3.20.2002

Poets don't need philosophers to tell them it is okay to play with language. That this comes as a minor revelation tells me how steeped I am in the Kantian tradition. Kant's whole point was to respond to the cultural ascendency of science and the decline of religious authority by placing philosophy on universal grounds for judging what counts as knowledge. Ever since, philosophers have this odd belief that the world awaits their next word.

I am prepared to talk about resistance as having a pre-modern history in all forms of dualism. This is a strand of argument in Derrida. Whether we are talking about reality versus the world of appearance, universal versus particular, or heaven versus hell, all dualisms are asymmetrical: one pole is preferred over the other. Aristotle was the first to oppose these binary arrangements and his criticism leads me to think of him as the first ecologist. What Aristotle knew was that Plato's world of forms entailed a denigration of this world. Descartes' project reifies these kinds of oppositions. The preferred side of his dualism bolsters the claim to individual agency in both religious and scientific matters. This was immensely appealing. Hobbes's materialism -- the contention posed against Descartes that there is no mind, only brain -- never stood a chance. Had Hobbes won, the philosophy of mind and epistemology would never have achieved positions of primacy among the activities of philosophers. We would have started down the neurophysiological path hundreds of years ago. (I love making sweeping claims.)

A goal for philosophy is that philosophers be as free as poets in their language play. It is one reason why I like hanging out with you.

Last year was the year of Merrill. His collected poems were published and there was a biography. I found my way into his writing through this popular reception and I am moved by the perspective he offers. He is one of those that finds and illuminates the sublime in the pedestrian (the title of my masters thesis).

I should move on to commentary but I have a full schedule of Wittgenstein ahead for the day. If I can I'll turn to 25 this evening or respond to your foray. Your insight on a boundary between the philosophical and poetic forms of life has me reeling a bit.

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