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Philosophy of Literary Form NOTES.pdf

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University of Toronto St. George
Greig Henderson

Philosophy of Literary Form Reading Notes Semantic and Poetic Meaning - the essay is a “rhetorical defense of rhetoric” - arguing that a neutral vocabulary attempts to make a totality out of a fragment, to the point that “that which suits a part infects the whole” - arguing that there is no basic opposition between the ideals of semantic and poetic naming - these two are different rather than antithetical - however there is a “dialectical process” where a difference becomes an antithesis - e.g. two people arguing may only disagree in one aspect, but as the argument goes on they will tend to disagree in all aspects - e.g. “bourgeois” and “proletarian” are seen as antitheses, ignoring any overlap - mistaking the part for the whole is a kind of “synecdochic fallacy”; and semantics and poetry are not complete opposites - totality is often the sum total of smaller parts - semantic meaning is this kind of sum-part meaning; and the semantic ideal is the aim “to evolve a vocabulary that gives the name and address of every event in the universe” - the ideal semantic definition would be one such that anyone who heard it knew what you were talking about, and each specific part of the whole was included in the definition - however in the real world, things often have many different meanings depending on context - often, meanings may impinge upon the semantic meaning - the poetic meaning refers to all the subtle meanings and variations of meanings that something may have - so the poetic meaning and semantic meaning are different, but not necessarily opposite - poetic meaning may be inherent with attitudes - semantic meaning can be found using an “either-or” approach, and is either right or wrong. Poetic meaning, on the other hand, can often mean something that may not appear right, but could be considered to be right in the right context - poetic meanings cannot be disposed of on a true-or-false basis - varying poetic meanings may semantically be at odds, but still do not have to be ruled out - this is called “progressive encompassment” - there is no formal test for determining poetic meaning - the choice of metaphor must then be defended by the way it is “filled out” - the metaphor is tested in its application - no perspective can be ruled out, but some can be seen as “more appropriate” than others - there is much that semantic ideals could not describe - e.g. morals, there is no “pragmatic routine” by which they cab be learned - the difference between semantic and poetic ideals of moralistic interpretation would be that the semantic ideal attempts to get a description by the elimination of attitude, while the poetic ideal attempts to attain a full moral act by attaining a perspective atop all the conflicts of attitude - so the semantic ideal attempts to get rid of all emotional factors that complicate the clarity of meaning - the poetic ideal uses these emotional factors together to create a meanin
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