Friday, March 15, 2019

Pop Quiz Today

Bored of Education?

Who wrote the lines below, what's the title, what's the genre, and what's wrong with the logic?
I heard upon his dry dung-heap
That man cry out who cannot sleep:
"If God is God He is not good,
If God is good He is not God;
Take the even, take the odd,
I would not sleep here if I could
Except for the little green leaves in the wood
And the wind on the water."
No, I'm not trying to foist my work off on you. I do know the answers.



At 5:53 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Who wrote the lines?
That fellow you've been obsessing over!

What's the title?
I assume you're looking for the title of the whole work and not the title of this poem: J.B.: A Play in Verse.

What's the genre?
Theological poem (said he facetiously).
If, by "genre," you mean "type of poem," then Wikipedia says this is free verse... which it doesn't seem to be. I'm thinking it's some funky, gnarled type of sonnet, but that can't be right: this particular poem seems to be mostly in iambic tetrameter, not pentameter. The rhyme scheme is aabccbbd, which could be divided into aab/ccb/bd... so what is that? The closest I can get right now, on short notice, is stichic verse, but that's violated by the final line. And determining the type of verse might not answer the question of what genre the poem represents.

What's wrong with the logic?
Ask Alvin Plantinga (said he semi-facetiously). But if the poem is evoking Hume's formulation of the problem of evil, then yes: do refer to Plantinga and his Freewill [sic] Defense. Hume's formulation (found here):

"Is he [God] willing to prevent evil but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?"

Does the above match the poem's content? Hmmm. Personally, I'd say the problem is definitional (said he much less facetiously). "If God is God, He is not good" can only be the result of a particular definition of God—what many traditional Christians would call a mis-definition since goodness is traditionally seen as inherent in God's nature. I also think the poetical formulation evokes divine-command theory more than it evokes the classical theodicic formula.

Sigh... that's the best I can do after a few minutes' research. With a few hours, I might do better.

At 7:32 AM, Blogger John Mac said...

What Kevin said!

But seriously, I had never read this poem and had no clue but found myself nodding in agreement Kev's thoughts (at least the ones my feeble brain could comprehend).

At 8:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

A plus for Kevin. F minus to JJMC for plagiarism.

Jeffery Hodges

@ @ @

At 11:53 PM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

I think the poem is insipid, and can't (or maybe don't want to) say much more than that. But Kevin's response is helpful.

Philip K. Dick tackles this "problem" in VALIS, and tangles with it madly in his Exegesis. But at the end of VALIS and in The Transformation of Timothy Archer (Archer is a fusion of Dick and his friend Bishop James Pike), Dick clearly and forcefully argues against Gnostic formulations of, and solutions to, "the problem of evil."

I don't know much about MacLeish, but what I've read about him in this blog confirms the wisdom of my indifference.


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