The Agreement of Ideas

Louis Armstrong[ From the proprietor, 4/16/09:

In the original post, I began by quoting Louis Armstrong as saying: “What you don’t know ain’t gonna come out the other end of your horn.” That’s Louis on the side here. That wisdom, however, was in fact played by Charlie Parker.  I’m pretty certain I knew that, somewhere in me.

The night I wrote the post I was working on my own book, and was feeling kinship lovey with Terry Teachout, whose Louis Armstrong biography will be out shortly. His blog, which is regularly good fun, as I’m sure the book will be, just had a great post about his process of tracking down the authenticity of things that Armstrong said. You can see that here. And now back to the previously scheduled broadcast…]

I’ve been working on my book the last few weeks. I’ve written in prior posts about the upcoming publication of my Masters thesis. I am working with a large academic publishing house, and am not provided with a text editor. I am responsible for delivering a finished file, which they will put together and print.

I was working last night on Chapter 3, which deals with the science and philosophy that influence our perception of the body. I’ve always enjoyed studying history. The lives of the people who had these ideas, did these things. I find it interesting. I was looking at the section on the English philosopher Locke last night. Here’s the intro:

John Locke (1632-1704) was born at Wrington in England, and educated at Oxford where he received his B.A. and M.A. Subsequently he became a lecturer in Greek and later Reader in Rhetoric and Censor of Moral Philosophy, still at Oxford. In 1666 he met Lord Ashley, later First Earl of Shaftesbury, a leading figure at the court of Charles II. A year later he joined the Earls household, and for the next fourteen years shared in the fortunes and misfortunes of Ashley, serving in a number of supportive bureaucratic positions as the Earl rose to become Chancellor.

200px-john_locke_1632-1704Locke was interested in philosophy, and it was the writings of Descartes in particular which first interested him. As Locke put it: he wanted to understand very precisely and systematically what knowledge “was capable of.” Nevertheless Locke was too involved with the vagaries of British politics to write early in his life. In 1683 he was even forced to slip away into exile in Holland following the Rye House Plot to kidnap the King. Locke was able to return to Britain in 1689 following the crowning of William of Orange, and it was at this time that the majority of his works were finally printed.

The Essay Concerning Human Understanding, (1690) his magnum opus on epistemology, was inspired by a conversation with a group of friends in 1671. They were engaged in philosophical discourse, when it became clear that they could make no further progress until they had examined the minds capacities and had seen “what objects our understandings were or were not fitted to deal with.”

Lockes basic notion counters Descartes, in that he believes that experience is the basis for all knowledge. We receive “ideas” from sense experience, and Knowledge, with a capital “K”, is the perception of the agreement or disagreement of two ideas. There are four means of establishing knowledge: Identity, Relation, Co-existence or Necessary Connection and Real Existence. All knowledge is also either actual (directly in front of us) or habitual (having seen proof and remembering it.)

What I was struck by just now is Locke’s assertion that Knowledge is the perception of agreement or disagreement between two ideas. I think there’s an interesting application there to choreography. I’m really looking forward to getting into the studio in April to start choreographing again. Just cause I know whatever I know….. doesn’t mean it WILL come out the end of my horn. But it’s been a few years, and I’m pretty psyched to see what we come up with.