interesting language these assertions from Elot.
"misprision" for example - what is he implying
about Dobree's position? That of one supporting a less than reputable thought
and that he is abetting a questionable proposition from Eliot or at least
one not in the common understanding of their time? I would have expected
that for their contemporaries some version of Natural Law
or omnipotent theism or Revelation was at least not likely
to get the knee jerk it might now.
And then "I would not wish.to make truth..etc ...."
This strikes me as quite odd unless seen as the patois of the urbane who
might raise any issue of core importance in light conjectural fashion.
He seems to be speaking of dogmatic matters in the
timbre of the discretionary which is a bit cute in men who wrote a lot to
each other. Jason Harding's book on the
Criterion describes the rhetorical subtleties of Eliot's letters
to Dobree suggesting that Eliot manipulated the sort of review he would get by
the way he used language in his letters to him - the choice of verb mood and so
I must get Tate's book which I have never read but
can you say what Dobree was on about to initiate the exchange.
ps those of us who have put our faith in the
hypothetico deductive process find it all a bit alien and can't quite see its
terms to take the proposition on.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2013 6:18
Subject: Re: a note on Truth
Aha! I smell Owen Barfield and his Saving The
Appearances somewhere close.
I have an inkling of an Inkling.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 9:23
Subject: a note on Truth
I had the pleasure of being sent off to the library
recently to look up some references to Bonamy Dobree and thought it might be
worth sharing part of a letter from TSE that Dobree quotes in his essay on
Eliot in Allen Tate's T S Eliot: The Man and His
"I think there is some misprision on your Part about
my Truth. I would not wish to make truth a function of the will. On the
contrary, I mean that if there is no fixed truth there is no fixed object
for the will to tend to. If truth is always changing then there is nothing
to do but to sit down and watch the pictures. Any distinctions one makes are
more or less arbitrary. I should say that it was at any rate essential for
Religion that we should have the conception of an immutable object or
Reality the knowledge of which shall be the final object of that will; and
there can be no permanent reality if there is no permanent truth. I am of
course quite ready to admit that human apprehension of truth varies changes
and perhaps develops, but that is a property of human imperfection rather
than of truth."
Can't help but think that "to sit down and watch the
pictures" is a nice, if not allusion to, image of Plato's cave. At any rate
it was probably pre-television. Eliot goes on to say:
conceive of truth at all, the word has no meaning, except by conceiving of
it as something permanent. And that is really assumed even by those who deny
it. For you cannot even say it changes except in reference to something
which does not change; the idea of change is impossible without the idea of
I think that for those given to this kind of
understanding, the similarity in kind will be apparent to the relation of
"absolute meaning" to meaning "not exhausted by any explanation." In
truth, if one takes the time to work out the consequences, it is only
an object of knowledge with absolute meaning that can have meaning not
exhausted by any explanation. I realize that this could be taken by those
who are not given to the kind of explanation of truth Eliot pronounces above
as a sleight of hand. I'd only say that it's not, if taken on its own