‘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, 24 August 2021

This Forthcoming The This


There's an Amazon page up now so I guess it's gone public: the cover of my next novel, due out February 2022 (or possibly a little later than that). The ‘terrible secret’ mentioned in the cover blurb might be that this is, in a manner of speaking, a science-fiction novelisation of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit (although of a much looser kind than was the case with my Kantnovel, The Thing Itself, which stuck quite closely, really, to the Critique of Pure Reason). ‘The This’ is a piece of Hegelian terminology. He was fascinated by the way ‘this’ is simultaneously the most general word imaginable, since literally anything can be a ‘this’, yet always intensely specific and individuated (this mug of tea, this person, this blogpost). Anyway, the novel is really about what this other blogpost calls ‘a Twitter analogue that may or may not be a nascent hive-mind poised to amalgamate all of humanity into a Borg-like synthesis.’ So I wouldn't worry too much about the Hegel side of things, if you'd rather not. It's all geisty good fun.

I wanted to use this line by Elvis Costello as my epigraph: when are you going to rise up? Wise up, Ghost. But though I tried several times I couldn't get copyright permission from Costello's people (couldn't, indeed, get so much as a reply) so I had to cut it. ‘What's that?’ I hear you ask. ‘Do you need to get and likely pay for rights clearance when all you're doing is quoting a single line from a pop song in a published book? Surely that counts as fair use!’ Oh my sweet summer child, no. Not in the least. Try dropping some Beatles lyrics into your next novel without clearing the rights, and wait for the lawyers' emails to come dropping into your inbox. Our copyright laws are messed up, really. But there you go.


  1. You might've had better luck quoting The The.

  2. "He was fascinated by the way ‘this’ is simultaneously the most general word imaginable, since literally anything can be a ‘this’, yet always intensely specific and individuated (this mug of tea, this person, this blogpost)"

    Jesus Christ, did THIS guy need to get laid.

  3. I suspect that "this" is descended from one of the first vocal communications among our ancestors, grunt and point.

    1. By amazing coincidence, "The Grunt-and-Point" was my working title for this book!

    2. Ha ha! I would totally read that. You have to admit, the search engines would like it better.

  4. I loved how you tackled the Ding an sich in Thing Itself. That's a weird kind of knight's move to Hegel's "this"... an intensification but also a change. Really looking forward to it! To this. To this same thing again in a different suit. To having met you before when you were someone else. ;)