Degree Year

2000

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Advisor(s)

William Patrick Day

Keywords

Consilience, William Wordsworth, William Blake, E.O. Wilson, Literature, Science

Abstract

The ideal of consilience - the inductive concurrence of seemingly disparate ways of thinking into a single, unified, all-encompassing intellectual system - or more simply put, "unified learning" - has been largely set aside since the rise of the industrial age and the championing of the industrious, better-be it individualized mind of the enlightenment. The Catholic Church was the last western world-dominant institution to actively perpetuate and work according to the rubric of a unified field of knowledge. Our thoughts and everything else were under God and indivisible: our ethics and our physics alike were the immaterial idea-stuff of the divine, benevolently nudging us towards some golden age. But, with grandiloquence and a hell-uv-a-lot of liberation rhetoric, reason found itself in a dominant position within the hegemony of intellectual and academic discourse. A preference for reasonability and individuation dictated that we divide up our disciplines, that we allow each scholar to pursue a particular field of interest without insisting that that field collapse into theology in its most fundamental stages. It was either that our humanist logics were not sophisticated enough to synthesize all of the natural or conceptual oppositions flourishing at that time, or that we had come to disregard the ironically rigorous project of righteousness and truth just enough to see a use and a truth of a differing quality in dividing up our conceptual schemes. The separation of church and state might be seen as a manifestation of this "divided front" approach. Perhaps it was with the same spirit that William Wordsworth and William Blake distinguished their subject matter - literature and poetry - from others with a sense of purpose, offering an aesthetics and an ethics to an increasingly scientific, humanistic intellectual community that seemed to them sorely lacking in emotionality and spirituality. These, perhaps, were steps in a process of genesis: genesis as religious beginning: the beginning of a modem academic or intellectual paganism.

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