Musil, Love and Error Theories

MusilJPeg30 Nick Smyth over at his blog Yeah, OK, but Still:

Robert Musil's The Perfecting of A Love is a short story which contains a very interesting argument. According to Catherine Wilson's (1984) reading, anyway, Musil's character Claudine realizes the power of the following set of thoughts:

  1. Either love is an earthly desire or attitude towards another, or it is not of this world, transcendental in some way.
  2. If love is an earthly desire or attitude, then it is always possible that a stronger, more urgent, more present desire will overwhelm it and cause betrayal.
  3. But true, actual love cannot be this contingent. It cannot be destroyed by the formation of some new desire.
  4. Therefore (by 1 and 3) love is not a desire, it is a transcendental state, not of this world.
  5. However, if love is not a desire, if love does not participate in the realm of earthly motivation, then an action taken from desire cannot be a betrayal of love, for love and desire are categorically different things.

Claudine, a married woman in love with her husband, allows a stranger to make love to her and is at first tormented by her infidelity. But the force of (5) strikes her and she realizes that she has not, in fact, betrayed her husband. She still loves him and this silly reversion of hers does not, indeed cannot affect that reality.