Intention: Prolegomenon.

I’m not sure who or what I am writing this blog for anymore. It used to be for myself. Then it most definitely was a blog a wrote to you. At times it has been a blog I wrote to help my writing. I guess that’s the most fitting these days. It’s a sort of aid to me whenever I don’t quite know what to write. I often sit down with the intent to write a poem or a story, but without any concrete idea or sense of where to start. This blog might even be seen as a writing exercise: free-writing, just get a bunch of words to clear the head; to get to that place where the words flow freely; to lose my mind; to free my mind; to be the text (my that sounds devoted and a tad pretentious).

I could make the case that it’s for myself, since this is often where I put my thoughts into words: where I discover what I really feel about something – what is my current state of mind, etc. It might just be an ode to love. It seems I end up tagging love to all my posts whether or not I start out with an idea of writing about it or not. It’s always in the back of my mind, and this is where I can let out some steam instead of pestering my friends with it.

Is it an autobiography? In a certain sense, yes. But it’s so loosely told. My writings have always been more filled with mood than story. When looking back through the posts I get the smell that I got when I wrote it down, but more often than not, I no longer know what it was that smelled so and so. I just fall back into the mood.

I always hope to write something that whoever comes by here can use to something. I know I don’t always succeed. And it’s rarely on my mind when I write, but as soon as I hit “Publish” I’m overcome by the knowledge that this is now on the internet: this can now be seen by anyone, and I’d hate to waste people’s time. I do believe I offer some food for thought more often than not. Of course there is the possibility that I just underestimate the minds of other people, but I do believe that the things that can keep me up at night will have some form of effect on others. I do need to express it adequately, though.

Tonight I come here with the intention of clearing my mind and getting my keyboard warmed up. And also to have a bit of a discussion with myself about how significant an author’s intention is for the meaning of the text.

Short break: It just dawned on me that I often have discussions with myself here, but I rarely put the discussion in the foreground. More often than not, I come here with something that I want to discuss, I present it (though rarely in the form “tonight I want to discuss …”) and then move to something completely different. The different thing is usually a “case” from my life – some problem I’m dealing with at that exact time. I don’t put it into words, but the case is almost always related to that problem I want to discuss. And I end up either finding a solution or ending my post undecided, but you won’t see me put into words that this is the conclusion on the problem I started out with. This is probably where I resemble philosophers most: a reckless attitude toward the systematic approach. Even when we think we’re working in systematic ways, we’re really just putting up a disguise to hide the mess that lies beneath. Sometimes, though, I will just have forgotten what I wrote in the beginning once I’m at the end, so the solving of the problem will be somewhat subconscious.

I guess this post is very much an attempt at putting the author-intention in the foreground. Actually, I think I do that quite often. That’s the beauty of the blog: You’re not charging people to read it, so they can’t really complain about the quality – which means I can just put down the words as they pop up in my head. Whatever meaning is explicit in my mind will be written here. Will there be some subconscious meaning that is left unspoken? Without a doubt. But who am I to speak of my subconsciousness? This is why it’s such an interesting field of philosophy & literature. Where do we find the meaning in all this? Is it what I think? What I write? Is it what I think I write? Is it what you read? Should this be read as actually showing back to myself or some other narrator? Some fictive narrator?

I definitely feel a difference when writing on here compared to when I’m writing a poem or a story. This is much more my voice, whereas in the lyrical arts I try to lose myself in the words: to more or less just be the means for the words to appear on the page. This leaves the discussion of whether the writer creates or discovers. Are all stories already there, just hanging in the air, waiting to be discovered and written down? Or is the author a much more important figure who creates? Does the distinction really matter? Couldn’t it be (say, if we try to follow the discover-theory) that a story is always there, ready to be discovered, but it just takes a very specific person to discover it? That would keep the power in the hands of the author, saying that this author is that special author who has access to this story: it still needs to be seen if he will write it down; if he will choose to become an author, or whether he will pursue some other career, thus letting this story hang lost in the air. Doesn’t that give some of the creativity back to the author?

My own stance is very much on the creative side of things. I firmly believe the author to have power over what can be written. I discussed this on here a couple of weeks ago: To me it seems natural that whatever I’m writing could only be written by me. Of course: the shorter the piece, the higher the chance of someone else writing the exact same thing – I’m not claiming that I’ve never written the same as anyone else, but whenever we get to a certain length, the similarities will undoubtedly end. And even in the case where I should have written a poem that is word-for-word equal to someone elses, I still don’t believe I’ve written the same poem.

These are the answers you’d like to have ready in class, but it usually takes a bit more time and reflection to get answers ready, but no: I don’t believe it would be the same poem, and that’s because my meaning would be something else. Apparently, I’m a believer in the theory of author-intention; an intentionalist. Whatever the author meant with his text, that is the meaning of it. As an ontological doctrine I think this is defensible. The problem I’ve encountered, as has probably most others who have worked with this, is that it seems very counterintuitive because it so quickly leads to an epistemic skepticism. When can we ever know the meaning of a text, if it is the author’s intention that counts when we want to discuss the meaning? Here it is important to make a distinction between meaning and significance. We can easily talk about what significance a text might have, without having to refer to some clear meaning in the text. Nor does it mean that we can’t talk about the possible meanings of a text, it just says: as far as the true meaning of the text, only the author (if anyone) will ever know that.

What’s fuzzy about this is that I often don’t really know what my intention is, whenever I sit down to write something. The closest I can come to an intention when writing a poem is: I want to write something great. Does that make “the author wanted to write something great” the meaning of the poem? Well, it can probably work. But seen in this example, it seems the meaning can be of a somewhat more shallow nature than whatever a literary critic might come up with. But then again, the correct meaning isn’t necessarily the best articulated or the one that pledges the most humanitarian ambitions. The correct meaning might just be: I wanted to write something great.

At least tonight this blog worked in a way I needed it to: Guiding me towards a more precise formulation of the assignment I will have to have ready in two weeks time. This is a topic that really interests me. Meaning, intention. My oh my, I even think my description of how I go about discussing things came true in this post. To be honest, I have no idea if that’s the way I normally do things. It was just a guess. Whatever my intention has been in other posts, it is long gone.

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