Monday, April 23, 2012

Poetic intuition, metaphor, and Heidegger

As a scientist I have struggled with the supposed need to restrain my poetic instincts with the use of words.  So I was gratified to learn, in reading McGilchrist's The Master and his Emissary, that the 20th century philosopher Martin Heidegger--toward whose work I've found myself gravitating of late--was similarly disposed:
"Heiddeger reached naturally towards metaphor, in which more than one thing is kept implicitly (hiddenly) before the mind, since he valued, unusually for a philosopher, the ambiguity of poetic language.  He lamented the awful Eindeutigkeit--literally the 'one-meaningness' or explicitness--to which in a computer age we tend: both Wittgenstein and Heidegger, according to Richard Rorty, 'ended by trying to work out honourable terms on which philosophy might surrender to poetry'.  Wittgenstein's work became increasingly apophthegmatic: he repeatedly struggled with the idea that philosophy was not possible outside of poetry.  And Heidegger ultimately found himself, in his last works, resorting to poetry to convey the complexity and depth of his meaning.  He saw language as integral to whatever it brings forward, just as the body is to Dasein, not as a mere container for thought: 'Words and language are not wrappings in which things are packed for the commerce of those who write and speak.'"
That gets directly to the heart of what I'm finding to be seriously problematic about science, or at least science as it is normally perceived and practiced: the attempt to pin down, in order to extract meaning and value, that which cannot possibly be pinned down without loss of meaning and value.

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