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Index: Psychology, Philosophy & Education

Against Mysticism.

Oliver Elton: ‘We must cherish the hope that one day the bitter experience and illusory vision which are at the root of official mysticism may tend to die out, at any rate in the West. The process may be as long as the step from primitive idolatry, and meantime the regular mystics and their dispensaries must hold a regarded place. But science now forces us to think in long periods of time. ‘

Picturing language.

Jaime Robles: ‘There is a certain point when changing from verbal art to visual art that the artist’s concerns shift. Both poetry and visual art have physical and material presences; poetry in the orthography of letters, the breaks of lines and placement of words on the field of the page. This, however, is not its primary material manifestation, which is instead aural. Rhythm, metre and the pyrotechnics of sound are poetry’s primary physical reality. It is within this aural world – whether spoken out loud or heard in the reader’s interior voice – that poetry’s meaning is given and apprehended. These are the material concerns of poetry and, like those of visual arts, they focus and concentrate in the body. To accept the idea of our world being limited to or by our words is to deny the body’s sensual experience of the world. Language is a slow phenomenon relative to the body’s perception, experience and understanding of the world.’

Essayism and Modernity.

Alan Wall: ‘As for essayism, this word is used largely negatively in the nineteenth century, where it originates. It seems to signify something to do with the cant of current opinion, particularly the urbane prattle of the periodical press. It is to be deprecated. Musil’s retrieval of this abusive word is intended as a redemptive manoeuvre, though essayism was not always regarded with favour by his contemporaries.’

2D or not to be.

Alexander Zubatov: ‘In a stifling orthodoxy, a bit of rebellious cursing and vulgar behavior are healthful antidotes, but in a polity where everyone is cursing unceremoniously and unapologetically, refusing to curse and to be vulgar and being willing to condemn those who do are the kinds of acts of rebellion we need if we are to entertain any hope of putting the brakes on our rapid descent into cultural mediocrity.’

The cover-letter as manifesto.

Daniel Bosch: ‘Writers who are truly honest about art and pedagogy admit that most of the time both end in failure. At the Bauhaus this fact was bedrock, not pillow-talk: the curriculum was designed around honest play with materials.

‘I believe a Bauhaus-type approach might help lead to needed reform in the teaching of creative writing. So in a cover letter…

Imaginatio Lego Sum.

Daniel Bosch: ‘With the Legos I played with in the mid- to late-60s—tiny and small, rectangular and square bricks and flat panels in red, blue, yellow, green, white, and black—one constructed a not terribly duck-like “duck” of one’s own. Its modular, additive making, brick by brick—the felt sharpness of its corners and the lifelessness of its individual, abstract plastic elements, the near-conformity of its coloration to a modernist grid, all these characteristics, and more—enabled a more embodied, active, and open engagement with one’s “duck” and with Legos as a medium.’

In America, are students ‘unprepared for college’?

The short answer: no.

Fairness and family values.

Stephen Asma: ‘Just as compassion (not fairness) more truthfully captures our philanthropic urges, so too justice (not fairness) more accurately captures our concern for the disadvantaged. Most of our complex grievances about social justice get reduced down to cries for greater “fairness” because we lack a more nuanced moral vocabulary.’

A quest of the imagination.

J. B. Bury: When historical methods of aesthetic have been perfected, there may be some chance of sifting out the Greek ideas in comparative purity; and it may be possible for the imagination, in some measure, to grasp the Greek world. The processes of analysis are slow, and our race shall have seen many generations of historians pass, and shall have celebrated many a grammarian’s funeral, before the most skilful navigator can touch the shores of “Hellas” and behold the smoke curl upwards from the hall of Euphrosyne, even then only in the distance.

Those hunky, tousle-haired, philosophical Americans.

Antony O’Hear: If only ‘we simply could dismiss Professor Romano as the Humpty-Dumpty of higher education (he is, apparently, something called Critic-at-Large of The Chronicle of Higher Education) and move on to something else – reading some philosophy, perhaps. ‘

Philosophy, flying from the shelves and landing in pizzerias.

‘One of the most pleasurable pieces of analytic philosophy I’ve come across is itself an article entitled “Pleasure,” where, in a mere nine pages, all the reigning understandings of pleasure are gently deflated. Its author, the Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle (1900-76), was among the dominant figures in mid-century analytic philosophy. He was also a supremely graceful prose stylist, the coiner of phrases like “the ghost in the machine,” and, not incidentally, a votary of Jane Austen.’

On Sculpture.

Anthony O’Hear: I suppose, in most sculpture there will be several final causes, several purposes for which the work is done; but as human work, it will have always have some final causality, and in having it, a sculptural object will be distinguished from a purely natural stone, however similar the two might be in appearance. A whole host of other questions, about form and meaning, will then come into play in determining our response to the sculptural object.

Can Creative Writing really be taught in British universities?

Michelene Wandor: Writer-teachers are not being paid to write, but, rather, to teach. Their imaginative output (poetry, drama, prose) is now called ‘research’, within the academy, while still being deemed ‘literature’ outside it. It’s an issue which CW avoids

Joseph de Maistre’s ‘different sort of progress’.

Anthony O’Hear: There is one respect in which Maistre might himself be too much a figure of his own age: he is as much a believer in progress as his Enlightenment opponents. It is just a different sort of progress.

Event: Raymond Tallis – The Francis Bacon Lecture, 29 February 2012.

Since the brain is an evolved organism, Neuromania leads to Darwinitis, the assumption that, since Darwin demonstrated the biological origins of the organism Homo sapiens, we should look to evolutionary theory to understand what we are now; that our biological roots explain our cultural leaves. In fact, we belong to a community of minds that has developed over the hundreds of thousands of years since we parted company from other primates.