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TSE  September 2011

TSE September 2011

Subject:

Re: 'The Waste Land' as an 'absolutist' poem (was Re: Absolutist Poetry ...)

From:

"Rickard A. Parker" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Sun, 25 Sep 2011 18:33:54 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (128 lines)

Thanks for the reply Carrol.  I didn't get a chance to read it until
very early this morning.  Nothing was sinking in then when my mind
was still asleep so I decided to get back to it later.  Sorry, but that's
not helping much.  I don't think it's your explanation but rather the
philosophy of those you mention.  I'll try again later but I do want
you to know that I appreciate the effort on a serious inquiry.

Regards,
     Rick Parker

On 9/24/2011 11:07 AM, Carrol Cox wrote:
> Rick wanted more on a post I wrote. Here is sort of a rambling response.
>
> First an anecdote. It was said of the German Social Democrat Eduard
> Bernstein that he was called philosophically naive even by the
> philosophically naive. We have a somewhat analogous situation here.
>
> I'm no philosopher either, and I have a weak grasp of the history of
> philosophy. Also, my knowledge of Hegel is sketchy and 3d-hand. Given
> all this, the passages you quoted from Eliot's dissertation seemed at
> best to be a very diluted & wandering rehash of Hegel. I will add one
> qualification. Even a giant like John dewey did start out as a Hegelian
> -- and I don't know how weak his youthful Hegelianism was. People do
> outgrow their dissertations.
>
> Several years ago on this list I believe I noted that there seemed to be
> a Hegelian influence still operating in Eliot's "Tradition and the
> Individual Talent" -- in the image of the "existing monuments" forming a
> whole which was changed by the new masterpiece -- a concept which seemed
> to draw on Hegel's "The Truth is the Whole" ( a sort of slangy way of
> expressing the concept of "internal relations": i.e., the "monuments of
> art are internally related (think of an organism) and therefore one
> could not understand any one in isolation from the whole. "Pure"
> capitalism is such -- though all actual capitalist systems exist in a
> non-capitalist context and are complicated by contingency.
>
> An illustration. Imagine yourself entering a store with (say) $50 which
> you plan to spend on aome luxury good. You consider two products, each
> $50: one manufactured in (say)Paris, the other in Wichita. In making
> your decision you equate the living human activity of workers in Paris
> with the living human activity with workers in Wichita. The two groups
> of workers are _internally related_, neither intelligible in isolation
> from the other. The very meaning of their activity is determined not by
> the activity or by their intentions but by their (internal) relations to
> the activity of strangers. Similarly, if one takes Eliot's suggestion
> seriously, all texts are only parts of a "whole" held together by
> internal relations. But I think the passages you quoted might offer an
> 'escape' from a strict construal of this unity of all texts. (It's been
> a couple days since I read your post.) There he speaks of _opinions_
> modifying each other, and that would lead to a concept of all
> 'monuments' forming a whole _in the mind of a reader_. And that has some
> empirical 'grip.' As I taught a course in Ancient Literature, I had the
> students consider the Odyssey, the Oresteia, and the Republic as forming
> such a whole _when_ we look 'back' at them from a historical knowledge
> of all three. The Odyssey revolves around the 'idea' of legitimate
> kingship -- though that is probably not at all how the poet would have
> conceptualized it in his own mind. A couple centuries later Aeschylus
> has his focus on the 'same' question transformed: now the question is of
> the legitimate rule of the _demos_ rather than a King, and of course
> different Athenians held different conceptions of that. Aeschylus seems
> to have been a 'moderate' democrat -- and the institution the creation
> of which resolves the many contradictions of the Trilogy is an
> aristocatic institution ( implying some moderating power of the
> _eupatridae_ on the power of the _demos_ (peasants & artisans). The
> Odyssey ends with an impossible resolution (so impossible some scholars
> have argued Book 24 was a alter addition.) Consider this summary:
> Odysseus leaves home carrying with him all the noble youth of Athens. He
> returns alone 20 years later (bringing a huge treasure with him). And
> what is the first thing he does: Another generation has grown up in his
> absence, which he slaughters. Then the relatives come after him: he
> kills his man before his son& his father; his father kills his man
> before his son 7 grandson; Telemachus kills his man before his father
> and grandfather. Now there are about three lines left in the poem, with
> this conflict which cannot be resolved. "And Athene makes peace among
> the contending factions." How? Aeschylus' Trilogy expands those three
> lines, providing a 'sensible' or at least believable ending for the
> Odyssey. But the two works wonderfully pose, implicitly and even
> explicitly, the whole matter of legitimacy in power. Now Plato, who
> provides all the principles that govern authoritarian thought, a bitter
> enemy of democracy, comes along and raises the same question, with the
> debate carefully stage-managed.
>
> Though the Odyssey remains the same, knowing Aeschylus transforms the
> reader's way of looking at the Odyssey. One can relate this to Marx's
> aphorism in the Grundrisse, "The anatomy of man is a key to the anatomy
> of the ape." That is, if one only knew the ape's anatomy there would be
> no reason to see in it the potential to become the human anatomy. (This
> perspective is crucial in the thought of Stephen Jay Gould: he points
> out that if the 'tape of life" wer played over again there is no reason
> to assume it would repeat itself: only beause of a stray asteroid 60
> million years ago do humans exist!)
>
> One last speculation. You write, quoting someone quoting Eliot:
>
> *****"if one recognizes two points of view which are quite
> irreconcilable and yet melt into each other, this theory [of the
> Absolute] is quite superfluous." In his dissertation Eliot was thinking
> along the same lines when he wrote that "the pre-established harmony [of
> the Absolute] is unnecessary if we recognize that the monads [of
> individual experience] are not wholly distinct" (KE, 206, 147). Because
> individual points of view are not completely distinct, the painful task
> of unification becomes possible without relying on the easy consolations
> of the Absolute.
> *****
>
> Eliot seems concerned here with how humans can reach _shared_
> perspectives (thus making society possible) even though there is no
> 'objective' standard to which they can appeal. His solution is to posit
> athat human thought as a whole is a whole, with individual opinions
> merely fragments of that. Hence by a dialectical process those fragments
> can arrive at the whole. Inside opinion one can find an escape fromm
> opinion.
>
> Carrol
>
>
> On 9/23/2011 3:44 PM, Rickard A. Parker wrote: On 9/22/2011 9:27 PM,
> Carrol Cox wrote: A couple random observations. Eliot was one lousy
> philosopher & it is well he became a poet & publishing executive instead
> of a professional philosopher.
>
> Please say more.
>
> Regards, Rick Parker
>
> .=======
> .=======
>

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