Delight Springs

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Free to move

I've been wondering how to justify adding a daytrip to the Wordsworths' Dove Cottage in the Lake District, during our Study Abroad course in Britain. What's the hook, philosophically?

It's freedom and liberty, especially mental freedom and the liberty to roam. It's the impact Wordsworth and the romantic poets had on young J.S. Mill, as reported in his Autobiography and recounted by Arthur Herman. They awakened him to the "actual experience of life," to the importance of motility to his sanity and creativity and philosophical acuity.

The point of actually living, rambling, and poetizing, for the romantics, was "to add sunshine to daylight by making the happy happier." Mill had been missing that, and so had been missing the experience of liberty and life.With it, he went on to inspire William James to invoke him in "On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings" ("a limitless significance in natural things") and then dedicate Pragmatism to his memory ("from whom I first learned the pragmatic openness of mind and whom my fancy likes to picture as our leader were he alive today").

Pretty good hook, and a good bridge between American and English philosophy. An English root, for sure.

Do I mix my metaphors? Very well. Walkers are always churning out metaphors, because everything flows into everything else when you're self-propulsive and free.Wordsworth was the prince of walking poets. He inspired Mill and James to get out of their studies and away from their books. He inspired them to write their books.

Me too.

Must be lots of other great Brit Lit walks of comparable philosophical significance, besides the Wordsworths' Lake District, we've not yet thought to include. July's the time to think of them.

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