I’ve stolen the title, and the content, of this post from my DA student Chris Hellestrom, who did a Directed Reading course with me on Borges and Pynchon this past fall. Chris was rightly struck by how much Thomas Nagel’s famous philosophical article, “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” (1974) sounds like a Borges story. The article is easy enough to find online, but a few excerpts show the gist —
“Bat sonar, though clearly a form of perception, is not similar in its operation to any sense that we [humans] possess, and there is no reason to suppose that it is subjectively like anything we can experience or imagine.”
“Our own experience provides the basic material for our imagination, whose range is therefore limited.”
“Even if I could by gradual degrees be transformed into a bat, nothing in my present constitution enables me to imagine what the experiences of such a future stage of myself thus metamorphosed would be like.”
The story this most reminds me of is Funes at first, though it may, upon reflection, be more like Tlon.