NUMBER  1462. — April 11, 2001
Aesthetic Realism was founded by Eli Siegel in 1941 
Logic, Poetry, and California
Dear Unknown Friends: 

Here is part 3 of the beautiful, amazing Poetry and Logic, by Eli Siegel. As I have described in the last two issues, this 1949 lecture answers an agony of people, because it shows that two tremendous aspects of the self which people see as inevitably divided — our emotion and our logic — can be one.

       In a central principle of Aesthetic Realism, Mr. Siegel explains: "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." Logic and emotion are opposites, and the pained taking for granted that they can't go together is in phrases people are using to themselves and others right now: "Why can't I stop being emotional about this, and start being logical?!"; "I've got to think with my head, not with my heart!" 

       Reasoning, logic have seemed perhaps necessary, but severe and flat — not warm, stirring, delightful. And the sweep of emotion has seemed not to have reason or intellect with it. To feel you have to sacrifice one for the other, or have emotion at one time and logic at another, is to feel the world is fundamentally ugly, and that oneself is too. Poetry is emotion at its deepest, and in this lecture, Mr. Siegel shows that poetry always is logical! The first instances he uses are poems from Mother Goose; and we see logic as not just strict, but charming, musical. In Aesthetic Realism itself, he has enabled people, enabled me, to know that authentic logic, reason, intellect are always warm and can be passionate; and that emotion when true, including the most fervent, is completely logical. I love him for this; and there is nothing I hold more personally precious than the fact that because of Aesthetic Realism, great feeling and intellect are together in my life. Mr. Siegel himself was the most logical person I know of in the history of thought, the most intelligent — and the warmest, the person with the largest, kindest feeling. 

       Logic concerns every aspect of life, including economics. And I comment now on something currently taking place in America which is historic. It is the seeing by persons of a certain crucial logic about economics which they hadn't seen before. This seeing is going on in relation to what has been called "the energy crisis" in California. 

There Are Logic and History

At the end of the 18th century and through the 19th, more and more people in Europe and the Americas saw more and more clearly that for a nation to be run by a monarch was horribly unjust, which also meant illogical. Since government affects all citizens' lives fundamentally, they all should be the government: that is the logic behind democracy, and it took a long time, many centuries, for people to see it. That realization about democracy has a likeness to the realization in process now in California: the seeing of a necessary logic in regard to the electric current that comes into one's home and the natural gas in one's stove or heater. 

       So I present something of the California situation. With the private production of gas and electricity deregulated, energy producers there have raised their prices 800-900%, according to the LA Times (28 Dec. 2000). In turn, the private utilities that buy power from those producers and distribute it — Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric — have treated California consumers to rolling blackouts and huge rate hikes. Meanwhile, the state itself has been using public funds, the citizens' money, to keep these private businesses going. Writes the LA Times: California is "paying more than $50 million a day out of general tax revenue to buy wholesale power for the utility companies" (29 Mar. 2001). 

       There is hardship in California. Some people have had to choose between heating their homes and buying food. Many restaurants, laundries, hair salons, other small businesses that depend on gas and electricity, cannot afford to operate. Newsday (29 Mar.) writes of a representative man, 79 years old: "In 15 years in San Francisco, the largest gas and electric bill [he had] ever received was $60. In February, his bill was $304." He told Newsday's reporter: "What is a person on a fixed income supposed to do? Stop living?" Then, on March 27, California's Utilities Commission approved a further rate hike for SCE and PG&E to impose on consumers: as much as 46% over the 10% that has already caused such suffering. It is amid these circumstances, with Californians pained, indignant, furious, that a certain logic is emerging for people — or at least a large phase of that logic. 

To Whom Does It Belong?

Mr. Siegel, at the age of 20, presented the logic in its wholeness, and he did so with passion, beautiful prose, and even humor. He wrote in the Modern Quarterly, March 1923: 
    The people should own industry because the land (the land here is used to mean things like air, water, animals and so on belonging to nature) from which it comes was made by nobody and so should be owned ... by all. From the land come violets, automobiles, books, watches, silk, and foods of all kinds .... Now if nobody made the land, it is evident, to a really normal human, that everybody living has a right to own it and should own it.
Closely joined with that logic is the following, which I heard him express years later in Aesthetic Realism classes: that which all people need in order to live should not be owned by a few people for profit! The ability of millions of people to get what they need for their very lives should not depend on whether they can supply somebody with big money: people's life-needs should not be a field for profit-making. 

