Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Thomas Merton on a poet’s logic

with 3 comments

Thomas Merton

There is a logic of language and a logic of mathematics. The former is supple and lifelike, it follows our experience. The latter is abstract and rigid, more ideal. The latter is perfectly necessary, perfectly reliable: the former is only sometimes reliable and hardly ever systematic. But the logic of mathematics achieves necessity at the expense of living truth, it is less real than the other, although more certain. It achieves certainty by a flight from the concrete into abstraction. Doubtless, to an idealist, this would seem to be a more perfect reality. I am not an idealist. The logic of the poet—that is, the logic of language or the experience itself—develops the way a living organism grows: it spreads out towards what it loves, and is heliotropic, like a plant.

Thomas Merton

Written by nevalalee

April 27, 2013 at 9:50 am

Posted in Quote of the Day

Tagged with ,

3 Responses

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  1. Truth of a poet and of mathematics? Might as well compare a computer to a rose.


    April 28, 2013 at 2:20 am

  2. He also overlooks the fact that mathematics can be just as intuitive in its own way.


    April 28, 2013 at 8:13 am

  3. Well, yes. I guess that higher maths has little (apparent) relevance to a person’s everyday life experience as a living, loving (etc) human being, is part of what he is saying (though of course with modern technology, much of the world we interact with depends on abstruse mathematics, these days, but we don’t interact with the mathematics itself, only, say, the internet). I suspect the best mathematicians see the mathematical truths around them every day, everywhere they go, and it is to some extent a question of having the eyes to see. Thanks again for the blog. I’ve tried one myself and I can see (through my failure…) the discipline it takes to keep it going.


    April 28, 2013 at 5:42 pm

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