Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Notes Toward Composure

The aim of poetry is to extricate the subject from the history of peoples, just as the aim of philosophy is to extricate the object from the world of things.

It is the task of the poet to present the subject by noting the emotions that position it in a particular history. It is the task of the philosopher to present the object by noting the concepts that relate it to a universal world. In a profoundly disturbing sense, the poet is to "the party" what the philosopher is to "the university".

Philosophers fail when they merely posit the object, just as poets fail when they merely pose the subject. The aim of philosophy is to bring the thing out and ground it objectively in the world as an object subsumed under a universal concept. Anything less is but an academic exercise. The aim of poetry, likewise, is to bring the person out and situate him or her subjectively in a history as a subject obligated to a particular emotion. Anything less is merely toeing the party line.

(I don't know if everyone appreciates these exercises. But they make me tingle. Just saying.)


Presskorn said...

I, for one, enjoy your exercises...

Are the tasks of both poetry and philosophy are presentational rather than representational, because they are both connected with the "pangrammatical concept" of an image?

(Or is the prefix "re-" missing in one of the two occurrences of 'presentation'?)

I also wonder if you could eleborate a little on what it means to "present the object by noting the concepts that relate it to a universal world"? For one thing, 'universal', of course, contrast 'particular', but I am not entirely certain what it means here?

I think I would prefer to say: Philosophy (re)presents concepts by eliciting the criteria that relates them to the world.

Regardless of exactly how to phrase it, the aim of philosophy would be to provide what Kant called 'the schematism of our concepts'.

Which is why it's such a great idea to start "Composure" off with KRV A137/B176, as you suggested earlier.

Thomas said...

Thanks. There's no "re-" missing. Philosophy and poetry are equally presentational. There are no "pangrammatical concepts" (just as there are no philosophical concepts). Concepts are concepts. Emotions are emotions. Images are images.

Things are "objects" in their (conceptual) relation to the universe (the world is universal). Without universals, no concepts, and no objects.

People are "subjects" in their (emotional) position among particulars (history is particular). Without particulars, no emotions, and no subjects.

It is possible to imagine (!) a sort of miinmalist world-history with no concepts and no emotions, but with things, people, and images. But it would have almost no grammar. (Hamlet feels that way about "all the uses of the world".)

It is because objectivity is relational and subjectivity is positional that the former requires the universal (the limit of relation) and the latter requires the particular (the freedom of position).

Philosophy does not represent concepts because only things (or people) can have representations as objects (or subjects) conditioned by concepts (or emotions) in experience.

Kant's project fails because he cannot accept the limits of representation.

You are right about the schematism.

Presskorn said...

“Things are "objects" in their (conceptual) relation to the universe (the world is universal). Without universals, no concepts, and no objects.

People are "subjects" in their (emotional) position among particulars (history is particular). Without particulars, no emotions, and no subjects.”

Neat symmetry! These things makes me tingle too :-)

I might have a higher opinion of Kant than you. I take Kant to have shown in a fairly obvious manner that representational content is to be seen in terms of representational purport. And I take that to be a great improvement, strictly analogous to Wittgenstein’s insistence on seeing of semantics in terms of pragmatics. Of seeing meaning in terms of use.

Apropos of Kant: I also preferred to have ‘criteria’ in the definition of the philosophical presentation of concepts for somewhat Kantian reasons:

Wittgenstinian criteria are the bases of relating the world in words. Or what comes to same in Kantian, the bases of applying concepts in judgements.

Presskorn said...

A note towards composure:

"Before the artist can present a physical form (palpably, so to speak), he must have produced it in his power of imagination; and this form is then an invention which, if it it is involuntary (as perhaps in a dream), is called fantasy and does not belong to the artist; but if it is govnerned by choice, is called composition."

- I. Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, Part 1, §31, Section A, "On Sensiblity's productive faculty of constructing forms".

Image and form, imaginatio plastica...

Thomas said...

Thanks for that.

Isn't all of Kantianism contained in that opening "before".

Why can the artists not produce the palpable form first?

"First came the seen," said Pound, "then thus the palapable."

But why that priority? I think Heidegger rightly traced this primacy of seeing to Kant's emphasis on intuition.

Composure (a composition of subjective position and objective relation, and interrelation and disposition, if you will) is mediated by both intution and institution, the immediacy of our seeing and our doing.

Presskorn said...

Yes, in one sense that "before" is deeply suspicious. One might say, that even if the artist is looking to realize some form, it will often be the case that what he finds is something different from what he was looking for.

And denying this difference does perhaps amount to a commitment to the metaphysical priority of seeing. A priority which is, in any case, problematic. As Blanchot says in a piece with the significant title ‘Speaking is not seeing’, one must “free thought from the optical imperative that in the Western tradition, for thousands of years, has subjugated our approach to things, and induced us to think under the guaranty of light or the threat of its absence.

(((((But generally, I am more friendly to Kant than Heidegger in this specific regard, since I instead follow scholars as Dieter Henrich, Robert Brandom or Robert Pippin in reading Kant as giving priority to practical reason (rather than to “the optics” of theoretical reason) and thus as not at all guilty of neglecting “institution” or “our doing”.)))))