The world against me rages, its fury I disdain;
Though bitter war it wages, its work is all in vain.
My heart from care is free, no trouble troubles me.
Misfortune now is play, and night is bright as day.

--Awake, My Heart, with Gladness (Auf, Auf, Mein Herz, mit Freuden), Paul Gerhardt

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Barfield, Owen ; Poetic diction: a study in meaning, preface to the second edition (c) [1951]

Barfield, Owen ; Poetic diction: a study in meaning (1973, 1952 [2nd ed.], 1927)

Preface, 2nd ed. (c)

See last post in this series.  This, I think, gets rough.   
Since the Positivists "substituted syntax for the forms of perception, and scrapped the things as otiose [me: useless]", introducing words or phrases which appear to stand for the "thing itself", it should have been clear that syntax (rules for making sentences) would end up ruling not only by substituting for forms of perception (i.e. appearances, or phenomenal "things") but also when it comes to the things-in-themselves, or the "noumenal" [me: so there is no confusion, in Kant's philosophy, this is "an object as it is in itself independent of the mind"].  Since the mind seems to be such a real-world thing, Gilbert Ryle was able to conclude that it is an illusion that the mind is "an autonomous agent, distinguishable from the body" ("the ghost in the machine"), based as this is on "a confusion arising from men's misunderstanding of the 'rules' of the very language they themselves have made" (20). 

Ryle goes on to criticize words like "experience" and "consciousness" as "smacking of this illusion" and denies altogether... "the hallowed antithesis between the public, physical world and the private mental world", concerned as he is to "deny that there is such a thing as private experience at all". According to Ryle, the reason you can't say you feel the pain in my foot is not because you are excluded from the "peep-show open only to me," but because it "would make no sense to say that you were in my pain".  Barfield has some fun here, saying that for Ryle, "the theory is, that what is self-evident may for that very reason be profitably ignored" - here the palpable is dismissed by writing off the language in which it is affirmed as tautologous!  The mind as agent is said to not exist on grounds considered to be semantic. (21)

At this point, Barfield comments (in 1927) that he does not think the particular doctrines of linguistic analysis are likely to be a live issue, although he thinks what drives them will continue.  This is because:

Between those for whom 'knowledge' means ignorant but effective power, and those for whom the individual imagination is the medium of all knowledge from perception upward, a truce will not readily be struck.... Before he even begins to write, the Logical Positivist has taken the step from ‘I prefer not to interest myself  in propositions which cannot be empirically verified’ to ‘all propositions which cannot be empirically verified are meaningless’. The next step to ‘I shall legislate to prevent anyone else wasting his time on meaningless propositions’ is unlikely to appear either illogical or negative to his successor in title. Those who mistake efficiency for meaning inevitably end by loving compulsion, even if it takes them, like Bernard Shaw, the best part of a lifetime to get there. (22)

Barfield says that he respects Shaw, but points out his "mania" as regards his "reform" of spelling.  "I think that those...who are driven by an impulse to reduce the specifically human to a mechanical or animal regularity, will continue to be increasingly irritated by the nature of the mother tongue and make it their point of attack" (23)

My summary: Barfield says it best: "Between those for whom 'knowledge' means ignorant but effective power , and those for whom the individual imagination is the medium of all knowledge from perception upward, a truce will not readily be struck....".  In short, I think we can say that what drives this is the underlying belief that all language is simply a contextually-determined useful fiction.  This, however, as Barfield points out, does not logically satisfy... 
My critique/comments:  More comments will be in next post.  

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