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Critical Theory Book

Critical Theory Book

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Critical Theory As It Is

In Defense of a Classical Education


Carlos Aureus

Critical Theory As It Is
In Defense of a Classical Education

Contents Page I. Preface ………………………………………………………………… II. Introduction: What is Critical Theory? ………………………………….. III. The Classical Background: Mimesis ……………………………………… A. Plato: Introduction …………………………………………………………. B. Plato: Republic (Books II, III, and X) ……………………………….. C. Aristotle: Introduction ………………………………………………………… D. Aristotle: Poetics …………………………………………………….. E. Horace: Ars Poetica …………………………………………. F. Longinus: On the Sublime ………………………………………… IV. The Medieval Worldview. …………………………………………………… A. Plotinus: “On the Intellectual Beauty” ………………………………… B. St. Augustine: Semiotics . . . . . . ………………………………….. C. Manlius Severinus Boethius: Consolation of Philosophy …………. D. St. Thomas Aquinas: Aesthetics and Hermeneutics …………………… V. The Neoclassical Tradition: Decorum ………………………………… A. Sir Philip Sidney: “An Apology for Poetry” ……………………………. B. John Dryden: “An Essay of Dramatic Poesy” …………………………… C. Alexander Pope: An Essay on Criticism VI. Epistemological Bases of Romanticism …………………… A. Edmund Burke: A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful ………………………………… B. Immanuel Kant: Introduction ……………………………. 2

C. Immanuel Kant: Critique of Judgment ……………………………………. D. Friedrich von Schiller: Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man……. E. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Introduction ……………… F. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: The Philosophy of Fine Art ………… VII. The Romantic Imagination ……………………………………………………. A. William Wordsworth: Introduction …………………………. B. William Wordsworth: “Preface to the Second Edition of Lyrical Ballads” C. Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Biographia Literaria ………………………….. D. John Keats: On Negative Capability and the Egotistical Sublime ……… E. Percy Bysshe Shelley: “A Defense of Poetry” ……………………………. VIII. The Poetics of W. B. Yeats in A Vision …………………………………………… IX. Epilogue ………………………………………………………………………………… ………… X. Appendix A: The Euclidean Poetry of Alexander Pope ………………….. XI. Appendix B: Course Syllabus …………………………………………………………………… XII. Biographical Notes …………………………………………………………… XIII. Glossary ……………………………………………………………………… XIV. Bibliography ………………………………………………………………. XV. Index …………………………………………………………………………



he title of this book is Critical Theory As It Is. It is not critical

theory as viewed through the contracted lens of postcolonialism or postmodernism—or any other “ism” for that matter. It is none of the 3

above. It is critical theory Ding an sich. In a word: Critical Theory With No Hidden Agendas. Not that the above “isms” are objectionable. They are not—per se. They have a purpose and a function in their own right, in their own time, in their own place and in their own state of affairs.1 But this book is not about ideologies; it is about theories. As teacher of critical theory, I cannot help interacting with factions—their name is legion—where eschewing the classics as obsolete has become part of the current social gestalt.2 As a result, classical education as an intellectual thoroughfare today is strewn with many roadblocks. For some, the teacher of the classics seems, at best, a generalist who wanders too widely, who simply follows the election returns. For others s/he is a narrow particularist, one who speaks only to an elite group. Admittedly, these common censures of classical education have some empirical truth in them, especially when one considers how lackadaisical reflection can hide beneath theories taught under the rubric “tradition,” or how ultra-conservative agendas have provided for the real motivation for some infantile claims. And yet, on the whole, the above charges are unjust and damaging to the true value of classical education and to the wider culture which needs the particular form of public meaning that only genuine classical education provides. This book will argue that classical education is a need It is regrettable, to say the least,3 that students taking courses in the Humanities enter classrooms with very little or no exposure to the classics. Consequently, they never even hear of it, even in courses taken as electives. Even for the three groups—European Languages majors, English majors, and students who, on their own conviction, have been convinced of the cultural and practical value of even a little exposure to the classics—disenfranchisement has become a fact of life. Into the lives of such mature students, it is a pity and a lost opportunity to put teachers who in pace and in thought are haters of the classics. As a result, Critical Theory of the classical tradition is no longer part of the intellectual equipment of our students, even students of the best colleges and universities. True it is that a majority of intelligent students read and discuss the works of Foucault, René Girard, Derrida, Edward Said, et al.; or display knee-jerk excitement over anti- and/or

This study, however, does not reject different perspectives. On the contrary, we firmly believe that different perspectives invigorate and enrich our study. (This recognition and appreciation of various perspectives will be amplified below) What we object to is the “my view is the only true view” attitude. 2 “From time to time, a cry has gone up that all critical theory before a certain date is now mercifully obsolete, that one may safely ignore it.” —Hazard Adams, “Introduction,” Critical Theory Since Plato, p. 1. Note: unless otherwise indicated, Critical Theory Since Plato refers to the Revised 1992 edition. 3 Disastrous is the more precise word.


It is the “What Is” that really grabs them. I have no quarrel with Philippine folk and regional literature. but they do not know what or where exactly their eminence rests on. nationalized. translation studies. I know for a fact that young students of today are interested in critical theory and are much more readily engaged by exposure to—and unadulterated presentations of— original primary texts. Ding an sich. Maslow (1966). The Psychology of Science: A Reconnaissance. Horace and Longinus. We owe the students the best and only the best of the best. so to speak. most well-educated students are familiar with the names of Plato and Aristotle. and nothing short of it. It also seems to me that teachers who deliver their message by means of the stunts and tricks characteristic of the faddist are not being honest. “englishes. it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail. and we do that by presenting critical theory as it is. p. What I find ghastly inappropriate is the way we think that young people can understand and appreciate everything. Do not be bamboozled by the faddists. including critical theory itself. But Critical Theory of the classical tradition remains a closed book.4 bamboozle the intelligent public with inanities. unhomeliness. social. I myself do write in my native vernacular (Bicol) because I feel most comfortable in the tongue of my native town. By sugar coating the primary sources and presenting them through biased bromides. popular culture. hold aloft the torch of liberal education. To “unravel” that mystery is the intent of this book. To these teachers I say. no hidden agendas. Why these names have become bywords more than two millennia after their deaths remains a mystery to them. Instead of creating for us responsible work informed by profound thought and extensive honest-to-goodness research. I disagree with the so-called postcolonial ideologues and their award-conscious cronies who. protest literature. 1966. Aquinas and Augustine. instead of concerning themselves with the more serious ethical. There's no need for me to amplify this further to the passionate few dedicated to having our students appreciate literary theory and criticism. No gimmicks. 5 . in the sense that they are defeating their own purpose of winning new converts. feminist literature. teachers are actually teaching counterproductively. congratulating each 4 Maslow's hammer: "When the only tool you have is a hammer.” Abraham H. or nativized.post-colonial discourse/s. the majority of these creatures are too busy admiring each other. and spiritual concerns.” and all that. It seems that we are not confident enough to let the works speak for themselves and as themselves. nativism. only if we make it “trendy” and forcing us all to see everything through the jaundiced eyes of postcolonialism. armed with Maslow’s hammer. Whatever the reasons. 15. regional postcolonial writings. Maurice Basset Publishing. whether they be hybridized.

The moral. the majority of my colleagues are oblivious of the limits of academic jargon.other. academicians have become addicted to their own frameworks and expect others to become addicted too. Critical Theory As It Is is meant to be a manifesto for a new vision of culture that is both classical and radical. Opera Omnia. Basel. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. promoting each other. p. We have not been responsible. 1554. that day marked the beginning of my country’s cultural and literary backwardness. masturbating each other. where the source is given in a footnote. This quotation comes from the English translation of Mommsen's article. To do so would be to invite the superior smiles of the people in the know. intellectual. awarding each other. and spiritual bankruptcy of our time is visible most plainly in the cancerous state of contemporary academia. anthologizing each other. “although they were surrounded by darkness and dense gloom"6 the day marked the beginning of our new dark ages. academic writing these days has become unreadable even to the educated. in Petrarch. New York: Oxford University Press. new social and critical theories have proliferated as rapidly as the problems have appeared. postcolonial cultural establishment is philosophically empty and esthetically distorted. our period of cultural and economic decline and disruption. Ed. and in this book I thus examine the social reality of a classical education. 1995. 6 . no deliberate melodrama intended. Academicians have not fared well either.5 Today. The postmodern. Until now. True. Ted Honderich. But the meaning and warrants for my claim can be argued. the august albeit brainless members of the mutual admiration societies. Indeed. Why radical? 5 Karl Popper. Yet no one is brave enough to explain this distortion or give a satisfying answer to the question of the proper role of liberal education in our society. 702-3. Few have been brave enough to articulate ways and means that will lead us out of the labyrinth of mediocrity. Pseudo nationalism is worse. Apologia cuiusdam anonymi Galli calumnias (Defence against the calumnies of an anonymous Frenchman). 1195.” where we move and act like prisoners trapped in the framework of our own theories so that communication with others of different frameworks has become virtually impossible. yet very few of these have reached out to address basic mainstream problems. This is even worse than what Karl Popper calls the “Myth of the Framework. The day the jingoists and pseudonationalists brought their ungrammatical Tagalog into the classrooms. titillating each other. The writing is full of conceit (passing for so-called intellectual labor) yet so lacking in substance. and without extending its pejorative use and expanding its scope. 6 Francesco Petrarch (1367).

and plaster of paris. citing their naive rejection of civility. a Horacio de la Costa. no solemn music. but their successors have forgotten. reach out. You have to clap your hands. The bankrupt tribe of mediocrities. Attending church services these days is no different from attending a meeting of the Kiwanis club—or a political rally. greet each other. I have seen old sacristies renovated and transformed into multi-purpose halls. And no respect for privacy. their ignorant denial of tradition. baskets full of fruits. We need our literary counterparts of Caravaggio who can weave grand religious themes from the everyday world of peasants. I am not a traditionalist of the conservative kind. On the other side of the fence. order. I wonder if there will be anything left to Catholicism to distinguish it from other Christian churches: no incense. With parish priests behaving as if everything were their property. Critical Theory As It Is takes the middle way even as it aims to take us past the wreckage of postmodernism and postcolonialism to recover the classical tradition and values in the humanities The recovery of classical values in the arts. feel sociable. I have seen old buttresses built to last hundreds of years torn down and replaced with cement posts. or a Hans Urs von Balthasar. The difference between the unthinking traditionalist of the conservative kind and a genuine traditionalist of the classical kind is as day/night dissimilar as the difference between a Pat Robertson or a Mike Velarde and the profound respect for tradition as shown in the theology of a Paul Tillich. Our present clergy have replaced the baroque with the generic. harmony. no awe. no votive candles. paper mache. ugly old men. and right reason is imperative even if it means unlearning fifty years of nonsense to re-absorb their lessons. and calesas without appearing obviously “religious.Because liberal education can never be politically correct. such as beauty. I have seen chandeliers removed from ceilings and replaced with fluorescent lamps. Liberal education goes deeper than politics—even as it includes it.” Or literary Bernini’s who will write of fiestas and evening 7 . Arnold Bennett’s “passionate few” understood this. who now infest the academe. no stained glass windows. and their lazy dismissal of the classics. is a case in point. a Bernard Lonergan. conservatives who call for a return to conventional values seek a socially "safe" vision of art that has never existed and never can. whether that correctness comes from the Right or from the Left. Am I a traditionalist? You can bet your bottom peso I am: an unbowed traditionalist of the classical variety at that. Post-conciliar Catholics would not leave you alone. meaning. I have seen old manuscripts burned because they took up space. I have seen ivory statuettes replaced with paint-coated statues made of plastic. no mystery.

mocks “an upstart Crow” who. but his astronomical ideas were often rejected in favor of the geocentric theories of Aristotle and later Ptolemy until they were successfully revived nearly 1800 years later by Copernicus and extensively developed and built upon by Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton. They choose wild courses of their own.” Greene here parodies a line taken from Shakespeare’s very early play Henry VI. 7 8 .” this “bumpkin” from the province was not a member of Greene’s exclusive “university wits.1797). Aristarchus of Samos ( 310 BC – ca. Acknowledgments Edmund Burke Irish orator. supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse” and “is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey. Robert Greene. After some time. will turn out to be a transition at best to a still different ideology. 230 BC) is the first known person to present a heliocentric model of the solar system. both as an actor and as a dramatist. Meteors are very bright stray fragments that break away from the natural orbit.”7 this book is my humble two cents’ worth. it is clear from his remarks that Master “Shake-scene” was already quite well known.” What matter if our voices are as yet unheard and crying in the wilderness. with “his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde. Ours is a small band of law abiding citizens of the universe who know enough. One has only to look up at the night sky to see from a larger perspective how this postcolonial schlock. part 3. To quote that oft-repeated passage from Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. surveying the literary scene in London. You do not need to belong to academia to enjoy my book. like all ideologies that preceded it. We will not be intimidated any longer by meteors. Hop in and join in. and therefore care enough. & politician (1729 . In fact.processions with passion without having to chant “Amen” after every sentence. A whole chapter is devoted to him in this book. In his Groats-Worth of Wit (1592). You may also see a meteor or two. If you look up at the night sky. What galled Greene was the fact that this “yokel. you will see many stars and heavenly bodies that follow the natural laws. you do not need to attend my classes at university at all to be my friend. however. they are drawn into the natural orbit of some law abiding planet and are dissipated. The Poet Himself did not attend university. philosopher.

because most of the insights you will find here have been derived from lectures and writings by some of the best teachers in the world. for doing me the honor of recording my lectures live—a gesture that has obligated me (in a very pleasant way) to scrupulously weigh and consider every word I released in these classroom lectures. Dr. organization. I want to give the reader a minimum of overt scholarly apparatus by including only I say that in all humility and honesty. so to speak.com 9 Arnold Bennett. For this book. content footnotes. and substance of this book. Judith V. and make use of their lectures in my classes. Grabiner (the Flora Sanborn Pitzer Professor of Mathematics at Pitzer College) to draw from. These are the passionate few that Arnold Bennett writes about. adapt. They are my co-authors.9 the few who have devoted their lives honing areas I have barely scratched. I have decided to curb the spur. I want to acknowledge the following Dr.blogspot. Louis Markos (Professor of English at Houston Baptist University) and Dr. the absence of direct references to authorities in the text can no longer indicate a lack of indebtedness. Elmer Ordoñez of the University of the Philippines (who introduced me to the Hazard Adams book). “Why a Classic is a Classic.” A Textbook in Freshman English. In particular. however. I would also like to thank my students in Classical Latin for urging me to finish this book. are my responsibility alone. I must confess that I too have been guilty of this tendency. and provide the reader instead with as few sources as possible for just one reason: In an on-line age such as ours.I would like to thank the University of the Philippines for granting me a sabbatical to write this book.8 The keen interest they have shown me in their eagerness to learn the classics in general and critical theory in particular has not only inspired me but has also greatly contributed to the enhancement. Edilberto K. however. Many manuscripts submitted for publication often drag along with them a heavy freight of bibliographic cross references. I am extremely honored to be granted permission by two of the finest professors in the world. graduate and undergraduate. pp. The deficiencies that remain. My purpose is to preclude the tendency to overwhelm the reader with a long list of sources one can easily locate by accessing on any on-line bibliographic database. reference footnotes. Students here will hear the echoes of my first teacher in critical theory Dr. Tiempo of Silliman University (who introduced me to the Smith and Parks book). Elizabeth 8 All the lectures in this book (vide Appendix B: Course Syllabus) have been recorded live and may be downloaded at http://carlosaureus. I would like to thank my students. 9 . 352-4. and annotated bibliographies to impress upon the reader the amount of research done and the meticulousness of documentation that have been dug out. and the echoes of my mentor and adviser Dr.

Dr. C. but probably 10 . They could not have said it better. I heartily recommend that you purchase a copy of Hazard Adams’s Critical Theory Since Plato (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers). I am not in this world to complicate my life) this work would never have been finished without Sarah’s technical expertise and infinite patience. and X of the Plato’s Republic. for Lyrical Ballads. Pennsylvania. for Socrates. Michael Sugrue of Ave Maria University in Florida. Willard Spiegelman of Southern Methodist University. my thoughts are heavily vectored on. Dr.” Hegel. I have “stolen” various insights which could not be said better and I heartily admit it by sedulously becoming the mouthpiece of the gods. Plato. there is nothing else to buy. and Boethius. California.Vandiver of Whitman College for my chapters on Plato. John M. John Sutherland of the University College London. for example. and sedulously borrowed from and whose works. the 1971 or the 1992 revised edition would do just fine. Philip Cary of Eastern College in St. Bowers of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. for Plato and Poetry. Dr. Dr. Claremont. Recommendation To get the most out of this course. liberally. It is the “one-stop-shop book” I can heartily recommend to anyone interested in a comprehensive treatment of the subject of critical theory. I sometimes make use of the 1971 first edition in excerpting passages. Horace. Dr. I wish to express my gratitude to my student in Latin Sarah Jean Morato for all the various sorts of technical help that I have received while writing this book. for Wortdsworth. for Plotinus. I could not improve on them. In fact. if the reader may have come to have read them. Because I am a complete idiot in computer technology (I only want to write a book. Augustine on “Signs and Sacraments. Stephen Erickson of Pomona College. Darren M. in this present study. dearie. Dr. Finally. Aristotle. Dr. In a word. Staloff of the City College of New York for Hegel. Davids. These are the experts I have brazenly. I have used the translation of Horace’s Ars Poetica by E. I have tried my best to provide all the bibliographical data in the bibliography and wherever I see fit when what I say is derived. If you cannot purchase the latest edition. Not that the former is better than the latter. Wickham instead of the 1992 translation by Walter Jackson Bate. I have been using Adams’s book in teaching Critical Theory ever since the early 1970s and it is the one companion book I shall be using all throughout the course in pointing to all the primary sources in this study. if you have Adams’s book. I can only be their mouthpiece. Dr. and Augustine. This is the one textbook I believe you should have as companion to this present book. for Kant and Hegel. Augustine. David Roochnik of Boston University from whom I have drawn Books II. III. Shelley’s Aeolian harp.

for 10 The complete publication data of these five books and all other sources cited in this study are provided for in the bibliography found on the last pages of this book. from the Greek περιπατητικός (walking about. co-editor). After these two books. This book is written in that style. This may be true. W. James Harry Smith’s The Great Critics: An Anthology of Literary Criticism (Third Edition. My passion for literary theory actually began with exposure to this jewel of a book (we used to refer to it back then as the “Smith and Parks”) and the passionate manner in which it was taught by the late “Arnoldian” critic Dr. Boulton) Tillyard. meandering). Norton & Co. but sometimes I make use of dots. that is why it does not follow the usual paragraphing. The patio outside the study hall where we used to walk back and forth to discuss the Summa Theologica is no longer there. itinerant. sometimes of the outline. I would also highly recommend (in the same breath). while Plato is literary. Ed Winfield Parks. systematic. 1951. If your funds permit. H. unliterary. all to make the point as effective as possible. W. Edmund. The Mirror and the Lamp10 ____________. E. Monroe C. It has often been heard that the Aristotelian style which is dry. albeit not inappropriate. M. when I took this course under him at Silliman University way back in June 1970. 11 . This habit of thinking while walking is a habit that my Philosophy professors inculcated in me ever since my seminary years to the effect that until now I cannot think if I would not pace the floor. but the habit has remained with me for the rest of my life.I have gotten so used to the Wickham version over the decades to feel more comfortable with it. James T. M. The Elizabethan World Picture A word about the book’s style of writing Aristotle’s style of teaching—walking back and forth with his students while lecturing—has been called the Peripatetic style of teaching. Edilberto K. Aristotle taught in the groves and covered walks of the gymnasium in the Lyceum. Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism Burke. it would be helpful if one could “warm up” to the study by pre-reading the following what I believe are essential sources in advance by way of preliminary in getting the knack and feel of literary criticism: Abrams. Tiempo.. But literariness is not a prerequisite. concise. a great critic in his own right. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (Ed. wandering. A Glossary of Literary Terms Beardsley.W.

while still others in paragraph form. laconic. The overall aim was to make the lessons highly interesting and exciting and I wanted to maintain that excitement all throughout. there was no need to further elaborate. I did not allow myself to be confined to the same number of pages for each chapter. I have chosen every word with care. It was conscious and deliberate and it worked well for teaching purposes. To adjust my chapters to conform to a uniform number of pages would be to torture them according to their size in relation to the bed of Procrustes.theory. I have applied Occam’s razor when appropriate. 12 . In trying to achieve this task. if followed. others in bullet form. Then I suggest you read the outline or chapter I have provided in this book. of course. To get the most out of this course. Some chapters are long as some are short. etc. In a simul-sense cyber environment where teachers have to compete with myriad distractions to the effect that the student’s classroom attention span has become virtually non existent. Aristotle’s (and Plato’s) works survive not because of their literariness or their lack of it but in spite of it. Some deserved a long chapter. I shall present a different approach. Book VII of Plato’s Republic). I shall use several presentations and employ what I think will engage the students today: the outline approach. Better yet. while listening to the lecture. This is the reason why some outlines are constructed in the traditional outline form. The outline approach compresses in distilled language what may otherwise take a whole long-winded essay to explain. underscore. will stand any student in good stead in preparing for an examination. write marginal notes. that I would use. Whatever style was most effective. I have left out irrelevant detail and concentrated only on the highlights. I suggest that the you read the primary source first to be found in Hazard Adams’s Critical Theory Since Plato (for example. If the nature of the subject required a more “Aristotelian” (and later “Aquinian”) dry style. and amplified only when necessary. pencil in asterisks. Even a cursory reading of the book will demonstrate how I have tried my best to make the outlines as curt. while in others. and the audiodownload approach. We guarantee that this format. while listening to the audio lecture. and will eliminate the burden of endless re-reading and re-viewing and sorting through endless information to find which material is or is not important. and to the point as possible. the classroom-lecture style. The best yet is to listen to the lecture while writing on the primary source (Hazard Adams’s book) PROVIDED IT IS YOUR OWN PERSONAL COPY. Both philosophers chose their style appropriate for their purpose. once the point is argued.

The freedom to study anywhere and at any time. I am also providing a PDF file of this book. and frequently effortless way. I have tried my best to record these lectures in such a manner that while listening to the audio. the student would feel like I’m right there with him in the study room.com you will find the banner Critical Thinking instead of Critical Theory.) When you open my BlogSpot http://carlosaureus. while travelling. and why it is the banner of my BlogSpot: Critical thinking is not about “criticizing” other people. etc. which cannot be replaced even in an on-line age like ours. while waiting your turn at an office. The PDF file buttresses the lessons with extensive added materials like glossaries. two senses—sight and hearing—are maximized. and the student may choose to download it. Although these audio lectures are not meant to substitute for the classroom experience itself. I guarantee you can master the course in a semester. By using this multi-sense approach to the ancient tradition classroom teaching. Among the benefits you may find in this strategy are the following: A better focus. to transfer the audio lectures to your mp3 player and play it while on the jogging lane. The student may find it beneficial if she read the particular lesson while listening to the audio lecture at the same time. These classroom lectures have been recorded live in order to walk the student step-by-step through the course s/he is enrolled in. They are also meant to help supplement. Nor is it about passing judgment on anybody. The students could then listen to them on the same day they were delivered. links to related websites. bibliographies. time-saving. for example. biographies. My premise is that we all make mistakes and we appreciate it when someone helps us see them. Allow me to have a word more about these audio lectures: About the Audio CD/Download The audio CD/download that goes along with this book is originally intended to provide my students with an audio version of my classroom lectures as soon as they had gotten home. I would usually upload them first thing upon arriving home myself. A more organized and time-saving review. By listening to them even an hour a day. and organize the student’s efforts in reviewing for the final examination. (You may choose.blogspot. I hope to be able to bring the excitement of learning critical theory into your home or car or jogging lane. A word about Critical Thinking. they are made available here to help maximize the student’s learning experience in an efficient.My audio lectures are about an hour long each. We 13 . as well as suggestions for further study. In this manner. focus.

Like Professor Louis Markos of Houston Baptist University. 12 Apart from Keats’s extended metaphor. 336. and as humans we are prone to misjudgment. “What an Intellectual Is—And is Not. Your friend will not be doing you a favor if s/he told you your theory is brilliant when in fact s/he thinks it is actually rotten. to ignorance. xvii ff. Introduction12 What is Critical Theory? 11 Morton Cronin. first and foremost. it is about helping each other. 14 . for example. people who are jaundiced. I have borrowed the analogy of travel here from Steven Lynn’s Texts and Contexts. p. Yet his object is not to score debating points.” and he is impressed when his own questions evoke that reply. people full of dead theory sanctified by time and naturalized by indolence. We find out for ourselves whether or not a thing is true on the basis of evidence supported by right reason. I have designed it in such a way that anybody may hop in and join the fun. points out that our car has a flat tire. Failing to understand things as they are is no crime. Why do we make mistakes? Because we are human. act on those opinions.” In A Textbook in Freshman English. we appreciate it if someone tells us that our theory or claim is unfounded. as well as dialectic. not through authority. College education addresses these problems and hopes to remedy them. For him the pursuit of truth must be cooperative. he will glow with health and good humor in an argument. to stupidity. the eagerness—to subject her views to critical discussion. In college. Morton Cronin in his essay “What an Intellectual Is—And is Not” describes this most succinctly by citing the intellectual’s important characteristic as the willingness—indeed. According to Cronin: If he [sic] is a good example of this type. I believe that “knowledge must not be walled up in the academy. It is easy for him to say “I don’t know. The problem arises when people with un-theorized and mal-informed opinions poorly thought out. and in my case. learning is reached through right reason and proper investigation. We should not say “I am going to study. to oversight. Likewise. It’s a safe bet that the majority of other human beings do not have a right view of things as they are. not about winning or putting down somebody else and coming out on top. . bigoted. but must be freely and enthusiastically disseminated to all those ‘who have ears to hear. Critical thinking is about learning and understanding.” Instead. biased and naive. College thinking IS critical thinking.’” Learning is fun. we should say “I am going to have fun!” So hop right in.appreciate it if someone on the highway. In that sense. .11 Although I have crafted this audio project to serve my students. and all the pleasure vanishes when that pursuit turns into a mere contest of wills with his interlocutor. .

A tourist guide will provide you a plan (i. V. I shall provide you with that map. IV.. Literary works. Before the end of this chapter. Let me be your literary tourist guide. Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes He star'd at the Pacific — and all his men Look'd at each other with a wild surmise — Silent. it is a good idea to travel with an experienced tourist guide. III. are like exotic places we love to visit. Yet did I never breathe its pure serene Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: Then felt I like some watcher of the skies When a new planet swims into his ken. Round many western islands have I been Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. in this sense. —John Keats (1795-1821) On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer I. A. an itinerary). D.Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold. B. your money back! Literary theory and criticism is no different from the tourist trade in that it brings order and organization to our experience of the places we love to visit. A. as a good salesman would say. A tourist guide will tell you what you should look for. II. This is my guarantee—or. Whether one travels alone or with a companion. C.e. Oft of one wide expanse had I been told That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne. It brings us to focus our attention on the relevant areas. rewarding trip. And many goodly states and kingdoms seen. To maximize the benefits of these journeys. there is always romance in voyaging through strange lands. 15 . a map. upon a peak in Darien. literary works. A tourist guide will make sure you have a satisfying. like Keats’s realms of gold.

13 At this writing. therefore. Photo courtesy of my student Sarah Jean Morato. B. the Banaue Rice Terraces. Ifugao Province. Still some others in religious and spiritual tours.VI. VII. Different agencies feature different kinds of tours. Endorsing variety. Philippines. B. Another specializes in historical tours. C. Others in cultural and artistic tours. have an understanding of various critical theories and practices. you need not only have spent some time with your specialization but also to have some clear idea of the kinds of tours available. 16 . in the Philippines.13 To be a good tourist guide. Is there one correct interpretation of a literary work? A. Just as there is no one best place to view the breath-taking Banaue Rice Terraces. A. One agency specializes in cultural tours. D. In the field of critical theory you must. VIII. so there is no one best reading of a literary work. spiritual tours mean guided tours to native healers and healing shrines. A. B. It allows us to make sense of what we see. You must be able to combine and adapt. however. B. The Eighth Wonder of the World. Critical theories are like the different travel agencies through which the various tour guides generally work. doesn’t mean that all opinions are equal. IX.

as well as what sort of audience is likely to be influenced by different critical strategies (better for whom). 1. By the very nature of theory. They are relative to different geographical areas and historical epochs. attempting not only to explain how to use various critical approaches. but also to consider what purposes different approaches are likely to serve (better for what). Better for what? b. there can be no universal perspective. (let there be) no dispute. C. . I personally prefer to be overwhelmed by the panoramic view of the terraces. twenty-first century ad hoc education especially has become vulnerable to the charge that it no longer carries classical liberal arts education to a high enough level of importance. XI. B. 17 . the good critic may have to be a good little critic. e. The most telling reason why Critical Theory of the classical tradition remains a closed book to many is because it is excessively difficult reading. this book aims to provide an introduction to the minds of the great critics—the spiral of development in consciousness and culture. You may want to be impressed by the skillfully devised irrigation system built thousands of years ago by the great Igorot race in the absence of modern machineries. always determines criticism. 2. All perspectives are relative to different individuals and different communities. De gustibus non est disputandum. More important. A. which is expectation. Theory. Just because we marvel at the rice terraces from the viewpoints.14 This book aims to address your preferences.” 14 In matters of taste. required courses in critical theory are being replaced by the more trendy creative writing courses. Some vantage points are arguably better than others. “The good critic cannot stop with studying poetry. But then: a. . Better for whom? c. .X. Because of this. he must also study poetics. we need not also agree that all vantage points are satisfying to all. XII. d. If he thinks that he must puritanically abstain from all indulgence in the theory. As a result.

until relatively recently. 18 . 1. a craftsman or a person possessed? 4. Of what use is poetry to society? 5. To alter our perspectives. critical theory as it has diffused into considerations of intellectual history. For the same reasons we read literature. This is the traditional approach. I shall use the word “Poetics” both in its expansive sense. still Περὶ ποιητικῆς. to signify the theory of poetry. to denote the concept of critical theory itself.15 Some questions that are asked in critical theory: 1. • • Critical theory. 4. The World’s Body In this book. Περὶ ποιητικῆς. • • • 15 Jonathan Culler’s definition. 1997. XIII. indeed. 16 Ibid. social prophecy. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. more alert. Does poetry bring us closer to or farther away from “Truth”? 3. Oxford: Oxford University Press. then. and in its contracted term. critical theory was basically synonymous with nothing other than the criticism of poetry. more observant. Our approach will be narrower and more focused. 3. Is the poet an artist. Is the poem a self-enclosed artifact the meaning of which is timeless and transcendental or is it merely a product of material and social forces? In our present study. moral philosophy. Where is the ultimate starting place of poetry traced to? 2. To broaden our horizons. 1. To bring our keenness of perception into every department of our lives. or other interdisciplinary themes which are of relevance to the way humans interpret meaning16 will not be our main concern. To make us more perceptive.—John Crowe Ransom. p. So why study theory? A. even if our discussions can be applied to literature (and art) in general. 2. is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. in his book. and will consist in confining our study to critical appraisals of poetry.

poetry has been privileged above prose and has been considered a distilled form of writing. in literature.17 Mimetic theories consider the poem as an imitation. Theory is difficult because it makes us think—and think with abstract ideas. A. Passim. These theories say that the best poem is that which comes closest to that which it seeks to imitate. In science this enterprise is called theory. See “General Introduction. 1. poetics. It forces us to examine our assumptions. or how it affected the audience (affective). M. B. realities. The Four Basic Critical Orientations • • • • • • • • • XIV. a representation. H. It makes explicit what is implied. C. Abrams of Cornell University classifies critical theories according to their critical orientation.” 19 . They also lay down rules for judging both the skill of the poet and the taste of the reader. and (4) in its own verbal structure (objective). The time-honored defenses of art and song have been defenses of poetry. (2) in the audience it finds (pragmatic or affective). Pragmatic theories emphasize the reader’s relation to the work. whether natural or supernatural. not external. XV. Critical Theory Since Plato (First Edition). In The Mirror and the Lamp. Objective theories (not within the scope of this book) focus on the poem itself and its internal relationships—the poem as its own self-contained microcosm following its own inner laws. Expressive theories say that poetry is the reflection of internal. D. Theory undermines reading as an innocent activity. or a copy of the world. We shall take up the first three orientations which will come up again and again in the course of our study.• • By tradition. These theories assess whether the poem teaches and/or delights. locating the poem (1) in the nature it copies (mimetic). They explore the impact the work has on its readers. (3) in the author (expressive). 17 Theory is difficult. Poetry has a personal (not social) and prophetic (not didactic) function. 2.

” You define your statement and articulate the elements that make up a good movie. 1. It is not interpretation. XVI. . B. or what I would like to call a “theoretical stance. . Universals. and this is done for a very good reason: 1. whether you like it or not. General laws.” depend on a certain theoretical stance. You know what to look for. not a reaction paper. First we ask: “What do I think about poetry?” And then. . such as “This is boring. to you. XVII. 2.” that is a theoretical stance. How did Aristotle handle the theory of poetry? 20 . like theme and style. It assumes that. to repeat what John Crowe Ransom has said earlier. 2. is known by his poetics. a movie must entertain. just because . I dunno . Even the theory of basketball has been thoroughly inquired into. or (if it’s a play or a movie) watching. after starting with our own assumptions. 3. No discourse about literature is theory-free. In literature. Essences. As a movie “critic” your statement has just identified a specific movie that failed your test. The above stance includes the assumption that the purpose of literature includes entertaining the reader. it is the same.A. It is the “science” of literature. . Even the simplest acts of literary response. So. 1. A good critic. A. and tell your friends “this movie is boring. and the critic’s job includes identifying works that fail this test. You are guided by some “elements. we ask— 2. Theory may be defined as the deeper investigation into the nature of an activity. What did Plato have to say about poetry? Or— 3. Theory is the absence of reading as an innocent activity. . then. You have a theory in order to make sense of the work you are reading.” When you watch a movie. for example. All human activity has a theory. and it consists in having: 1. . When asked why the movie is boring. you do not merely shrug your shoulders and say “ahh . listening to. basta. B.” or principles. A. Poetics means the general theory of literature. of literature. The purpose of studying these great critics from Plato to Yeats is to expose you to the way they think. not a term paper. you have at theory. 2.

and the romantic). the medieval. second. This section will take up the difference between Plato and Aristotle in the concept of mimesis. and fourth. I am including Horace’s “Art of Poetry” and Longinus’s “On the Sublime” in this module. the semiotics of Augustine (whose science of sign systems paved the way for later theories of allegory). too. we shall limit the boundary of our study to enclose ourselves within the perimeters from Plato to Yeats only. The lowest of the sciences was poetry. the prince. theology was described as the highest. and the Platonic distrust of poets by Boethius (who viewed poetry trivial by comparison to theological pursuits). Although other critics may disagree with me. Here is a rundown—the “map”—of the main sections that will make up our study: Part One: The Classical Background. 21 . This module will take up the NeoPlatonism of Plotinus (who gives poetry a much higher position in his system). instead of calling them neoclassicists. The poet’s mimesis. because although less theoretical than Aristotle and even less moral than Plato. Finally we read what these great critics have to say about these questions. Likewise. It will be seen here that in the medieval times. This module shall also examine why Plato banished the poets from his ideal republic. Aristotle saw reality as a process by which the Form manifests itself through the concrete. Horace’s practical instructions on the art of composing poetry are ancient Greek in mindset. the hermeneutics of Aquinas (whose fourfold interpretive system opened up the possibility of discovering multiple meanings in poems later). it is hoped that you will soon find/discover/formulate your own poetics. we shall confine ourselves to close readings of representative primary. in this section. By doing so. we shall focus our sights by imposing upon ourselves four limitations: first. therefore. texts. and why Aristotle refutes this by calling the poet not only an imitator but also a creator. the neoclassical. of the sciences. Longinus’s treatment of the sublime balances and blends inspiration and rhetorical mastery in the tradition of ancient classical rhetoricians. B. we shall confine ourselves to critical appraisals of poetry only. is an analogue of this process. Part Two: Medieval Aesthetics. third. In order to make the most of our “guided tour.4. we shall concentrate on four theoretical periods (the classical.” rather than attempt an exhaustive survey of Literary Theory and Criticism. Whereas Plato saw poetry as twice removed from reality. hence his inclusion. not secondary.

” In Hegel’s Philosophy of Fine Art. Coleridge. especially as this relates to decorum—a favorite word of neoclassicists. Sidney defends poetry from traditional attacks: that it is a waste of time. along with restraint. speaking not of concepts but of intuitions of nature and of the self. This. I daresay. is the most difficult but rewarding of the modules.18 Yeats turned his back on 19th century science because of its extreme emphasis on a rationalistic. a seminal work which set the tone for much of German aesthetics. and that it teaches sinful things—traditional complaints that go all the way back to Plato.Part Three: Neoclassical Criticism. and Keats—poets deeply speaking intimately to the reader. those of the beautiful and those of the sublime. and Hegel. and gravitas. and Pope then lay down the rules upon which aspiring poets may achieve excellence. In Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man. reductionist. verisimilitude. and a more comprehensive soul.” Needless to say. This module presents the poet as a human being “endowed with more lively sensibility. Sir Philip Sidney’s “An Apology for Poetry” begins this section which deals with the neoclassical temper. we shall learn about two fundamental drives. and why these drives demand reconciliation in a higher drive which Schiller calls the “play drive. the sensuous drive and the formal drive. who has a greater knowledge of human nature. more enthusiasm and tenderness. We shall take up the great Romantics Wordsworth. and the romantic forms of art in search of a perfect incarnation. 22 . Along with Dryden and Pope. decorum. instead of discussing “The Symbolism of Poetry” that is found in the first edition of Hazard Adams’ book. than are supposed to be common among mankind. and materialist 18 Irony is one of my favorite words. to discuss A Vision because the work is in my opinion the best showcase of a poet’s poetics in the fullest display of his powers resulting in a grand synthesis of irony. In Kant’s Critique of Judgment we shall look into two kinds of aesthetic judgments. Part Five: The Romantic Imagination. that it is the mother of lies. Sydney. I have chosen. the classical. This module shifts the attention from the relationship between poem and reader (affective) to that between poet and poem (expressive). Shelley. determinist. we shall follow the “Idea” as it travels into concrete form through the symbolic. prefacing them with a general outline of the creeds of epistemology in Edmund Burke’s An Inquiry into the Sublime and the Beautiful. Schiller. and discuss how they differ from each other. Part Four: German Epistemological Roots. this is the easiest and the most agreeable of the modules. Dryden. We shall take up the theories of Kant. Part Six: William Butler Yeats’s Poetics in A Vision.

—Alfred North Whitehead “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here. To anyone who asks me what is meant by finding one’s own poetics.” —Sign on the door to Plato’s Academy in Ancient Athens Abstract 23 .universe. But his excursion to the mystical furnished him with an architectural structure more comprehensive and sensible than the science of his day. Plato Introduction The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. Welcome to the world of Critical Theory. I recommend a cursory glance at A Vision.

and after Socrates’ tragic death. in this chapter. Socrates asked questions. Plato went home. There is an anecdote. Plato has a rather ambivalent attitude towards poetry. Though himself a great literary talent. Socrates asked more questions. burned his tragedies and never wrote tragedy again. The young Plato excitedly read aloud some of his tragic poems. Plato. The young Plato wanted to enter these tragedies in the contest that the ancient Greeks held during the Dionysian festivals. To find out why. He wanted to win a prize for tragedy. the teacher’s negative impression of poetry and poets were passed on to the student. So Plato and Socrates met. They have a kind of sacred madness which makes them write things that they themselves do not understand. we shall narrow our focus and examine Books II. Plato says no: the real corrupters of youth are these poets who perhaps are divinely inspired but don’t really understand what they’re doing. In the next chapter. Plato. Socrates was condemned to death because his accusers say he corrupted the youth of Athens.19 Plato also paid his teacher the greatest of compliments by making Socrates the main speaker in everything that Plato wrote hereafter. founded the Academy in Athens. we shall present. Alas. Poets are dangerous mis-educators of the youth. Aristotle was Plato’s pupil here for nineteen years. which dramatizes why Plato disapproves of poetry. albeit apocryphal. We start with Plato because he was the first critic to narrow his focus on poetry. and often the harm they do is irrevocable. The Academy was closed in the Middle Ages. The story goes that Plato first made the acquaintance of Socrates after the former had written a cycle of tragedies. At the end of their dialogue. and X. What actually transpired in that initial dialogue between Socrates and Plato we can only surmise. 19 The Academy lasted for some 900 years. in fact. decided it would be best if poets were banished from his Republic. which examine why Plato banished the poets from his Republic. all poetics in truth begin with Plato (even if Plato himself never used the word “poetics”). 24 . What we do know is that Plato had become Socrates’ student. an overview of Plato’s philosophy as it relates to our question. Plato answered as best he could. Plato’s incisive investigation into the nature of poetry formally inaugurates the business of poetics. about the first meeting of Plato and Socrates. and why our study of poetics begins with him: Although Aristotle’s Poetics is the earliest extant treatise of literary theory. when fashioning his ideal Republic.A prefatory word about Plato. is the FIRST critic and the first CRITIC of poetry. the first University in the Western world. III.

and thus thrice removed from the truth. 25 . Mathematics. we need to start looking father back into his theory of the divided line. Everything has an archetype behind it. the Idea of the Rose. we see cases of just men and just actions. Plato tells us something about the relationship between the blurry statements we make about the world of sense experience and the exact statements we could make about eternal reality. In other words. Whether or not the metaphor accurately describes reality remains a philosophical question. We experience justice because Justice existed in the Ideal World. The nearer it is to the archetype. Plato's metaphor of the Divided Line is chiefly derived from the mathematical ideas of ancient Greek geometry. Take the case of beauty. and D. beautiful vase that we see are individual beautiful entities. Plato uses this metaphor to stand for his teachings about reality. so we come up with the idea of Justice. The Idea of Justice is the reality. and knowledge. being. beautiful rose. millions of them. We shall return to this central concept when we discuss the reasons why Plato thought lowly of poets and poetry in the next chapter. C. There are many varieties of roses. This is obvious. The beautiful girl. The viewpoint can be extended to any department of everyday experience. we no longer belong to the Form but to the Concept of Beauty. but there is one archetypal Rose. we know there is such a thing as justice because of the evidence of just men and just actions we witness in the world. independent of whether or not men were just. Plato says the contrary is what is true. Whether men were just or not. By using the divided line. for example. beautiful rose. the more beautiful it is.To understand why Plato thought lowly of poets. the less beautiful it is. As the name implies (“divided line”). isn’t it? No. it is a metaphor borrowed from mathematics. let us draw a line and divide it into 4 parts: A. • To construct Plato's divided line. The painting of a beautiful girl. The farther it is from the archetype. Take a rose. and Plato’s Metaphor of the Divided Line What are archetypes? Normally. your legs beautiful? Because each is a window through which one glimpses the archetype. Justice remains as a selfexistent Reality. B. and beautiful vase are images or shadows of the individual beautiful entities. When we think of the Idea of Beauty. your foot. Archetypes. The Idea of Beauty is the Form of Beauty. Why is your face beautiful? Or your hand.

clas... 3. Side B represents objects of sense experience. Side D represents the forms or ideas or the purely intelligible. Side A represents images. including living things and objects made by art.. .html 26 . Side C represents the objects of mathematics. Side A can be called imagining. 2...edu/users/rhatch/HIS-SCI-STUDYGUIDE/0019_platoDividedLine.• The names under A and B pertain to the world of becoming. and the names under C and D pertain to the world of being... 20 source: http://www. 2. Plato’s Divided Line20 World of Being Becoming World of 1. Side B can be called belief. 1.. 4.ufl.

1. E. B.. where one may begin by looking at drawings or physical spheres but where one soon progresses to the actual objects of mathematics. The soul is drawn from the changing to the real by the study of mathematics.. and D. and D corresponds to the differing degrees of “reality” on the part of the things the segments represent. The way we come to the truths of mathematics is hypothetical: They are true provided that the basic axioms are true. This suggests that the sphere is more real than a basketball. The truths on the fourth level are somehow reached by dialectic and require no hypotheses. If we call the segments (starting from the left) A. F. B. One ascends the divided line through education. A. C. We prove that it cannot. and (A + B)/(C + D) = A/B.. like the idea or form of justice or of beauty. But the objects of the world of thought are unchanging and eternal. I.. and therefore statements about them are always true.. There is.. We ask whether the divided line. 4. D. and those on the fourth. The objects of the world of sense are subject to continual change. The relationship between C (the objects of mathematics) and B (physical objects) is the same as the relationship between B (physical objects) and A (images). because the latter is merely an image of the sphere.. B. B. C. 3. and education is designed to draw the soul from the changing to the real. which can be seen only with the eye of the intellect. 2. It is clear that Plato knew more than enough mathematics to be aware of this.. we have these relationships: A < B < C < D. a difference between the objects on the third level. can actually be constructed geometrically. however. the objects of mathematics.. as described. 27 .Side C can be called thinking. A/B = B/C = C/D. The relationship between the segments A. and statements about them are fuzzy and (a modem person might say) only probable. A. Side D can be called intelligence. . C. 3. although the basketball is more real than its circular drawing/image.

