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chrisjp22

What is the relationship between poetic knowledge and the other 3 types of knowledge?

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This is a question that I was hoping to ask Dr. Taylor during class because it seems to me (and I am by no means claim to be an expert) that the definitions that were given in class for metaphysical knowledge and scientific knowledge are more reflective of a Cartesian/Baconian (aka - modern) view of knowledge than a more traditional view of metaphysics and science. Descartes' goal was to have clear and distinct ideas that were indubitable; the type of knowledge that's provided in math. This is why Jacques Maritain accused him of angelism. He didn't accept/appreciate the proper role of the body in knowing reality. To know reality is the goal of metaphysics as I understand it, so the metaphysician can never do metaphysics in a disembodied way that does not depend on direct human experience. The way this relates to the question that I posted is that I am wondering if Dr .Taylor would agree that what is needed in order to properly do metaphysics or science is to have been formed in one's early life and throughout one's life by poetic knowledge. In order to speculate (do metaphysics) about what being is, it would be best if you have first been enchanted by particular beings. One reason why I think this question is important is if metaphysics is just about first principles and clear and distinct ideas then I'd agree that reading about is boring, but I am by no means bored when I read metaphysicians like Norris Clark, Etienne Gilson, or David Schindler. Their writings have helped me to see truth so that I can thereby love truth more fully. It's definitely an experience of both the head and the heart. I apologize for the long post; I'll do my best to be more brief in the future. I am also wondering if Dr. Taylor would prefer us to refer to him as Br. James now that he's a novice?

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5 hours ago, chrisjp22 said:

that what is needed in order to properly do metaphysics or science is to have been formed in one's early life and throughout one's life by poetic knowledge. In order to speculate (do metaphysics) about what being is, it would be best if you have first been enchanted by particular beings.

Hey Chris, this is how I understand one ought to approach metaphysics. The older and God willing, wiser I get, the more I am pondering the truth as I encounter it. This has made my readings of works like Gilson come alive more and more as I reread them. I also am interested to hear Dr. Taylor's thoughts. 

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Dear Chris,

Thank you for making this point of distinction regarding metaphysics and science, especially regarding science or mathematics since the Cartesian revolution which I assumed would be in our collective experience.  What I should have done instead was to refer everyone to page 8 in my book where I directly quote Dr.John Senior's overview of the modes based on, as he says, "the ancients".  In this paragraph of Dr. Senior's, he uses the term "science", as scientia, or as he says, "epistemai" (to know, to understand), whereas I substituted "metaphysics" and gave science a bit of a different treatment which I can see now has more of a modern flavor in my clumsy definition.  In fact, let's use, as a class, Dr. Senior's quote on four modes of knowledge as our first touch stone, and in the meantime, I will rethink how to untangle some knots in my first two categories of knowledge.  Fortunately, I am not a philosopher, but I do think the main idea I wanted to convey more or less worked, that is, 1) we know in more than one way; 2) some knowledge is more reliable than others; and, 3) the poetic mode (to include stories and songs) as a literary art form is the way of seeing (knowing) that recreates experience of real experience.  It is not an idea or a concept, e.g., like love, sorrow, joy, wonder.  Metaphysics and logic, as conceived in the West (Platonic and Aristotelian tradition), is discursive and dialectic and appeals mainly to the rational aspects of the mind.  Poetry, on the other hand, recreates the circumstances of personal (not private) experience of things --  not their definitions.  The experience of poetry is "delight and wonder", as Aristotle writes somewhere in the Poetics, rewriting Plato somewhat.  Poetry is sensory and intuitive and the best of it is filled with surprises. It is neither proof or argument or demonstration.  It is inferior to scientific knowledge if you are working on a cure for cancer.  Imagine Socrates as your pharmacist!  He would have us thinking about -- what is illness?  -- while he should be filling the prescription -- bless his heart.  But poetry is superior to the other modes of knowledge in that our minds and hearts are engaged in some universal experience of longing, irony, death and new life, war and peace, the Muses of Creation (Nature) acting upon us.  But here I am talking about poetry, a strange irony.  Rather, let us experience a little gem by the late Canadian poet, Leonard Cohen.  I'd read it at least a couple of times.

For Anne

With Annie gone, 
whose eyes to compare
with the morning sun? 

Not that Idid compare, 
But I do compare
Now that she's gone. 

