The Astonished Silencing of Things: The Hypothesis of an Apophatic Tautology in the Poetry of Fernando Pessoa’s Heteronym Alberto Caeiro

Part of the Palgrave Frontiers in Philosophy of Religion book series (PFPR)


One of the most predominant figures of the poetry of Fernando Pessoa’s heteronym Alberto Caeiro has been recognized to be the tautology. However, two significant features of this recurrent use have remained unnoticed: a) its complexity; b) its negative functioning. In this chapter, Béu shows how, in Caeiro’s poetry, the tautology is not only an unusual and complex phenomenon (very far from the mere truism), but, more uniquely, how this very complexity is drawn from a radical negativity from which it operates, effectively opening and cognitively un-defining and dis-placing (ultimately by absolute deflation of attributes) the referential and entitative limits of everything, and of perception itself: precisely what Caeiro identifies with the silencing of things, which is to say the very nature of seeing. Ultimately, and eventually leading to a new type of tautological apophasis, Caeiro’s tautology suffers such radical torsions as to gain features far from its common definition: (i) rather than being a simple and logically neutral proposition, it becomes a complex discursive procedure (producing meaning only when gathering at least two propositions), (ii) instead of serving as the simplest of the affirmative propositions, it functions as a radical negation.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Comparative StudiesLisboaPortugal

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