How to win an argument with poetry
At the end of the introduction to The Dappled World, Nancy Cartwright pulls the killer rhetorical move of quoting poetry.
Physicist Philip Allport argues that Cartwright’s patchwork view of science is harmful because it challenged beauty. Allport claims that part of what engages physicists is the promise that at the end of the tunnel, there will be a beautiful theory of everything. Without “the beauty of the theoretical vision,” how could we motivate the public to fund fundamental science or convince the young to pursue scientific study?
Allport presents a European monoculture that believes beauty only arises from “the mastery of the whole world of experience, by subsuming it ultimately under one unified theoretical structure.” But Cartwright counters that beauty, even in the European, monotheistic tradition is far more complex. She responds with the poem “Pied Beauty” by poet/Jesuit priest Gerald Manley Hopkins.
I’m not a religious person. I am not an avid reader of poetry. But this one hits me every time.
Pied Beauty - Gerald Manley Hopkins Glory be to God for dappled things – For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings; Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough; And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim. All things counter, original, spare, strange; Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?) With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim; He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise him.