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Poetry and Beliefs / I.A. Richards Poetry as emotive language

1. I.A. Richards states that poetry consists of statements which do not need verification because they cannot be verified.
References found in poetry because of their natural generality or vagueness, are not compatible with scientific truth or falsity. Only references which correspond to things can be either true or false. References in poetry do not correspond to things in the way scientific references are.

2. Even if statements in poetry are false, they should not be taken as defect. Even when they are true, there is no merit to
them. The readers who say How true! while reading Shakespeare are misusing his work.

3. Richards further argues that poetry as a supreme form of emotive language subordinates reference 1 to attitude2. In the
beginning all language was emotive. Its scientific use is a later development and most language is still emotive. Now its scientific use seems to be the natural and the normal use because people who have reflected upon language are at the moment of reflection using it scientifically. 4. There are moments in a mans life when his impulses respond to a stimulus is such an organized way that the mind has a lifes experience. Poetry is a representation of this uniquely ordered state of mind. By poetry Richards means not only verse but all the imaginative literature, which is the also the product of the same state of mind. It is to share his experience, the happy play of his impulses, that the true reader goes to him.

5. The emotions and attitudes resulting from a statement used emotively need not be directed towards anything to which
the statement refers. This is evident in dramatic poetry. Poetry is usually dramatic in structure. Statement in poetry arouses attitudes much more wide and general in direction than the references of the statement. Those who want to read poetry successfully should know the distinction between reference and attitude. No one can understand such utterances like Dr. Bradleys Poetry is a spirit or Shellys A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth, without distinguishing the making of a statement from the incitement or expression of an attitude.

6. Notes: As communication is inseparable from poetic experience, Richards examines what kind of language poetry uses.
There are two uses of language, he says: referential or scientific, and emotive. We may either use words for the sake of the references they promote, or we may either use them for the sake of the attitudes and emotions which ensue. The former is the way science uses words. Its use of the word fire, thus, is no more than a reference to a corresponding object in life. The word faithfully recalls the object. But poetry may use it for a different purpose altogether, as in the phrase, with heart on fire, where on fire means not what it does in science, but in an excited state. The word instead of recalling the object it stands for evokes an emotionthat of excitement. This is how the poetic use of words is emotive.

7. While science makes statements, poetry makes pseudo-statements. A statement says something and is justified by its
truth, i.e. its correspondence, in a highly technical sense, with the fact to which it points. It can always be verified by a reference to its original outside it. But a pseudo-statement is only a statement is only in name; what it says, as in the words with heart on fire, is not literally true. So in the usual sense of the word say, a pseudo-statement says nothing at all; what it apparently says has the larger purpose of evoking an emotion or attitude of mind which the poet considers valuable but for which there are no verbal equivalents. So he adopts this indirect method of evoking it, neither caring for the literal meaning of words nor for their logical sequenceboth defects in the scientific use of words. Poetry speaks not to the mind but to the impulses; and its speech, literal or unliteral, logical or illogical, is faithful to its experience to the extent to which it induces a like experience in others.

a writer or a book, article, etc. that is mentioned in a piece of writing, showing you where the author found their information.

a feeling or opinion about something or someone, or a way of behaving that is caused by this. Richards defines attitude as a tendency to action: the trend of impulses in a particular direction.

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On Beliefs

8. Richards also points out that many attitudes can be momentarily encouraged by suitable beliefs held as scientific beliefs
are held. When the attitude is important, the temptation to base it upon some reference which is treated as scientific truths are treated is great. This is how a poet comes to invite the destruction of his work. For example, Wordsworth puts forward his Pantheism3, and other people doctrines of Inspiration, Idealism and Revelation.

9. Richards elaborates that this tendency of attitudes depending on beliefs produces twofold effect. Firstly, it provides the
attitude an appearance of security and stability; and at the same time it diverts from the necessity to sustain this attitude by means of arts or full attention to form. So, causally, the attitude for the sake of which the belief is introduced is thereby made less stable. Remove the beliefs, once it has affected the attitude; the attitude collapses. Richards says that these attitudes, produced not by appropriate means but through beliefs, are rarely healthy, so vigorous and full of life as the others. They are so because unlike attitudes normally produced they usually require an increased stimulus every time that they are reinstated. The belief has to grow more and more fervent, more and more convinced, in order to produce the same attitude. The believer has to pass from one paroxysm of conviction to another, enduring each time a greater strain.

10. What we see in religion is that in place of an experience, which is a direct response to a certain stimulation, we have a
highly indirect response, made , not to the actual influence of the world upon us, but to the special kind of belief as to some particular state of affairs. There is a suppressed conditional clause implicit in all poetry. If things were such and such thenand so the response develops. The amplitude and fineness of the response, its sanction and authority depend upon this freedom from actual assertion in all cases in which the belief is questionable on any ground whatsoever. For any such assertion involves suppressions, of indefinite extent, which may be fatal to the wholeness, the integrity of the experience. So the greatest poets avoid assertion. Even when the belief is true, the damage done to the whole experience may be great, in the case of a person whose reasons for this belief are inadequate. Distinguish between Scientific belief and emotive belief / The difference between these emotive beliefs and scientific beliefs is not one of degree but of kind. Elaborate.

