Philosophy with Fee

Fee is eight years old. He is autistic. He has a fascination with numbers, inspecting lamp-posts and lamp-standards to ensure they are kept in proper order. When we replaced our front door, he was distraught until we also replaced the house number.

He is now getting into stories, writing them out repetitively at inordinate length. His mother reckons he simply reproduces them, word-for-word, from school readers, as a result of remarkable memory.

I disagree.

On his latest visit Fee was recreating a tale of a pencil.


The pencil was “lonley” (an indicator in itself that creativity is at work here).

The pencil is given a name, and then draws a boy, who becomes the antagonist of the story. The boy is named. The pencil creates others. Soon the boy has a house, a friend and other items — all of which have to have personal names.

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul… And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

Genesis, 2. vv4-20


Out of nowhere the pencil creates a picnic for the boy and his friend.

The picnic is disturbed by a procession of ants. Each ant has to be individually named: the names are those of the others in Fee’s class.

When the list of names is exhausted, that is the limit of the ant train.

At which point, Fee leaps from his seat, runs the length of the room and back, skips and jumps, chortles, and resumes his story.

Meanwhile, I find myself cleft between Wittgenstein:

What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.

and Derrida:

This limit is surpassed in productive imagination: self-intuition, the immediate relation to oneself such as it was formed in reproductive imagination, then becomes a being; it is exteriorized, produced in the world as a thing. This singular thing is the sign; it is engendered by a fantastic production, by an imagination that shows signs of itself, making the sign (Zeichen machende Phantasie) as always emerge from itself in itself


The pencil has not finished. It draws two “erasers”. Felix has been taught to avoid unfortunate American double-entendres.

We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language

Oscar Wilde: The Canterville Ghost [note: the analogue version of this, attributed to G.B.Shaw, may be a concoction of Readers Digest, 1942]


I am wondering, “Why two erasers?”

Felix is already ahead of me. One by one, they rub out all of the previous constructs, and then erase each other.

We were just one day past Hiroshima Day. I hear Oppie:

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that one way or another.

Robert Oppenheimer, on NBC documentary: The Decision to Drop the Bomb.

Old Possum’s practical chats

Fee is not yet finished. He has to have me read the story back to him. That includes the © reproduced as a header and the arcane numberings (101 to 201, odd numbers only) down the margins of the pages.

Where are we now?

Is it Toilets (anag.) at East Coker? Or is it Marie Stuart, embroidering her enigmatic epitaph, from whom he ripped the idea? — Marie Stuart


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Filed under History, Literature, reading

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