[lit-ideas] Re: The Genealogy of Disjunction

  • From: "" <dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> (Redacted sender "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" for DMARC)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 1 Jun 2015 07:27:42 -0400

i. We must love one another or die.

□(p ∨ q)
□p ∨ □q

ii. We must love one another and die.

□(p ∧ q)
□p ∧ □q

In a message dated 5/31/2015 8:32:20 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx writes:
"The "must" of loving one another and the "must" of die are distinct but
... inextricably linked: ... we "must" die because we have no choice
otherwise but we "must" as in "ought to" love, where we have a choice
... Auden plays on "must" having both a sense of factual necessity and
normative-imperative. By putting them together, [Auden] is trying to make to
point that the normative-imperative of "love" is a kind of factual
necessity. In [the "and"] version, this point is made more subtly [than in the
"or" version]. [T]he aim [...]: to load the "must" of loving with the force of
the "must" of dying, and the loading comes from the implicit idea
[explicit and less subtle [in the "or"-version] that if we fail to love we
precipitate our demise. In the "and" version, Auden aims to suggest this
thought, via the ambivalence of "must", while explicitly accepting the
inevitability of death. [...T]his alignment is not only more subtle but is
meant to
avoid possible shallowness in the earlier version where it might seem to be
suggested that through love we can escape death rather than merely delay
the inevitable. Conversely, the acknowledged inevitability of death is meant
to reinforce the sense of factual necessity whereby we "must" love."

I agree. But as I say, I enjoy the idea of 'choice' that 'or' brings (a
variant of Kemp's 'free-choice permission', as it were). And it may do to
compare, maudlin or not, each disjunct with other variants.

The first disjunct may bear comparison with Jesus Christ, "Love your
neighbour as you love yourself", without perhaps the comparative, "as you love
yourself". Obviously, by using "we", Auden is including himself or his self,
if you prefer. That seems pretty inconditional.

The "or" that follows with the new disjunct, "die", may require an anaysis,
not in terms of "free-choice" but causative. In the context of an upcoming
war that would end all wars, I'm not sure linguists were already talking
of a componential analysis of 'kill'. And wasn't Auden an conscientious

Even if he wasn't, Edna St Vincent Millay's narrator in "Conscientious
objector", the poem, is, and her poem compares to "The Drum" by John Scott,
another anti-war poem, and "O What is That Sound" by Auden, which was written
only a few years after "Conscientious Objector," and deals with people who
feel threatened.

The causative I'm thinking is 'kill', as analysed in M. Shibatani, M., ed.
"The grammar of causation and interpersonal manipulation" (Amsterdam and
Philadelphia: John Benjamins), but the logical form of how the componential
feature "DIE" appears in the depth grammar (to use Witters's term) of "kill"
may be more complex than it seems! Note that the causative analysis allows
for an inverse passive-voice treatment, where 'die' may involve 'get
killed', or something.

When I objected to McEvoy's above thinking of two "senses" of "must", I was
having what philosophers or some philosophers call the aequi-vocality
thesis, i.e. that it is possible to build a bridge in the gap between, say,
Kant's theoretical 'must' (pure reason) and Kant's practical 'must' (practical
reason), as seriously attempted by Roger Wertheimer in "The significance
of sense: meaning, modality, and morality" (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University

And so on.



I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
“I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.


In a message dated 5/30/2015 3:06:37 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
_jejunejesuit.geary2@gmail.com_ (mailto:jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx) writes:
"I thank JL for posting this. I've long known of the change that Auden
later made and it has never made any sense to me. I don't think Auden ever
seriously thought of changing it to read: "and/or". That's atrocious. Even
Auden's choice of "and" seems to me to diminish the soul of the poem. The
"and die" version reads that there are two things all human beings must do:
one is "love one another" and the second is "die." Both are inescapable
for all human beings. But we that is NOT true. Obviously, we do not have to
"love another" -- in fact, we humans seldom do. But yes, we all must die.
The earth is going to go poof eventually, but that is not germane to the
poem. The poem says, Take care of one another, asshole people, OR war will
kill us all long before the big poof. Not loving one another will bring
death to us all. You have a choice. THAT'S THE POEM."

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