Here is Plato’s famous Allegory of the Cave from Part Seven. the human condition is likened to prisoners chained in a dark underground cave where all they can see are shadows on a wall. a fire is burning. 317ff.” The Allegory of the Cave Plato's view of knowing and being in his discussion of the divided line is elaborated further in his story of the cave. We will conclude this lecture by discussing how Plato uses the way we learn mathematics and formulate mathematical ideas as a model for his influential account of the relationship between everyday experience and reality. II. in front of which a curtain-wall has been built.’ 21 Translated by Desmond Lee in Plato: The Republic. By experiencing the objects of mathematics. In one of his most famous passages. ‘I see. • The most famous of Plato's metaphors is the story of the cave. where Plato likens the human condition to being able to perceive only shadows of reality. and between the fire and the prisoners and above them runs a road. One can see from this lecture why Plato placed mathematics at the heart of education. 28 . behind and higher up. we come to realize that there is a world of intelligibles. We ask what the philosophical meaning of this conclusion might be for Plato and whether this is consistent with the views we have attributed to him. above which they show their puppets. their legs and necks being so fastened that they can only look straight.’ as wide as the cave.C. So. like a screen at puppet shows between the operators and their audience. like numbers or circles or triangles. with a long entrance open to the daylight and ahead of them and cannot turn their heads. of things that can be grasped only by the intellect. pp. In this chamber are men who have been prisoners there since they were children. Book Seven of the Republic. Revised 1974. "Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here. A. as it is said. the door to Plato's Academy in Athens read.21 The dialogue is between Socrates and Glaucon: ‘Imagine an underground chamber like a cave. We will see how Plato uses the cave metaphor to further illuminate the nature of reality and knowledge. London: Penguin: 1955. Some way off.

B. C. I replied. Eventually his eyes get used to the sight and he realizes this is what is real. and mistake these for reality. He prefers to return to the coziness of the cave. A prisoner is unchained and dragged out of the cave. he has become a “weirdo. At first he is temporarily blinded by the light. as you would expect. would they not assume that the shadows they saw were the real things?’ ‘Inevitably.’ ‘And odd picture and an odd sort of prisoner. In their eyes.‘Imagine further that there are men carrying all sorts of gear along behind the curtain-wall.’ ‘Then if they were able to talk to each other. do you think our prisoners could see anything of themselves or their fellows except the shadows thrown by the fire on the wall of the cave opposite them?’ ‘How could they see anything else if they were prevented from moving their heads all their lives?’ ‘And would they see anything more of the objects carried along the road?’ ‘Of course not. inevitably. facing the wall all their lives. D. F. Behind them are a fire and a road.’ ‘And if the wall of their prison opposite them reflected sound. Out at the mouth of the cave. and that some of these men. tell me. mountains. they would not 29 . whenever one of the passers-by on the road spoke.’ ‘They are drawn from life. and his fellow prisoners tell him: "See what happens when you try to get to higher things.’ • • Book 7 of the Republic describes prisoners chained in a cave." G. The prisoners hear the echoes and see the shadows cast by the fire onto the wall. the sky. he sees trees.’ ‘And so in every way they would believe that the shadows of the objects we mentioned were the whole truth. E. don’t you think that they would suppose.’ ‘Yes. projecting above it and including figures of men and animals made of wood and stone and all sorts of other materials. that the voice belonged to the shadow passing before them?’ ‘They would be bound to think so.” and if he tries to lead them out of the world of shadows. A. rivers. At first he cannot see clearly in the relative darkness. people walk and talk. are talking and some not. and between the fire and the prisoners. For. He returns to the cave to save his fellow prisoners.

and so this part of the ascent of the divided line draws the soul from the changing to the real. IV. then plane and solid geometry. So the process by which we move from seeing the cantaloupe. The metaphor of the cave enriches our understanding of the process of moving up the divided line from the changing to the real. A. Plato's curriculum starts with arithmetic. but turning the soul in the direction of greater certainty and reality (we moderns might say. then. is not stuffmg people's minds with information. Such is the fate of the world’s great teachers. when a person does an evil thing. The form of the good renders things intelligible on the top half of the divided line. like moving from the study of the probable to the study of the certain). and then the harmony that governs it all. and music or harmony. This. I think it is far safer to enter a room filled with gunpowder with a lighted match than to teach the Thing As It is. The process by which we go from shadows to real objects is like the process by which we go from real objects to the objects of mathematics. Plato here strongly. became the quadrivium of medieval education: arithmetic. then astronomy. unthinking majority. through the work of Boethius in the 6th century. III.believe him. but when a person teaches us the way out of our prison caves. They would not even hesitate to kill him for teaching “dangerous things. B. because it goes against the grain of the nescient. nobody bothers to educate him. astronomy. 1. then astronomy. then music. then 2 for plane and 3 for solid geometry. The soul is best drawn from the changing to the real by studying examples of that which does not change. When a person does a useless thing. 2. and influentially. the basketball.” H. B. prescribes the study of mathematics for the philosophers who are to rule his ideal society-and for all of Western education. understood not as the study of physical stars and planets but as the pure mathematical motion of geometrically perfect solids. few seek to restrain him. as the Sun renders things visible on the bottom half. geometry. the whole world will condemn him and destroy him. C. and the Moon to 30 . Education. This is rather like 1 dimension for arithmetic. I. A.

The Agora was also the venue of “kapihan”22 groups where congregated the more outspoken. no mass media stuff. He wrote nothing and naturally had no 22 This is akin to a late night talk show. no newspapers. D. the metaphors—and the central role mathematics plays in them—will have to do. disagreements could not be decided by appeal to Truth. Sophós means wise and sophistēs is one who makes a business out of wisdom. Plato has Socrates say that he cannot explain exactly how this works. they were not interested in the big questions. but in the mechanics of things. The phrase “sophistic reasoning. discussing everything from politics to metaphysics. would not be able to follow such an explanation anyway. they went to the Agora. So.” or sophistry. 3. 31 . III.understanding the sphere involves turning the soul more toward the real. The Hellenistic race was interested in everything. Their bitterest opponent was Socrates. a central place. connotes specious argumentation used for deceiving someone. and that Glaucon. but by rhetoric. to the nature of man and the universe. to whom Socrates is speaking. The sophists were considered smart. Plato calls the analogous process. a poor mason and carver who taught but charged no fee. Plato Republic (Books II. In the dialogue. dialectic. a market place. They commanded a very high fee. Into this world entered the sophists. In other words. Unlike the Athenians. or an informal round table discussion over cups of coffee. When people wanted the news. travelling “university professors” who were not from Athens but converged in the Agora to instruct and edify anyone—for a fee (we call them “donations” today). where open air “parliaments” were held. and X) Athens at the time of Socrates had no printed books. from the origin of things. which takes us from the hypothetical treatment of mathematics to grasping the nonhypothetical first principles of knowledge of the forms. Here lawsuits were tried and here sentences were meted out by a jury elected by the people. C.

” He was offered pardon if only he would stop talking.” The executioner asked him to stop talking because his incessant talking was preventing the poison to take effect immediately. Hesiod’s story of the fight between Cronus and Uranus (relate story 23 The story goes that Socrates traced his ancestry back to Daedalus.publication. the Ding an sich. to stimulate. and speaker. because. For example. One of the more famous of the dialogues is the Republic. In an academic setting. is written by way of an appendix. Plato discusses music first. was not to instruct but to bring to birth. Book X. Through question and answer. teacher. they carry a broader meaning. Socrates continued lecturing. For Plato. Athens sentenced him to death because he “corrupted the young. he would not qualify for tenure. This is because music is fundamental in shaping young minds which are impressionable. He said he could not stop talking because “the unexamined life is not worth living. the last book of the Republic. the thing as it is. says Plato. Gymnastics includes the education and care of the body. “is to administer the poison. my job is to talk until the end. “Your job. The Republic is a work that deals with (1) the examination of the Good Life. and (2) the education of the philosopher rulers. apparently in anticipation of reactions to Plato’s ideas on censorship taken up in Books II and III. The dialogue occurs in the house of the aging Cephalus on the occasion of the feast of the goddess Bendis. Books II and III deal with censorship. unlike his teacher. but the claim is precarious to lock it in alongside other urban legends. 21) The music (in the Platonic sense) that the young are exposed to must be politically correct.. Plato set up the Academy and taught and wrote voluminously—twenty extant volumes of dialogues—with Socrates as main character.e.23 After Socrates’ death. The student’s name is Plato. Education is the second most important constituent in Plato’s Republic. It is ubiquitous. Plato saw to it that the characters in this “drama”were subordinate to the ideas and arguments of the work. Athenians would refer to him as the proprietor of a thinking shop. There are two components to education: gymnastics and music. beneficial to the Republic. These are misleading terms in English because each of them connotes a narrow meaning. His wife would nag him daily for neglect of family. and his martyrdom caused one favorite student to change his life-goal from politics to philosophy.” he said to the executioner. He was a gadfly.” (Adams. i. he said. through critical thinking. His aim. Thus it is imperative for the rulers of the Republic to “establish a censorship of the writers of fiction. the perfect life can be led only under ideal conditions. he would give the sophists enough rope to hang themselves. was of aristocratic birth. 32 . The more contemporary connotation of music is what we think of as the media. music includes all forms of literature.” He died as a symbol of free speech. Plato. cultural activity in general.

This can never be included in the curriculum of the education of the young. “lest they engender laxity of morals among the young. the gods must be depicted as good and as always doing good. The purpose of education in the Republic is the character formation of the future philosopher-kings. Once. Odyssey. he not only belabors his issue with poetry by censorship. a word that’s uncomfortable to most of us. The most famous statement “I would rather be a serf on the land of the poor and portionless man than rule over all the dead who have come to naught”26 is one “obnoxious” passage Plato would have to obliterate.”24 That is the stuff of weaklings.from Encyclopaedia of Greek Mythology) must not be told in the Republic. This story must be censored. If the father of the gods can treat his own son like this. and as a result the son is crippled. but also makes haste to banish the poets altogether from his Republic.” he says. 27. 33 . Cronos was one of the early gods. They are mere “shades” of their former existences. or even attack authority—and that can have devastating consequences in a Republic. The heroes must be shown as brave. then that opens the door to all illicit behavior on the part of those of us here on earth who hear these stories. Such a story legitimizes rebellion against authority. Only then would she be in a position to act rationally. This is a clear case of child abuse and marital strife. 489. Homer tells stories about gods warring against each other. challenge. 24 25 26 The passage refers to Priam in the Iliad. and restriction. Uranos was his father (cont in Encyclopaedia) – a weird and disturbing story. Zeus throws one of his own sons from the great height of Mount Olympus. No child should be exposed to evil until her character was formed. XI. never weeping or wailing. Books II and III are therefore engaged in a massive program of censorship. Here. In the Odyssey. calling each man loudly by his name. terrible. Perhaps the most famous are the quarrels between Zeus and his jealous wife Hera. this is how Homer depicts death.”25 We may ask: Isn’t this a one-sided kind of education? Plato says yes and he makes no bones about it. as result of their quarrels. • Book X is also overtly the best evidence of Plato’s aversion of art. 414. “rolling in the dirt. The dead are miserable with no substantial existence. Adams. Death must never be depicted as something negative. to be feared. XXII. Odysseus goes to Hades and finds it an absolutely dreadful place. regulation. Homer depicts the gods as not always doing good. It is dangerous to young people who might be encouraged to question. Again. In Plato’s version of poetry. “Let us put an end to such tales.

34 . therefore. he is not imitating the Form (“tableness”) of the table. the first of his two arguments against poetry. A. Imitation. and to these we give the same name (as we give the idea). but presenting us with an imitation of the ideal Table. there are two kinds of worlds. for our present purpose. 3. but they are united in being a table. They do not come into being. Take the word “table. because it imitates what is already an imitation (the carpenter’s table). because one important feature of the forms is that they have always existed. “We have been accustomed to assume that there is one single idea corresponding to each group of particulars.” This word has a very general meaning.27 in our case the Idea of a table. found in Book X. it is an unreliable source of truth. Poetry appeals to the irrational side of our psyche. Again. is twice removed from Truth.” The Theory of Forms takes its bearing from language. any instance of such a group. A painter imitates the table that the carpenter built. is but a pale copy of the perfect.” “Let us take. 1. and as such.” “But there are only two ideas or forms of such furniture— one the idea of a bed. It refers to all the particular tables that exist in the world. 2.• The metaphysical critique of poetry is grounded on Plato’s Theory of Forms. Let us elaborate on this. Every single one of them is different from another. from objects to ideas. A carpenter who imitates the idea of the table builds a particular table. 1. poetry engages 27 The idea of a God producing the idea is problematic because it actually contradicts the idea of forms. God produced the Idea. Because of that. are there not?” “Yes. Everything in our world. unchanging originals of the world of Forms. When a poet describes a table. is twice removed from reality (the Forms).” “I do. Our physical world of Becoming is but a shadowy reflection (mimesis) of the ideal World of Being. Unlike mathematics or philosophy. The keyword here is imitation—or any form of artistic representation. Poetry. there are beds and tables in the world—many of each. the World of Being and the World of Becoming. 4. the other of a table. Plato’s concept of mimesis branded poetry as an unreliable source of truth. therefore. for Plato. which we apprehend by way of our rational (Apollonian) powers.

• • that part of our psyche that is both illogical and irrational (Dionysiac). one who benefits 35 . two techniques characteristic of the high culture of Periclean Athens. 2. The poet. The Platonic dialogue. is in actuality a moving beyond the form of epic and tragedy. therefore is possessed by a madness and not in control of himself when he writes. but by possession. Plato disapproves of this. He spoke not by art or skill. a man of reason and logic. however. He was able to contrive/invent a new kind of poetic mode or poetic genre called the Socratic Dialectic. and therefore his claim to teach rules of conduct from Homer was absurd. He was a “specialist” in Homer. we have a new kind of hero: not a tragic hero but a philosophical hero. Plato was such a profound and gifted poet. Socrates concludes that only songs offering innocuous praises to the gods and the state will be allowed. in the Platonic dialogue. albeit written in excellent dramatic style. The rest would be banned. 3. eschewed poets and poetry not because they were ineffectual but because they were effective! With some misgivings. The good rhapsodes could hold their audiences spellbound and move them to laughter or to tears. which is an inappropriate method. Conclusion: The Philosophical Hero . But Ion also lectured. a weakness in character which leads to his downfall even as it incites in us pity and fear. A rhapsode is a “song-stitcher. Instead. a style which is loaded with profound teachings. 2. He made a living by giving public recitations of epic poems. This irrational part of the soul is not only unreliable in matters of truth but also dangerous. 3. For all his dramatic talents. A tragic hero has a tragic flaw. Socrates suggested to Ion that his skill was due to divine madness. why would he want to do this? Because what Plato wants is not a tragic hero. Socrates/Plato. Ion was such a one. 1. 4. being a man of passion and violence the way a Homeric hero is—improves men rather than worsens them.” a “reciter” of songs. In Socrates’ time there was a rhapsode by the name of Ion of Ephesus. But the Platonic dialogue is meant to move into a new art form which tries to remedy some of the defects which Plato himself points out in tragedy as a whole. one who—instead of killing people. and Socrates disapproved of this.

” In a given society. Anaximander (everything arose from water). “Good ethics. Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky (Russian: Ио́ сиф Алекса́ ндрович Бро́ дский) (24 May 1940 – 28 January 1996) an anti-Plato SovietRussian-American poet said that Plato’s subordinating aesthetics to the ethics was wrong.the world rather than destroys it. et al.” he said. one can witness Raphael’s famous fresco entitled Scuola di Atene. not the other way around. which ought to be given priority. Pythagoras (the famous theorem). ethics or aesthetics? Aristotle Introduction In the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican. Any candidates? Questions for discussion: 1. because aesthetics is the mother of ethics. If one focuses in the center of 36 . “does not create the masterpiece. Heraclitus (you cannot step into the same river twice). the Atomists Democritus and Parmenides (basic elementary principles). 2. I have often been asked: Why were most ancient and medieval philosophers men? Thales of Miletus (everything is made of water). one who takes upon himself the obligation to raise the standards of the world rather than gratify its passions.

Aristotle brought Plato back to earth. the concepts of idealism and realism. and existed beyond the (imperfect) physical body. Plato holds the Timaeus. how can they exist separately? If they were the cause of things. If the Forms were the essence of things. When Aristotle’s famous student Alexander the Great died. He only left it to go to the Greek city-state of Assus after Plato’s death. Aristotle. grey. for example. we need to think in terms of definitions. how can they exist in a different world? The soul to Plato was non-physical. starting with elements and building up to complexity. To Aristotle. and better dressed. when Plato’s nephew Speusippus inherited the Academy. wise. one can see Plato on the left and favorite student Aristotle beside him. while Aristotle's horizontal forward gesture represents his empiricist views.” That knowledge should be logically structured. This is best illustrated in the theory of Forms. he argued. and postulates. What distinguishes the figures.the painting. is so common that its intellectual originator is so often forgotten. especially the insistence that the purpose of learning is practical and pragmatic rather than theoretical or speculative. while Aristotle his own Nicomachean Ethics. but of different ways of looking at the world. Aristotle then founded his own school The Lyceum in 335 BCE. Plato is pointing upward to the heavens. He was Plato’s star pupil. By contrast Aristotle is relatively younger. Plato's upward vertical gesture represents his Theory of Forms. axioms. fine-looking. That originator is Aristotle. as depicted by Raphael. the soul was a subtle physical substance. were interested in the same questions. and austere. is the way in which they gesture. It is not a question of which is the better temperament. no lover of hemlock he. But their answers and methods were different. To understand the mind of Aristotle. fled the city “lest the Athenians should sin twice against philosophy. The gestures are significant because they indicate central aspects of their philosophies. Both. 37 . while Aristotle thrusts his right hand forward with palms facing solid ground. It works both ways: looking back and looking forward. Aristotle taught that there is only one world and we’re right smack in the heart of it. I think we are born either predominantly a Platonist (idealist. with the latter’s emphasis on concrete particulars. however. The soul was imprisoned in the body. composed of fine gossamer material. Plato is painted as old. dualist) or predominantly an Aristotelian (realist. so fine that it lacked inertia but which vanished when the physical body vanishes (as the sharpness of a knife vanishes when melted in fire). substantial. Aristotle studied under Plato and stayed in the Academy for nineteen years. feathery. the latter being poor imitations of the former. Plato taught that there were the Forms and there were the things. pluralistic) in temperament. eternal.

St. to see what it is meant to be. or purpose. Thomas Aquinas referred to him simply as The Philosopher. De Veritatae. ut in ea describatur totus ordo universi et causarum ejus. Aquinas had to concur with Aristotle in affirming that the highest ideal of man the thinker must be to reflect. 28 “Haec est ultima perfectio ad quam anima potest pervenire. Stanze di Raffaello Vatican Apostolic Palace (Public domain) In looking forward. right up to its final causes. Each individual substance. You need to see its potential. which is the acorn’s telos.2. He even influenced Euclid and later geometricians who embraced the Aristotelian teaching that linking ideas into a demonstrative science like geometry was the best way to present a scientific subject. 38 . In writing his Summa Theologica. secundum philosophum. To use Aristotle’s famous example of the acorn: the telos of an acorn is an oak tree. you had to look past the thing you saw before you to discern its end. Aristotle’s largeness of mind was such that there was no province he did not touch with his outstretched hand. or end. therefore. If you want to know what an acorn is. is a selfcontained teleological system whose essence does not change even if its accidents do. the Aristotelian notion of totus ordo universi. Thomas Aquinas. Aristotle was known as the supreme philosopher. Aristotle used a concept called the telos. When defining something. you can’t really understand the acorn just by looking at it.In the Middle Ages.” —St. II. The acorn has the potentiality of becoming an oak tree.28 Detail of Scuola di Atene by Raphael (1483-1520) Stanza della Segnatura.

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Aristotle taught that a science should proceed by demonstration, like we do in geometry. Euclid's Elements later buttressed Aristotle's philosophy of demonstrative science. Demonstrative science involves 3 things: 1. The subject matter whose essential properties the particular science investigates. 2. The axioms, the basic assumptions. 3. The defining properties of the objects. In Aristotle’s day, the subject matter of geometry, for example, is lines, points, squares, circles, etc. So where do we get them? Do we prove them? No. As to axioms, every demonstrative science has to stem from first principles. 1. These principles must have their truth assumed if all the other propositions are to be deduced from them (or else there would be proofs upon proofs ad nauseam. You have to start from somewhere. 2. The ensuing propositions must be proved. 3. Is geometry the only demonstrative science? No. 4. In a natural science, in astronomy for example, the first principles are discovered by experience. That is the difference between mathematics and science. Defining properties do not assert the existence of the things defined, so they require merely to be understood. 1. Defining something in terms of what it is not, is inappropriate.29 2. Defining in a circle (e.g., defining A in terms of B, B in terms of C, and C in terms of A) is also inappropriate. Definitions must define the thing in terms of other things that are both better known and prior. In geometry, one must also assume the existence of some basic things defined, such as lines and points and circles. Aristotle is the inventor of a detailed system of logic called syllogism. A syllogism is an argument having two premises and a conclusion. 1. The premises must share the middle term. 2. "If all A is B, and all B is C; ergo, all A is C." B is the middle term. 3. A syllogism by negation: "If no B is A, and all C is B; ergo, no C is A."


For example, “a random sample is a sample that is not biased” is inappropriate.


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In a demonstrative science constructed by syllogism, the way to a scientific explanation is to look for the middle term. Aristotle taught that human reason is the ultimate tool in the search for truth. This devout trust in human reason was Aristotle’s legacy that influenced western thinking for centuries, a frame of mind that became the only way at arriving at truth. The story goes that sometime in the Middle Ages, at Oxford, there was once a debate on the question of how many teeth a horse has. Some scholars quoted Aristotle while others quoted St. Thomas Aquinas. Both gave a different reply. Finally, a young monk at the back of the study hall suggested that since there was a horse in a stable outside, why don’t they settle the question by opening the horse’s mouth and count its teeth. Thereupon, the assembled scholars “fell upon him, smote him hip and thigh, and cast him from the company of educated men.”30 Galileo himself relates how a fellow scientist would refuse to take a look through the telescope “because it would only confuse him.”31 Aristotle did not approve of experimentation as a valid way to gain knowledge. It never occurred to him to drop two stones of different weight to test his postulation that the speed of the fall was proportional to the weight of the stone. To Aristotle, experimentation like this was irrelevant because it “interfered with and detracted from the beauty of pure deduction.”32 To Aristotle—as hang-over of Plato’s teaching—the external world is an imperfect representation of the ideal world, therefore no amount of inductive testing could render a generalization suitable. If the experiment disagreed with the deduction, then one ought to adjust the “imperfect” to the demands of the “perfect,” which is the ideal world, and not the other way around. Galileo, father of experimental science, climbed to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and dropped two different iron balls, a ten-pound ball and a one-pound ball, at the same time. The dull thud of the two balls hitting the ground at

30 31

James Trefil and Robert M. Hazen, The Sciences: An Integrated Approach, p. 4. Hans Reichenbach (Ralph B. Winn, translator), From Copernicus to Einstein, Dover, p. 24. 32 Isaac Asimov, The New Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science, p. 12.


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the same time was heard round the world and demolished Aristotle permanently. Aristotle’s method at arriving at truth, however, despite its flaws, does stand in good stead. An example might be in explaining why the Moon's brightness increases in the particular pattern it exhibits. We can deduce that pattern if we approach the problem through syllogism and look for the middle term. 1. The Moon is a sphere that shines by light reflected from a body that changes its position with respect to the Moon. 2. A sphere shining by light reflected from a body that changes its position with respect to the Moon will have its light increase and decrease in this pattern. 3. Ergo, the Moon has its light increase and decrease in this pattern. Find the missing terms: The moon is a ________________________. A _____________________ has its light increase and decrease in this pattern. Ergo, the moon has its light increase and decrease in this pattern. Questions: Does the moon shine by its own light? If it did, it would be full all the time. But it’s full some of the time, so it must get its light somewhere, from some other source. We can see this light, so the moon gets that light somewhere and reflect it to us. What about the shape of the lighted parts? It is crescent, so it can’t be flat, because light wouldn’t have a curved boundary. So why is the shape sometimes crescent, sometimes half-full, sometimes full? The source of the light must change its position with respect to the moon. And so on. Aristotle here demonstrates that the premises are related to the conclusion as causes are related to effects. In fact, we have not only deduced the pattern of brightness, but we have also explained why it is so.

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What is truly exciting in a demonstrative science occurs when the terms connected by the middle term previously did not appear to have any obvious connection. We learn something new. Newton's discovery of gravity, in which the fall of an apple and the retention of the Moon in its orbit about the Earth are both explained by the Earth's gravitation, is a striking example. Scientific knowledge as defined by Aristotle seemed superior to opinion because it is universal and proceeds by necessary connections. Science tells us both why the thing is as it is and why it cannot be otherwise. To have scientific knowledge of something, we need to know the general cause, and then we can deduce the specific effect from that cause. When Galileo peered through the telescope and saw that Venus had similar phases as the moon, he used the same reasoning to prove for the first time that Venus did not have its own light but shines with light reflected from the sun. It was a new discovery, courtesy of Aristotle’s deductive reasoning. Before Newton, no satisfactory explanation existed for what caused the motion of the heavenly bodies. What caused the moon to go on orbit around the earth? Newton explained this and the fall of an apple by means of the same force: universal gravitation. The middle term—a force, depending on the masses involved and universally proportional to the square of the distance between them—revolutionized the physical sciences.


Aristotle Poetics “I propose to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds. If Plato made use of the dialogue to convey his ideas. Aristotle instead squarely confronts them. Aristotle used the lecture as his genre. mysterious. no matter how primitive. and the social and psychological function of art. then. Following. What is art? Why is it so powerful? Why is it beguiling. to inquire into the structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem. This and other quotations from primary sources. are taken from Hazard Adams’ Critical Theory Since Plato. Poetics33 Aristotle’s Poetics is a “walking-lecture” about poetry. the order of nature let us begin with the principles which come first. H. 43 . the experience of art. 33 Translated by S. Poetics is divided into three topics: the origin and nature of art. noting the essential quality of each. has art? Rather than eschew these questions. unless otherwise indicated. into the number and nature of the parts of which a poem is composed. and similarly into whatever else falls within the same inquiry. Aristotle’s Poetics inaugurates the lecture as its own genre. enduring? Why is it that every culture. This quotation is found on page 50 of Adams’s book (1992 edition). —Aristotle. Butcher.

I would. the target. but did not necessarily hook up to make this unified. It is crafted.” This is so natural in the western way of thinking. In Adams. 34 Aristotle. then the elements of the plot will all be in place. no going off track. overarching narrative. It is a work of no-brain. He likes to label things. Cézanne would say: “I do not reproduce nature. Every good writer ought to have that in mind. Poetics. Organic unity. He has a compartmentalized mind.” Picasso said: “I paint what I think. Within the unity of plot. nothing is missing. 64. Aristotle believed that the artist not just copies nature. nothing is superfluous. Aristotle was aware that story tellers created artifacts that were different from history. everything is where it belongs. he wants to examine the contents of those individual categories. the grand finale. in logic. causation is important.” Not to be outdone. and applies this mindset in looking at poetry: will the structure hold up? Is it constructed badly or properly? Aristotle.” A poem is something that is made. in a past interview regarding my aesthetic theory. the destination to which the plot is moving. the arrival point. Here’s how he compares and contrasts storytellers and historians. and casting all modesty to the four winds for the moment. Everything hangs together. the conclusion. Anybody can do it.”34 Later poets and artists would amplify this very important concept: William Blake said that copying from nature is not the job of the painter. Unlike Plato. He does more than that: “Not to know that a hind has no horns is a less serious matter than to paint it inartistically. because if he knows where he’s going. The word “poetry” comes from the Greek word that simply means “making” or “crafting. He knew that history was a jumble of events that happened all at the same time. Everything should be viewed in a sequence of cause and effect. 44 . Causation is the centerpiece of his entire teaching in philosophy. If that were all there was to it. I represent it. If we think in this manner it is because Aristotle invented this method. say: “I do not photocopy nature. not what I see. then hers would be no better than ordinary manual labor. and once the categories are created.Aristotle has an almost engineer’s way of looking at things. Aristotle is teleological: he thinks in terms of the end. by starting with a topic. I distort it. Thus it can have a solid construction or a wobbly construction. Just like an organism. Henceforth this rule will become standard of a successful work of art. Like every good Greek. put them in their proper order. is a categorical thinker using topical analysis in proceeding with his exegeses.

little connected together as the events may be. brought philosophy down to earth: there is only one Form. 62. how can they exist separately? If the Forms were the cause of things. Aristotle radically redefined Plato’s version of mimesis. a middle. Aristotle. Aristotle is the first critic to attempt a systematic discussion of genres. Aristotle says. A. and we’re in it. The works we have today by Aristotle were not actually written by him but compiled by his students (hence their broken up nature). its own proper ends. 3. (2) probability. 45 . but a single period. 2. Aristotle treats poetry as a separate discipline with its own specific laws.[The plot] should have for its subject a single action. Even as adults. We shall analyze Aristotle’s notion of plot as a unified whole that moves in accordance with (1) necessity. We possess an instinctual desire for hamony. with a beginning. The idea that all knowledge can be broken up into discrete little packages (called disciplines. In Adams. If the Forms were the essence of things. Throughout this third lecture we shall examine the nature and elements of Aristotelian plot by referring it to the play that is most often quoted in the Poetics—Oedipus Rex. and produce the pleasure proper to it. and an end. As children. It will differ in structure from historical compositions. we shall now consider how Aristotle took Plato’s version of mimesis and converted it into a powerful method for composing poetry worthy of philosophical consideration. and all that happened within that period to one person or to many. and (3) inevitability. In his Poetics. or “majors”) comes directly from Aristotle.35 In this part of Aristotle’s Poetics. 35 Aristotle. we learn primarily by imitation. Poetics. 1. 3. we delight in recognizing and contemplating copies. and shall define and discuss the several elements that Aristotle believed worked together to form the perfect plot. II. A. by disagreeing with Plato on where to locate reality. Aristotle says that mimesis is a positive thing. C. whole and complete. which of necessity present not a single action. its own unique tools. how can they exist in a different world? B. It will thus resemble a living organism in all its unity. Aristotle wrote a treatise on every facet of knowledge. 2. 1.

Then the movie is episodic. 4. Aristotle found the perfect food to feed our innate desire for order. 1. To imitate life is not to present life not as it is. In an episodic play.1. C. of a higher controlling fate. 4. but as it should be. There is a necessary link between cause and effect. you cannot step out of the theater even for one minute. A plot. is an excellent example of an Aristotelian movie: 46 . The stable. 7. iii. The plot is life with all of life’s contradictions purged out of it. How to tell between an episodic play and an Aristotelian plot. In an episodic play. Whereas the events in a story follow each other in simple chronological order. but how it would appear in a more perfect world where: i. • B. The best test you can put yourself to is to ask yourself the next time you watch a move if you can leave the theater for five minutes and think you have not missed anything. episodic.. The mimesis of a praxis is a muthos. meaningful laws of probability determine action. 2. and (c) inevitability. 2. constructed around that life story would confine itself to a single day in that life span when all that is most essential to that life comes to a head. in an Aristotelian plot. It is mimesis that allows the tragedian to construct a unified plot (muthos). 3. The story of a person begins with his birth and ends with his death—and includes all the various incidents that occur in between. ii. 3. In a movie with an Aristotelian plot. The movie Casablanca. while those in an Aristotelian follow causation. however. balance. In poetry in general and in the well-constructed plots of the great tragedies in particular. (b) probability. not as it manifests itself in an imperfect world. and unity. the events in a plot should move forward in accordance with (a) necessity. the scenes follow each other without causation. because all will be lost. is felt. 6. there is no internal cohesion between the scenes. there is a causal relationship between each scene that propels the reader toward the inevitable conclusion. 5. The mimetic process transforms an action or story (praxis) that is long. and haphazard into a plot that is focused and unified. even if your legs are all tied up in knots. A sense of inevitability.

Amy. and fortuitously find Rick in his café. retires from his job to start a new life with his wife Amy (Grace Kelly). a marshal of an old western town. deserted by all. The three men join him and all four go to the main street to face the lone Will Kane. the plot of Oedipus Rex is concentrated into an intense. Another favorite of mine. Bound by marital honor. D.Rick and Ilsa meet in Nazi-occupied Paris from which both of them must flee. Ilsa and Viktor eventually go to Casablanca. So Will has to face Miller himself. is patent Aristotelian —all one hour and twenty minutes of it: Will Kane (Gary Cooper). Oedipus Rex. Then Amy threatens to leave her husband if he stays and fight. Will’s deputy will not help. a Quaker who believes in non-violence. The story of Oedipus the man is filled with long stretches during which the tragic pieces of Oedipus’ life slowly coalesce. but injured. whom Will had sent to prison years ago. Three confederates wait for Miller and all four of them plan to kill Will for the latter’s hand in convicting Miller. 5. The townspeople urge Will to leave and carry the danger with him. Frank Miller. He agrees to aid their escape. 2. A bitter Rick leaves Paris alone and goes to Casablanca. the plot of Oedipus is about a man who discovers late in life that he has killed his father and married his mother. is Aristotle’s favorite example of the perfect plot: 1. however. High Noon. A murderer. The story of Oedipus is a despicable tale about a man who kills his father and marries his mother. The train arrives at high noon. urges her husband to leave. she fails to meet Rick at the station. has just been pardoned and is arriving on the noon train. At the railroad station. Frank descends the stairs. Ilsa learns that Viktor (her husband whom she believed to be dead) is alive. however. The new marshal has not arrived yet. Rick in pouring out his scorn discovers what Ilsa has denied: that she still loves Rick. dramatic period of less than a day during which all the secrets of his life are revealed. Will is in a quandary. She appeals to Rick to help her get her husband escape from Casablanca because his life is in danger. 47 .

that allowed an “angel” or heavenly being to descend onto the stage. A unified plot has a beginning. but that very news leads to his destruction. a man trapped by a cruel and evil fate that he cannot escape. b. Having defined the nature of the unified plot. In terms of his overall story. This is peripeteia. C. A. peripeteia) occurs when the fortune of the hero moves sudenly from good to bad or bad to good. 3. the plot of Oedipus is about the triumph of selfdiscovery. d. In Oedipus. e. however. Aristotle considered the use of this device as an artificial way to end a plot. Deus ex machina is no good. a derrick. Aristotle goes on to enumerate the many elements that work together to create the perfect plot. 2. c. he is a noble and courageous man who chooses to seek out the truth about himself no matter what the consequences. 2. anagnorisis) occurs when the hero moves suddenly from a state of ignorance to enlightenment. Oedipus is one of the most pathetic of all men.3. B. the plot of Oedipus is one of the great and noble works of all time. It is shaped like an inverted “V” with a series of complications drawing the plot upward to its climax downwards towards the denouement. middle. and an end. the climax is marked by a reversal and/or a recognition. Whereas the story of Oedipus is about the committing of a taboo sin. 1. A reversal (Greek. The story of Oedipus is the raw material for a telenovela. in the confines of the plot. It was used by dramatists as a way of resolving from heaven all manner of difficulties and misunderstandings in the play. The use of a reversal/recognition is what renders a simple plot complex. 48 . 1. In the best plots. 111. the messenger thinks he brings news that will free Oedipus from fear. A recognition (Greek. The best kinds of recognitions are accompanied by reversals. A. 5. In Oedipus. Deus ex machina was a crane-like device. 4. the messenger reveals to Oedipus his true Theban origins.

I. 5. He must be a good man: he should be neither immoral nor vicious. b. 2. 1. 2. we place character at the center of the play. Though “larger than life. C. most important element of a tragedy. We will conclude with some other elements of the Poetics that have continued to exert a marked influence on the history of literary theory down the ages to the present. 6. We shall then explore the nature of Aristotelian catharsis and shall consider how this well-known word can be translated either as purgation.4. and is devoted to truth and justice. rational universe in which all makes sense. 49 . purification. Both within the framework of the play and throughout his “offstage” life. 5. 4. Aristotle’s objection against deus ex machina reveals his strong commitment to a balanced. and how he should be a moral man who yet possesses a flaw. are befitting the nature and role of a king. and inevitability. 1. A. 2. he is a man. it arises naturally out of the plot. B. as well as his stubbornness and pride.” Oedipus still possesses very human traits. The plot is both the end and the soul of tragedy. Oedipus is consistently the solver of riddles. His character must be appropriate to his station in life. His character must be consistent. He must possess a likeness to human nature: though heroic. he is a good king who loves his people. B. probability. consistent. Though stubborn and a bit prideful. or clarification. Modern writers would disagree with Aristotle. appropriate. He should not be a commoner. The plot should be strong enough to resolve itself in a manner consistent with necessity. hamartia). His love and devotion. The Aristotelian tragic hero must possess four qualities: 1. 3. Oedipus Rex is so well constructed that the final tragic revelation of Oedipus’ parentage does not seem contrived. This good hero should yet possess a flaw (Greek. and true to life. c. Oedipus is a member of the royal house of Thebes. Oedipus possesses all of the above characteristics. it should be noted that Aristotle argues forcefully that the plot is the central. Aristotle carefully defines the proper nature of the tragic hero. This time we shall explore how the tragic character must be good. Finally. a.

3. According to Aristotle. C. D. it is really his good qualities that lead to the tragic revelation of his birth. A bad man moving from bad to good fortune merely disgusts us. 5. Though readers of Oedipus generally blame the hero’s misfortunes on his pride (Greek. 5. Aristotle clearly does not see this hamartia as a vice or moral flaw. 50 . the tragic end of the hero is so pitiful and fearful. 3. A good man moving from bad to good fortune makes us feel happy. A. but a better translation is error. B. 2. (2) purification. so emotionally overwhelming. It cleanses us of our emotions of pity and fear and thus leaves us more fit to be able to face the rigors of life. Catharsis may be translated in at least three different ways: as (1) purgation. 4. Each has its own theory. A bad man moving from good to bad fortune evokes neither pity nor fear. such a movement elicits pity and fear. The tendency of readers to identify tragic flaws in each of the heroes of Greek tragedy seems to mask an innate desire to “blame the victim” to gain control. Pity is evoked when we watch a good man suffer undeservedly. Purgation states that tragedy is a therapeutic experience that works on us like an enema. moves from good to bad fortune. When viewing Oedipus. 2. 1. 1. fear drives us away. 4. 2. This is what Plato should have adopted. but it does not inspire either pity or fear. Hamartia is usually translated as tragic flaw. The full-blown concept of the tragic flaw as a single vice that leads the hero to his tragic downfall is really more indicative of Shakespearean tragedy. hubris). The mention of pity and fear leads us to Aristotle’s notion of the appropriate response to tragedy. the experience of a great tragedy so arouses in us the emotions of pity and fear as to lead to a catharsis of those emotions. on account of his error.1. and (3) clarification. Pity draws us toward the hero. The best tragedies show a good man who. 3. III. fear is evoked when we realize the same may happen to us.

In this almost mystical moment of enlightenment. we are left with a strange sense of calm. but purified. twofold: (1) to assess and adumbrate the elements that make art successful. character.that we leave the theatre feeling drained. to signify that moment when the connections between a patient’s past experiences and present neuroses are suddenly revealed. D. and fate will have been exposed as arbitrary and chaotic. for if he does not. The story of the Passion of Christ is another example. Aristotle was no contemporary of Sophocles. not purged. in part. fixed criteria for what constitutes great art. 2. That is to say. when we realize that Oedipus must suffer. Clarification is still used today in a psychoanalytical setting. A. Clarification theory states that tragedy sparks in us an intellectual response.” B. As we saw above. B. IV. The French Neoclassical period. and catharsis. our illdefined emotions are carried up into a higher realm of balanced. is an example of a more “Golden Age. Purification states that tragedy does not so much purge our emotions as purity them. in the end. on the basis of these elements. A. C. 2. a realm where the higher patterns and forces of the cosmos are made suddenly visible. To experience Oedipus is to have one’s emotions raised to a higher level. In addition to his view on plot. 1. so the hot fire of tragedy tests and tries us like gold in the fire. a searing moment of perfect clarity. Aristotle set down a number of other mandates that have become linchpins of critical theory. exemplified by Racine et al. V. Aristotle advised that the hero be of kingly rank: from his day until Ibsen’s and Miller’s time tragedies have always revolved around heroes of noble rank. harmonious rationality. Just as God uses suffering to strengthen our faith. (2) to establish. the role of the critic is. From Aristotle comes the notion that a critic can inspire great art. as if our emotions have been swept away on a tide. 51 . the prophecy will have been proven untrue. by his time Athens had left the Golden Age. 1. This is how we are supposed to feel at the end of Oedipus.

2. 3. Tragedy is a concrete universal that fuses the general with the specific. He initiated the aesthetic desire to rank genres in terms of refinement and based this ranking partly on the responses of a cultivated audience. This foreshadows pragmatic theory. He not only divided poetry into different forms (epic.” Ungenial occurs when one judges a poem by standards outside its genre. 2. epic. and lyric. The notion profoundly influenced Kant. Aristotle basically invented the notion of genre and genre studies. As we also saw above. however. 5. D. 3. a notion that is at the heart of all later theories of decorum. E. The rankings were tragedy. it expresses universal truths. He felt that a perfect tragedy was one to which nothing could either be added or subtracted without affecting the work as a whole. Like history. He believed that each genre must its own natural. Coleridge. An Excursion 52 . and the New Critics. He treated tragedy as a living organism that must be true to its own laws. 3. He believed that there was a proper mode that was natural to each genre. lyric) but also granted each form its own special criteria and mode of imitation.C. Aristotle initiated an organic theory of poetry later revived by Coleridge. Aristotle praises poetry as a synthesis of history and philosophy and held that it was better than either one. He privileged unified plots in which all parts were related organically. 4. 1. tragedy works with concrete particulars. internal laws so that he defended the presence in poetry of irrational elements if such were befitting the genre. 1. Aristotle includes a brief section on linguistics in this study of poetry. Coleridge would later call such criticism “genial. 2. 4. G. 1. Like philosophy. tragic. Aristotle preferred tragedies with unhappy endings. F.

Aswan. Eratosthenes calculated his results in units called stadia. while at Syene there were none. but current estimates suggest that his value of 252. however. the greater was the difference in shadow lengths. Egypt. that is also well and good because the earth was flat and the sun’s rays would incline at the same angle to the two sticks. read a papyrus which said that at noon of every June 21st.620 kilometers. that in Alexandria. If the two sticks cast shadows of equal length.690 and 46. the alternate interior angles are equal. We don't know how long Eratosthenes' stadia were. and saw no shadow cast by both sticks. the sun’s rays run parallel when they reach the earth. He calculated. that is well and good: the earth was flat and the sun was directly overhead. the angle of elevation of the sun would be 1/50 of a full circle (7°12') south of 53 . vertical sticks cast no shadows at Syene. did an experiment at Alexandria and noticed that here vertical sticks cast shadows at noon of June 21st. Angle B=Angle A. must be curved. Consider the illustration: because of their distance. Also. If you stuck a stick in Alexandria at noon on June 21 and simultaneously stuck another stick at Syene on the same day and time. But why was there no shadow at Syene while a shadow showed up at Alexandria? The earth.Eratosthenes. Eratosthenes.000 stadia is equivalent to a circumference somewhere between 39. while a librarian at the Alexandrian library. therefore. being the summer solstice. from measurement. If two parallel lines are transected by a third line. the greater the curve.

however. which implies a circumference of 252.620 km.the zenith at the same time. which would imply a circumference of 46.375 km. 54 .3% too large. Eratosthenes concluded that Syene was A=B=7 degrees away on the circumference of the earth or a measurement of 39. must have used the Egyptian Stadium of about 157. he concluded that the distance from Alexandria to Syene must be 1/50 of the total circumference of the earth. The method is an early application of elementary trigonometry. The common stadium at Athens at the time was about 185 m. Eratosthenes.7 m.000 stadia. an error of less than 1%. He rounded the result to a final value of 700 stadia per degree. His estimated distance between the cities was 5000 stadia (about 500 geographical miles or 800km) by estimating the time that he had taken to travel from Syene to Alexandria by camel. which is 16. By measuring the shadow. Assuming that Alexandria was due north of Syene.

delight and instruct The suggested essential reading for this course is Art of Poetry by Horace in Adam Supplementary reading: Grant Showerman’s Horace and His Influence.C. After a brief introduction to Horace’s life and times. purpureus pannus.C. 55 • • . A. Augustan Culture: An Interpretive Introduction. linae labor. Elizabeth Vandiver of Whitman College and that of Dr. Restraint. 20 BC). especially chapters 4–8. Raphael Lyne. Part One: Life of Horace • • Horace is the second greatest poet of Rome’s Augustan Age. Grube’s The Greek and Roman Critics.” Paul Miller’s Lyric Texts. and died on November 27. Karl Galinsky. M. Suetonius’s biography of Horace has survived.. This golden age (named after Caesar Augustus) lasted from 27 BC to AD 14 and included Ovid. in addition. Wimsatt and Brooks’s Literary Criticism: A Short History. Ars Poetica (c. Quintus Horatius Flaccus was born on December 8. “Augustan Poetry and Society. 65 B. and the greatest of them all: Virgil. Propertius. Chapter 5.Horace Ars Poetica Abstract This lesson will take a close look at Horace’s verse epistle. ut pictura poesis. 8 B. Tags: Decorum. Louis Markos of Houston Baptist University. Chapter 14. we shall enumerate Horace’s rules and regulations for writing great poetry. This chapter is adapted from the work of Dr. Horace included many biographical details in his poetry. We shall also discuss Horace’s views both of the critic and the poet. and Tibullus. We shall focus especially on the central notion of decorum and RESTRAINT in the arts and on the stipulation that poetry must instruct and entertain.

to fight against the assassins Brutus and Cassius. Antony became involved with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Although historians call him the first Roman emperor. Caesar’s friend Mark Antony joined forces with Caesar’s great-nephew and adopted son. which came to function as his name. Octavian. Augustus never used kingship terms. Augustus was also a patron of the arts. Caesar’s death led to an open power struggle. Horace made a career as a poet. In 31 B. After defeating Brutus and Cassius at Philippi (42 B. Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra at the famous Battle of Actium. 14. who introduced Horace to Maecenas. In part. After the Battle of Actium. a freedman. • • • • • • • • • • 56 .. Antony and Octavian competed for leadership.). Despite his support of Brutus. In 27 B. He carefully restored and preserved the appearances of the republican form of government.C. Horace joined Brutus’s army. then in Athens. including poetry. this was because of the influence of Virgil.. first in Rome.D. Octavian became the sole ruler of Rome and remained so until his death in A. 1.C. Octavian was awarded the title Augustus (“the revered one”). worked as an auctioneer.C. Horace’s family sided with Brutus. Horace received the education typical for an upperclass youth. Augustus’s close friend Maecenas provided financial support for various poets and served as the link between those poets and Augustus. Horace’s family lost its possessions after Caesar’s assassination. where his father.• • • • • Horace was born in Venusia.

