Unreal Nature

July 31, 2018

Give It a Little Shake

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… “How do I build myself into life so that I become a co-describer of life by describing myself?”

Continuing through The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name: Seven Days with Second-Order Cybernetics by Heinz von Foerster, edited by Albert Müller and Karl H. Müller and translated by Elinor Rooks and Michael Kasenbacher (2014):

… I would, by the way, make the following recommendation to nuclear physicists: don’t think about little balls that won’t have anything to do with one another; think about little hooks, the whole universe is made of little hooks. And if you shake them, then the hooks join together especially if they’re those fishhooks that are bent at both ends.

[line break added] You’ve got to give it a little shake. Everyone can try this out in his or her room. Put fishhooks in a pot and shake it. Then take them out. They’re all connected. Marvelous self-organization. All I need to do is shake. And nothing else. That means that if I let energy flow through a thermodynamically open system then the structures, potential structures that exist, will be realized.

[ … ]

… I’m always wanting to draw attention to the fact that what interests me about the question “What is life?” is not the definition that someone, you or I, conjures up. On the contrary: if we talk about the problem of life here and now then this becomes important: in which form does this conversation play out? I want to stress over and over that it all comes down to the conversational form we use when we talk about life.

[line break added] It isn’t the problematic of life that fascinates me — of course it is one of the tremendously fascinating problems — but rather the form of speaking when we talk about life. This point fascinates me: through the ways that we talk about life, we create, bring forth, produce life.

… The problem of life does not primarily consist of fixing criteria for determining, “There is life, that is a living organization.” For me it is incomparably more urgent to find a description that finds itself, or a description that writes itself. And so not, “There is the law ABC,” but rather, “Here is the law that has set itself.” And if now I ought to conjure up this law — “Heinz, produce this life-law that writes itself” — then I answer, “I still haven’t found it.”

… If you are coming from the natural-scientific direction,then you are already quite happy to say “The worms divide themselves into …” “The living creatures divide themselves into …”

… If, however, I want to consider biology as a science of life then I deliberately do not say, “There is life,” but instead pose the question, “How do I build myself into life so that I become a co-describer of life by describing myself?” Then the categories and the forms of speaking about biology become fundamentally different.

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




July 30, 2018

How We Don’t Do It

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:58 am

… Some of us have the luxury of being able … to focus on one thing and know that’s the one thing we do and be very pure about it … . Others of us, … have become … situational eaters.

This is from the transcript of Hans-Ulrich Obrist’s ‘Statement’ at the symposium Curating Now: Imaginative Practice / Public Responsibility (2001):

… I always want to say something about what has not changed, because all of this is about change. Something that has not changed is that the collection remains the backbone of museums. The museum’s main function as a site for “time-storage” is unchanged. Pontus Hultén, in an interview with me, said that this collection/backbone element is very important as a kind of shelter into which to retreat, and a source of energy. I think the collection is a source of energy both for the curator and the visitor.

To have moments of silence and slowness are an integral part of a museum visit. At a time when the fast lane and noise dominate over the slow lane and silence, it is important to think about how to reinject slowness and silence into current museum conditions. In an interview I conducted with Rem Koolhaas, he discusses this idea in reference to his museum and library projects: “I don’t think you have a laboratory visited by two million people a year, and that is why, in both our libraries and our museums what we are trying to do is to organize the coexistence of urban noise experiences, and at the same time experiences that enable focus and slowness.

[line break added] This is, for me, the most exciting way of thinking today, the incredible surrender to frivolity and how it could actually be somehow compatible with the seduction of focus and stillness. The issue of mass visitors and the core experience of stillness and slowness, taken together with the work, are what is at issue in these projects.”

Next is from Thelma Golden’s ‘Statement’:

… I was interviewed by the architecture critic for the New Yorker, Paul Goldberger. He was writing a piece and his hook, at least when he started the piece, was the idea that there was a kind of “branded curator,” that there was this “star” curator notion — that one defined curatorial practice by who one was and then other people would come along and try and be that kind of curator. In discussing this he forced me to come up with some analogies so that he could write about it.

… I couldn’t come up with an analogy for him except one that was prompted by being in my doctor’s office and waiting for her interminably. They always put you in a room and make you take your clothes off and then no one comes for forty minutes. I’m sitting in there and there was this chart about eating habits or diet types.