11. The sense in which we believe a scientific statement is not the sense in which we believe an emotive statement like
The progress of poetry is immortal. Richards defines scientific belief as readiness to act as though the reference symbolized by the proposition which is believed were true. Readiness to act in all circumstances and in all connections into which it can enter. A feeling or emotion of acceptance is also present in the definition of belief. In scientific belief, feeling is often absent and is not essential.

12. Emotive belief is very different. Readiness to act as though some references were true is often involved, but the
connections and circumstances in which this readiness remains are narrowly restricted. So the action is very limited. One can consider the acceptance involved in the acceptance of a play. One believes its system so long as its acceptance leads to successful response. General beliefs led Aristotle to describe Poetry as a more philosophical thing than history because chiefly conversant of universal truth. But such belief is entertained only in the special circumstances of the poetic experience. They are held as conditions for further effects, our attitudes and emotional responses, and not as we hold beliefs in laws of nature. Dramatic necessities we find in the play are different from actual scientific laws. Dramatic beliefs like how any person of a certain character would speak or act, probably or necessarily, upon which drama depends on, are not scientific, but are held only for the sake of dramatic effect.

13. The bulk of the beliefs involved in arts are of this kind, provisional acceptances, holding only in special circumstances
(in the state of mind which is the poem or work of art) acceptance made for the sake of the imaginative experience which they make possible. So Richards argues that the difference between these emotive beliefs and scientific beliefs is not one of degree but of kind. As feelings they are very similar, but as attitudes their difference in structure has widespread results.
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belief in many or all gods, or the belief that God exists in and is the same as all things, animals and people within the universe.

3 14. Richards also talks about another set of emotive effects which he calls as beliefs. These effects occur not at the
beginning of a response but at the end. According to him, the whole state of mind in which we are left by a poem, or by music, or by other forms of art, can also be described as beliefs. When all provisional acceptances have failed, when the single references and their connections which may have led up to the final response are forgotten, we may still have an attitude and an emotion which has all the characters of a belief. This belief is a consequence not a cause of the experience.

15. Strong belief-feelings readily attach themselves to almost any reference, distorting it to suit their purpose. Thus, while
reading Adonis, for example, we are left in a strong emotional attitude which feels like belief, and it makes us believe in immortality or survival, or in something else capable of statement, and dangerously attribute the value of the poem to the alleged effect, or on the contrary to regret that it should depend upon such a scientifically doubtful conclusion.

16. Scientific beliefs, as opposed to these emotive beliefs, are beliefs that so and so. They can be stated with greater or
less precision, but always in some form. Emotive beliefs are objectless and they cannot be stated. Most of the beliefs of children and primitive peoples, and of the unscientific generally seem to be of this kind. Scientific beliefs are grounded in fact, i.e., are due to reference.

17. Emotive beliefs are due to other causes, and merely attach themselves to such references as will support them. Such
objectless beliefs have no place in science, but in themselves they are often of the utmost value. Objectless belief masquerading as a belief in this or that is a serious nuisance. According to Richards, when they are kept from tampering with the development of reference such emotional attitudes may be among the most important and valuable effects which the arts can produce.

18. Because of the break-down of traditional accounts of universe, recent generations suffer more nervous damage.
Another reason is the strain imposed by the vain attempt to orient the mind by belief of the scientific kind alone. So what is needed is a habit of mind which allows both reference and the development of attitudes their proper independence. We try desperately to support our attitudes with beliefs as to facts, verified or accepted as scientifically established, and by so doing we weaken our own emotional backbone. The source of our attitudes should be in experience itself.

19. Many people are so accustomed to regarding recognized facts as the natural basis of attitudes, that they cannot
conceive how anyone can be otherwise organized. For clear and impartial awareness of the nature of the world in which we live and the development of attitudes which will enable us to live in it finely are both necessities, and neither can be subordinated to the other. One should consider the effect upon them of those works of art which most unmistakably attune them to existence. The central experience of tragedy and its chief value is an attitude indispensable for a fully developed life. So, while reading a tragedy like King Lear what facts verifiable by science, or accepted and believed in as we accept and believe in ascertained facts, are not relevant.

20. These objectless beliefs give us the peculiar sense of ease, of restfulness, of free, unimpeded activity, and the feeling of
acceptance, of something more positive than acquiescence (agreement). The feeling may be intense when we are ready for life in some particular phase. Such are the occasions upon which the arts seem to life away the burden of existence, and we seem ourselves to be looking into the heart of things. To be seeing whatever it is as it really is, to be cleared in vision and to be recipients of a revelation.

21. We can take this feeling of a revealed significance, this attitude of readiness, acceptance and understanding as the
conscious accompaniment of our successful adjustment to life. Here, it is also important to distinguish between feeling of significance which indicates that all is well and those which do not. This feeling of significance is a sign that the organism and its affairs are for the moment thriving.

22. Richards states that Knowledge is an immensely potent emotive word engendering reverence towards any state of
mind to which it is applied. So that these feelings of significance are those among our states of mind which most deserve to be revered (valued and respected). They should be regarded as knowledge also.