He never expresses the heights or depths of passion of Catullus’s amatory poetry. Horace adapts Greek meters to Latin poetry with astonishing success. His most famous and influential poems are his four books of odes. Horace achieves great lyrical beauty and extraordinarily memorable poetry. word choice. Pyrrha. simplex munditiis? heu quotiens fidem mutatosque deos flebit et aspera nigris aequora ventis emirabitur insolens. fundamentally. semper amabilem 57 . The Odes. especially into a non-inflected language such as English. Within this controlled persona. The odes show an amazing facility with meter. The opening lines of Odes I. Horace’s tone is detached and urbane.• Maecenas’s patronage gave Horace the resources and security for three decades of working life as a poet. and vignettes of daily life. the odes are a tour de force. • • • • • • • Quis multa gracilis te puer in rosa perfusus liquidis urget odoribus grato. The placement of Horace’s Latin words is all important. political statements. sub antro? cui flavam religas comam. qui nunc te fruitur credulus aurea. They are. and placement. qui semper vacuam.5 give some idea of his technique. untranslatable. a collection of lyric poems on a variety of subjects. includes love lyrics to various different addressees. Formally. Part Two: Works and Style • • • Horace was a master of the short lyric and the very embodiment of wit.

Part Three: Influence on Other Poets • • • Milton tried his hand at translating this poem. Pyrrha for whom bindst thou In wreaths thy golden Hair. in cave?” The word order mimics what is being described. urges you among many roses in a pleasant cave?” The Latin word order is “What many graceful you boy among roses drenched liquid urges fragrances pleasant. as have many others. David Ferry Milton and Ferry’s translations indicate the difficulty inherent in translating Horace. including.sperat. recently. drenched in liquid fragrances. of flattering gales Unmindfull. But no other lyric poet of antiquity had so strong an influence on English poetry during the Renaissance and the neoclassical period. 36 • Translated literally. Pyrrha. what graceful boy. Hapless they To whom thou untry'd seem'st fair. Me in my vow'd Picture the sacred wall declares t' have hung My dank and dropping weeds To the stern God of Sea. • • 36 What slender Youth bedew'd with liquid odours Courts thee on Roses in some pleasant Cave. quibus intemptata nites! me tabula sacer votiva paries indicat uvida suspendisse potenti vestimenta maris deo. Who alwayes vacant alwayes amiable Hopes thee. O how oft shall he On Faith and changèd Gods complain: and Seas Rough with black winds and storms Unwonted shall admire: Who now enjoyes thee credulous. nescius aurae fallacis! miseri. the first three lines read: “Pyrrha. Plain in thy neatness. all Gold. (translation by John Milton) 58 .

” Even a great poet cannot sustain heightened language all the time. “But if Homer. and many others were drawn to try.”Or. self-conscious desire to imitate the classical world. Part Four: Ars Poetica • • • • • • • In Art of Poetry. the source and fountainhead is wise thinking.” In other words.• Impossible though a true translation of Horace may be. Pope. content is as important as style. usually good. Ars Poetica is not theoretical discussion but practical advice to poets and newbie poets.” What is important is the total impact of the poet. These are rules for writing. (as in Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians). a “how to” approach in writing great poetry. Horace lays emphasis on decorum and restraint: two keywords of Horace. you must feel pain yourself.” The aim of the poet is to delight and instruct. elegant letter. The style is chatty and formless albeit urbane. 37 Epistle to the Piso boys. “He has gained every vote who has mingled profit with pleasure by delighting the reader at once and instructing him. “Of writing well. Wyatt. no tears in the poet. “If you wish to draw tears from me. In the epistle. we see a deliberate. Ars Poetica is a verse epistle (Epistula ad Pisones)37 composed at the request of two young men of the Piso family: Telephus and Peleus. but it does not matter. I think it shame. and yet it may well be that over a work of great length one should grow drowsy now and then. Dryden. The Piso family was Horace’s patron. An epistle is a long. Here are some Horatian rules of thumb for writing great poetry: 1. living in the Roman world. no tears in the reader. Compared to Plato’s and Aristotle’s theoretical works. 3. 59 .” and “I am not the man to be offended by a few spots. look back to the great writers of Greece and attempt to assess why they were so successful. nods for a moment. for “there are faults which we can gladly pardon. Horace (and later Longinus). 2. 4.

) 3. who use comic subjects as the basis of a tragedy or vice versa. The laws that dictate what is and is not appropriate for poetry constitute the central and foundational notion of all neoclassical art: decorum. This includes censuring and editing poetry that either uses the wrong material or handles that material in an inappropriate way. are the work of feverish minds.” 6. “Neither should a god intervene. Each genre should have its own style that is natural to it.” Horace.” 10. 1. a master of the ironic pose. 2. unless a knot befalls worthy of his interference. in a very un-Horatian way. Horace attacks poets who mix genres. Horace and the rules of decorum. 4. especially “you will not let Medea slay her boys before the audience. clearly defined unity of action. if you invent. or.” 9. 3. 60 . At the heart of decorum is the stipulation not to mix unlike things. Horace offers an influential view of the proper role of the critic. “Scratch it out then. “Yet you will not bring forward on the stage what should be transacted behind the scenes. 2. he declares. “Fictions intended to please must keep as near as may be to real life. “Either follow tradition. the work has been badly turned. (If we consider Shakespeare. “Do ye thumb well by night and day Greek models. we see that he does mix generic elements in many of his plays. 1. character.• • • 5. there should be an unbroken. and mood. The purpose of the whetstone is not itself to write great poetry (though Horace did so). such images. 7. see that your invention be in harmony with itself. Horace illustrates this rule by scornfully lampooning the image of the mermaid. send it back to the fire and the anvil.” because this is a lapse in decorum. A critic is a whetstone against which poets can sharpen their work.” No deus ex machina allowed. expresses contempt in his letter for critics who flatter their patrons instead of telling them the truth.” 8. but to teach the proper duty and office of the poet.

3. 1. In addition to the notions of what is appropriate and what is traditional.. After his views on decorum. Related to decorum is Horace’s famous comparison of poetry to painting. Again. while others are better when seen from a distance. dulce et utile). As with painting. explicit scenes must be kept off the stage. 1. we see that he did not follow precedent in his Troilus and Cressida. 1. while young men insist that it please and entertain: the best poet will combine the two. this notion took on greater significance. “modern” poets must be faithful to the literary precedents set by their poetic forebears. Horace here is moving toward pragmatic theory. When writing on a traditional subject. if we consider Shakespeare. others in light. a meter with rhythmic sounds that closely mimic (“fit”) the sense of the poem. 2. Old men insist that poetry teach morality. by Homer and the tragedians). such scenes of suffering should be related (as they were in Greek tragedy) by a messenger. Horace here reiterates Aristotle’s rule that tragic heroes must be both appropriate and consistent. Poets that do so successfully will win both fame and fortune. but Horace further inscribes this rule within an accepted authority or tradition: a common trait of neoclassicists. In later neoclassical theory. each given genre should have its own specific meter. King Lear and the blinding of Gloucester). some best in shadows. 2. Horace is best known for his stipulation that the proper end (goal) of poetry is to please and teach (in Latin. Gory. some poems are best viewed close up. 2. To best achieve this goal. decorum also stipulates what is fit or proper to be shown publicly. “Modern” portrayals of Achilles or Orestes of Oedipus must be consistent with earlier portrayals (in this case. Indeed.• • • 4. • 61 . 1. This rule was not followed in the theater of Shakespeare (cf. poetry should be both concise and realistic. 2.

Horace also counsels against starting one’s work with epic promises. 1. he needs both native ability and rigorous training. The role of the poet (especially the dramatist) is a difficult one.• Horace’s rules for drama have been particularly influential. unnecessary descriptions merely to impress readers. Plays (and epics) should not begin at the beginning (ab ovo. Plays should consist of five acts. These four criteria (the third and fourth of which are adapted from Aristotle) all express an organic view of drama. lest people say. while a mediocre lawyer may still win his suit. 1. a mediocre poet is a laughingstock. • • • 62 . 5. 2. 2. “the mountain labored and brought forth a mouse. Like Aristotle. The best poets make it look easy. Horace counsels against tacking on elaborate. Horace insisted that each part of a play be directly and intimately related with all other parts and with the work as a whole. 3. 6. 4.” 2.” Horace comments on the nature and the duties of the poet. The true poet combines genius and art. two bits of Horatian advice have entered our language. Like an athlete. 3. the musical Oklahoma by Rodgers and Hammerstein as an excellent example). their works are so perfect and unified that the reader feels he could do the same (though he could not). in our time. he calls such excrescences “purple passages. 1. Finally. He must please an often vulgar crowd while staying true to his art. 1. The chorus and choral songs should serve an integral function (we might consider. They should not end with a deus ex machina. “from the egg”) but should plunge in medias res (in the middle of things”). he is an inspired craftsman. The artisan poet must labor never to be mediocre.

1. 2. This includes censuring and editing poetry that either uses the wrong material or handles the material in an inappropriate manner. • In addition to the notions of what is appropriate and what is traditional. ‘“Beautiful! good! perfect!’ He will change color. restraint. leap up. but he further inscribes this rule within an accepted authority or tradition (a common trait of neoclassicists). The laws that dictate what is and is not appropriate for poetry constitute the central and foundational notion of all neoclassical art: decorum. and stamp the ground.) 2. A critic is a whetstone against which poets sharpen their work. 1. Just as the hired mourners at a funeral lament and do more than those who really grieve. 2. 63 . Modern portrayals of Achilles or Orestes or Oedipus must be consistent with earlier portrayals. 1. (Again. On Decorum • What is decorum? It is order. (Shakespeare did this. drop tears from his friendly eyes. • Horace expresses contempt for critics who flatter their patrons instead of telling them the truth. He must make a living without letting the love of money taint his soul. Horace illustrates this rule by lampooning the image of a mermaid. modern poets must be faithful to the precedents set by their poetic forebears. 4. Horace attacks poets who mix genres. Each genre should have its own style that is natural to it. 2.” • Horace offers an influential view of the proper role of the critic. Shakespeare did not follow precedent in his Troilus and Cressida. Horace reiterates Aristotle’s rule that tragic heroes must be both appropriate and consistent. 3. A whetstone teaches the proper office and duty of the poet. who use comic subjects as the basis of a tragedy or vice versa.) 3. so the insincere admirer seems to be more moved than a true one. • When writing on a traditional subject. and got away with it.

5. . Each part of the play should be directly and intimately related with all other parts and with the work as a whole. no more no less. 7. others are better seen from a distance. Do not have a deus ex machina intervene. two bits of Horatian advice have entered the English language • Purple patches. The chorus should not sing anything that does not fit into the plot.• decorum also stipulates what is fit or proper to be shown publicly.” 6. • Finally. some poems are best viewed close up. some in shadows. “The aim of the poet is to inform or delight. 64 . “Medea should not butcher her children in plain view of the audience. “That is the sort of book that will make money for the publisher. or to combine together . 8. poetry should be both concise and realistic. Other Horatian rules The proper end of poetry is to teach and delight. Related to decorum is Horace’s famous comparison of poetry to painting. cross the seas. Let your play have five acts. This rule was not followed by Shakespeare in King Lear in the blinding of Gloucester. explicit scenes must not be shown onstage.” • The old insist that poetry instruct. . As with painting. These four criteria express an organic view of drama. Gory. and extend the fame of the author. both pleasure and applicability to life.” • To best achieve this goal. “He who combines the useful and the pleasing wins out by both instructing and delighting the reader. nor the wicked Atreus cook human flesh in public. others in light. In later neoclassical theory.” • Poets that do so will win both fame and fortune. this notion took on greater significance. while the young want it to delight: the best poet combines the two. • • • • • • Horace’s rules for the drama Plays and epics should not begin at the beginning but should plunge in medias res. such scenes of suffering should be related by a messenger.

or On Great Writing. is a systematic work in the Aristotelian style which inquires how poetic inspiration can best be employed. • The best poets make it look easy. but also transforms Plato himself into one of the most sublime poets of all time. 2. the mediocre poet winds up a laughingstock. Longinus inquires how it can best be employed. • The role of a poet is a difficult one. We shall also watch how Longinus launches a direct refutation of Plato that not only converts the latter’s negatives into positives. 1. 65 . according to Horace. while a mediocre lawyer may still win his case. • Genius and art equals an inspired craftsman. • • Longinus On the Sublime Abstract What is sublimity? Where does it originate? Can we access it? How do we tap it? Is there such a thing as sublimity in the first place? Rather than declaring inspiration as madness. • Like an athlete. A. The nature and the duties of the poet. • The artisan poet must labor never to be mediocre. nothing is known of the life of Longinus. On the Sublime. FYI. He must make a living without letting the love of money taint his soul. We call him Longinus because the work is long. or On the Grand Style. This lesson will analyze Longinus’ pragmatic approach to theory and his influential conception of the ideal audience for sublime literature. he needs to have both native talent and discipline.Counsels against promising much but delivering little. He must please an often vulgar crowd while staying true to his art. or On Excellence in Literature.

• Sublimity is the mixed product of inspiration plus art (i. because of its power to overwhelm. • It is not merely the use of fashionable expressions or fanciful images. This precious stone set in the silver sea . this realm. This other Eden. Old John Gaunt is dying with his heart full of fear for his beloved England. skill. this earth. • A sublime passage can be heard over and over without losing its impact on the audience. Consider. . and he expresses his love for his country in the following lines: This royal throne of kings. Sublimity refers to a kind of elevated language flashing forth at the right moment and scattering everything before it like a thunderbolt. this sceptered isle. or bathos. but un-sublime. Sublimity is the “echo of a great soul. hyperbolic language that is used.. C. to enhance subjects that do not merit such treatment. poems.e. demi-paradise. This happy breed of men. inappropriately. . • Unlike rhetoric. or bombast. Longinus asks if there is such a thing as sublimity and then attempts to define its nature. He is convinced that his land is being destroyed. before laying down methods for achieving it. This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war.” • Does this mean that sublimity belongs only in the sphere of genius—those born with it? • One sublime work is better than a hundred un-flawed. sublimity’s effect upon an audience is not persuasion but transport. this seat of Mars. or pompousness. for example these lines from Richard 11. • The sublime has the power to unite contradictions. This blessed plot. 66 . craftsmanship.B. What sublimity is not: • It is not tumidity. • Sublimity. transcends both time and space. • It is not inflated. this England. which merely persuades. this little world. discipline). In this work. This earth of majesty.

a character in Antony and Cleopatra. And what they undid did. It beggar’d all description: she did lie In her pavilion–cloth-of-gold of tissue– O’er-picturing that Venus where we see The fancy outwork nature: on each side her Stood pretty dimpled boys. like smiling Cupids. Agrippa: O. Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke. The barge she sat in. Here is Shakespeare’s Cleopatra as described by Enobarbus. rare for Antony! Now compare this with John Dryden’s “improved. Enobarbus. let us give some examples to demonstrate what Longinus meant by what is and what is not sublime. For her own person. No more: I would not hear it. and made The water which they beat to follow faster. Her Gally down the Silver Cydnos row’d The Tacking Silk. were plac’d. another Sea-born Venus lay. is importuned by his friends to tell them what he thought of this mysterious Serpent of the Nile whom he had had the rare good fortune to have seen face to face: Enobarbus: I will tell you. whose wind did seem To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool. round her Couth. the Streamers wav’d with Gold. like a burnish’d throne. like Nereids.• This ongoing dispute between genius and art is one that continues to this day.” neo-classical version of the same scene in his play All for Love: Ant. returning from Egypt. Dolla. As amorous of their strokes. and so perfumed that The winds were love-sick with them. the oars were silver. Purple the sails. 67 . The gentle Winds were lodg’d in Purple Sails: Her Nymphs. Having defined what sublimity is and is not. With divers-colour’d fans. Where she. … she came from Egypt. Burn’d on the water: the poop was beaten gold.

As if. Below is an excerpt from a play called Cambyses written by Thomas Preston in 1561. Helen of Troy. A darting Glory seem’d to blaze abroad: That Men’s desiring Eyes were never waery’d. I feel myself a-dying now. this is sentimental bombast written in a lumbering seven-beat line that lends itself to a weedy anticlimax. But hung upon the Object: To soft Flutes The silver Oars kept Time. Here is an example of what I consider to be the one of the supreme examples of sublime writing. Wounded I am by sudden chance. From the King James Bible Genesis 1: 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. In this scene Cambyses has just received his death wound: “Out. Stood fanning. make me immortal with a kiss. as he dreams of the power that magic could offer him: “Was this the face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium? Sweet Helen. with their painted Wings. of life bereft am I. And cast a Look so languishingly sweet. Thus gasping here on ground I lie.” Longinus was the first “pagan” to quote the Bible. Neglecting she could take ‘em: Boys. who has been summoned by Mephistopheles to satisfy his desires. The play is about a tyrannical Persian ruler. and wanted Breath To give their welcome Voice. A just reward for my misdeeds my death doth plain declare. For she so charm’d all Hearts. O.” Obviously. my blood is minished. And Death hath caught me with his dart. and leant her Cheek upon her Hand. alas! What shall I do? My life is finished. secure of all Beholders Hearts. the Winds That played about her Face: But if she smil’d. for nothing do I care. The Hearing gave new Pleasure to the Sight. like Cupids.Ant. is Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. you must! She lay. by contrast. 68 . for want of blood I spy [expire]. that gazing crowds Stood panting on the shore. greeting the mythical beauty. And both to Thought: ‘twas Heav’n or somewhat more. and while they played. Here.

with all the melodies sounded simultaneously. you can listen to Bach a hundred times and each time uncover richness previously unearthed. The first time you do. and void. Again. If you are not accustomed to his music. Sublimity is light years apart from sentimentality.” or “breathtaking. In music. the third time. three times. and the darkness he called Night. 69 . It is English at its most eloquent. Yet the writing is sublime. that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. try it yourself: play any Bach recording. Notice also the absence of “striving-for-effect” words like “stupendous. interpenetrating one another. the second time. 5 Notice there is hardly any adjective or adverb in the piece. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. nouns and verbs govern the whole piece. listen to the middle voices only. to be moved to tears of happiness or sorrow. try to separate the bass from the strands of melody.e.” i. Bach’s genius was demonstrated some years ago in an experiment done when a pianola roll of Bach music was reversed so that the high notes became bass and vice versa. you may find it too cerebral. and darkness was upon the face of the deep. 2 3 And God said. and is disappointed if his/her emotions are not aroused this way.” etc. And the evening and the morning were the first day. for example.. Only nouns and verbs. Bach is the perfect example of the sublime composer.” or “colossal. These violent emotions are unnecessary and wasteful. The music sounded even more melodious. 4 And God called the light Day. This is because almost all the music we are used to listening to—including a lot of so-called classical music—is built like an arch with pillars of chords supporting a single melody. a choral composition. The writing is simple and clear. In fact. And God saw the light. Sublimity is more akin to Plainchant—or the music of Johann Sebastian Bach— which is overtly dry (to the sentimental listener) but inertly rich. The baroque music of Bach is “contrapuntal. melody is piled on melody. You might find the music you listen to paling in comparison. listen to the soprano only. Let there be light: and there was light. Bach does not appeal to the sentimental person. The sentimental person expects to be lifted.And the earth was without form.

the poet has vehement and inspired passion. You are either born with it or not. Yea. You either have it or you do not have it. I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. “I have studied the Bible and I know all about the Shepherd but. though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. cannot be learned. every fiber of his being assimilating sublimity. the second is to lose Him and then to find Him again. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. being innate. unfortunately. These first two elements. as a professor and Bible expert would. “Well. Longinus then proceeds to lay down five elements of the sublime: • The first two elements are grounded in the innate ability of the poet to form great conceptions. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. my cup runneth over. He read it very well. could not generate that profound impact on the audience. Then the students asked a retired minister to read the same Psalm 23.” said the professor. “No tears in the writer. page 19. 38 I have taken this incident from The Hidden Wisdom of the Holy Bible (Volume I) by Geoffrey Hodson. Later. and yet the learned professor’s reading drew no tears. The old man must have gone through the despair of losing God. After admitting that sublimity cannot actually be defined.”38 The old man had gone through life’s sorrows and pains. Perhaps he had even tried committing suicide. 70 . Sublimity is the echo of a great soul. thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. despite his great learning. I shall not want.The late British author and Theosophist Geoffrey Hodson recounts the time a group of theological college students asked a very learned professor to read Psalm 23. no tears in the audience. St. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil. Augustine said that there were two ways of knowing how good God was: the first is never having to lose Him. When the old man had finished there was not a dry eye in the room. you see. Hence. a student asked the professor why he.” Here’s the Psalm: The Lord is my shepherd. our friend knows the Shepherd. What was the difference? Both read the same Psalm 23. When he spoke in trembling voice.

passions to images. Longinus shows how the great masters of the sublime knew how to fit thoughts to words. and dignified and elevated composition. There must be an appropriate. be learned. Though quoting and analyzing copious passages from poets like Homer and Sappho. These constitute the craft part that can. Longinus. noble diction. A. he defines the sublime not just in terms of its nature or essence but in terms of the reaction it elicits in the audience. 11. B.• • • • • • • The other three can be considered features of the poem: due formation of figures of speech. syntax. You can take up a course in Creative Writing and be trained. decorum). serious and comic must not be allowed to mix (i. you can see the lighted bulb clearly.e. through discipline.. Curbing the Spur Let us imagine a tank filled with clear water. • Only they can judge what is or what is not sublime. The best art conceals. • This attitude will not be seriously challenged until the Romantic Age. • This may be elitist/aristocratic. If the water is very still. These sources have to do not with the thoughts and passions themselves but with how they are embodied in words. organic relationship between form and content: high and low. Then let us imagine a lighted electric bulb at the bottom of the tank. Longinus is pragmatic in the sense that he is concerned with the relationship between the sublime work and the audience. As we have already seen. Poets should attempt to mimic in the sound of their poetry the sense that they are trying to convey. and poetic figures. • They are sensitive souls uplifted by sublimity. like Horace. helped establish ground rules for the craft of poetry. 71 . What is the ideal audience? • The ideal audience is a refined. cultivated audience. but Longinus wants the audience to be free from vulgar and the low thoughts. rational.

111. 6. 3. 7. 5. if the water is kept very still. Now suppose we stop churning the water. we will see the light bulb so clearly we may not even be aware of the water itself. He quotes passages from his prose as models of sublimity. For Longinus. even if it appears to be so to the uninitiated. patterns of lights streaking across and within. This is what happens to ourselves when we let our emotions (symbolized by the water) distort our Imagination (symbolized by the lighted bulb). We will observe that the more we churn the water. in place of the lighted bulb. reappearing. The same sublime spirit that passes from Homer to Plato passes down from Plato to the audience. we see. at first. If we churn the water at great speed. patterns of light. then the clear-lighted bulb. 1. 72 . Gradually. as in the first stage.” 4. Finally. Sublimity is never sentimental. It is the quietest thing in the world. this struggle is good. we will eventually see. The divine madness which Plato exposes in Ion as a form of aberration is actually a higher form of mimesis. With irony. Suppose we churn the water some more. until eventually we no longer see any light at all but only waves and waves in great agitation. Longinus turns Plato on his head. For sentimentality deforms our view of things. fuller. 2. next a distorted light bulb. What appears as possession is actually a kind of struggle on the part of Plato to exceed his poetic master. For Longinus. It is Plato’s sublime power of imagery that drives home his points. This time the light is slightly distorted. B. nobler. This time the light is no longer seen clearly as earlier observed. the more distorted the light becomes. to seek to imitate and exceed an influence if not plagiarism but a tribute. as the turbulent water subsides.Suppose we churn the water a bit. 1. this is negative (the iron rings). 2. Plato is a master of the sublime. For Plato. this inspiration is positive: it ennobles and uplifts the souls of all those who come in contact with it. it makes them richer. Longinus posits as the source of Plato’s sublimity his near possession by the spirit of Homer. Harold Bloom calls this artistic and psychological need on the part of the poet to outdo his influence the “anxiety of influence. dissolving. in a reverse order.

The lust for money and pleasure yields petty. 2. Longinus laments that his age is no longer conducive to the creation of sublime art. Even political slavery is better than this. The sublime poet must. With an unexpected turn. nonheroic age is typical of literary theorists. 4. C. which Plato thought so deleterious to the morals of his Republic. Longinus not only offers his fullest refutation of Plato. he reveals that there is something worse than the loss of freedom. The sublime poet must rise above our petty world. 1. At first. because even the cruelest tyrant cannot crush a soul inspired by sublimity. 3. however. In conclusion. one of the purposes of On the Sublime is to inspire and equip a new golden age of poets. As with Aristotle’s Poetics. B. 2. like the Platonic philosopher. shun the false illusions of this world is he is to achieve his goal. a treatise on poetry. D. This feeling of being born too late into a non-poetic. ends with a powerful moral critique of society.1V. ignoble thoughts. The supreme killers of the sublime are materialism and hedonism. A. 1. but defines the greatest threat to cultural refinement. it breeds both vanity and insolence and kills the sublime spark of the soul. Longinus appears to suggest that the ultimate threat to sublimity is tyranny. 73 . Ironically.

39 Translated by Stephen MacKenna. Most influential of all. a systematizer of the heritage of Plato. act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here. is the last significant philosopher of pagan antiquity. until a lovely face has grown his work. Although the Triad is important in Plotinus’s philosophy. “On the Beautiful”39 Abstract Plotinus. the founder of Neo-Platonism. this other purer. until you see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine. Plotinus located the human soul in a fundamental unity of all souls that have as their interior the intelligible world of Nous and as their exterior. 74 . I. until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendor of virtue. The Triad cannot be represented by diagrams or approached through logical reasoning. it is not the center of his thought. straighten all that is crooked. —Plotinus. But he also thought in terms of an intellectual vision of Platonic forms (a level of being he called Nous or the Mind of God. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive. bring light to all that is overcast. Introduction. he makes this line lighter. the world of bodies. He saw the universe in terms of a deep underlying unity (which he called the One and identified with Plato’s idea of the Good). which he located a step lower on the ladder of being than the One). he smoothes there. And if you do not fine yourself beautiful yet. labor to make all one glow or beauty and never cease chiseling your statue. and a theorist of a form of otherworldly spirituality that was strongly influential in the Western Christian tradition through Augustine. but with the One itself. he sketched a spiritual ascent of the soul’s turning inward to discover its fundamental unity not only with the one Soul and the divine Mind. Vide bibliography.Plotinus “On the Intellectual Beauty” Withdraw into yourself and look.

p. H. Like Pythagoras. Neo-Platonism is based on Plato’s theory of ideas and emphasizes the mystical dimension of Plato. D. he had a pupil by the name of Porphyry (a Pythagorean). the Greek philosopher Ammonius Saccas. treatise (Tractate). Ammonius Saccas is to Plotinus as Socrates is to Plato. When they were done.A.E. refusing to locate either the beginning (arkhe) or the end (telos) of existents at any determinate point in the ‘chain of emanations’—the One. We must renounce the physical world in order to regain our original nature. Both teachers wrote nothing.6. we cannot call Plotinus simply a philosopher. Jacques Derrida in his Speech and Phenomena42 describes Plotinus’ system as representing the “closure of metaphysics’ as well as the “transgression” of metaphysical thought itself. E. Plotinus. but was not satisfied with his studies until he met. Derrida writes: Plotinus emphasizes the displacement or deferral of presence.” he went to Rome in the year 244 and opened a school there where he taught for 20 years. F. 1973. At the age of 60. for Plotinus. IV. The soul is defiled by contact with phenomenal existence. was born in Egypt in ca. at 28. (Plato himself wrote on many topics but Plotinus chose to focus on Plato’s mystical dimension only). I. 75 . that this principle is but another being among 40 41 Another famous student of Ammonius Saccas is Origen. because he was ashamed of being in a body). He was educated in Alexandria. 203 or 204 or 205 or 206 CE (we are not sure because he never celebrated his birthday. and chapter. G. for the number nine. another founder of Neo-Platonism. Porphyry edited Plotinus’ works dividing them into six books with nine chapters each. for to predicate presence of his highest principle would imply. B. Plotinus. the work was called the Enneads.41 Thus the standard citation of the Enneads Porphyry’s division into book (Ennead). the Intelligence. wrote in difficult Greek. In the same work. apart from bad penmanship. 42 Northwestern University Press. and the Soul—that is the expression of his cosmological theory. Neither can we call him a metaphysical thinker in the real sense of the term. a Greek-speaking philosopher and co-founder of Neo-Platonism. Edward Moore. Plotinus emphasized otherworldliness. translator.40 C. Credit goes to Porphyry for the tough editing. intending to found “Platonopolis. 128 note. Porphyry’s books were condemned to be burned by the Council of Ephesus in 431 C. At the age of 40. For example.1.

changed his life-goal from literature to philosophy. Paul. It is the first emanation from the One and is 43 44 Ibid. He was the last great philosopher of pagan antiquity.beings. K. Augustine. The One is the same as the Good of Plato. It is extremely “desirable” so that it draws back to itself all that flows out from itself. Reality is a continuum with a center from which circles expand outward. He influenced Augustine and Boethius. He died in solitude in 269 CE at Campania. The Higher determines the lower without being affected by it. even if it is superior to all beings by virtue of its status as their ‘begetter. would change his life-goal from philosophy to theology. after reading St. It is called Good because it is not negative but supremely positive. Augustine. Eventually. reading Plotinus. 2. a generation before Christianity became the established religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine.44 L.’ 43 J. The central doctrine of his metaphysics is the theory of the trinity: One→Nous→Soul. The One is ineffable. 76 . The Nous is also called the Intellect or Spirit. 1.

3. If the One is the sun. Think of the difference between the long process of trying to figure out a mathematical proof and the brief moment when you get it and say “Aha!” 3. thus the Soul is the second emanation from the One. Intellect (Nous) is also translated “mind. 1. B. and God the Holy Ghost are three persons in One God). 4. A. a mind for which that moment of understanding is a permanent. or proving something. the Nous is the light by which the One sees itself..” “Intelligence. inexhaustible. this is a moment when time touches eternity. Now imagine a mind that always sees that way. i.” “spirit. 2. God the Son. figuring things out. M. 4. and it is emanated from the Nous. The divine Intellect. The main difference between Neo-Platonism and Christianity in the theory of the trinity is that the former is hierarchical (the One is higher than the Nous) while in the latter. For Plotinus. Christian thinkers (especially Augustine) often identify Plotinus’s concept of intellect with the Mind of God. eternal state of being. This mental activity is intuitive rather than discursive: more like seeing than like talking. a mind that “sees” the whole world of forms that way : that is the divine Mind or Intellect. like the rays of the sun.” or “thinking. For a Platonist. 3. when a merely human mind grasps something about the timeless world of the forms. Intellectual vision (Nous). 1.e. Its activity (noein) is translated variously as “understanding. the fundamental activity of all beings is intellectual contemplation or vision. 77 .” “intellection. all three “Persons” are equal (God the Father. N. What intellect understands is always a Platonic form (also called an “intelligible thing”). “seeing” or beholding Platonic forms with the mind’s eye.” and can be described as “contemplation” (Greek theoria) and “intuition” (from a Latin word for “beholding”).II.” “understanding.” “intelligizing. The Soul is also called World-Soul or Nature or Matter.” 2.

In seeing the divine forms. Intellect and intellects.8 (351 d). Above the divine Intellect. 9. because to see a form is to become identical with it. Like Plato. Aristotle’s doctrine that the mind or intellect becomes identical with the forms it knows.”46 10. It remains untouched. Hence. “The One cannot be any existing thing. unmoved. 2.”45 This is not the One of Parmedes which is a monistic principle. Therefore. the origin or first principle of all things must be One. 1. Plato’s fundamental notion that a kinship exists between the soul and the forms (Phaedo). for Plotinus. many intellects exist (our minds) that can see the forms and. 1. 8. the One does not become less through emanation. C. 3.38. 2. 78 . A. The Intellect or Divine Mind is not unified enough to be the first principle. 3. 45 46 3. D. or intellect and intelligible). Like the artist. “The One is The Good rather than “good. we become one with the divine Intellect. He employs the image of the mirror which reduplicates the image without itself undergoing any change or loss. Plotinus likens the One to the Sun which illuminated without being illuminated. Goodness is attributed to the One. 1. The One beyond Intellect. blueprints used in creating the world. God. Plotinus’s conception of intellectual vision pulls together several strands from the Platonist tradition. thus. 6. share in the vision of the divine intellect. In that case.7. provided that it is not attributed as an inherent quality. The metaphor of knowledge of the forms as “seeing” with the mind’s eye (“Allegory of the Cave”). 5. separate from matter.III. undiminished. Plotinus is convinced that the many must have its source in the One. creates the world. the artist. 7.8. 6. In addition to the one divine intellect. Platonic forms are ideas in the Mind of God. because it contains a multiplicity (the forms) and a duality (knower and known. but is prior to all existents. 2.

This union is possible because the One is the source of all being and all being returns to it—like coming home. A. The One is above being (super-essential). It is above knowledge and understanding (because it is above Intellect) and hence. Because vision requires a duality of seer (knower) and seen (known). 1. a World Soul animating the visible world (and causing the movement of the heavens). The One is absolutely simple. 1. thus. Then there are particular souls (we’d call them individual souls. 3. but Plotinus would call them “divided. and vulnerable to suffering. which are related to the one Soul as the many intellects are related to the one divine Intellect. The place of the soul in the universe.. i. it is ignorant. Just as all intellects are identical with the divine Intellect as they contemplate the forms. The One is therefore above the forms and the Intellect. 1. Soul is located between intellect and body.. separated from one another. impure. super-essential. soul is both one and many. it is incomprehensible. to be united to the inmost source of its own being: it is not a new discovery but a return to where it always is. mortal. There is the one Soul. 3. Ascending beyond vision to union. so are all souls one. above the forms or essences (it lowers the One to say “it exists”—it is beyond mere existence). What makes soul different from intellect is that it can be embodied. B. 79 . As Intellect is both one and many. 1. having no parts or structure (like a geometrical point rather than a geometrical figure). Plotinus identifies the One with Plato’s “the Good” which shines like the sun above the world of the forms (“Allegory of the Cave”). 5. not unified). 3.e.e. 2. Characteristics of the One (simple.” i. one cannot have a view of the One.IV. 2. incomprehensible). C. only union with it. 4. 2. For the soul to be united to the One is. B. hence. identical with the one Soul.

The One is the geometrical point at the center. fragmentation. the source of all being and light. Plotinus’s universe is hierarchical. they fall into embodiment. David Bohm was a theoretical physicist who contributed significantly to Plasma Physics and Hidden Variables. and David Peat which allows for interconnectedness at a deep level. The hierarchy of being in Plotinus. ordered by the notion of unity or identity: the higher something is. 80 . 4. 2. but unified and powerful as they turn to contemplate forms in the intellect above. 5. As souls return to the intellect. 3. it will see the inner world of the Forms and see that it is inwardly one with all souls—because all souls share the same “interior. A. Plotinus’s concentric universe. The Intellect is a realm of light revolving around that center.” The implicate order is basically a view proposed by David Bohm.V. 1. If a soul turns to look inward. 3. B. 2. which are many. 1. thus. Basil Hiley. 2. On the outer side of that sphere are many faces (our “individual” souls) looking outward into the dark world of bodies. they ascend to unity and purity and rediscover their original inward happiness. the more unified it is. containing a multitude of illuminated forms. 4. identical with them (intellect = intelligible world). a book on the correlations between subatomic particles and the universe. The Soul is an outer sphere revolving around that inner globe of light. which is so unified that it cannot even be articulated as forms or understanding. The least unified are bodies. The highest level is the One. As souls turn away from the intellect. can always be fragmented into parts. and death. 3. The next level is the intellect. which are fragmented and weak insofar as they are absorbed in bodies. which eternally and uninterruptedly contemplates the intelligible forms within it and is. The next level is souls. to make this little excursion. and can always perish (only bodily things can break or die). I am borrowing from his Wholeness and the Implicate Order (vide bibliography).

according to the implicate order theory. by the way. Bohm then asked: What would happen if the cylinder were rotated counterclockwise exactly the same number of turns it was rotated clockwise? If you did this. one inside the other.The physical universe. has been widely ignored by the mainstream scientific community for reasons I do not know. it is as non-classical as quantum theory. This. we can now say that the distribution of the dye is random. I was struck by its implications. Bohm’s model to test the properties of the implicate order is known as the Glycerin Dye experiment. A special jar with a rotating cylinder with a space filled with glycerin was the one we used in this case. In other words. however. (Bohm’s model. Using a simple scientific term. you would discover that the drop would reconstitute itself. I have not come across any single experimental evidence to refute it. is only the beginning of the experiment. The beauty of this theory lies in its being classical and non-classical at the same time. only hidden from 81 .) With the right instruments you can try the experiment yourself. It is classical because at a deep level the theory is deterministic. The drop of ink slowly re-appears first as a long ribbon until it retains its former shape. is the explicate order made explicit from the deep level which “implies” it. which means that the initially ordered state had passed into entropy. At the same time. As soon as you place a drop of ink in the cylinder. you rotate the crank slowly clockwise. All you will need is a glycerin solution encased between two glass cylinders. The first thing you will observe is the dye drop threading out into the liquid and slowly vanishing in the thick glycerin. perhaps because the experiment was done at a time I was seeking some mental connections. Despite its simplicity. the seemingly random state had not been one of disorder at all but of an implicit order. Turn the outer cylinder some more and the dye completely disappears. But because the theory also allows instantaneous actionat-a-distance. and a drop of dye solution which you let fall into the glycerin.

a brick wall separating you and an aquarium in which a fish is swimming. imagine two TV cameras (A and B) aimed at the aquarium. when it involves from form. you may think that you are watching two fishes. Camera A is aimed in front of the aquarium. 82 . he says. S. Instead. When it evolves into form. Particles only appear to be separate on the explicate level. its existence suggested a non-local level of reality beyond the quantum level. Bell. it becomes explicate. If every particle of matter were interconnected with every other particle. The apparent separateness therefore is an illusion. as shown in our illustration above. Whenever the fish in Monitor A moves. while Camera B is aimed at the right side. You may now conclude that some sort of instantaneous communication occurs between the two fishes. then we all must be interconnected with each other! Unlike J. Because of the brick wall. All you see are two images on two TV screens.view. and so on and so forth. Now. is that what we perceive as separate particles in a subatomic system are not in reality separate on a deeper level but extensions of one fundamental reality—an implicate order which we just discussed. in layman’s term. this is the state of the universe. Bohm goes further to say that the implicate order itself is implied in an underlying order of pure potential which in turn springs from an infinite pool of infinite potential. the fish in Monitor B also moves. Imagine. it becomes implicate. Due to this limitation. David Bohm did not feel that “action at a distance” was due to the faster than light signaling process. Each camera is hooked to a TV monitor. you cannot see the aquarium. Thus you have two TV monitors (Monitor A and Monitor B) on each side of the brick wall facing you. What this means. According to Bohm.

In reality. there are no two fishes but just one fish.” 1.. 47 This is analogous to the correlations between two photons in the Einstein-PodolskyRosen (EPR) experiment. It has affinities with any religion that aspires to find deep truths behind the visible world of appearance. C. 83 . 3. 2. The fish in the aquarium corresponds to the level of reality beyond the quantum—the implicate order. 2. with its attachment to the flesh or person of Christ. Access to that unity comes by turning inward. finding the deep unity within the soul that is beyond all understanding. Plotinus’s spirituality is a radical extension of the Platonist metaphysical conviction that the truth of being lies deeper than physical appearances. for which no person or people is ultimate). In many ways we can see B. Plotinus’s philosophy as “pure spirituality. This philosophy is also more spiritual than Christianity. A. Hinduism. Plotinus’s spirituality. Behind the many-ness of external appearances is a deep inner unity (the One). with its attachment to the fleshly people of Israel.47 The two TV monitors correspond to the world as we know it—the explicate order. 1. This philosophy is more spiritual than Judaism. including the world of finite persons (cf. VI.

St. Take the example of the Pythagorean Theorem. During his lifetime.. Augustine. is more interested in the other kind of sign. There’s always some “thing” that is signified. we shall take up Augustine who I consider to be one of the two greatest medieval Christian thinkers next only to the Apostle Paul. We learn the significance of the sign by first knowing what it signifies. a gesture. Augustine lived at a time when classical western civilization experienced its greatest crisis. Smoke is an example of a natural sign. therefore. words. a nod. Anything I do to communicate my thoughts to you—a word. For Augustine. a gesture. These are Augustine and Aquinas. That is a sign. both exerted commanding influence on European thought and culture. and that external bridge is always some kind of sign: a smile. two personalities loom the largest: one at the beginning and the other at the close.” (Adams. Within a span of almost a millennium between them. rather we learn what the sign means from the thing it signifies. always has signification. a sign is an outward thing “used to signify something. The smoke that we see brings up fire in our minds.—is called a conventional sign. In this chapter. There are two kinds of signs: natural and conventional. you know there’s a fire over there. the conventional or the “communicative” sign. what’s in my thoughts. Saint Augustine (354-430) is the founder of expressionism. but we don’t really learn things from signs that signify them. however. etc. an event that seemed improbable happened: Rome fell. Words are used to communicate something.St. a gesture or any thing that we do that communicates my thoughts to you. Augustine Semiotics Among the great figures of the Middle Ages. 108) It is a sensible thing that makes something else come into our thoughts. By expressionism. We give signs in order to signify what’s in our hearts and minds. A sign. e.g. a frown. It is an external bridge from one inner self to another. 84 . It is a sign of fire. I give out signs in order to signify what’s in my mind. Even if you do not see the fire on the other side of the mountain. and then transfer them to another. I mean the theory of external signs as expressions of internal things. as both of them represent the most profound theological thinking of the Middle Ages. a frown. sacraments. Conventional signs are used to teach things.

