Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Obiter Dicta

I want to go back to the question of how philosophical writing can model itself on poetry without blurring the formal distinction between poetry and philosophy.

A "piece" of philosophy, for which we do not have a word like "poem", consists of "remarks" whose role is analogous to strophes.

In arranging strophes, we present an emotion or set of emotions. In arranging remarks, we present a concept or set of concepts. (The nature of the task forces the plural, I think. You can't present one emotion or concept without presenting others. We call this interrelatedness "passion" in poetry and "logic" in philosophy. There are, as it were, implications.)

All texts are hybrids. There are no pure poems or purely philosophical pieces of writing.

Wittgenstein understood that a remark does not express a concept. Rather, it describes certain facts (which may or may not obtain) such that our images of those facts presented in close succession (allowing us to pass easily among them in imagination) makes concepts conspicuous by making the grammar of experience "perspicuous" or "surveyable" (übersichtlich).

Flarf provides an especially interesting model because the materials themselves have very little philosophical import. So their arrangement must produce the philosophical effect.

One starts with materials that are not prepared for philosophy. One passes from one remark to the next. The thought appears in the passage.


Presskorn said...

As remarked before I am very much in line with your statements regarding this theme. And always pleased and enlightened by their occurrence on your blog from time to time. Here, I state an mere association and pose a question.

Association: Even though it is not about creating a fetich for a certain mode of working, I can’t help to be reminded of Roland Barthes’ way of working, when I read your comments on arranging. Especially in writing his early work his method was this: He would collect remarks and textual comments on index-cards, and when he had about 500 index-cards, he would start arranging them. The arrangement was the most time-consuming process, in the case of his first book: 3-5 years. But this process was not without a certain enjoyment: His favorite occupation (and sometimes his bizarre party-trick) would be to spread out all the index-cards on a large table (making them perspicuous), and then trying out different arrangements to test experimentally what connections and thoughts different arrangements would respectively effect.

Question: It is clear that your comments on ‘poetry’ and ‘philosophy’ are linked to Wittgensteins enigmatic remark that “Philosophy ought really to be written as a form of poetry”. I remember that you once remarked (in conversation), that this last word ‘dichten’ was to be read in an “Ezra Pound”-like sense. I, prima facie at least, prefer to read it in a Goethe-like sense, based on biographical-textual considerations(‘Goethe’ is the most frequently used proper name in Wittgensteins complete works etc.), and since this would be in line with Wittgenstein’s stress on contrafactual or fictitious description in relation to the method of philosophy(see e.g. PI, II, xii). But this is hardly a justified choice, since I have no clear idea about Pounds conception. So the question is: What would it entail to read this ‘dichten’ in a Pound-like manner?

Thomas Basbøll said...

"dichten = condensare"

There's an interesting posting at the Buffalo poetics list here that unpacks Pound's creative etymology, adding a bit of creativity of its own.

"dichten" = to thicken, to tighten

to make thick
to make tight

Thanks for the stuff about Barthes--he talks about "ergography" somewhere--the text as work.

Going back to the importance of arrangement: putting the pieces together "tightly".

That is composition (Dichtung).