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Whitehead Wordsworth and the azaan


All quotations (with page numbers) from Science and the Modern World by AN Whitehead, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-23778-9 Paperback

David Deutsche looks into the concept of fungibility in one of his books (The Beginning of Infinity). Fundamentally there is no difference between any of the electrons (or any other fundamental particle) riding my nose and an electron trading at the harbors of Beta Centauri. Out of such fungible objects riding into the ever dusk we come— the shapes of things, and in the same breath, moral and rational organisms. And we have come a long way. Mathematical thinking has permeated us, we are no longer afraid of abstractions, especially not in an age which has something as pragmatic as quantum communication in the works. It works. The universe really works and it works when we move ourselves, it bends to our minds and our thought is like sunlight sent into the cosmos. Reading Whitehead however still remains a revelation.

Pantheism is one of those things Wordsworth has been charged with again and again. I have not read enough of Wordsworth or on Wordsworth to really comment, but say in a poem like Tintern Abbey (my only key to Wordsworth scholarship) I could see glimmers of something else. Prynne’s comments on this particular poem (Tintern abbey, once again: Glossator, Volume 1, Fall 2009) illumined nothing for me because they seemed more invested in close reading some lines at the expense of the process at work. Prynne’s fascination with the obvious repetition of words in the poem (like the pronoun All and the repeated lines of the landscape itself. The hedge-rows. Yes I remember the hedge-rows, hardly hedge rows, little lines on Line 15) bleed out and present a synchronic picture of Wordsworth’s process here. Possibly a better muse (than Prynne) for this poem would be Kandinsky.

Wordsworth reduces the landscape to its essence which is not a stable (in the sense of unmoving) essence but an essence that is subtracted just like the hedge rows are reduced to green lines at the speed of his gaze and at the same time present aspects of what he sees and feels part of. So with Whitehead— “Your perception takes place where you are, and is entirely dependent on how your body is functioning. But this functioning of the body in one place, exhibits for your cognizance an aspect of the distant environment, fading away into the general knowledge that there are things beyond […] The brooding, immediate presences of things are an obsession to Wordsworth”

In Tintern Abbey, a sequence of sense impressions repeats itself. Sound rouses to Vision rouses to Contemplation. I could really associate with the structure. Back home in Kolkata, i used to wake up to the sound of the first tram and the azaan. Stars dropping out of the configuration one by one. That sense of aloneness. Close reading experience, Wordsworth hears the rolling waters, then sees the sky, the expanding lines of green, and the hypothetical hermit's cave which leads him to a sort of identification/ empathy with his surroundings that mirror him like Stanislaw Lem's drone swarm. The face that he sees is his own but reflected, abstracted, at the same time adding to the poem's consciousness. The hermit's cave leads to a flashback-- in lonely rooms in cities where the thought of this very landscape used to revive him then waking up to the landscape again a few lines later. It's like we are teleporting into and out of a landscape. Only it's not into the landscape but like but like but like but like waking up in a landscape then waking up in the experience of it then waking up in a landscape then etc.

Whitehead dips into Bergson’s concept of duration, extends the concept along a line of flight much like a hedge-row, anchoring it in another paradigm— space and time. The present stops being a series of heart-stopping moments. It is more than that. A contraction of what went before and what is to be, an evolution and constant exchange— “… the event, in its own intrinsic reality, mirrors in itself, as derived from its own parts, aspects of the same patterned value as it realizes in its complete self.”

(contd)

Last edited by arkava, Jun/4/2014, 5:32 pm
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Christine98 Profile
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Re: Whitehead Wordsworth and the azaan


Hi arka, thanks for this.

So Out of such fungible objects riding into the ever dusk we come--the shapes of things, and in the same breath, moral and rational organisms.

For some reason, by the end of your post I was reminded of that old saw, no thoughts but in things. But here the thing is fungible, inseparable from its essence, we are no longer afraid of abstractions.

Seems like we are no longer compelled to make that distinction.

best,

Chris
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arkava Profile
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Thanks for the perceptive read, Chris. I am trying to get to grips with these philosophic projectiles, negotiating and rationalizing their impact on poor me. . Whitehead seems to have some new things going on. His notions of prehension and the becoming of continuity (instead of deleuze's continuity of becoming as a paper puts it whew) have distinct congruences with some of the buddhist folk I have been after. There's a lot of other stuff going on as well. Especially love his thoughts on science. Let's see where this takes me.

Last edited by arkava, Jun/9/2014, 10:17 am
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Oh my!

"becoming of continuity" v. "continuity of becoming," this makes me dizzy.

Please keep me posted and I'll try to follow along although I doubt I'll have anything helpful to add,

best,

Chris
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arkava Profile
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Yeah. Sounded cryptic but it's just that this guy (Whitehead) thinks becoming (as opposed to being) leads to a sense of continuity. Continuity happens. Just like change happens because there is a difference between two states.

Now Deleuze would argue (according to the paper I was reading) for a continuity of becoming, that becoming is continuous. I am not very sure that's the case with Deleuze. Not the Deleuze I know but that's the way with these things. So much confusion. Love it.

Here's Whitehead from Process and Reality. Let's give it up for the guy.

"Metaphysical categories are not dogmatic statements of the obvious; they are tentative formulations of the ultimate generalities"

Then again,

"In monistic philosophies, Spinoza's or absolute idealism ... the ultimate is illegitimately allowed a final 'eminent reality, beyond that ascribed to any of its accidents"

And so it seems to be the case with philosophers on other philosophers, or even scientists on metaphysics (what they started out against and now feel obliged to speculate on on tv) Deleuze had it right when he sez philosophy is the creation of new concepts. Poems almost.

Last edited by arkava, Jun/10/2014, 3:27 am
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