What is Poetic Thinking?
I define poetic thinking as the transforming power in the interaction of the form of life and the form of language that acts when a subject constitutes itself in a creative and dialogical way, transforming the ways we feel and think, in short: the way we perceive the world.
Against the backdrop of the anthropological question, that is, what does it mean to be human?, in the German tradition of philosophical and historical anthropology, poetic thinking builds on two approaches:
a) Thinking language: that is my translation of the German Sprachdenken or the French pensée du langage. The fact that English does not normally allow for this transitive use of the verb ‘to think’ is already indicating a conceptual problem: we are lacking concepts to think the functioning of language – I want to stress that thinking is done in language. Thinking language has the fundamental belief that language has a cognitive value; it is, as Wilhelm von Humboldt formulated, ’the labour of the mind’, die Arbeit des Geistes. In order to make the world our conscious world (which is often the definition of the human world), we need language. Languages are worldviews, Weltansichten – again Humboldt.
Society is organised in the medium of language, all social relations, including with ourselves. Human life is inconceivable without language. Language is meaning-making and meaning is not exclusively within the sign but in what Henri Meschonnic calls rhythm or the continuousness of language – language patterning and sound are an important aspect of language that needs to be taken into account in our meaning-making processes. We have to think in terms of a serial semantics and of a language-body continuity.
b) Dialogical thinking: by this, I refer to a predominantly German-Jewish tradition, in my view best developed in Martin Buber’s dialogical principle. This is based on the I-You-relationship which – rarely – happens in a moment of encounter, unfolding a sphere of the in-between, in which the subject does not perceive the other as an object but merging with the other in the sphere of a subject-subject-relationship. This is opposed to the everyday I-It-relationship when we deal with the world as outer objects. However, it is particularly the dialogical I-You moments which are fundamental for our being in the world.
Aims of APT
Academia for Poetic Thinking aims at developing academic concepts for these meaning-making processes. Living in the age of media theory, we know that there is no direct access to the world: it is always mediated. Language is the medium that gives meaning to all other perceptions. We have to better understand how this works, how we constitute meaning and reality. That is what poetics does in my understanding. Developing a poetic approach to what language is and does will change our conception of reality, of truth, of subjectivity. It will change our epistemological beliefs. This is eminently political.
Sources of Inspiration
Concerning thinking language, poetic thinking builds on a tradition of a positive attitude towards the cognitive role of language, which goes back to Leibniz, Hamann, Herder and then culminating in Humboldt. In more recent times, I refer mostly to the works of Jürgen Trabant in Germany and to Émile Benveniste and Henri Meschonnic in France.
Concerning dialogical thinking, Martin Buber is the main point of reference, even though others such as Rosenzweig, Rosenstock-Huessy and Ebner corroborate the point.
The following link gives a short presentation of the issues at stake: click here.