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"Sea Note" "Sea Note"
by Jan Sand
2008-06-21 08:48:39
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The sea in its seasons
Need not supply reasons
For flipping and slopping,
For wetness and swish,

For frothing and chopping,
And swirling its fish,
For rising and falling
And endlessly calling
In tones most appealing
Or groans quite appalling
Which scatter its gulls
And shatter ship hulls
Dispensing despair
Through wild windy air.
For, whatever might be,
The sea is the sea
Which gives not a damn
About beauty or fear,
About life, about death,
About wonder or fizz.
The sea merely is.

  
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Emanuel Paparella2008-06-21 08:57:52
And when men begin to wonder at the sublimity of mere existence philosophy begins in wonder and one abandons the stoic hopeless barbarism of the intellect.


Gaspar Penerphenopel2008-06-21 10:08:27
One must, of course, possess at least a modicum of intellect to be properly equipped to disdain it.


Emanuel Paparella2008-06-21 11:40:41
Quite right, Mr. Penerphenopei, quite right: to attack reason with reason is illogical. However, there is another side to that coin: to deny that imagination and intuition are part of reason is to become a rationalist unconcerned with ethical considerations, as for example the eleven men with Ph.Ds after their name who sat around a table to plan, rationalize, and then execute the Holocaust. That is aptly called “the barbarism of the intellect.”


Gaspar Penerphenopel2008-06-21 12:02:23
I appreciate your affirmation. Then we agree that possessing a Ph.D. is no indication of intellectual prowess.


Emanuel Paparella2008-06-21 15:54:31
Not exactly, Mr. Penerphenopel. What we do agree on is that a Ph.D. after one’s name does not guaranteed that one will live an ethical life, what the ancient Greeks called “the good life.” The ethical life is not equivalent to the intellectual life, hence the Ph.D. nowadays indicates just that, some sort of intellectual prowess, period. That was not always so. Ph.D. literally means doctor of philosophy. Socrates would have of course found it astonishing that somebody who claims to be a doctor of philosophy would be unconcerned with ethics and morality and the concerns of "the good life" often mistaken today with the comfortable life. Unfortunately, since the ushering in of modern rationalism by Descartes, that is what is prevalent and "enlightened." Indeed, the Enlightenment remains to enlighten itself.


Gaspar Penerphenopel2008-06-21 17:11:27
I agree whole heartedly that ethics and a Ph.D. degree are not intimately connected. Therefore I am curious as to why you felt it necessary to mention that the scoundrels who directed the Holocaust were all holders of Ph.D.s thereby implying a connection between the degree and a lack of morality.


Emanuel Paparella2008-06-21 19:05:44
To answer your query: simply to hint at the “barbarism of the intellect” which is worse than physical barbarism and boorishness and which consists in rationalism deprived of imagination, intuition, the mythical and reduced to pure logic. To also hint at the fact that such is the sad situation in which we find ourselves since Descartes. Socrates would have been scandalized since he believed that “knowledge is virtue” and to know the good is to do the good. As a Christian I am still scandalized but not as much since I agree with St. Paul that quite often, human nature being what it is, we know the good but we do evil nonetheless. Which means that to put all of one’s trust in reason alone is to run the risk of being sadly disappointed. That I why I insist (and I must have written a dozen or so articles on the subject in this very magazine, especially the one where Vico is treated) that the Enlightenment remains to enlighten itself and that while being a positive phenomenon overall, some of its assumptions remain to be examined and challenged.


Gaspar Penerphenopel2008-06-21 21:50:45
What you say no doubt has some value but it is obsessive to tie immorality to the acquisition of knowledge and understanding of the methods of the universe and mankind in particular. All of human activity and its institutions, political, religious, educational, financial et al. throughout history have been pervaded with both moral and immoral behavior and to select out reason as a prime cause of immorality seems a strange prejudice indeed.


Emanuel Paparella2008-06-21 23:30:48
To the contrary, I hold with Aquinas and Vico (who was an anti-Cartesian and an anti-rationalist) that reason is to be honored as one of the highest endowments of human-kind, but reason understood holistically, in its entirety; that is to say, s reason which includes imagination, feelings, intuition, poetic language, all phenomenon from which it originally sprang. Homer precedes Plato. To forget that is to fall into the trap of rationalism.

