In Self, Reality, and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy: Tsongkhapa’s Quest for the Middle Way, Thupten Jinpa notes that “the crux of the philosophical challenge for a Madhayamika is not so much the actual deconstruction of svabhava; it is to maintain a coherent and meaningful notion of dependently originated existence and identity in the aftermath of a thoroughgoing negation of intrinsic existence and intrinsic identity.” Romantic poetry, I argue, engages the same difficult question. My study of romantic poetry addresses a very specific kind of craving, desire, and addiction: knowledge. As Coleridge put it, poetry takes for “its immediate object pleasure not truth.” My presentation will link romantic vision to the meditative concept of the spontaneous liberation of whatever arises. Questioning, after the French Revolution, whether liberty could ever be achieved through violent revolt, the romantics confronted the subtle epistemic violence involved in social constitution of sensation. Rather than propose the liberation of individuals through ideas, they pitted the contemplator against the knower, the participant against the spectator: sensitive attention that unbinds the epistemic sanitization of intelligent sensation.

William Rubel

This project in alternative secular epistemologies is rooted in several months of intensive research and writing completed as a Mind & Life visiting scholar in Amherst in 2015, as well … MORE