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

jonnyangel junkopardner at comcast.net
Thu Apr 23 20:31:49 EDT 2009


Jesus Christ on a crutch, James. Next you'll be getting all teary eyed and
telling me that Einstein or Alan Turing were "poets". Wittgenstein was a
*philosopher* (and a damned good one), but c'mon already!
I hope you're being sarcastic, or that you just have a very "loose"
definition of poetry. "It's Poetry in motion" "That was very poetic" "He has
the soul of Poet" [reaching for my barf bag]. My best friend from elementary
school was working for the DOD at Crane here in Indiana in Jr. High School
doing advanced Calculus. By the time we were freshmen in High School, he was
working for them (and still is).

And even he knows what poetry is.

"Poetry" is not a catch all phrase for whatever you find beautiful or moving
that exists somewhere beyond the reach of language. Poetry is a craft.
Poetry is an Art. Poetry is a language based craft and art. (Hell, why do
you think the had to drag the alphabet into math? Because numbers weren't
good enough?)

- JA


"If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith."
    - Albert Einstein



 

  


On 4/23/09 7:49 PM, "James Rovira" <jamesrovira at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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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