P.S. As already mentioned I have contributed a dozen full lenght articles on the subject of rationalism to Ovi Magazine. The very first one was on Emmanuel Levinas followed soon after by one on G. Vico. Should you be interested in deepening the understanding of reason beyond the standard Cartesian one may I suggest that you take a look at them? They may fail to convince you but they may indicate to you where I am coming from and what is meant by a holistic comprehensive conception of reason.


Emanuel Paparella2008-06-21 23:36:17
Errata: the word phenomenon above ought to be phenomena.


Gaspar Penerphenopel2008-06-22 09:28:39
I appreciate your indication of the roots of your argument and agree that emotion and aesthetics and empathy are important elements in any consideration of human endeavor and am gratified that your statements bring us back to the source of this discussion which is the poem. Nevertheless what is ultimately important about those eleven Ph.D.s who formulated the villainous actions that resulted in the Holocaust and its abysmal cruelty is their profound illogical stupidity. It seems that whatever expertise they had acquired from their extended education was ineffectual in directing their particular emotional mindset and their awareness of the ultimate consequences of following what was obviously a brutal emotional motivation derived from whatever twisted prejudices they had acquired from their cultural training.

Nature itself, as the poem declares, has no emotional motivations nor is it particularly favorable to any particular life form, human or otherwise. Natural phenomena such as lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes, disease, and the vagaries of the sea are totally even handed in rewarding or punishing without prejudice both the well behaved and the worst of creatures. Aesthetics and emotion plays no part whatsoever in the design of a cloud or a flower or a dewdrop, each of which delights the human observer. They merely are.


Emanuel Paparella2008-06-22 09:48:16
"Poetry is ordinary language raised to the nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words." - Paul Engle

Should you not have the time to refer to what I have already written on Vico and Levinas in this magazine the thought above which introduces the poem would suffice to intimate to us that the issue is not what is part of the human endeavor but what is part of human reason. Socrates said philosophy begins in wonder. Indeed, it begins with the wonder of existence and then asking why is there is something rather than nothing. To have lost that wonder is to have become a rationalist and to make possible events such as the Holocaust, I am afraid.


Gaspar Penerphenopel2008-06-22 11:02:49
I find the simple little word "why" very fascinating. Most people who are really interested in discovering useful answers employ the other simple little word "how" and thus uncover a rich lode of method and underlying structure that becomes endlessly enriching whereas those who concern themselves with "why" wander the Earth scratching their heads in eternally unresolved uncertainties.


Emanuel Paparella2008-06-22 14:20:24
Obviously you have no time to survey my articles nor to reflect on Engle's insight, nevertheless the point made Mr.Penerphenopel, those who have lost the sense of wonder can only ask how and make things and search for the comfortable life ignoring what the Greeks calles "the good life" accepting things as they are and unable to inquire how they should be. The mode and drift this conversation has taken, plus the slogan "profound illogical stupidity" (which rings a familiar bell) and the defense of things as they are rather than as they should me makes me begin to wonder if Jan Sand has a double somewhere and if the name here adopted is an alias. After all the loss of the self is integral part of those who can only ask how and cannot inquire what the purpose of their existence is in the world.


Gaspar Penerphenopel2008-06-22 14:36:49
I am terribly sorry if you feel I am pressing you too hard for reasonable answers and believe there is only one person who might do so. You are correct in claiming that the question “why” carries within itself an implication of external motivation applied to natural forces and since you do not seem able to accept that these forces may be unmotivated it does not seem fruitful to pursue the matter further. I appreciate your considerations of the matter.


Emanuel Paparella2008-06-22 15:32:30
Quite right. It is futile and intellectually sterile to try to convince those who refuse to contemplate the other side of a coin, which, as Aristotle informs us, makes for the educated holistic person; and of course it matters not to the lucidity of the argument whether one person or a six billion people stubbornly hold on to a fallacy, or vice versa, whether one person has it on target or six billions. The Greeks did actually believe in the Truth, the Good, the Beautiful which remain to be discovered after one has begun in wonder. Alas, that is no longer possible. Kierkegaard called it "the sickness unto death." Only a conspiracy of hope can get us out of the predicament Descartes' rationalism has landed us.


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