Re: [xmca] neoformation

From: David Kellogg <vaughndogblack who-is-at>
Date: Sun Feb 03 2008 - 18:08:40 PST

I think it probably went without saying that neoformations are only really neoformations in hindsight. But LSV was fighting against other psychologists who were already clamoring for a purely social source for development, and that's why he uses rather striking (and strikingly imprecise) formulations such as "all crises are determined from within". (On the other hand, he also argued that puberty was NOT a crisis.)
  But I don't think neoformations are ENTIRELY cultural, because if that were true then NEW neoformations would not arise. Here's a good example:
  Caravaggio's great discovery was probably due to lassitude, or maybe to being on the lam (he had been condemned to be beheaded for an imprudent murder committed during a tennis match). He tended to paint in slashes of brilliant illumination against a murky background. That way he could finish a painting and deliver it in a hurry (without even preliminary sketches, as far as we know) and get to the next town ahead of the law.
  But the result was that for the first time in art history, illumination becomes a character in the painting, and not just the medium through which the other characters are visible. You can see this in the way the warm light comes from the angel's staying hand and the cold light comes off the knife.
  This treatment of light was a neoformation in painting; not the main activity in Caravaggio's own painting until later on his career, and not even a leading activity in anybody else's painting for another two or three decades, but a clear harbinger of a major development .
  Caravaggio didn't have much time to develop the idea, either on canvas or in his brief life, but Rembrandt did. Rembrandt is actually NOT very good at drama; the one painting where he tries to use Caravaggio's treatment of light in a Biblical drama is someting of a disaster painting (The Feast of Belshazzar, in the National Gallery in London).
  Instead, Rembrandt uses Caravaggio's discovery for PSYCHOLOGICAL purposes in portraits: light is not so much a character in a dramatic painting as an aspect of their character like their dress and their facial expression and their bodily hexis.
  Apparently Spinoza was a neighbour of Rembrandt's; one of Rembrandt's drawings is of Spinoza's teacher, Menasseh Ben Israel:
  Andy says that Spinoza's solution to the mind-body problem was to say that "All cows look black in the dark", and I suppose that is one way to see his "Deus sive Natura" ("God, that is to say, Nature"), whereby all properties, including both thought and extension, are part of a single substance.
  I don't think Spinoza really worked out the ramifications of "Deus sive Natura". I don't think he worked out all the implications of his argument that emotion was a source of morality and not its enemy. In fact, he says as much. But I think what he did was to lay down a brilliant slash of light that our eyes still follow, a neoformation that actually goes on developing long after it is no longer new.
  David Kellogg
  Seoul National University of Education

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Received on Sun Feb 3 18:10 PST 2008

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