Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Image (3)

The image is the secret that Lorca says St. Teresa stole from her duende. It is "the subtle link that joins the five senses to what is core to the living flesh, the living cloud, the living ocean of love liberated from time."

What, then, is "core to the living flesh"? What does the image join the five senses to? The image inhabits the fleshy region between our senses and our motives. I suppose there may be exactly five motives (just as there are exactly five senses) but we have not, I think, enumerated them yet. Lorca speaks simply of a "core", and it is possible that some unity of motive is implied. Kant also supposed that the five senses are brought together in a "manifold" of experience, saving experience from becoming a rhapsody of mere impressions.

There is the "living ocean of love liberated from time" and there is a living ocean of wisdom restricted by space.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Image (2)

The image is of neither mind nor matter. Nor is flesh a merely physical substance. The flesh suffers and, in suffering, imagines. Consciousness pervades the flesh. And in the flesh the image is both thought and felt. Flesh is not merely nerves and tissues, not merely meat attached to bone. It is the stuff of experience. The flesh moves and senses. The flesh lives and its life is imagination.

I think the image is the secret that Lorca tells us St. Teresa stole: "the subtle link that joins the five senses to what is core to the living flesh, the living cloud, the living ocean of love liberated from time."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Image (1)

The image occurs in the body where sensory stimulus meets motor impulse. The image is simply what the body experiences. The body is simply the experiencer of the image. The image may be developed in the direction of sensation or in the direction of motivation. It may indicate a world to be known or a history to be mastered. The image may suggest an object or subject. It may suggest both. An arrangement of images will usually tend in one or another direction.

Images arranged to emphasize the motoric aspects of experience supply the content of poems and, further developed, political representations. Images arranged to emphasize the sensory aspects of experience occasion philosophical reflection and, further, scientific representation.

A Key to the Tractations

My ongoing series of "tractations" follow a very simple model. They articulate a poetical and philosophical moment, centered, implicitly or explicitly on "the image" or "the body", which are ultimately the same thing since an image is a sensor-motor complex [installed in the very fibers of experience]. A "tractation", then, attempts to trace this body-image towards the world (through belief, intuition, and science) at one end and history (through desire, institution, and politics) at the other, with a terseness that is supposed to evoke Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (it is supposed to be the content of a Tractatus Poetico-Philosophicus or Logico-Patheticus).

But I suppose all that is obvious. I just wanted to note that in some tractations (those with an odd number of lines) there's a line in the middle that marks the body, and in others (those with an even number of lines) the role of the body is left implicit.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tractations VII

Poetry begins in lust,

when the flesh moves

in the freedom of desire

to bring love

to a longing heart in

a body

bound to a mind

that seeks wisdom

in the limit to belief

that the flesh senses.

Philosophy begins in wonder.

Socrates and Frost

"Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder," said Socrates in Plato's Theaetetus, albeit in Jowett's translation not Levett's, who renders it "[wondering] is an experience which is characteristic of a philosopher ... this is where philosophy begins and nowhere else."

I like the idea of a "feeling" characteristic of philosophers, an emotional impulse to a conceptual notation. Likewise, we should have a conceptual occasion (a "thought") for an emotional notation, or poem. If wonder is what a philosopher "feels" before beginning to "think" then lust is what the poet "thinks" before beginning to "feel". In both cases, it is the beginning, not the end.

Robert Frost said that "poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom", which is as wrong as saying that philosophy ends in love (see this post for Derrida's views on love and philosophy). He was probably just being polite. Poetry begins in lust and ends in love.

Philosophy begins in wonder and ends in wisdom. Except, of course, that the poet and philosopher so often fail. We might say that the poet is trying to extract a love from a lustful overwhelming of desire. The philosopher is trying to derive wisdom from a wondrous overwhelming of belief.

Tractations VI

Philosophy begins in wonder,

when the flesh senses

the limit of belief

and finds the wisdom

of a mind bound to

a body

with a heart, longing

to take love through

that freedom of desire

where the flesh moves.

Poetry begins in lust.

Lust & Wonder

It's like this, it seems to me. Wonder is a state of mind. Lust is a longing of the heart. Wisdom and love result from our ability to temper these experiences, to absorb them, if you will, in our temperament. Both lust and wonder, are moments during which we experience the rootedness of experience in the body, but in equal and opposite ways.

Lust is the heart longing to be free of its flesh. It is the heart reaching out beyond its body. It is always an example of overreaching. There is no such thing as well-tempered, or measured, or even appropriate lust. If it is lust, it is going too far. Sometimes, one goes too far. It is not that the heart desires too much, it is that it does not master its desire.

