Delight Springs

Monday, November 2, 2015

Endure and prevail

That's what the boys from KC did last night.

It's Hegel and Schopenhauer Day in CoPhi, and for baseball fans it's a day to celebrate the qualities of resiliency, endurance, confidence, and (Schopenhauer notwithstanding) will.

Those are the traits that carried the Kansas City Royals to yet another come-from-behind win lat night and dashed the comeback dreams of Mets fans. (Plus, they practically never strike out.) Congrats to my KC friends and colleagues. The rest of us can admire their achievement and begin counting the days to Spring Training.

Last time KC wore the crown, in 1985, I was unhappy about it: they beat my Cardinals in seven games, after a blown call at first base in the sixth that turned the tide and skewed the outcome. This time, it was a pleasure to root for the Royals. Too bad the Mets' pitcher, their Dark Knight, had to lose after eight nearly flawless innings. But that's baseball. Every dark night is the start of someone's bright celebration.

I saw one of my old KC friends over the weekend, as I frequently do this time of year, at the Tennessee Philosophical Association's annual meeting at Vanderbilt. Friday's keynote by Susan Wolf of UNC-Chapel Hill, on the aesthetic (not same as moral) responsibility of artists, was thought-provoking. That's all I ever hope for, at these conference events, and usually it's more than is delivered.

I agree with Wolf that it's perfectly normal but often a mistake to conflate a writer's (poet's, musician's, painter's) work with his or her own qualities of character. When it's a mistake, though, it's one that enhances the pleasure of appreciation. And so, we don't want to know that the author of a treasured novel was actually a scoundrel, if we've constructed an illusion of the author's virtue.

But I was puzzled by Wolf's reply during Q-&-A, when someone wondered why an artist should wish to claim aesthetic responsibility for the personal impact of her work, and I'm challenged to understand why Wolf so sharply distinguishes aesthetic from moral responsibility. I kept thinking about William Faulkner's Nobel acceptance back in 1950:
The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
It's all about history and endurance. Ask Hegel. Ask Hosmer (@TheRealHos35).

I thought also of John Gardner.
In a world where nearly everything that passes for art is tinny and commercial and often, in addition, hollow and academic, I argue--by reason and by banging the table--for an old-fashioned view of what art is and does and what the fundamental business of critics ought therefore to be. Not that I want joy taken out of the arts; but even frothy entertainment is not harmed by a touch of moral responsibility, at least an evasion of too fashionable simplifications. On Moral Fiction
At one of the Saturday sessions, a presenter argued that Charles Sanders Peirce was not as anti-Cartesian as most of us who care think he was. Interesting, but I say there's still an unbridgeable gulf between contrived Cartesian doubt and "real and living" Peircean inquiry. I suppose I should write that up. Should be plenty of time, now that the Hot Stove League's season is suddenly here: 109 days, 16 hours, 19 minutes...

5:45/6:12, 61/73

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