Sunday, March 09, 2014

Poetry and Culture, Philosophy and Nature

Poetry is the most precise means we have at our disposal to engage with culture. Philosophy offers comparable precision in dealing with nature.

I'm tempted to say your culture, your nature. That is, a poem will never occasion a confrontation with culture "as such", and there is of course no such thing. There's only ever whatever culture you carry within you. Likewise, philosophy can show you nature as it inheres in you, not as "it is" separate from your experience of it.

The locus of our philosophical encounter with nature is the concept, which is simply the attunement of our perceptual apparatus to particular things, thus rendered immediately knowable in experience as objects. The temper of our poetic encounter with culture, meanwhile, is the emotion, i.e., the direction of our actual dispositions among particular people, thus immediately empowering us as subjects.

It is by putting these encounters into words, clearly in the case of philosophy, intensely in the case of poetry, that we attain the highest available precision in our engagements with nature and culture.

Language strives towards precision. It articulates us.


Presskorn said...

I know I’ve made variations of the following complaint many times before - but it’s also an very immanent critique, since I take myself to be defending a more purist position that can be derived from the “original Basbøll” of Likeness ;-)

Substitute “Philosophy” with “Science” in your remark. Let science deal with nature. And instead let “Philosophy” be the very act of writing down pangrammatical homologies, i.e. philosophy as perspecious representation. Or what comes to the same, let “Philosophy” be the analytic of Dasein, i.e. an analytic that charts the formal traits of our essential understanding of objects (nature) AND our existential directedness towards others (culture).

In summary: Pangrammaticism would read more smoothly, if it defined “Philosophy” as the pangrammatical notation *itself* rather than as something which figures *in* the notation.

The “purist” version (which reads much more smoothly) is accordingly: In science, we attain the clearest and most precise understanding of nature and in poetry, we attain the most intense and most precise engagement with culture.

Thomas said...

Always a pleasure to see you thinking along. But I'm afraid you're wrong here.

Politics is to culture as science is to nature. But since poetry is to politics as philosophy is to science, poetry is also to culture as philosophy is to nature.

Philosophy cannot know (or even understand) nature, just as poetry cannot master (or even obey) culture. But they can engage with nature and culture very precisely.

Science and politics are forms of representation. Philosophy and poetry are forms of presentation, arts of presence.

Pangrammaticism is not a philosophy. The Pangrammaticon is the perfect immanence of the presentations of philosophy and poetry in experience.

You want philosophy to take credit where it has nothing due. We owe half the Pangrammaticon to poetry. Wittgenstein and Williams, Heidegger and Pound.

Presskorn said...

"Politics is to culture as science is to nature. But since poetry is to politics as philosophy is to science, poetry is also to culture as philosophy is to nature."

I know what your homologies say; I am suggesting you change them. Here's a better homology (derived from "Old School" Likeness):

Politics is to culture as science is to nature. And poetry is to politics as metaphysics is to science. Poetry is politics without mandate, just as metaphysics is science without method.

You might respond that philosophy just IS metaphysics (i.e. an abstact theory of nature). I would then respond that you're giving philosophy less credit than it has due.

Thomas said...

But anthropology (actually, "anthropopathy") is already to poetry what metaphysics is to philosophy.

I'm VERY comfortable with: "Poetry is politics without mandate, just as philosophy is science without method."

I prefer to think that I have gained in precision since Likeness, not lost the way.

I think philosophy betrays itself whenever it strays beyond metaphysics and epistemology (which cannot be detached from ontology).

You would probably like to maintain a philosophical ethics, a philosophical anthropology, etc. But this is all hubris on the part of philosophers. Here we need our poets to help us command a clear view of the grammar.

Presskorn said...

"You would probably like to maintain a philosophical ethics, a philosophical anthropology, etc."

I must plea guilty. That's sort of exactly what I want. But I want this in order to uphold the strict consistency of the pangrammatical references to Heidegger (SZ) and Wittgenstein (PU). If you subtract the possiblity of a distinctly philosophical anthropology from these thinkers, NOTHING is left.

You would be left with the Kant of first critique (barred from the second and third) and perhaps the Wittgenstein of Tractatus. That, I admit, is more than enough to keep you flying, but still...

Thomas said...

Nothing but the grammar is left. And there remains the reality coordinated with it.

In the case of poetry, the coordinated ideality.

I don't want to remove anything from Wittgenstein or Heidegger, I just want to suggest that they weren't just philosophical grammarians. They were also dilettantes on various matters, pseudo-scientists, if you will. Pound and Williams strayed into politics too (one more bombastically than the other, to be sure), the Pangrammaticon is not especially impressed with their positions here.

The Pangrammaticon is not supposed to be a complete reading of them, only a precise application of their results to the experience of grammar.