Wonder is the mind bound to its limit in the flesh. If lust is movement, motion, outward beyond the limit of the skin, wonder is sensation turned back at the limit of the senses, the skin. It is the mind becoming aware of its own limits. It is not that it can't believe what it sees, it's that it does not know what a belief would here involve.

The skin is the limit, and it is interesting to note that the difference between lust and wonder may lie in the particular asymmetries of a given situation. A man meets a woman. Her beauty may cast him into a state of wonder, or spark his lust. This will depend on his body as much as hers.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


That's the answer.

Lust is to love as wonder is to wisdom.

Wisdom is success in the way of dealing with wonder. It is not wise to remain merely in "a state of wonder".

Likewise, in love we must deal with lust, but not be enslaved by it.

We might say, in both cases, that we need to liberate ourselves from the "base" experience. But really it is only our lust we need to be liberated from (it is the paradoxical impulse that seeks to enslave us through our desire to be free). Wonder needs to be reigned in, disciplined.

As I've said before wisdom determines a limit, a limit to belief, which is essentially the same thing as checking our capacity for limitless wonder. Love frees desire from our receptivity to slavish lust.

But I don't want to put either wonder or lust down. There is an aesthetic component to this liberation and de-liberation. Lust and wonder indicate a particular kind of pleasure, which the base experience challenges us to pursue. In satisfying it, we may simply addict ourselves to pleasure, or we may find a way to transcend the basic impulse.

Of course, we may also simply repress lust and wonder. Not recommended.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Love is to wisdom as power is to knowledge, as poetry is to philosophy.


Love is to lust as wisdom is to _______.

Hint: ________ is to knowledge as lust is to power.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Poets and Lovers

Wisdom is the master concept just as a love is the master emotion. A concept is a particular clarity that is available to us, an emotion, a particular intensity. All thought seeks wisdom, we might say, just as all feeling seeks love. Whenever we think something, no matter how stupidly or obscurely, we are trying to be wise. Whenever we feel something, no matter how cruelly or violently, we are trying to love. Philosophy helps us to think. Poetry helps us to feel. Beauty is difficult. That's the basic setup.

Philosophers, accordingly, are to sages as poets are to lovers. A sage is not trying to be wise, he just is wise. A sage does not need a philosopher to help him to think. But a philosopher, also, does not need to become a sage. In fact, philosophers have a profound distrust of sages. They seem to be cheating, making it too easy. Simply to "be" wise, is not the same thing as thinking wisely, making the effort.

Poets, perhaps, feel the same distrust of lovers. To just indulge in "the obvious remedy"! That's too easy for the poet. The poet wants the emotion to be a much more delicate instrument, a more sublime difficulty, never accomplished. An art. But one can make an art, too, of the act of love. The art of motor-kineasthetic maintenance?

Does the perfect sage make a fool of the philosopher? Does the perfect lover make a fool of the poet? Is the philosopher always a failed sage? Is the poet always a failed lover? We'll leave these as questions for now.

Friday, April 06, 2012

On Beauty

The thing is to knowing as the person is to mastery. The object is to the thing as the subject is to the person. Beauty is a coordination of our knowledge and our power; it positions the subject in relation to the object. It establishes a proportion.

The experience of beauty is a species of apperception. The exposure to beauty is a posture of the self, the thing knowing itself and the person mastering himself. When we experience beauty we experience ourselves. And the beautiful thing, when experienced, experiences itself. We are but occasions for its apperception.

In his experience of a beautiful woman the lover seeks always his own self. This is easier to accomplish before a work of art. Here the self is brought out and laid bare, but in the comfort of an institution (and an intuition) that has been specially designed to support the experience. A work of art, its beauty, presents a finite sequence of poses, available to the self before it.

With women, beauty is altogether more difficult, the sequence of poses is complete, infinite. A woman's body, its beauty, issues a command. The lover contorts himself to obey it, and in his obedience finds himself, alone. All the more alone as he is successful.

It is forever unclear whether a beautiful woman, like a beautiful thing, when experienced, also experiences herself. It seems unlikely. The lover's art is to show the woman her own beauty, which will reveal her to her own self.

It is easy to exaggerate a woman's beauty. Women themselves do this, as do their lovers. Much pleasure and much heartache results. The trick, as ever, is to keep things in proportion. One does not hold one's breath.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Tractations V

Consider the thing,

present, immediately, in intuition,

as an object to be known

here, some clarity

now, an intensity

as a subject to be mastered

present, immediately, in institution,

the person, considered.