       That is what many men and women are now seeing in California in relation to electricity and gas. Millions of Californians, in their thoughts to themselves and also in conversations, have been talking this way — and the logic has terrific feeling with it: Why should I have to pay so much, more than I can afford, to use my refrigerator, heat my home, wash my clothes? Why should some people be making profit from that? They shouldn't. It's wrong! The state shouldn't be paying out $50 million a day of public funds, our hard earned dollars, so some private people can make big money out of the gas and electricity we all need so much! 

Eminent Domain

The LA Times of January 20 described the various "solutions [to the energy crisis] offered by political leaders, energy executives, academics and consumer advocates." One, spoken of with great seriousness throughout California, is for the state to "use its power of eminent domain to take over power plants or entire utility companies" and own and run them in behalf of the people of California. Eminent domain, an established part of US law, is the right of government to take private property for needed public use; and implicit in it is the great and true idea that the earth of America exists for the benefit of the American people. The state's Treasurer is one of the advocates of using eminent domain to have California's gas and electricity owned by the people of California; and on January 20 the LA Times quoted him: 
    "There's some things in life, like water, like electricity, that are commodities, that people need to live," said state Treasurer Phil Angelides, adding that in Sacramento, Los Angeles and other parts of the state, public power agencies have proved reliable.
On March 28, the paper reported that "us[ing] eminent domain to seize the power plants" is something "[Gov. Gray] Davis said he might do." 

       This is the logic I have been speaking about, which is becoming clearer to people. And what occurrences in California are showing is: this logic has nothing to do with various notions of left or right — it's just good American logic, old as the Mayflower. 

       In the section published here from Poetry and Logic, the logic Mr. Siegel speaks about first is the equivalence between what a thing is and what it needs in order to be. That equivalence is aesthetic: it is difference become sameness. Gas and electricity are so clearly things that come from the earth itself; they are different from us, from the person using electricity in her computer (as I am right now), different from the person using gas in a stove to cook a meal — yet we need them. What we need from reality, from the earth, in order to live and be ourselves is the same as what we deeply are; therefore, it is rightly ours. The effort to obscure that fact has brought much agony to humanity. 

Fake Logic

Throughout history, some of the ugliest, cruelest, most illogical notions have been presented to people as being logical, and have been accepted as somehow reasonable. As I said earlier, monarchy, for a long time, was taken as reasonable. A "logic" was given in the American South for the rightness of slavery, and people went on the idea that the owning of human beings was reasonable. Child labor was justified with "logic." And in Nazi Germany, "logic" was used to show "Aryan supremacy." It is Eli Siegel who explained what all these, and every injustice, has come from. Their source is the desire for contempt, "the addition to self through the lessening of something else." The desire for contempt is in everyone, and we need to learn from Aesthetic Realism how to criticize it. 

       Like monarchy, slavery, child labor, Aryan supremacy — the idea that some persons should make profit from that which all people need to live, arises from contempt. And it too has been presented in such a way that people assumed it was logical when it has always been falsity and theft. In the year 2001, the falsity is being seen by many people in California. A certain authentic logic is in motion in California: it represents America; it represents all of us. And I am moved to honor it through the title Eli Siegel gave to his second book of poetry: I say with him, "Hail, American Development"!


Poetic Studies in Logic
By Eli Siegel

Take a little known bit from Mother Goose, "In a Cottage in Fife," as a study in logic. This is the logic of complete equivalence: A equals A, and without what A is there can't be A. That is, a chair can't exist without those things which make a chair. To wit, a chair can't exist without the presence of legs, a seat, a back. So this is a study in basic logic, the logical equivalence or nonequivalence of things:

In a cottage in Fife 
Lived a man and his wife 
Who, believe me, were comical folk; 
For to people's surprise, 
They both saw with their eyes, 
And their tongues moved whenever they spoke. 
 . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . .  .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
 They both walked on their feet, 
And 'twas thought what they eat, 
Help'd, with drinking, to keep them alive.
       That is a very lucid study in cause and effect and also in the equivalence of one force with another force. In other words, it proves the proposition that for a certain activity to persist, there must be an interior energy permitting that energy to persist: for instance, food can make for the activity of man or woman. That is a very clear study in logic. 

