An Introduction to James Taylors’ Poetic Knowledge

Poetic Knowledge
The Recovery of Education
James S. Taylor
SUNY Press, 1998

I have been reading through this work with great delight and thought it might spark discussion or someone else to read this commendable work if I put some of my thoughts and his thoughts out on the blog and saw where it went. You will find me posting these thoughts by chapter units, starting with these thoughts from his Introduction.

Table of Contents:
Acknowledgements, vii
Introduction, p. 1

Chapter 1: The Validity of Poetic Knowledge, p. 5
Chapter 2: The Philosophical Foundations of Poetic Knowledge, p. 11
Chapter 3: Connatural, Intentional, and Intuitive Knowledge, p. 59
Chapter 4: Descartes and the Cartesian Legacy, p. 87
Chapter 5: Voices for Poetic Knowledge after Descartes, p. 121
Chapter 6: Poetic Knowledge and the Integrated Humanities Program, p. 145
Chapter 7: The Future of the Poetic Mode of Knowledge in Education, p. 167

Notes, p. 185
Selected Bibliography, p. 197
Index, p. 203

Reading notes by Steve Elliott when he read the work in 2005-06

  • Notes in Normal Font are things that came to mind as I read the text, often thoughts or questions.
  • Notes in Bold are quotations I wish to use sometime.
  • Notes in italics are things from outside the actual text but that help explain how I understood the text or seemed to comment on the text.


  • I first got a copy of Poetic Knowledge and began leaf reading it after visiting Westminster Academy in Memphis in December of 2003. They had already had James Taylor come and conduct some training with them so they were very jazzed on the book.
  • I met James Taylor for the first time in the Summer of 2004 at the Circe Conference in Memphis.
  • The notion of philosophical archeology that Taylor describes (p. 1) as the efforts of his work were quite appealing to me. I wish to know the roots of Western contemplation of education and he seemed to be going there.
  • The ordinary setting for a medieval village or farm, the furnishings within, the roads and brides, are preserved in southern France as a quant sights for tourists; museums, built nearly exactly like mausoleums, now house art and artifacts never meant for such dead displays or for priceless values. They are simply the tools, clothing, tables, chairs, sculpture, and paintings that naturally emerged from a culture that, in spite of its relative hardships, found itself, whole, integrated, and spiritually free enough to celebrate the ordinary as wonderful, as seen, for example, in the sturdy yet delicate beauty of the wood and metal tools of the kitchen and the barn from rural medieval England; or, from thirteenth-century France, the statue of the smiling Virgin holding the smiling Christ child. To show this another way: a Teflon Spatula is useful, at least, for a Teflon pan; but a wooden ladle, of curved and smooth wood, is not only useful but beautiful. The first is scientific, in the modern sense, reduced to its most base utilitarian level, not to mention the strange materials wrought from laboratories; while the second tool is crafted from the poetic mode of life.
  • Poetic knowledge is a kind of natural, everyman’s metaphysics of common experience. It is a way of restoring the definition of reality to mean knowledge of the seen and unseen.

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