See you all in class next week!  Thank you for your patience with me.

Br. James/Dr. Taylor, as you prefer

 

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Chris, thanks for bringing this up. I had a related question: Is it possible for metaphysical knowledge to BECOME poetic knowledge, to become something felt and sensed?

To further explain the question, in last week's lecture Br. James listed 4 modes/types of knowledge with respect to their mental clarity and sense-feeling. Here's a chart of what I wrote down. (and the answer to the question MAY have something to do with what you (Chris) said about Br. James' use of "scientific" in the Cartesian sense rather than the classical.)

Mental clarity     Form of Knowledge     Level of sense/feeling

1st (highest)       metaphysical                4th (lowest)

2nd                       scientific                        3rd

3rd                        rhetorical                       2nd

4th (lowest)        poetic                             1st (highest)

When I saw that metaphysics was labeled the lowest in the sense/feeling category, I was dismayed. As Chris said above, I also have read philosophy and theology and found both my head and my heart completely engaged. C. S. Lewis, in his essay, "On the Reading of Old Books," writes about his experience of reading books of devotion and books of doctrine. He says, "For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that 'nothing happens' when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand." THAT is my experience (sans pipe). My heart sings.

Remember the movie Chariots of Fire? Remember when Eric says, "When I run, I feel His pleasure?" The way I used to describe to others my feelings when studying was by stealing (and tweaking) that line: "When I study, I FEEL His pleasure."

If metaphysics has the lowest sense/feeling, how does this happen to me? How can this experience be explained?

Also, not that we all don't have plenty to read already, but there are several of Lewis' essays that I came across while looking for the "heart sings" quote that deal with the issue of poetic knowledge and metaphysics (in some sense). In case you want to look them up, the most pertinent are "Is Theology Poetry?" and "The Language of Religion." I thought it was interesting, in light of the reading and discussion for this class, to come across his thoughts and opinions on very similar subjects. Happy reading, and thanks for any insight on this subject!

Edited by Anne Rowland

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I am a beginner in all of these subjects and am enjoying reading these posts and learning from everyone. I recently finished reading The Life of the Mind, by James Schall. There's a chapter in the book called "The Metaphysics of Walking." At the end of the chapter he says, "seeing, handling, sailing, thinking, touching, dining, traveling, and yes, walking-- such are the paths that lead us to metaphysics, to what is," (p.107). I'm trying to understand his perspective in relationship to what we are learning in this class. He does not use the term poetic knowledge in his book but it seems like he either sees poetic knowledge and metaphysics as one in the same, or he believes that sensory/experiential knowledge (poetic knowledge) is the first way of knowing and that it leads to other ways of knowing.  I don't understand which it is. Has anyone else read Schall's book and do you have thoughts on this? Here's another quote from the same chapter: "Nothing assures us that a place is real more than walking it, its roads or sidewalks or even its grass... Once we recognize that something is in fact 'real,' that it is, we can begin that second adventure of our existence, which is not only to know that something besides ourselves exists, but to inquire about what it means. Without knowing, existence is not complete" (p. 94). Am I right in saying that knowing a place by walking it is a type of poetic knowledge? What type of knowledge would "inquiring about what it means" fall under? And is poetic knowledge superior to other forms of knowledge or are they all equal and good because God has made them all possible? Is this discussion important not because there's a hierarchy to the ways of knowing but because in modern times poetic knowledge has largely been dismissed or ignored? (Or is poetic knowledge superior-- it seems like it could be because it is a lot like contemplation, the end of which is union with God. Both invite us to slow down and be aware of and wonder at what is, and in doing so we place ourselves in posture to receive revelation and union with God. Though like Anne Rowland said, union with God can also come through studying doctrine, or in any other place.) I hope these thoughts and questions make sense. :-) 

