Re: [xmca] neoformation

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Tue Feb 05 2008 - 12:37:19 PST

Really interesting ideas and great pics.
Again, one point of agreement I think very important to the general
discussion of development ongoing here.

You write, David, that "But I don't think neoformations are ENTIRELY
cultural, because if that were true then NEW neoformations would not arise.

Working in a perspective that assumes the interanimation of phylogeny,
cultural history, and ontogency, this conclusion follows a almost an axiom.
I have to think more about the
"slash of light" as a neoformation in art, as you put it. One
thing this formulation does is to presume content/activity specificity of
the origins of change which is a point I have been pushing with indifferent
success here.

On Sun, Feb 3, 2008 at 6:08 PM, David Kellogg <>

> 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 Tue Feb 5 12:38 PST 2008

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