Thursday, September 30, 2004


So, Thomas is right to point out and I was wrong not to...I just assumed we were playing.

Wittgentein does not talk about "white chickens" in On Certainty.

He writes, in section 1:
If you do know that here is one hand, we'll grant you all the rest. When one says that such and such a proposition can't be proved, of course that does not mean that it can't be derived from other propositions; any proposition can be derived from other ones. But they may be no more certain than it is itself.

I hope all dagzine's readers can see in what manner William Carlos Williams's "so much depends upon" is related to this Wittgenstenian take on propositions. He insists that "any proposition can be derived from other ones." So much depends upon the one hand.

Well, I like Thomas's use of WCW. It charges my exploration and I think he used it because he saw it. Because of my WCW obsession and studies, I just used Thomas's statement. I mean: I got it. It's useful in applying propositions and logic to the poem as a state of affairs that contains objects which can be arranged in different ways. If we are addressing certainty, we can actually step back from everything but the language itself and its use. This is why I may have to throw in some discussion of the psychotics dependence on what Lacan called radical certainty. Lacan used radical certainty in his seminars on the psychoses to distance his discussion from reality. The psychotic is not concerned with what is real--Merleau-Ponty handles this well in Phenomenology of Perception--the psychotic is concerned with certainty.

At any rate, for all those head-scratchers out there, I think at worst I was being sloppy. I hope the use of the revised statement can be seen in light of the discussion at hand.

If anything, it does as Thomas notes in a comment below get to the case the we make of the world a picture of facts.

Thomas (and Jay, et al): I am also interested in the Stanley Cavell (as you may have guessed.) I see a picture as a problem because of technology and technique: is it a painting or a photograph? Good question. For as Cavell troubles over in The World Viewed, a painting is "a world" and a photograph is "of the world." We have read more than enough comparisons of poetry and prose to painting, especially in regards impressionism v. expressionism. With prose, now there is realism v. irrealism. But what if we chuck the relation to "the real" for a moment and consider that poetry and prose can be more than representations of the world, in fact excessively present the world in its of-the-world-ness? Do you see where I am going?

More later.

But for clarity: No white chickens in Wittgenstein. And you may laugh: I was talking to my workshop the other day and mentioned the statement with white chickens in it and we all had a good laugh. Although I do believe that a few folks would have simply gone along with my mistake. A question: is it because I sound authoritative and they wouldn't confront me with my obvious mistake, is it because they got the point, or is it because they were listening but not hearing, or is it something else entirely? I mean...I am a bit embarrassed, but Thomas is the first person to point out the warped use as a problem. Oh well. I am a bit to self-conscious.

Will write soon to handle issues in the comments and my points outlined yesterday.


1 comment:

Thomas Basbøll said...

Didn't mean to come off like a stuffy old scholar. I, too, am just playing. I like the idea, especially suited to blogging, that we are all working on the same palimpsest. Just wanted to make sure everyone understood that we're talking about the superposition of two statements, not the quotation of just one.

Here's another superposition.

”Philosophy ought really to be written only as a _poetic composition_.” (Culture and Value, p. 24)

“Philosophie dürfte man eigentlich nur _dichten_.”

Note: dichten = condensare (Pound, ABC, p. 36, 92)

Wittgenstein’s description of philosophy in the Tractatus, i.e., the arrangement and critique of factual propositions (also endorsed in Frazer and Investigations) can easily be seen in this light.

Wittgenstein: from the picture theory to “meaning is use” (in a sense: from “we make pictures” to “we use words”, where the latter becomes primary and serves as an account of the former.)
Pound: from imagism to vorticism

In both cases we pass from a static-seeming view to an openly dynamic approach (from the stationary to the moving image.)

“The defect of earlier imagist propaganda was not in misstatement but in incomplete statement.” ABC, p. 52. This is equally true of the Tractatus when compared to the Investigations. The point could perhaps also be made at the level of Pound’s poetic practice, where Personae can be said to be not so much a poetic misstatement but an incomplete gesture toward the Cantos.

The english translation of Wittgenstein’s remark on poetic composition is grammatically quite different from the original (an unfortunate happenstance given the author’s emphasis on the relation between meaning and grammar.)

“One should really compose philosophy (in the manner of poetry).”


“Philosophy ought really to be composed (like poetry).”

I like this because it suggests the active process of “puting things together” and of finding one’s “composure”.

Very much like “condense”, which is the challenge. Pound proposed “poetry as concentration” which sets philosophy up very nicely (albeit as a kind of pun.)

“Philosophie dürfte man eigentlich nur _dichten_.”


“One ought really only _concentrate_ philosophy.”

(The pun is: In philosophy, one ought to concentrate.)

Philosophy ought to be a “concentrated form of verbal expression”. This combines Wittgenstein’s philosophy-ought-to-be-poetry with Pound’s poetry-as-concentration. (The quote, in regard to poetry, is from ABC, p. 36.)

It should be noted that Wittgenstein’s is probably a minority view. There are many who believe, in both practice and propaganda, that philosophy ought to be an infinite reflection and/or interminable explication. On this view, philosophy becomes a species of distraction.