When attempting to find an explanation as to why ‘uncertainty is regarded as a valuable state by thinkers and poets’ one must not focus solely on a singular defining answer, but instead factor in many considerations in order to produce a well rounded, though not absolute individuation. It is necessary to consider the direct opponent of the poetic thinkers. Scientific ideology plays an influential role in defining the processes of human thought which can be reviewed in countless episodes from humanities history such as the industrial revolution, modernity and the evolution of systemization. So in forming a dualistic discussion, it is also important to consider what opposes systemization, such as the inherent human connection with nature and individual existence without governing scientific laws. Romanticism is humanity’s defence against the spiritual ignorance of modernization.
If one considers sociological modernization as an optimistic movement where society’s focus is to expand their developmental abilities (industry), then it’s easy to see how spiritual ideology and an awareness of the present could be somewhat lost. So what was once a world of natural wonder has been reconstructed not only physically, but in the minds of its human population also. A natural sense of wonder has dissipated into the rational explanations that have come from science. Industrial endeavour (or modernization for the purpose of this discussion), though it may construct a superficially comfortable existence for human societies being that industry feeds, houses and clothes a growing human population, also forges a division in humanities understanding of its own existence. In other words, scientific ideology provides factual answers to questions concerning how life can be lived more efficiently, conveniently and ultimately conservatively, but it does not appeal to a traditional ethos (philosophy). The problem with this systemized ideology (modernization) is that is embodies an ethos alien to an indigenous human culture and does not develop spontaneously. A naturalist ideology (environmentalism) functions on an estimated basis of known or constant factors. For example, nature acknowledges that the void should not be crossed, whereas ‘a modernizing society projects itself into the unknown like a self-constructing bridge cantilevered across a void. In a sense, humanities subliminal satisfaction with a present state of being is a natural defence mechanism against a circular, reactionary destruction toward society caused by modernization and systemization. This notion exemplifies the relevance of John Keats expression ‘Negative Capability’ and the importance of his expression ‘When a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason’ because it demonstrates how a poetic mind yearns to learn from nature, whilst industrial progress only seeks to control it. Science has provided humanity with too many material choices, yet insufficient encouragement to explore ideological options. Considering what contemporary Western societies believes to be important questions such as, what direction is the economy headed? Is global warming a real threat to humanity? And is space the next frontier? These questions all relate to complications that science (or industry) generated in the first place.
What’s missing in contemporary Western ideology is a focus on the present and in particular, the importance of individual thinking. Consider scientific ideology to be a physiological dictator conditioning humanity to singular answers concerning extensive questions, or rational answers to subjective questions. Whilst science provides temporary solutions for a progressively industrializing society, what’s missing is a coherent response as to why humanity exists in the first place. The answer seems not come from scientific ideology with its shifting span of attention, but from literature and the communication of indeterminate answers and all encompassing questions. Take for example the literary work of Keats. As a medical student, he was not stranger to scientific ideology and recognised the importance of material objects, though where a man of science may take a mineral and make fuel to power an engine, Keats (a man of poetry) may take only inspiration from the same object and redefine it’s worth through poetry and nourish ideal visions of an enlightened society. Whereas science’s fuel moves matter, Keats’ poetry performs a far greater exchange in promoting the acknowledgement of a universe to learn from and be in ore of, not to conquer. Scientific ideologists may argue that science too, adheres to systems in nature in as much as imitating nature through synthetic design. Some examples of this can be seen in technologies such as the production of energy and information storage. Mechanisms inspired by leaves make up a large part portion of solar energy’s technical process and computers transmit signals much like cells transfer information. These and many more natural patterns have been utilized by science in order to provide for societies growing industry. The difference is that science does not adhere to laws of nature, it merely borrows nature’s blueprint (or green-print as it may be), creates an artificial alternative, and then moves on. What then becomes of humanities awareness of nature itself?
