Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Love and Becoming

In this clip, Derrida says some intelligent things about love and the origin of philosophy. He points out that philosophy starts with love, and in particular the difference between the "who" and the "what" of love. The fundamental question of philosophy, he rightly says, is "What is it 'to be'"? And he cites a beautiful definition of love: "the movement of the heart".

Now, I'm always interested in how this relates to poetry. And I would argue that Derrida is here replaying the move by which philosophy tried to muscle poetry off its proper turf. After all, philosophy does not start with love, but with the love of wisdom. (Poetry, by contrast, is the wisdom of love.) The philosopher is not concerned with the movement of the heart but with the ________* of the mind.

Just as emotions emerge from love's basic movement, so concepts emerge from the basic ________* of wisdom. If the basic question of philosophy is "What is it to be?" then the basic question of poetry is always "Who is to come?" That is, who is my love bringing forth. In the other, of course, but not less in the self. If I have a criticism of Derrida's improvised remarks here it is that his presumption that, whether love is of a "who" or "what", its reference is outside the self. I don't think that's true. The "who", the "singularity", that is the real "object" of love, always includes the self who loves.

Love is the movement of the heart by which people become themselves. Wisdom is the ________* of the mind in which things are what they are.

*I thought "coherence" might be the right word. But it isn't. So I'll leave it as a question: what is to philosophy as movement is poetry? Stability? Permanence? Rigour?

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