“Aristotle, I have been told, hath said, that Poetry is the most philosophic of all writing, it is do, its object is truth, not individual and local, but general and operative, not standing upon external testimony, but carried alive into the heart by passion’ truth which is its own testimony, which gives strength and divinity to the tribunal to which it appeals” [Selected poems, 442. 443].
Wordsworth agrees with the Airstotelian dictum in form, but not in content, for what he describes is precisely not the philosophic, but the poetic. There is, to be sure a superficial similitude between the philosophic and the poetic, a striving, for example, after truth, a striving, to be even more precise, after such a truth as possessed of a general nature. And yet, it is the nature of this striving, the process herein implied, which accounts, we should say, for all the difference, for what we might permissibly call the philosophic mode of revelation is very different indeed from what we might call the poetic. As for the philosophic, we are all quite familiar with its mode, and it was elaborated by none other than Aristotle himself, or his masters Plato and Socrates, the didactic, the Aristotelian syllogism. It is a mode of discourse wholly and entirely different from the poetic, best captured by the words of perhaps the most visionary poet, poet in the general rather than precise sense, of the modern age, James Joyce, who has said, “In the particular is contained the universal.” It is, to be sure, the most precise elaboration of what is maintained in the poetic mode of revelation: the universal is revealed in the particular. In these categories, we might suggest that simply the opposite is true of both Socratic didacticism and Aristotelian syllogism: the particular is revealed in, and only with recourse to, the universal, the idea, the form. Joyce, however., was neither the first to aritculate this, nor was his articulation the most thorough. It was Kierkegaard who perceived most lucidly the categorical distance between the poetic and the philosophic, and it was he who perceived this absolute distance in their archetypal incarnations: Socrates and Christ, the Socratic and the Christian.