Edited by Anne Everitt

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Hi, Anne E. (first) -- Thank you for great questions.  Let's see if we can work most of them into the class time.  However: The "walking", as mentioned by Fr. James Schall, is first of all foundational to science (as well as poetic experience) -- you've got that right.  I add, that it is not necessary or perhaps desired to continue on to disciplined scientific study of philosophy, logic and metaphysics.  My position holds, in line with an ancient non-Western European tradition, that experience via the senses and sense knowledge of a thing is valid, and sufficient in itself.  Whereas, over stimulation of the rational intellect is often a recipe for materialism.  Just because one walks in the manner described by Schall doesn't mean one also philosophizes in the traditional Western way ( Aristotle), or even need to. It takes years and years of study and disputation to be a philosopher in the traditional sense and most people simply don't have the inclination or the time.  There are distinctions (not a war) in kinds of knowledge, that's all, and Poetic Pedagogy attempts to identify the poetic mode most suited to the formation of youth.  Upper college courses and graduate schools for some time tend to train the expert, the specialist, rather than the generalist and amateur  where the methods of math and (modern) are applied to one degree or another to all subjects of the curriculum thus disintegrating what once was desired to be one, whole, integrated experience.  Why is this the case?  One reason frequently cited is that the needs of the modern school and university are largely driven by the legacy of the industrial revolutions and the techno-society, as well as by a laissez-faire capitalism, which sees poetry, beauty, religious experience, and especially philosophy in the way of Plato, as no more than frills for the few and otherwise a waste of time. 

Anne R. -- C.S. Lewis, as you mention here, is writing about reading theology and devotional material and his pleasure in doing so.  If he has been moved by the Holy Spirit as well during this time, all the better. But that kind of knowledge is one of heavenly knowledge about which I tread with (good) fear and trembling.  Eternal Memory be with Mr. Lewis.

To look for something closer to poetic experience that parallels or even becomes the occasion for wonder and mystery, we would turn to the Narnia series and, of course, his astonishing conversion story in, Surprised By Joy.

As I mentioned to Anne E., let's see if we can get some of your other questions into the online conversation.

God bless!

Dr Taylor

 

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Unfortunately, I will not be in class tonight or two weeks from now but look forward to watching the recordings and hearing some of these things discussed further. Really enjoying the book and class.

Anne

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Thanks, Anne, for the update.  Schole has already canceled classes for next week, 4th of July, though I don't know if you were aware of it.  In any case, I look forward to seeing you back in class!

Br. James

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On 6/15/2018 at 4:25 PM, Br. James said:

 But poetry is superior to the other modes of knowledge in that our minds and hearts are engaged in some universal experience of longing, irony, death and new life, war and peace, the Muses of Creation (Nature) acting upon us.

Hi Dr. Taylor,

I'm still stuck. (And I can stop beating a dead horse if this topic becomes old. Let me know when we get there.) I don't understand why the things you describe in the quote above can't act upon us through theology. When Lewis read theology his heart was engaged in "some universal experience of longing, irony, ... acting upon him." But you refuse to allow me to call it wonder (even when I'm describing my own experience) and substitute the word pleasure instead. You did something similar in part of the discussion on math. I don't understand this, and it leads to several related questions. 

1. With all due respect, how can *you* say that *my* experience is not wonder? (Reframed, can one person define another person's awe-filled experience as something less (or more) than the experiencer himself defines it?)

2. Again, not meaning any disrespect, in the book (and I think in class) it was mentioned that we can only know what we love (from Augustine). Do you (yourself) say that it's impossible to experience poetic knowledge of math or science (possibly) because you don't love them and so can't know them? Would a mathematician answer differently? Would Euclid answer differently? When you say that poetic knowledge of math and science can't be had, are you thinking only of "modern" mathematicians and scientists? Did Fabre's study of science include poetic knowledge? (This wasn't made explicit in class.)

3. Is the way you've been thinking of (or describing on the forum) science & math maybe a little shallow? (Or are you possibly, intentionally, addressing science in only the modern sense, and I didn't pick up on it?) I can agree with you that a poetic, wonder-filled experience & poetic knowledge might lead one to investigate something, and that would lead to scientific knowledge. (First poetic knowledge, then science.) But that isn't the end of the story. It's like a spiral. One has a wonder-experience (poetic knowledge) then one investigates (science). In one's investigation, one stumbles across something new (at least to that one person) and wonders again (poetic knowledge), and follows that with more investigation (science), and on and on. For Fabre it might be something like (cycle 1): 1a he sees a really cool looking wasp (Imagine his thoughts..."Dearest friend, thou art beautious. Whence comest thou?"), 1b he follows it to its nest. (Cycle 2): 2a he sees the nest ("Dearest friend, thy home is astounding, its cells so symmetrical, its walls so thin!"), 2b he takes measurements. (Cycle 3) 3a He sees the baby wasps being taken care of (like bees, I assume.) ("Dearest little ones, what energy is spent on thy care!"), 3b he tracks the workers and follows the little ones through their development from egg to grown wasp. Can you see how the original wonder leads to science, which in its natural course leads to another stage of wonder, etc? 

