How to Carve Knowledge From Your Poetic Imagination

The Critical Art of Understanding

John Driggs
A Philosopher’s Stone
13 min readMay 1, 2020


(Last Episode: Poetic Imagination: The Creative Art of Understanding)

Every civilization throughout history has created a dogmatic school whose main task is to pass on the doctrine of its founder intact to each generation. In the rare event a person criticized the doctrine or proposed a new idea, heretic would’ve been silenced, expelled, or killed.

What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. If there arises among you a prophet, or dreamer of dreams, who asks you to serve other gods, then that prophet, or dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death. If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, shall entice thee by saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ thou shall not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare him, neither shalt though conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death. (Deuteronomy 12:32–13:9)

New ideas would of course occasionally arise. But, in order to survive, it couldn’t be presented as a new idea but, rather, would have to have been presented as a return to the founder’s original doctrine, which the person would have to argue had been perverted in some way. And, if it was convincing enough, the school would split and a conflict would naturally arise.

Some six hundred years before Christ, though, a few Greeks in the Ionian colonies, after experiencing several culture clashes with nearby civilizations, finally thought, “Hold up. With so many competing explanations of the world, don’t you think we could be wrong about ours?”

You can see the role these clashes had on Greek philosophy quite clearly in the writings of the poet, philosopher, and all-around badass Xenophanes (c. 570 — c. 475 BC):

The Ethiopians say that their gods are flat-nosed and black

While the Thracians say that theirs have blue eyes and red hair.

Yet if cattle or horses or lions had hands and could draw