‘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.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Kantian light

‘Light, whether it emanates from the sensible or from the intelligible sun, is since Plato said to be a condition for all beings … whatever may be the physico-mathematical explanation of the light which fills our universe, phenomenologically it is a condition for phenomena, that is, for meaning. Kant’s space is essentially a lit up space: it is in all its dimensions accessible, explorable … The world, whose existence is characterised by light, is not, then, the sum of existing objects.' [Emmanuel Levinas, Existence and Existents (1978: translated 2001), 47-48]

I note this as context for the last line of my most recent novel, which is now in paperback, and available from all good bookshops. Also from amazon.


  1. A quick end of year thank you for your blog(s). I miss both Punkadiddle and Sibilant Fricative but invariably find something I didn't know, or hadn't seen in a particular light, on this blog. As someone who is also university-based, I remain amazed at how much ground you manage to cover.