‘Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art. It would be μóρφωσις, not ποίησις. The rules of the IMAGINATION are themselves the very powers of growth and production. The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths.’ [Coleridge, Biographia ch. 18]

‘ποίησις’ (poiēsis) means ‘a making, a creation, a production’ and is used of poetry in Aristotle and Plato. ‘μóρφωσις’ (morphōsis) in essence means the same thing: ‘a shaping, a bringing into shape.’ But Coleridge has in mind the New Testament use of the word as ‘semblance’ or ‘outward appearance’, which the KJV translates as ‘form’: ‘An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [μóρφωσις] of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ [Romans 2:20]; ‘Having a form [μóρφωσις] of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ [2 Timothy 3:5]. I trust that's clear.

There is much more on Coleridge at my other, Coleridgean blog.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014


Quoting Terry Cochrane, "The Matter of Language", in Paul A. Bové (ed) Edward Said and the Work of the Critic: Speaking Truth to Power (Duke Univ. Press 2000):
...Paul de Man remarks on Nietzsche's definition of truth: "Tropes are neither true nor false but are both at once. To call them an army is however to imply that their effect and their effectiveness is not a matter of judgment but of power. What characterizes a good army, as distinct for instance from a good cause, is that its success has little to do with immanent justice and a great deal with the proper economic use of its power." Although de Man primarily seeks to read the figures of Nietzsche's text and to show how the anthropomorphism of its language plays out its assertions, his comments are revealing of the dual power that inhabits language. De Man refers to this power as "epistemological" and "strategic," tied simultaneously to the production of knowledge and to persuading, to convincing, to provoking actions. In other words, as a product of ongoing institutionalization, language enforces, cajoles, and convinces, but its power is also more insidious because it lurks in its concepts, in the very matter of thought. Conceptually, this power is an antecedent to judgment, which acts in the name of that power even as the judge can do little more than assert his or her impartiality.
I found this here, where Bob Mcmanus quotes it, glossing it: 'It is a little interesting about what precipitates these hegemonic battles, conducted entirely on the terrain of ideology with dueling pseudo-facts, with propaganda of the dining-room and comment thread, in order as I said, to force an affiliation with a side, tribe, an army.' His take on the 'power is an antecedent to judgment' bit: 'It is the passion that precedes the argument that coerces. Always. "I need you on our side."'

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