Monday, July 30, 2012

Enemies of Enthusiasm

I think Edmund Burke was right to say that "a great clearness is the enemy of all enthusiasm whatsoever." Fortunately, clarity and enthusiasm are not proper pangrammatical supplements. Clarity is to philosophy as intensity, not enthusiasm, is to poetry. Poems should not produce enthusiasm at all. Likewise, philosophy should eschew profundity. Ultimately, philosophy and poetry are the enemies of profundity and enthusiasm, two entirely dispensable (and often distasteful) states of mind and heart. In their place, they put clarity and intensity. Philosphy clarifies the appearance. Poetry intensifies the surface. Out of the depths. Down from the heights.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


This clip will soon be the substance of a post on the point where this blog intersects with my other blog. (Hat tip.)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Philosophy as an Art

This paragraph from T.S. Eliot's "The Possibility of a Poetic Drama" has never left me. It many ways, it expresses the spirit of this blog:

In the works of Maeterlinck and Claudel on the one hand, and those of M. Bergson on the other, we have the mixture of the genres in which our age delights. Every work of imagination must have a philosophy; and every philosophy must be a work of art—how often have we heard that M. Bergson is an artist! It is a boast of his disciples. It is what the word “art” means to them that is the disputable point. Certain works of philosophy can be called works of art: much of Aristotle and Plato, Spinoza, parts of Hume, Mr. Bradley’s Principles of Logic, Mr. Russell’s essay on “Denoting”: clear and beautifully formed thought. But this is not what the admirers of Bergson, Claudel, or Maeterlinck (the philosophy of the latter is a little out of date) mean. They mean precisely what is not clear, but what is an emotional stimulus. And as a mixture of thought and of vision provides more stimulus, by suggesting both, both clear thinking and clear statement of particular objects must disappear.

Wittgenstein said that philosophy should be composed in the manner of poetry. I think he's right, but I don't think this means that philosophy is poetry. I agree with Eliot that philosophy is an art, and that it is the art of forming thought beautifully. Poetry is another art. Any attempt to conflate the two, which is often what is meant by people who declare philosophy to be an art, is only likely to obscure the problem, which is probably what they want. Thinking precisely, i.e., clearly, is difficult. Feeling precisely, i.e., intensely, is difficult. Beauty is difficult.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012


In the Guide to Kulchur, Ezra Pound tells us that "metaphysics [is that] about which no man knows anything save what he finds out for himself." (P. 47) In Being and Time, Martin Heidegger expresses the same attitude in more formal terms: "The Being of [the entity to be analysed] is in each case mine." (H. 41) This should remind of us something: the problems of existence are only ours to solve; and we solve them only in our own case.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Epiphany and ?

Epiphany comes from the root verb phainein, "to show". The prefix "epi" means "to" or "on", i.e., an epiphany is a showing-to.

There must be a pangrammatical supplement. Epiphany is to philosophy as _________ is to poetry. But I fear I will have to resort to neologism.

First we must find the supplement of "show". It will be to "doing" as "showing" is to "seeing". When we are shown something we are meant to see it. When we are _____ed something we are meant to do it.

We are not ordered to do it, just as the showing does not force us to see anything. It is merely offered to us. So perhaps we are looking for something like implore, or beg.

As for the prefix, "epi-", it seems to me that we must replace it with "endo-", i.e., from within.

What we need, I think is a Greek word for "pleading-in".

"Deomai" seems to fit the bill, and it gives us "deésis" ("felt need", "urgent want") as well. So we've got our word: endodeésis, which would mean literally "an urgently felt inner need", a "pleading from within". It might be suitably anglicized as endodesy.