These incoherencies in the way communities see

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Unformatted text preview: any exercise of imagination. Our perceptions are partly 39 organized in and through images, and a more adequate imagination is one that enables us to see or envisage what we could not otherwise see or envisage” 63 According to Macintyre, the communities we belong to, be they monasteries, cafés or nations, are too partly constituted by imagination, or more precisely by the shared images their members participate in. Living the role of a community-member is a “form of imaginative acting out”. “[T]o be English or Irish, I must be able to imagine myself as Irish or as English, something achievable in part by participating in the shared poetic utterance of the nation.”64. This poetic utterance, however, can be rendered false or incomprehensible with the transformation of the communities that it is supposed to describe. If the shared imagination of the members of a certain nation can no longer be coherent, that might, Macintyre claims, be the sign that this nation is no longer a community in the proper sense of the word. These incoherencies in the way communities see themselves are best revealed in poetry, which itself deals with images and poetic utterances. In Macintyre’s words: “The poet, and only the poet, may be able to represent absolutely the incoherence or the sterility or both of the substitute images, the ersatz images, by which such a deprived form CEU eTD Collection of political society may try to conceal from itself its condition. The poet may achieve a disclosure of this failed political imagination by putting the relevant images to the test, by using them in a poem and showing that when they are used with integrity what they disclose is imaginative incoherence or sterility or both.”65 Macintyre’s example for these ersatz images are the images used by Edmund Burke in describing the British state of his time. The poetry which he says is putting Burke’s images to 63 Alasdair Macintyre, “Poetry as Political Philosophy: Notes on Burke and Yeats”, Ethics and Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 160 64 Ibid, 161 65 Ibid, 161 40 the test is the poetry of William Butler Yeats. According to Macintyre, Burke’s primary contribution to political philosophy was primarily in the role of an image-maker. Making no clear distinction between the state, society and the constitutional order, Burke was able to create the images which “provide a much-needed mask to be worn by the modern state”66, images of the state as a bearer of traditional societal values. One of the most impresionable of these images, that of the state as an oak will later find its way into Yeats’ poetry, but as Macintyre notes, this time “what there is at the top of tree is emptiness” 67. Yeats indeed admits that “great nations blossom above”, but notes “What tears down a tree that has nothing within it”68. According to Macintyre, the reason for this variation of the Burkean theme lies in the following: “Yeats, having commited himself to the use of Burke’s political image, has been compelled by his perception o...
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