Irreconcileable Quotes

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Bohr is really doing what the Stoic allegorists did to close the gap between their world and Homer's, or what St. Augustine did when he explained, against the evidence, the concord of the canonical scriptures. The dissonances as well as the harmonies have to be made concordant by means of some ultimate complementarity. Later biblical scholarship has sought different explanations, and more sophisticated concords; but the motive is the same, however the methods may differ. An epoch, as Einstein remarked, is the instruments of its research. Stoic physics, biblical typology, Copenhagen quantum theory, are all different, but all use concord-fictions and assert complementarities. Such fictions meet a need. They seem to do what Bacon said poetry could: 'give some show of satisfaction to the mind, wherein the nature of things doth seem to deny it.' Literary fictions ( Bacon's 'poetry') do likewise. One consequence is that they change, for the same reason that patristic allegory is not the same thing, though it may be essentially the same kind of thing, as the physicists' Principle of Complementarity. The show of satisfaction will only serve when there seems to be a degree of real compliance with reality as we, from time to time, imagine it. Thus we might imagine a constant value for the irreconcileable observations of the reason and the imagination, the one immersed in chronos, the other in kairos; but the proportions vary indeterminably. Or, when we find 'what will suffice, ' the element of what I have called the paradigmatic will vary. We measure and order time with our fictions; but time seems, in reality, to be ever more diverse and less and less subject to any uniform system of measurement. Thus we think of the past in very different timescales, according to what we are doing; the time of the art-historian is different from that of the geologist, that of the football coach from the anthropologist's. There is a time of clocks, a time of radioactive carbon, a time even of linguistic change, as in lexicostatics. None of these is the same as the 'structural' or 'family' time of sociology. George Kubler in his book The Shape of Time distinguished between 'absolute' and 'systematic' age, a hierarchy of durations from that of the coral reef to that of the solar year. Our ways of filling the interval between the tick and tock must grow more difficult and more selfcritical, as well as more various; the need we continue to feel is a need of concord, and we supply it by increasingly varied concord-fictions. They change as the reality from which we, in the middest, seek a show of satisfaction, changes; because 'times change.' The fictions by which we seek to find 'what will suffice' change also. They change because we no longer live in a world with an historical tick which will certainly be consummated by a definitive tock. And among all the other changing fictions, literary fictions take their place. They find out about the changing world on our behalf; they arrange our complementarities. They do this, for some of us, perhaps better than history, perhaps better than theology, largely because they are consciously false; but the way to understand their development is to see how they are related to those other fictional systems. It is not that we are connoisseurs of chaos, but that we are surrounded by it, and equipped for coexistence with it only by our fictive powers. This may, in the absence of a supreme fiction-or the possibility of it, be a hard fate; which is why the poet of that fiction is compelled to say From this the poem springs: that we live in a place That is not our own, and much more, nor ourselves And hard it is, in spite of blazoned days.

Frank Kermode
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