Friday, April 24, 2009

NaPoMo Quiz: Why does this famous philosopher look so unhappy?


Most contemporary American poetry "is essentially adolescent. Its concerns never really get past that personal subjectivity. Aristotle would say it's not even human. A lot of people would say if you don't get past that level of your personal concerns, you're not even a human being."


Jordan said...

Maybe it's a commonplace idea, but I've been saying that exact thing for years -- pretty sure some Danish videographers recorded an instance of said speech on the roof of the Hotel Edison in 2001. They left the footage out of the final product, but still. Apparently I need to read Powell stat.

Henry Gould said...

Aristotle actually distinguishes between "virtue" and "continence". The continent person seeks to avoid morally-suspect extremes of either self-indulgence or self-abnegation. Nevertheless, continence alone never achieves virtue : which is exercised in relationship with others, in politics and social community.

So if according to Aristotle, man is the "political animal", then this chimes with Powell's (nevertheless extreme - or should I say audacious?) statement.

Henry Gould said...

The downside of Powell's/Aristotle's view : the idealization of the collective, so that (whatever your definition of "human" might be) the person becomes vulnerable to (political) manipulation - the "person" becomes a means rather an end. See Kant, Hegel... see especially Gillian Rose (I found her via Geoffrey Hill) on the "broken middle" of human civil institutions...

brian (baj) salchert said...

Regarding a definition of human:
From a letter to an editor I wrote in May of 1970: Creatures of polarities caught up in change, we are constant mysteries . . . Balance is our only Utopia.
That was then. These days I am not so certain, especially about the Balance idea.