[line break added] It started with vegan, then it explained what a vegan was, then it went to, like, ovo-lacto vegetarian; then there was some other kind of vegetarian that was not ovo-lacto. Then there was something before carnivore that was chicken, fish, but no red meat, then there was the straight carnivore. There was this other interesting thing — the situational eater.

[line break added] They described situational eating as something that didn’t happen so much in the developed Western world necessarily, but developed in other parts of the globe where access to different foods was not necessarily a matter of choice, like in the supermarket. When I was talking to Mr. Goldberger, it made me realize that, in some ways, curatorial practice can be like that.

[line break added] Some of us have the luxury of being able to live out our lives as vegans: to focus on one thing and know that’s the one thing we do and be very pure about it and never get swayed by a piece of dairy that might be lurking on the edge of the plate. Others of us, of course, have become, for one reason or another, situational eaters.

… I also think that nothing makes us understand ourselves or what we do or “how we do it or how we don’t do it” as actually looking for a job.

My previous post from this book is here.




July 29, 2018

Less Beautiful, Less Immaculate, Less Obvious

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… if we succumb, the courage and generosity of the world will lose something of their obviousness.

Continuing through The Bad Conscience by Vladimir Jankélévich, translated by Andrew Kelley (2015):

… These troubled souls resemble the solitary player who sets out to play a game of chess against himself; however much he is swept up in all sorts of giddiness, he can only delay a dénouement that is absolutely foretold since the For and Against depend equally upon him.

… All in all, the conscience does not say anything but this: not everything can be done; certain actions, outside of their utility, sometimes even against all reason, encounter in us an inexplicable resistance that slows them down; something in them no longer goes without saying.

… Everything that is obvious becomes cloudy; a poisonous principle corrupts all of our pleasures. Is the conscience not the death of hope?

… Our misdeed itself directly affects the moral law; it renders it less beautiful, less immaculate, less obvious; we have a premonition that someone’s bad action already engages and compromises in a certain measure the very future of the law; the sin of one person will perhaps make it that there is less confidence and hope among men.

[line break added] One would be exaggerating, without a doubt, to claim with the mystics that the entire universe is hanging on our decisions, that even God needs our collaboration; that the moral agent possesses, as Nicolai Hartmann says, a demiurgic spontaneity; however, is not one of the profound singularities of moral life this belief of the agent in the value and cosmic repercussions of his action?

[line break added] For there are in the resolutions of a will something infinite, solemn, and supernatural that is foreign to the undertakings of intelligence. Error is an affair that is less “important” than the misdeed, everything tells us this; for if we do not succumb to sin, not even the devil can do anything, whereas if we succumb, the courage and generosity of the world will lose something of their obviousness.

[line break added] This is why failings of a respected man have in our eyes something distressing and which make us doubt of everything; we feel that on account of the misdeed of one person life has a little less value than before and our moral belief will perhaps not recover from this wound. The law that punishes is thus the same one that suffers and one can say without exaggeration that our sins perpetually crucify the ideal.

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




July 28, 2018

Not Merely Embrained

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:55 am

… doing so requires giving up thinking of the substrate of experiential responses as content-carrying vehicles.

Second (and last) post from Radicalizing Enactivism: Basic Minds without Content by Daniel D. Hutto and Erik Myin (2013):

… A prolonged history of interactive encounters is the basis of creatures’ current embodied tendencies, know-how and skills. To invoke the favorite poetic motto of enactivists, this is essentially a process of “laying down a path in walking.”

… once one abandons the idea that mentality is essentially content involving there is no a priori reason to suppose that cognition is an exclusively heady affair. Rejection of CIC [Content Involving Cognition] and with it representationalism thus provides the cleanest and clearest motivation for thinking that cognition is fully embodied and embedded, and not merely embrained.

Dretske reminds us that it makes no sense to say that the entities and events represented in a story (its contents) reside in a book. No one expects to find damsels in distress, brave knights, or feats of derring-do in books. But it makes perfect sense to think that sentences describing those events (the vehicles of those linguistically conveyed contents) can be found in specific locations in a book. By the same token, it is assumed that neural vehicles of mental content can, in principle, be located in specific places in brains, even though it would be a mistake to think of mental contents as located there.

The situation looks quite different to anyone who denies that basic mentality involves content, as REC [Radical Enactive (or Embodied) Cognition] does. This is because doing so requires giving up thinking of the substrate of experiential responses as content-carrying vehicles.

