Being Audenesque Part I

Well this post is basically a collection of excerpts that I found interesting while reading WH Auden. The more I read prose by Auden and try to get a hold of what Auden seems to be all about when it comes to Science and Technology, the more I realize that making absolutely direct connections between Auden and his philosophy around Science is a difficult endeavor to realize. But, I already knew that before I started with this research. But, then the fundamental assumption that I am making while I do this research is that texts speak to each other. Ideas manifest themselves in different forms in different disciplines, but their character remains the same.

I will use a few of his prose and quote a few of his words, right now these are all open to interpretation and can be read depending upon what one would like to read from them. I still haven’t figured out  how to combine these together, but I soon I will get there.

Writing (Essays and Reviews: 1932)

“In scientific prose for example, what words do is only controlled by the sense of what is being said. They are like people in a street on an ordinary day. They can be or do anything they like as long as they keep to the left of the pavement, and don’t annoy each other. But even here this much is expected. There is always some degree of rhythm in all language. The degree depends on the power of feeling.”

Problems of Education (Review of Education and the Social Order. By Bertrand Russell. Essays and Reviews: 1933)

“The trouble is that Mr. Russell refuses to admit that man’s nature is dual, and that each part of him has its own conception of justice and morality. In his passionate nature man wants lordship, to live in a relation of power with others, to obey and to command, to strut and to swagger. He desires mystery and glory. In his cerebral nature he cares for none of these things. He wants to know and be gentle; he feels his other passionate nature is frightening is cruel.”

A Review of The Evolution of Sex, by Dr. Gregorio Maranon and The Biological Tragedy of Women, by Anton Nemilov (Essays and Reviews: 1933)

“The last hundred years have seen an immense advance not only in knowledge, but also in the technique of spreading and instilling it: this means that Liberalism is gone forever. Whoever possesses the instruments of knowledge, the Press, the Wireless and the Ministry of Education, is the dictator of the country; and my friends, it becomes increasingly difficult to overthrow a bad one because imitating our voice, he makes us believe that he does not exist. If we want a decent sex life, happy human relations, if we want to be people at all, and not behaviorist automatons, we must see to it that our dictators can have no personal or class axe to grind and we must hurry or it will be too late.”

A Poet Tells Us How to Be Masters of the Machine (Essays and Reviews: 1933)

“If you are not [a mechanic], remember that while one machine can only do one thing, and so it all the time, human desire is intermittent, variable, and many-sided.

The machine, therefore tends to dictate that the particular desire it satisfies is like it, unique and ever active, and to suppress those for which it is not constructed, unless you, its owner, are quite certain exactly what you want it for.”

“Do not let the possession of a motorcycle oblige you to use it at times when you really want to go for a walk. Find out what you want first of all, and then if a machine will help you, use it.

In theory machines have made it possible for everyone to reach a standard of living formerly unattainable even by the very rich. In practice they have so far made a majority of mankind wretched and a minority unhappy, spoiled children.”

What is Wrong with Architecture? (Essays and Reviews: 1933)

“What today is called Functionalism is gaining ground because it professes to concern itself only with the physical scientifically verifiable world, and science is the only mode of the mind in which we believe, and in which, believing, we find the least opportunity to lie.

It is an over-simplification. The popular complaint that ‘modern’ rooms look like operating theaters is quite just.”

Life’s Old Boy (Essays and Reviews: 1934)

“The progress of the realization of values is like that of scientific inventions; it renders obsolete its predecessors.”

Psychology and Art To-day (Essays and Reviews: 1934)

“We only think when we are prevented from feeling and acting as we should like. Perfect satisfaction would be complete unconsciousness. Most people however fit into society sufficiently too neatly for the stimulus to arise except in a crisis such as falling in love and losing their money.” [Reference to losing their money is to sale of popular text-books on economics since 1929.]

“Just as modern physics teaches that every physical object is the center of a field of force which radiating outwards occupies all space and time, so psychology states that every word through fainter and fainter associations is ultimately a sign for the universe. The associations are always greater than those of an individual.”

“Man differs from the rest of the organic world in that his development is unfinished.”

“Man is immoral because he has got a mind
And can’t get used to the fact.”

“You cannot tell people what to do, you can only tell them parables; and that is what art really is, particular stories of particular people and experiences, from which each according to his immediate and peculiar needs may draw his own conclusions.”

I guess, I will continue this stream of Auden quotes and then mash them up together to come up with my final paper. There are some really exciting ideas here and I will continue posting more of these in the coming days.

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