Tuesday, 25 July 2000

From "Prosody and Reconciliation"

By Keston Sutherland.

The suggestion is that "truth" has various senses, and that these senses are not accurately distinguishable on conceptual grounds alone (that is, they are not defined merely by their conceptual difference within a system of possible truths), but that their relation is socially fraught and practically overdetermined. The "dominance" of propositional truth over the other senses of truth is particularly problematic when we try to think and write about poems, whose "truth content" is brought to light and exists, as a result, only in the practice of secondary or paraphrastic description. That is, the "truth" of a poem is said to be apprehensible only when its propositional content is made explicit by a paraphrase. For Jarvis, this is at root a problem concerning how knowledge is said to be possessed. The lexical predominance of "content" in poetry-criticism, as elsewhere, reveals for Jarvis a profound metaphysical error: the idea that truth is somehow "in" our heads, just as it is "in" a poem, which means in either case that truth merely awaits extraction by those who can convince us of their competence to extract it. The extracted form of truth is the "proposition." Against this sense of truth Jarvis argues that we must not have knowledge, but be it.

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