Language, Science, Art

Some thoughts by Ernie Lepore and Matthew Stone, from an essay "Philosophy and the Poetic Imagination" [1] published in 2012:

... part of what makes language artistic is that we have to explore it actively in order to appreciate it. We may have to look beneath the surface, and think harder about what images the author has used, who the author purports to be, and even how the language is organized. These efforts can lead to new insights, new perspectives and new experiences.

Poetry is a form in which this reader engagement is particularly striking and important. It's a good illustration of the way philosophical work can help awaken us to the richness of the language that surrounds us, even in the seeming cacophony of the digital age.


How do we cultivate the poetic imagination? We must attune ourselves, however we see fit, to the features we notice in a poem, as a prompt to experience its language more deeply. This search for significance can target any noticeable feature of the poem—regardless of the meaning, if any, the feature might literally encode. We can listen to the sounds and rhythm of the poem. We can feel its syntax and structure. We can even attend to its visual shape and layout before us, as the poet e. e. cummings often invited his readers to do.

However, even when we explore the familiar domains of sound, meter, rhyme and line, we must be prepared to explore the variable and open-ended significance of each observation. ... There is no one meaning or effect for parsing lines; for annotating lines; or in juxtaposing the two. What we find in all these cases is just a formal contrast, an echo of further differences, which we can appreciate more deeply only by probing the poem further. This variability underscores the creativity poets and readers bring to their art.

... and go beyond the viewpoint of the reader of a written poem: think about the creators of any works of art — and especially about the mutual framing of beauty and importance by minds in the universe ...

(cf Reader as Performer (1999-06-10), Awaitingness (2000-11-14), Lying Verses (2001-03-15), Dream Bird (2001-01-16), Nimbus, Halo, Glory, Aureole (2001-11-15), By Heart (2001-11-28), Inspiration Prayer (2003-04-10), EternalInstant (2004-04-11), Birdless Silence (2004-06-05), Break, Blow, Burn (2005-05-11), Globe of Life (2005-06-25), Poetic Credo (2006-03-10), Smell of Good Prose (2006-07-03), Card that Poet (2006-08-24), Poetic Lines (2007-07-12), Full Moon Metaphors (2007-10-29), Conceptual Metaphor (2012-06-19), At the Rim of the Cave (2015-10-18), Babel-17 (2015-10-20), So I Will See (2016-03-27), No Watcher, Only Watching (2016-10-07), Mantra - Attention, Attention, Attention (2017-05-27), All the Light We Cannot See (2017-06-09), ...) - ^z - 2018-05-24