A Wedding of Philosophy and Poetry

In a fine essay on Wallace Stevens and the coupling of poetry and philosophy, Stanley Cavell cites a line from the preface to Stevens’ The Necessary Angel

 “One function of the poet at any time is to discover by his own thought and feeling what seems to him to be poetry at that time.”  And Cavell goes on as if to say we might substitute “the philosopher” in that sentence for “the poet.”  He writes, 

“What Stevens will not conceive is that the philosopher may have a comparable function of discovery, as if for Stevens philosophy, in its otherness, is a fixed, oracular structure and those who speak for it are in possession of an authority that goes beyond what they are able to articulate out of their own experience and practice and wit on each occasion of being stopped to think.” 

 [Cavell’s comments come from the collection Artists, Intellectuals, and World War II, ed. Benfey and Remmler, 2006.]


4 comments on “A Wedding of Philosophy and Poetry

  1. Robert Ruehl says:

    I’m doing research on Thoreau’s scientific reading and outlook. I came across a wonderful quote when I opened Laura Dassow Walls’ “Seeing New Worlds”; it is a quote from Wilhelm von Humboldt with whom Thoreau was familiar by the 1850s. It speaks of the overlap between science, poetry, philosophy, and history.

    “It may appear singular, but yet it is not the less correct, to attempt to connect poetry, which rejoices every where in variety of form, color, and character, with the simplest and most abstract ideas. Poetry, science, philosophy, and history are not necessarily and essentially divided; they are united wherever man is still in unison with the particular stage of his development, or whenever, from a truly poetic mood of mind, he can in imagination bring himself back to it.” From his “Cosmos.”

  2. dmf says:

    Another Weeping Woman

    Pour the unhappiness out
    From your too bitter heart,
    Which grieving will not sweeten.

    Poison grows in this dark.
    It is in the water of tears
    Its black blooms rise.

    The magnificent cause of being,
    The imagination, the one reality
    In this imagined world

    Leaves you
    With him for whom no phantasy moves,
    And you are pierced by a death.

    -Wallace Stevens

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