December 24, 2003

Songs of rationalism and empiricism

This weblog plays no epistemological favorites: having quoted Blake's critique of rationalism (from Plate 8 of Visions of the Daughters of Albion), fairness compels us to quote his critique of empiricism, from Plate 6 of the same work:

With what sense is it that the chicken shuns the ravenous hawk?
With what sense does the tame pigeon measure out the expanse?
With what sense does the bee form cells? have not the mouse & frog
Eyes and ears and sense of touch? yet are their habitations.
And their pursuits, as different as their forms and as their joys:
Ask the wild ass why he refuses burdens: and the meek camel
Why he loves man: is it because of eye ear mouth or skin
Or breathing nostrils? No. for these the wolf and tyger have.
Ask the blind worm the secrets of the grave, and why her spires
Love to curl round the bones of death; and ask the rav'nous snake
Where she gets poison: & the wing'd eagle why he loves the sun
And then tell me the thoughts of man, that have been hid of old.

Posted by Mark Liberman at December 24, 2003 12:26 PM