Saturday, June 26, 2004


Petitio Principii

“Leading Idea 4: Good Reasons
Ordinarily we keep our beliefs in our minds without worrying as to whether or not they are supported by good reasons. Nor is there anything wrong with this.
The need for reasons arises when something happens to cause us to doubt our beliefs. This occurs, often, when we make our beliefs public. To affirm or to state or to assert our views is to make claims for them. Whenever we make a claim for one of our opinions, we should be prepared to back up that claim with a reason or reasons.”

This from “Getting Our Thoughts Together, Manual to Accompany ELFIE.” Dara & I are beginning our homeschooling of Jonah, not to replace but to supplement kindergarten. We are using the Great Books Academy Homeschooling curriculum; and ELFIE is the philosophy text. It basically makes the principal questionings of Philosophy accessible via the story and voice of Elfie, a curious and shy little girl. I see now that this is the precursor to what I, in 5th grade (the one year our district had a g & t program), read for class called Harry Stottlemeyer (Aristotle, get it?). I loved it then, and still do, and remember it and still use lessons I learned then now. This speaks both to its efficacy as an educational tool and to the paucity of the education I received following.
One of the thoughts “Elfie” will introduce soon to our kindergarten-philosopher is “everything has a name. You have a name. Does that mean your name has a name?” Now this book will introduce the most basic of the basics of Western philosophy and it is incredible to me how these veriest basics speak to any part of life you look at with them in mind. And so, I am back where I started, with my opening quote from the teacher’s manual, which describes how I feel so far about this blog. It’s very difficult to state anything with certainty about almost anything (except our current political situation, of course!), and that goes ten for poetry. And it’s easy to try to compensate for the fact that stated definitions exclude, by function, by generalizing. But, as your statements get more general, two things happen: 1, they become farther away from their original intent and potential power; and 2, they become more vapid and cloud-orous, meaning little. So there, and I’m going to do my best to support a certain kind of statement without worrying overly about their air-tightedness; that is, accept them for what they are, opinions, and variable even within myself. So I beg your, my reader(s)'s, indulgence, as I try out my web-legs, for I'm bound to say not only things which make little sense, but things which are wrong and even contradictory.

p.s. Somehow, this is four posts now and very little touching on actual poetry! In the next couple days I'll try and rest a few of my ideas concerning Jack Spicer in their beds. Words, I mean, in their words.

Update, Chapter 1: This Elfie is a pretty depressed little girl. I think the people at the Great Books Academy have gotten the whole legacy-of-western-civ thing down better than they knew, even. I mean, she asks great questions and all, but is a poster child (so to speak) for why the separation of mind and body is NOT a healthy thing, holistically speaking. More on this at some point down the road. & Maybe in later chapters, as she becomes friends with Sophie, she'll cheer up and come into her own.

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