Presskorn said...
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Presskorn said...

We might be talking besides each other, but charting grammar just IS conducting philosophical anthropology. It is taking note of some of the inexorable features of our life form. Take one of Wittgenstein’s own examples of a grammatical remark: “You cannot hide from God’s view”. It is not a metaphysical thesis, it doesn’t, say, claim or entail the existence of God. Nor is it a scientific description of, say, various forms of hiding. However, what this remark does do is to point a quite inflexible feature of *our* religious concepts. It tells us something about *our* relation to such concepts. It is a piece of philosophical anthropology

Presskorn said...
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Presskorn said...

This I think would also be an example of an observation belonging to a distictly philosophical form of antropology: "Wittgenstein and Heidegger... discovered... that even the most abstract theories are rooted in the concrete practices of those who theorize." (RSL, March 17 2014)

This observation relates pangrammatical "opposites". After all,

Science : Politics
Theory : Practice

From this I would conclude that they were conducting good philosophy, since I would gladly define philosophy as putting the relationship of pangrammatical opposites into writing. That is, charting their conceptual relationship.

Whereas you would perhaps conclude that this proves that Wittgenstein and Heidegger were "dilettantes on various matters"... Or?

Thomas said...

I'd be altogether willing to admit that the author of the Pangrammaticon, when writing at RSL, is being a dilettante on a great many matters.

Certainly, there can be no such thing as a philosophical "discovery", so it's imprecise to attribute such a thing to Wittgenstein or Heidegger, Kuhn or Foucault, qua epistemologists or philosophers of science. As anthropologists, sociologists, or historians, however, (and in that regard certainly dilettantes, amateurs, etc.!) let them "discover" whatever they like.

The Pangrammaticon says that for every statement of theory there is an analogous practical command, for every scientific theory, a political practice. Indeed, we come to understand that the practical foundations of science just is political; (and this is something that every faculty members understands … having learned it, precisely, "in practice".

But to think that this insight is philosophical is to approach it as an instance of "understanding" only. The supplement is important, and poetical. Scientists do not just understand that their foundations are political, they obey it.

The interdependence of our understanding and our obedience is the important thing here. It cannot merely be thought. It must also be felt.

wakawakamamma said...

There can certainly be no such thing as a philosophical discovery. What is imprecise, however, is to classify the reminders that ‘man is practical even when theorizing’ or that ‘we cannot hide God’s view’ as “discoveries”. That there can be no philosophical discoveries is also part of the reason that I initially wanted “philosophy” substituted with “science” as that gives us precision in dealing in nature.

But perhaps our disagreement stems from a slightly different point, namely the status of we might call “the transcendental field”. You seem to be taking the strict Kantian line:

“The locus of our philosophical encounter with nature is the concept, which is simply the attunement of our perceptual apparatus to particular things, thus rendered immediately knowable in experience as objects.”

Whereas I follow Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Foucault and Kuhn - exactly *qua* epistemologists - in accepting a certain “antropologization” of the transcendental field. There are certainly limits to how far such an “antropologization” can go; and a precise way of putting such limits is say that discoveries are disallowed. But we are nowhere near these limits in pointing out that man is practical (Heidegger), that we cannot hide from God’s view (Wittgenstein), that discourses are essential to science (Foucault) or that scientists form a community (Kuhn). There is a sense in which we’ve known these things all along.

Presskorn said...

PS: I too should have taken such an immensely cool name, but regretably "Waka Waka Mamma" is just me blogging from a public computer :-)

Thomas said...

"There are certainly limits…"

I'd argue that your "anthropologization" is simply the mistaken attempt to transcend the transcendental field, which is of course necessarily to go too far. Deleuze does something similar when he asserts, philosophically, a plane of immanence. The transcendental field simply and inexorably marks a limit, the limit of philosophy, which, when we reach it, offers us a sub-lime experience if we respect it. To respect it is to hand the business off to poetry, not to engage in a philosophical, or, worse, a scientific anthropology.

We have a tendency to think of the transcendental field as something beyond which there is a great unknown. A kind of darkness. But this is wrong because to say it is unknown presumes that it is knowable—that it is a darkness into which some light might one day be shed. But this is to make a fundamental grammatical error. The transcendental field marks the limit of understanding, the frontier beyond which nothing can be understood. We misunderstand it only by trying to understand.

Beyond the transcendental limit we find our immanence, which must simply be obeyed or mastered, not understood or known.

The aphorism runs: That which we cannot understand we must obey; that which we cannot know we must master.

The consequence of the unknowability of the "Ding an sich" is precisely that it does not "exist". Before our analysis reaches it, it reaches the limit of limits, the transcendental sublime, beyond which is freedom, i.e., the subject, i.e., you. Inspired.