4. A related aspect of science-wonder would be those who come after the original discoverer/investigator and read or re-do his work. Say a budding scientist reads Fabre and decides to go out in a field and find a wasp's nest and is struck with awe at some aspect of it. Is the original discoverer (Fabre in this instance) the only one who is allowed to call the experience "wonder"? Just because the second scientist was reading the papers of the first and was inspired by them to explore, does that mean his own sense of discovery and wonder is not valid? Just because my daughter comes and tells me to look out the window at the sunset doesn't necessarily mean I feel any less wonder at seeing it, does it? Do you see what I'm saying?

5. Math. In your book I'm picking up the tie between the senses and poetic knowledge. Math is a step further removed from the senses than science. (But I *think* it's still a "real" thing. Not really sure.) Is it the distance from the senses (either external or internal?) that keeps an aspect of wonder from being "poetic" experience or knowledge? Is it because we don't typically think of math as being sensory that you don't think of its wonder as able to inspire poetic knowledge?

I really do believe in the importance of poetic knowledge, and in remembering humans are embodied spirit, and the power of habit (repeated bodily actions), and the role of the senses and the body in learning (and in worship). One of the main reasons I'm looking to become Catholic is the protestant neglect of these things (at least in my experience and knowledge). I REALLY believe in these things. And I am finding your book to be extremely interesting, engaging, and helpful in understanding all this. Please don't interpret my questions as nay-saying. That's not my intent. Thanks.

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Hi, Anne,  I am impressed by your enthusiasm and your spiritual journey that seem all wound up in your questions which do deserve my time.  I would like to answer them interlinerally when I have a larger block of time, and before we return for classes next week.  So, stay tuned, and I'll see what I can do.  And, no, I do not see these questions as nay-saying -- they are simply questions from one who wants to know -- I hope I can help.

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Hi Dr. Taylor,

I was at a homeschool retreat last week. I attended a science talk and the presenter kept using the words awe and wonder. I assumed he knew your book and so went up afterwards to discuss stuff. Turns out he didn't know about your book. But it's on his list now! Also, he was able to clarify a couple things for me.

1. You and I are talking past each other when we talk about science. I thought I'd seen a definition in your book, and now looking back I'm missing it, and all I can find is examples, but the first example is Gradgrind fr Hard Times. It's all about facts and formulas. And that's ok for your definition. And that description fits what IS happening in modern education. And the reason is the Enlightenment & Des Cartes and the belief that "knowledge is power" and we can conquer nature. And that has led to looking at the parts rather than the whole and the deconstructivism movement in literature & everywhere else. I agree with all of that.

Acknowledging all that, and that the modern world is the way it is, that just isn't the definition (or experience) of science that a scientist would use (or have). Parts of the scientist's definition of of science fits very well in your emphasis on pre-rational sensory experience. For instance, the scientific method states that in order to be studied scientifically something (an event, process, thing) has to be observable.  And contrary to popular belief, ah honest scientist will point out that science can't prove anything. Science is about repeated observations and the probability that the things observed will continue to occur. Scientific knowledge is ALWAYS changing because scientists continually discover things that prove the old models invalid. The discovery of superconductors is a good example. That doesn't fit with your use of the phrase "scientific knowledge" as meaning something clear and certain and opposed to a sensory experience of wonder. But it's the way the "other side" uses the words and thinks of itself. I used to be an engineer (BC... before children), and my dad was one, and I'm married to one. So that's the language I know, with many of the words meaning almost the opposite of the way they're used in the conversation about poetic knowledge. I'll try to do better about remembering what definition we're working with and frame my thoughts and learning around that.

2. The book, and this class, are about pedagogy. You pointed that out to me once, and it went right over my head. My questions are almost never focused on pedagogy--how to teach. They ARE about how I LEARN, which is a related topic, but not the same. I'm sorry for that. I'll try to remember what the conversation is really about and phrase other questions appropriately. Everything you say about needing to include the poetic in teaching I believe is correct, and I will try to stay on track.

Thanks again for your patience.

 

 

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