Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Honesty & Decency

Pangrammatical homologies are isomorphisms that obtain between philosophical and poetic formulae.

These isomorphisms (formal equivalences) are experienced as suffering in so far as they involve belief and desire. Suffering is the formal identity of belief and desire given their substantial differences.

The following formulae are homologous.

Honesty is about beliefs, not facts.

Decency is about desires, not acts.

In an important sense, then, honesty is to science (i.e., the determination of facts) what decency is to politics (i.e., the determination of acts).

Philosophy and poetry, as literary arts, need to be aware of this.

Honesty and decency are varieties of appropriateness. Dishonesty is an inappropriate expression of belief (beliefs are not themselves honest or dishonest: expressions of them are.) Indecency is an inappropriate expression of desire.

Note, however, that neither philosophy nor poetry are essentially "expressive"; that is, a poem should not represent desires, but present emotions. In order to do this, certain constructions (groups of words with determinable effects) may "offend", i.e., be deemed "indecent", but only when construed as expressions and this ultimately implies their misconstrual.

The affective impact of many poems depends on the tension between the expressive misreading and the inexpressive reading [, i.e., the tension between what the poem could possibly represent and what it does actually present.]

By a similar token, philosophers often appear disingenuous in their questioning, i.e., dishonest about their lack of belief in one or another aspect of "reality". Socrates' methodological ignorance, his "irony", is the classical example.

Poets deploy a comparable, indeed, homologous, methodological impotence.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Glory, Despair, Likeness

At the cottage last week, I read Nabokov's Despair. The last chapter notes some of the earlier working titles of the narrator's manuscript, including "The Likeness", all of which are abandoned as the enormity of his error dawns on him.

My PhD thesis was called Likeness and was an attempt to determine the nature of concepts through the homologies of knowledge and power. In the end, I decided that these homologies are summarized in our suffering.

I'm now starting Nabokov's Glory. Maybe we learn everything when it's too late.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Poetry & Politics

Mirroring Wittgenstein's definition of "philosophy" as "what is possible before all new discoveries and inventions", one might give the name "poetry" to what is possible before all new decisions and initiatives. That is, poetry is prior to politics just as philosophy is prior to science.

Ezra Pound actually located this sense of priority quite precisely. Poetry provides the data of ethics, he said. Philosophy likewise provides the data of epistemology.

This is the reason I've been finding it difficult to participate in the discussion about Mike Magee's "Their Guys" over at Limetree. For all its sophistication, the argument seems to remain about whether or not the poem is or is not politically correct. It is not that I am against political correctness. It is just that I believe poems should be judged by other criteria.

The sense in which philosophy ought to be exempt from judgments of "scientific incorrectness" is what I'm after here. This of course also means that philosophy should avoid making what appear to be scientific claims.

Again, Flarf is a useful model because its materials are devoid of subjective positions, which are essential for making political claims. Perhaps more accurately, the Flarf procedure divests the materials of such positions. Flarf, applied to philosophy, would work with materials that are likewise devoid/divested of objective relations, which are essential for making scientific claims.

If I understand the critique of "Their Guys", it is predicated on an attribution of subjective position to the poem and (to some extent) on the demand that the poet identify with (or in some other way take responsibility for) that position. That demand is plainly political.

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.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Experimental Motto

Beyond sketching out a plan for the curriculum of the soul, I will make no more major theoretical statements in this life.

(Cf. Ron's recent post on Charles Olson.)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

If That’s What You’re Into, Go For It

for Chris Daniels

When misery overwhelms your heart, as inevitably it will, don’t run from it. Go for it.

Then go fuck yourself.

Find a way to use it. Be open. Be completely generous. If that’s what you’re into, go for it. Demand complete generosity in return.

Then go fuck yourself.

Make mistakes. Suffer and rage. Rejoice and love. Work hard. Go fuck yourself. Get into it. Go for it.

Play as seriously as a child.

Talk about it, think about it all the time. Have a sense of humor about yourself. Be honest and go fuck yourself.

That’s how people grow.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Library & Lottery

The soi-disant postmodernist is the comic book hero who takes "The Library of Babel" to be an allegory of the times. Unfortunately, it is just a paradox; our tragedy is "The Babylon Lottery".