Angels From the Time to ComenCertain moments in a good story possess a quality that isnlogically very strange indeed, and that renders themnoften haunting and unforgettable. Consider Dorothea’snchoice of Ladislaw as her lover in Middlemarch: the logic ofnfiction would dictate that Dorothea should pair up withnLydgate, who is a heavyweight like her, and if after readingnthe first half of the book we were to try to predict thenoutcome, this would probably be our choice. On the othernhand, when she upsets our expectations we are on reflectionnnot disappointed but deeply excited by the depth of what hasnhappened: strangely, we now realize that Dorothea’s surprisingnchoice was really inevitable all along, that it had to benthat way; her originality, her tenderness, her St. Teresa-likensense of mastery could express itself no other way.nWe get the same feeling when Edmund has his deathbednrepentance in King Lear, and even more so when it turnsnout that his repentance, which would be the perfect deus exnmachina to save Cordelia’s life, ends up with no apparentnplot function at all: in fact it makes Cordelia’s death evennmore unexpected, arbitrary, and horrifying. Yet we recognizenimmediately the absolute Tightness of this reversal; itnwas inevitable all along.nOne could cite dozens of other examples: the Odyssey is ancompendium of them, Faulkner is a master at the art, and sonis Tolstoy. In music the same thing happens: Mozart willnoften pile two or three twists of melodic or harmonicnsurprise upon each other, and yet in retrospect the structurenof his piece will hold firm, perfectly braced; airy, yet asnstrong as adamant.nThe peculiar thing about such moments is that by theirnFrederick Turner is Founders Professor of Arts andnHumanities at the University of Texasnat Dallas and author, most recently, of the epicnpoem Genesis.nby Frederick Turnernunpredictability before the event combined with theirnretrodictability after it they radically defy the requirementnthat truth be independent of time; and yet they are by nonmeans arbitrary or merely expedient — it is not as if the artistnwere irresponsibly flinging in extraneous incident or distortingnthe integrity of the work by arbitrary crowd-pleasingninterventions. It was Plato who most clearly established thenidea that truth cannot trim its sails with the winds of time,nthat two and two must equal four for all eternity, not justntoday, or on Wednesdays, or in the past but not the future.nCertainly there are kinds of coherent truth for which Plato’snrequirement of temporal indifference must hold. But he isnperhaps wrong in implying’ that coherence and intelligibilityn— which are supreme virtues, else we could not even reasonnabout such matters, and must come to blows — are onlynpossible under conditions of time invariance. Edmund andnDorothea and Odysseus and Quentin Compson and AnnanKarenina are coherent and intelligible — so much so that anlifetime is not enough to appreciate how much. But much ofnwhat they do has the peculiar capacity to alter the past innsuch a way as to make certain futures inevitable, when theynwere not so before.nWe need, then, a new logic to talk about such actions,none that always has two senses — a strong sense, whichnapplies retroactively, and a weak sense, which appliesnprospectively. Recent developments in Italian philosophynhave produced the expression “weak thought,” whichnthough it properly applies to the level of assertion andnprobability in a proposition, can be used here ais well.nResearchers in cognitive science, the philosophy of mathematics,nand artificial intelligence have all come to recognizenthat the work of the human mind cannot be modelednwithout some kind of soft linkage between concepts thatnrelies on large vague databases, partial resemblances, andnrelative probabilities of truth. But what we want are laminat-nnnAPRIL 1990/21n