once again i’m incapacitated by an awful cold. however, today is world philosophy day, so i just have to throw my thoughts into the mix. because, you know, the world, and especially the world of philosophy, would be so very much impoverished without my snot-nosed words of wisdom.
last year i met up with one of my old philosophy profs who i hold in high esteem for a number of reasons, one of them being that he had a wonderful way of facilitating classes. i took philosophy 101 with him, at a community college, so you can imagine that there were all kinds of, um, “interesting” people attending, with lots of wild, wonderful and often extremely woolly ideas, which they spat out with gusto. this prof had the lovely ability of patiently listening to the most hair-raising drivel, picking out from it the one little sentence that made sense and then exclaiming enthusiastically: “fabulous idea, mr. borschthead! now let’s investigate this a little further” – and then bringing the class back on track.
at any rate, at our little get-together for a coffee at starbucks last year i told him of my dream/idea/hope of writing my PhD thesis in novel form. the poor guy was aghast. novels, he snorted, have nothing to do with either science or philosophy. my attempts at pointing at dostoevsky, proust and camus were met with disdain. simple minded stuff, totally unthought-through.
on the other hand, another philosophy prof with whom i had a series of absolutely delightful thought exchanges, was a catalyst in my writing my book of poetry. he, too, was not overly conversant with the convoluted thought patterns of creative forms of writing (why are poetry and prose called creative, by the way? are philosophic, scientific or business forms of writing, to name just a few, uncreative?) … where was i … ah, yes, not conversant with poetic thoughts – but he was curious about it and encouraged me to “translate” my poetry, which then became the theme for my tea table book.
by the way, both of them let me play with my papers. i wrote one in the form of a play, and another as a letter from leibniz to freud. i’m still very grateful they indulged me. they weren’t my most brilliant philosophical spewings but boy, was it fun.
and of course i’m not exactly the first person to think about the connection between literature and philosophy. the good people from the university of tampere in finland (those europeans, ey?) have put together a whole bunch of links for philosophy of literature. this leads to interesting books like between philosophy and poetry
between philosophy and poetry examines the complex and controversial relation that has informed literary theory since ancient times: the difference between philosophy and poetry. the book explores three specific areas: the practice of writing with respect to orality; the interpretive modes of poetic and philosophical discourse as self-narration and historical understanding; how rhythm marks the differential spaces in poetry and philosophy.
the book brings together some of the most prominent international scholars in the fields of philosophy and literature to examine the differences between orality and writing, the signs and traces of gender in writing, the historical dimension of the tension between philosophical and poetic language, and the future possibility of a musical thinking that would go beyond the opposition between philosophy and poetry.
in the final instance, rhythm is the force to be reckoned with and is the essential element in an understanding of philosophy and poetry. rhythm in effect provides a musical ethics of philosophy, for musical thinking goes beyond the metaphysical opposition between philosophy and poetry and sets the frame for post-philosophical practice.
as well as this mouth-watering journal of philosophy and literature
philosophy and literature challenges the cant and pretensions of academic priesthoods by publishing an assortment of lively, wide-ranging essays, notes, and reviews that are written in clear, jargon-free prose. in his regular column, editor denis dutton targets the fashions and inanities of contemporary intellectual life.
definitely sounds like something to check out.
then there’s “archives of nonsensuous similarities”: poetic exploration and extension of philosophical thought in charles bernstein’s shadowtime,” which contains these ponderings:
fault no lease
add thump whimsy
a sash onto
here bernstein undertakes a phonetic transposition to demonstrate the notion of ‘similarity’. simply put, ‘fault no lease’ picks up the vowel sounds of ‘walk slowly’ (/o:/, /ou/, /i:/) as bernstein mirrors the phonetic cluster with different linguistic units. ‘over’ and ‘aver’ as well as ‘the’ and ‘a’ (/É™/) also share the same sounds. the punning also works visually, particularly in the second lines: ‘jump’ and ‘thump’. to reiterate one of benjamin’s statements: ‘if words meaning the same thing in different languages are arranged about the signifier as their center, we have to inquire how they all […] are similar to the signified in the center’.
now i have never taken a course in philosophy and literature so i am sure – and i’m not saying this tongue-in-cheek – that there are precious joys in this niche of philosophy that i have never tasted and therefore am in no position to judge their scrumptuousness.
having said this, i find hard to imagine the usefulness of taking this lovely piece of nonsense or dada poetry or whatever pigeonhole you want to put it into, and throw it on the operating table for such crass vivisection. undertakes a phonetic transposition to demonstrate? poets among my dear readers, how often do you do that? how often do you put pen to paper and say, hm, i think this morning i’ll do me some phonetic clustering with different linguistic units?
is this why my old philosophy prof rolled his eyes when i said i wanted to write a novel for my PhD?
hey, how’d this post get so long?