My previous post from this book is here.




July 27, 2018

Inappropriate, Improbable Identification

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:31 am

… in languages we will never speak, about places we will never visit and experiences we will never have.

Continuing through This Little Art by Kate Briggs (2017):

… I was once asked, at the time of publishing and publicly presenting my translations, whether I had ever felt excluded from Barthes’s fantasies. … Perhaps what A.D. Miller, in his beautiful Bringing out Roland Barthes, calls the ‘discreet but discernible gay specificity of Barthes’s text’? … I took the question sensitively, I remember, as a public reminder of my difference. And so as an indirect querying of my identification with Barthes’s late work: my claim to having a relationship with it, to feeling addressed by and included in it.

[line break added] All of which, in the bright glare of the question, was now starting to look a bit improbable, perhaps; a bit inappropriate. I think I said something about the fantasy of the dressmaker, the seamstress who features in the [Barthes’s] lectures on the novel. The dressmaker who goes from house to house, gleaning bits of life, bits and pieces of life, collecting her materials before returning to her home to work on them, working them up, piecing them together: the dressmaker like the novelist. I pointed to her, I think.

… on reflection I would answer differently now. I would argue that this is what reading offers us: occasions for inappropriate, improbable identification. For powerful reality-suspending identification with a character, a writer, an idea, an experience, a fantasy. Fantasies that apparently have nothing to do with me — isn’t this, in its way, the power of fantasy? — that do not appear to directly concern or pertain to me.

[line break added] But that catch me up nonetheless. Like a complicated miracle. Like the everyday complicated miracle of reading books written by other people — especially, perhaps, books in translation, originally written in languages we will never speak, about places we will never visit and experiences we will never have.

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




July 26, 2018

Nomadic, Floating, Ephemeral Forms

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… Photography is a rescue technique.

This is from the essay ‘Brancusi and Photography’ by Friedrich Teja Bach in Constantin Brancusi (1995):

… Photography is the form in which Brancusi speaks about his sculpture. “Why write?” he once asked. “Why not just show the photographs?” This reveals both his skeptical view of the written word — of any attempt to translate his art into language — and the importance he attached to his own photography.

… Meaning is contextual: the lighting generates the context, and the context transforms the essential form.

Brancusi makes explicit what must be seen when one sees his sculptures, and he does this by going against the grain of photography. As a medium, photography puts the instant on hold; it arrests time in the black point of its focus. Yet because it is itself timeless, it opens up the dimension of time within Brancusi’s sculpture.

[line break added] Photography makes it clear that to look at Bird in Space cannot mean concentrating on the outline of a questionable ideal form thereby visually imposing the preexistent, surrounding space on the sculpture-specific space: it means yielding, as a viewer, to allow the sculpture’s own space to emerge of its own accord and allowing oneself to be drawn into that space. Photography shows how we need to leave time — or rather, actively take time — for Brancusi’s sculpture.

[ … ]

… In almost all his base constructions, Brancusi was continually recombining figurative forms and sculptural elements. Photography places successive configurations on record, enabling us to make direct comparisons between combinations of a single sculpture with various bases. Photography logs discoveries and preserves juxtapositions of forms whether fortuitous or intentional, which have a sculptural quality in their own right or which introduce a new level of meaning.

[line break added] Those transitory configurations that Brancusi called “mobile groups” — such as The Child in the World (no. 45), Cock and Sleeping Muse, and Socrates and Cup (no. 59) — survive through the medium of photography which reflects and records the brief existence of nomadic, floating, ephemeral forms.

Photography is a rescue technique. It is an optical diary of Brancusi’s work of permutation, his combinatorial method. In the real world any sculptural element can belong to one construction only; it is photography that conveys its capacity for recombination and the multitude of structures in which it can exist.

… Recombination contextualizes sculpture in terms of its own medium; photography contextualizes it in a different medium.

My previous post from this book is here.




July 25, 2018

Autobiography Buried Alive

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:44 am

… There is an autobiography buried alive within his pictures …

This is from the essay ‘Walker Evans’s Fictions of the South’ in Lincoln’s Smile and Other Enigmas by AlanTrachtenberg (2007):

It’s been said that we cannot know for sure whether Walker Evans recorded the America of the 1930s or invented it. “Beyond doubt,” wrote John Szarkowski, “the accepted myth of our recent past is in some measure the creation of this photographer.”

