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Re: [xmca] Searching for essence
I think we are talking about two different procedures for doing the same thing which yield very different results because the two different procedures are essentially different. It is lie Spinoza's example of teaching about circles using the moon or ripples on a pond on the one hand or using a pencil on a string on the other: you are going to get circles in both cases, but the process is so different that the result is never going to be exactly the same.
Suppose we posit that there is something called an "aesthetic reaction" or an "aesthetic response". (Vygotsky uses this term only in his very earliest published work and I think that he understands it as an ACTIVE response even then and he would not use it at all aftr his break with reactology in "The Historical Meaning of the Crisis in Psychology".)
One procedure is to get two art works that produce this active response (e.g. "Hamlet" on the one hand and the fables of Krylov on the other) and see what it is that they have in common. Vygotsky does this, and he discovers a kind of tension between the form and the material in both cases. The problem is that this is not essential, because it is a property of all semiotic material, whether aesthetic or not.
Another procedure is to start with a single artwork (e.g. a fable) and deform it in some way so that the (active) aesthetic response is diminshed or even entirely abolished. For example, Lessing takes the fable of the fox and the grapes and retells it thus: a man wants to eat some pears, but he finds them hard to reach so he tells himself that it doesn't matter because they aren't ripe yet. Vygotsky does this too and he discovers a set of essences that are quite specific to particular art form (for example, the essence of a lyrical fable is quite different and in some ways diametrically opposed to that of a moral fable).
Now, it seems to me that these two procedures do come up with two different conclusions: one is too broad to exclude everything that is not art and the other is too narrow to include everything that is art. But it also seems to me that they overlap somehow: they both describe a relationship between the real and the ideal which is similar to and yet essentially different from the relationship between a scientific phenomenon and a scientific concept (it is a little easier to see this with a non-literary example, such as a painting, because somehow literature always tricks us into thinking that there is nothing real there at all).
What is the essence of this difference? I think I agree with Huw, that complexity is actually the main feature of scientific reality and that simplicity only occurs in highly isolated special cases. Weirdly, though, it seems to me that the opposite holds true for aesthetic reality; we begin by an idealizing abstraction, and it is only in the subsequent development of our aesthetic sensibility that we approach complexity (Brecht's "fables" for the theatre are an example of how the anthropomorphization of animal characters can be made to work, but the result is precisely an example of "complex seeing").
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
--- On Sat, 5/26/12, Larry Purss <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From: Larry Purss <email@example.com>
Subject: [xmca] Searching for essence
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Saturday, May 26, 2012, 9:40 PM
Further reflections on Wittgenstein and Vygotsky
Christine, I have been reading the article by Wittgenstein and reflecting
on the precision with which he DESCRIBES the functioning of aesthetic terms
such as the term *beautiful*. Wittgenstein questions if it is possible
to locate the *essence* of adjectival terms such as beautiful within any
generalized notion of the universal.
My understanding of Vygotsky is that he posits there is an
essence within aesthetic experience that can be located through analysis.
The aesthetic expression experienced when engaging with a work of art IS
the *aesthetic reaction* to a work of art. This generation of
the *aesthetic reaction* is the essence. The question then becomes how,
within particular cultures and particular historical epochs individuals
*aesthetically REACT* to works of art. How they react is the *essence*
of coming to understand aesthetic xperience.
Margaret Gredler, in exploring Vygotsky's understanding of aesthetic
reaction as the universal essence suggests Vygotsky's understanding leads
to the question,
How does history *show* WHICH feelings, in WHICH eras, via WHICH forms
have been expressed via art.
By analyzing a classical art form [ie Hamlet] the aesthetic reaction [in
general] can be studied. Observing the changes to the aesthetic reaction in
different epochs develops our understanding of this general aesthetic
Turning to cognitive development, Vygotsky asks if one can locate the
*essence* of cognitive activity through a process of analysis? [locate the
characteristics or properties displayed in all cognitive activity]
Margaret Gredler summarizes Vygotsky's answer to this question,
What is the general essence of the human activity of generating cognitive
processes? She summarizes Vygotsky's answer as follows,
* humans actively intervene in situations in which natural processes are
* humans create or appropriate symbols to gain control and MASTER a
* the symbols do not change or influence the object of the task but the
symbols redirect or reconstruct the individual's cognitive behavior in
approaching the task.
Gadamer's notion of *fusion* implies there are distinct horizons prior to a
conversation between horizons and the possible expansion of BOTH horizons.
Therefore, I am clarifying Vygotsky's notion of *essence* [as a particular
horizon] before asking
How would Wittgenstein respond to this notion of *essence*
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