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HUMANITIES 365 Paul Colilli. The Idea ofa Living Spirit: Poetic Logic as a Contemporary T!teon; University of Toronto Press. xvi, 310. $45.00 In The Idea ofa Living Spirit, Paul Colilli addresses the great divide that has come broadly to characterize twentieth-century Western philosophy, a divide on each side of which the 'analytic' and 'continental' traditions have taken up opposed positions vis-a-vis the epistemological claims and methods of the Enlightenment project. Looking through the familiar antiEnlightenment lens from the 'continental' vantage point (Nietzsche, Heidegger), Colilli takes contemporary Western thought to be in a state of crisis and proposes a cure: 'poetic logic.' The crisis, of course, is one in which the scientific world-view and the rationalism that dominates its ontology and epistemology have 'tor[n] the mind from body; philosophy from poetry; and in general, art from science.' Following this line, the Enlightenment's contemporary legacy is a reduced, dehumanized phenomenological reality: 'we have thus entered the third age in Vico's chronology of human and cultural development, an age where reason is completely severed from the temporal and spiritual realities ofthe human body.' Colilli therefore offers Ipoetic logic' as an alternative mode of thought and cognition that can 'salvage from obscurity and oblivion all those elements ofhuman experience that have been marginalized by the ratio-logical mindset that has dominated the Western tradition.' 'Poetic logic' is distinguished from classical rationalism's mathematically 'clear and distinct thinking' in being a mode of signification and cognition that is variously metaphorical, tropological, figurative, mythopoeic. Its processes of troping and metaphoric coupling draw from our so-called primal and primary modes of experience and memory- via the humansensorium , imagination, spirit, and unconscious. Rational thought in comparison results from subsequent and increasing abstraction and mediation. From banishment under Enlightenment rationalism, 'poetic logic' rescues contradiction, difference, silence, the everyday and its banality, along with ancient mysteries, the sacred, and the spiritual. The first of the book's three parts is devoted mainly to legitimizing the epistemic status of these alternative modes of cognition and their objects of knowledge. Colilli makes his case not only for the unique epistemic purview of 'poetic logic' but for the originary closeness of the 'poetological' with the rational. In a strategy he sustains through the course of the book, Colilli argues that the division of tropological from rational knowing was a disruption of 'the artery linking logos to mythos' - what Colilli refers to as 'Descartes' sacrificial act.' Part 1 closes by advocating a reunion of the poetic and rational modes ofknowing via philosopher Giorgio Agamben's trope of the stanza and poet-philosopher Paolo Valesio's rhetoric of the auscultation of silence. The remaming two sections of the book follow this logic of 366 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 recuperation and restoration as they flesh out the mechanics, as it were, of 'poetic logic.' In addition to establishing the contemporary urgency of attempts toreestablish tropological thought, another overarching aim of the book is to trace 'poetic logic' (and the particular union of the rational and poetic within it) to roots in the Italian philosophical tradition. The book also functions, then, as a crossover or bridging resource for Italianists and comparatists (European-Italian). Its masterful philosophical historiography weaves together (1) contemporary theorists (Hayden White, Derrida, Deleuze) and their modern predecessors (Nietzsche, Heidegger, Jung); and (2) Italian philosophers (Valesio, Agamben, Giordano Bruno, Franco Rella). It locates- sometimes via historical reasoning, sometimes via imaginative linking - their common investment in 'poetic logic' within an Italian Renaissance tradition of hermetic ('alchemico-herrnetic') philosophy. The primary value of this book would seem to lie in this specific comparative and historiographic function. Critiquing the Enlightenment project (universalism, humanism, positivism, foundationalism, logocentrism, etc) is, of course, still a valid concern. And Colilli's attempt to show how rational and non-rational modes of cognition should not be set in opposition is certainly relevant. But the solution Colilli proposes for the divide between the rational and the poetic - for the aging contest between the 'analytic' and 'continental' formations over increasingly vital questions of knowledge, rationality, agency, objectivity- must stand alongside those more substantial and sophisticated alternatives (critiques of positivism) now offered by feminist epistemology, critical...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 365-366
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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