ascription of magic to a thing is true only if the very act of assertion transforms its ascriptive logic — emotionally, and, therefore, magically.
emotion; language; logic; magic; Sartre, Jean-Paul; Feuerbach, Ludwig