Without the poetry of Keats and other literary thinkers such as Wordsworth and Yeats, humanity may have been entirely seduced by science and its crusade in creating a more dominant, economical and productive human existence. Poetry exists to express our imaginative vision of the world and ‘our ways of imagining the world – determine the direction of our thoughts’ (Midgley 2002:01). Imagine (because poetry has made it possible) a world without individual ideology and books filled with theories pertaining solely to the hows and whys of scientific and industrial production. Every human would learn the subsidiary physical skill of building a tractor with no metaphysical understanding of why their field grows in the first place or worse still, that their only connection with natural organisms would be limited to an economic relationship. Poetry awakens humanities perceptions to accept the natural world as synchronous to human life, in contrast to a scientific endeavour to outsmart and ultimately conquer creation for ‘Art is the tree of life [and] science is the tree of death’ (Selincourt 2000:142). Scientific ideology aims to uncover the mysteries of life, but in doing so conditions humanity to a controlled process of thought. Science has proven, therefore it must be so. The destructive repercussions a society suffering from engaging with this totalitarian ideology can be characterized by the term ‘alienation.’ The poetry of Keats embraces alienation and transforms if from a negative sensation into a positive learning experience (negative capability). If by way of accepting singular ideologies or a specific answer as truth one might avoid alienation in a systemized society, what then becomes of individuality? Individual ideology is perhaps one of humanities greatest weapons in a modernized society because it exposes the manipulative attitude of conservative and consumerist ideology. Take for example contemporary Western society; each member of society is a small cog in a larger machine fuelled by the dollars turned out by societies ‘little cogs’. In order to keep the machine (industry) operational, society must be persuaded to ‘need’ certain products, which in actuality, exist as excessive materialistic consumption. Fashion, entertainment and medicine are but a few exhortations that industry promotes to sway a society’s opinion or lifestyle practices toward spending/consuming/assimilating, which are all responses to the sociologically divisional power of the weapon ‘advertising’.
The media projects an ‘ideal’ lifestyle to society and advises them of the material requirements they ‘need’ in order to ‘fit in’ and avoid alienation, subsequently empowering industry. The problem with this consumerist culture is that the value of individual ideology is lost to a compulsion to conform to a society governed by economic growth. Keats’ comment that ‘Men of Power have no individuality […] and instead acts as catalysts in the creative process of transmuting material things into art […] these men also fulfil a metaphorical role as the Philosopher’s Stone of alchemy’ (Wunder 2013 :109), serves as an example of how poetic ideology advocates individualism as a fundamental human ambition. Indeed, Keats asks the question ‘what creates the intense pleasure of not knowing?’ (Ostermark-Johansen 2003:78). The answer to this question according to Keats is independence or individualism if you will, a ‘sense of power, from the fancy’s creating a world of its own by the sense of probabilities’ (Ostermark-Johansen 2003:78). The concepts belonging to negative capability such as the belief that emotional and imaginative deliberation and the acknowledgement of an overpowering sense of beauty dispel the modernistic assumption that all questions regarding life can be answered rationally and wholly. Whereas, scientific ideology’s conservative minds and a statistical tradition adopted by consumerist convention successfully keeps a proletariat machine operational, Keats’ notion of negative capability responds with the opinion that ‘nothing is finer for the purposes of great production, than a very gradual ripening of the intellectual powers’ (Bate 1963:235). Furthermore, unlike the artificial mechanics of industry, negative capability is an organic conception born out of a pursuit of individual intellectual development, while industrial enterprise focuses on the systemised manufacture of economic progression. To ascertain the importance of uncertainties, mysteries doubts and negative capability for thinkers and poets it is essential to consider the positive impact of literature as an educational tool. To emphasise this consideration, imagine scientism, industry, and consumerism as a modernistic doctrine for a discarded authoritarian religion. The leading contributors to this ‘systematic doctrine’ are exclusively concerned with maintaining limited ideological input in order to benefit from societies output. In other words, a disenchanted society will believe there is no other wealth to be obtained other than a material possession. Where the doubtful mind (as a production of negative capability) is valuable, is through the ownership of independent ideology, a freedom of mind and choice. In contemporary Western societies the concept of ideological freedom is continually overthrown by the provisional and civil value of material possessions. Personal gain as defined by industry, is restricted to what can be bought and sold, ultimately to the value of legal tender, which is merely a piece of paper created by a governing body to determine an individuals worth in a class system. Literature on the other hand ‘necessarily generates poetic effects in order to create literary value’ (Downes 2010: 254) and in doing so offers humanity the literary tools to develop their opinions freely in order to contest a man-made human instinct of persecution and conformity that ultimately forces society into one mould, making individual progress impossible. For this reason, negative capability encourages individual empowerment, whilst systemization promotes a modernized impersonality.
The poetry of Keats and other poets who put mental stock in ‘human enlightenment’ is crucial to humanity because without it, in the hands of the conservative thinker, the personal freedom that comes with an individual ideology could be merely an idea rather than a reality.