Sunday, July 01, 2007

Philosophy and Poetry

The Chronicle has an article by Carlin Romano on Richard Rorty (1931-2007): the View From Somewhere that provides a light and interesting take on the life of the maverick philosopher.

While the world of letters and history hash out the finals of his significance, there are some interesting ideas that stood out to me in the article.

Romano cites Bertrand Russell's words: "To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it."

As a poet, I'm interested in this statement. It makes me wonder how poetry can relate to this process, especially in light of Dirac's famous remark:

"In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite."

This, of course, is not an absolute truism, but is an interesting point to bring into consideration.

According to Romano, Rorty suggested a philosopher might be considered "somebody who remaps culture — who suggests a new and promising way for us to think about the relation among large areas of human activity."

Isn't that idea of being one who remaps culture interesting for artists and poets?

Romano writes:
"It might seem that a thinker who stressed the contingency of vocabularies but kept adopting new tags for his position — "neo-Hegelian," "quietist," "polytheist" — suffered from self-contradiction. Such a view would misunderstand Rorty's unconcern for a vocabulary that "fit the world." A pragmatist to the end, Rorty saw adopting new terms the way a doctor sees alternate therapies: a set of options, one of which might solve "the problem," which was not representing the world, but achieving our purposes."

There is liberation within this, I suspect.

I'm going to tie this post off with a classic quote from Leonard Cohen: "There is a crack in everything: that’s how the light gets in.”

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