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On the Hatred of Literature | The Point Magazine
It was during a period of increasing politicization, and amid a boom for the proselytizers of scientific skepticism in nineteenth-century England, that Samuel Coleridge formulated his idea of “that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.” The famous phrase—“willing suspension of disbelief”—is easy to misunderstand. It does not mean we should suspend our capacity to think when we engage with artworks, or that we are to imitate children (or our fantasy of children) and pretend not to know the difference between fact and fiction. Coleridge’s emphasis on the “will” indicates his understanding that modern, secular audiences would be more self-conscious than ancient ones, knowing as they did that art did not emanate directly from the divine or a divinely inspired nature. It is also the key to his insight that “profound experience,” under such conditions, would be at least in part the product of cultivated effort. Keats, building on the concept, would later coin the phrase “negative capability” to explain the specifically artistic virtue of being able to exist “in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” Both poets saw art’s highest potential as being to provide experiences that undermined the prevailing hierarchy of values in modern societies, a hierarchy that privileged detachment, skepticism and the “heresy”—as Coleridge liked to call it—of practical and political expediency.

In his book of literary commentary, The Hatred of Poetry, Lerner posits a very different role for art in modernity, one that turns not on the willing suspension of disbelief, but on our “embarrassment” that poems and novels exist at all. Beginning from the memorable opening words of Marianne Moore’s “Poetry”—“I, too, dislike it”—Lerner observes that “the poem is always a record of failure.” He does not mean by this to discourage the reading or writing of poetry; he wants, rather, to show how this failure can become the foundation for a properly self-conscious form of literary appreciation. Indeed, he argues that the greatest poets are the ones able to most powerfully evoke our disappointment at the gap between the transcendental impulse that inspires us to write poetry, and the anticlimax of individual poems, bounded as they are by “the human world with its inflexible laws and logic.”

In spelling out the theory behind his artistic practice, however, Lerner exposes the misunderstanding in the hatred of literature’s disenchanted heart. He confuses the incapacity to suspend disbelief—the unwillingness to enter into the artwork’s imaginative world—for a mark of intellectual sophistication, when, as has always been clear to all but its most embarrassed proponents, it is a mark of imaginative destitution. “I have never been ‘disenchanted’ with language,” says the contemporary poet, critic and non-hater of literature Patricia Lockwood. “Well, except the times a businessman has talked to me.”

Literature, after all, is precisely that which is not bounded by “inflexible laws.” This does not mean it escapes those laws entirely, whether the laws of nature or the lawlike relations that govern our political and social lives. Literature is about life and thus contains everything in it that life contains—including politics, history and certainly disappointment. But when we read something that moves us to tears or laughter, pity or terror, conviction or bewilderment, it is because it reminds us that the “real” is not always disenchanted, our lives not always reducible to the conditions of their possibility. Perhaps we do live in a time, as our greatest poet of disenchantment once described it, of “specialists without spirit, and sensualists without heart.” All the more reason to resist the march toward a literary culture without love.
Lerner  literature  criticism  politics  hatred  hate  willing  suspension  of  disbelief  rationalism  materialism  Coleridge  Poetry  Baskin 
20 days ago by KMP
Pinker’s Pollyannish Philosophy and Its Perfidious Politics
On the other hand, uncertainty, debate, and critical reflection were the warp and woof of the Enlightenment, which was no discrete, engineered device with a well-defined purpose, but an intellectual and cultural movement spanning several countries and evolving over about a century and a half. If one could identify any single value as definitive of this long and diverse movement, it must surely be the one mentioned above, the value of critical skepticism. To say it “worked” vitiates its very essence. But now the Enlightenment’s best-selling PR guy takes “skepticism” as a dirty word; if that’s any indication, then I guess the Enlightenment didn’t work, or at any rate, it’s not working now.
steven_pinker  rationality  rationalism  racism  history 
9 weeks ago by perich
Pinker’s Pollyannish Philosophy and Its Perfidious Politics
"Enlightenment Now:The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress By Steven Pinker Published 01.15.2019 Penguin Books 576 Pages"
book  review  enlightenment  anti-enlightenment  skepticism  rationalism 
9 weeks ago by tsuomela
Three Worlds Collide
"The kind of classic fifties-era first-contact story that Jonathan Swift might have written, if Jonathan Swift had had a background in game theory."
-- (Hugo nominee) Peter Watts, "In Praise of Baby-Eating"

"Three Worlds Collide is a story I wrote to illustrate some points on naturalistic metaethics and diverse other issues of rational conduct. It grew, as such things do, into a small novella. On publication, it proved widely popular and widely criticized."
rationalism  fiction  scifi 
november 2019 by loimprevisto
The Gods Are Bastards!
Evil is rising. The world is rent by strife. The gods have turned away from us. In times past, heroes of sword and sorcery have always risen to turn back the tide of darkness… But what will become of us all, now that swords are obsolete, sorcery is industrialized, and heroism itself is considered a relic of the past?

The times are changing…
webserial  rationalism  fiction  toread 
november 2019 by loimprevisto
Transdimensional Brainchip: An Experiment
"Ulf gets a chip in his brain. It allows him to talk with other versions of himself in parallel universes."
webcomic  rationalism 
september 2019 by loimprevisto
Effective action #4b: ‘Expertise’, prediction and noise, from the NHS killing people to Brexit
In part A I looked at extreme sports as some background to the question of true expertise and the crucial nature of fast high quality feedback.
politics  brexit  rationalism 
september 2019 by neilscott
On the referendum #33: High performance government, ‘cognitive technologies’, Michael Nielsen, Bret Victor, & ‘Seeing Rooms’
‘People, ideas, machines — in that order!’ Colonel Boyd. ‘The main thing that’s needed is simply the recognition of how important seeing is, and the will to do something about it.’ Bret Victor.
blog  rationalism  politics  diamat 
august 2019 by neilscott
Aeon: Is debunking more about the truth-teller than the truth?
"debunking might be the way that they live out an attraction to credulity that they don’t quite want to acknowledge to themselves."
2masto  epistemology  rationalism  modernity 
august 2019 by mikelynch
The magical thinking of guys who love logic | The Outline
Feminism vs rationalism
Why so many men online love to use “logic” to win an argument, and then disappear before they can find out they're wrong.
feminism  rationalism 
august 2019 by pmigdal
The Logic of Scientific Discovery - Karl Popper
‘One of the most important philosophical works of our century.’

"A scientist, whether theorist or experimenter, puts forward statements,or systems of statements, and tests them step by step. In the field of theempirical sciences, more particularly, he constructs hypotheses, or sys-tems of theories, and tests them against experience by observation andexperiment.I suggest that it is the task of the logic of scientific discovery, or thelogic of knowledge, to give a logical analysis of this procedure; that is,to analyse the method of the empirical sciences.But what are these ‘methods of the empirical sciences’? And what dowe call ‘empirical science’?"
philosophy  science  logic  book  rationalism 
june 2019 by loimprevisto
Book Review: The Secret Of Our Success | Slate Star Codex
"“Culture is the secret of humanity’s success” sounds like the most vapid possible thesis. The Secret Of Our Success by anthropologist Joseph Henrich manages to be an amazing book anyway."
book  review  culture  evolution  rationality  rationalism 
june 2019 by tsuomela

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