What is the key difference between philosophy and poetry? Can a quote be identified as poetic with a philosophical idea hidden within it? For example Albert Einstein once said "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." Could this quote be identified as a sort of poetry? Can it be described as something that describes a philosophical idea? This question arose as someone told me that this is his philosophy, but it sounds like a poetic piece that describes an idea to me. In addition, David Schmidtz once said that "Life is a house and meaning is what makes it home." This also sounds poetic, but does it also describe a philosophy in a single sentence? In general, can a poetic sentence/quote be used as a philosophy or to more generally describe a philosophy?

Plato's view was that poetry is a divine madness - theia mania - and that it is better avoided. He recommended philosophy instead. This seems a bit extreme, and a bit dull. Not all poetry is the product of any kind of mania, and many poets are perfectly sane. Some philosophy, on the other hand, is pretty mad, and does come across as a kind of poetry, though mostly bad poetry. Poetry is not all tall tales, as Plato thought, though some of it has an aspect of fiction. Take for example John Clare's "Autumn Birds", which begins,

The wild duck startles like a sudden thought,
And heron slow as if it might be caught.
The flopping crows on weary wings go by
And grey beard jackdaws noising as they fly.

There is nothing maniacal about this. Imagination can rise to a kind of poetic description of fact, brilliant and accurate as a mere statement of fact could not be: "The wild duck startles like a sudden thought . . .", for example.

The quotation from David Schmidtz seems perfectly reasonable as a piece of philosophy, even if it sounds like poetry, or even if it is poetry as well as philosophy. The distinction between house and home and its alignment alongside the distinction between an empty life and a meaningful one works very well both at the level of imagination and at the level of commonness philosophy.

Again, Bertrand Russell wrote, 'Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.' This is poetic, if not poetry, but it also describes the tendency of Russell's philosophical work. Why not? Poetry is about imagery, passion, expression, sentiment, and so on, whereas philosophy is about reason, logic, argument and solutions to problems. Nevertheless, there is no reason why one should not be cast in the form of the other.

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