… In concert with a historian’s eye for telling detail, Evans photographed with a novelist’s eye for hidden nuances of form and meaning and a poet’s eye and ear for the lyricism of things. The apparent magic of his pictures is that he makes historical record and poetic invention seem one and inseparable, what can be called lyric history or fictions of fact.

… An occasional visitor, an outsider usually working on a commission or an assignment or in the employ of an agency of the federal government, Evans gave what many consider the definitive pictorial account of a place called “the South” at that time, a vision apparently transparent enough to have lost the signature of an individual artist: unpainted shacks, ragged but stalwart sharecroppers, old plantation mansions in disrepair — a region under duress, depleted, haunted by ghosts and by something else, with an aura perhaps only a stranger could detect, an air of propriety and decorum that refused pity and resisted condescension.

… The question arises: if to be a Southerner means, as many have believed, to have a unique regional attachment to the South as a place of enduring local value, where does this leave the stranger, the outsider, the visitor passing through? Can an outsider, according to this scheme, come to know a Southern place intrinsically enough to give a reliable account of it?

[line break added] Place suggests the idea of belonging, feeling at home, part of a tradition, rooted, as in the expression “in place.” Eudora Welty, the great Mississippi writer and storyteller (and gifted photographer as well), offered the following in explanation and in honor of the presumably core Southern value of place:

A place that ever was lived in is like a fire that never goes out. It flares up, it smolders for a time, it is fanned or smothered by circumstance, but its being is intact, forever fluttering within it, the result of some original ignition. Sometimes it gives out glory, sometimes its little light must be sought out to be seen, small and tender as a candle flame, but as certain.

This is from Welty’s tribute to the Natchez Trace in her essay “Some Notes on River Country.” In another essay, “Place in Fiction,” she says about the writer that “place is where he has his roots, place is where he stands; in his experience out of which he writes, it provides the base of reference; in his work, the point of view.” For Welty, reciprocity between place and consciousness not only assures the integrity of persons but also makes art possible.

[ … ]

… “Agee and I,” [Evans] said earlier in the same interview, “were both old Americans.”

Evans took quite seriously this idea of an “old America” kept alive in and by “the South.” There is an autobiography buried alive within his pictures of the 1930s, a gathering of personal experience and, in his books and sequences of images, a studied reflection on that experience.

… In his pictures ordinary things glow with the revelation of historical-poetical truth. In that sense they are among the twentieth century’s most persuasive revelations of photography itself, its power to expand and discipline while inventing visions of the real.

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




July 24, 2018

The World Is a Casino

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:56 am

… The world is created because I have played it and continue to play it.

Continuing through The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name: Seven Days with Second-Order Cybernetics by Heinz von Foerster, edited by Albert Müller and Karl H. Müller and translated by Elinor Rooks and Michael Kasenbacher (2014):

… Once I’ve recognized that I am dealing with a nontrivial system — because after every operation the operation of the system changes — then right away I can say that this system is unpredictable, that is, that it is not explicable through analysis.

[ … ]

At the moment there is an important argument concerning such operators and the limits of our knowledge, or rather, its predictability. That’s Popper’s argument — that at the present time we cannot predict our future knowledge.

That’s so trivial for me, since we’re clearly dealing with nontrivial systems, which are absolutely not predictable. We don’t need Popper’s “knowledge” for that.

According to Foerster [i.e. to ‘you’], then, it is not only knowledge that displays this strange property but many other systems too. It depends on the particular operator.

I would even say that nothing is predictable. All systems that we isolate from the universe are nontrivial systems. Our hope that they are trivial is, looked at carefully, a naïve hope. Even that best of cars, the Rolls-Royce which is sold as a guaranteed and everlasting trivial machine, can break down one day. All the fabulous trivial machines that come with warranties — if this doesn’t work give the machine back to me — and which therefore cost thousands of dollars, are ultimately nontrivial. If the salesperson says to you, “Guaranteed trivial,” he or she is a scoundrel, an idiot, or both.

… Counterexamples would be, of course, planetary orbits, the orbit of the moon, and past and future eclipses. Those seem to remain stable over very long periods of time. The clairvoyants have withdrawn their interpretations of eclipses.

