Poetry And Philosophy
I find the diversity in myself, because I used to — as a young person, I actually did a fair amount of writing in poetry, and I was hoping to keep that up, at the same time I kept up the philosophy, until I discovered that they interfered with one another, I couldn’t do it. Now there are some people who have done it, who’ve managed to cross the line, so to say. But I’ve been strongly impressed by the interference phenomenon.
Poetry and philosophy are both uses of language, but they don’t work well together, except opportunistically you might say, here and there, they can be brought together.1 But ordinarily, they – if one was going to do, let’s say, poetry in a way that is informed about the history of poetry, in the way in which one might be informed about the history of philosophy, I find it’s unlikely that it can be done effectively.
So, I have reluctantly separated myself from the poetry, although I find myself putting notes down, as if I could return to it, but I doubt that I really can. And I don’t mind, because I think philosophy has actually opened up for me, in an unbelievable way, the fact that I read Spinoza when I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 or 16 or maybe a little bit younger.
And I wondered where I got the idea from, and I realized that well, I had been a babysitter for people in the neighborhood, which included some rather well educated people. And I remember reading — Spinoza was the first philosophy that I ever tried, that I — I saw that — first of all, I saw that I had a real attraction to philosophy as a boy, which was already improbable, because most of the kids I knew couldn’t possibly have been bothered with that kind of speculation.
But the second thing is that it discouraged me — reading Spinoza discouraged me for a very nice reason, and that is I couldn’t understand how anyone could begin a book by discussing God’s nature. Spinoza’s Ethics starts off with the conception of God, and I thought, “How is it possible?” I could never — I had no ideas about God, and I couldn’t understand how it was humanly possible that anyone could begin to think systematically from that premise.2