Friday, March 25, 2005

Leave the Poetry Alone

Can I just say how much this tactic irritates me?

As everyone who occasionally reads this weblog knows, I put up drafts of poems for various reasons. I can just imagine arguing some philosophical point some day in the future, and some moron coming along with the reply, "Aha, but you write poems about Yggdrasil and Superman and the Virgin Mary, so you're just a muddle-headed lunatic." It would be nice if people pretending to say rational things would also at least pretend to make rational arguments. Leave the poetry alone, people, and focus on the real issues.

UPDATE: OK, having cooled down and taking it less personally as an amateur poet, I'm in a much more equitable mood about the whole thing. Credentials - fair game; arguments - fair game. But you can't tell much from poetry about the credibility of someone's claims or worldview. One can, of course, rough out something (in the way, for instance, one can rough out something about Berkeley's poem "On Tar", which summarizes in poetic form the argument of his book Siris); but all this really tells you about is the poem. In other words: poems - not usually fair game, particularly in assessing someone's credibility in another field. I shouldn't have let it get to me quite so much; but it hit a nerve.

(This, incidentally, is why I've often thought Shaftesbury's dictum that ridicule is the test of truth is problematic; because people almost never ridicule positions, but only their accidents and incidental effects, thereby to cast aspersion on the position. But this can be done with just about anything, true or not; so it isn't clear how ridicule really moves us forward in any way.)

UPDATE: Hagaman explains here. I'm not sure what he means by not intending to debunk the doctor's metaphysics, because in an entirely standard usage of the term 'debunk' that's what he explicitly was doing. Even if he weren't, analyzing a poem as if it were an argument simply for the purpose of a joke is an odd thing to do, and normally would be taken as a criticism of the alleged argument (and the person to whom the argument is attributed, to the extent the argument is attributed to him); hence my misinterpretation of it as a mode of criticism. But on a weblog one certainly has the freedom to make strange jokes as one pleases; and my irritation at it was entirely an issue on my end, as I noted above. Sorry about the lapse in trackback, though; I tend to save it to the end of my blogging session and often forget.

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