The planetary system is a little like a Rolls-Royce — it almost always works. Poincaré has already pointed out, however, that this planetary constellation is not a two-body problem but a three-body problem. And so, can we solve it? In principle, no. If one is a cosmic mayfly like man, then of course our system works in a trivial way.

[ … ]

One more question about nerve cells. If it’s clear that the Pitts-McCulloch nerve cell is a trivial machine, wherein lies the difference from the Foersterian nerve cell which is nontrivial?

The difference between the two cells is as follows: in a Pitts-McCulloch cell the nerve cell responds and fires whenever a stimulating impulse hits the nerve cell. The Foerster [our speaker] cell does the following: one time an impulse reaches the cell, it fires; the next time the impulse reaches the cell and it says, “Not enough.” According to Pitts and McCulloch, every nerve cell has a threshold. If an impulse crosses the threshold, these cells fire again. My cell does the following: one time it fires, and now the threshold is raised a notch — and the next time it no longer fires.

[ … ]

The “drift” in recursion enables prognoses in nontrivial systems. And in a weak sense it also explains why there are particular behaviors, particular limits or eigenvalues.

Naturally, as far as one can describe it. If someone gives me a rule then he is only telling me the rules of representation but not how the machine functions. Ultimately the machine remains unexplorable. That is not a mythology but textbook knowledge, simply applied to situations that we experience all the time.

… If I swim, then I swim along in an eigenbehavior and I think that I have achieved triviality and security. Beneath it, however, lurk the depths of nontriviality.

In family therapy, for example, one sees this relationship in a wonderful way. There’s a family that has played itself into an eigenvalue: the husband gets drunk and beats his wife every time he comes home. This has become practically stable; it’s predictable. For the therapist, the problem lies in pulling these two people out of this eigenvalue, out of this self-trivialization.

[line break added] If I believe that a family is a trivial system then I can’t heal them. If, however, I know that beneath these apparent trivialities lie deep nontrivialities, I can approach them and try to bring about the emergence of new ways of behaving by setting this ensemble in motion so that a new dynamic equilibrium suddenly arises.

[ … ]

… Information only comes into being, emerges, grows out of this game, in which I feel, recognize or even experience stability.

So the more fitting variation would be: the world contains no information; the world is playable.

Good, the world is a casino. The world is created because I have played it and continue to play it.

My previous post from von Foerster’s book is here.




July 23, 2018

Showing Us Things, Putting Us in Situations

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:32 am

… it can ask them things they don’t want asked or make them think about things they aren’t in the habit of thinking about.

This is from the transcript of Robert Storr’s introductory presentation, ‘How We Do What We Do. And How We Don’t’ from the symposium Curating Now: Imaginative Practice / Public Responsibility (2001):

… My experience is typical to the extent that a lot of us — particularly among sixties- and seventies-era “baby boomers” (although the generational spread here today is quite wide) — entered the art world protesting what the museums did and the way the art world habitually went about its business. Ten, twenty, or thirty years later, depending on when we made our entrance, we discover that, to a greater or lesser degree we are the establishment. If the museums don’t function properly, if the art work is unresponsive to the needs and achievements of artists, there are all kinds of people to blame for that but mostly we must blame ourselves.

… I have abiding doubts about many aspects of the relation of modern and contemporary art to the museums and other venues devoted to them. Those doubts become specific when I consider the ways in which what I, in all good will, do as a curator may qualify or denature what the artist has tried to do. This is not a simple problem and walking away from it won’t help matters.

[line break added] All things considered, I would rather be in a position where I can test certain options in the service of what I believe in and what I think the artist believes in and use my intuition and expertise to try to minimize the mistakes that can be made in presenting their work than to stand back and let someone else run those risks and indulge myself in the luxury of being right about how they were wrong. The fact is I have been responsible for having “framed” or contextualized art in ways that subtly albeit unintentionally altered its meaning or diminished its impact.

… in spite of the vogue for talking about curators as artists I would strongly insist that they are not. I’ve been a painter, an unsuccessful painter, and I know the difference between that and being a fairly successful curator. The conflicts, the pain and the satisfactions of being the former are categorically different from those of being the latter.

[line break added] Notwithstanding that conviction, I do think curators have a medium and if they retain some humility and master their craft their relation to that medium and to art itself is like that of a good editor to a good novelist. Although it’s not the same thing as being a novelist, being an editor involves a deep identification with a living aesthetic. That aesthetic vantage point is as important or in many respects more important than what we usually call “ideas” about art.