Pelagius acknowledged the concept of God’s grace. but believed. which has a natural meaning of fire. but not freedom not to sin. In this way. too. is needed. the British Theologian. the freedom to do good. Augustine. and preceding all good actions. think of a causal chain in this sequence: Faith→Charity→God. therefore. unlike smoke. wholly gratuitous.” The English language. God. wouldn’t make sense of it. even to the point where sin has become our second nature (i. and your heart.what’s in my heart—and then I attempt to transfer them to your mind. We are rotten at the core. The sign’s excuse for being is the urge to communicate. And because we are totally corrupt. His key phrase was “human freedom. signs are “conventional. To communicate with each other. There is no exception. In order to communicate with each other. Conventional signs. The sexual pleasure in intercourse was the condition for the transmission of original sin to all of Adam’s descendants. This is where Augustine lay at variance with Pelagius.e.” Despite the damage wrought by Adam’s sin. and thereby receive God’s gift of man’s good nature. unmerited. and yet it is somehow related to external things. in the same way that we wouldn’t make sense of Medieval Latin. The most important of God’s conventional signs are the scriptures and the sacraments. all of us are unable to love God. the Sacraments. we have to agree upon what the signs mean.. Grace is an inward gift. Augustine rejected this: nature was corrupted by self-love. for one. like the Church. But words get their meaning from our wills. As we were taught in the New England Primer: In Adam’s fall We sinned all. All key concepts in Augustine’s theology are focused on the doctrine of grace. for example. All are punishable because all share in Adam’s fall. And Grace is a gift from God. is incomprehensible to one who does not speak the language. and the Scriptures. Among the many kinds of conventional signs. Human freedom is freedom to sin willingly. whose use is conventional to us. we must agree upon what the signs mean. What is the relationship between these external things and the inward gift of grace? To understand the basic structure of the doctrine of grace. therefore. your thoughts. we still have freedom. Augustine not unexpectedly singles out what he calls divinely conventional signs. habitual). 85 . The human will is completely enslaved to sin. he says. do not have a natural meaning. in the essential goodness of human nature—and our ability to surmount the evil effects of Adam’s sin. Grace. uses signs in order to communicate with his creation. and are totally unable to love God. or God’s intervention in our lives.

without ever falling back into this world and its darkness. as soon as she has written the equation. She further amplifies: In any right triangle. when you are fully illuminated by the light of God (called Beatific Vision). it does not mean anything to you. where c. the virtue of relinquishing all doubt in the Ineffable One. then. understanding is the goal. Imagine you do not understand it yet. she says. you won’t understand. The problem with us human beings is that our mind’s eye is not prepared for that kind of vision. Faith is not blind faith. represents the length of the hypotenuse and a and b represent the lengths of the other two sides. Now that she has told you that. What. to Augustine. God (Truth. ought we to do to reach our destination—God? Augustine prescribes Faith. Faith is always linked with understanding.48 So that’s the end: “seeing” God is understanding God. Faith is related to understanding as the road is related to the destination. Reason means using your mind’s eye in trying to understand. You look at the equation and try to understand it. but it is not. Through Faith. it is based on authority. our minds are purified. who is the Truth. but you do believe that what’s written on the blackboard is true— because the teacher says so. This sounds like blind faith. Supreme Happiness) is ineffable and cannot be contained as a mental object. In other words. the vision of the mind’s eye. Faith.49 Faith is not based on what you can see with your mind’s eye. Think of your high school teacher lecturing on the Pythagorean Theorem. the seeing which makes us supremely happy. The teacher has authority and she knows what she’s talking about. Faith is the way. She writes on the blackboard a2+b2=c2. –Book of Isaiah 7:7 86 . and if you do not understand what it signifies. is akin to “seeing” God with the mind’s eye eternally. Our souls are created to “see” God. but rather faith and understanding. You do not quite get it. but the “eye” of the soul is not healthy: it is not doing what it’s been made to do. Our mind’s eye is not pure enough For Augustine. while authority means believing what you are told.For Augustine. which is to “see” God. the area of the square whose side is the hypotenuse (the side opposite the right angle) is equal to the sum of the areas of the squares whose sides are the two legs (the two sides that meet at a right angle). She tells you that it means that the sum of the squares of the sides of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse. Beatific vision therefore is intellectual vision. is the means to get to the goal of understanding. Augustine’s catchphrase is not faith and reason. you know what the sign signifies. Understanding is the goal because a full understanding of God. 48 49 Happiness is the name for the thing we seek for its own sake. That’s a sign. Here’s where reason comes in. Unless you believe.

the thing you understand. natural phenomena followed an order which could be measured mathematically—the seasons. and just as numbers undergird music.50 You are not in a position to understand it yet. the year. says Augustine. where c represents the length of the hypotenuse. but Augustine always goes for the intelligible thing. the schoolteacher can only teach you up to a certain point. You have to understand that real triangle— —the sum of the areas of the two squares of the legs a and b equals the area of the square on the hypotenuse c—in order to understand the significance of the sign a2+b2=c2. So what notion of number did Pythagoras have? How did he arrive at this principle? Like previous thinkers. but he can’t make you understand. If a direct relationship exists between numerical ratios and the harmonies of music. to go back to Augustine’s theology. but an internal one: Christ. He teaches you. what’s going to make you understand? Who’s going to make you understand? Not an external teacher. and not the other way around. From these observations he saw that these characteristics followed exact mathematical patterns. You learn signs from the things that signify. An excursion: Pythagoras offered a more elaborate solution than his pre-Socratic predecessors to the problem of genesis: All.You have to understand the thing signified first. say so many words. He can’t make you understand. and for the first time. he said. day and night. so are numbers the very stuff and pattern of the universe. He identified this principle with number. to take priority over the sensible thing. He can write as many equations. 87 . In other words. and a and b represent the lengths of the other two sides. because it is from that signified that you understand the significance of the sign. What you see with the physical eye comes second. and so on. Pythagoras sought to discover the unifying principle of all reality. What you see with your mind’s eye must come first. 50 A simpler. Pythagoras had observed the dirrerent characteristics of phenomena. is number. So. In order to understand that real triangle. The natural world displays numerical order. departed from the Ionian tradition of designating a material substance (the elements) as the first principle. This does not mean that signs have no use. Like the Ionians. layman’s way of putting it: The sum of the squares of the sides of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse. according to Augustine.

Throughout the Middle Ages. The people despised her because of her gender. and the Beautiful had to go underground lest they suffer the same fate of Hypatia (b. the Vandals had invaded that part of the empire. a period in which cultural and intellectual activity declined while violent barbarians destroyed the monuments of classical civilization. During the year of his death in 430. 88 . violating the women. the monasteries were the antidote. Hippo was then sacked and burned to the ground. was the Fear of Learning. The Romans had lost their civic virtue. and instead had become apathetic. In 415 while on her way to the great library. 370). parishioners of Cyril of Alexandria dragged her from her chariot. the City of God came to be identified with the Church to the effect that the state could only attain virtue by submitting itself to the guidance of the Church. the Church was the sole custodian of classical learning. The chief characteristic of the Dark Ages. The Church undertook the gigantic task of converting to Christianity the barbarian invaders—and the Church succeeded to such an extent that over the next several centuries. they were able to take control of the empire itself. years later. slaughtering bishops and clergy. burning churches.The City of God shaped the political ideology of medieval Europe. canonized—Cyril of Alexandria. They had become unwilling to fulfill their civic duties. Augustine lived at the beginning of what has often been characterized as the European Dark Ages. In time. before burning her skeleton with her books. His own city of Hippo swarmed with refugees. In the midst of all these. Augustine fell ill with a fever. tore off her clothes. and died shortly afterwards. torturing the laity. the barbarians acknowledged the Roman Pope as the Supreme Authority in the land. 430. He was buried on August 28. they had foisted off their civic duties onto barbarian mercenaries who had become so powerful that by the 5th century CE. It established the principle that divine authority is greater than human authority. Augustine lived to see the total collapse of Roman rule in Africa and the ruin of his diocese. the Good. Thus. Augustine’s vision of the City of God rising from the ruins of the Roman Empire was realized in the Church. The True. a symbol of learning and the last scientist of Alexandria. however. preventing the total extinction of classical learning. Despite this. a woman. and with abalone shells flayed her flesh to the bones. monasteries became refuge of scholars. Instead. Her name is forgotten. As mass illiteracy prevailed outside. especially military service. and because they identified her great learning with paganism. The Church.

The year is 452 A. As soon as he is face to face with the invader.D. and the Suevi have captured Iberia. The Huns witness a long procession coming out of the city to meet them. abandoned by their own rulers. the Scourge of God. confused. Their intention is to lay it in ruins. Orleans. Many residents of Italy flee to the Venetian lagoon. This is how the city of Venice was founded. and orders him to depart from Rome. (He had erased the city from the map so that there is no trace of Aquileia today. All the lands around Germany to the Ural River. and Gaul in Western Europe have crumbled. Meanwhile. turn to Leo I (reign 440-461) for help. All these prepare the ground for the Huns to invade Northern Italy. Leo I. And now we see the Huns thundering directly towards Rome. turns back and retreats to the Danube. Attila is awed by the strange pomp of incense and stately robes and the singing of sacred hymns led by an aging pope holding aloft the processional crucifix. The Huns have razed Aquileia. the vandals have taken North Africa. known for their cruelty. there to meet the barbarian invaders. and their leader Attila (406453) stands on top of a hill to watch the city burn to ashes.) Attila is descended from the Xiongnu tribes. the heart of western civilization. including the Balkans. Britain has fallen too under the barbarian invaders and the Gaels sign a separate peace with the Goths and the Burundians. The pope immediately orders his cardinals and archbishops to assemble together and lead the people in procession to Mincio in the vicinity of Mantua. The people of Rome. never to bother Rome again. from the Danube to the Baltic Sea. 89 . bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. They had moved towards Europe because Shi Huang Ti had built the Great Wall largely to keep them out. Attila. points the crucifix at Attila.

1517.” On October 13.The Repulse of Attila (1513/14) by Raphael Stanza della Segnatura The Vatican (Public domain) An Augustinian monk who chose as his religious name “Augustine” had declared that not only had he read St. He was influenced by Plato in the sense that he subscribed to the idea that poetry is dangerous because 51 The Catholic Encyclopedia is the oldest known source where this citation is found. Despite never having been given the opportunity to finish the book. a work that is also described as an example of Holocaust literature. 90 . Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius Consolation of Philosophy Or “Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?” Or “Why Are Good Writers Born Losers?” Or “Why Do We Write Well When We Are Depressed?” Abstract Boethius’ great learning is reflected in his Consolation of Philosophy. he nailed to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral ninety-five theses. It is unfinished because the executioner had arrived to “interrupt” the writing. Another eminent example of prison literature is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Boethius is a canonical figure who was read widely for hundreds of years.51 It is also an example of an unfinished masterpiece. an example of prison literature. Augustine but that he had “swallowed him whole.

He will not kid himself. B. a perception which only philosophy can repair. he rose to become magister officiorum . into Latin. especially Plato and Aristotle. Lady Philosophy upbraids the Muses of Poetry—the “seducing mummers”—for luring the condemned man “with poisonous sweets” who "stifle the fruit-bearing harvest of reason with the barren briars of the passions. dulls our reason by exciting the passions. Poetry. unfortunately. A large part of this new perspective is caused by the acceptance of the impermanence of all things. Boethius at the end of the day will not look away. First. Boethius echoes Plato’s censure of poetry as an inferior and dangerous pursuit. The severe depression Boethius is experiencing is due to his limited human perception. Life had been good to him. He was talented. cannot do this.it feeds the passions. Three years later he was arrested on charges of conspiring with the Byzantine Empire at Constantinople. the Muses were pagan and second that the arts catered to sensuous and earthly interests. His two sons also became consuls. the only legitimate occupation. not poetry. Fortune is fickle. A. I. a. Only that would bring him peace. His father was a consul. or head of all government and court service of the Ostrogoth ruler Theodoric the Great. Nothing lasts. II. the next day it crushes us to the ground. Boethius himself became a consul. At the age of 40. He will look at good fortune and bad fortune equally with serenity and acceptance. Everything is ephemeral. is the true medicine of the soul. The position was short-lived. One day the Wheel spins us to the top." For Boethius. He translated Greek works. But he had religious reasons as well. then. C. because poetry. The Consolation of Philosophy is actualized when one's perspective is shifted from the human to the Divine. D. and saint (also known as Saint Severinus). Philosophy. III. a Christian philosopher. Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius. was born in Rome around 480 CE of a Patrician family. He will not live through the fraudulent belief in not seeing what he does not want to see. A. philosophy is the highest. 91 . Boethius was stripped of his title and wealth and thrown into prison at Pavia. by its very nature. scholar.

is the Nicene Constantinople Creed of 381 at the Council of Constantinople. In recent times. The Incarnation is just a metaphor. the leather shrunk and slowly crushed his skull. and in many places Boethius was honored as a martyr. which at that time was championed by the Emperor Justin against the Arian Theodoric. He was executed in 524 by garrote. Horace and Longinus. According to this teaching. possibly rawhide. In other words. he abjured the Faith before his death. 1907. In the eighth century this tradition had assumed definite shape. not created. met at the council of Nicaea and condemned it while formulating the Nicene Creed in 325 CE: 2. Christ was created by God. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: “It was believed that among the accusations brought against him was devotion to the Catholic cause. the Father Almighty. The Creed that we are familiar with. B. and there have not been wanting critics who asserted that Boethius was not a Christian at all. 92 . the Only begotten of the Father that is of the substance of the Father. Athanasius. Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius. or that. consubstantial with the Father. if he was. His head was bound in wet leather straps. that which is used in our quotidian liturgy. Let me offer an explanation in defense of Boethius. if you write philosophy. Jesus Christ the Son of God. 3. St. for example. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. however. The foundation for this opinion is the fact that in the ‘Consolations of Philosophy’ no mention is made of Christ or of the Christian religion. and his feast observed on the twenty-third of October. just write philosophy. Boethius attributes his arrest to slander by his rivals who he thought were his friends. light from light. Creator of all things visible and invisible. And in One Lord. We believe in One God. Boethius was a keen student of the classical style and followed to the letter the ancient’s advice about writing. critical scholarship has gone to the opposite extreme.b. together with 220 bishops. Arianism was a heresy that denied the divinity of Christ. Turner. C. God from God.”52 D. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 52 W. as we have seen. begotten. Don’t include scriptural commentaries. true God from true God. and as they dried. bishop of Alexandria. advised against mixing genres. Because of this heresay. 1.

but in God. E. While at prison awaiting execution. In Medieval times. Today it is read only by medievalists and by CL majors—not for pleasure but as a duty.IV. or pleasure. Chaucer translated it into Midland English. Book IV is about the problem of Evil. VII. C. The Mindset of the Middle Ages I like to divide the journey of Western thought into three great configurations: the Graeco-Roman period (lasting up to the fourth century CE). Book III says that the Supreme Good lies not in riches. but not the 93 . Elizabeth I followed with an accurate translation in elegant English in 1593. in this second module. nobody is to blame. the Medieval mind understood the purpose. She conjures up Lady Fortune who is seen spinning her wheel. The Christian-Medieval period is one that we can describe as theistic. Boethius is buried in Pavia (in the same church where also is buried St. of a woman holding books in her right hand and a scepter in the other. everybody talked about God. 2008) declared: “Despite his dedication to public life. Boethius did not neglect his studies. A. Book V reconciles Free Will and predestination. he wrote his famous Consolation of Philosophy. In Book II. power. in secular society.” Boethius’ feast day is celebrated every October 23. D. only theologians and clerics can talk about God openly without feeling self-conscious. Her name is Philosophy. the second period: the Christian-Medieval. Augustine). Philosophy upbraids him for clinging to ambition which has no enduring value. Pope Benedict the XVI recently (March 12. Lady Fortune is just doing her job.” B. Medieval life was meaningful in ways we do not understand. VIII. Let us discuss. the book itself had fallen on Fortune’s Wheel. For example. You rode on the wheel of fortune. IX. Today. the Christian-Medieval period (from the fourth to the seventeenth century). VI. and the Modern (otherwise known as the Renaissance). V. says Lady Philosophy. It was God-centered. Alfred the Great translated the Consolation into Anglo-Saxon in the 9th century. F. Lady Fortune never allows anybody to continue in prosperity. later published by Caxton in 1480. Once read and loved widely. Don’t lament your bad fortune. You wrought it on yourself. Its five books have been characterized as “the last work of Roman literature. Now that you are down. Book I tells of a vision Boethius had.

disobey and you will be punished. The latter was left to God. the way to salvation was simply to align ourselves with God. Do not rock the boat. We trusted God. Because of its sense of order (which no one questioned) with God at the top of the ladder (which no one dared to question). but accepted everything her parents did without question. The cosmos was in good hands. In the High Middle Ages. because your soul would be saved. and worked without their by-lines attached underneath their works. 94 . nature’s obscurity as presented by cosmology through Aristotle posed no problem. The child did not understand much the meaning of what was going on. knew her place in the celestial ladder and served her purpose. so if you wanted to be saved. The Medieval universe was ordered—and finished (In Dante’s Divine Comedy and in Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. Minstrels. and there the matter ended. so there was no point in pressing the issue. The Medieval mindset had its advantages. narrated events. Meanwhile. troubadours. just follow the commandments.meaning. Nobody yearned for freedom. Our mind was limited. too. Nobody challenged the status quo. The latter is more important than discursive inquiry. artificers expressed themselves. they cared for her and so they knew best. The individual was subordinate to the hierarchical world. of life. The dynamics of the cosmos and the natural world were way beyond our capacity to understand. The Medieval outlook was unproblematic: Reality was Godfocused—and personal. After all. the medieval mindset was able to mobilize entire communities to build cathedrals and bring the entire weight of that psychological comfort that all is well in heaven and on earth. If you did. The individual was not important. Medieval man and woman lived as a child did while living in her parents’ house. and nobody ever conceived things to be otherwise. The emancipation of the individual was still to happen in the Renaissance. you would be burned at the stake. Never question the Divine Order because that comes from Divine Revelation. The duty of every man and woman was clear and simple: do this and you will be saved. decisions have been done and over with)—so there was no need to worry: everyone. from the pope and the monarch down to the serf. and everybody would think it was all right. Only God knew.

and clarity or brilliance. but rather spread out throughout a body of works to a degree that we might not at first suspect. 1st part of the 2nd part of the prima secundae of the Summa. Paris. Perhaps his most famous statement on the idea of beauty is his declaration that beauty must have three requirements: integritas. 55 Plato’s influence is shown here.A.). Two significant factors affected his education. He taught thereafter at Paris.54 These qualities derive from God who is the One (the Good).55 I. 53 Right reason applied to the making of things.). founded (in 1224) by his kinsman King (and Holy Roman Emperor) Frederick II (there he earned his A. This stands to reason. Thomas Aquinas Aesthetics and Hermeneutics Thomas Aquinas’ aesthetic theory is the least recognized aspect of his thought. It was designed to train professionals. Summa Theologica. 1. he is more Aristotelian than Platonic in his definition of art as recta ratio factibilium. 2. debita proportio sive consonantia. B. Aquinas was the child of the new university system. 1. due proportion or harmony. Thomas Aquinas (1225?-1274) was the son of a south Italian noble house that was well connected to the ruling dynasty of the Kingdom of Sicily and to the international European aristocracy of 13th century Western Europe.St.B. Although Thomas draws on both Plato and Aristotle. et claritas. and claritas.” 54 Integrity or perfection. then at the University of Paris (M. at the itinerant papal university in Italy. and finally at the University of Naples. then at the University of Naples. Q 57 article 3. and Oxford in the second half of the 12th century. A. and S. C.Th. this quote taken from his commentary on Aristotle’s Poetics: “Art Imitates Nature. consonantia. Thomas Aquinas’s life and context. The complete text reads integritas sive perfectio. because his aesthetics are not found in any one particular work. which had emerged at Bologna. 95 .D.53 How does art imitate nature? Simply by moving from simplicity to complexity—a sort of evolutionary movement. Aquinas was also the star of the even newer Dominican Order. Aquinas was educated at the venerable Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino near his birthplace.

Aquinas was the last creative commentator on Aristotle’s philosophy. Aquinas’s Aristotelianism. motion involved not merely physical movement. E. the Bible provides the necessary authoritative information on that point. Thus. Aquinas’s teaching regarding the eternity of the world—a conviction of Aristotle’s: Aquinas argued that neither the eternity of the world nor the contrary could be demonstrated by pure logic. ethics. 2. D. but also the “reduction’ of potency to act. but the soul is immortal. concerned to establish the end or purpose of any being or any of its actions. 96 . Augustine than to Aristotle. Aquinas accepted Aristotle’s logical thought integrally and uncritically. He died on March 7. Aquinas’s Summa Theologica (Part 1. 2. Aristotle’s doctrine of motion was used by Aquinas in developing proofs for the existence of God. politics. Aquinas taught that its function was to learn truths of a spiritual nature. Aquinas’s teaching on the nature of the human being: the soul is the form of the body (Aristotle’s doctrine). Aquinas’s teaching on this matter is closer to the Christian Neo-Platonism of St. C. Article 3) proposes five such proofs. Following Aristotle. Aquinas’s thought was resolutely teleological. as well as theology. the proofs from motion and from contingency or necessity of being depend on this Aristotelian doctrine. author of some 60 to 100 titles. the human soul survives the death of the body. In regard to the human soul. Thomas expressed this teleological reasoning in his thought on biology. however. It is important to recognize that for Aristotle.II. Some key instances of Aquinas’s creatively critical Aristotelianism will be outlined below: 1. As such. that is. 1. Question 2. All in all. when he disagreed with Aristotle—as in the question of the eternity of the world and the immortality of the soul—he usually did so by critiquing Aristotle’s conclusions with Aristotle’s logic. as well as material sense-knowledge. B. A. 2. 1274 at the age of 49. Aquinas followed Aristotle’s epistemology: what we know we know from data collected by the senses. and cosmology. F.

According to Aquinas. the state was natural to the human condition. aristocracy. the operation of the entire universe was explained by “motion. B. It got as far as inspiring a bishop of Paris and two archbishops of Canterbury to condemn several of Aquinas’s teachings. A. divine positive law specifically legislated for human conduct. On the other hand. the leading thinkers of the Dominican Order’s main rival. not in every matter. rather than a punitive consequence of Original Sin. Aquinas’s most Aristotelian teachings provoked a strong negative reaction. For Aquinas. although. In political philosophy. 97 . Like Aristotle. Aquinas followed Aristotle quite closely. his teleological end. In his distinctive doctrine of law. H.III. He favored monarchy more than Aristotle had. No divine law can be in conflict with natural law. as for Aristotle. 1. The Dominican Order reacted with gusto. somewhat tempered by aristocracy. the Franciscan Order. because it does not conform to human teleology. led this movement. man was a political animal who needed civil society to reach his fulfillment. 2. eventually declaring some of them formal heresies. the natural law inherent in human nature. even in his lifetime. to be teleologically most appropriate for the city-states of his contemporary Italy. This reaction was turned into a movement to condemn Thomism as a heresy. which resembled in so many ways the ideal polis of Aristotle. and human custom (sort of law in itself if it is not in conflict with natural law). as for Aristotle. Aquinas considered mixed government (elements of monarchy. four or five major kinds of laws exist: the eternal law of God and his created universe. human positive law. and democracy combined) to be the best form of government. perhaps (as some have argued) because of his attachment to papal theocracy. Aquinas combined the main lines of Aristotle’s Politics with the Stoic doctrine of natural law and added some original features. Aquinas considered democracy. For Aquinas. leading to Thomas’s controversial canonization by Pope John XXII in 1323.” G. and any human statute or custom that is inconsistent with natural law has no force—it is not a real law at all. again. as Augustine and most Western Christian thinkers since him had maintained. Reactions to Aquinas’s Aristotelianism.

It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved. At the very end of the 20th century. that praised Aquinas as Doctor of the Church. whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. Leonine edition. volume iv. 98 . Neo-Thomism flourished for roughly a century.1920. and evident to our senses. which is potentially hot. Leo XIII issued a papal bull.1.56 The existence of God can be proved in five ways: The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. as fire. makes wood. for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion. Thus that which is actually hot. Aquinas’s Proof of the Existence of God Source: Summa Theologica. though. except by something in a state of actuality. 2. but only in different respects. Summa Theologica Second and Revised Edition. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality. Aeterni patris. Therefore. i. 1a. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect.2. however. and thereby moves and changes it. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. to be actually hot. all forms of Thomism have been inspired by their respect for the thought of Aristotle. whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. See also Opera Omnia. It is certain.e. In 1879. translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot. If that by which it is put in motion 56 Thomas Aquinas. but it is simultaneously potentially cold. that it should move itself. This translation is now in the public domain. we have seen what we might call “Neo-neo-Thomism.” a philosophical movement recasting Thomism and Neo-Thomism in the light of such thinkers as Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan. that in the world some things are in motion. Basically.1 – 3. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another. but then lost appeal even in Catholic academic circles.

and thus even now nothing would be in existence--which is absurd. as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. there will be no first efficient cause. if everything is possible not to be. 99 . In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. because then there would be no first mover. but rather causing in others their necessity. because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore. But this cannot go on to infinity. and. then this also must needs be put in motion by another. Therefore. there will be no ultimate. which is impossible. because in all efficient causes following in order. nor any intermediate cause. if there be no first cause among efficient causes. indeed. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity. nor any intermediate efficient causes. and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause. seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover. Therefore. and that by another again. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause. and this everyone understands to be God. no other mover. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another. consequently. but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. since they are found to be generated. and runs thus. This all men speak of as God. to which everyone gives the name of God. The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself. if at one time nothing was in existence. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity. and not receiving it from another. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity. not all beings are merely possible. put in motion by no other. or only one. all of which is plainly false. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be. then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist. and to corrupt. neither will there be an ultimate effect. they are possible to be and not to be. There is no case known (neither is it. as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. But it is impossible for these always to exist. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover. Now if this were true. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. the first is the cause of the intermediate cause. for so it would be prior to itself. whether the intermediate cause be several.be itself put in motion. and consequently. The third way is taken from possibility and necessity. even now there would be nothing in existence. or not. Therefore. for that which is possible not to be at some time is not.

Everything that is in motion must be put in motion by some other thing. goodness. consequently. unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence. that it is unnecessary to prove God’s existence because it is self-evident that God exists and. as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. as it is written in Metaph. which is the maximum heat. according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum. But "more" and "less" are predicated of different things. We see that things which lack intelligence. The first and “most evident” of these is an argument from motion. Because an infinite series of movers is impossible. something best. as fire. but designedly. Aquinas says. something which is uttermost being. and this is evident from their acting always. Before arguing that God exists. act for an end. Before Aquinas offers his five proofs for the existence of God. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously. something noblest and. true. but it can be proved by reasoning backwards from effects—the objects of our sense experience—to God as their ultimate cause. such as natural bodies. Aquinas’s approach to this objection illustrates his use of the Scholastic method. ii. and this being we call God. The Scholastic method begins with a 100 . is the cause of all hot things. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end. noble and the like. and this we call God. There are five ways to prove that God exists.The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. in the same way. Aquinas argues that the existence of God is not self-evident in the way a mathematical or logical truth is. and every other perfection. second. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being. so that there is something which is truest. Aquinas deals with two objections to the project of proving God’s existence: first. is God. or nearly always. In response. Among beings there are some more and some less good. which framed philosophical inquiry as a debate between opposing points of view. do they achieve their end. there must be a first mover that is not itself in motion. This first unmoved mover. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end. so as to obtain the best result. The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being. that it is impossible to prove God’s existence because the existence of God is exclusively a matter for faith and revelation. he deals with the objection that the existence of God cannot be proved: either because it is self-evident or because it just has to be taken on faith. as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus.

in this life. Aquinas interprets Anselm as holding that the existence of God is self-evident. change in size. we argue from the nature of a thing to its features. The third way argues on the basis of contingency (the fact that things are capable of existing and of not existing) that there must be a necessary being. one marshals the best arguments from authorities (the “big names in the field”) for the view that one rejects. we cannot have any propter quid arguments about God. A detailed look at the first way to prove that God exists. It is “evident to the senses” that some things are in motion. that it is true. three kinds of changes count as “motion”: change in quality. Perhaps one finds a mistaken premise or logical fallacy in the original argument. Then. we can see that God exists. According to Anselm. we argue backwards from effects to cause. Because we have no direct insight into the nature of God.” offers a glimpse into Aquinas’s argumentative method and his use of Aristotelian principles. he denies that the existence of God is selfevident in a way that would make a proof of God’s existence otiose. The fourth way argues on the basis of the degrees of perfection that there must be a maximally perfect being. Each of these changes involves going from potentiality (potentially being a certain way) to actuality (actually being a certain way). how are we supposed to prove that God exists? Aquinas replies by distinguishing between two different kinds of arguments. If we cannot have any direct insight into the nature of God. The second way argues on the basis of causality that there must be a first uncaused cause.quaestio: a question that can be given a yes-or-no answer. and change in place. 101 . The first way argues on the basis of motion that there must be a first unmoved mover. or perhaps one shows that the authority is wrong if interpreted in one way but right if interpreted in another way. Finally. which Aquinas calls “the clearest way. In an argument propter quid. But we can have quia arguments about God by reasoning backwards from God’s effects—sensible things —to their cause. have the kind of understanding of God that would enable us just to “see” that God exists. in an argument quia. Each of the famous “five ways” begins from some fact that can be observed by the senses and argues on that basis for the existence of God. In reply. The fifth way argues on the basis of apparently purposive behavior that there must be an intelligent being that directs all things to attain their ends. The objection that the existence of God must simply be taken on faith takes off from Aquinas’s response to Anselm. just by thinking about the concepts involved. once we understand the concept of God. A proposition is self-evident when one can tell. one considers the opposing arguments and explains why they fail. In Aristotelian jargon. one sets forth one’s own view and gives arguments for it. Aquinas argues that we cannot. Then.

In an infinite series of movers. but it also threatens to undermine the meaningfulness of our language about God. Thus. For example. we must come to a first unmoved mover. If there is no first mover. God is so much beyond the sensible things 102 . How. something that is actually hot is needed to heat what is only potentially hot. Because there cannot be an infinite regress of movers and things moved. whereas something that undergoes motion is in potentiality. then. there is no infinite series of movers. use the language that derives from experience of creatures to speak meaningfully about God. there must be something that causes it go from potentiality to actuality. and our concepts are all ultimately derived from our experience of the objects of the senses. there is no motion. the approach to speaking of God that insists that we can say only what God is not. there is no infinite series of movers. Therefore. whereas something that undergoes motion is in potentiality.Whenever something goes from potentiality to actuality. Because there cannot be an infinite regress of movers and things moved. how can we say anything true about God? In medieval terminology. According to these authors. can the words that we use for ordinary objects be meaningful when applied to God? Aquinas’s answer is that created things resemble or imitate their creator. how can we have “names” for God? Some of Aquinas’s sources concerning this issue particularly emphasized the via remotionis or via negativa: that is. Given the fact that God far exceeds our understanding. everything that is moved is moved by some other thing. although our words cannot have exactly the same meaning in theological language that they have in ordinary language. Whenever something goes from potentiality to actuality. Therefore. We can. everything that is moved is moved by some other thing. But the objects of the senses fall far short of God. Because nothing can be both in actuality and in potentiality in the same respect at the same time. nothing can move itself. Something that causes motion is in actuality. For example. Aquinas and the Problem of Language Aquinas’s Aristotelian strategy of arguing from effects to cause allows us to establish a wide range of conclusions about God. there is no motion. Our language reflects our concepts. Something that causes motion is in actuality. there must be something that causes it go from potentiality to actuality. something that is actually hot is needed to heat what is only potentially hot. Thus. we must come to a first unmoved mover. If there is no first mover. therefore. In an infinite series of movers. there is no first mover. Because nothing can be both in actuality and in potentiality in the same respect at the same time. there is no first mover. nothing can move itself.

Our names for God suggest multiplicity within God. and our intellect’s conception falls short of the reality of God. If a name implies some limitation or defect. For example. The general theory of names. they get their meaning through our intellect’s conception. such names are predicated analogically of God. as we apply it literally to creatures. holds that we can name something insofar as we can understand it. Although God transcends sensible things. words do serve as signs of things but indirectly: They signify things by means of our intellect’s conception of the things. thus. We can also predicate it “in the mode of supereminence. then applies it to the case of names for God. Maimonides had held that affirmative names for God actually express (a) what God is not and (b) God’s relation to creatures. we also cannot name God as he is in himself. and ideas are resemblances (“similitudes”) of things. we can apply it literally to God. derived from Aristotle. Aquinas’s main interest is in names that can be predicated literally of both God and creatures. Aquinas develops a general theory about how names work. name God insofar as we can understand God. but he insists that it can and must be supplemented by the via affirmationis: the practice of using affirmative names to speak of God. Words are signs of ideas. we can apply it literally to God. we can apply the names for those perfections to God—in the technical jargon of the day. good does not imply any limitation. we can predicate rock metaphorically of God. we can predicate those names of God. If no positive predications are possible. Analogical predication is contrasted with equivocal predication (in 103 . We have to use a plurality of names. For these reasons.” in which case. For example. we can apply it metaphorically to God. As all our names do. (In that sense. Thus. we can predicate highest good of God alone. therefore. Even these names are inadequate in a way. For example.that we must use in order to understand him that the best we can do is to say of him what he is not. such things do provide enough clues to his nature that we can derive positive conclusions about God and express them in affirmative names.) But because we can understand God as he is known from creatures. all of which are signs of the same thing—the divine essence— which we conceive in a variety of ways. there is no reason to call God one thing in preference to another. If a name implies a perfection without limitation. we can name him on the basis of our knowledge of creatures. it applies only to God. We can. Aquinas allows a role to the via remotionis. though in a more excellent way. Given that we cannot understand God as he is in himself. even though God has no parts of any kind. the proponents of the via remotionis were right. Because God possesses all the perfections of creatures. Some would even go so far as to say that even the affirmative names are really disguised negatives.

Longinus. He lived during the Elizabethan Age (otherwise known as the English Renaissance). Our knowledge of God is somewhat like our knowledge of someone we know only from a photograph. Sidney was not only a poet and critic but also a man of the world—a Renaissance Man. (2) for being a channel of divine power. 3. 1. Sidney’s arguments in defense of poetry. 11. A. and (4) that the poets were banished by Plato from his Republic.which the same word is used with entirely different meanings) and with univocal predication (in which the same word is used with exactly the same meaning). 1. the cradle of civilization. the work (“Apology”). On Aquinas’s theory. and (4) for combining and surpassing the virtues of history and philosophy. 2. 1. In analogical predication. Then we shall show how Sidney refutes the main arguments made against poetry. Like all critics before him. we shall discuss how Sidney praises poetry (1) for being the cradle of civilization. His “Apology” is more synthetic than original: it pulls together ideas from Aristotle.e. the same word is used with different but related meanings. his defense of the moral nature of poetry answers both Platonic philosophy and Biblical theology. The first law-givers. Sidney is very much a Christian critic. philosophers. (3) for teaching and delighting. Horace. 104 . the age. 1. (2) that it is full of lies. He was both soldier and courtier to the Queen.. God is the original of which all creatures are images. Poetry is the great light-giver. and historians were all poets. and a host of other theorists. A. 2. he knew he would have to answer not only contemporary attacks on poetry but also the attacks by Plato himself. Sidney saw it as his task to revive the plummeting reputation of poetry. For example. the expression my niece is predicated analogically of my niece and a photograph of my niece. i. Sidney the man. (1) that it is unprofitable. B. Sir Philip Sidney “An Apology for Poetry” Abstract This chapter will explore Sidney’s views on the origin and social utility of poetry. (3) that it entices us to sin. First.

2. The end of poetry is to teach and to delight. switches to poetry when extolling God’s glory. what the poet finally imitates is not nature herself but a more perfect idea in the mind to which the poet gives shape. The imitations of poetry can delight and teach. Those who attack poetry are like ungrateful children who rise up against their parents. C. 105 . but as they should be. Jesus’ parables) have a way of impressing themselves in our memory. Poetry inspires the soul both to scorn vices and admire virtues. and verse was the language of prophecy. 1. it transforms beasts into Cyclopes. philosophy. The mimesis of the poet is a higher kind of imitation. 3. Indeed. 2. music. The historian is bound to recount a particular event just as it was. 1. 2. leaves the soul cold. Such “concrete universals” (Aesop’s fables. D. St. Sidney’s favorite example is the parable of the ewe lamb that Nathan used to convict David (2 Samuel 12) 111. bronze into gold. likewise. The power and craft of poetry are of the same essence as the divine. 3. A. even if that event debases virtue and encourages vice. expressed the majesty and beauty of God. 2. his fanciful dialogues and beautiful allegories are built into his philosophy. the poet alone transcends and even improves upon the natural world. poets were seers. Sidney refutes the four arguments thrown in against poetry. In antiquity. 4. which is too serious to delight. for they do not merely copy virtues and vices as they are. B. Paul. Poetry makes the mind receptive to learning. Poetry is unprofitable. 1. 3. the poet is free to alter the particular so as to embody more fully the universal. It is through poetry that David. science) take their cues and their foundations from nature. in the Psalms. Poetry unites the universal truths (abstractions) of philosophy with the concrete examples of history. men into heroes. Plato was himself the greatest of poets. thus it is useful to society. 4. 5. The poet is a maker. there are more gainful ways to spend our time. whereas all other arts (geometry.

Nevertheless. Poetry is the mother of lies. 1. it has the power. it was the poets who taught and guided the philosophers. 1. which has often been perverted. C. poetry does this more effectively than philosophy or history. admits that poets speak via divine inspiration. If we were to accept this argument. B. 2. to move the hearers to virtuous action. it was the pagan poets. not what is. 1V. Poetry entices and leads to sinful behavior. 6. whereas many cities strove for the honor of being Homer’s birthplace. for he admires Plato. It is the abuse of poetry. in the first place. 106 . Sidney concludes by putting a curse on all poet-haters: may they never win love for want of a sonnet. Plato banished the poets from his Republic. Plato himself. not poetry itself. but the poets did not invent them. through teaching and pleasing. 5. Poets never lie. in fact. offers an illusion: an account of what should or should not be. but only imitated them. that leads to sin. 3. they never claim their poems to be the truth.1. the most fruitful of all knowledge. 2. Sidney discovers an “anxiety of influence” between Plato and Homer. who came closest to foreseeing the truths of Christ. and not the philosophers. Paul affirms in Act 17. then we must also criticize the Bible. Plato’s central critique of the poets was their scandalous stories about the gods. Poetry. For Sidney. D. like the stage. 4. 2. 1. in Ion. Poetry is. 2. Indeed. this is the toughest. may they be forgotten for want of an epitaph. Paul quotes pagan poets three times in his writings. As just stated. only fools confuse illusions with reality. Athens killed Socrates. as St.

Then we shall use this notion as a way both to explore the relationship between Dryden’s age and that of the Ancients and to contrast the distinctions between French and English neoclassicism. A. we shall analyze closely Dryden’s “Essay” by trying to define his central notion of the three unities.” England was entering her Golden Age. 1. 107 . At the time Sidney was writing his “Apology. After a brief survey of the historical background of the period and a glance at some similar trends in France.John Dryden “An Essay of Dramatic Poesy” Abstract This chapter will discuss one of the two greatest inaugurators of English neoclassicism: John Dryden. A brief historical background. The next chapter will take up Alexander Pope.

they all agree that art is a form of mimesis. Indeed. discuss the issues of the day. 2. as they cross the Thames in a boat. This was England’s version of the Augustan Age. poets and poetry turn toward high society and aristocracy. but our faults are ours alone. Walt Whitman. C. France was also in the middle of her Neoclassical Age. This was the age of Shakespeare. Like Plato’s Republic. Art experiences a disruption during the Puritan rule under Cromwell. Hawthorne. The first issue of debate concerns their relationship with the Ancients. 2. During the Restoration. 5. John Milton. Meanwhile. A. One man argues that we are nothing but copiers of the Ancients: our merits are their merits. Art is revived during the Restoration. a similar phenomenon was happening in the New World: Emerson. B. 11. There is a concerted effort to return to Greek and Roman models and to produce art fashioned after Aristotle and Horace. that it should teach and delight. Should they imitate them closely? Can the Ancients be surpassed? 2. The “Essay of Dramatic Poesy” is a succinct overview of the main critical issues debated at the beginning of the Neoclassical Age. sought to model themselves precisely on classical precepts. This age reached its height during the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14). Corneille. 1. John Donne. B. 2. D. 2. and that it should follow the laws of decorum. 3. Racine. It takes place on the eve of a great battle (1665) and concerns four men who. Boileau. England experiences her Neoclassical Period (also known as the Age of Reason or the Age of Enlightenment). Thoreau. 1.1. 4. the “Essay” is written in dialogue form. From 1660 onwards till the end of the 18th century. British culture at this time had an air of French in it. Meanwhile. Although the four disagree on particular issues. 108 . 1. Ben Jonson. 1.

but if they lead us to abuse nature. but a guide to keep us in the right track. 2. 1. it is not afraid to depart from them when necessary. 3. and action are derived from Aristotle and Horace but codified by Corneille. however. 3. Racine. agree that the Ancients are to be honored and heeded. 4. C. they must be changed or abandoned altogether. Alexander Pope An Essay on Criticism 109 . According to the unity of action. action onstage should be confined to a single space. place. though it respects the Ancients.3. French plays are more decorous. Neoclassical art is not a pale copy of the Ancients. in any case. D. there should be one main plot that is not complicated or diluted by the interweaving of subplots. but a traditional approach that requires laws and models albeit not enslaved by them. British more lively. while they had only nature. All.” it is this: when the ancient rules on decorum are in sync with nature they should be followed. The Dryden persona concludes that English plays are better because. 4. 6. 1. because we have both nature and the Ancients to imitate. 4. Decorum is not a straightjacket. no more than 12 hours (Oedipus Rex). The four men compare and contrast the French and English theatre. The dialogue gets more specific as they discuss the three unities. it should not leap from place to place. stage time must mimic real time as closely as possible. 5. and Boileau. The unities of time. If there is a “moral” to the “Essay. Whereas most French plays follow the unities. Another says that we have progressed and improved art. According to the unity of place. most English plays do not. According to the unity of time. 2.

a colon. but out of envy and spite. Many critics write not out of love of poetry or out of a fine sense of judgment.” Pope fully embodies the spirit of neoclassicism.” is stricter than Dryden because the former lived in the very heart of the neoclassical age. 110 . 4. the rationality that the neoclassicists prized so highly. In the movement of his heroic couplets. Pope’s “Essay” is a verse epistle.An Essay on Criticism is the only essay I know that is not an essay but a verse epistle in the tradition of Horace. or a comma. B. and test of art. True taste in a critic is as rare as true genius in a poet. The critic should serve as the handmaid of poetry. 3. they elevate themselves at the expense of others. we shall discuss Alexander Pope’s view of the proper role and nature of the critic and on his insistence that nature is the final source. from proposition to proposition to conclusion. It is written in heroic couplets. 5. a semicolon. 4. Pope cannot be read quickly: he demands intense concentration and a sense of proportion. Like Horace’s Ars Poetica. It is decorum set to meter. Though these heroic couplets are linked together in a series. 1. In this chapter. end. but too often critics turn against poets and poetry. Pope. 2. 1. A. indeed. Pope spends time defining the proper role of the critic. step by step. marked by a period. 3. rather than accept the limits of their gifts. Pope’s heroic couplets read like mathematical proofs that move logically. • In his “Essay. Too many critics are like half-breed mules that lack both the genius of the poet and the taste of the true critic. 2. his poetry is decorum set to meter. a bad critic is more dangerous to art than a bad poet. 5. also known as “The British Horace. We shall also explore how the very verse from that Pope chose mimics the spirit of neoclassical decorum. A heroic couplet has two lines of poetry with each line having ten syllables each (five stresses) with an end stop at the end of the couplet. Like Horace. there is always a strong stop at the end of each couplet. they destroy what they cannot do. we feel the balance. the order. The function of the critic is almost as vital as that of the poet.

because in following them. The best poets and critics look to nature as the source. 3. 111 . and the desired end and aim of his poem. 7. The true critic must judge art not on the basis of his own prejudices but via a close. this is best learned by exposing oneself to the sacred fire of ancient literature. Virgil himself discovered that to imitate Homer was to imitate nature. genial study of a poet’s age. in nature. and test of art. C. 1. we must never forget a poet’s most prized guide-word: restraint. 4. ready made. We must never loose ourselves in poetic frenzy. end. his chosen genre and mode of imitation. we follow nature.6. The Ancients did not so much invent the rules of decorum as find them. Nature is the best touchstone of art. We follow the Ancients. for it is unchanging and eternal. The true critic (like the true poet) must learn humility. 2. fair.

Schiller. Neoclassical poetics is partially affective in approach. 5.Edmund Burke A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful Abstract This chapter opens Part Four of our course: The German Epistemological Roots of Romanticism. are less concerned with reader response than with what a poem should be. we shift our perspective from a mimeticontological approach to literature to an affective-epistemological approach. imagination. Aristotle’s goal. What is a poem: does it possess its own essence (of Reality) or is it just a reflection? 4. and Hegel. We shall also define some key terms of Burke such as senses.) Our analysis of Burke’s Inquiry in this chapter is brought in by two vital distinctions: between the ontological orientation of Burke’s predecessors and the epistemological orientation of Burke’s successors. 1. judgment. and later by Dryden and Pope. thinkers after Plato and Aristotle. Indeed the Platonic-Aristotelian argument over mimesis is really a debate over the ontological status of a work of art. But before we do so. 2. Mimetic theorists are ontological critics. and taste. albeit influential. Even the rules of decorum and restraint laid down by Horace. 112 . With Edmund Burke. it is concerned with determining the quintessence of things. we shall take up the German critics Kant. for example. In this section. Ontology is the study of being. for example. It cannot be helped. but it nevertheless works within a philosophical framework that is essentially ontological. a housecleaning is in order with the English critic Edmund Burke and his Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. 3. to define precisely the proper nature and essence of a well-constructed plot is an ontological approach. and demonstrate how Burke defined and differentiated between the sublime and the beautiful. (Note: You may find this section on the German critics a bit more “challenging” than the sections. Kant and Hegel. are two of the most difficult.

the groundwork of all perception and thought is the senses. on the other hand.” it is possible to arrive at a universal principle of judgment. Even Longinus. Epistemology is the study of knowing. 3. but with how we perceive that thingness. but exists wholly in the mind of the subject. 2. Burke’s approach to the sublime is quite different from all of the above. If Ontology is the study of being. They seek to explore not just whether a poem teaches and/or pleases but the mental processes by which that lesson/pleasure is perceived. Burke’s approach is epistemological. 1. 11. A. 4. subject is a conscious self that perceives. he lays the groundwork for understanding how we perceive both art and the larger world around us. 2. For Burke. Hence. 4. rather. An object. is an unconscious thing that does not perceive but is. who defines the sublime partly in terms of its effect on the audience. relativistic belief. metaphorical. perceived (by a subject). These processes are called modes of thought. In philosophy. In Burke’s introduction to Inquiry. they mean that the experience has nothing to do with the poetic object per se. 2. This leads us to a vital distinction that lies at the core of epistemology and of any theory that takes such an approach: subject/object. 3. Affective critics are epistemological critics. Because all normal persons have equal access to sense perceptions and because the senses are the “great originals of all our ideas. and linguistic qualities of a sublime poem. when epistemologists define their responses to art as purely subjective. 113 . C. 1. This makes Burke an empiricist in the tradition of John Locke. it is concerned not with the “thingness” of things. Beauty does not so much define a quality that is inherent in a poem as it describes a kind of mental/emotional/intellectual response that occurs within the mind of the person experiencing it. is really concerned with the actual physical. 1. it becomes standard to refer to those who would define group standards of aesthetic taste as aestheticians. Beginning with Burke and Kant.6. The philosophical use of the word “subjective” should not be confused with its modern use to signify a personal.

whatever brings it pleasure or pain. 2. Although the imagination can be inventive. Judgment is gained through an increase in understanding brought about by a long. Still. then his Inquiry is absurd and all aesthetic judgment is mere whimsy.2. 2. C. it can only vary what it is given by the senses. 3. B. judgment. Let us trace how Burke moves from universal sense experience to universal principles of taste (a movement typical of epistemological theory that betrays a desire for order and system that is as strong as that of Aristotle. Some whose natures are blunt and cold are deficient in sensibility. if we are unable to establish fixed principles of taste and and general laws for that mental faculty we call imagination. Indeed. close study of the object of sensation. Longinus. 2. Habit can alter these perceptions. 6. as it relies on the sense. says Burke. D. must have a similar effect on all human beings. If we do not agree. judgment is a higher critical faculty that is closely linked to reason. 1. and we all find more natural pleasure in the sweet than in the bitter. All people perceive external objects in the same way. Whereas imagination is linked primarily to immediate perceptions and has about it an almost childlike quality. 1. 114 . As such. but it cannot abolish our knowledge that tobacco is not sweet and sugar not bitter. Horace. 3. too. We all recognize sugar as sweet and tobacco as bitter. or Pope). it means that we are mad or our senses are impaired. it cannot produce anything new. The faculties of imagination and judgment are shaped by the senses. Imagination (or sensibility) takes the raw material offered it by sense perceptions and recombines that material in a new way. taste is common to all men. whatever affects our imagination powerfully. is common to all men. 5. 1. 4. Therefore. The faculty of taste is the mental product of imagination plus judgment. though there are exceptions. 3.

