Read William Bennet's Colin Bennett's 'Politics of Imagination; the life, work and times of Charles Fort'. He does Fort great justice and the book is (at least) as good a read as any of Forts. A hell of a good read. crucial.
My mind is still grappling with some of the implications.
Inasmuch as his works inspire 'awe and wonder' at the world around us, i would have to resound an emphatic "YES". Though, perhaps, a different sort of mystic; a modern mystic. no fuddy duddy who hushes up the nay sayers or who wants only to silence inquisitive minds, but a TRUE mystic whose congectures bring us to wonder at the very nature of our world and casts the universe as a beautiful, incomprehinsable, often paradoxical being with a sense of humor. His works bring humility to mankind, who like to pretend we have 'almost got it fugured out'. If his soul was a mystic his mind was a scientist.
[Forts] works inspire 'awe and wonder' at the world around us [...] a TRUE mystic whose congectures bring us to wonder at the very nature of our world and casts the universe as a beautiful, incomprehinsable, often paradoxical being with a sense of humor.
Aside from all Fort could tell us (or could think he could tell us) about the world and its people, I think what you said there pretty much sums up exactly why I think Fort was such an incredible mind and such a fantastic man.
A man who paints a universe of mystery and beauty, and describes it in such a way as to make the impression last...that's Fort.
Fort has been accused of Hegelianism, presumably because of that remark that when it is Steam Engine Time, it's steam engines all over. There is a bit of truth there, but not much. There is a historical dialetic implied in the Collected Works, but it seems to be used to explain why Fort doesn't seem to give a damn about religion and spiritualism--its time is past, or perhaps yet to come, as an intellectual fashion as far as Fort is concerned.
I would qualify Fort as a cynic (in the positive sense) or Zen mystic--using the intellect, systematization, absolutely outrageous explanations, and gentile, ironic humour as a dissolving acid to attack intellectual pretension and dogmatism.
Diogenes the Cynic comes off a little more tart than Fort, but he has the right attitude, despite the deplorable hygeine and low-rent district location.
He is in the anarchic line of philosophy which produced Nietzche's aphorisms, Zen koans, Christian parables and the Hassadic parables which so often ressemble koans.
Fort's anarchic humour allows him to occupy the broad windy marshes where dogmatism gets bogged down.
Kierkegarde is another philosophy with whom you might compare Fort--he has flashes of humour, mysticism and anarchic dislike of dogma. Fort is more of an existentialist or phenomenologist than a Hegelian, I think.
But in any case, Fort is too big and catholic to be pinned down neatly to school and system.
I greatly enjoy the wit of a number of satiric writers--Chesterton, Belloc (his children's books only), Mencken, Bierce, Twain, Swift, the earlier Waugh--all of whom seem to be pretty right wing or aggresively Roman Catholic, which I am not--but with such an undercurrent of anarchy that one can't actually dislike them even when their opinions are idiotic or appalling. Fort is just a bit more so. He leaves out the religion, the crack-pot politics, the inane romanticism and idealization of the past--hey, Fort is all my favourite satirists thrown into the crucible and purified of the political and intellectual dross.
"Through Crankery, to Krankheit" (which I believe is German for both "Beauty" and "Health")--that's my man, Fort, in a button-sized slogan.
Thanks LBD; despite being a philosophy student myself, I had not wanted to begin to sift through philosophical thought to find starting places; tho, as Fort would remind us, we can find elements of all things in all other things; such is an organic universe.
I would disagree that
Originally posted by littleblackduck
Fort doesn't seem to give a damn about religion and spiritualism--its time is past, or perhaps yet to come, as an intellectual fashion as far as Fort is concerned.
I don't think Fort thought any more or less about anything; things come and go and come again, and nothing attains or achieves any more or less prominence or importance than anything else. I think perhaps Fort was weary of spiritualists and religionists; recall his comment in a letter to Aaron Sussman about the Fortean Society, in which he objects to the FS' formation, because it will attract (amongst others) spiritualists and zealots who will not listen because they have not been listened to. Fort requires openness of mind and surrenderance of intellectual ego-- not a common feature of those committed to dogma, as are many religionists and spiritualists. I don't think he wanted them because they didn't want him-- or, his ideas. Fort would be happy, I think, to admit dogmatists, so long as they would accept the possibility that they would listen and perhaps leave with their dogma challenged, if not removed.
I think also that there is much to be said for Fort's style, which in philosophy, or the expression of ideas, is as important as the substance. Aristotle is legendary for his polymathy and intellect, but was also a renowned stylist. Like Nietzsche, Fort has a unique, dynamic, poetic and almost violent style (tho Nietzsche's was far more so), with a particular skill for aphorisms: I have long thought that a good philosopher is one whose philosophy can be concluded in or deduced from a short series of quotations. Consider Fort's three cardinal sayings (.one measures a circle..', .conceive of nothing in..', and 'i belive nothing of my own..'), as well as other almost off-the-cuff musings, and you have a style that is as infectious and memorable as it is profound. Though, of course, I don't believe a word of it
P.S. I also like something Tiffany Thayer said in his introduction (xi) to the 1940 Henry Holt edition of BOTD,
'Mental genuflection is not characteristic of Forteans'