… One of our principal tasks as curators and museum professionals is to see to it that what we do does not dampen spontaneous reactions to issues that are undecided. It is not our place to settle these matters among ourselves and pass our conclusions along to the public but rather, in Brechtian fashion, to articulate the disagreements that may exist among us as fully and as well as we can and then present our ideas about all the things the work might possibly represent and might possibly mean so that the public can make up its own mind and add its own thoughts.

… Too often art is explained and justified on the grounds that it is “good” — that is, not just of unimpeachable quality, which by the way we may not all agree is true in a given instance — but that it is also “good for you.” But some art is not really good for you. Some art does not love the art lover back. There is in fact a lot of art that respects the art lover, that treats him or her as equal, as someone capable of interpreting complex ideas and feelings but that also treats them roughly and addresses them only on the condition that the art can be nasty, that it can ask them things they don’t want asked or make them think about things they aren’t in the habit of thinking about.

… I remember that when Kathy Halbreich and Neal Benezra’s Nauman show came to MoMA we were concerned about its being attacked since it was a time when there was a furor in Washington over the use of government money to pay for shows that might be judged “obscene” by conservatives. We also were worried that, given the aggressive use of new media, people might simply stay away in droves. In reality, though, it was one of the most highly attended contemporary shows we have had.

During the exhibition I spent a lot of time in the galleries watching how people behaved. You could see them ping-ponging off all these unexpected works and absorbing the shock without difficulty. The show also demonstrated how people can connect with very contemporary art in ways that they don’t always do with historical modernism.

[line break added] In fact, it’s probably harder for most people to get Marcel Duchamp or even much of Picasso than it is for them to get Nauman. Which means that it’s time to rethink the museological habit of explaining the present by the past in an academic way as if the only way into new art was to know its lineage. During the Nauman show most people didn’t give a damn whether he came out of Duchamp or not; they were involved in what was right there in front of them.

… Although he is a conceptual artist he does not write syllogisms or argue points with the viewer; rather he is an artist who has found ingenious ways of showing us things, putting us in situations where we can see or hear or feel things that belong to these most hard-to-pin-down, indeed never-to-be-pinned-down areas of our consciousness. We as curators are faced with the responsibility of finding appropriate ways to show those artists who have this rare capacity to show things within this fluid realm.

… Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Marxist, described himself as a pessimist of the intellect and an optimist of the will. So am I. It is the only reasonable or at any rate the only livable position.




July 22, 2018

Impartiality Here Will Serve for Nothing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… we are no longer dealing with the possible, but with what is existent …

Continuing through The Bad Conscience by Vladimir Jankélévich, translated by Andrew Kelley (2015):

… This effort of impartiality is difficult but not superhuman. The difficulty is to keep separated two adjoining experiences that everything puts together and which, being barely dissociated, immediately aspire to merge and to be totalized again; one often only holds onto them with a veritable tour de force. But in the end speculative introspection only exists to the extent that this distinction exists.

[line break added] In short, the problem would consist merely in seeing oneself without looking at oneself. One cannot look at oneself in the mirror without catching one’s own look in the act; and one must say, in this regard, that we ourselves have almost never seen ourselves objectively, since in all of these images this look — our look — pursues us, which is, in some way, the echo of our own operation, that is, the stigma of the subject.

… The problem of moral conscience is, on the contrary, a true metaphysical problem: is there a consciousness without any distance? All of our impartiality here will serve for nothing; it is not a question of effort. The moral conscience consists precisely in “participating” and, far from fleeing impurity, it professes this.

… That which, consequently, is established between myself and myself is no longer a superficial and indifferent tête-à-tête, it is the intimacy of one’s “heart of hearts.” Speculative consciousness — the good, the happy, conscience — is a contemplation, but the bad conscience is a condemnation; it is a consciousness that accuses itself, that loathes itself.

… The pain that in the end makes a spectacle out of this conscience testifies to an adventure in which we are effectively engaged; what is distinctive to this pain is to be an event that arrives for real, that is truly lived by the person, and that is the object of a privileged and absolutely real experience; we are no longer dealing with the possible, but with what is existent, no longer with concepts, but with a reality that is cruelly effective. Let people call it irrational as much as they want; moral pain is part of lived experience

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




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