1. Imagination affords more direct. Some additional distinctions between imagination and judgment. Imagination tends toward synthesis. 5. Beauty and sublimity are not qualities of the object. Burke defines astonishment as that moment in which all motion is suspended and our minds are filled totally by an object or thought. due to a keener sensibility or greater knowledge and discernment. but also through the senses of taste. 5. gloomy. This view is both democratic and elitist. judgment discerns subtle distinctions in what appears to be uniform. more refined taste. The Romantics will shift this preference. have a fuller. 111. even creates unity in the midst of differences. Indeed. synthesis over analysis. 3. feelings that fill us with terror. A. analysis. 2.3. Taste differs from person to person. On the other hand. privileging imagination over judgment. Though Burke asserts that imagination is essential to taste. 6. 5. unmediated pleasure than judgment. 1. 4. The principles of taste operate the same in all men. judgment. though sublimity is a mental experience. and touch. they will suffer from a lack of taste. smell. The sublime is experienced not only through eye and ear. 4. they will suffer from bad taste. 4. 7. he finally gives preference to judgment as the true foundation of good taste. Dark. Burke defines the sublime and the beautiful in epistemological terms. 115 . it manifests itself in our body by causing our hands to clench and our muscles to constrict. Terror produces in us a mental-emotional response called astonishment. but faculties of perception that can be categorized. If this were the case. 3. 2. not in kind but in degree. or if they have seared their imaginative faculties through hedonism or avarice. B. E. massive objects invoke in us an overwhelming feeling of power and infinity. Imagination discovers. but some. if they are deficient in judgment (because they have not thought and studied hard). unmediated over mediated. He defines the sublime as that which inspires in us feelings of terror.

is perceived by all the senses. The beautiful inspires in us sentiments of tenderness and affection. smooth. C. Small. Beauty. Though sublimity is linked to terror. 2. 1. 3. 116 . no actual danger must be present.6. bright things cause a relaxing of the body. Whereas the sublime is more masculine and closely allied to pain. like sublimity. the beautiful is more feminine and linked to pleasure and love.

where these ideas were written. or “images. disputed the suggestion that we have any innate knowledge of the objective world. In a rational approach. and it roused him from his “dogmatic slumber. the great apostle of empiricism. Abstract Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) originated Phenomenology. Basic ideas such as cause and effect could not be deduced by pure reason. a tabula rasa. the only information we actually have derives from the phenomena. he says. you can’t. already past middle age. More. Philosophy up to Kant’s time took it for granted that when we look at the world. Not since Aristotle has a philosopher revolutionized the Western philosophical approach to the world. one must first have been a Kantian. remains ever isolated from us. and all human knowledge was gained through experience. cause and effect could not even be proven theoretically.” Kant realized that no 117 . for they were merely the sum of our past experiences. the mind takes in information about the world and learns about it that way. The question is: Is this engaging with the world empirical or rational? In an empirical approach.D. The external world.” that our mind constructs and interprets from sense data. a movement that turned the eye of philosophy away from the world we seek to know— towards the mind that seeks to know it.Immanuel Kant Introduction Any person is a child until he has understood Kant. California His main prerequisite before admitting me into the Ph. program in Philosophy in 1989. reached the desk of Kant. the mind begins with a picture of the world that is already implanted within itself. Founder and late President World University in Ojai. Hume’s Inquiry Concerning the Human Understanding. we are engaging an objective reality outside of ourselves. David Hume. The human mind was simply blank. —Benito F. This chapter will try to explore why this is so. Reyes. —Hegel If you don’t understand Kant. —Schopenhauer To be a philosopher. at the moment of birth.

Kant disdained giving illustrative examples because he said they would make his book too long.” Kant is the last person whom we should read on Kant.progress in philosophy could be made until Hume’s empiricism had been refuted. the mind uses inbuilt mechanisms (such as space and time) for constructing images. but to understand our experience of the world. so we can still communicate with one another about them. Thus we then have a concept of the table where the image is correlated with memory. we all process the “images” of them in the same way. The result is the Critique of Pure Reason (1781). We process the image as extending in space and enduring over time. are not innate knowledge. and past experience. and so it is useless to ask whether or not it accurately reflects the world as such. which it then interprets by forming it into an image and correlating it with other images and concepts. are built into it. To do this. and (if I tap it) sound. our task is not to understand the world as such. This approach is neither empirical nor rational. Kant shifted his focus from the external world to the mind that comes to know it. The mind begins by taking in all this data and forming them into a coherent mental image. color.” These trends led to the development of a philosophical school called “phenomenology. texture. The mind receives only raw sensory data. Marcus Herz himself returned the Critique of Pure Reason manuscript half read fearing insanity if he went on. The mind is structured in such a way that certain categories of knowing. The basic sameness of the structure of all human minds means that. or ways of handling the data. and philosophers needed no illustrative examples. even though in reality no such thing may be true. This complete image is all we will ever know. The assumption that an objective. As a result. 118 . rather. for example space and time. It has shape. Take this table. This is known as the famous “turn to the subject. In this work. These categories of knowing.” It is a style of thought that shifts the focus from propositions about the external world to the “image” of it in the mind of the subject. even though we do not perceive the Ding an sich directly. or “image. external reality exists is a better hypothesis for understanding the continuity and intersubjectivity of the world. Only philosophers were expected to read it. for example. External objects are unknowable because any knowledge of them is mediated to the mind through the senses. they are ways of organizing and handling data so as to create knowledge. The word “phenomenology” comes from the Greek phainomenon. language. So he abbreviated it to 800 pages. Phenomenology breaks through the conflict between empiricism and rationalism.

there is no way we can ordinarily detect what is out there beyond the visible band. Our Western tradition says that we see this world solely through our senses and that we have no sense that allows us to see beyond this world.Kant says that there are but two avenues for knowing: reason and the avenue of the senses. On account of this. Kant says our senses are tied to physical things and can reveal the physical. albeit rationally irresolvable. but that we have no extrasensory capacity. he held a thermometer at the red end of the spectrum. Infrared rays range from 700 nanometers to a millimeter. All our naked eyes can see are objects confined within the narrow band—called visible light—of the spectrum. we can feel them in the form of heat.. neither can we see ultraviolet waves and beyond. as well as kill germs. And then he noticed that it broke down more rapidly when placed beyond the violet end of the spectrum. The mercury rose! Thus was discovered the existence of infra (below) red light. Sir Frederick William Herschel. and TV range from 3 cm to millions of meters. the German-born British astronomer who discovered the planet Uranus and guessed the shape of our galaxy. but they cause sunburn. What we call light has waves and frequencies. Kant believes that there are two avenues to know reality: reason and the senses. The eagle has eyes that can make out and recognize objects in detail several miles away. humans can have no rational insight into metaphysical realities. Johann Wilhelm Ritter. Thus was discovered the existence of ultra (beyond) violet light. Without the proper instruments the assist the naked human eye. radar. Reason also generates certain ideas that are inescapable. the German chemist and physicist noticed that silver nitrate breaks down to metallic silver and darkens when exposed to blue or violet light. Microwave rays range from 1 mm to 10 cm. the owl has eyes that can see things 119 . tried this experiment: With sunlight beaming through a prism. it is not capable of directly revealing reality without distortion. We do not see ultraviolet rays. Some animals like the eagle and the owl have eyes more sensitive than human eyes. Then he held the same thermometer beyond the red end of the spectrum. The mercury went up. Reason is interpretive. Our eyes can only see an extremely narrow shred of what is out there. Although our human eyes cannot see them. Antennas and power lines peak at 50 cps/sec but range up to 6 million kilometers in wavelength. while radio. How then to live our lives under the circumstances Kant presents? As we said. We cannot see infrared waves and beyond. The electromagnetic spectrum chart below illustrates this.

can see infrared radiations. The latter is the language of the brain. When the object vibrates. The outer ear simply picks up sound waves and leads them into the auditory canal in the direction of the eardrum. Sound vibrations cause the eardrum to vibrate. Some snakes. incus. Not only do our eyes not give us a complete picture of the outside world. Sound Reception Chart Frequency in Cycles Per Second (CPS) Sound is measured in terms of cycles per second (CPS). the human ear likewise hears only a tiny portion of the sounds in the universe. air particles expand. 57 Living beings give off infrared radiations because of the warmth of the living body.57 that is why they can locate their victims even in the dark. it moves the air which pushes the air particles and squeezes them. for example. which converts the sound waves into nerve impulses.in complete darkness. our other sense organs are also unreliable. When vibrating objects move back. 120 . If the human eye can see only an infinitesimal portion of the universe. In other words. like pit vipers. is a case in point. the human ear cannot hear the majority of all the sounds going on out there. Sound frequency. Mechanical vibrations set up longitudinal waves in matter. This vibration sets up a reaction/s in the malleus. and stapes ossicles (bones) of the cochlea.

000 times weaker than humans. Humans and animals live in different sensory worlds. we know that some statements with the properties we want for the truths of metaphysics actually do exist. If your car stops at the red signal of a traffic light. Bats. they can hear sounds 3x better than humans. It has been observed that their hearing power ranges between 150 cps and 150.” Bats can fly even if they are blind. We will see that Kant. Kant provides a way of classifying types of statements. Kant asks whether there are any examples of statements that clearly are of this type. Sultana will wonder what in the world the matter is. They judge directions and locations of trees and insects with excellent accuracy by the reflection and the time lag between the squeak and the echo. that is why they are used at airports and malls to sniff and detect anything from prohibited drugs to bombs.The compression and expansion cause what is known as the longitudinal wave. and then listen to the reflection.000 cps. are color blind. If there were not. while those less than 20 cps are called infrasonic waves or subsonic vibrations.000 cps. what can I know and what ought I to do? What can I hope for? Is metaphysics possible? Kant argues that the traditional answers to metaphysical questions like "How can we tell whether every effect has a cause?" are all wrong. whose hearing range reach up to 130. maybe the whole program of creating metaphysics is hopeless.” Sound waves of more than 20. They say porpoises are intelligent aquatic creatures. Will geometry provide examples of such statements? In this lecture. A dog’s hearing power ranges between 15 and 50.000 cps are called ultrasonic. If you look at the chart above. Your Halloween Monster costume may scare everybody at a party. But if there were. but you cannot fool Spot who will approach you and identify you immediately by the wagging of its tail.000 cps. but not if they are deaf. Dogs can also smell at concentrations 1. however. Cats have even keener ears. locates space 121 . we will see how geometry provides examples of the existence of the kind of statements-synthetic a priori statements-required by Kant's view of metaphysics.000 cps! Kant offers the notion of unanswerable questions that our senses and our scientific knowledge cannot comprehend: Do we have a soul? Do we survive after this life ends? Is there a power beyond us—God perhaps? What happens to us when we die? Given the limits of my reason and my senses. you will see that a human being can perceive sounds ranging between 20 and 20. Cats. “squeak” in order to deliberately emit sound waves. with statements like "every effect has a cause" falling into one of his classifications. The peaks in this band are what are commonly called “sound waves. They see “with their ears. unlike Newton.

saying instead that all that existed was the relations between the physical bodies. Near the end of the 18th century. is it necessary that they be exactly as they are? 4. denied that space was real. the perceived triumph of Isaac Newton's physics still left a number of these questions unanswered. space. time. What do space and time mean? 6. though in different ways and for different reasons than Kant did A Philosophic Background • • • When people think of philosophy. Metaphysics deals with those questions about reality that transcend any particular science. and human thought. and he therefore believed that all events follow determined laws. Must every effect have a cause? 5. 122 • • • • • . How does Kant establish his view of the nature of space? We will see how Euclidean geometry is presupposed by him and ask whether Euclidean geometry is therefore the only one possible. Do space and time exist independently of our ideas of them? For the purpose of the present lecture. Finally. We will raise. If there are laws of nature. What exists.in the mind. but a question of metaphysics. beyond the world of sense perceptions? 2. Newton and his followers held that space was real. if anything. the question of what Kant's views portend for the philosophy of mathematics. • Kant's argument for this makes it clear that this is not a question of science. they often think about the branch called metaphysics. The skeptical philosopher David Hume went so far as to deny that there was causality in the world. Some examples of metaphysical questions: 1. The reality of space was vital to Newton's concept of force. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. not in the outside world. we will see how other mathematicians and philosophers of the day also assumed the necessity of Euclidean space. Kant’s Prolegomena • Immanuel Kant came down firmly on the side of causality. but not answer yet. the most important property of metaphysical questions is that they are not investigated by the methods of empirical science. however. Are there laws of nature? 3.

123 . Synthetic a posteriori. • Synthetic judgment is one whose predicate contains information not contained in the subject. it is that which truth cannot be determined just by analyzing the terms so that to decide its truth we must appeal to something ab extra. • A judgment is a statement of the form "A is a B. 2. Kant focuses on the kind of proposition he calls a judgment. • To answer this question. subsuming a particular under a universal. They are also known as empirically based judgments. Analytic a priori. there are now four possible types of judgments: 1. but the appearances that constitute our experience. in other words.• The urgency of the questions about causality motivated Kant to ask whether metaphysics was possible. Kant strove to fmd out what kind of statements made up metaphysics. and if so. • To resolve the truth of a proposition whose judgment is synthetic we may appeal either to sense experience or to something outside sense experience. it is that which truth is determined just by analyzing the terms in it. or." or as he puts it. • Kant wrote his Prolegomena [preparatory exercises or observations] to Any Future Metaphysics to investigate whether propositions that transcend any particular experience could exist. 3. 4. and whether we had any reason to believe that there were any statements of this kind." • We can come to know the truth of some judgments just by analyzing the terms in them. and he classifies judgments according to how one comes to decide their truth. Analytic a posteriori. Analytic Judgment and Synthetic Judgment • Analytic judgment is one whose predicate is a mere analysis of the subject. • We cannot know anything about things in themselves. A Posteriori Judgment and A Priori Judgment • A posteriori judgments are those we gain from sense experience. • Because there are two sets of two categories. Examples include "The grass is green" or "A bachelor is unmarried. how one could come to know their truth. • A priori judgments are those “truths” we know independently of sense experience. • In his writings. Synthetic a priori.

are there any synthetic a priori judgments whose truth is unanimously recognized? 3. It is any judgment that is true by definition. It is any nontrivial judgment about the world of sense experience. Kant's Prolegomena raises these questions: 1. Do synthetic a priori judgments exist? 2. "The grass is green" or “The earth revolves around the sun. space. The judgments of metaphysics are also not analytic. For example. 124 . and geometry. and we can determine their truth by reason. the judgments of metaphysics must be synthetic a priori. For example.” Does a synthetic a priori judgment exist? Let us turn the question around: "In which of these categories are the judgments of metaphysics?" Kant says that they cannot be a posteriori. Since mathematics is a well-established field. because it involves a contradiction in terms: “A bachelor is married. Synthetic A Priori Judgments and Geometry • • • • • • Kant demonstrates that metaphysics is possible by appealing to mathematics. For example. because we do not define nature as following laws. Ergo.” A synthetic a posteriori judgment exists. Whether or not they do is precisely the kind of question metaphysics is supposed to answer. If so. If there are such judgments. Mathematics and metaphysics both lay claim to synthetic a priori propositions. metaphysics is possible." An analytic a posteriori judgment does not exist. "How is synthetic a priori knowledge possible?" 4. thanks to the pure intuitions of our faculty of sensibility. albeit requiring an appeal to sense experience. If so. nor do we define facts as effects that must have causes. we cannot determine whether nature always follows laws by appealing to experience and observation alone. "A bachelor is not married. its synthetic truths are possible a priori. and time is its province. or as Kant puts it. Mathematics is possible. Metaphysics must consist of synthetic a priori judgments. It is hoped that this examination will shed light on the possibility of metaphysics as a science.• • • • • • • • • • An analytic a priori judgment exists. how do we come to know that they are true.

because it is a triangle). Are they therefore analytic or synthetic? To say they are analytic is attractive. Geometry is not about the empirical world. since after all." and we will have no way of breaking that down further into what that sum is. and not a posteriori.• • • • Space and time are not things in themselves that we meet with in experience. one begins by stating definitions." But you can analyze this term until you turn blue in the face. and what you get is always three angles (because it is a triangle). Geometry comes from our pure intuition of space Mathematics comes from our pure intuition of time—our concept of numbers is built from the successive moments in our concept of time. and he shows us why by carefully discussing how we come to know the truth of a particular proposition in geometry: that the sum of the angles of a triangle is two right angles. if this were an analytic judgment. and we often analyze the definitions in the course of a proof. Kant’s synthetic approach to the problem consists in three steps: • • • • • • • • • First. so its judgments must be a priori. three sides (again. rather. and "sum. we could have proved it by analyzing the term "sum of the angles of a triangle. they are pure intuitions that help us structure our sensations. Kant says otherwise: the judgments of geometry are synthetic. create a triangle. How do we prove synthetically that the sum of the angles of a triangle is two right angles? First of all. 125 .

divide the newly-formed exterior angle and create a line through the corner parallel to the opposite side. lengthen the base of the triangle. 2 A E 4 5 1 B 3 C D 126 .2 A 1 B • 3 C Second. 2 A 1 B • 3 C D Third.

The less we know.” etc. In other words. Kant’s Critique of Judgment renovated that preamble into a full-scale “science. Space. We organize our perceptions in space. though such judgments are purely subjective and are neither 127 . We can imagine a space without objects but we cannot imagine objects without space. These are extremely limited and unreliable. the more we are certain. what is the essential feature of this proof? The structure. which form two right angles. for Kant. "To the left" or “To the right. So. once these structures are created.” In this chapter. and show that the sum of the angles of the triangle adds up to the sum of the angles along the straight line at the corner. Space is therefore a pure. Immanuel Kant Critique of Judgment If Burke brought in epistemology into the province of aesthetics. Even the information gathered by science depends on our sense organs and instruments. Space cannot be sensed because it is not empirical. a feature which we make not on paper but in space. There cannot be any certainty in anything in the world. we shall explore Kant’s central assertion that aesthetic judgments constitute a subjective universality. a priori intuition of the intellect. we say. we can deal with the equality of various angles. Space exists in our minds. is the form of all possible perceptions. unique.• • • • • • • • • Now.

and. evokes more than just feelings of pleasure and joy. place. however.” is in part an act of cognition. or thing both universal and necessary. the lofty waterfall of a mighty river. imagination. “This is a table. Kant turns to the structure of the mind and the mechanisms by which it experiences beauty. however. (4) the beautiful and the sublime. we usually do not claim it as a purely private determination. It can confront us with fear and awe. In judging something beautiful. moving with lightning flashes and thunder peals. only covers the recognition of the object in front of me as a table. it behooves us. overhanging. “this is a beautiful table. The sublime is not necessarily adapted to our sensibilities. the sublime is appreciated for its own sake. volcanoes in all their violence of destruction. hurricanes with their track of devastation. and such like—these exhibit our faculty of resistance as insignificantly small in comparison with their might. and sublimity in Critique of Judgment. to communicate it to others. Unlike the beautiful.” is a “determinative” judgment: it states a fact. producing a sense of pleasure and manifesting itself in the harmonization of the mind’s faculties. In the Critique of Judgment. threatening rocks. can “outrage” us. it expresses a feeling. (6) the quantitative sublime and the qualitative sublime come from his analysis of beauty. On the Beautiful The statement. clouds piled up in the sky. This communicability of judgments of beauty is possible not because the object is beautiful per se but because the minds of all human beings have the same structure. the boundless ocean in a state of tumult. as it were. This act of cognition. (2) imagination and understanding. then others would most likely find it beautiful as well. This makes the experience of the beauty of any person. On the Sublime Like the beautiful. said Kant. is a “reflective” judgment: it states more than a fact. Bold.” however. (3) imagination and reason. (5) pure beauty and dependent beauty. “This is a beautiful table. as social individuals. sublimity is found in the sense that the object transcends even its own form. they are nevertheless felt equally by all people at all times Kant’s thoughts on (1) the beautiful and the good. unlike the beautiful. If I call something beautiful. But the sight of them is the 128 .dependent on nor concerned with the usefulness or even existence of the aesthetic object. The sublime. The sublime.

1. Should it seek a purpose. 4. 129 .58 I. A. we might think of Kant as the epistemological version of Aristotle in his catalogue of the mental faculties. B. is purely subjective. Judgments of beauty are not cognitive but aesthetic. Should it seek an end. Though the judgment of beauty is purely subjective. paradoxically. as a finished thing in itself. it is unconcerned as to whether the object even exists. Aesthetic judgments are likewise free of all ends or purposes. the beautiful accepts it. 5. 3. As in Burke. unconditionally. Both subject and object are perceived as being complete and perfect within themselves: no ulterior end or purpose is needed. 2. The judgment of the beautiful. 390.” 6. it is. but aesthetic judgments work through our feelings and neither rest on any concepts nor seek to generate any. and we willingly call these objects sublime. 2. because they raise the energies of the soul above their accustomed height and discover in us a faculty of resistance of a quite different kind. the more fearful it is. Indeed. Cognitive judgments presuppose fixed ideas and work to establish fixed concepts. it must be a “purposeless purpose. Whereas the pleasurable is an interested emotion that seeks some kind of gratification from the object (eros). 58 Critical Theory Since Plato. 3. Whereas the good seeks beauty as a means to some higher end. 1. says Kant. universally felt: it constitutes a subjective universality. provided only that we are in security. p. beauty has nothing to do with the beautiful object per se. that end is actually an end in itself. which gives us courage to measure ourselves against the apparent almightiness of nature. Kant clarifies by comparing the beautiful to the pleasurable and the good. but with the way it is perceived by a subject.more attractive. the beautiful is purely disinterested: it seeks nothing from the object and makes no demands on it (agape). This is a key point in understanding Kant. either in its own subjective perceptions or in the object perceived. In this regard. C.

F. Typically. he reminds us time and again that it resides solely in the subject. E. Though Kant’s aesthetic is grounded in concept-free feelings experienced by the imagination. as a purposeless purpose. 3. however. 1. disinterested response. 2. 5. Pure beauty presupposes no concept of what the object ought to be. yet. it lies in the realm of the aesthetic judgment. it must be universal. What allows the aesthetic to be felt universally is the very fact that it is purely subjective. Both modern and postmodern theorists tend to reject this concept. This formalist element in Kant may be traced back to Aristotle’s preference for plot over character and forward to new critical (objective) theories of poetry as a selfenclosed aesthetic artifact. D. Kant. as such. and because it is even indifferent to the existence of the object.1. III. independent mental power that is both enlivened and set free by aesthetic ideas the imagination. Because it does not work in accordance with any concepts. Poetry sets the associational powers of the imagination most at liberty. There is. Kant calls that spontaneous. Kant distinguishes between pure beauty and dependent beauty. untainted by any ulterior interests or inclinations. Postmodernists deny that any experience of art is universal. taste is not universally valid because it is linked to pleasure: the charm of the object gratifies the taste and monopolizes its focus. 130 . the concept is central to Kant: for the aesthetic realm to be free. because it is a free and disinterested delight. ascribes to the imagination the power to recombine sense data to form new associations. 3. 1. A. 2. Though many times Kant speaks as if beauty resides in the object. like Burke. Modernists deny the possibility of a purely free. Nevertheless. 4. it must be subjective. understanding and reason do play an important role. 1. it is likewise free of all internal prejudice and external restraint. a purer kind of taste that focuses on form. if that realm is to offer itself as a field for critical analysis and systematic study. A poem’s form may be studied as an end in itself. 6. IV. 2.

With sublimity. With this distinction. Kant describes the subjective experience as a feeling of harmony in the free play of imagination and understanding. 131 . 1. as before. Kant distinguishes between the quantitative and the qualitative sublime. The sublime is that which is absolutely great. 4. it moves out of the realm of the imagination (aesthetics) and into the realm of the understanding. As a consequence. 2. 5. chaotic objects that cannot be absorbed. it may presuppose rules of decorum or a dictum to please and teach. With beauty. reason takes these concepts and transforms them into higher laws. 6. Their greatness surpasses the power of our intuition to grasp them. 4. B. which inspires in us feelings of limitlessness and infinity. The qualitative sublime occurs when we feel awe or fear before an object of overwhelming power. When dependent beauty starts to form concepts. 7. 3. 2. The quantitative sublime is occurs when we come into the presence of wild.2. III. Our imagination is inadequate to stand up against such might and. 3. Kant offers a “mental” justification for Burke’s assertion that beauty causes us to relax while sublimity brings tension. 6. it adheres to a purpose external to the object. the imagination is forced to turn to reason for support. Kant builds on the mental disharmony induced in us by the sublime to posit a fascinating theory as to why the sublime moves us so powerfully. 5. the subjective experience manifests itself in terms of a disharmony between imagination and reason. 3. Dependent beauty presupposes a concept of perfection against which to measure the object. The true epistemological nature of the sublime and the beautiful has to do with the free play of two mental powers. Whereas understanding merely converts sense data into concepts. For instance. C. Kant notes that much of the disagreement among critics rises from the fact that they are comparing two different kinds of beauty. We may link pure beauty to the later 19th century concept of art for art’s sake. 1. it turns to the higher faculty of reason for help.

His life was said to pass like the most regular of regular verbs. 2. even as a very old man. when we experience the sublime. that can surpass both her majesty and might. Our experience reveals to us that cognition (reason) is superior to sensation (imagination). and our imagination is forced to turn to reason. only an Enlightenment thinker could posit as the source of our greatest emotional experience the knowledge that we are rational. and humor were at his command. In his prime he had the happy sprightliness of a youth. the richest in thought.” 1. But a more accurate description of Kant is perhaps this charming reminiscence written by one of his students. True. The Romantics raise imagination to a far higher realm than Kant. we are not only rational but spiritual creatures endued with purpose and an ability to endure and transcend pain and terror. I believe. Playfulness. We learn that there is a faculty within us that is greater than nature. we must remember that Kant himself lived in Pope’s “Age of Reason. then our final destination is greater than that of nature. Johann Gottfried Herder: I have had the good fortune to know a philosopher. That is to say. If both of these discoveries are true. Though we are seeing Kant as a philosophical source of Romanticism. C. wit. flowed from his lips. we experience displeasure at our inability to comprehend its magnitude or stand up to its might. and that we are supra-sensible creatures. Speech. 4. 3. His lectures were the most 132 . he continued to have it. Indeed.A. was the seat of an imperturbable cheerfulness and joy. 1. I like to call this dazzling moment of insight the Kantian catharsis. 2. built for thinking. B. A Personal Afterthought on Kant It is interesting to know that many people who know nothing else of Kant do know that his personal life was so methodical that the housewives of Kōnigsberg used to set their clocks by the regular afternoon walks he took. He was my teacher. His broad forehead. This soon turns to pleasure as we realize what this surrender signifies. 5.

The history of men and peoples. no prejudice. XXII. He incited and gently forced others to think for themselves. He weighed them all. no sect. no desire for fame could ever tempt him in the slightest away from broadening and illuminating the truth. and the latest discoveries in science. comprehended equally the newest works of Rosseau . –Friedrich Schiller. despotism was foreign to his mind. natural history and science. . was Immanuel Kant. This man. p. and Hume. whom I name with the greatest gratitude and respect. Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man 59 I have taken this from the book Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysic by Immanuel Kant. Editor’s Introduction.entertaining talks. More than this: if man is ever to solve that problem of politics in practice he will have to approach it through the problem of the aesthetic. Edited by Lewis White Beck. Baumgarten. 133 . Crusius. His mind. and always came back to the unbiased knowledge of nature and to the moral worth of man. and the physicists. were the sources from which he enlivened his lectures and conversation. . which examined Leibniz. He was indifferent to nothing worth knowing. and investigated the laws of nature of Newton. Wolff. Kepler.59 Friedrich von Schiller Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man I hope to convince you that the theme I have chosen is far less alien to the needs of our age than to its taste. because it is only through Beauty that man makes his way to Freedom. No cabal. mathematics and observation.

Abstract If Plato is to Socrates, and Aristotle to Plato, and Alexander the Great to Aristotle, then Schiller is to Kant in the sense that although he carefully preserved the epistemological slant of his master, Schiller turned that slant by giving a new turn to the Kantian thesis that the experience of the beautiful is analogous to the experience of the morally good. Schiller’s main purpose in his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man is to fuse the Dionysiac and the Apollonian sides of our being, linking these two facets of our nature to the material (or sensuous) drive (Stofftrieb) and the formal (or spiritual) drive (Formtrieb), and then uniting these two opposing drives into a third: the play drive (Spieltrieb). Schiller believes that the state of true aesthetic freedom is achieved only by the Spieltrieb which acts as mediator between the Stofftrieb and the Formtrieb, thus allowing both sides of our human nature to be fully developed, integrated and unified. The Spieltrieb is an aesthetic impulse which allows us to transcend our inner and outer constraints, thereby enabling us to experience physical, emotional, and spiritual freedom. Lastly, we shall see how Schiller links the play drive both to beauty and to culture, and how he uses this connection to ensure for poetry a position in society that is even more essential than that of philosophy. Schiller integrated Kant’s epistemology and Plato's ontology and as a result came up with one of the most successful aesthetics theories in critical history. The Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man demonstrate the crucial role of artistic experience in healthy human development, thus allowing for mental health in the individual and society. I. Schiller “romanticizes” the theories of Kant. A. On the one hand, he expands on the epistemological theories of Kant. 1. Beauty remains a subjective experience that is free and indifferent. 2. The free play of mental powers is still put at center stage. 3. The privileging of aesthetic form over didactic content continues. B. On the other hand, he gives these theories a new (Romantic) focus. 1. While Burke preferred judgment (analysis) to imagination (synthesis), and Kant privileged the disharmony of the sublime over the harmony of the beautiful, Schiller preferred both synthesis and harmony. 134

2. The idea for Schiller is a fusion (or incarnation) of subject and object. This gives a mystical, spiritual bent to Schiller that is lacking in Kant. 3. Nature takes on greater importance in Schiller. It is not merely the dead object that it is for Burke and Kant; it, too, seeks a kind of perfection. II. In the Letters, Schiller looks back with awe on the Classical Age but not for the same reasons as the neoclassicists did. A. The Ancient Greeks had a natural humanity that we have lost. 1. They possessed a fullness that could fuse imagination and reason. 2. We, in contrast, live divided, fragmented lives: our imaginative, intuitive side is cut off from our speculative, rational side. 3. Nietzsche would term these two sides the Dionysiac and the Apollonian. 4. Today, they are often linked to male/female, East/West, religion/science, etc. 5. T. S. Eliot would later call it the “dissociation of sensibility.” 6. Whereas Eliot says this division occurred in the late 17th century, Schiller places it at the end of the Classical Age. 7. Schiller’s final (aesthetic) goal is for these two sides to be reintegrated. The role of education, culture, and beauty is to achieve this reintegration. A. In Letters, Schiller distinguishes between the sensuous and formal drives. 1. The sensuous drive is linked to material life: to matter, body and change, to the World of Becoming. 2. The formal drive is more rational: it is linked to the preservation of personality, to the spirit that remains the same, the World of Being. 3. Our sensuous drive is Dionysiac; it is ecstatic and leads us to be swept along by sensation, causing the personality to be suspended. 4. Our formal drive is Apollonian; it seeks a higher, more abstract harmony free from the restraints of time and space. 5. The realm of the sensuous drive is the world of the particular case, the concrete, the object;



the formal drive is the world of the general law, the universal, and the subject. 6. If sensuous/formal = body/spirit, we might think it would also = form/content, because body and form are both on the “outside.” 7. The form, however, of a work of art is actually the more timeless, abstract element; it can be studied coolly and rationally. 8. Schiller, like Kant, treats form as an aesthetic end in itself. B. Though we might expect the Kantian Schiller to advocate the subordination of the sensuous to the dictates of the formal, he does not do so. 1. Indeed, he treats them as two distinct but equally valid and vital modes of thought (and spheres of operation) that need to be synthesized. 2. The greatest task of culture and education is to allow these two drives to operate together: to reintegrate feeling and reason. C. Out of the fusion of these two drives emerges the play drive. 1. Schiller’s term is not meant to be derogatory. 2. Man, he says, is only fully human when he plays. 3. The play drive, by simultaneously fusing (and transcending) the other two drives, sets us free from both the physical restraints of nature (sensuous) and the moral restraints of reason (formal). 4. The play drive is incarnational; it creates a living form. 5. The play drive effects a marriage between sensuous and formal, between objective nature and subjective mind, between the concrete (particular) and the abstract (universal). 6. A Biblical analogy: just as our final heavenly form will not be pure spirit but spirit joined to a glorious resurrection body, so the end product of a play drive is not an abstract, bodiless idea (Plato’s Form) but a general timeless form imbued with a particular, dynamic life. 7. In that divine, transcendent moment of play, the universal lifts the concrete up into itself, the form consumes the matter.


8. The play drive is equivalent to beauty: both are purely aesthetic. D. Schiller ascribes a unique role to beauty. 1. As with Kant, beauty is indifferent; it is neither useful nor didactic. 2. It teaches us nothing and supplies us with not particular knowledge. 3. It provides us instead with a totality, a perfect wholeness; within that whole we find all the faculties existing in a higher harmony. 4. To experience that wholeness is to enter into a pure aesthetic mood, a state of suspension beyond the confines of time and space. 5. In that mood, we experience true freedom, true play, and true unity. 6. Through beauty (and the sublime) we are empowered to give form to that which is formless in nature. 7. When we do so, we gain an epistemological, suprasensible victory over nature that frees us from our deepest fears. 8. Still, Schiller is careful (Kant is not) to hold on to physical reality; the contemplation of form must not be cut off from the feeling of life. E. Schiller’s aesthetics turns Plato on his head. 1. Beauty proves to us that feeling and thought can occur together. 2. Ergo, an education in beauty is best able to lead us back to that original, naïve unity that we have lost. 3. Beauty, because it most fully fuses the concrete and the universal, body and soul, is better suited than philosophy to heal the disunity within. 4. It is the poets, not the philosophers, who are best qualified to form whole, integrated citizens who will know justice and live justly.


according to a logic in which every conflict is subsumed in a higher unity. Phänomenologie des Geistes. ______________. The Christian religion represents this self-alienation and self-knowledge of the Divine in a powerful but mythological way. 1989. Introduction to the Philosophy of History (trans. alienates itself in the external world. Essential reading: Avineri. 479-493). Inwood. Leo Rauch). Macmillan. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The Religious Dimension of Hegel’s Thought.)..e. (Ed. Indianapolis.” “Revealed Religion” and “Absolute Knowledge” (pp. 1988. Hegel’s Theory of the Modern State. Cambridge.“ “Introduction. i. Fackenheim. Schlomo. J. Hegel Selections. 458478. History unfolds dialectically. but eventually comes back to itself in selfknowledge. 46-57.Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel Introduction Abstract Hegel contended that the whole of world history unfolds according to a divine and necessary logic. through which the divine Spirit becomes fully conscious of itself for the first time. Hegel. M. 138 . 1974. the universal Mind or divine Spirit. This unfolding is the process by which Geist. and Hegel thinks his own philosophy is the subsumption of this mythological representation into a philosophical concept. chapters 5 and 6.

3. being). Spirit (Geist) in History Phänomenologie des Geistes 1. Indeed. Behind this double meaning is the tendency in Christian Platonism to compare the Platonist sensible/ intelligible distinction to the Biblical flesh/spirit distinction (so that an intellectual being is a spiritual. but where the opposition between the two sides is subsumed in an agreement at a higher level. F. 5. and rich in intellectual content from the beginning. History is in fact the externalization of Geist—a little like Spinoza. while Hegel’s Geist acquires its content only by getting involved in history—by becoming a Zeitgeist. W. separate from the visible world. 4. Geist. non-bodily. i.e. The Dialectic of History 1. Thus for Hegel history is like an argument: not the kind where one side defeats the other. by uncovering the logic that produced it. 4. the rational is the real. subsumption overcomes the opposition between the two previous “moments” of history by incorporating them into a higher unity. a spirit of the age. for whom the visible world is the external aspect of the substance of God. 3.” 2. Phenomenology is a word Hegel made up meaning study of phenomena (Greek for “appearance”): his book is the study of how Geist makes its appearance in the phenomena of history. The whole of world-history unfolds logically: “the real is the rational. The key term.. B.” but this can be in the sense of “removing” (hence canceling or abolishing) or “raising to a higher level” (and hence preserving).The German philosopher G. “Subsumption” (Aufhebung) means literally “picking up. Hegel’s project was to show the rational basis of all of history. Hegel’s Geist is quite a bit like Plotinus’ Nous or divine Intellect. In Hegel’s dialectic. so that the opposition 139 . means both Mind and Spirit (like French esprit). 5. except that (once again) Hegel’s Geist is in motion. The difference is that Plotinus’ Nous is unchanging. Hegel’s name for this logical process of Geist unfolding in history is “dialectic”—Plato and Aristotle’s word for a logical argument or debate. Hegel is the father of modern historicism and German idealism. 2. 6.

4. Thus philosophy. C. Antithesis. of the City College of New York. 2. moving from self-identity to self-alienation to reconciliation. Hence the basic movement of history is triadic: an original position is negated. 4. and Synthesis).is in one sense canceled. recognizing itself in the development of historical self-consciousness. I have taken the liberty to replace the word “Spirit” (which Professor Staloff prefers) with the original word Geist for reasons I have already stated above. is the passions of the individual as both subject and object of history. or from self to other to self-consciousness (recognizing the self in the other). is revealed in the end as the expression of Geist as subject: philosophical knowledge is Geist as subject coming to know itself as object (Hegel calls this “absolute knowledge”). • 140 . then comes back to itself. division and limitation. • Professor Darren Staloff. the dialectic is also a process of overcoming division. The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk. succinctly sums up Hegel’s philosophy of history in four tightly packed sentences. in another sense preserved. 7. or cunning of Reason. 1. Through this repeated triadic process all the oppositions of history are subsumed in the unity of Geist. keeps on going. History is the dialectical process whereby Geist comes to know itself and realizes its Idea. Each moment of resolution is the beginning for another triadic movement—the dialectic. History is the dialectical process whereby Geist comes to know itself and realizes its Idea. like history itself. which appears to start out treating Geist as object. Freedom is the idea of Geist and Geist is Reason in and for itself. 2. then both the original position and the negation are subsumed in a higher unity (a later Hegelian labeled these three moments Thesis. Through Negation to Unity 1. 6. 3. and its form is the State. Because negation is at the root of all conflict. and in any case resolved at a higher level. 3. The means of this realization. Hence the overall dialectic of history: Geist externalizes itself in the world.

or cunning of Reason. the world looks back at you rationally. By freedom here is meant autonomy in the Kantian sense. One example Hegel uses to illustrate his famous triad in the case of the family. and its form is the State. It is undifferentiated because that unity is not broken down into distinct individuals with their own selfish interests and agendas. Freedom is the idea of Geist. 3. or the sum of human experience as understood under a rational conception. 4. 7. Dialectical refers to the inter-relating triad of thesisantithesis-synthesis (terms Hegel himself rarely used). Reason is abstract rationality. in the Hegelian sense. To realize is to actualize. Reason in-and-for itself’s dialectical antithesis is reason out-of-itself or nature. 2. Differentiated unity refers to the state which keeps us differentiated but creates laws for the benefit of all. means essence. civic society. 6. is to search for that rational explanation of history.• • 1. Differentiated disunity refers to civic society of the economic market place where each individual has his own agenda which comes in conflict with another’s. 3. 1. 1. By passion is meant self-interested action. Undifferentiated unity refers to the unity of the family which is bound by love and affection for one another. the philosophical expression of Geist. The keyword here is rational: if you looked at the world rationally. Napoleon) who moves the Geist by sacrificing his own personal happiness to his passions. 5. The job of the philosopher of history. and the state: undifferentiated unity-differentiated disunitydifferentiated unity. therefore. The means of this realization. The individual as subject refers to the “Great Man” (e. By history is meant world history as it is philosophically conceived. 2. and Geist is Reason in-and-for itself. Geist is the synthesis of Reason and nature. 4. 141 . 2. Geist is untranslatable and refers to that collective subjectivity (the collective mind of humanity) which is both agent and subject of history. The cunning of Reason uses the Great Man to advance the Geist. is the passions of the individual as both subject and object of history. 8.g. Idea.

The Difference between God and Geist 1. the victim of history. 4. “Philosophy of Right: Preface. it is not ultimately other than the human mind.). The teaching of the concept. The key here seems to be in the last moment in the dialectic of Phenomenology of Spirit before Absolute Knowledge: “the Revealed Religion. Ed. is that it is only when actuality is mature that the ideal first over against the real and that the ideal apprehends this same real world in its substance and builds it up for itself into the shape of an intellectual realm. Hegel sets Geist in motion in history. 142 . it appears only when actuality is already there cut and dried after its process of formation has been completed. As in Spinoza. and as in Plotinus. When philosophy paints its grey in grey. Geist is not ultimately other than the World. p. The State is the culture of a people and the principles that integrate the individual with the larger whole. Macmillan. The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” 60 Hegel. which is also history’s inescapable lesson.”60 A. Why? 3. Inwood. Here is Hegel’s interpretation in his own words: “Philosophy in any case always comes on the scene too late to give it. The individual as object is the private individual. 2.• 3. 287. J.” In Hegel Selections. then has a shape of life grown old. Yet in contrast to Spinoza and Plotinus. By philosophy’s grey in grey it cannot be rejuvenated but only understood. (M. As the thought of the world.

3. philosophy subsumes a religious representation (Vorstellung) into a speculative concept (Begriff)—thus preserving its true content while abolishing its mythological form. The Theological Interest of Hegel 1. The key idea of the Revealed Religion (which for Hegel is clearly Christianity) is Incarnation. You might think that orthodox theologians would be put off by Hegel’s subsumption of orthodox doctrine—and often they are —yet there is something extremely interesting and new going on in Hegel’s thought. Hegel’s concept of Incarnation is clearly not that of orthodox Christianity. 143 . In one sense. with all its alienation. Hegel combines them and gets a God who is historical. which draws the attention of both Christian and Jewish theologians. in and of the world. B. 2. 5. yet not a finite being (not merely a pagan god like a Zeus or Apollo). 2.4. Rather. division. Hegel’s philosophical subsumption of religion sounds like a variation on an old familiar theme: it’s one more way of combining Platonist metaphysics and Judaeo-Christian religion. 3. who combined the Bible and Platonism and got an unchanging God. Hegel has taken up or subsumed the orthodox doctrine of incarnation in a purely conceptual understanding of it. Philosophy as Subsumption of Religion 1. C. which was the incarnation of God in a particular man. The Principle of Incarnation. as philosophically understood. In Hegel’s language. means that Geist enters the world of history. negativity—and suffering. But in contrast to the Church Fathers. Jesus.

it survives. flows on south From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs. a mouth. A way of happening. —W.Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel The Philosophy of Fine Art For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives In the valley of its making where executives Would never want to tamper. Yeats 144 . B. Raw towns that we believe and die in. In Memory of W. Auden. H.