A Is Also Not-A

Now take, however, the proposition that A is A and follow it with the proposition, which some logicians have advocated, that A is also not-A. And there are various degrees in which A can be not-A. This poem from Mother Goose is a study in the various degrees: 
I had a little hobby-horse, 
And it was dapple grey; 
Its head was made of pea-straw, 
Its tail was made of hay. 

I sold it to an old woman 
For a copper groat; 
And I'll not sing my song again 
Without a new coat.

       What that poem is about is this: The person singing the poem has given away or sold a little hobbyhorse. He feels deprived. Consequently, unless an equivalent to that hobby-horse — that is, a new coat — comes his way, he won't sing again. He says he has to have the likeness — not complete A but something like A, which is the hobbyhorse — before he sings again. I could go further into the subtleties of the logic of this poem. 

Goldsmith and Logical Equivalence

Oliver Goldsmith wrote a study in the poetry of logical equivalence: "Elegy on the Glory of Her Sex, Mrs. Mary Blaize" deals with logic where it concerns the "if otherwise 'twould be absurd." 
Good people all, with one accord, 
Lament for Madam Blaize; 
Who never wanted a good word — 
From those who spoke her praise. 
 . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
She strove the neighbourhood to please, 
With manner wondrous winning; 
She never followed wicked ways — 
Unless when she was sinning ....
That's a lovely study in the proposition that A is A, because wicked ways are really the same as sinning. So if she were not following wicked ways she could not be sinning. Very clear. 
At church, in silks and satins new, 
With hoop of monstrous size, 
She never slumbered in her pew — 
But when she shut her eyes. 

Her love was sought, I do aver, 
By twenty beaux, or more; 
The king himself has followed her — 
When she has walked before .... 

In terms of logic, there is a little verbal byplay here: the ambiguous use of the word followed.
Let us lament, in sorrow sore; 
For Kent Street well may say, 
That, had she lived a twelvemonth more — 
She had not died to-day.
Now, the logic of complete equivalence is also used sometimes in moments of high passion — as when a mother says, "But after all, blood is blood!"; or "To be sure, love is love!"; and such propositions as "Blood is not water!": these statements can be used in moments of high passion.

Aesthetic Realism is based on these principles, stated by Eli Siegel:

1.  The deepest desire of every person is to like the world on an honest or accurate basis.

2.  The greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the world and what is in it .... Contempt can be defined as the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.

3.  All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.

red line

First Thursday of each month, 6:30 PM: Seminars with speakers from Aesthetic Realism faculty  

Third Saturday of each month, 8 PM: Aesthetic Realism Dramatic Presentations
thin black line
The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known (TRO) is a biweekly periodical of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.
Editor: Ellen Reiss • Coordinator: Nancy Huntting

Subscriptions: 26 issues, US $18; 12 issues, US $9, Canada and Mexico $14, elsewhere $20. Make check or money order payable to Aesthetic Realism Foundation.
Click here for subscription form.
ISSN 0882-3731

Foundation:  Contact  |  About  |  Events  |  Books  |  Definition Press  |  Collection  |  News   |   Lectures   |   Essays   |   Poetry
Online Library:  Poetry  |  Essays  |  Lectures  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  Articles in the News  |  TRO  |  Collection  |  Site Map
Ellen Reiss, Commentaries in TRO:
The Mideast  |  Poetry of Eli Siegel | Unions
Lord Byron | Harry Potter  |  Sherlock Holmes
Robert Burns  |  The 'criticism' of John Keats
Racism & Its Solution

Aesthetic Realism Resources
Aesthetic Realism Consultations
More Biographies of Eli Siegel:
[1] Aesthetic Realism Foundation
[2] Aesthetic Realism Theatre Company Site
Friends of Aesthetic Realism—Countering the Lies

Art and Literature
The Terrain Gallery / Aesthetic Realism Foundation
The Place of Aesthetic Realism in Culture & Literature

The Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method
Lesson Plans in Diverse Subjects
Teaching Indian Culture in the United States:
The Aesthetic Realism Method

Further Resources:
Essays and News Pieces about Aesthetic Realism
Photographic Education: the Aesthetic Realism Viewpoint
A New Perspective for Anthropology: The Aesthetic Realism Method
Self-Expression and What Interferes: an Aesthetic Realism Discussion
John Singer Sargent's Madame X, an Aesthetic Realism Discussion

© Copyright 2001, 2014 by Aesthetic Realism Foundation  •  A not-for-profit educational foundation