- 1. We express our personality by what we say and by what we do.
- 1.1 What we say we say with words...
- 1.2 What we do, we do in many ways, and these ways "show" a personality.
- 1.21 "Style" is a word sometimes used to describe this. Style is the invention of a pattern of variations where variations are allowed t be invented.
- 1.211 (It cannot be seen ahead of time what variations are allowed to be invented.)
- 1.212 Personality is shown when variations coalesce into a pattern we can "grasp."
- 1.2121 (Consistency is not required of such a pattern. What would it mean to be inconsistent? To open and close a door simultaneously.)
- 1.213 Those who invent a pattern of variations which is not allowed to be invented always show the same personality -- the outlaw -- as long as those variations are not allowed. (Later retrospection can reclassify outlaws as showing distinct personalities.)
- 1.2131 "Outlaws are capable of anything." (Of course, this is never true.)...
- 1.231 And our actions always show more than we say. (Unless they don't coalesce into a pattern. Unless we are outlaws.")---From: "Numbered Paragraphs: An Essay on Aesthetics, in The Lust for Blueprints: A Collection of Poems by Jody Azzouni, (Providence: 1999) p. 71.
Azzouni's "Numbered Paragraphs" has attracted almost no (published) philosophical attention. This is a shame because it raises interesting puzzles and also expresses, we may say, philosophical style.
To start with a surface puzzle of classification: the "essay" (which I have partially quoted above) can be naturally read as a kind of appendix or commentary on the poems that precede it in the collection and, less naturally, as itself a poem (or both; or neither). In either case, it can also be read as an imitation of, and simultaneous homage of/commentary on, Wittgenstein, and so be seen to rival Kripke's (1982).
What kind of dizzying control over language must one have to pull off these projects simultaneously?
--But, but, numbered paragraphs cannot be a poem!
If I understand Azzouni correctly, [A] "Numbered paragraphs" is a poem if and only if it is included in something like "A Collection of Poems" and it gives aesthetic pleasure.*
For [A] to be taken as true, requires the intervention of the critic, which helps grasp the poem and so increases -- or makes possible -- our aesthetic pleasure at Numbered Paragraphs. A poet can be her own critic, and simultaneously need more critics.
*Azzouni's Lust precedes the impact of the internet -- technology is represented by video --, so it would require some updating. For example (both on this note and on the nature of an outlaw), we learn about the poet (p. 95) that "Jody prepared a series of miniature cards which, inserted into books in stores, provided a sort of alternative to the sparsely attended readings and to restrictive conventional media -- thus creasing a new guerrilla-publishing method." A decade later Azzouni could have been encouraged to start a YouTube channel.** It's left unsaid in "about the poet" that he is identical to Jody Azzouni the philosopher, or that Jody is a he, or that behind Jody there is a legal identity. (To say that 'identity is trivial,' is to lack poetic sensibility?+)
Numbered paragraphs violate(s) expectations about what a poem can be. In so doing Jody (the poet, that is) reveals the personality of a poetic outlaw. Logic and Aesthetics have this in common: "merely stipulative constraints" can be "transformed into the normative language of law and proscription." (See: 3.233211) There is a more subtle point here: stipulated constraints are often grasped only after they have been violated by the outlaw.
That is, even stipulated constraints can start out (ahh) tacit?
--I must be losing the plot.
So, the function of the outlaw in poetry is to show us our expectations, and make the violations of these pleasing aesthetically. But this turns the outlaw-poet into a kind of literary critic. The difference is the critic is parasitic whereas the outlaw-poet is part of the tradition, retrospectively (leaving aside the exceptions [3.2211]).
Perhaps, "numbered paragraphs" is not a philosophical tract, but an imitation of it (see 3.233543).+
This raises the more challenging question: what would it mean to imitate philosophy? Can a literary critic ask that question?
Here's an answer: in imitative philosophy, let's stipulate, the form and matter is identical to (ahh) a real philosophy, but it (the imitative philosophy) is not original (because a copy).
That strikes me as off.
Here's another purported answer: in imitative philosophy, let's stipulate, the form and matter is identical to (ahh) a real philosophy, but it shows...no personality.
'No personality' follows the language of the poem; but I thought you would say 'bad faith.'++
So, we need a clunky distinction between imitative philosophy and philosophy that imitates. A poet could invent the proper vocabulary. (1.23311)
--I warned you (cf. 5.4), this is not some kind of postmodern joke.
Why not try this answer: in imitative philosophy, let's stipulate, the form and matter is identical to (ahh) a real philosophy, but it (the imitative) becomes a philosophical cul-the-sac; it gives no birth to a series, or tradition.