The true role of art serves no external purpose. Art is an end in itself. The latter assumes that art is lesser than nature. rather than remain pure and untainted in the World of Being seeks to “journey through the spirit” in order to enter into our World of Becoming. not to eliminate opposition. art is therefore the truly higher form. it should be regarded as a higher and more beautiful form than nature itself. Art is a product of the human spirit. 145 . Hegel says that art is not mimesis.A poem should not mean But be. The root of Hegel's high regard for art becomes apparent here. in this very setting forth and unveiling. 55) In art. We shall discover how each of these phases is linked to a specific artistic medium. and being so. and spirit is above nature. Hegel perceives the dissolution of opposition. but to truly resolve it with what is true. Ars Poetica Abstract Hegel’s Philosophy of Fine Art achieves what is perhaps the best refutation of mimesis (in the Platonic sense) by positing a Platonic Form that. when he perceives in art the almost holy ability. "not in the sense. —Archibald MacLeish. only the internal manifestation of truth: Art's vocation is to unveil the truth in the form of sensuous artistic configuration. It is never a means to an end. It serves no utilitarian purpose. the classical.. but that they exist reconciled" (p.” a work of art stands higher than a natural product. and so to have an end and aim in itself. This Hegelian Idea moves through three distinct phases (the symbolic. (p. But art is a product of the human spirit. 55). Because art derives itself from the human spirit. and the romantic) in its search of a total and sensuous incarnation..that the opposition and its two sides do not exist at all. the spirit manifest in the physical world. He sees in art the highest ideal of truth expressed in sensuous form. Because of this "journey through the spirit. to set forth the reconciled opposition just mentioned.

2. True fine art is. An example is Chaucer’s “General Prologue” to Canterbury Tales which describes life in the late 14th century England better than any history book. the divine Beauty. Hegel’s Idea seeks a sensuous incarnation. 5. art also acts as a key to unlocking the treasures of long dead civilizations. Schiller traces the education. True art mediates between form and content.I. In addition to storing this wisdom. 1. 3. as it seeks full and final expression in our world. B. Like Schiller. 6. A. Hegel ascribes to art a key cultural and educational function. In this area. of poet and reader. but Hegel traces the education of the poetic Idea itself. 1. If Schiller moves Kantian epistemology in the direction of Romanticism. like Schiller. Finally. Hegel goes far beyond Schiller to enter into a more direct dialogue with the very essence of Platonic thought. It seeks a full incarnation that offers the greatest degree of intimacy and union between the universal idea and the concrete image. however. then Hegel (who is another Kantian). What Idea seeks is not just a well-executed artistic form in which to dwell. C. like religion and philosophy. The Philosophy of Fine Art delineates a Platonic journey of the Idea through various artistic modes and genres. Hegel seeks in art a higher fusion of subject and object. Whereas Plato’s Forms remain apart from and untainted by our World of Becoming. The timeless Idea. 2. 3. idea and image. one of the modes through which divine or spiritual truths enter our physical world of change. 1. Like Schiller. Art is a cultural storehouse of the wisdom of the ages. like Plato’s Forms. 2. the Truth that lies at the core of all great art dwells. Hegel too undermines Plato by converting the arts into a higher form of education: a journey of the poet (not the philosopher) from division to wholeness. but an incarnation in which 146 . extends and consummates that movement. 4. in the World of Being. the growth toward unity.

II. 3. For example. the free and adequate embodiment of the Idea is achieved. 2. 7. In this stage. each of which is linked to a specific artistic medium. the result is a concrete spirituality. 1. a mystic fusion in which the Idea appears and is revealed in a sensuous guise. In this phase. Just as the Idea was essentially concrete even before its physical manifestation. Something in physical nature is found that is compatible with the spiritual Idea. his declaration that the Idea must already partake of the concrete if it is to successfully incarnate itself is strongly liked to two central Christian doctrines: the Trinity and the Incarnation. Imagine a liquid with the desire and power to create its own container. The best example of symbolic art is the ancient temple. but must partake of some concreteness. The defining artistic medium of raw matter. 8. so Jesus. In this phase.it is expressed in and through a concrete image: not just as a body is by clothes but as the soul is by the body. 2. even before he became man in the Incarnation. the early pagans and Jews sought to express the majesty of divinity. The first and oldest is the symbolic. but in a indeterminate form. Hegel links the journey of the Idea to several key theological/philosophical distinctions of Christianity. 4. 1. B. 3. existed in a pre-incarnate state as the eternal Son of God. 1. here the spirit of God (or the gods) dwelt. 147 . The second phase is the classical. 2. Idea has not yet found its own formative principle. A. If it is to achieve this incarnation. rough stones. the best that can be achieved is to create a divine space for the congregation. D. As the Idea travels on its incarnational odyssey. of huge. Idea must not be fully abstract (as are Plato’s Forms). it cannot shape its own container and so seeks a more general form. Hegel’s aesthetic offers what amounts to a Christian reworking of Plato. full incarnation is not yet possible. it moves through three distinct stages.

the Idea gains self-knowledge and becomes self-conscious. who became Flesh and dwelt among us. The higher fusion of the romantic phase does not restore the classical repose of Eden or the Golden Age.. 7. God incarnate. In the symbolic Old Testament God’s power is loosely expressed in images like the eagle or the burning bush. 6. 148 . As in Schiller (but not in Kant). 7. 5. If the symbolic phase is linked to God the Father. the Idea creates its own inner world.3. the New Jerusalem. This shedding of limits frees the spirit to move to a higher plane. in the classical New Testament. When this happens. 5. 6. Just so it is good that the Incarnate Christ go away so that the Holy Spirit may descend on earth and dwell in the inner life/soul of each believer. God enters his temple with a flash and takes on a discernible shape with which the congregation can commune directly. 8. and rigidity of the classical form. it looks ahead to that greater city. then the classical phase is linked to God the Son. The defining artistic medium of the classical phase is sculpture. The symbolic phase aspires to an ideal fusion and the classical. 2. rather than abandon or eliminate the world. the ultimate fusion of Creator/subject and created/object. 3. Romantic art is art transcending itself: though it we see the triumph of the rational soul over the external world. In the classical statues of Zeus. completion. 8. In the romantic phase. there is a desire to break down the perfection. instead. 4. where physical and spiritual will be united. his presence enters physically into our world. 9. The Incarnate Christ is the perfection of pagan anthropomorphism. 4. The third phase is the romantic. C. 1. this triumph is more a higher fusion than a complete overthrow of nature. Athena. The New Jerusalem will be heralded by the Great Marriage of Christ and the Church. a spiritual being whom no one has ever seen. et al. the full presence and power of the god/goddess stands before us in eternal repose.

4. The movement from symbolic to classical to romantic forms a dialectic. painting is the least ideal. Romantic art works through painting. Of these three. In the dialectical thought of Hegel. 3. 149 . 2. Most Romantic aestheticians would disagree and posit music as the freest. Marx would apply this principle to the material. for it is a physical medium. E. 1.D. physical world and would call it dialectical materialism. Music is more ideal for it is free from physical constraints. yet it still must heed fixed laws and quantities. music. subjective spirituality able to create its own inner world of ideas. 1. an idea (thesis) creates its own opposite (antithesis). 2. most unmediated of the arts. and poetry. eventually the two collide and struggle to form a new and higher fusion (synthesis). Poetry is the freest and most ideal—the “universal art of the mind”—a fully abstract.

This section will study the contributions of the English Romantic poets Wordsworth (“Preface to the Second Edition of Lyrical Ballads”). Unlike Pope and Dryden. epistemology.The Romantic Imagination Overture This overture which opens Part Five: The Romantic Imagination will distinguish the Romantics from the century that preceded them. and Hegel. we shall define two key Romantic phrases: defamiliarization and the willing suspension of disbelief. They modified the epistemological theories of Kant. all four are poets first and critics second. Whereas the Germans were pragmatic. We shall try to explore both the unique plan of Lyrical Ballads and the implications of that plan for literary theory. Whereas the theorists in the previous section (Part Four) brought with them the hangovers of the 18th century (the Age of Reason). we shall compare and contrast Wordsworth’s task to present natural. Schiller. 150 . Like Pope and Dryden. the Romantics treated the poet (expressive) rather than nature (mimesis) or the audience (pragmatic) as the source and benchmark of their art. the Romantics not only turned their backs on that age but defined themselves in opposition to it. Finally. and decorum. Coleridge (Biographia Literaria). however. We shall also analyze one of the great poetic manifestos of all time since Aristotle’s Poetics: the Lyrical Ballads. They fashioned a new social role for the poet. 1. Shelley (Defense of Poetry). 2. We shall then discuss how Lyrical Ballads effects a shift in earlier views of mimesis. everyday objects in a manner almost supernatural with Coleridge’s task to portray supernatural events and characters in such a way as to render them almost natural. the British Romantics were expressive. and Keats. In addressing the plan of the work.

Wordsworth was responsible for this portion of Lyrical Ballads when he composed a series of poems centered on humble. they privileged Imagination over Reason. they substituted the 18th century emphasis on analysis with the emphasis on synthesis. This process is called defamiliarization. It would deal with familiar things we often overlook. 4. About 1797. provincial characters as Simon Lee. in Wordsworth’s Preface and more fully in Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria. The former kind would select its objects from nature. however.3. Especially. the neighbors Wordsworth and Coleridge spent long days discussing the nature of poetry and the powers of the imagination. The French Revolution. from the common. 2. Out of these conversations. everyday world of the countryside. 151 . Coleridge paraphrases Isaiah 6 when he says that most men have eyes but do not see. the poet would throw over them an imaginative insight that would allow his readers to see them in a new light. partially. The story of this great friendship. 3. The three contending causes of Romanticism are: 1. By lending these objects a “charm of novelty. things whose very commonness renders them invisible. is told. a feeling more often associated with the supernatural than with the natural. Let us discuss the third cause. It started when the neighbors Wordsworth and Coleridge planned together in writing a new volume of poetry. Rather than merely copy or record these things in a straight mimetic fashion. The publication of Lyrical Ballads. The publication of Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions.” the poet would evoke a sense of child-like wonder in his reader. and the Idiot Boy. they conceived the idea of composing a series of poems of two distinct but complementary kinds. one of the most fruitful literary friendships of all time. Though still interested in epistemology. mundane. Defamiliarization opens our eyes to the wonders around us. Goody Blake.

the plan of Lyrical Ballads carries out a supreme form of epistemology in which objects (things) take their ultimate nature not from what they are. Wordsworth infused them with dignity. Wordsworth and Coleridge were certainly influenced by William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. so Coleridge made the uncommon common. In this. form. The subtitle of his work—shewing the two contrary states of the human soul—captures perfectly the radical Romantic belief that things are as they are perceived and that we half create the world around us. Coleridge’s poetry would select its objects from the realm of the supernatural. Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner is richly suffused with the supernatural. In this work. not the object.” To inspire in readers this moment of poetic faith. 152 . Nature (or super nature) is merely the occasion for the poem. the poem must invite them into a higher realm of illusion rather than merely delude them with fanciful images and events.Despite their commonness. Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s plan calls for a new kind of mimesis that rather than simply imitate or even perfect its object. Implications of Lyrical Ballads to the study of Aesthetics and Literary Criticism. and power. It is not the rules of decorum but the imaginative vision of the poet that determines the shape and end of the poem. Blake demonstrates how the same images and events take on a different coloring. mystery. transforms it into something rich and strange. and reality when viewed through the eyes of innocence and experience. the poetic act itself (the transformation) is the real point. Just as Wordsworth made the common uncommon. It is about the subject. however. but from how they are perceived by the poet. Coleridge uncovered behind the supernatural dramatic and emotional truths. More radically. Our recognition of the psychological truth of the Mariner’s journey compels us to lend the poem our “willing suspension of disbelief.

This concept lies behind the Romantic faith that “of the doors of perception were cleansed. Wordsworth sees poetry as a personal reflection of the poet’s interactions with himself and the world. Lyrical Ballads shifted old 18th century notions of decorum that declared certain subjects unfit for poetry. everything would appear as it is: infinite. Wordsworth ennobles them.” the poet as a “man speaking to men.” This new.” and then explore how he radically redefines both the nature of poetry and the poet and the function of poetry and the poet in society. and innocence over the refined urbanity and studied wit of the 18th century. Rather than treat poetry as an imitation of an action (mimetic) or an object fashioned to teach and delight (pragmatic). We shall focus especially on such key Wordsworthian formulations as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. A. Not only does Lyrical Ballads often take children as its subject. as a journal of the unique perceptions of an individual. 153 . but it also privileges their naïve sense of wonder. poetry is now to be regarded as self-expression. the supernatural in the natural (and vice versa).” In his famous “Preface. it sees the ideal in the real.” and the role of poetry as an antidote to society’s “degrading thirst after outrageous stimulation. William Wordsworth “Preface to the Second Edition of Lyrical Ballads” We shall analyze closely Wordsworth’s “Preface. more radical epistemology places the poet and his perceptions at the center of literary theory.” Wordsworth redefines the nature and status of poetry along expressive lines. their freshness. Indeed. Lyrical Ballads mixes the realms of the real and the ideal. The rustics created by Wordsworth would have been subjects for comedy in the 18th century.

tempered his expressivism with a mimetic focus by asserting that the poet should not slavishly imitate 154 . the poet is describing the feelings of all men. less affected. saying that Wordsworth went too far in his praise of rustic manners of speech. Poetry is the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. Wordsworth often wrote on rural subjects. In describing his own feelings. phony. Self-expression is not an end in itself. the permanent. Even in his more narrative poems. the city and court life of the 18th century poet was artificial. however. Nevertheless. but that these theoretical concerns flow directly out of his view of the poet. 3. He agreed with Aristotle and Sidney that poetry is more philosophical than history because it deals with both the specific and the general. It was these essential passions. insincere. Coleridge would object to the above phrase. 5. Just as Wordsworth sought to imitate the life and passions of his native Lake District. Wordsworth looked both to the freer life of the country and within his own heart for real passions and truths. so he sought to imitate the simple. with its deliberately contorted syntax and artificial “poeticisms. but a means to reach the truth. and out of touch with the wellsprings of our humanity.” 3. He adopted a more natural. not so much because the country made him feel good. this emphatic. Seventeen years later. 2. For Wordsworth. but because in such a setting he felt men were more in touch with elementary feelings and durable truths. 6. 5. direct language of the country. 4. unmediated kind of life that Wordsworth wanted to capture and embody in his poetry. Wordsworth. 1. C. 4. however. It is not the rules on decorum but the visionary imagination of the poet that becomes the source and end of poetry. Wordsworth’s nature poetry is less a reflection on nature than on the feelings and ideas excited in the poet as he contemplates nature. there is a mimetic element in Wordsworth’s theory. B.” 2. because he is concerned with all three.1.” 4. does not mean that Wordsworth is unconcerned with imitating or teaching or pleasing. 1. 3. Wordsworth asserts that it is the feeling that gives importance to the action and not vice versa (as Aristotle had taught). This. 2. the universal. style that mimicked the syntax of good prose—“the real language of men. He rejected the fake poetic diction of the 18th century.

He is a friend of man who binds all things with passion and love. 155 . If science ever becomes so familiar an object that it takes on flesh and blood. indeed he is able to feel absent pleasures as if they were present. comprehensive soul than do other men. If it is not there. Just as poetry is to be written in the “real language of men. though he does differ in degree. C. 1. who will help transform and humanize it into a kindred spirit. He has a rich store of memories he can tap for poetic inspiration and the ability to relieve his memories and the emotions attached to them. not the scientist. He has more lively sensibilities and is more in touch with his feelings. he honors “the native. He needs little stimulation to experience deep emotions. There is no such thing as a “coterie of poets. so to speak. Wordsworth ascribes to the poet—and poetry—a new kind of social function.” 3. Just as he redefines poetry. III. Whereas the scientist seeks truth as an abstract idea. 2. He can sustain an inner mood of tranquility and pleasure. He rejoices in his own spirit of life and seeks to discover that joy in the world around him.” 2.the rustic.” so is the poet to be a “man speaking to men. 5. purge natural speech of its grossness. 1. The poet is a lover of his fellow men. he will create it. but. The questions “What is a poem?” and “What is a poet?” are synonymous. 3. 2. the poet “rejoices in the presence of truth as our visible friend and hourly companion. it will be the poet. A. 4. so does Wordsworth offer a new vision of the poet.” as thought of in the 18th century. naked dignity of man” by humanizing all things in accordance with the human heart. 1. through a process of selection. The poet possesses a more organic. B. The poet is not to be viewed as a different creature: he is of the same kind as all other men.

necessary in an industrialized age than in a rural. to bring us back into the human community. “savage torpor. more violent and more scandalous stimulants to satisfy their blunted psyches. he promotes a new aristocracy of sensitivity. Though poetry does instruct. it exists first and foremost to give pleasure. by enlarging and refining our sensibilities. 156 .Wordsworth warns against the ill effects of urbanization/industrialization. Considering this new social function. has the power to re-humanize us. It is through pleasure that poetry draws us back into touch with our world. The massing of men into cities and the repetitive drudgery of their jobs produces in them an ignoble “craving after extraordinary incident” and a “degrading thirst after outrageous stimulation.” Wordsworth saw it as the role of poetry to restore this lost ability. and ourselves. The pleasure that poetry gives is no mere entertainment and is not to be scorned: it is the very spirit through which we know and live. our fellow man. not less. Wordsworth calls this state of emotional and spiritual deadness.” Their senses have grown dull. Poetry restores our child-like wonder. Although Wordsworth rejects the refinement and wit of the 18th century. this loss of ability to be moved by simple beauty and truth. Poetry. poetry is more. and they need grosser. revives our ability to take joy and delight in the natural world and in the quiet beatings of our heart. pastoral age.

his reading of Kant and Schilling has been so accurate that he has been accused of plagiarism. Hebrew. Coleridge understood well the German mind that he interpreted and adapted German philosophy to English Romantic theory. between nature and mind. and Italian. Of all the English Romantic theorists. 2. original synthesis of literary theory that renders accessible many German abstractions. His purpose. He not only imported German philosophy and theory to England but also interpreted the finer points of German philosophy and theory to the more pragmatic English. Biographia Literaria is Coleridge’s Poetics. his method of reasoning is induction. Despite a series of almost verbatim paraphrases. is to effect “the perfect spiritualization of all the laws of nature into laws of intuition and intellect. observations. between primary imagination and secondary imagination. At the heart of his philosophical and theoretical views lies a vital distinction between two opposing yet complementary types of thinkers: the natural philosopher and the transcendental philosopher. and his goal is general laws and truths. We shall discuss the difference between the natural philosopher and the transcendental philosopher. with nature (object) and moves upward toward mind (subject). a posteriori. and is very much influenced by German theory. German. He also spoke Latin. French. Greek. however. compelling. Coleridge was the most erudite. we shall focus on the most erudite of English Romantic poets: Samuel Taylor Coleridge. A. his theoretical and aesthetic education. He possessed a photographic memory. his work yet offers a unified. The natural philosopher begins his journey.” 3. he writes. His starting point is empirical. The natural philosopher who does not complete his journey risks falling into the dead-end of 157 . 1.Samuel Taylor Coleridge Biographia Literaria Abstract In this chapter. Indeed.

but is only a projection of our subjective perceptions. material world has no separate existence—no integrity of its own. Indeed. as evinced by Lyrical Ballads. Coleridge is a true transcendental philosopher. His ultimate goal is to incarnate the universal in the concrete. Wordsworth is a true natural philosopher. as evinced by his contribution to Lyrical Ballads. Whereas the natural philosopher is essentially Aristotelian. abstract. is achieved. B. If both philosophers successfully complete their journeys. From this point.materialism: the belief that all that exists is matter and that the spiritual is an illusion. but only because they are the ground of everything. The transcendental philosopher begins his journey with a transcendent mind (subject) and moves downward toward nature (object).” 3. 6. they will meet in the middle at a metaphysical nexus point of the general and the particular. 158 . because he transforms the natural into the supernatural. by his treatment of supernatural events in such a way as to render them natural. Coleridge saw the imagination as the faculty most qualified to effect this “marriage” of subject and object. 2. a priori. 4. As a Romantic. 1. 4. 1. 7. the mundane into the exotic. His starting point is intuitive. C. truth: that is. To begin such a metaphysical journey. scientific skepticism. the transcendental philosopher is essentially Platonic.” 2. neither journey is complete until a fusion of the subject and object. 5. the transcendental philosopher must first purge his mind of all sensation by assuming “an absolute. mind and nature. non-empirical ideas that are logically groundless. observation into mystical perception. Vide Kant’s “groundless ground. the transcendental philosopher moves downward toward the sensual realities of the physical world. The transcendental philosopher who does not complete his journey risks falling into the abyss of idealism: the belief that the objective.

Whereas 18th century theorists tended to use the words “imagination” and “fancy” interchangeably. 3. B. the secondary is active: “it dissolves. more vital. “imagination” is freer. and concrete universals. 3. Kant. symbols. higher unities. Coleridge yet hails the secondary imagination as the true source of poetry. 159 .” 5. 1. to describe the imagination’s power to fuse opposites. Coleridge fashioned and organic theory of poetry. Only the imagination has both the perceptive power to see similitude lurking within dissimilitude. Whereas the primary imagination is passive. Coleridge asserted that they were distinct powers. A poem is an almost-living organism in which the whole not only contains each part but each part contains the whole. breaks it down. It gives us the key to understanding Coleridge’s famous distinction between the primary and the secondary imagination. 6. A. 1. 4. He coined the word “esemplastic” (Greek for “to shape into one”). Primary imagination occurs when our own individual (subjective consciousness is passively inspired by the absolute self-consciousness of God. and the synthetic power to fuse and reconcile opposites into one. diffuses. Artists who make use of this creative power are essentially “divine ventriloquists. and then reshapes it into a new and vital form. It is precisely this esemplastic power of the secondary imagination that enables it to create organic wholes. and Schiller. 5. Though all Romantics yearn for this direct inspiration. While “fancy” is lesser. 6. dissipates. Working from the Aesthetic theories of Aristotle. 2. 4. limited power that can only shift images around into new patterns. It takes the raw material given it by inspiration.” poet-prophets who receive direct inspiration from above and respond passively with a song or a poem. It can recombine ideas and images at will to create new. The idea of the fusion of opposites that is so vital for both the transcendental and natural philosopher lies behind most of Coleridge’s literary theory.II. unity in the midst of diversity. in order to recreate.

D. within the microcosm of the poem. Unlike many theorists before him. 6. uses the phrase “concrete universal” to denote the highest forms of organic wholes and symbols. with the picture remaining merely that. Coleridge revolutionized the study of Shakespeare by demonstrating that his plays are not the uneven products of an inartistic genius but organic wholes in which each part functions within the whole. if it can. To call a poem a concrete universal is to say that. In a symbol. 1. In an organic whole. 2. the angel on the other). incarnational way. a universal idea has been fully realized in a concrete form. Coleridge. 1. so the concrete universal effects a full fusion of an 160 . 2. In an allegory. temporal and eternal. via the esemplastic power of the Incarnation. The seed within the apple contains within itself the potential not only for another apple but for an entire grove of apple trees. Just as Christ. There is no essential link between the idea and the picture: one simply stands in for the other. Coleridge privileged symbols over allegories. the poet has obviously neither fully realized his purpose nor achieved a complete fusion of parts and whole. as if the content of the poem had created its own form. 4. 4. specific and general. there is a dynamic. 3. Ideas and images are fused and dissimilitude is resolved into similitude. echoing Aristotle and Kant.2. an abstract notion (the inner struggle between good and evil) is merely translated into a picture language (the devil on one shoulder. 3. Coleridge’s definition of a poem includes the criterion that it give equal pleasure in the whole as it does in each part. One way to test if a poem is organic is to ask if anything can be added to or taken away from it. concrete and universal meet and fuse in an almost mystical. for he felt they came closer to the ideal of the organic whole. In the symbol. 5. the abstract notion (the salvific blood of Christ) is seen in and through they physical symbol (the communion wine). 7. however. C. became both fully Man and fully God. incarnational relationship between form and content.

several things dovetailed in my mind. that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties. John Keats Negative Capability and the Egotistical Sublime ".abstract. The mystical. without any irritable reaching after fact and reason—" —John Keats (1795-1821) 161 . physical image. mysteries. 3. and at once it struck me.. it is as if the concrete image descends and dwells within the image. non-physical idea and a specific.. doubts. reciprocal relationship that forms within such poems is timeless.. what quality went to form a man of achievement especially in literature which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean negative capability.

too. Whereas poets who possess negative capability are capable of entering the lives of other beings and see the world from their perspectives. love. the Romantic belief that things are as they are perceived. and he is continually being invaded by the identies of other people. The strong focus on the poet and his perceptions often leads to the Romantic disease of over-self-consciousness: the poet thinks so much that he loses his ability to feel and experience the world directly. imagination. or perhaps suffer from. as if the kind of genius Keats is thinking about. but that his personality is such that is both draws all things to itself and colors all things by its perceptions. The person of fixed opinion. says Keats. that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties. even in his poetic studies of others. but Wordsworth and Milton had none. Keats’ desire to move out of himself is not so much a rejection of. mysteries. on the face of it. the holiness of the heart's affections. in order to enter vicariously into the heart and soul of another person—a quality Shakespeare possessed so enormously. 494. but the reason he cannot make up his mind is because his own identity is precarious. It looks. p. such as Wordsworth. beauty. Wordsworth had sympathy but no empathy. simply cannot make up his mind. without any irritable reaching after fact and reason—61 It actually means 'being capable of eliminating one's own personality. Shakespeare had negative capability. 162 .The Romantic poet John Keats formulated the phrase “Negative Capability” in a letter to his brothers George and Thomas on 21 December 1817. In this letter he defined his new concept of writing: I mean negative capability. doubts. 61 Critical Theory Since Plato. they'd try and complicate. dominant personalities. as an antidote to. instead. In other words. noted that. enjoys. and that is partly the case. those possessing the egotistical sublime would always mediate their visions of the world through their own strong. To link Wordsworth to the egotistical sublime is not to say that he is arrogant or selfish. Coleridge. 'egotistic sublime'. Wordsworth is a spectator from without. or explain what couldn't be explained: truth.

Coleridge worshipped a God who is the embodiment of the concrete universal. on the other hand. without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. mysteries. Whereas Keats is almost postmodern in his refusal to judge or freeze truth. Such poets take such direct joy in the powers of the imagination that they receive “as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. both philosophically and aesthetically. Percy Bysshe Shelley “A Defense of Poetry” Abstract 163 . he sought an active. to suspend their powers of judgment and reason and receive passively. Keats’s refusal to freeze or judge truth is a trait the poet must have. Coleridge offers a more traditional view of art as revelation. objective view of poetry that uses Keats’s negative capability as springboard. shaping imagination. and this one offers a contrast to Coleridgean theory. Coleridge was not content merely to receive passively. According to Keats. The anti-Romantic turn we will encounter in Module 5 will reject this struggle in favor of a more impersonal. They are able. resolve the paradox. poets like Shakespeare who possess negative capability are “capable of being in uncertainties.” They are able to rest of mysteries and paradoxes without needing to reach after fixed answers or resolutions. doubts. he had to solve the mystery. Unlike Keats who worshipped the spirit of great art. says Keats.” Coleridge. could not remain content with half-knowledge.Romantic theory is a balancing act between the desire for an unmediated vision of nature and an equal and opposite desire to shape nature in accordance with the poet’s perceptions. There is another vital aspect to negative capability. The phrase appears briefly and enigmatically in a single letter of Keats. Willing suspension of disbelief is something that an audience has.

to calculate. No poet can say. This. does state that the poet modulates the wind of inspiration. theorists celebrated analysis for its ability to study. 3. temporary thing with no integral unity. 3. and to discern the differences between things. poetry that comes closest to the infinite. “I will compose poetry”. for inspiration leaves as quickly as it arrives. inspiration transforms the poet into a poet-prophet. Shelley also turns Plato on his head by asserting that reason (analysis) is to imagination (synthesis) as the shadow is to the substance. If only we could hold on to that fire. 5. science (reason) is a passing. A. C. and to discover and even create similitude. I. 2. instead. the poet is like a “fading coal” that burns out even as it burns. 4. only when the unpredictable spirit of inspiration falls upon him can he create. 164 . Shelly the Romantic championed synthesis for its ability to shape and color. Still. “Poetry redeems from decay the visitations of the divinity in man. like Wordsworth and Coleridge. its departure is as mysterious as its arrival.This chapter attempts an in-depth look at two of the unique and powerful arguments that Shelley presents in his defense of the moral and social usefulness of poetry. He treats fully the Romantic privileging of imagination over reason. The true poet is like an Aeolian harp: a small stringed instrument that produces natural music when the wind blows through its strings. we would be like gods. inspiration blows through the poet. however. while it lasts. 1. 1. causing him to create. to perceive value. 4. It is poetry that is most real. 2. Though Shelley. he nevertheless presents the poet more as a passive recipient of imagination than as an active artisan. Shelley’s Defense of Poetry gathers together all the key Romantic theories. In like manner. 6. but alas. Shelley describes in detail the nature and ramifications of Romantic inspiration. 5. In the 18th century. causes much angst.” B.

1. that inspires in us virtue. 165 . and friendship. and Milton never lived—they are our true moral teachers. Shelley’s Defense is not just an abstract apologia. he nevertheless incorporates into his Defense three unique concepts. Poetry.II. It is poetry that impels us to rise above base and selfish desires. love. Shelly felt so strongly the influence of this unifying spirit which he called zeitgeist. Although not wholly original. with “the eternal. Romantic poetry can be called apocalyptic. “The great instrument of moral good is the imagination. Like all the Romantics. He wrote his Defense in direct response to Thomas Love Peacock’s “The Four Ages of Poetry. Poetry is actually more useful and necessary in an age of progress. Shelly counters by arguing for the moral and social uses of poetry. Shelley exalts the poet as a sort of divine conduit. 1. yet he is not alone. 1. Just as each poet-prophet is linked to this greater poem. by awakening and enlarging the mind. He removes the twin veils of mystery and familiarity to reveal Truth. the infinite. 2. far from the city. “all-penetrating spirit. Shelley saw himself and his fellow poets as trumpets of this spirit. C. both leaves us open and receptive to beauty and love and enables us to move out of ourselves.” a satirical essay that argued that the growth and progress of society was slowly rendering poetry obsolete.” 1. It sensitizes us to the needs of others. Thus. so are all the poets of a given age linked to a single. 3. more philosophical ideas.” 6. 4. 2. we have more political knowledge.” 3. 7. 2. and the one. Shakespeare. At present. for each poet contributes a stanza to the eternal poem that is still being written. 5. A. He does so in solitude. He cannot conceive what the moral state of our world would be had Dante. more scientific facts and figures than we know what to do with. The poet transforms all that he perceives by bringing it into harmony with beauty and the good. 4. B. allows us to put ourselves in their place (empathy) and see the world from their perspective (negative capability). patriotism.

” 3. Discrete facts and ideas are of no use to us or to society until we can arrange and conceive those facts in terms of higher laws and ideals. 1. Like Sidney. however. 2. It is the poets who are the greatest creators and innovators of society. knowable. Poets are “the unacknowledged legislators of the world. 4. 4. when he ascribes to poets and almost godlike status: they are an influence that “is moved not. Shelley asserts that poets are the originators of language. We need the creative faculty. the architects of law and religion.2. the inventors of the arts. We have bitten off more than we can chew. the poetic imagination. and our dreams. ever purging and renewing our words. 3. D. our perceptions. They are an apocalyptic force. human. He goes beyond Sidney. our thoughts. to synthesize this sea of discrete facts into something tangible. but moves.” 166 .

As a boy.62 Richard Ellman makes no bones about it: Yeats is the 20th century’s greatest poet. Even during his lifetime. fellow Irishman James Joyce described Yeats as “the greatest poet Ireland had produced and the greatest of contemporary English poets. Yeats belonged to an Anglo-Irish family. I unhesitatingly and quickly give out the name of Yeats. the avenues of trees in mists. were never changed. My Brother’s Keeper. Yeats: The Man and the Masks. it is difficult to appreciate the major poems. would go back to these images long after he had left Sligo Bay. as later poet. because the son in fact held the brush before the pen.” Yeats did not shine as a student. many of the sources of his materials. because he. The country scenery. many of them shrouded in Irish folklore and legend. he had often sailed the Sligo Bay and the waters of Northwestern Ireland.The Poetics of W. too. and was academically unprepared to enter Trinity College. must have influenced the boy. and the strange stories of old men on evenings under the Celtic moon must have cut deep impressions on the boy. And A Vision is his poetics. The Sligo Imprint W. Yeats’s father was a painter of the pre-Raphaelite tradition. drawn from an earlier century (the 19th). and it contributed little in honing his poetic sensibilities. Although Yeats produced his major works between the ages of fifty and seventy. Formal education did not interest him.63 What outstanding talents did Yeats possess that stood him in good stead head and shoulders above the rest of 20th century poets? The answer is poetics. It was the summer vacations in his grandparents’s home in Sligo County that fascinated him. he bought himself a ruined Norman Castle in Galway with the intention of devoting his life to painting. without studying the early Yeats and the temper of the times that contributed to the formation of his poetic sensibilities. 167 . There was romance in these journeys. p. Richard Ellman. B. B. vide back cover of the book. The importance of William Butler Yeats as a major poet cannot be disputed. He called this castle “The Tower. He. Later we shall take up his poetics. 62 63 Stanislaus Joyce. Yeats in A Vision Each time a student asks me to name someone who has fashioned a perfect poetics. His father’s studio impressed the boy so much that when he grew up and had saved a little money. 180. He was badly educated in Dublin and in London. the 19th century air. Let us first attempt to give a brief background of the honing of the sensibilities of the poet. Indeed.

and him Who met land walking among the flaming dew 64 65 66 Norman A. the mist-covered Donegal cliffs.65 —and the densely symbolic personal lyrics. 71. . Enfold me in my hour of hours. . . p. Jeffares. the helms of ruby and gold Of the crowned Magi.66 Notice the hushed. talking Irish. My brother in Mocharabuiee. dwell beyond the stir And tumult of defeated dreams. Spender and Hall. and the king whose eyes Saw the Pierced Hands and Rood of the Elder rise In Druid vapour and make the torches dim. The great leaves enfold The ancient beards. men from Tory Island coming alongside with lobsters. 18. 168 . W. B. often love poems. blowing on a burning sod to attract attention. and if it was night. 367. Yeats: Man and Poet. many of the images in his poetry would draw from the Sligo background. and deep Among pale eyelids. p. Yeats.Holidays in Sligo were eagerly anticipated: they added to the feeling of not belonging to any world but his own. . Yeats wrote according to the dying pre-Raphaelite tradition. . listened to the tales of sailors and fisher-boys. Folk dance like a wave of the sea. his early poetry branching out into two main directions: the artificial ballads based on Irish folklore and legend — When I play with my fiddle in Dooney. He began to climb mountains. Pre-Raphaelite Yeats Before he wrote the major poems. most secret. W. Or in the wine-vat. “The Fiddler of Dooney.64 Later. heavy with the sleep Men have named beauty. and inviolable Rose. B. sleepy tone brooding everywhere in the following poem: Far off. My cousin is priest in Kilvarnest. where those Who sought thee in the Holy Sepulchre. p. Rathlin. and rode the red pony to Rathbroughan to play with the Land Agent’s children at sailing toy boats in the river there. . went sailing with local folk.” Collected Poems. Till vain frenzy awoke and he died.

I. Until he found. albeit pleasant. and die? Surely the hour has come. and calling bard and clown Dwelt among wine-stained wanderers in deep woods. p. and therefore that voice must possess no “artiness” about it. 67 68 69 70 W. Unterecker. be a great poet. And the proud dreaming king who flung the crown And sorrow away. 6. too. 169 . . and wept the barrows of his dead. await The hour by thy great wind of love and hate. . and goods. . .68 The poems in this category foreshadow the mystical aura of the later major works. p. And till a hundred morns and flowered red Feasted. and house. make my life interesting. rich. And him who drove the gods out of their liss. the decoration over elaborate. loc. And lost the world and Emer for a Kiss. When shall the stars be blown about the sky? Like the sparks blown out of a smithy. “The Secret Rose. Natural Expression Although Yeats continued writing personal lyrics. A little stolen tress. Far-off most secret. And him who sold tillage. The air in the Arcanum is heavy. he eventually came up with the belief that a poem must be a “personal utterance.. like mists descending upon thick woods.” Collected Poems. 67. and inviolable Rose?67 Poems in this category seem to have been placed in a closed Arcanum where a symbolic rose is worshipped. Ibid.”69 If I can be sincere and make my language natural. B. 364. Yeats. Spender and Hall. A Woman of so shining loveliness That men threshed corn at midnight by a tress. The whole experience is intoxicating and uncanny. and without being discursive .By a grey shore where the wind never blew. because for Yeats the voice of the poet is the voice of the man. p. I shall . cit. And sought through lands and islands numberless years. and weird. thy great wind blows. with laughter and with tears. 70 This is going to be so.

the poet’s poems were unique “personal utterances” which could not have been written by anybody else. The old evangelicalism of the desiccated Church provided nothing but dogmas and pat interpretations that over-simplified the human predicament. Therefore. 170 .”74 The fact that he could not find the answers in Christianity made matters worse. but it was an age that denied education to all but the rich and influential. It was an age of prosperity and poverty. young men of the “new thought” began to question the materialistic. as though in a letter to an intimate friend. 9. the more the poems would become “public speeches.. And Victorian religion of the Anglican type was just as bad. and speech came from the man. it was the worst of times. Both men offered little to western man but evidence of his own mediocrity. for our lives give them force. Ibid. We should not disguise them in any way. It was an age of science and technology. There were no more Celtic Twilights. confirmed another of his poetic theories: the poet eventually and inevitably became public only after he had become private. of splendor and squalor. rationalistic universe painted by Darwin and Lamarck. p. The young rebelled against this kind of thinking.. but it saw tubercular women coughing out blood in steaming sweatshops.”72 This. The “new science” that they had introduced disproved all orthodox conceptions of creation and had threatened every traditional mode of thinking. it was the best of times. Yeats was one of them. It was an age of commercial prosperity.73 It is probably another way of saying. 364. cit. Ibid.. All over Victorian England and Western Europe. Indeed.71 Poetry is memorable speech. The paradox is that the more personal a poet became. p. 6. To him. Spender and Hall. of righteousness and hypocrisy.We should write our thoughts in as nearly as possible the language we thought them in. but it was also an age which saw children wasting away in the coal mines. op.” When Yeats found his in Responsibilities (1914)—with a little help from Ezra Pound—the style became drier and more concrete. At the end of the 19th century. “find your own voice first. It was an age of material success. the priests were no worse than the scientists of the day in perverting 71 72 73 74 Ibid. The Background of A Vision The Victorian Age was a paradoxical age. too. his rejection of positivist science was so strong that he hated it with a “monkish hate.

But most important. 42. the true spiritual hunger of men. and accused the priesthood of engendering modern materialism. Priests were thwarting.79 Theosophy assured Yeats the validity of his anti-materialist. Science had failed and religion had failed. it supported anti-clericalism. n. 4 171 . he could incorporate all the fairy tales and folklores of his boyhood in Sligo. p. because although it attacked materialist science. it offered man the opportunity to become god-like. Modern science is ancient thought distorted. She told him pointblank: “Man had never been an ape.doctrines to suit their agendas. and although it denounced modern man. and modern religion ancient thought distorted. Theosophy accepted the realities of ghosts and fairies. yet terrified at skepticism. Now he was equipped with the right weapons for his fight against materialism. p. Yeats had been reading Oscar Wilde. anti-clerical misgivings. Blavatsky founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. One main reason why it was founded was because Blavatsky and her group sought to penetrate the “unsolved problems of science 75 76 Ellman. A this time. 78 Ellman. 77 Matthew Arnold’s pathetic assurances of the adaptability of Christianity had aroused little zeal. Surely there was another way of discovering the truth. Mallarme.” a zealot in search of a creed. 56-57. the society made available to him the hidden side of things. This time. George Bernard Shaw’s confidence in Lamarck’s contention that the giraffe had secured its long neck by willing it was shared by a few. Baudelaire. Like the young Goethe. 79 The Theosophical Society Leaflet Number Two.77 a new doctrine purporting to be an ancient one was being developed by a strange but remarkable Russian lady who went by the name of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. but he must have felt like Keats’s “watcher of the skies” when he personally met Blavatsky in London.” 78 She attacked modern Christianity. although it repudiated atheism. Yeats during this phase of his life was “destitute of faith.”75 The Theosophical Influence Because science was held suspect. pp. and Balzac in the dim hope of finding something in them. instead of satisfying. And now he was furnished with an occult tradition much more sensible and profound than modern rationalist science and Christianity.76 and religion itself became demystified. The movement called itself Theosophy. What precisely did Yeats find in Theosophy that attracted him to it? First of all.. d. It appealed to him immediately. Quezon City: The Theosophical Publishing House. because priests denied man the complexity of human experience. Aubrey Beardsley. it used the “scientific method” in its pursuit of the truth.

means wisdom or Vidya. 172 . later to become MacGregor Mathers.to know. 20. The house became in his imagination “a romantic place. 84 “ It will be immediately seen that . 4. divine knowledge. Jinarajadasa.”86 A word about “magic.83 Blavatsky gave him access to her Isis Unveiled and to A. Budh. 3.”80 Europe and America being at both extremes too materialistic and too superstitious. and art. The word Budha.84 He also read Eliphas Levi’s History of Magic. Blavatsky proposed to reorient the West on the teachings of Eastern Wisdom “in order to break the narrowness and rigidities of the contemporary mental climate. I think to every man or woman who had themselves any richness . science. he simultaneously joined the Hermetic Students of the Golden Dawn in a effort to quench his thirst for magic “through alchemical and psychic experiments”85 which Theosophy had denied him. impressive. 82 Ibid. The ancient Persian priests 80 81 Ibid.” as Yeats perceived it: The word itself is derived from the Persian “mag. Vide Bidliography. p. . p. Sinnett’s Esoteric Budhism. Ibid. Parfait Magicien des Lettres Membership in the Golden Dawn was made available through his friend. 6. passionate nature. philosophy. P. Yeats. only one [“d”] is found on the cover {of Sinnett’s book]. . . translator of The Kabbalah Unveiled. Liddell Mathers. and finally MacGregor.and psychology. 85 Unterecker. as “the first to build a bridge between religion. The basis for this discrepancy lies in the Sanscrit root.. almost always full of gaiety that.” priest.”— Sinnett’s Note to the Wizard Edition of Esoteric Budhism. and pored over these daily because they gave him the ammunition to purify himself through meditation. wisdom. On the other hand. a sort of female Dr. 53. who was seriously interested in magic. and to construct that intellectual edifice in which thousands live today. frequented the Mathers house at Forrest Hill. unlike the occasional joking of those about her.”82 Yeats himself would write of her: A great. Johnson. 86 Jeffares.. was illogical and incalculable and yet always kindly and tolerant.”81 Blavatsky’s contribution to modern thought is acknowledged by Indian author C. p. 83 Unterecker..

