|Notre Dame de Paris, April, 2007|
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
It would seem that what W.B. Yeats was getting at in the two last lines above was that to his mind the best and the brightest among the higher echelons of modern society (we're talking about 1920 here) didn't exhibit any intense or driving determination to bring about change for the better in society - they merely wanted to let things drift, a sort of laissez-faire attitude if you will, even if they did see both sides of every issue. On the other hand, Yeats maintained that the worst people, the meanest, most malign, cruel, corrupt and unenlightened people in these higher echelons of society were often passionately intense about their viewpoint, but considered it to be the only viable one.
However, recently I have been studying the philosopher Charles Taylor who has a lot to say about passion, but for him passionate intensity is bound up with action and with being an agent who can bring about change in society. Among other things, Taylor maintains that:
- To understand something you have to love it, because understanding is never a completely disengaged stance but springs from inspiration.
- Reason is never disengaged but is always in relation to our embodied engagement with the world, because it's to do with our perceptions of the world.
- Feelings aren't 'brute', as the Enlightenment conception of rationality teaches, but rather are our perceptions of the world.
- Science has dropped its exploration of the teleological, the purposeful meaning of any endeavour that is central for Aristotle, though teleology is undoubtedly a feature of the world, not least in the human sciences.
- Some paradigms never gain universal agreement, because what scientists commit to is linked to the values they hold.
It could be argued that John Henry Newman prefigured Taylor in much of the above as the former's epistemology is one that is very holistic indeed. Newman had argued as early as The Oxford University Sermons (written and preached late 30s and early 40s of the nineteenth century) that reason is not solely a deduction from premises; that the "whole man moves", not merely his reason, when he makes any decision at all in his life.
- We'll never achieve a total consensus on how to solve our problems, though there will be overlaps when people come to the same conclusions, if by different means.
Passion and "Midnight in Paris"
|Simone de Beauvoir Bridge, Paris, April, 2007|
He also meets over the next several midnights the painter Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo) and Picasso's mistress Adriana (acted by Marion Cotillard), a strikingly beautiful student of couture to whom Gil is instantly attracted. Over the next few days, Gil spends each night in the past, telling Inez that he is wandering the streets getting inspiration for his novel. His late-night wanderings frustrate Inez, who cannot understand his interest in Paris or his desire to write a novel, and arouse the suspicion of her father, who hires a detective to follow Gil.
Gil also meets Salvador Dalí (Adrien Brody), Man Ray (Tom Cordier) and Luis Buñuel (Adrien de Van), surrealists all. At the Marché aux puces (flea market) on the outskirts of Paris, Gil meets Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux), an antiques dealer who shares his fondness for the twenties and the music of Cole Porter. We immediately realise that he will obviously fall in love with this woman, given how much they have in common.
|Candles, Saint Germain des Pres, April, 2007|