Mussolini: "Why do you want to get your ideas in order?"
Pound: "For my poem."
Eliot: "What do you believe?"
Pound: "I believe that a light from Eleusis persisted throughout the middle ages and set beauty in the song of Provence and Italy."
My aim in keeping this blog is to try to articulate, in as many ways as possible, a project that has occupied me since I hit on the slogan, "Philosophy is the art of writing concepts down." It occured to me almost immediately that this art, which may be called "conceptual notation" (reviving Frege's idea of a Begriffsschrift), parallels a particular approach to poetry, which can be called "emotional notation", i.e., the art of writing emotions down, and which seems to be what Ezra Pound understood the troubadours to be doing.
In German, this might be referred to as Ergriffsschrift (though this is probably a neologism), evoking shades of Leo Frobenius. In his Kulturgeshichte Afrikas: prolegomena zu einer historischen gestaltlehre ("towards a historical doctrine of form"?) he tied emotion (Ergriffenheit) very closely to the formative processes of the "paideuma" (p. 26), which Pound defined in the Guide to Kulchur as "the gristly root of ideas that are in action" and distinguished sharply from the Zeitgeist, viz., "the notions that a great mass of people still hold or half hold from habit, from waning custom" (p. 58).
I find it useful to collect these fragments in one place. Absolute Astronomy has a helpful entry on the Begriffsschrift, which links to entries also on "thought", "formula", "language", "logic" and "notation". It is, of course, terse, technical and scientific, but it indicates something of what I am after, even if it does not provide us with the tools we need.
In the next few posts I want to go on to look at intuitions and institutions and to try to characterize poetry and philosophy as forms of writing, or more technically, systems of notation, whose aim it is to arrange imagery to present our intuitions and institutions to us in a useful (meaningful) way, allowing us to get a "grip" (Griff) on them.
I continue only to trace around the outline of my problem, rehearsing its form, its formal properties, its formulae. But T. S. Eliot did suggest that the work of art should arrange "a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of a particular emotion" (he famously called this the "objective correlative" in "Hamlet and his Problems", The Sacred Wood, p. 100).
Pound tried to evaluate a writer "in proportion as his work is exact, i.e., true to human consciousness and to the nature of man, as it is exact in formulation of desire." ("How to Read", LE, p. 22)
Betrand Russell said that "a good notation has a subtlety and suggestiveness which at times makes it almost like a live teacher. Notational irregularities are often the first sign of philosophical errors, and a perfect notation would be a substitute for thought." (Introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus, p. xviii). He is talking about a kind of conceptual notation, here, and the poetic homologue would invoke a "substitute for feeling". No notation (no form) is perfect.
Each poem aspires to its own perfection, however. That is the quality of its affection.