Poetic Knowledge Chapter 3

Chapter Three: Connatural, Intentional, and Intuitive Knowledge

  • So far, Taylor has been showing the philosophical back drop for how we lost the notion of poetic knowledge.  Now he is going to take a step further and show what it is and how it brings up a series of related concepts.
  • From the philosophy of Aristotle and Aquinas emerged a “metaphysics of cognition” in which intuition means the nondiscursive act of the intellect that grasps first principles without the aid of proof by demonstration.
  • His discussion of the Aristotelian / Thomistic realism that is built upon the poetic knowledge of forms is excellent (pages 59ff).
  • While it is true that scientific knowledge is more precise from the viewpoint of truth achieved through dialectic, and, by comparison, poetic knowledge is obscure and even defective as St. Thomas says; nonetheless, all first knowledge, knowledge of being and the universe, to the highest act of abstraction, rests on this fundamental intuition that leads to the intimate knowledge in the intentional order that things are, and they we are at home with them for we have taken their substance into the parlor of our souls.
  • What ensues is a close examination of how Jacques Maritain’s work on Poetry, “Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry” builds upon our previous notions of poetic knowledge to develop the idea of “connaturality,” or becoming one with the knowledge gained.  I think the following quote sums up the bulk of this discussion well:
  • Indeed, this is poetic knowledge, “when reality comes to be buried in the subjectivity” of the knower, a state of comprehension very far beyond Gradgrind’s world of “facts.” Why?  Because Odysseus (and ourselves too, insofar as we learn to look with him) is carried inside the objects of desire, intentionally, and in sympathy with their being, and achieves a spiritual union. It is here that I have to back pedal and state that throughout the work, Taylor has been using the passage from the Odyssey which describes a feast as being “very near like unto perfection” as an instance in Homer where this ancient notion of poetic knowledge can be seen. I now continue the quote: Then, as it turns out, Maritain does acknowledge the broader distribution of poetic experience.  He says, “There is no poem without poetic experience….[But] there can be poetic experience with no poem.  (Although there is no poetic experience without the secret germ of a poem, however tiny it be.) Socrates’ idea of natural philosophy was the love of wisdom, or as Aristotle recasts this, all men desire to know, and both say this knowing begins in wonder.  Because wonder is poetic experience, it can be said here, in the wide sense, that all men are poets.
  • Here is where my past thought and experience comes into this book: He begins using Joseph Pieper in earnest.  Pieper’s work, “Leisure the Basis of Culture was a shock to my system a few years back.  I have my friend Joe Feeney to thank for the shock treatment.  It is now one of my favorite books on contemplating education.  Taylor brings him into the discussion at this point.
  • The act of philosophizing, genuine poetry, any aesthetic encounter, in fact, as well as prayer, springs from some shock. And when such a shock is experienced, man senses the non-finality of this world of daily care; he transcends it, takes a step beyond it.
  • …Since modern philosophies have emerged that no longer regard knowing the truth as natural, or even possible, where what was recognized as self-evident is replaced with a system of doubt, under such conditions, Pieper says, learning is now perceived exclusively as work, rather than an act of leisure. In other words, the modern idea of learning is dominated by the ratio, and the simplex intuitus acts of the mind are dismissed as irrelevant under a scientific idea of knowledge.  There are no “givens” nor can “inspiration” be taken seriously as valid knowledge – all is mental work and the student, more and more, becomes the intellectual laborer.  Leisure and poetic knowledge suffocate under the weight of this new scientific philosophy where the way is opened for the school and all its operations to function quite comfortably with imagery analogous to a factory where products are produced for a marketplace….In contrast to the modern perception of the knower as laborer, is the poetic nature of the human being. And the poetic mode at this level easily merges with a philosophy not yet ruled by methods of academic procedures…
  • So with the loss of poetic knowledge from serious consideration in modern theories of knowledge, it follows also that the proper notions of leisure and education are lost along wit the proper conditions in a society for mirandum; for “wonder [from which all knowledge begins] does not occur in the workaday world,” either from the modern idea of work (living to work, instead of working to live) or in modern education that has turned even play into a kind of work in that it is usually conducted as a means to learning something else rather than treated as an end in itself.
  • In concluding…it must be said that something indeed happened to the tradition that carefully divided and recognized the degrees of knowledge; some radical departure in the philosophy of man took place after the Reformation and the Renaissance –  a new philosophy that can be said to have ended the predominant view of ancient-medieval psychological anthropology and ushered in what is designated the modern view of man.  This new view, for all the ideas of liberation and fulfillment associated with it from the Renaissance down to the present day, is actually a much narrower, more confined, and restricted perception of man and his powers to know his world than all that preceded it.
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