online: 31 march 2004
modified: 11 march 2006

20-24 august 2003 constructive realism*

10:42 This is a new term for us type the fingers - what does it mean, whose mind did it come from?

It came of reading a text by E H Carr - and particularly by his self-defining descriptions of how history is written, or invented. For instance:

The historian, before he begins to write history, is the product of history.**
The absolute in history ... is something still incomplete and in process of becoming - something in the future towards which we move, which begins to take shape only as we move towards it, and in the light of which, as we move forward, we gradually shape our interpretation of the past.***

As we read these, and his other such descriptions, we feel history becoming an extended kind of designing... this the element that can enable us to realise creative democracy, to discover its actual form? Yes, we think it is, write the fingers of everyone, and immediately we begin to see things differently... we gaze at a wall of ancient books behind glass, a written residue of the past, of thoughts made physical, and accessible to some, on pages and in volumes, with titles and the author's names in gold... we hear the voices of children who are on a tour of the library we sit in the cafe, escaping from the silent yawning reading room we wait for books by E. H. Carr and others to arrive from the book stacks... it takes an hour or more and that in itself is a modern wonder says the faint voice of progress...

...and is this moment history happening? is every event historical? and is this already creative democracy - this regulated freedom to look at books, ancient and modern, to inhabit libraries, to write further books, or else to take the tour, the tour of life itself, informed or not by what is written...?

...but we doubt the democracy of this, or its creativity, type the fingers, (though in this library Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital)... we feel more freedom in the laughter of the children, in the conversation of people nearby, and even in this writing...

...someone at the next table briefly sings, another laughs, and the silent galleries and spacious stairs and lifts and reading rooms and invisible bookstacks continue to be used, or remain waiting to be used, or are never consulted, for that is public freedom, expensive, beautiful, and a new form for this collection, a step on the way from life as it was to life as no one knows it yet...

...and can we persist until life itself becomes a poem, the fingers ask, the fingers of new arrivals, can we live free of imposed forms and controls, within and without, will these our dreams be realised... but some are here embodied in the architecture and in this writing, all is indeed a world seen as poetry and colours, as if a universe...

The real. The world as it was, transformed into this, and never ceasing to transform itself, ourselves, into something other, not obedient to our thoughts and wishes (they are but fragments) but according to the presence and the influence of all that is, perceived or not...

...we act in part and experience in part (are these the thoughts of St. Paul?) but the whole, the unseen whole, is more, more, than any one, or even the totality, of minds, can know or be... Is that a satisfaction? It's the truth, according to these partial experiences, and thoughts, these partial truths, which partly determine what happens and which include surprise, dismay, joy, sorrow, and all else we try for, suffer, or endure with realism, imposed of self-constructed. Is that it, your holiness?

Yes ours is the self-constructed nature of the reality of which we are all parts and no one is or can describe the whole. How about that for a belief asks the theological sparrow, without thinking?

24 August 2003: This was intended to be the beginning of something - a reviewing, and a remaking, of my life works - apart from the partial semi-specialised contexts in which they seldom thrived and now to be remade in the light of this idea of constructive realism. The fingers are ready to attempt it - what are they waiting for?

*constructive realism is a new term and aim for me, for us, for the writing and the reality of being inside history, inspired by reading E H Carr's What is History? - and also by August Highland's extensions of literature - as well as by the works of John Cage, Gertrude Stein, and many others who reperceive what was and is and continue its extension... Viva!

** E H Carr,What is History?, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex 1961, page 40.

***Ibid, page 121.

After writing this I found that constructive realism is a newish term in the philosophy of science (see the explanation by Friedrich Wallner of the University of Vienna). I gather that a constructive realist takes scientific knowledge to be not nature itself but a discardable constructed world (or sub-realism?) which is not understandable in the world of people without interpretation (I hope I've understood his explanation)... perhaps this will turn out to be compatible with the meaning of the term as it ocurred to me while reading E H Carr's description of history (though I doubt if he used the phrase himself).

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