what I was thinking about ...

“that philosophy and poetry were indeed closely related; they were not identical but sprang from the same source – which is thinking” (1)

At some stage, both poetry and philosophy did hope to find truth. But then, they always have been confronted with the infuriating gap between words and reality…. With the frustrating powerlessness of words to grasp the workings of the world and of the creatures of this world .
However abstract & 'un-wordly', mathematics at least get to reveal the laws of nature.

But words …., the very medium in which we think..., words have proven so inadequate to produce scientific knowledge, all they have produced are Great Metaphysical Fallacies and Untrue Stories.

Just as “poetry makes nothing happen” (2), thinking “does not bring knowledge as do the sciences” nor “does it produce usable practical wisdom”(3).

But then, as humans we crave meaning. And meaning is about thinking. And thinking is about meaning, not about knowing .

[…] thinking and knowing are two altogether different concerns, [corresponding] with meaning in the first category, and cognition in the second. […] The need of thinking is not inspired by the quest for truth but by the quest for meaning . And truth and meaning are not the same. “ (4)

Religion (allegedly (5)) reveals both truth and pre-ordained meanings, sanctioned in hallowed formulas & ready-made rituals, shared by a community. All very comforting & soothing & unchanging. No exhausting thinking needed. And only one Book to read.

Poetry & philosophy – ah, no truth is revealed, nothing’s pre-ordained, much less is sanctioned (even the Canon of writers has crumbled). So much thinking to do for so elusive a morsel of meaning.

But is the alternative then to go without individual thinking, to go without this dialogue with the many tentative stories woven throughout the ages? What kind of meaning-less society would that produce? (6)

Stories constitute together, and referring to each other, the proof of our presence “ (6) (7)

Thinking inevitably produces footnotes:
(1) Hannah Arendt – The Life of the Mind
(2) Says the Poet: W.H. Auden
(3) Confesses the Philosopher: Heidegger
(4) Hannah Arendt – The Life of the Mind
(5) Allegedly – such a lovely word!
(6) Marc Reuyebrink
(7) It’s only in a footnote that I would dare to quote Baudelaire’s pathetic outcry in “les phares” (about how the great artworks troughout the ages are « ardent sobs”, and the best testimony of human dignity): “car vraiment seigneur, c’est le meilleur témoignage que nous puissions donner de notre dignité, que cet ardent sanglot qui roule d’âge en âge et vient mourir au bord de votre éternité »


Roxana said...

I was waiting for the snow to fall here as well - as predicted :-), after we had terrible snow storms in the rest of the country - to comment on your previous post, but somehow snow refuses to come :-)

I 've just had a conversation with somebody these days trying to explain the difference between 'wissen' and 'kennen' in german, and to my big surprise I've discovered there is no such distinction in english. but then: 'wissen' would be about scientific knowledge and 'kennen' about a (deeper) meaning? just speculating.

and the big question, yes - why do we keep on writing poems, painting a.s.o.

Roxana said...

ah, and thank you for being my lawyer on my blog :-)

ffflaneur said...

hey R! 'wissen' and 'kennen'... interesting. Actually, Arendt herself makes the Kantian distinction between Vernunft & Verstand. Translating "Vernunft" as "Reason" (occupied at 'thinking') and "Verstand" as "intellect", involved in cognition.
You make we wonder about the 'kennen' - I'd translate it as "understand"? There's the connotation of the grasping of "meaning" in understanding, no?

But anyway, whether or not any of our utterances are ever understood, this much is clear: anything you say can and will be used against you! ;-)

PS wonder whether a fresh snow-storm wouldn't tempt you back to your blog?

ffflaneur said...

PPS no no I'm quite wrong there - to understand is rather the translation of "verstehen" - can't indeed think of any equivalent for "kennen" --- what would it be in french? is it like the difference between savoir et connaître? & in Romanian?

Roxana said...

yes, it would be something like savoir et connaître, we also have this in romanian, 'sti' and 'cunoaste'. I was discussing this with somebody else and he meant that the difference was not at all significant and that's why it was understandable that english merged the two into one 'know'. but I don't agree, if french, and german, and romanian (and other languages too) have found it to be so important as to build two different verbs for it, then perhaps there is somehting here, and I would very much like to embark on a heideggerian quest about it, but hélas, mes moyens sont si limités :-)

[fresh snow storm? that would be something, who knows, maybe maybe :-) but still no trace of it, let's just sit patiently round the fire, sip our bitter teas and wait and see what happens :-)]

ffflaneur said...

not a bad strategy :-) "let's just sit patiently round the fire, sip our bitter teas and wait and see what happens "

Dutch makes the same distinction: weten ("wissen") & kennen (um,"kennen") .... surely we're on to something very deep , R!!! :-) I just know...
- ah ..... after that bitter tea and after having seen what happens might we not go on that Heideggerian quest after all ... :-)

Anonymous said...

Mathematics does not reveal the laws of nature; it operates on its own as a system of pure thought, and is only sometimes, and randomly, compared to the workings of nature. It can be completely wrong, obviously. Nature remains inexplicable. And mathematics reveals more and more about itself. It would be as easy to assert that poetry reveals the workings of nature; and that would be fanciful also.

ffflaneur said...

@ lloydmintern : "mathematics operates on its own" - yes, but thanks to this most abstract of thought processes one can exploit (laws of )nature. Through maths one can, say, calculate the amount of fuel a plane needs to cross the ocean or the maximum weight a bridge can carry etc. Even on fanciful days I wouldn't rely on poetry for that.

But I definitely would be as fanciful to say poetry can reveal what nature means to a sense&soul endowed being.

Anonymous said...

Oh, sure, mathematics can be of great practical assistance. But the general fact remains that poetry is more related to nature, or you might say more interested in nature. But we agree that neither is synonymous with it, or gets to the absolute truth of it. My attitude (the poetic) is that nature is inexplicable, caught up in a mystery of origins we can't fathom. As are people, who don't know where they came from either. The question (poetically), is how these two mysteries ultimately square.

ffflaneur said...

"The question (poetically), is how these two mysteries ultimately square." : that pretty much (poetically) sums it up