Re: Butterflies and life

From: Phil Chappell (
Date: Sun Apr 03 2005 - 17:51:17 PDT

Mike and All Spam lovers,

Parts of Psychology of Art are here.


On Monday, April 04, 2005, at 02:52AM, Mike Cole <> wrote:

><<Original Attached>>

Ana--  I am confused by the law of aesthetic response.
I get two (perhaps) relevant defintions from OED for catharsis:
1. The purification of the emotions by vicarious experience, esp. through the drama
Psychotherapy. The process of relieving an abnormal excitement by re-establishing the association of the emotion with the memory or idea of the event which was the first cause of it, and of eliminating it by abreaction

My copy of Psych of Art has long ago been borrowed in extinction. Can you elaborate so I can follow the rest of the thought?

On Apr 2, 2005 11:27 PM, Ana Marjanovic-Shane <> wrote:
In the Psychology of Art, Vygotsky said:
"The law of aesthetic response ...: it comprises an affect that develops in two opposite directions but reaches annihilation at its point of termination.
This is the process we should like to call catharsis."(Psychology of Art, MIT Press, 1971, p. 214)
Learning is often, probably always, driven by the law of catharsis -- learning which is meaningful and transformative.
But the emotion that develops in two opposite directions is not always a benign and sweet thing. It is dramatic, it is breaking away, it is or can become fully developed drama or tragedy. Think of the great thought revolutions: Copernicus and Galileo.
The best learning, a true metamorphosis is never merely academic and just cognitive.
But, there are more levels here. There is a difference between a catharsis, as transformation into something new; and destruction, a transformation after which nothing is left. However, a line between the two is very thin.
What does it mean to be pro-life? A catch phrase, almost a battle cry, that touches some people and blinds them to everything else: complexities of human situation, effects on other people, scientific findings...  In the same breath, they can be against "abortion" and for the "capital punishment". And it makes sense to them. And then you have people who know how to use this catch phrase, this battle cry to achieve some other goals. Goals which have nothing to do and may be contrary to the meaning of "pro-life". You almost feel like a spectator in a theater seeing how the affects develop in the opposite directions and you wait for them to reach annihilation and the point of termination. And you pray that the termination will be in the form of the social catharsis -- not social destruction.

Mike Cole wrote:
Breaking away

Breaking away
stealing thoughts
cutting edges and
turning around.

I cannot stop.

Butterflies, jellyfish,
marzipan sweet,
snap dragon flies
sprinkled with sand.

Breaking away
over the wires
under the radar
covering tracks.

I cannot stop.

Butterflies are blown northward
to the San Joaquin valley in profusion.
Orange, black, white fleeting lives,
Flying, blowing north.

Breaking away
gently destroying
remembrance of life before.



Today the butterflies in our back yard crowded our beautiful purple flowers. Not yet blown away on their
trip north. Heather appreciated the thoughts. Their lives are so short!
Today Pope John Paul the 2nd died. They say he promoted pro life and pro social justice policies. It is an
occasion,along with the furor over Terry Shaivo,  for all of us to re-think what it means to be pro-life and pro-poor. David tried to get us to think about this issue earlier this week. Apparently his comments did not resonate. Might
they evoke more externalized reflection the second time around?

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