Friday, June 13, 2008

Philosophy, Poetry and Psychoanalysis

From a review of books about Ezra Pound by Louis Menand in The New Yorker, 6/9&16/08:

Ezra Pound “did not believe that (in the words of the preface to “The Picture of Dorian Gray”) “all art is quite useless.” He thought that poetry had a kind of power. He believed, Moody says, “that ‘the perfect rhythm joined to the perfect word’ would energize the motor forces of emotion and will and illuminate the intelligence, and that the result would be more enlightened living.”

This is a way of conceiving of both philosophy and psychoanalysis. The right way to live arises from apt words affecting particular emotions and then the intellect. In psychoanalysis, the right interpretation at the right time triggers a feelingful experience and insight and a change in being and living. In philosophy - in the ancient conception - the right understanding leads not only to accurate knowledge but to right living.

And, regarding the theme of this blog, emotion is prior to the illumination of intellect. We are affectively disposed to experience and then conceive of the world in particular ways which are then made convincing to cognition through the effective arrangement of words.

But we don’t just start from a wordless emotional base which then determines our views. The above quote and our experience with our emotions suggest that the emotions are meaning-laden. As in Eugene Gendlin’s focusing technique the words and the feeling or felt sense are intertwined and each felt sense is linked to precise words. Apt words are experienced as just right; they hit the spot. Feelings are worded. The right words sit rightly with us.

Certain arguments appeal to us, they are appealing. They please our sense of what’s appropriate. We want them to be true. We find ways to defend them and can’t conceive of them being wrong.

Poetry can convey an overwhelming experience of truth and rightness yet that way of wording is far from the literal and scientific language which is supposed to be our best conduit to an accurate representation of things.

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