Monday, August 8, 2011

Why using poetry to convey a theological or philosophical content?

There seem to be three ways a thinker could use (also) poetry:

  1. 1. just as a formal device (e.g., for mnemotechnical purposes): Dharmakīrti, Kumārila, Bhartṛhari…
  2. 2. as a way to convey in a dramatic way a philosophical content: Jayanta's Āgamaḍambara, Utpaladeva's stotras… In this case, the full-fledged form of one's reasoning will still be found in one's philosophical works.
  3. 3. insofar as poetry and narrative allow one to integrate time within one discourse, to go beyond the logic of the principle of non contradiction, etc., : Vedānta Deśika, many Yogācāra and Mahāyāna Sūtras. In this case, one's narrative texts will be closer to one's ultimate purpose.

Do readers see further cases?

On Philosophy and Poetry and o Vedānta Deśika, see (among many other posts), here (please note also Vidya's comment). On Jayanta, see here. On Utpaladeva, see here. On a Mahāyāna Sūtra and its philosophical significance, see here.


ombhurbhuva said...

Poetry is a medium that is suited to the transmission of wisdom which is the aim of philosophy. Compression and densification of meaning is its primary mode. The full range of reference of the word is used and the metrical form makes it memorable so that dwelling in the the poem is made easy. This dwelling is necessary for the meaning in all its complexity to emerge. Moreover the alien rule of metre forces the mind away from the economy of effort which is cliché and the new way of saying something is the mother of new thinking.

cf. Four Quartets by T.S.Eliot

Anonymous said...

I think it's important to distinguish "poetry" and "verse". Case (1) above is verse but not poetry, particularly if taking the position of Sanskrit literary culture. The other two cases vary in their poetic content.

elisa freschi said...

Thanks, anonymous, you are surely right.
Thanks, Michael, you raise two excellent points (dwelling, alienation). I am quite sure they can explain at least the case of Vedānta Deśika. I hope you don't mind if I'll refer you the next time I discuss this topic.

elisa freschi said...

Michael, I did refer to your view about dwelling and alienation and a colleague (M. Lauri) working on utopian novels (who are also an interesting case of philosophical narratives) in Arabic literature asked me what would be the difference between what you call "alienation" and "estrangement". Any clues?

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