Thursday, February 13, 2014

Prose Sent on a Poetic Errand?

John Niemeyer Findlay
In, but not of, our quotidian world . . .

My online philosopher friend Bill Vallicella, who always posts something interesting, recently offered an intriguing passage from a book by the philosopher John Niemeyer Findlay:
And it [a sound phenomenology or existentialism] will surely find room for a phenomenological characterization of the brotherly, the sisterly and the cousinly, and will perhaps find room for a special chapter on aunts, that interesting transitional category between maternity and random femininity, devoting perhaps a special study to the romantic aunt, who, dark, interesting, and beautiful, brings into the nursery the rumour of strange voyages and amazing encounters, as well as sympathies almost unbearably touching. (Findlay, The Transcendence of the Cave, Allen and Unwin, 1967, p. 218)
Although composed by Findlay, the very fact that Bill found it worthy of drawing attention to demonstrates the truth of an observation I once made with reference to Bill as "a philosopher with the soul of a poet," though he and I would both agree that one doesn't send a poem on a prose errand -- although John Milton's Paradise Lost offers something of a rebuttal to that!

Bill doesn't explicitly say why he likes Findlay's philosophical views, nor does he explicitly clarify why he likes this passage, but he does say that if he were "banished to the moon tomorrow, and forced to choose . . . [between Findlay and some philosophical opponent of Findlay as his] sole philosophical reading matter, the choice would be an easy one," which is a rather romantic way of putting things, even more so than to imagine being sent off to some by-now-surely-overpopulated desert isle!

But why do I like this passage? Well, partly because it sounds like prose sent on a poetic errand, partly because it makes me curious as to what that errand is, and partly because it spurs me to considering whether or not I know any women who might fit Findlay's phenomenological interest: single, singular women of dark beauty who have traveled abroad on those strange voyages with amazing encounters and whose married siblings have small children.

My wife might have been one of those if I hadn't first captured her . . .

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