” that plays upon an insensible pattern. which is just a reflection of the invisible world. This Magian cult of the Zoroastrian order became the nucleus of ancient occultism. The objective was not to declare. very well put by Yeats: Plato thought nature but a spume that plays Upon a ghostly paradigm of things. (Preminger. through “nature. must necessarily be obscure and difficult. and Panassianism as being too clear-cut. Cleanth Brooks. This was Platonism revived. and the possibility of mastery or control of them. universals. but merely to suggest the complexity and dilemma of human experience. 173 . or transcribe. In reacting to Naturalism as being too specific. ideals. It is a “paradigm” or pattern crudely reflected by things in the world of Becoming. Magic in this sense meant “mastery of the occult forces of nature. a Form (Plato’s term) which our senses cannot fully apprehend. pp. withdrawing from the world in order to communicate “unique personal feelings.were called “Magi.89 How did the Symbolists proceed in tapping the world of Being? Yeats would answer this question by explaining not what the Symbolists did but what they avoided. description. W.” The world of Being is the world of ideas. “Among School Children. (Temple. 54) To arouse a response deeper than the 87 88 89 William Walker Atkinson. 153) Two counts were thrown against the Symbolists: that of obscurity and that of escapism.” magicians. and Forms. pp. Yeats.) Symbolist poetry was poetry of indirection and of subtlety. (Brooks. The poet. The Well-Wrought Urn. 212-214. 63-64. The Symbolists admitted these consequences. 836 ff. They could not be helped. didacticism.88 Plato taught that there were two worlds: the world of Becoming and the world of Being. the French Symbolists rejected narration.” because he is expressing a private world. Modern Poetry. because symbolism affirmed that what was “reality” could not be found in the objective world. depict.” Collected Poems. but somewhere else. a term indicating the existence of such forces. and direct statements.” Thus nature is like a foam. B. types. hence “ghostly. or “spume. They differed from their Romantic forebears by avoiding the romantic traps of sentimentality. The aim was toward indefiniteness of language. with emphasis on connotation. We perceive the world of Becoming through our senses. declaim.”87 The Problem of Obscurity and the Problem of Escapism French Symbolism approximates the convictions laid out earlier above. and rhetoric altogether.

realm of consciousness, they used words for magical suggestiveness. The ideas, however, were not delegated to the background. On the contrary, they believed that ideas were of primary importance in poetry, except that they ought to be presented through symbols. Intensity and complexity were to be achieved through syntax and images unified by one main metaphor. A suggestive atmosphere pervades, as an inevitable consequence, for one cannot pinpoint any definiteness in a symbolist poem. Yeats wrote along this vein, and because he did so, he became heir apparent to charges of obscurantism. Kabbalistic Experiments and Studies MacGregor made use of magical symbols and other paraphernalia in his experiments. Yeats recalls the procedure: He gave me a cardboard symbol and I closed my eyes. Sight came slowly… imagined it. (Jeffares, 53) Reconciling Blavatsky and MacGregor, Yeats let his mind swim in a flurry of images, and the effect on his writing was such that his style became “more sensuous and vivid.” (Jeffares, 53) The following item, taken from the Ten Sephiroth by MacGregor, is an example of the kind of Kabbalisitc material studied by Yeats during this period. In their totality . . . Scandinavians. (Unterecker, 21-22) The one great Tree was the Integral Adam, the Protogonos. (Later Neo-Platonists would suggest a more coherent system than the one quoted above, but Yeats, perennially in search of organic unity, would ignore them, as he poured deeper into the symbolism of the Tree): The tree which is mitigated (that is, the path of the Kingdom of . . . good and evil). (Unterecker, 22) Of what use were such studies? First of all, they gave Yeats a rich stock of imagery from which to draw for the rest of his life. “Stocked with multiple, antithetical, and secret meanings for trees, birds, roses, stars, and wells, Yeats delighted in constructing puzzles which had not only clear over meanings but which could as well be rightly interpreted in an almost unlimited number of ways.” (Brooks, Hidden God, 44) Every symbol, every organ of the body had its correspondence in the stars. Therefore, all occult symbols were attuned to the great universal law, and any interpretation of them was “right.” The only danger was the tendency to oversimplify the meanings, to lay things on the thin line of allegory. Following Aristotle, poetry, to Yeats, was mimesis, and


to imitate life was to reject oversimplifications. Simple, airtight interpretations carried no universal convictions. The New Myth The esoteric readings proved to be both poetically useful and emotionally satisfying. Henceforth, the mystical life was to become for him “the center of all that I do and all that I think and all that I write.” (Jefferes, 22) This was going to be the first step away from his agnostic father’s “intellectual leading strings.” (Jeffares, 22) Studying and struggling to penetrate the secrets of the hidden world, his obsession now was to search for a philosophy that may “prove to our logical capacity that there is a transcendental portion of our being that is timeless and spaceless.” (Brooks, Hidden God, 45) Why did Yeats contrive the New Myth? First of all, he felt that he was “robbed” of his religion. He wanted a system of truth “that would leave my imagination free to create as it chose.” (Brooks, Modern Poetry, 176) It was a search for a richer and more imaginative account of man’s total experience which will provide continuity with the values and symbols of ancient worship. He was looking for something more coherent than just a fairy tale, something more objectively responsible to historical facts than mere subjective reveries. As earlier stated, Christianity could not provide such an account, because it had been denatured by Victorian compromises, and directly challenged by Darwin and Huxley. Yeats himself compared the majority of bishops with bad writers as “being obviously atheists,” in the sense that as they tended to oversimplify the poetic experience, they also denied the mystery of the human predicament, the missed the drama of the human spirit. (Brooks, Modern Poetry, 174) After his marriage to Georgie Hyde-Lees, both husband and wife lived for a while in Ashdown Forest. Mrs. Yeats noticed that her husband was beset by personal worries. Four days after their marriage, Mrs. Yeats tried to cheer up her husband by attempting to fake automatic writing. To her astonishment, strange words, phrases, and sentences started shaping up. The subjects were totally alien to her. Yeats, convinced that she had tapped on something extraordinary, urged his wife to go on. They devoted some hours to it daily. (Jeffares, 191) For almost a year, she had filled her notebooks with “spiritual communications.” Yeats ceased to worry now, because he was engrossed in interpreting the messages. After they left Ashdown Forest, Yeats wrote of his wife as “a perfect wife, kind and unselfish. She has made my life serene and full of order.” (Jeffares, 192) Later, Mrs. Yeats began to talk in her sleep. Yeats asked questions, codified, and then arranged the answers. From the hundreds of notebooks, A Vision emerged. 175

THE LUNAR PARABLE The publication of A Vision in 192590 marked the culmination of Yeats’s attempt to find some system in which he could “believe.” Henceforth, A Vision would provide the poems which he would write after his marriage with another dimension which they otherwise lacked. William Van O’Connor explains: By allowing . . . knowledge. (O’Connor, 237-38) The final book became for him not reality, but a pattern for reality, “my lunar parable.” (Unterecker, 24) The book is divided into three sections: historical, psychological, and spiritual. The explication of his thought relies heavily on the two diagrams below. Yeats’s system bears close resemblance to Oswald Spengler’s cyclic theory of the seasons. But while Spengler would talk about the springtime of a culture, the summer, etc., Yeats would talk about the twenty-eight phases of the moon. The symbolism of his cyclic theory, therefore, is drawn from the twenty-eight phases of the moon:

Figure 1. Wheel of the 28 Phases of the Moon. From a woodcut by Edmund Dulac (1937) In the poem, “The Phases of the Moon,” (Collected Poems, 160164) Yeats suggests these interrelationships. Twenty-and-eight the phases of the moon, The full and the moon’s dark and all the crescents, Twenty-and-eight, and yet but six-and-twenty The cradles that a man must needs be rocked in:

The first edition is dated 1925, but was published in January 1926.


For there’s no human life at the full or dark. From the first crescent to the half, the dream But summons to adventure and the man Is always happy like a bird or a beast; But while the moon is rounding towards the full He follows whatever whim’s most difficult Among whims not impossible, and though scarred, As with the cat-o’nine-tails of the mind, His body molded from within his body Grows comelier. Eleven pass, and then Athene takes Achilles by the hair, Hector is in the dust, Nietzsche is born, Because the hero’s crescent is the twelfth. And yet, twice born, twice buried, grow he must, Before the full moon, helpless as a worm, The thirteenth moon but sets the soul at war In its own being, and when that war’s begun There is no muscle in the arm; and after, Under the frenzy of the fourteenth moon, The soul begins to tremble into stillness, To die in the labyrinth of itself. Basically, the premise is this: history runs through two-thousandyear cycles, each cycle reversing the basic trend of the preceding cycle. (Brooks, Hidden God, 44) In the figure above, Phases 1-8 symbolize the springtime of any culture, and 9-15 the summer. Civilization reaches its zenith at Phase 15, and gradually declines from 16-28. Yeats complicates his system by dividing the cycles into two sub-cycles of one thousand odd years each.

Figure 2. Interpenetrating cones. Yeats’s gyre looks like two superimposed cones facing outwards, the west part being the solar, and its opposite the lunar. The figure


the simultaneous rise and decline a-b and c-d would take 500 years.D. to 1000 A. and equivalent in turn to the period from 1000 A. while the worse Are full of passionate intensity. Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer. D.D.. the center cannot hold. the Byzantine civilization under Justinian the Great. travels toward the 2000-year cycle which would reach its zenith in the year 2000. the zenith of each coinciding with the base of the other. the Middle Ages.D. Things fall apart.above shows this pair of interpenetrating cones. and in which a-b is equivalent to Phases 1-15. though he may be predominantly objective.. Here is Yeats’s explanation of a gyre in A Vision: A line is a symbol of time . the center cannot hold. Taken by themselves these lines are not recognizable as metaphor. which is the Renaissance. ) The gyres expand and contract. In the same figure. D. and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned. The pattern of the double interpenetrating cones is worked out more systematically with the inclusion of the paired metaphor of the circling falconry of the first stanza. One way to see the poem’s relation to the historical system of A Vision is to divide it into two parts: the first part says that great changes are taking place in the world. Movement in Dante’s spiritual world is not in a straight line but in a spiral. 178 . In the first half of each subcycle. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed. Lines 1-2 are about the metaphor of falconry. too. and the poet says it in seven different ways. In the same manner. Each man is to some extent subjective. has a simultaneous rise and decline of subjectivity and objectivity. historically from 500 A. because as the gyre widens. c-d is equivalent to Phases 16-28. to 500 A. and vice versa. The cones symbolize the antithetical elements in man: the subjective and the objective.” This image of the widening gyre is reminiscent of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The best lack all conviction. D. a-b would be equivalent to Phases 1-15 of the moon which is historically from 1 A. Civilization. conflict. . 184-85) is faithful to the historical system set out in A Vision. The symbolism is repeated in the second half so that a-b and c-d which take 500 years to complete. The poem. (A Vision. . Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. to 15 A. but the next line proclaims itself and the previous lines as metaphor.. “The Second Coming” (Collected Poems. “Things fall apart.

Canto xvii. The image of Geryon is seen rising from the dark pith with the body shaped like the path of a gyre upon a cone. things ought not to fall apart.” Ceremony because only in ceremony are found the vestiges of the sort of order the speaker knew. there is revolution. any edition. is loosed unto our world to drown the “ceremony of innocence. . hints at the finality of it all.91 Yeats. Falcons ought not to get out of control. Innocence is a good thing and ought not to be drowned. Anarchy and bloodshed are abominable. and the worst ought not to be dominated by passion. the best ought not to lack conviction. seated on Geryon’s back.Figure 3. relates how Dante and Vergil find themselves in the eighth circle of Hell. In the real world. for example. The second part says that these great changes are comparable to the changes brought about by the Advent. but now I know That twenty centuries of stony sleep 91 Vide Dante’s Vision of Hell in the Inferno. carefully vague. or tide dimmed by blood. So it is that the blood-dimmed tide of violence. Why is the rough beast indifferent to the desert birds who are “indignant?” Does this reveal that the Christ’s first coming was like a nightmare to the people of 1 B. The falconer can be the Christ Himself who began the 2000-year cycle. C. .? . because only ceremony opposes all violence symbolized by the blood-dimmed tide. The falcon’s getting to where it cannot hear the falconer is not literally an instance of things falling apart. That tide has moved: fanatical men have seized power—“the worst are full of passionate intensity”—to rule a world in which the good have lacked all conviction. and centers therefore ought to hold. A Gyre The Inferno. the Parousia. 179 . The falcon may be interpreted as man himself losing touch with the real Christianity of two millennia ago.

” (A Vision. selfdeception. “when the body is completely absorbed in its supernatural elements. Yeats had already established for himself the following set of psychological convictions: 1. and the Body of Fate. and that or memories are a part of one great memory. . 49) Man is classified under the phase to which his Will belongs. For example. the Creative Mind. the Mask is directly on its opposite. as it were. its hour come round at last. . (Wilson. which is Phase 3 (see Figure ). and the Body of Fate (derived from without) is shaped from Daimon’s memory of events of past incarnations. The Mask is opposite the phase. and that many minds can flow into one another. “From the first 180 . 2. the Mask.Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle . and came up enumerating the faculties involved in his psychological system: the Will. 38) Phase 15 is the full moon. The problem was how to objectify the personal. Yeats delved into materials compounded from popular psychology and mysticism. the Creative Mind from memories of ideas displayed by actual men in their past lives or their spirits between lives. That the borders of our memories are as shifting. The four faculties are not abstract categories of philosophy: the Will is anchored in the memories of our present life. a single energy. and so on. the memory of nature herself. each member of the pair being opposite the other. (Wilson. “Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” A VISION: PSYCHOLOGICAL Very early in his career. to make it appear like impersonal truth while at the same time retaining its emotive force. This brings us back to a closer reading of “The Phases of the Moon. 47-48) The dangers of “personal utterance” were sentimentality. and divided these faculties into two sets. That the borders of our minds are ever shifting.” In A Vision. the Mask drawn from memories of “exaltations’ in previous lives. the first phase is said to be a state of complete plasticity. the Mask is on Phase 4. The poem closes with a question: what will these great changes bring? What rough beast. That this great mind and great memory can be evoked by symbols. the phase of complete beauty. if the Will is on Phase 17. The Body of Fate of Phases 2 to 8. For this problem. If the Will is on Phase 18. and create or reveal a single mind. and self-pity. 3. The Creative Mind and the Body of Fate are paired in opposition in like manner.

assigns himself to Phase 17. whether by birth or environment. and images through which whatever is most morbid or strange is defined. Shelley and Dante likewise belong to this phase. and Dowson the 13th. the latter in some way the conscious product of the former. The implication of this Yeatsian conception is that man is really two men. 64) Yeats. 72) Walter Pater. Phase 9 is “Enforced Sensuality. “is to assume a pose. This splitting up of the personality was dramatized later in Stevenson’s Dr. however. The point to consider is the fact that the psychological system is founded on the conflict of opposites.crescent to the half” are “none except Monotony.” (Ellman. One proof of this split was the verbal distinction common in the 19th century between character and personality. growing up in this atmosphere. felt compelled to construct “the enigma of a manner.” (A Vision.” (Ellman. (A Vision. He felt the split acutely and founded much of his art upon the tension between the pose and the real self. Hyde (1885) and Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). 71) Lionel Johnson and Aubrey Beardsley were poseurs./ To die into the labyrinth of itself.” “Adventure that excites the individuality. who lived a cloistered life at Oxford. for example. Max Beerbohm’s Happy Hypocrite (1896) takes up the same theme of a certain rake named Lord George Hell who falls in love with an innocent girl and woos her behind the mask of a saint and under the name of Lord George Heaven. Beardsley.” he said.” the phases becoming “Enforced” from this point. 65) The Phase of man.” Phase 10 “Enforced Emotion. and there is the significant man “made” by the first. Hyde is similar to that between Doran and his picture. a phase of complete sensuality which alone is responsible for their obsessions with “metaphors. what the second is not one yet has found out.” etc.” “The Beginning of Strength. led a double life. Even James Joyce. 69) Nietzsche is assigned to Phase 12. Yeats. Giorgione. the importance of being and of not being earnest.” “Humanity. This interplay of tension is intricate. Jekyll and Mr. man “follows whatever whim’s most difficult. Stevenson’s distinction between the civilized Dr. “The first duty in life. for Yeats himself gave no tangible guide to follow as to how he would assign a particular person to a particular phase. because he was gay. and many beautiful women fall “Under the frenzy of the fourteenth moon” where “The soul begins to tremble into stillness. Oscar Wilde.” (A Vision.” After the eighth phase. Jekyll and the animalistic Mr. Baudelaire. does not necessarily coincide with the historical phase. symbols.” “Interest. wrote and rewrote his works so that his finished products 181 .” “Natural Law. Not only in their works but in their personal lives was this movement working.” Search. There is the “given” man. but his historical phase is on Phase 23. Ultimate reality could be found not in any one of them but in their interaction.

and even if he did not assume a pseudonym. 75) George Bernard Shaw was in no way exempted from this movement. whose AE is derived from Aeon. to hide his secret self. Yeats said that the purpose of the Mask was to make known one’s real self. Magee changed his Irish-sounding name to the more euphonic English-sounding John Eglinton. he said that he was too shy to accept invitations that he had to hide timidity under an arrogant pose. the name of the heavenly man. In his preface to an early novel. adopted the name Sebastian Melmoth in order to eliminate “amiable. Extroverts must flee their masks. In trying to become those impossible other selves. Paul Valery’s Monsieur Teste and Madame Teste (the former a stylist. some articulation of the Image. and almost collapsed under the strain of a double life. he approached the matter in another way. 18) This is so because “I take pleasure alone in those verses where it seems to me I have found something hard and cold. Yeats puts it down for himself and for all other artists: Only the greatest obstacle that can be contemplated without despair rouses the will to full intensity. Reality was not to be found in the “given” me nor in the “made” me but in the product born out of their struggle. and of course George Russell. Now we may understand the prevalence at this period of the pseudonym. 72) Mallarme fabricated a separate life from perverse syntax and verbal subtlety divorced from common speech. which is the opposite of all that I am in my daily life. (Unterecker. irrepressible Oscar” completely.resembled as little as possible to the ones that had come initially into his head. but introverts must choose their ideal opposites. mathematician. was not unique. and if we think of the tendency as a general one. William Sharp became Fiona Macleod. 75) Interestingly. Oscar Wilde. Many of his more sensitive contemporaries shared it. and so did he fully assume the personality of a woman that he wrote under her name books in a style different from his own. this sense of a bifurcated self. for the pseudonym symbolized the duality which resulted from the dissociation of the personality. (Ellman. A VISION: SPRITUAL 182 . Many of Yeats’s friends adopted pseudonyms: W. commonplace wife who understood him hardly at all) were easily recognizable as the two parts of Valery’s own mind. (Ellman. and symbolist. wrote in a feminine handwriting. Immaturity. K. a state to which he aspired. 18) Yeats’s inclination to pose before the world as somebody different from what he was. the result is the dramatic tension from which art surfaces. and the latter the sociable. on leaving England. we can avoid regarding Yeats as an anomaly: he merely systematized the phenomenon in A Vision.” (Unterecker. (Ellman.

R. full freedom.D. from the sensual/physical world to the spiritual world. (Brooks. for evil is the strain of one upon another of opposites. “Sailing to Byzantium” illustrates this. 189) Yeats gives his own reason: 92 Yeats had always believed in the evidence of the invisible world as an active spiritual plane. 93 The Daemon in Greek Mythology is any one of the secondary divinities ranking between gods and men. Blackmur presents Byzantium as the heaven of man’s mind. “Anima Mundi. (Brooks. for there all opposites meet and there only is the extreme of choice possible. returning to magic92 again. and evil. Another Yeatsian theory of poetic inspiration surfaced: Man.Although Yeats achieved unity of image in the Mask. the soul “puts on the rhythmic or spiritual body or luminous body and contemplates all the events of its memory and every possible impulse in an eternal possession of itself in one single moment.” (Brooks. P. apart from being influenced by the dead (and thereby being enabled to partake in Anima Mundi) may also be influenced by the Daemon. the soul receives the cup of Lethe and is reborn. he sought to locate the “secret pattern” he so badly needed. 191) The numerous gyrations the soul has to undergo. All power is from the terrestrial condition. and he believed further that he had only to tap its resources. And there is where the heterogenous is. Byzantium on the Bosporus is the ancient city which was made the capital of the Roman Empire in 330 A. but in the condition of fire is all music and all rest. the zenith of Byzantine art is expected to reach dead center in the year 2000. the faculties involved in his psychological system were not enough to make sense of what to him seemed a complex and senseless world. until it reaches the state of purification. Therefore. The choice of Byzantium is explained by Yeats: in the Lunar Parable. If the cycle of human rebirths is not finished. 191) In the condition of fire. Modern Poetry. and Cleanth Brooks the heaven of man’s imagination.93 The soul after the death of the physical body goes through a series of cycles until it reaches a state of beatitude. and called it the new Rome. Modern Poetry. Others have interpreted it differently. This belief of Yeats owes much to his readings in Platonism.” is enlightening at this point: There are two realities: the terrestrial and the condition of fire. The Emperor Constantine the Great named it after himself during the time when Rome was being sacked by the barbarians. is called the Purgatorial Dance. Modern Poetry. A passage from his essay. He also held that the dead could communicate with the living under special conditions. 183 .

show as a lovely flexible presence like that of a perfect human body. An aged man is but a paltry thing. Sophia and closed the Academy of Plato. flesh. Fish. picture. and dies. were almost impersonal. 94 A Vision. All about is an incredible splendor like that which we see pass under our closed eyelids as we lie between sleep and waking. that made building. They could copy out of gold Gospel books those pictures that seemed as sacred as the text. where all else is rhythmical and flowing. aesthetic and practical life were one. not representation of a living world but the dream of a somnambulist. the worker in gold and silver. born. I think that in early Byzantium. the supernatural descending nearer to him than to Plotinus even. almost perhaps without the consciousness of individual design. I think I could find in some wine-shop some philosophical worker in mosaic who could answer all my questions. metal-work of rail and lamp. the mackerel-crowded seas. The salmon-falls. birds in the trees —Those dying generations—at their song.94 Sailing to Byzantium That is no country for old men. a murderous madness in the mob. pattern. when the drill is in the hand of some Byzantine worker in ivory. it may be. poets. 191 ff. Even the drilled pupil of the eye. The young In one another’s arms. maybe never before or since in recorded history. religious. and yet seemed the world of one. or fowl. seem but a single image. for the pride of his delicate skill would make what was an instrument of power to princess and clerics. commend all summer long Whatever is begotten.I think if I could be given a month of Antiquity and leave to spend it where I chose. for language had been the instrument of controversy and must have grown abstract—spoke to the multitude and the few alike. I would spend it in Byzantium a little before Justinian opened St. the mosaic worker. 184 . the illuminator of Sacred Books. give to Saint or Angel a look of some great bird staring at a miracle. for its deep mechanical circle. pp. Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unageing intellect. absorbed in their subjective matter and that of the vision of a whole people. that architect and artificers—though not. The painter. undergoes a somnambulistic change.

where the young. and accepts intellection. the preoccupation of old men. sing to the body only. One remembers the lines from another Yeatsian poem on the subject of youth and old age: Bodily decrepitude is wisdom. He looks at Ireland.” Collected Poems. 260. worthless. But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make Of hammered gold and gold enamelling To keep a drowsy Emperor awake. Once out of nature I shall never take My bodily form from any natural thing. perne in a gyre. The “That” in the first line is not Byzantium but Ireland. Consume my heart away. sick with desire And fastened to a dying animal It knows not what it is. An old man is trifling. The real birds. 191. And be the singing masters of my soul. Or set upon a golden bough to sing To lords and ladies of Byzantium Of what is past. unlike the golden bird. are too blind to look beyond physicality to feel the subtleties of intellection. and gather me Into the artifice of eternity. Byzantium is the city for 95 96 Collected Poems. unless Soul clap its hands and sing. as it celebrates decaying bodies. or passing. because to the sensuous world he would only appear ridiculous. the poet’s country.96 The poet feels the distress of growing old. young We loved each other and were ignorant. And therefore I have sailed the seas and come To the holy city of Byzantium. O sages standing in God’s holy fire As in the gold mosaic of a wall.” the really essential things in life. or to come.95 The poem is concerned with the terrestrial condition. 185 . thus distracting the young from the “Monuments of unaging intellect. and to dare to sing even more pathetic. and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress. rejects the corruptible element.A tattered coat upon a stick. “After Long Silence. Come from the holy fire. charmed by things of the senses. Therefore he comes to terms with his lot. p. Nor is there singing school but studying Monuments of its own magnificence. p.

unlike the real birds of Ireland which are corruptible and must themselves die. Before me floats an image. but hymns of the spirit.” the poet’s eternity.” “perne in a gyre. Byzantium The unpurged images of day recede. beyond decay. Can like cocks of Hades crow. man or shade. must be roused from the ashes of their “holy fire. “out of nature” at last. and be born again. The fury and the mire of human veins. then. nor steel has lit. Shade more than man. 186 . The last stanza of the poem is the poet’s acceptance of the incorruptible. For Hades’ bobbin bound in mummy-cloth May unwind the winding path. scorn aloud In glory of changeless metal Common bird or petal And all complexities of mire or blood. All mere complexities. More miracle than bird or handiwork. The Emperor’s drunken soldiery are abed. Planted on the star-lit golden bough. by the moon embittered. Or.” and take him “Into the artifice of eternity. A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains All that a man is. I call it death-in-life and life-in-death. The poet must sing. At midnight on the Emperor’s pavement flit Flames that no faggot feeds. like the mythical phoenix bird. immortal. It would refuse to drink the Cup of Lethe and drown itself once more in the River of Oblivion. Miracle. the soul strives for greater heights.those whose sensual passions have been burned out by old age. Knight resonance recedes. The soul must “clap its hands” and sing louder than the flesh if it is to awake the fire-enwrapped sages who. I hail the superhuman. night-walkers’ song After great cathedral gong. A mouth that has no moisture and no breath Breathless mouths may summon. bird or golden handiwork. He would therefore sail to this world. trying to prolong itself as long as possible in the higher realms. It would rather be the permanent golden bird itself. not mortal songs of passion and of love. Finally. more image than a shade.

Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame, Where blood-begotten spirits come And all complexities of fury leave, Dying into a dance, An agony of trance, An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve. Astraddle on the dolphin’s mire and blood, Spirit after spirit! The smithies break the flood, The golden smithies of the Emperor! Marbles on the dancing floor Break bitter furies of complexity, Those images that yet Fresh images beget, That dolpin-torn, that gong-tormented sea.97 The first stanza, like the first stanza of “Sailing to Byzantium,” talks about the terrestrial condition being left behind, as the “unpurged images” of the world fade out of view. Unlike the previous poem, however, the order of events at the moment of transition is reversed. We are confronted first by the apparition of the walking mummy, the golden bird, the purgatorial flames, and later, the spirits. It is midnight in Byzantium. The first gong of midnight wafting from the cathedral hushes the last night-walker’s song, and the streets are not emptied of drunkards. There are two ways of looking at lines five to eight: the dome stands for perfection. Man is far from being perfect because he is helplessly imprisoned within the confines of his vacillations. The gyres have determined his nature—that of conflicts between his subjective and objective emotions. Unlike the dome, man is unfinished. He is constantly being pulled from side to side by the “fury and the mire of human veins.” The dome, standing for purity and coherence, “disdains” incoherent man. When the stars are seen clearly, the implication is that there must be no moon. This is the dark phase of the moon, which is Phase One. The “moonlit dome” is the full moon, Phase Fifteen. Phases One and Fifteen symbolize complete objectivity and complete subjectivity, respectively, and therefore no human life is possible in either extreme phases, because man is a mixture of both objective and subjective elements. Man is “mere complexities” compare with the purity of Phases One and Fifteen; that is why he is disdained. The stalking mummy in the second stanza is twice refined from flesh: “Shade more than man, more image than a shade.” The image of the bobbin suggests the purified spirit, formerly like our present state, with a physical body, but now already unwound by numerous

Collected Poems, pp. 243-44.


human incarnations so that at last it is freed from drinking the Cup of Lethe. The “superhuman” being has neither breath nor moisture in its mouth because these are the properties of the physical body. To those ready for the Final Dance, this is the force which would animate the weary souls gyrating on the “dancing floor.” It may now free them from the round of metempsychosis. Whether or not Yeats actually believed in the visions and communications in his system is inconsequential, for what he was seeking was “world view” whose object was “imaginative contemplation.”98 “Belief” was a different sort of thing, for when asked of A Vision as to whether or not he actually believed in his system, he would answer by asking in turn if the word “belief” as we used it belonged to our times.99 Until the turn of the 20th century, Yeats lived in the dream-like world of the Victorian Twilight, as evidenced by some of the poems which bear the hang-overs of the 19th century. Although this temperament had led him to indecisions, he also held fast to some convictions, one of them being the problem of belief. To gain a better definition of belief, as Yeats understood it, one has only to examine closely at the manner he had written his poems, a method which is not unlike those of Blake or Shelley, or even of Joseph Conrad: If you suspend the critical faculty, I have discovered either as the result of training, or, if you have the gift, by passing into a slight trance, images pass rapidly before you. If you can suspend also desire, and let them form at their own will, your absorption becomes even more complete and they are clearer in color, more precise in articulation, and you and they begin to move in what seems a powerful light. But the images pass before you linked by certain associations, and indeed in the first instance you have called them up by their association with traditional forms and sounds. You have discovered how, if you can but suspend will and intellect, to bring up from the subconscious anything you already possess a fragment of. Those who follow the old rule keep their bodies still and their minds awake and clear, dreading especially any confusion between the images of the mind and the objects of sense; they seek to become, as it were, polished mirrors.100 This method almost led him at one time to believe that the dream-world was more
98 99

Cleanth Brooks, Modern Poetry and the Tradition, p. 202. Ibid. 100 Yeats, Essays 1931-1936, p. 508.


real than the objective world. It was in this dream-world where the images from Anima Mundi swam in abundance. He obtained such images in this manner: I had found that after evocation my sleep became at moments full of light and form, all that I had failed to find while awake; and I elaborated symbols of natural objects that I might give myself dreams during sleep, or rather visions, for they had none of the confusion of dreams, by laying upon my pillow or beside my bed certain flowers or leaves. Even today, after twenty years, the exaltations and the messages that came to me from bits of hawthorn or some other plant seem of all moments of my life the happiest and the wisest. After a time perhaps the novelty wearing off the symbol lost its power, or because my work at the Irish Theatre became too exciting, my sleep lost its responsiveness. I had fellow-scholars, and now it was I and they who made some discovery. Before the mind’s eye, whether in sleep or in waking, came images that one was to discover presently in some book one had never read, and after looking in vain for explanation to the current theory of forgotten personal memory, I came to believe in a great memory passing on from generation to generation.101 William Butler Yeats, like Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and even Albert Einstein in his search for a unified field theory, attempted at a seemingly impossible synthesis in A Vision—to unify art and life into one immense, achieved form, which is boundless yet logical, complex and organic at the same time; the unity of culture and the unity of Image: Leda and the Swan, the valley of flowers, the sad shepherd, the cloak, the boat, the pair of shoes, the little Indian temple in the Golden Age, the peacock, the Stamper of the skies, the falling leaves, the golden apples of the sun, the silver apples of the moon, the Rose, the white birds, the fish and the silver trout, the pale brows, the polar dragon, the hazel tree, the crooked plough, the Great Archer, the arrow, the withering of the boughs, the green helmet, the great Olympus, the mask, the grey rock and the spade, Eunuchs running through Hell, the Door of Death and the Door of Birth, the windy cap, the hour before dawn and the dawn, the witch, the mountain tomb, Father Rosicross sleeping in his tomb, the child dancing in the wind, the Magus, the dolls and coats, swans and the rounded towers of Babylon, the fishermen, the hawk, the phoenix and the drunkard, the squirrel and the worm, the bridge and the cat, Byzantium and the Cormack’s ruined house, Helen and the burning of Troy, the Tower, the Sun and the Moon in March, the burning house, the cave, the thorn



tree and the well, the eagle and the heron, the sea-gull and the hawk, the blind man and the unicorn, the blind man and the poet (traditional images which he certified and validated by their alignment with his life and experiences, resulting in a particular vital quality of multiple and enriched recurrences and convergence of images)—and, like Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Einstein, did not succeed, as no mortal has yet succeeded, A Vision served its purpose as he had intended: being a last act of defence against the chaos of the world.102

Epilogue Every time I am told to conform to mediocrity of the academic jargon so faddist these days, I cannot help feeling like Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book, who when the monkeys told him “how great and wise and strong” they were, and how foolish he was to wish to leave them, was told: “We are great. We are free. We are wonderful. We are the most wonderful people in the jungle! We all say so, and so it must be true.” “This is true,” the monkeys would all shout together, “we all say so.”103

Appendix A The Euclidean Poetry of Alexander Pope Abstract
102 103

Unterecker, op. cit., p. 43. Rudyard Kipling. The Jungle Book. Harper Collins, 1894, p. 27


issue. a row.104 Plato. He wove his words with mathematical exactness. and his life his work. Euclidean geometry. The corpus of the paper will focus on Pope’s analytic mastery of the craft of poetry that is nothing short of the precision of the mathematician. Although both Pope and Euclid belong to dusty. Tags: confinement. a line. If Pope were the Euclid of poetry. Euclid does not mention anything on the nature of the objects of mathematics either. as shown in the manner in which Euclid would arrive at postulates. Nothing. surprisingly. two-dimensional. all we know about Euclid is the fact that his work was his life. To demonstrate this. Euclid is the Pope of geometry: his flat. 191 . as “exactly” as a geometrician would set his lines in order. Euclid is chosen because in temperament and in world-view. His concern for ordonance (a word he coined from the Latin ordo. a series. Finding neither time nor inclination to socialize. technical—and “dry. But. Like Pope. My purpose in this approach is to attempt to open up one more corridor in poetry interpretation. the ancient geometrician. a different reading may not only prove that they cannot be ignored. exact language. ordinis. he appears to be Pope’s counterpart. sequentiality. an order) was a technical.” page 233. To understand Pope is to understand the literary counterpart of the progression from flat-surface geometry to the concept of the three right angled triangles on a sphere. heroic couplet. Euclid is the Pope of geometry. parallelism and antithesis. “Euclid and the Elements.I intend to introduce a “geometric” reading of Alexander Pope. There is none of the open-ended garrulity of Free Verse in Pope. the only biographical information we have of him is his having flourished in Alexandria during the reign of the first Ptolemy (306-283 BCE). phonetic engineering ALEXANDER POPE’s analytical hold on his poetry was nothing short of the precision of the geometrician. Marziarz and Thomas Greenwood. Let me tell you now everything I know about Euclid’s life. but the attempt itself may broaden our critical horizons because of the foundations they have established in poetry and geometry. is an obvious influence. His words are precise. 104 Edward A. static geometry is to Pope’s closed. of course. although Euclid himself does not mention anything about philosophy. unborrowed books in the library. except that Pope wrestled with words and Euclid wrestled with space relationships.” Pope and Euclid were of the same temperament. and we know this bit of information only because he is mentioned by Archimedes who was born just before the end of Ptolemy Soter’s reign. I shall put him side by side with Euclid. end-stopped heroic couplet. not a literary.

105 Lastly. any statement that is proved must be proved by an argument. Euclid's definitions show how various terms are to be used. Euclid is credited with the founding of a school in Alexandria where. and structures of proved propositions—key components of Euclid's Elements.Aristotle is another obvious influence.”107 those whose dedications were little more than servile appeals for patronage. according to the historian Pappus. repudiated “fulsome Dedicators. 106 107 Ibid. 233-4. As Alexander Beljame says. 105 The statement means a sequence of logically linked statements where for each statement there is a reason. like Pope. Pope. Vide Bibliography. “Pope was the first man of letters to achieve financial independence as a result of the sale of his work through publishers. cared little for royal patronage. in fact. or a previously proved proposition. diagrams play a crucial role in understanding propositions and their corresponding proofs. and (2) postulates pertain just to the particular subject. And Flattery to fulsome Dedicators. Audra and Aubrey Williams and put in as footnote in their book Alexander Pope: Pastoral Poetry and An Essay on Criticism. Apollonius of Perga “spent a long time with the pupils of Euclid.”106 The proverbial story of Euclid’s reply to Ptolemy that there is no royal road in geometry brings to mind a man who.”108 Like Euclid. Second. as evidenced by the logical structure of Euclid's work which reflects the views of Aristotle on definitions. Third. an axiom. and that reason can be a definition. Than when they promise to give Scribling o’er. basic assumptions. proofs. when they Praise. the World believes no more. 1883 by E. 108 This piece of information is taken from Alexandre Beljame’s Le public et les Homnes de Letres en Angleterre. Here’s a very brief sketch of these fourfold components: First. 192 . The quotation is from An Essay on Criticism (lines 592-595): Leave dang’rous Truths to unsuccessful Satyrs. a postulate. he was beholden to no one except his work. They do not assert the existence of the objects defined.. Who. Euclid's basic assumptions are of two types: (1) Axioms are shared by all sciences.

Pope is the compleat role model. Pope could well have been defining congruencies in space. It was not acceptable to him for poetry to be “crabbed. the full resounding line. 43) When it came to self-discipline. 10) A distinct professional competence is required.” he wrote. was so comprehensive yet inclusive that it displaced all the earlier works on the elements of geometry. a solid control of language. He cared little for self-aggrandizement. Racine and Corneille. Euclid. 43)— suggesting that apart from his poetry. and his life mathematics. His censorious attitude towards the imprecise was nothing short of acerb. including that of Hippocrates of Chios.” (Rogers. Many a helper would be called from her bed more than four times on winter evenings to supply him with paper lest he should lose a thought. Pope did not originate the couplet. “Nulla dies sine linea. Pope was nothing. He did not even call his treatise geometry.” (Warren. and drank poetry.109 Euclid’s Elements. however. but Dryden taught to join The varying verse. 45) Both Pope the poet and Euclid the geometrician took their work seriously. because without poetry. he was nobody—a description that prompted Samuel Johnson to say. did not originate geometry. bringing to irrefragable demonstration the things which were only somewhat loosely proved by his predecessors. 109 Heath.Euclid was very much like Pope: mathematics was his life. irony. slept. because he had always “some poetical scheme in his head. Shakespeare and Otway: Waller was smooth. It is recorded how Pope would sternly require his house helps to set his writing box upon his bed every morning before he arose. The Thirteen Books of Euclid’s Elements. Sir Thomas Heath (Translator). breathed. syllepsis. zeugma. for example. “of what could he be proud but of his poetry?” (Warren. Jonathan Swift would later add his complaint that Pope was never at leisure for conversation. Note the “exact” distinctions he draws between Waller and Dryden. diligence. and doing something every day. If he had not been a poet. rough. but described it simply as Elements. Oddly. and ill-proportioned. He would not tolerate sloppiness. they shared the same style in “subduing” their craft. and parison. Pope was like Euclid: he ate. page 5. 193 . but it was he who developed it to such precision that caused it to be well adapted to a number of rhetorical devices such as paradox. as precise and as exact as mathematics. A good poet needs “time.” (Warren. he would have been forgotten. but it was he who perfected the theorems of Eudoxus and Theaetetus.

p. and ev’ry Face Of various Structure. On this Foundation Fame’s high Temple stands. Auden in “Alexander Pope. more mechanical than imaginative—“a little Aesopic sort of animal. Four brazen Gates. cold. end-stopped.” (Rogers. 110 This is taken from Imitations of Horace. heroic couplet. fair in Otway shone. We are not comfortable that a poet would put a high premium on exactness. its Frame excell’d. and exactness. Or elder Babylon. 9) to emphasize correctness. Exact Racine. In Alexander Pope: Imitations of Horace. A. Or Worthys old. creative faculties. 111 Quoted by W. limited. and will remain. But Otway fail’d to polish or refine. And fluent Shakespeare scarse effac’d a line. unpolished beauties of Shakespeare and Otway. lines 265-281. remain’d.”111 For all our objections to Pope’s “odd ambition.The long majestic march and energy divine. and Croneille’s noble fire Show’d us that France had something to admire. And full of Shakespeare. and antithesis.110 What is suggested here is that Pope admired the “exact” language of the French dramatists. Tho’ still some traces of our rustic vein And splay-foot verse. Epistle 11. Joukovsky). Not but the Tragic spirit was our own. it remained firmly structured. We are even more disturbed to find Shakespeare himself (and later Milton) included in Pope’s “black list” of “inexact” poets.” In Alexander Pope (Edited by F. One happy consequence of this discipline is the sequential nature of his poetry. and narrow creature. very late. Vide Bibliography. Exactness is a product of dry. more critical than creative. correctness grew our care. whom Arms or Arts adorn. H. Late. Four Faces had the Dome. When tir’d nation breath’d from civil war. parallelism. technical skill. Salute the diff’rent Quarters of the Sky. Pope devoted his entire life mastering only one form: the closed. and has little to do with the imaginative. 328. but of equal Grace. or tam’d a monstrous Race. Who Cities rais’d. his “crusade” bore good fruits. (Edited by John Butt) Vide Bibliography. 194 . and at the same time bewailed the irregular. Bateson and N. preciseness. Stupendous Pile! not rear’d by mortal Hands. Here fabled Chiefs in darker Ages born. He perfected it to such an extent that because of its underlying symmetry. like Euclid’s parallel axiom that causes ideas to fall into pairings without any effort on the part of the poet. The tendency is to dismiss Pope as a stiff. W. on Columns lifted high.

One has to be active and awake all the time. 12) The poet could change gears easily because the poem is in “neutral. According to W. Vide Bibliography. lines 155-160. Even the primness of the appearance suits the ironist’s purpose.113 There is strong but fine satire in the second couplet with zeugma in the fourth line. an Ovidian setpiece. it could weave between sustained narrative and epitaph with ease. we find all these: a topographical piece. an arena where one could display one’s skills in mastering the tools of the art. In Windsor-Forest. Obviously. Pope’s poetry. Not louder Shrieks to pitying Heav’n are cast. lines 61-74. But the rime words are echoes of the sense of confusion dramatized by a mock-heroic approach. K. (Rogers. 13) This is illustrated in the following: Then flash’d the living Lightning from her Eyes. 113 The Rape of the Lock.The Walls in venerable Order grace: Heroes in animated Marble frown. etc. Another happy achievement is the poetic neutrality of the heroic couplet. III. is not for dreamy-eyed readers. 195 .” Pope’s heroic couplet. “the abstract logic of parallel and antithesis is complicated and offset by rhetorical figures and rhyme. a lyrical interlude. The poet makes his moves scientifically. The precision is not meant for ornament but to embody all the intellectual commitment required by the poem. obviously. for example. and with sure steps: he does not make a move unless he knows what the next step is going to be. everything falls into mathematical consistency. The couplet becomes a machine for thinking alertly. There is no struggle.” (Rogers. Vide Bibliography. formal preparations. this is no mean feat. an economic forecast. The form took care of that. And Legislators seem to think in Stone. Because the form is unassuming and inconspicuous. In glitt’ring Dust and painted Fragments lie. by its very strucrure.112 Notice how the ideas appear to be forming a queue to gain admittance to the poem. fall’n from high. this perspicuity. In The Poems of Alexander Pope (Edited by John Butt). is adaptable to a number of rhetorical devices. Wimsatt. no convoluted syntax. Predictably. 112 From The Temple of Fame. Or when rich China Vessels. When Husband or when Lap-dogs breathe their last. And Screams of Horror rend th’ affrighted Skies. In Alexander Pope: Selected Works (Edited by Louis Kronenberger). There is no need for elaborate. This sequentiality ofstructure accounts for this built-in security. a political panegyric.

Notice also the continuous interplay between the precise metrical pattern and the syntax with its catalogues. etc. No extraneous word exists. Within twenty syllables. and a ball. a jig.Pope’s precision shows in the minute delicacy of his verse movements. 196 . the poetry still shows the stiffness and the narrowness of a person too long preoccupied with only two things: himself and his craft. his poetry. imps and monsters. tone. he could contrive ceaseless variations in order to produce rhythm. like Euclid’s a flat world. pp. In the words of I. Pope’s world was. we superimpose it upon all subsequent actual and projected data. lines 229-236. Pope is no model for versatility. Ehrenpeis. Swift to whose hand a winged volume flies. and dance on Earth. III. the tendency was to question the validity of the sensory data instead of the validity of the idealized abstractions. 13) He look’d. Although Pope worked well under this limitation. Hell rises. In Alexander Pope: The Dunciad (Edited by James Sutherland). FOR ALL THE PRECISENESS. The secret lay in his scientific. he could deploy a whole range of artifices. 330) His poetry is the restrained world of a stuffy drawing room. music. 176-177. in love. albeit “exact. It is interesting to draw parallels between Pope the neoclassic and Euclid the classic in relation to this idea of “confinement. Once such set of idealized abstractions were erected in the mind. suspensions. rage and mirth. when subsequent sensory experience contradicted it.” (Rogers. Till one wide Conflagration swallows all. Heav’n descends. and saw a sable Sorc’rer rise. a battle. formed a rigid structure of such durability that. He was not interested in nature. Everything just had to fall into place. and Dragons glare. He explored even the tiniest detail. (Auden. This is the reason why Euclidean geometry. and syntax—to surprise and delight. All sudden. the content 114 The Dunciad. Vide Bibliography. Pope made the couplet “ a piece of phonetic engineering. Because he cared little for the outside world. in visions.114 Note how the pace quickens or slows down at the will of the poet (line 6 has six stresses. Within twenty syllables.” suffers from the symptoms of long confinement. however.” Euclid’s idealizations. for example. A fire. whether it fitted or not. alliterative effects. while line 7 has only four). abstracted from experience. There are no lose-knit metrical schemes. He had limited himself to a single verse form—and a limit of interests. Gorgons hiss. Gods. A. And tee-horn’d fiends and Giants rush to war. precise frame of mind.

flat-world geometry. 197 . regardless of the shape or size of any triangle. It is a basic theorem of Euclid that the sum of the angles of any of the triangles below is equal to 180 degrees. How do we prove this? Simply by drawing an imaginary triangle on the globe with the top at the North Pole and the base at the equator. Take Theorem Fourteen.of most elementary geometry books. According to Euclid. for example. she would come out with a measurement of more than 180 degrees. it is not verifiable in the three-dimensional world we live in. Although precise on paper. But is this the case in actuality? Euclid’s geometry is a twodimensional. was not expanded for almost two millennia. the sum of the three angles is always equal to a straight angle (180 degrees). Triangles are classified according to their sides. if one surveyed a very large triangle and measured the angles that formed it. For example.

One of the scientists to first question the validity of Euclid’s computations was Albert Einstein. however precise the latter may appear on paper. or A=πR2 –πr2. where R = the radius of the larger circle and r = the radius of the smaller circle. upon intersecting the equator will also form right angles! So instead of the 180 degrees. for example. says that the area of a circular ring equals the area of the outside circle minus the area of the inside circle. In a word. One of Euclid’s rules for the circle. the three-dimensional world does not follow Euclid’s two-dimensional world. or 270 degrees. let us say.The two lines that intersect the North Pole will form a right angle. Here is a sample problem to illustrate this: In a circular ring. According to Euclid’s Theorem Fourteen this is not possible. Problem: what is the area of a cross section of the ring? Our elementary geometry solution would read this way: 198 . the outside diameter is. 8” and the inside diameter is 6”. but here it is. we have a triangle that contains three right angles. but both sides of the triangle.

