Thomas Pynchon is an author often accused with a cold and dystopic universe. In my work The Line of no Return: a Study of Thomas Pynchon’s MASON & DIXON I try to salvage from that chaotic text a meaningful notion of free will, social progress and ethics. I show how the text couples the method of deconstruction with the demands of classical liberalism to end in an evolutionary epistemology and an Open Society ideal with maximum liberty for the individual and minimal chances of coercion. Its ethics lie between instincts and reason, and its model of causation resembles Donald T. Campbell’s “downward causation” where the individual is restricted by the macro-structure but can also act to affect that structure. The novel strongly proposes a Lockean form of macro-structure where the powers are never arbitrarily exercised on the people. A major part of the work goes into showing the novel’s care for the spontaneous and immediate, and accordingly its fear of rigid ideology. This ideal corresponds, I argue, with Nobel laureate economist and evolutionary theorist Friedrich Hayek’s ideal order and that parallel is drawn up throughout my work. I also bring in Mikhail Bakhtin to show how his description of the carnivalesque harmonates with Pynchon’s scepticism towards claims of standing in a special relationship to the mystery of human existence sanctioning the use of power over other men. All such claims to eradicate the final irreducuble mystery of life is suspected, because they favour intolerance, do not permit faith and ends fiction. The act of fictionalisation as a mode of being and understanding on par with the scientific is very much of a focal point throughout, and I also attempt to show how this relativising of outlooks and epistemes is echoed in the narrative’s own modus operandi.
Jürgen Habermas’ theories on Knowledge and Human Interests are used as a way of explaining the relativisation that goes on throughout the novel of scientific knowledge. Part I –Three Traditions– of the thesis goes into the sketching of the three different attitudes to ethics presented by Deconstruction, Classical Liberalism and Evolutionary Epistemology. Part II –As Little as Possible to Coercion– shows the liason between the text and the classical liberalist tradition. Part III –Order in Chaos– is comprised of an appropriation of Habermas’ and Bakhtin’s vocabularies used in connection with Hayek to suggest what such a planned chaos and the tapping of the spontaneous forces of society -developing through trial and error institutions far more complex than any that can be conceived by a planning mind- might look like. In part IV –Ethical Conclusions and Possible Points of Allegory– I sum up the ethical implications of the findings thusfar and suggest traits of our own times that could serve as parts in an explanation for why a narrative that for the most part is disguised as a product of the Enlightenment can be said to contain relevance to the society it is read by and whose contemporary it is. The conclusion is a description of what impression the text leaves when read with ontologic, epistemologic and ethical discourses as context.