Unreal Nature

February 5, 2017

The Bud in Which Slumbers Form

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… The excess of my seeing is the bud in which slumbers form, and whence form unfolds like a blossom.

This is from the essay ‘Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity’ in Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov (1990):

… [The] ever-present excess of my seeing, knowing, and possessing in relation to any other human being is founded in the uniqueness and irreplaceability of my place in the world. For only I — the one-and-only I — occupy in a given set of circumstances this particular place at this particular time; all other human beings are situated outside me.

… Cognition constructs a unitary and universally valid world, a world independent in every respect from that concrete and unique position which is occupied by this or that individual. For cognition, there is no absolutely inconvertible relationship of I and all others; for cognition, “I and the other,” inasmuch as they are being thought, constitute a relationship that is relative and convertible, since the cognitive subiectum as such does not occupy any determinate, concrete place in being.

However, this unitary world of cognition cannot be perceived as a unique concrete whole, charged with the manifold qualities of being, the way we perceive a particular landscape, dramatic scene, this particular building, etc. For what the actual perception of a concrete whole presupposes is that the contemplator occupies a perfectly determinate place, and that he is unitary and embodied. The world of cognition and every constituent in it are capable of being thought, but they are not capable of actually being perceived.

… Our concern is only with actions of contemplationactions of contemplation, because contemplation is active and productive. These actions of contemplation do not go beyond the bounds of the other as given; they merely unify and order that given. And it is these actions of contemplation, issuing from the excess of my outer and inner seeing of the other human being that constitute the purely aesthetic actions. The excess of my seeing is the bud in which slumbers form, and whence form unfolds like a blossom.

… Let us say that there is a human being before me who is suffering. The horizon of his consciousness is filled by the circumstance which makes him suffer and by the objects which he sees before him. The emotional and volitional tones which pervade this visible world or objects are tones of suffering. What I have to do is to experience and consummate him aesthetically (ethical actions, such as assistance, rescue, consolation, are excluded in this case).

… But is this fullness of inner merging the ultimate goal of aesthetic activity, for which outward expressedness is only a means and performs only an informative function? Certainly not. Aesthetic activity proper has not even begun yet.

… my projection of myself into him must be followed by a return into myself, a return to my own place outside the suffering person, for only from this place can the material derived from my projecting myself into the other be rendered meaningful ethically, cognitively, or aesthetically. If this return into myself did not actually take place, the pathological phenomenon of experiencing another’s suffering as one’s own would result — an infection with another’s suffering, and nothing more.

Strictly speaking, a pure projection of myself into the other, a move involving the loss of my own unique place outside the other, is, on the whole, hardly possible; in any event, it is quite fruitless and senseless. When I project myself into another’s suffering, I experience it precisely as his suffering — in the category of the other, and my reaction to it is not a cry of pain, but a word of consolation or an act of assistance. Referring what I myself have experienced to the other is an obligatory condition for a productive projection into the other and cognition of the other, both ethically and aesthetically.

[line break added] Aesthetic activity proper actually begins at the point when we return into ourselves, when we return to our own place outside the suffering person, and start to form and consummate the material we derived from projecting ourselves into the other and experiencing him from within himself. And these acts of forming and consummating are effected by our completing that material (that is, the suffering of the given human being) with features transgredient to the entire object-world of the other’s suffering consciousness. These transgredient features no longer have the function of informing but have a new function, the function of consummating.

[line break added] The position of his body which had first informed us about his suffering and which led us to his inward suffering now takes on a purely plastic value, becomes an expression which embodies and consummates the suffering expressed, and the emotional and volitional tones of this expressedness are no longer the tones of suffering. The clear blue sky that enframes him becomes a pictorial feature which consummates and resolves his suffering. And all these values that consummated the image of the other were drawn by me from the excess of my seeing, volition, and feeling.

My most recent previous post from Bakhtin’s book is here.

-Julie

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