Saturday, June 04, 2011

Necessity and Contingency

The poet extricates emotion from its history, makes it present to us. The poet is "abnormally fond of the precision which creates movement" (Cummings). We call this precision "intensity".

Philosophical precision, by contrast, brings clarity. It is not wholly wrong to say that the philosopher is abnormally fond of the precision which arrests movement, but it would be more charitable to speak of a precision that "apprehends". The images of fluid experience are stabilized, but not for the sake of stability. Once is merely trying to get a clear view of them. One is not denying or opposing movement, one is dealing with it as a particular kind of problem.

I sometimes say the philosopher thereby extricates the concept from the world. But I am no longer so sure. The poet truly "liberates" desire from the policies it is implicated in. But it may be more accurate to say that the philosopher is looking for the limit of belief. So it would also be more accurate, perhaps, to say that the philospher implicates the concept in the world, just as the poet extricates the emotion from history.

In this way, the poet is always indicating the contingency of what we feel. Our emotions are the contingencies of feeling. The philosopher, meanwhile, is trying to present the necessity of what we think. Concepts are the necessities of thinking.

All of this is, of course, bringing me increasingly around to the idea, which readers of this blog of suggested on several occasions, that there is no such thing as a "poet" and a "philosopher" in the senses that my distinction implies. Rather, the difference between a poet and a philosopher is a question of emphasis.

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