In: KulturPoetik 2013, Heft 1


Karl Eibl


Von der Unwahrscheinlichkeit der Lyrik und weshalb es sie trotzdem gibt. Teil I: Das Bezugsproblem und Religion als Standardlösung




Religion and lyric poetry are both responses to the same problem intrinsic to the human in-tellect. It is the problem of the unachievable cognitive imperative: »Be omniscient!« This problem is rooted in our biological constitution as inhabitants of the »cognitive niche«. Ignorance of any important matter touches on our most efficient tool for survival and causes uncertainty and anxiety. Several means are used to alleviate this problem, such as providing a temporal context through the idea of progress. But the most frequent means used is religion. The purpose of religious rituals is not to communicate verifiable truth. Instead, their rhetorics employing »meaningless« repetition and circumstantiality appeal to evolutionary cognitive devices, especially the »induction instinct« and sensitivity to »handicap signals«, in order to assure us of the permanence of the world and of the relevance of the message. The second part of the paper (see next issue) deals with lyric poetry as a way of solving the same problem using similar means. Its tendency to ignore or to hide literal references and to show a playful surface with meaningless repetitions and »handicaps« parallels that of religion. Imprecision of reference and strict form allow it to treat matters which are highly relevant but of which we don’t have sufficient knowledge (such as God, life, love …).