"Although oracular witches are contrary to nature, the poet may invoke them in the antecedent of a contrary-to-fact conditional and thereby reveal, in the consequent, what no mirror of life could reveal."--José A Benardete (ca 1970).
In recent methodological writings, Jeff Bell and I have been advocating that creating and articulating concepts is a core philosophic activity (within philosophy and the sciences). But a seemingly other philosophic activity (within philosophy, the sciences, and poetry) is revealing the way things are and how they could be. Ever since the post-Newtonian rise of science, philosophers have been on the defensive in revealing the way things are. Moreover, as the sciences hone in on robust counterfactuals, they also displace philosophical authority in articulating what could be.
Yet, sometimes it takes a poet, Wallace Stevens, to remind us of a few facts:
- "The magnificent cause of being,
- The imagination, the one reality
- In this imagined world"
In context it is pretty clear that Stevens is not diagnosing Idealism. Rather, he is reminding us of the homely truth that (painful) social reality is not independent of our thoughts/attitudes/beliefs. To take an argumentative short-cut, thus, science can't track all social counterfactuals as long as philosophers are willing to articulate concepts that create the conditions that no science thinks could be, yet -- oh alchemy of opinion -- are revealed-to-be-so.