Tuesday 27 December 2016

Book of the Year 2016 - What Coleridge Thought, by Owen Barfield (1971)

Probably the main intellectual event of 2016 was my engagement with Owen Barfield's book on the philosophy of Coleridge. This is one of those books which requires (from me, at least) a very intense engagement - because it is working at a metaphysical level; challenging fundamental assumptions regarding the 'structure; of reality.

At any rate, it took me many days of reading and note-taking - and I wasn't able to keep up the necessary level of intensity the whole way through; so I shall need to return and re-read again before too long.

I have written a number of blog posts concerning what I got from the book:


But the main thing was the idea of polarity as a way of understanding-by-imagining the basis of reality; and the necessity of imagination as the indispensable way of understanding. In turn, this enables me to explain to myself how it is that Life changes, unfolds and (in that sense) evolves according to a divine destiny that includes the free-will or agency of Men.

This isn't something I can encapsulate here and briefly; but as always with metaphysics, there is a great liberation and excitement from knowing what are one's own (previous) assumptions and that they are not entailed but assumed. 

It was also valuable to understand that the failure of all British (and Western, generally) spiritual awakenings over the past two centuries since Coleridge is explicable in terms of the failure to fix our constraining metaphysical assumptions; this failure foredooms all attempts to escape our culture's trajectory towards ever-more complete alienation, despair and self-chosen damnation.


Anonymous said...

Vladimir Putin's Christmas address.


Russia is aligning against modernity/progressivism/SJWism. Hopefully Trump will align with him and changing the culture can begin.

Bruce Charlton said...

@chris - Obviously I don't understand the Russian - but I agree with everything said in the subtitled translation; and indeed this is a magnificent and profound short-analysis both of the key problems for The West and the necessary solutions. A remarkable speech to come from anyone - let alone from a major national leader.

But when I compare Putin's speech here with Trump's expressed views, in particular Putin's clarity with respect to the primacy of Christianity and the deepening evil of the expansile sexual revolution; I am most aware of the vast gulf between Trump and Putin (despite that there is a friendly relationship between them, at some level, which I welcome).

Of course, with politicians, one must look at what they do and not what they say - but when a politician is able and willing to be both simple and explicit in their analysis, then I think this is probably a sign that they intend to act upon the implications (as best they can, within inevitable constraints).

Bruce Charlton said...

@Simon - That wasn't a typo.