Imagine that we are watching these revolving circles from an inertial coordinate system. Let us then imagine ourselves motionless in our non-revolving circles in contact with an observer on the revolving circles. including the revolving circles.115 Over the revolving circles. let us draw two identical concentric circles in our coordinate system. and later the circumference of the same small circle. My purpose in giving this example is to show whether Euclid’s rule mentioned above is verifiable for both the stationary observer and the revolving observer. The figure below is my attempt to represent an inertial coordinate system: Observe the diagram. paying attention to the two concentric circles again. But the world is neither flat nor static. static world of Euclid. and then notes the ratio between them. Next. Now imagine the circle with the small radius and the one with the large radius revolving around a common point in the center. So let us proceed: Suppose observer A (motionless) measures the radius of his small circle. 199 . These are not revolving. they are the same as the revolving circles. they are not in motion. This time.” the “precise” formulation according to the flat. he does the same thing for the large circle. What happens is he will discover that it is the same ratio 115 Being in an inertial coordinate system means that our frame of reference is at rest relative to everything.A= This is the “correct. In size and in having a common center.

like the certain wands of Jacob’s wit Their verses tallied.” Also. The inspiration behind Keats’s “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer. and fit. for inspiration. (Zillman. end-stopped. marked by an eagerness to broaden horizons. etc. so that ye taught a school Of dolts to smooth. Ironically. But then he does more. A SIMILAR PHENOMENON took place in poetry. On top of the two circles of A. because the radius of his large circle is larger than that of his small circle. his ruler “contracts. he finds all ratios identical save one—the larger circle. the Romantics would have to look farther back to the Elizabethans. The blue Bared its eternal bosom. but. Now observer B (in motion) does the same thing. Pope’s flat. incapable of freeing their imaginations. he also measures the ratio between the radius and circumference of his two identical concentric circles. The Romantic Movement entered the scene. dismal soul’d. How could Pope be so numb—“Ah. one of the very first to censure Pope. to give free play to the imagination. heroic couplet could no longer control the enthusiasm seeking expression in all departments of life: in politics. static form of the closed.” for example. and clip. the period immediately preceding Pope’s. inlay. 69) These lines censure Pope and the Augustans for being mere craftsmen. the velocity of the circumference of the large revolving circle is faster than that of the revolving small circle. When he begins to measure the circumference of his large circle. Till. then. and the dew Of summer nights collected still to make The morning precious: Beauty was awake! Why were ye not awake? But ye were dead To things ye know not of—we were closely wed To rusty laws lined out with wretched rule And compass vile. In other words. in science. The ratio now of the radius to the circumference of the small revolving circle is not the same as the ratio of the radius to the circumference of the large revolving circle. Euclid says this is not possible. This situation was dramatized by John Keats.that he found between the radius and the circumference of his small circle. Pope’s translation had become too confined. the ocean roll’d Its gathering waves—ye felt it not. heroic couplet could no longer limit and restrain the imaginative torrent and forces of the next century. here it is.” Keats would lament— The winds of heaven blew. Euclid is validated here. A new form was in order. After doing so. The closed. too 200 . is Chapman’s (an Elizabethan) and not Pope’s translation of Homer. in art.

He dropp’d his sinewy arms: his knees no more Perform’d their office. of motion. (Zillman. And lost in lassitude lay all the man. Pope’s are stiff in movement and idiom while Chapman’s move with fresh vigor and life—and it is easy to understand what Keats meant when he said that his Homer was nothing “till he heard Chapman speak out loud and bold. The soul scarce waking in the arms of death. His swoll’n heart heav’d. and of breath. (Zillman. If new artificers weave words with care. Depriv’d of voice.) Here is Chapman’s version of the same episode: Then forth he came. He had never read anything like it. and even if that translation were the version taught in Keats’s school days. as he touch’d the shore. and downe he sunk to Death. and our postmodern thought is built upon their common base. it is because they step 201 . We can mention the word “geometry” without thinking of Euclid. 207) Keats therefore was elated when his friend Charles Cowden Clarke had lent him the 1616 edition of Chapman’s Homer. and new geometricians formulate mathematical symbols with precision. To let the world appreciate what they did in an age no longer aware of their contributions takes a great deal of effort. his both knees falt’ring. He read far into the night. But their names are associated with foundations.“correct.” too lifeless. (Zillman. his bloated body swell’d. both His strong hands hanging downe. voice and breath Spent to all use. Dead wearie was he. fainting. Both Pope and Euclid no longer belong to the frequently borrowed books in the library. The sea had soakt his heart through all his vaines. the young poet was in search of a version that could approximate the real feeling of the original. Here is Pope’s translation of one of Keats’s favorite episodes. It is not easy to compare this enthusiasm unless we compare Pope and Chapman. or his weight upheld. and mention “poetry” without thinking of Pope. 207 f. and all with froth His cheeks and nosthril flowing. and Pope’s work is done. where the wandering hero is cast upon the shores of Phaeacia: That moment. Euclid’s work is done.” thus ending the era of Pope. however. From mouth and nose the briny torrent ran. and then wrote his famous sonnet. the shipwreck of Odysseus. 207) Compare these lines with Pope’s—Pope’s are general while Chapman’s are concrete. in Book V.

com 1. upon both houses of poetry and geometry. Plato: Republic (Books II. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Introduction 202 . Horace: Ars Poetica 7. Aristotle: Introduction 5. John Dryden: “An Essay of Dramatic Poesy” 14. Alexander Pope: An Essay on Criticism 15. St. Sir Philip Sidney: “An Apology for Poetry” 13. Appendix B Course Syllabus Lectures Note: These lectures have been recorded live and may be downloaded at http://carlosaureus. Euclidean base first laid by Pope and the Popian base first laid by Euclid. III. Plotinus: “On the Intellectual Beauty” 9. Introduction: What is Critical Theory? 2. Immanuel Kant: Critique of Judgment 18. Aristotle: Poetics 6. Thomas Aquinas: Aesthetics and Hermeneutics 12. Immanuel Kant: Introduction 17. Longinus: On the Sublime 8. Friedrich von Schiller: Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man 19.blogspot. Edmund Burke: A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful 16. and X) 4. Manlius Severinus Boethius: Consolation of Philosophy 11. Plato: Introduction 3.upon the solid. St. Augustine: Semiotics 10.

Aristotle (384–322 BC). One of the two giants of the Middle Ages (the other is Dante) whose Summa Theologica combines the philosophical rigor of Aristotle with the theological consistency of the Roman Catholic Church. Thomas (1225–1274). Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Biographia Literaria 24. Blake. His deceptively simple Songs of Innocence and Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul (1789. Aquinas. William Wordsworth: “Preface to the Second Edition of Lyrical Ballads” 23. Meyer (Mike) Howard. Augustine. Augustine is the most influential of the early Church Fathers. in particular his books The Mirror and the Lamp and Natural Supernaturalism. Percy Bysshe Shelley: “A Defense of Poetry” Biographical Notes Abrams. and allegory. Born in North Africa. William (1757–1827). I firmly believe. 1794) had a strong influence on the Romantic belief that things are as they are perceived. British Romantic poet who was also. John Keats: Negative Capability and the Egotistical Sublime 25. which included meditations on language. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: The Philosophy of Fine Art 21.20. the Norton Anthology of English Literature became the standard text for many undergraduate survey courses. Under his editorship. Greek philosopher who studied in ancient Athens under Plato and wrote treatises on nearly every department of human life. St. The Romantic Imagination 22. rhetoric. he fused the ideals of Christianity and of Plato. St. the greatest painter Britain has yet produced. (born July 23. In his theological writings. 203 . (354–430). His notion of the four levels of meaning greatly influenced Dante’s Divine Comedy. 1912) is an American literary critic known for works on Romanticism.

British poet. pronounced bwa-LOW). Italian poet who made grand use of the medieval four levels of meaning in his epic. Corneille. and essayist whose famous “Essay of Dramatic Poesy” helped establish the taste for neoclassical art. Author of The Well-Wrought Urn. essayist.” Bloom. author of Biographia Literaria. Greek philosopher. British statesman. The Divine Comedy. French poet and critic of the neoclassical period whose “Art of Poetry” helped set down the rules of decorum for his age and had much influence on Pope’s “Essay on Criticism. Pierre (1606–1684. Author of The Anxiety of Influence. teacher. Author of the influential Inquiry into the Sublime and the Beautiful. 204 . Coleridge. a major figure of British Romanticism. Cleanth (b. German philosopher whose concept of the dialectic influenced Marx and whose ideas on theology and the fine arts have had a lasting impact.” Dante Alighieri (1265–1321). American professor and critic who perhaps most fully sums up (and certainly is most fully identified with) the goals and methods of new criticism. 1906). and sophist who was both Plato’s contemporary and his rival. Gorgias (c. British poet. Harold (b. Dryden. French neoclassical dramatist and critic who sought in his plays and criticism to adhere to the rules of art laid down in Aristotle and Horace (particularly the three unities). one of the first great critics of the French Revolution. One of the most learned men of his age. Nicolas (1636–1711. who does not fit neatly into any theoretical category. His famous essay on the unities had a strong influence on Dryden’s “Essay of Dramatic Poesy. American professor and literary critic. he is credited with explaining German philosophy to the British. Edmund (1729–1797). and literary theorist. essayist. Brooks. pronounced Core-NAY).Boileau-Despréaux. A distant forerunner of deconstruction. 1930). Burke. and literary theorist. John (1631–1700). Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770–1831). dramatist. long at Yale. 483–375 BC). Co-conceived and wrote Lyrical Ballads with his friend William Wordsworth. Samuel Taylor (1772–1834). Hegel.

Rousseau’s autobiography (Confessions) may be seen as the founding document of Romanticism. John (1795–1821). Anonymous Greek literary critic who wrote On the Sublime. British poet whose literary tastes (expressed most fully in his Essay on Criticism) helped set the standards for British neoclassicism. John (1632–1704). His theory of the Forms. British empiricist whose epistemological theory of man as a blank slate (tabula rasa) who acquires knowledge through (and only through) the five senses had a profound influence on Edmund Burke. 348 BC). 270). but the name has stuck. and poets. Pope. German philosopher whose epistemological theories of art (expressed most fully in his Critique of Judgment) had a profound impact on Romantic philosophers. Jean Jacques (1712–1778). theorists. and educational spheres. French philosopher and man of letters. Roman poet and critic of the Augustan Age and a key founder and proponent of the rules of neoclassical art. his view of art as imitation. Author of “Art of Poetry. Longinus (first century AD). 204–c. an innovator in the political. Rousseau. Arguably the true father of the modern world. French neoclassical playwright who most perfectly embodied in his tragedies the artistic rules and decorum of classical drama. Alexander (1688–1744). 205 . Augustine. and his insistence (in The Republic) that the poets be kicked out of his ideal state have had a profound impact on literary theory. Racine. Greek neoplatonic philosopher who combined the mimetic theories of Plato and Aristotle. It was long believed that Cassius Longinus (third century AD) wrote the work. ethical. Plotinus (c. Keats. Jean (1639–1699). Plato (c.” Locke. His ideas greatly influenced St. Greek philosopher and founder of the Academy. 427–c. the notion of “negative capability. British poet whose collected letters contain fascinating insights into literary theory: most notably. we now know he did not.” Kant.Horace (65–8 BC). Immanuel (1724–1804).

his revolutionary “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” helped to hasten the demise of neoclassical tastes and to usher in a new slate of Romantic theories. British Romantic poet whose “Defense of Poetry” is not only a key Romantic text but synthesizes nearly all the elements of literary theory from Plato to Coleridge. Wordsworth. His “Apology for Poetry” is one of the great defenses of both the divine power and social utility of poetry. British Romantic poet who coauthored Lyrical Ballads with his friend. Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Glossary Aeolian Harp: (Named after Aeolus. the Greek god of the wind) A “wind-powered” musical instrument. German poet. dramatist. methods. It is used as a metaphor for the way in which inspiration blows over the poet and causes him to create. and theorist whose Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man and On Naive and Sentimental Poetry have had a lasting influence on the history of literary criticism. the very embodiment of the Elizabethan Age. This view 206 . Percy Bysshe (1792–1822). the strings give forth “natural” musical sounds depending on the power of the wind. Sidney. Sir Philip (1554–1585). A tiny wind harp made of silk threads stretched across an arched twig like a bow. British poet and courtier. Shelley. William (1770–1850).Schiller. Hung in a windy spot. and concerns. Friedrich (1759–1805).

No. Allegorical: see fourfold interpretive system. 1885. 483. aesthetic is often used by diachronically minded (historicist) theorists to label traditional. rather than as an active craftsman. to refer to the beauty of an aesthetic object. the defining moment when the hero moves suddenly from a state of ignorance to a state of recognition. April 4. the latter are based on ideas and lead to the formulation of concepts and principles. aesthetic judgments are to be distinguished from cognitive (logical) ones: the former work through feelings and are independent of all ends or concepts. Anagnorisis (Recognition): A moment in a play when the hero makes a critical discovery. aesthetic is often used today of critics (especially the new critics) who retain a belief that poetry exists in a self-contained world of its own. 207 . untainted by crude historical forces and vulgar material realities. Aesthetic can be used in both an ontological sense. Drawing of an aeolian harp from an article in Scientific American Supplement.depicts the poet as a passive recipient of imagination. Allegory: see symbol. to refer to an aesthetic (subjective) response to that beauty. (Public domain) Aesthetic: On the simplest level. That is to say. Today. For Kant the epistemologist. and an epistemological sense. Aestheticians (especially those influenced by Kant) grant poetry a special status that allows it to transcend all boundaries of time and space and to escape the confines of all political agendas and ideologies. aesthetic signifies a concern with beauty and with fostering a refined taste for and a critical appreciation of that beauty. synchronic theorists whom they consider “guilty” of evading historical forces and material realities. however.

Bathos: A term first coined by Longinus. archetypes. Archetype: A “symbol which connects one poem with another” and. creative. Whereas Western metaphysics has traditionally privileged Apollo over Dionysus. Anima Mundi. logocentric center. intellectual. descriptive meanings. Antithesis: see dialectic. In the criticism of Frye. Anxiety of Influence: A phrase coined by modern critic Harold Bloom to define a specific kind of artistic struggle (or agon) that he sees as underlying and propelling the history of literature. For Frye. though polysemous in nature. Nietzsche makes a distinction between two philosophical-spiritual-aesthetic orientations that he calls the Apollonian and the Dionysiac. and the heroic archetypes of quests and dragons. Some well-known examples are the pastoral archetypes of shepherds and gardens. the Dionysiac (named for Dionysus) is intuitive. and stoic. Apollonian: In The Birth of Tragedy. scientific. Jung’s Collective Unconscious when he talked about a “World Memory” or Anima Mundi from which he drew his images (Jung would later call them archetypes). and harvest. helps “integrate our literary experience.Anagogical: see fourfold interpretive system. Bloom’s thesis. emotional. It is the sudden appearance of the pedestrian in a writing that pretends itself to be 208 . balanced. moon. an aspect of Frye that has been criticized by both modernist and postmodernist theorists. Anti-essentialist: see essentialist. influenced strongly by the Oedipal theories of Freud. and ecstatic. Bloom’s thesis is both compelling and disturbing. it refers to a ludicrous descent from the exalted or lofty to the commonplace. Yeats anticipated Carl G. is that each new poet must overthrow the “strong” poet who has preceded him: a dialectical view of poetic history that yet resists falling into the pit of Marxist materialism. even as he calls for a higher fusion of these two sides of man. by so doing.” Archetypes are “associative clusters. archetypes do not so much link poetry to the external world as they link one poem to another in a complex series of literary allusions. The Apollonian (named for Apollo) is rational. Nietzsche inverts this privileging. George Lucas’s Star Wars trilogy abounds with archetypes as does Eliot’s Waste Land. all point back to a transcendent.” words or images or rituals that carry with them a wealth of connotative meanings and emotions that far exceed their denotative. the cyclical archetypes of sun.

All close readings rest on the new critical assumption that 209 . taught. Close Reading: A method of explicating (or opening.e. Thus. The connections between the seemingly arbitrary chaos and suffering of our world and the higher patterns and forces of the cosmos are made suddenly visible in this realm.. trivial. whereas the former theory is therapeutic in nature. Canonical critics believe that the works of the canon are aesthetically and essentially superior and possess an inherent value that transcends the time and place in which they were written. a searing moment of perfect clarity in which ill-defined emotions are carried up into a mystical realm of balanced. like suffering. cleansing us of our emotions of pity and fear and leaving us more fit and able to face the rigors of life. sublime. but is in fact insincere. Shakespeare. suggesting that tragedy. Sophocles. The word catharsis may be translated in at least three ways (as purgation. beauty is a mental response to certain objects that produces within us sentiments of tenderness and affection. mawkish. etc. Not to be confused with Pathos (vide).) that have traditionally formed the core of humanistic studies. Viewed epistemologically. trite. tragedy sparks in us an intellectual response. tragedy does not so much purge our emotions as purify them. Center: see decenter. if not the. or clarification). Viewed ontologically. (Cf. Finally. unpacking) a poem that was developed. beauty has traditionally been defined as a kind of higher harmony or balance or proportion: a reflection in our world of the greater harmony of the cosmos. Catharsis: In the Poetics. most vital element of a work of art.sublime. beauty has been prized as one of. and bombastic. discourse) that determine what is acceptable (status quo) and what is not. Beauty: Until very recently. Virgil. Aristotle argues that a well-constructed tragic plot will so move our feelings of pity and fear as to produce in us a catharsis of those emotions. According to the purgation theory of catharsis (most famously described in Milton’s brief preface to Samson Agonistes). and propagated by the American new critics. each of which suggests a slightly different understanding of the nature of what might be termed the proper tragic pleasure. Dante. sentimental. can strengthen our faith and resolve by testing and trying them like gold in the fire. harmonious rationality. those by Homer. tragedy works on us like an enema or an emetic. According to the purification theory of catharsis. purification. non-canonical (generally postmodern) critics view the canon as a product of socio-political forces (cf.) Canon: The Great Books of the Western world (i. the latter is more spiritual. according to the clarification theory of catharsis.

the specific and the general. profoundly incarnational and logocentric. In Greek mythology. meditative poems about low and rustic subjects (as Wordsworth did both in his poems for and his Preface to Lyrical Ballads). but profoundly. to claim that a certain poem is a concrete universal is to say that within the microcosm of the poem. almost mystically. who was both fully Man and fully God. a universal idea has been fully realized in a concrete form. When Romantic poets and theorists began to advocate the production of serious. Man. rational type of art that does not inappropriately mix the high and the low. with child-like eyes of wonder. signifier and signified enter into a relationship that is not only essential and timeless (as opposed to arbitrary and “langue-specific”). like Christ (the ultimate Logos). may also be influenced by the dead. Put simply. Defamiliarization: A term used to describe that mystical moment when the Romantic (Wordsworthian) poet rips away the “veil of familiarity” from the everyday objects of our world and thus allows us to see them afresh. says 210 . reciprocal: i. of course. symbol and organic whole. The close reader.the greatest poems do not present their ideas directly. the serious and the comic. Indeed. The best close readings reveal how. the Daemon is any of the secondary divinities ranking between gods and men.e. the image and the idea.) Daemon. at its boldest. within the space of the poem.). they rang the death knell of neoclassical decorum. and thereby partake in Anima Mundi (q. The poet who possesses decorum understands intimately the proper relationship (or fit) between form and content. within the ironic synthesis of the poem. paradoxes. aside from being influenced by the Daemon.. v. even ugly or discordant elements can be so brought into equilibrium to form an eternal work of aesthetic beauty and truth. This notion is that. but through a complex deflection of meaning. Decorum: A concept central to neoclassical art (especially that of Pope). the concrete universal effects within itself a fusion of the physical and the non-physical. He prefers a serious. Most men. the signifier is carried up into the signified. (Cf. even as the signified descends and dwells in the signifier. and ambiguities. Concrete Universal: The aesthetic history of this paradoxical phrase can be traced from Aristotle to Kant to Coleridge to the new critics. This notion is. rather than attempting to simplify or reduce a poem to its narrative and/or didactic meaning (its paraphrasable core). the notion of the concrete universal asserts an aesthetic and metaphysical reality that has since been problematized by modernists and rejected by postmodernists. seeks to uncover its essential ironies.

produce a new and higher idea. known as dialectical materialism. probability. such ideas are but products of socio-political realities that are themselves produced by a dialectical process in the economic strata of society. A generation later. Diachronic: see Synchronic. but reinscribes it in a material continuum of economic forces and class struggle. should be strong enough to resolve itself in a manner consistent with necessity. a childhood pendant. The resulting process. called the synthesis. reducing Hegel’s historical yet transcendent approach to a strictly historicist/materialist one. Deus ex machina: “God from the machine. whereas for Hegel it is primarily aesthetic and transcendent ideas that progress through the dialectic.) Aristotle strongly disapproved of this device for he felt it was an artificial way to end a plot. for Marx. an original idea (or thesis) produces. through a process of struggle. over time.Coleridge (paraphrasing Isaiah 6). the conflictual nature of Plato’s dialectic is retained. Indeed. Thus. Marx would co-opt the Hegelian dialectic for himself. after weaving a veritable Gordian’s knot of relationships in his Ion. dialectic refers to a process of question and answer through which false notions are stripped away and the truth is revealed. For Hegel. these two ideas then. transformation. Euripides has the goddess Athena descend in a basket and unravel everyone’s true identity. and fusion. Dialectic: In the philosophy of Plato. The term was later used by a theoretical school known as Russian Formalism. its own opposite (or antithesis). e. Moliere offers a “serious parody” of the device in his Tartuffe. he felt. (Note: the phrase deus ex machina is also used to refer generally to any situation in which the identity of a character is discovered “in the nick of time” by an implausible or at least contrived means. but the whole process is systematized and placed in a historical (diachronic) continuum.g. even a footprint. a birthmark. preserves the movement from thesis to antithesis to synthesis. one of the reasons Aristotle favored Sophocles over Euripides was that the latter made much use of the deus ex machina (although it should be noted that Sophocles makes brilliant use of the device in his Philoctetes).. 211 . have eyes but do not see. This device was used by dramatists as a way of resolving “from above” all manner of difficulties and misunderstandings. defamiliarization opens our eyes to the mystery and beauty that surrounds us. In the philosophy of Hegel.” was a crane-like device used in classical Greek theater that would allow an actor to descend onto the stage in the guise of a god or goddess. and inevitability. a scar. the plot. thus.

Dionysiac: see Apollonian. Egotistical Sublime: In the letters of Keats. a claim of disinterestedness is merely a veiled way of asserting the hegemony of the status quo. and free from all political agendas or ideologies (today. all poets and critics create and write out of a reigning discourse and cannot achieve the necessary aesthetic distance to speak disinterestedly. To the historicist. however. Schiller traces a similar division in his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man. during the seventeenth century. S.g.” (Note: the phrase “the best that is known and thought” is central to the traditional understanding of the canon. the whole concept of disinterestedness is an illusion. producing either an overemphasis on the former (the eighteenth-century Age of Reason) or the latter (the nineteenth-century Age of Romanticism). are lacking somewhat in empathy. 212 . Disinterested: Disinterested. Dissociation of Sensibility: According to T. (Note: Keats does not use egotistical in a pejorative sense. however. in his poetic studies of other people. dominant personalities. the opposite of egotistical sublime is negative capability.) Keats contrasts Milton and Wordsworth with Shakespeare.. the great metaphysical poets and writers of Britain (especially John Donne) were able to fuse within their lives and their art the emotional and the intellectual. The historicist “faith” that everything is political is diametrically opposed to the objective “faith” that certain great writers (e. After the seventeenth century. objective. Eliot.. Generally speaking.) Objective theorists in general. Britain (and Europe in general) fell into a dissociation of sensibility: i. their intellectual and emotional sides began to pull away from each other. Wordsworth is always a spectator ab extra (“from the outside”) reinforces Keats’s notion that egotistical poets. To modern and especially postmodern theorists.e. that chameleon poet who could lose himself completely in the lives of his characters. the egotistical sublime is a quality possessed by artists like Milton and Wordsworth whose poetic vision is always mediated through their own strong. though they may have great sympathy. Coleridge’s incisive comment that. as opposed to uninterested. are great advocates of Arnold’s notion of disinterestedness. we would say non-partisan). The word was made famous in Matthew Arnold’s definition of criticism as “a disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world. and the new critics in particular. signifies an approach to criticism (whether aesthetic or otherwise) that is removed. the authors of the canon) can so transcend their time and space as to achieve the timeless state of disinterestedness.

in fact. imitations of these perfect Forms.” Expressive Theories: One of the four types of critical approaches defined in M. concrete and universal. Formal Drive: see Spieltrieb. Fancy: see Imagination. Formalist: To call a critic a formalist is to identify him with a theoretical orientation that privileges form over content and that discovers in the aesthetic form of a poem something that borders on the perfect and the transcendent. timeless end in itself. the ideal object for aesthetic (subjective) contemplation. Expressive (Romantic) formalists (like Coleridge) champion form as a sort of altar on and through which is enacted the marriage (fusion) of subject and object. Pragmatic (epistemological) formalists (like Kant) hail form as a pure. Originating in the philosophical theories of Kant and reaching their fullest expression in the work of the British Romantic poets. Mimetic formalists (like Aristotle) believe that certain poetic forms are superior for they most fully capture and embody higher truths.Epistemology: see Ontology. Episodic: see Plot. they are epistemological in orientation and view poetry as essentially subjective. transcendent Ideas that exist (pure and invisible) in the heavens and that serve as the patterns for all earthly. the Forms are a series of unchanging. they have no 213 . literally. eternal artifact. sensual World of Becoming are. The Forms exist in an unseen World of Being that cannot be perceived by our senses. The word is composed of three Greek words that mean. expressive theorists consider the questions “What is a poem?” and “What is a poet?” to be nearly identical. Abrams’ The Mirror and the Lamp. but can only be contemplated by the mind’s eye. Forms: In the metaphysics of Plato. All things that we behold in our physical. Esemplastic: A word coined by Coleridge to express the imagination’s power to shape and fuse seemingly discordant images into a single. to be that which transforms the poem into a self-contained. unified whole. Objective formalists (like the new critics) consider a poem’s form. Expressive theories explore the relationship between poem and poet. Figure: see Typology. material realities. H. “to shape into one. rather than its content.

Here is my own representation of this pair of interpenetrating cones: 214 . “When Israel came out of Egypt.essential truth or reality of their own. it describes the conversion of the soul from the grief and misery of sin to the state of grace. he writes. it signifies our redemption wrought by Christ. Gyres. from memories of exaltations in past lives.” Taken literally. The Will is anchored in the memories of the present life. the moral. These four faculties are divided into two sets.” for example. allegorically. it foretells the departure of the holy soul from the slavery of this corrupted body to the freedom of eternal glory. In Dante’s “Letter to Can Grande Della Scala. mimesis. the west portion being the solar. or terms. the Mask.) Four Faculties. logos. shaped from the Daemon’s memory of events of past incarnations. and the anagogical. (Cf. this verse refers to the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt at the time of Moses. Fourfold Interpretive System: In the medieval church (and especially in the theories of Thomas Aquinas). each member of the pair being opposite the other. from memories of ideas displayed by actual men in their past lives or in their spirits between lives. nearly every verse of scripture was believed to work on at least four simultaneous levels of meaning: the literal (or historical). the Mask. and the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech. and its opposite the lunar. Though this method of analyzing literature is spiritual in origin. and logocentrism. the allegorical. and the Body of Fate. morally. Israel his power. and anagogically. Yeats’s image of the gyres resemble two superimposed cones facing outward. the Creative Mind. Yeats has four faculties. the Creative Mind. the concept of multiple levels of meaning working simultaneously has been used in all forms of prosody. we see Dante using this system as one of the bases for writing his Divine Comedy. and the Body of Fate. Judea became his sanctification. in his psychology: the Will.

and the synthetic power to fuse and reconcile opposites into one. The fancy. and contain truths that are non-physical and eternal. the imagination has both the perceptive power to see similitude lurking within dissimilitude. the Romantics (especially Wordsworth and Coleridge) forged an important distinction between the two. Incarnation: Though often used to refer specifically to the Christian belief that. It is primarily this esemplastic power that enables the imagination to create organic wholes and concrete universals. that is. in the person of Jesus Christ. Hamartia: see Tragic Flaw.” The fancy. the subjective and the objective. 215 . was clearly the lesser power: though it does possess the ability to conjure up “fanciful” objects. Hermeneutics: The theory and practice of interpretation. Unlike the fancy. encapsulate. “receive all its materials ready made from the law of association. The imagination. works within fixed parameters. it must finally. unity in the midst of multeity. Intellectual belief: see emotional belief. the word incarnation is used more generally by logocentric aestheticians to refer to the power of physical. they argued. writes Coleridge. which can only shift images around into new patterns. on the other hand. more vital: it can recombine ideas and images at will to create new and higher unities. temporal works of art to capture.These stand for the antithetical elements in man. Imagination: Though critics sometimes use the words imagination and fancy as synonyms (as does Edmund Burke in his Inquiry). Imitation: see Mimesis. God took on human flesh (John 1:14). it plays. is freer. but on a limited field.

but in medias res (“in the middle of things”). of all the ancient female deities. v. For Plato. the birth of Oedipus). in her different aspects. metempsychosis occurs if the cycle of human rebirths is not perfected at the time of death. 216 . as seen in this 17th century woodcut by Athanasius Kircher in Obeliscus Pamphilius (1650).In Medias Res: In the middle of things. Though it is Horace who really coined the term. Mimesis: Greek for “imitation.” He made it clear that it was not reality but a pattern for reality. say. Lunar Parable: Yeats often referred to his work A Vision as “my lunar parable. Public domain. order to produce unified (rather than episodic) plots. Aristotle favored a device by which tragedians would begin their play not at the beginning (with. and is re-born.) and the diagram of the phases of the moon below:116 Metempsychosis: In Yeats’s mythology. Aristotle describes the device in his Poetics. at a moment of tension and conflict out of which a dramatic reversal and/or recognition is about to spring. rather than to begin ab ovo (“from the egg”).” the word mimesis carries very different connotations in the writings of Plato and Aristotle. The explication of his thought on this relies heavily on the gyres (q. mimesis (in the literary sense) refers to the fact that works of art are 116 This is the Moon as ‘Queen of the skies’ and the archetype. Literal: see four levels of meaning. The great epic poets (from Homer to Milton) also preferred to plunge in medias res. The soul then drinks the cup of Lethe.

which is itself an imitation of the Form of the Chair (“chairness”) that exists in the heavenly World of Being. Mimetic theories are ontological and logocentric in orientation and seek a kind of art that is pure and transcendent. at times. Natural Philosopher: see transcendental philosopher. in a letter of Keats.g. that Plato. Indeed. (It should be added here. describes poets as semi-divine madmen who are inspired/possessed by the gods and sing their songs in a prophetic frenzy. A poet who possesses negative capability (Shakespeare being the supreme example) is able to do at least two things: to enter into the lives of other beings and see the world from their perspective and to be able to rest in the midst of mysteries and paradoxes without needing (philosophically or 217 . shadowy copies) of the Forms. about a man who killed his father and married his mother) into a golden plot (e. the Aristotelian poet takes a shadowy idea and gives it form. however. for Aristotle. twice removed from reality) and therefore not a reliable source of truth or knowledge. no matter what the personal cost). According to the Poetics. be a vehicle for apprehending divine truths. art is twice removed from the Forms (which is to say. though not necessarily flattering. Plato concludes. about a man dedicated to learning the truth about himself. vulgar story (e. Abrams’ The Mirror and the Lamp. does suggest that poetry can. Aristotle saw the mimetic process of art as one that improves and perfects on existing ideas rather than weakening and obscuring them. Mimetic Theories: One of the four types of critical approaches defined in M.g. a great tragedian is one who can take an episodic story (praxis) and. Thus. rather than converting a Form into a shadowy imitation. H. convert it into a unified plot (muthos). can transform a base.but imitations (i.. Muthos: see plot. briefly and somewhat enigmatically. The fact. This image of the poet. since a painted chair is an imitation of an earthly chair. The same would hold true for a poem about love: the poem reflects an earthly concept that is itself a reflection of the Form of Love. they are imitations of imitations. mitigates his dismissal of art as but a faint copy of the real. Thus. that Plato is the father of a logocentric aesthetic that has granted to poetry the high status of incarnate vessels of transcendent truths. Negative Capability: This well-worn phrase appears.. in fact.) In contrast to Plato. Mimesis.. by stripping a tale of all its extraneous elements and concentrating and purifying those that remain.e. through the power of mimesis. Mimetic theories explore the relationship between the work of art and the universe and judge its success on how close it approximates the true nature of the logos. is a sort of alchemical process that. too.

antiRomantic view of poetry. In keeping with his depersonalized. Eliot posits the poet not as the source of these emotions but as the site. Objective theories consider works of art to be self-contained. and cosmos alike.. epistemology (“the study of knowing”) concerns itself not with the thingness of things but with how we know and perceive that thingness. Objective Theories: One of the four types of critical approaches defined in M. a great poem is considered to be an organic whole. i. Abrams’ The Mirror and the Lamp. one could argue that there is much similarity between negative capability and the deconstructionist concept of aporia. This view of art is linguistic in orientation and is almost wholly identified with the theories of the new critics. the poet uses these physical objects and situations to externalize and concretize a heretofore internal/abstract emotion. situation. That is to say. where this fusion of external and internal occurs. Ontology: Whereas ontology (“the study of being”) concerns itself with determining the essence of things (whether natural or supernatural). while epistemologists focus on the subject. or chain of events that parallels (correlates to) an internal emotion. Non-canonical: see canon. beauty is a quality that inheres in a poem or painting. self-referential artifacts that can be studied apart from poet. H. audience. Because emotions cannot be perceived by the senses and are even difficult to express in language. To the ontologist.” According to Eliot. S. an almost living organism in which the whole of the poem not only contains all the parts. Objective Correlative: This phrase appears. to the epistemologist. beauty is an emotional/intellectual response that occurs within the mind of the person who experiences that poem or painting. the artistic medium. “Hamlet and His Problems. ontologists focus on the object. Organic Whole: In Romantic literary theory (particularly in Coleridge). briefly and somewhat enigmatically.aesthetically) to reach after fixed answers or resolutions.e. an objective correlative is an external object. but each part contains within itself the whole (just as the seed within the apple contains within itself the potential not only for 218 . pragmatic and expressive theories tend to be epistemological. Though Keats was certainly not a deconstructionist. Eliot. Object: see subject. Mimetic and objective theories tend to be ontological. in an essay by T.

unities. and dissimilitude is resolved into similitude. If a poem is truly an organic whole. concrete universal. 219 . the plot of Oedipus the King focuses on a single day in the life of Oedipus when all the loose strands of his life come together in a climax of great power. indeed. Coleridge’s definition of a poem includes the criterion that it give equal pleasure in the whole as it does in each part. The story of Oedipus is a long disunified string of events that moves through a series of disconnected episodes (i. the plot (rather than the characters) is the most vital part of a tragedy. by running the story through the mimetic process. (Cf. recognition. The playwright arrives at the plot. the plot of Oedipus is a unified poetic artifact in which each scene follows the previous scene in accordance with necessity. peripeteia is a reversal of fate.another apple but for an entire grove of apple trees). catharsis. One way to judge if a poem is truly an organic whole is to ask if anything can be added to or taken away from it. tragic flaw. and mimesis. H. of Oedipus. Whereas the story.) Peripeteia (Reversal): In a well-constructed Aristotelian plot. rather. deus ex machina. Within the poetic space of the organic whole. let us say. idea and image are fused. In fact. reversal. when the fortune of the character moves suddenly from good to bad or from bad to good. The best kinds of reversals are accompanied by recognitions. Pragmatic Theories: One of the four types of critical approaches defined in M. concerns all those events that took place from his birth to his death. it is the very soul of the play. it is episodic). The concept of the organic whole dates back to Aristotle’s Poetics. Pragmatic theories explore the relationship between the work of art and its audience. probability. If parts can be added to or taken away from the poem without changing its essential meaning.) Polysemous: see Four Levels of Meaning. then the poet has obviously neither fully realized his poetic purpose nor achieved a complete fusion of parts and whole. Abrams’ The Mirror and the Lamp. and inevitability. (Cf. tragedy.e. The form of the poem should not be arbitrary or imposed from without. incarnational relationship between its form and its content. there should be a dynamic. in medias res.. the content of the poem should create its own form. Play Drive: see Spieltrieb. An organic whole is essentially symbolic (rather than allegorical) in that it allows abstract ideas to be perceived in and through particular images. For Aristotle. Plot: In the Poetics. Aristotle makes a famous distinction between the story (praxis) and the plot (muthos).

The secondary imagination.) Though Coleridge. (Cf. the soul. Primary Imagination: In Biographia Literaria.” poet-prophets who (like an aeolian harp) receive direct inspiration from above and respond passively with a song or a poem. Coleridge makes a famous distinction between the primary and the secondary imagination. diffuses.Pragmatic theorists are concerned with the social. Both classical and modern studies of the nature and status of rhetoric are pragmatic in orientation. Biographia Literaria). the primary imagination is a “repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. with the aesthetic rules for poetry (see decorum). Artists who make use of this creative power are essentially “divine ventriloquists. and concrete universals. goes through a series of cycles (dances) until it reaches a state of beatitude. Indeed.” The primary imagination establishes a passive link between absolute self-consciousness (the I AM of God) and our own individual self-consciousness. both Wordsworth and Coleridge define the growth of the poet/philosopher’s mind as moving from the primary to the secondary imagination: from the passive reception of sensation to the mature recollection (Wordsworth) and methodizing (Coleridge) of those sensations. like all the Romantics. A gradual shift from ontological to epistemological concerns may be seen in such theories. dissipates.” That is to say. is active: “it dissolves. beauty). as is the postmodern school of readerresponse criticism. and then reshapes it into a new and vital form. and with the intellectual and visceral impact of literature (see catharsis. on the other hand. the Aristotelian notion of mimesis. Purgatorial Dance: In Yeats’s mythology. he also knew that it takes the active. organic wholes. in order to recreate. According to Coleridge. in their autobiographies (The Prelude. shaping force of the secondary imagination to create symbols. sublime. the secondary imagination takes the raw material given it by inspiration. breaks it down. didactic functions of art (with how it teaches and pleases). Here is my schematic diagram of this movement: 220 . often defined himself as an aeolian harp inspired from without (see both his poem “Kubla Khan” and his preface to that mystical product of the primary imagination). immediately after the transition called death.

Recognition: see Anagnorisis. Semiology: a synonym for Semiotics. but exists wholly in the mind of the 221 . Secondary Imagination: see Primary Imagination. Reversal: see Peripeteia. thereby allowing both sides of our human psyche to be fully integrated. the word subject is used to refer to a thinking consciousness that perceives. Semiotics: The science of sign systems. When aestheticians like Kant describe the pleasure and judgment of art as purely subjective. Spieltrieb (Play Drive): In Schiller’s philosophy. perceived by a subject. ornate. they mean to say that the experience has nothing to do with the poetic object per se. or flowery so as to distract the reader from the overall context and instead draw attention to the said passages. rather. the state of true aesthetic freedom is achieved by Spieltrieb which mediates between the "material drive" (Stofftrieb) and the "formal drive" (Formtrieb).Purpureus Pannus (Purple Patch): A phrase coined by Horace in his “Art of Poetry” to describe passages that are overly extravagant. The subject is contrasted with the object. Story: see Plot. unconscious thing that does not perceive but is. a non-thinking. Subject: In the language of German philosophy. Sensuous Drive: see Spieltrieb (Play Drive).

concrete universal and organic whole. disinterested delight. through the power of imagination. This is to be contrasted with beauty. sought. in particular. (Cf. physical symbol (the communion wine). 222 . the sublime and the beautiful have been identified. a patriarchal gendering that has been criticized by feminists. respectively. Longinus tends to be more ontological. sublimity is that which inspires in us feelings of terror and astonishment. although our experience of beauty is purely subjective (see subject above) and constitutes a free. In the symbol. In a symbol. an abstract notion (like the inner struggle between good and evil) is merely translated into a picture language (the devil on one shoulder. The British Romantic poets made much use of the German distinction between subject and object and attempted in their poetry and theory to fuse or synthesize the two. Though much attacked by modern (particularly historicist) and postmodern theorists. There is no inherent link between the idea and the picture: one merely stands in for the other. Edmund Burke. Coleridge argued that the first decision that the philosopher must make is whether to begin his search from the subject (transcendental philosopher) or from the object (natural philosopher). the abstract notion (the salvivic blood of Christ) is seen in and through the concrete.perceiving subject. temporal and eternal. Subjective Universal: According to Kant’s Critique of Judgment. concrete and universal meet and fuse in an almost mystical. Thus. incarnational way. For Coleridge. on the other hand. the angel on the other). in an allegory. Traditionally.) Synthesis: see Dialectic. to effect what he called the Marriage (or fusion) of Nature (object) and the Mind of Man (subject). took a purely epistemological approach to the sublime. Symbol: Romantic theorists tend to privilege symbol over allegory. the sublime is a type of elevated language that strikes its listener with the power of a thunderbolt. Sublime: According to Longinus. it is nevertheless felt equally (universally) by all people. Although this definition would suggest an epistemological approach to the sublime. Wordsworth. defining sublimity more as a quality that inheres in certain lines of a poem. defining it not as an objective quality but as a subjective response. which invokes sentiments of tenderness and affection. the concept of subjective universality is central to Kant’s Critique. transporting him to a higher realm of experience that transcends time and space. for Burke. however. specific and general. with the masculine and the feminine.

Tragic Flaw: In the Poetics. the avarice of Macbeth. Interestingly. no doubt. sometimes. toward those higher truths that do not change. though most people think of a tragedy as a play with an unhappy ending. this classical view of the high status of tragedy has dominated literary theory until very recently (when the postmodern theory of text deconstructed the whole notion of generic hierarchies). e. Our tendency to do so has been influenced.Thesis: see Dialectic. Aristotle defines it as any play in which there is a reversal of fortunes (there are some famous Greek tragediesmost notably Euripides’ Ionthat have happy endings. yet most readers tend to think of it as such. by Shakespearean drama. Unlike the transcendental philosopher.” Coleridge contrasts the transcendental philosopher (who is essentially Platonic) with the natural philosopher (who is essentially Aristotelian).e. they will meet in the middle: at a metaphysical nexus point of the general and the specific that is exactly 223 .e. in which the tragic heroes tend to suffer from a specific vice (what Hamlet calls a “mole in nature”. tragedy is the greatest of literary genres.. fatal). is to effect “the perfect spiritualization of all the laws of nature into laws of intuition and intellect. but by some error” (“hamartia” in Greek). from a priori truths (i. assumed. may also be translated “flaw. empirical) observations and moves (inductively) upward toward the subject. from mind to nature. nonempirical foundational truths that are logically groundless only because they are the ground of everything else) to the sensual realities of the physical world. scientific skepticism.” to which later commentators have appended the word tragic (or. Aristotle describes the proper tragic hero as a good man whose downfall is brought about “not by vice or depravity. with nature. toward mind. the jealousy of Othello. To engage in such a metaphysical journey. the transcendental philosopher must first purge his mind (a la Descartes) of all sensation by assuming what Coleridge calls “an absolute. Aristotle’s stated preference for tragedies with reversals that go from good to bad set the critical taste for subsequent Western theory.. Tragedy: For Aristotle. Transcendental Philosopher: In Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria. the natural philosopher begins with the object.” If both philosophers successfully complete their journeys. the lust of Antony). with a posteriori (i.) However. writes Coleridge.. The final goal of the natural philosopher. the transcendental philosopher is defined as one who moves (deductively) from subject to object. Aristotle makes it clear that this “tragic flaw” is not a vice. Hamartia.g. translated “error” here.

natural philosophers who stop short of the transcendent risk the even greater temptation of yielding to materialism. in the diverse poems they contributed to Lyrical Ballads. Coleridge betrays his orientation by choosing subjects of a supernatural character. betrays his orientation by selecting subjects from nature. Indeed. as a symbol. Transcendental philosophers who do not complete their journey toward the natural risk falling into the abyss of idealism. on the other hand. on the other hand. nonrealistic elements in literature.” In the condition of fire is all music and all rest. the reader would suspend judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative. Willing Suspension of Disbelief: A phrase coined by the poet and critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge to justify the use of fantastic. 224 . which prescribes all great dramatic works to adhere to the three unities of action. Two Realities: Yeats believed in two realities: the terrestrial and the condition of fire. Wordsworth. After all rounds of metempsychosis (q. a single location and a single intensely short time-span of not more than twenty-four hours. v. The phrase might also be used to refer to the willingness of the audience to overlook the limitations of a medium so that these do not interfere with the acceptance of those premises: the audience tacitly agrees to provisionally suspend judgment in exchange for the promise of poetic experience. the soul goes to the condition of fire where it puts on another body. or a concrete universal. was the quintessential natural philosopher. in his poetry and criticism. then presenting them in such a way as to throw over them the aura of the supernatural. an organic whole. It also prescribes focusing the play around a single main action. time. Coleridge. and place. Wordsworth. then attempting to render them natural.) Tropological: see Four Levels of Meaning.parallel to that self-contained aesthetic realm that Coleridge labels. was a confirmed transcendental philosopher. for evil is the “strain of opposites.) have been met. Evil is also in the terrestrial. All power is from the terrestrial. Coleridge suggested that if a writer could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a out of this world tale. variously. Unities: The Aristotelian notion of plot. for here all opposites meet. (Note: Coleridge’s distinction between the transcendental philosopher and the natural philosopher may be fruitfully compared with Schiller’s distinction between the formal drive and the sensuous drive.

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