[lit-ideas] Re: T. S. Eliot, a Heideggerian Poet?

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 4 Jan 2010 09:24:01 +0000 (GMT)

And one more (profound) thing...

"Never trust the artist, trust the tale."

That Eliot, Pound [and ,yes, Yeats] had 'fascist tendencies' is something to be 
accounted for, not used as any kind of important knock-down of their output; 
or, if a knock-down, then only of those utopian dreams that may partly underpin 
their aesthetics. [Knock-down as, in perhaps P's most famous "quote", "To seek 
heaven on earth only brings hell." But Popper was too much an aesthete hinself, 
even if a somewhat puritannical one, to argue - as it were, in reverse-mirror 
of totalitarians' demand that art serve the politics - that, in a world where 
perfectionist political aims were a disaster and need to be replaced by 
fallibilist ones, art should abandon concern with any claims of 
'perfectionism'. Such a claim would never easily follow to anyone who deeply 
appreciates art].

Popper's OSE was the first book of his I read (by lucky accident, as it had 
Marx in the title, and I was studying Marx, so I took a look) and in its attack 
on totalitarianism he identifies a large part of its appeal is in its 
underlying 'perfectionism' or, we might say with negative connotations, 
utopianism. If this is anything like the simple but profound point I take it to 
be, it is no surprise perhaps that the 
perfection-seeking aesthete is sometimes drawn to some kind of 'perfectionist' 
political dream; indeed that some kind of such dream - whether obviously 
political or not - underlies their art and its practice. [We might say desire 
for democracy and liberty as impulses behind  Beethoven and, say, his 
_Fidelio_, are also a kind of aesthetic dream; and not be surprised by the 
story of Beethoven being pro- then anti- Napoleon; of course, this dream is 
better - but it is only an accident of history that Beethoven's music is also 
of the greatest: the devil might have better tunes]. 

These comments were perhaps encapsulated in Mill's observation that, to 
paraphrase, it is blind to think aesthetics is the criterion of ethics.


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