If you came to this post to find out what “Ineluctable Modality of the Visible” means. This is the best I have to offer right now:
This is the entire sentence as it appears in Ulysses:
“Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes.”
This means his current thought is only about what he is observing through his eyes. “at least that and no more” implies the limitations of eye sight and he is saying here that there is more. There is an old saying that goes “there is more than meets the eye.”
Ineluctable – that which cannot be escaped from.
modality– A condition like eyesight. Hearing is a modality. However, from each condition a limitation can also be implied. As eyesight is a modality, it also implies the limitation of not being able to hear, or being limited by the quality of our eyesight. A modality only offers a partial reality. Eyesight doesn’t give us reality in its entirety, because it can’t give us hearing or taste, both which add aspects to reality. Eyesight, hearing, and taste are all visible modalities, and all limiting, even together.
By its nature of being visible, it is an ineluctable modality. That which is visible is limited because it’s being observed by a modality which implies a limitation.
The product of an ineluctable modality is sin. Sin is shortsightedness. Sin is not being able to see the whole picture. We cannot escape from sin and every sin is a limitation. Sin limits the scope of our lives and the expansion of our minds, therefore it is a product of the ineluctable modality of the visible. Sin is caused by the visible, not by the invisible which is God.
Joyce, although he professed to be non-religious, I think he was only against organized religion, like the Catholic Church in which he was raised. From what I’ve read, he disowned the Catholic Church, and all religion, but always went to church on Easter. If you read “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man,” you can certainly see his conflicting feelings about religion and his disappointment in the people who professed to be religious. From his Catholic upbringing, he certainly was sin conscious and guilt ridden. You don’t need to be raised a Catholic to have those conditions, but those conditions seem very ingrained in the Catholic mind.
Our sin not only limits our view of the world, but our limited view of the world also results in sinning. People who seem to be absorbed in sin also seem to have limited views of reality. People who are the worst sinners are those who either most want to escape reality or have such limited minds that they can’t see any reality beyond what is visible to them. Everyone has met people–usually professed atheists–who say that the only things that they believe is what they can see or hear or touch. These types of people appear to be without imagination.
When a person becomes more awake to reality and doesn’t reject it, they seem to sin less and less. I also think people sin less and less as they become happier and happier, and one becomes happier as they stop running away from reality. However, no one is so awake in reality that they never sin, unless they are a Jesus or a Buddha or a saint.
Perhaps maturing just means doing away with sin, but there is no way of ever getting rid of it totally. It’s ineluctable.
This post is a work in progress.
If you disagree with me or have a different insight, I would love to hear it.
I was on a bus in Manhattan today, and I started thinking about this. I think I got some new insight.
If whatever is visible is limiting, then that which is invisible would not be limiting. For instance, our imagination. The imagination is not an ineluctable modality of the visible. It is invisible and therefore unlimited. For something to be eternal or unlimited it must be invisible. God is eternal and unlimited and invisible. Also, that which is eternal, unlimited and invisible is without sin. You can imagine sinning, but the imagination itself is not sin. It can’t be because it’s not visible and therefore not an ineluctable modality. Even though people have limited imaginations, some more than others, the imagination itself is unlimited. The imagination does not come to us through a modality like eyesight or hearing.