Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Biographia Literaria: Central Romantic Philosophy

Here are the two succinct expositions of Coleridge central conception of the romanticism philosophy from the Biographia Literaria on which I have lectured expansively over the past two weeks. These discussions are intended to provide the framework for understanding the context for the poetic creations of Coleridge & Wordsworth. If this is a help to you, well & good; if it is instead confusion, simply let it go and devise a heuristic which is efficacious for you.

[Ch. XIII] The Imagination then I consider either as primary, or secondary. The primary Imagination I hold to be the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM. The secondary Imagination I consider as an echo of the former, co-existing with the conscious will, yet still as identical with the primary in the kind of its agency, and differing only in degree, and in the mode of its operation. It dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to recreate: or where this process is rendered impossible, yet still at all events it struggles to idealize and to unify. It is essentially vital, even as all objects (as objects) are essentially fixed and dead. FANCY, on the contrary, has no other counters to play with, but fixities and definites. The fancy is indeed no other than a mode of memory emancipated from the order of time and space; while it isblended with, and modified by that empirical phaenomenon of the will, which we express by the word Choice. But equally with the ordinary memory the Fancy must receive all its materials ready made from the law of association.

[Ch. V] Our various sensations, perceptions, and movements were classed as active or passive, or as media partaking of both. A still finer distinction was soonestablished between the voluntary and the spontaneous.Our inward experiences were thus arranged in three separate classes, the passive sense, or what the School-men call themerely receptive quality of the mind; the voluntary; and the spontaneous, which holds the middle place between both....

Aristotle .... admits five agents or occasioning causes: first, connection in time, whether simultaneous, preceding, or successive; second, vicinity or connection in space; third, interdependence or necessary connection, as cause and effect; fourth, likeness; and fifth, contrast. As an additional solution of the occasional seeming chasms in the continuity of reproduction he proves, that movements or ideas possessing one or the other of these five characters had passed through the mind as intermediate links, sufficiently clear to recall other parts of the same total impressions with which they had co-existed, though not vivid enough to excite that degree of attention which is requisite for distinct recollection, or as we may aptly express it, after consciousness.

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