[Milton-L] Fetishizing Greatness, was Re: Is Paradise Lost

James Rovira jamesrovira at gmail.com
Thu Apr 23 19:49:30 EDT 2009


Thanks for your response, Jeffery.

I realize I'm greatly mistaken about the poetic nature of the
Tractatus.  Reading again proposition 4.1273, for example:

aRb,
(Ex):aRx.xRb,
(Ex,y):aRx.xRy.yRb,
... .
(note that the E in lines two and three are actually inverted)

I found myself moved nearly to tears by Wittgenstein's unity of sound
and sense, the concreteness of his expression, and his controlled
exploitation of ambiguity.  And then when I read his truth tables
again in 4.31 and 5.101 I realized I was reading a master of poetic
form who could rival Milton.   But the line which truly elevates him
to the poetic stratosphere in my judgment is perhaps this one from
5.531:

"Thus I do not write 'f(a,b).a=b', but 'f(a,a)' (or 'f(b,b)'); and not
'f(a,b).~a=b', but 'f(a,b)')"

I'm too moved to continue typing...please give me a moment...







His drawing of a cube on 5.5423 deserves special attention, as does
his charting of tautologies on 6.1023 and especially his "proof that
2+2=4" of 6.421 for sheer poetry of expression.

I will leave you with this final and most poetic of Wittgenstein's thoughts:

"The logic of the world, which is shown in tautologies by the
propositions of logic, is shown in equations by mathematics" (6.22).

Jim R

On Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 3:50 PM, Horace Jeffery Hodges
<jefferyhodges at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Jim, while I generally agree with your critique of Carrol's use of the term
> "poem," I found much to admire in what Carrol said.
>
> Anyway, concerning your remarks on Wittgenstein's Tractatus:
>
>
> "Those who emphasize that poetic form makes poetry can recognize occasional
> poetic qualities in Wittgenstein's Tractatus but would never call it a poem
> -- which would be a rather strange poem indeed because it includes calculus.
> If math is poetry then everything is poetry and the word itself ceases to
> function at all. Those in the first camp would exclude the Tractatus from
> poetry simply because it is philosophy."
>
>
> Did he use calculus in that work? I haven't read it in a while. At any rate,
> when I read it in German back in 1986, I had to read it slowly, and I was
> struck by Wittgenstein's choice of a numbering system that  began with one
> and ended with seven. As I read the opening line, "1. Die Welt ist alles,
> was der Fall ist" ("1. The world is all that the case is"). I realized that
> Wittgenstein was 'creating' a world in seven days, and on the seventh day,
> he rests: "7. Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen" ("7.
> Whereof one cannot speak, thereof must one be silent"). There's a sort of
> poiesis to that.
>
> I once wrote up a brief summary of my views on Wittgenstein's biblical
> allusion (and possible numerology), for I was interested in the way that he
> was subverting the logical-positivist endeavor even in a work where he
> seemed to be applying its principles, but that has gone missing in my many
> moves over the years as a gypsy scholar.
>
> Jeffery Hodges
>
> --- On Thu, 4/23/09, James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> From: James Rovira <jamesrovira at gmail.com>
> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Fetishizing Greatness, was Re: Is Paradise Lost
> To: "John Milton Discussion List" <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
> Date: Thursday, April 23, 2009, 10:36 AM
>
> The question of what is or is not poetry has a long and distinguished
> history, of course, but doesn't it tend to follow two currents?
>
> -Plato's distinction between poetry and philosophy, which emphasizes
> content rather than form.
>
> -An emphasis upon form rather than content.
>
> The question seems to me to get particularly confused when we try to
> blend these two types of responses.  Those who emphasize that poetic
> form makes poetry can recognize occasional poetic qualities in
> Wittgenstein's Tractatus but would never call it a poem -- which would
> be a rather strange poem indeed because it includes calculus.  If math
> is poetry then everything is poetry and the word itself ceases to
> function at all.  Those in the first camp would exclude the Tractatus
> from poetry simply because it is philosophy.  Both camps would also
> exclude history from poetry unless it were written in verse form.
>
> I would say those paying attention to the most widespread, current
> uses of the word "poetry" would say that today the word "poetry"
> emphasizes form over content.  Carrying the whole history of a word
> forward into current use is bad practice as a general principle, just
> as it is bad practice to uncritically apply the conventions of Greek
> drama to Shakespeare's plays -- which regularly ignore the unity of
> time and place, mix comic with tragic conventions in the same play
> (Much Ado About Nothing), etc.
>
> Now if we want to ask what Milton meant by the word poetry, that's
> another matter entirely.  I would think the preface to PL might give
> us some direction.  And so is the question of whether or not we should
> limit ourselves today to his definition.
>
> Jim R
>
> On Thu, Apr 23, 2009 at 11:01 AM, Carrol Cox <cbcox at ilstu.edu> wrote:
>> I would use "poem" that way. (I think in ordinary usage "poetry" and
>> "poem" differ somewhat.) A poem or a fiction is a "made thing," a verbal
>> artifact. (I wouldn't use it for movies.)  I would also use it for many
>> texts that the Renaissance would have called "history." Tillyard in his
>> book on the "English Epic" included Gibbon's Decline and Fall. Gould's
>> _The Structure of Evolutionary Theory_ is a beautiful artifact as well
>> as a science text, and I don't see why "poem" could not, in some
>> contexts, include that. "Work of literature" is awkward, and the best
>> single word for it is "poem." There's a tragic rhythm in Wittgenstein's
>> Tractatus, and an epic sweep to Rusell's _Human Knowledge_.
>
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-- 
James Rovira
Tiffin University



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