The text on this page is from David Lavery, "An Owen Barfield Readers Guide." Seven 15 (1998): 97-112.

What Coleridge Thought

What Coleridge Thought. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan U P, 1971; London: Oxford University Press, 1972.

[Coleridge's extraordinarily unifying mind] was too painfully aware that you cannot really say one thing correctly without saying everything. He was rightly afraid that there would not be time to say everything before going on to say the next thing, or that he would forget to do so afterwards. His incoherence of expression arose from the coherence of what he wanted to express. It was a sort of intellectual stammer. (Romanticism Comes of Age 146)

Barfield describes What Coleridge Thought as the "most academically ambitious book I’ve written" (Owen Barfield Man and Meaning). The culmination of a lifetime’s interest in Coleridge (as a young man just out of Oxford he aspired to become the editor of Coleridge’s collected works, and at his death, he left behind an edited volume of Coleridge’s philosophical lectures for The Collected Coleridge), What Coleridge Thought had its inception in a course Barfield taught at Drew University in the 1960s. Still of value for serious students of the great Romantic figure, it nevertheless remains a book inaccessible to all but the most dedicated readers of Barfield. Along with Rudolf Steiner and Goethe, Coleridge stands, after all, as one of the major influences on Barfield’s whole development as a thinker; but his interest in Coleridge was more than merely intellectual. Barfield it seems identified with Coleridge in another way. Beleaguered from his youth by his own problems with stammering, Barfield empathized with Coleridge's own difficulties with articulation, as the epigraph above would seem to indicate.


Table of Contents

1 Thoughts and Thinking 13-21
2 Naturata and Naturans 22-25
3 Two Forces of One Power 26-40
4 Life 41-58 
5 Outness 59-68
6 Imagination and Fancy (I) 69-75
7 Imagination and Fancy (II) 76-91
8 Understanding 92-103
9 Reason 104-114
10 Ideas, Methods, Laws 115-130
11 Coleridge and the Cosmology of Science 131-143
12 Man and God 144-157
13 Man in History and in Society 158-178
Appendix: Polar Logic 179-193