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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, November 7, 2011


Philosophically speaking, what does it mean to be a metaphenomenalist?  Or, for that matter, an isophenomenalist?

In my conclusion of the Metagodzilla-Isoghidrah Wars, I clarified that in terms of taste, anyone was free to prefer whatever phenomenality one might prefer.  As a pluralist, I'm bound to recognize (to cite another of my old essay-titles) that "anything that can be done well is worth doing."  If Joseph Conrad does his best work within an isophenomenal conceptual framework, where all the "marvels and mysteries" are only mankind's vain imaginings in the face of a materalistic universe, then that's worth doing.  If J.R.R. Tolkien does his best work within a metaphenomenalist conceptual framework-- specifically dealing with metaphenomena within the "marvelous" category-- then that too is worth doing.

In my QUICK HAWTHONE POST I cited two longish quotes by Hawthorne in which he justified his practice of the form he called "the romance."  In contrast to Tolkien's focus upon marvelous metaphenomena, Hawthorne showed a perennial fascination with metaphenomena in the "uncanny" category, though of course Hawthorne never used this term.  Slightly after the lines I quoted from A THREEFOLD DESTINY, Hawthorne adds:

In the little tale which follows, a subdued tinge of the wild and wonderful is thrown over a sketch of New England personages and scenery, yet, it is hoped, without entirely obliterating the sober hues of nature.
Despite the fact that Hawthorne, as much as Conrad, values fidelity to "the sober hues of nature," I'd venture that his "tinge of the wild and wonderful" has a very different character than Conrad's "marvels and mysteries."  In the quotes I provided from Conrad here, it's clear that those "marvels" are intrinsically derived from, and thus entirely dependent upon, the world of sensory experience: of "effects of the visible and tangible world."  Hawthorne's statement above, though, never implies that "the sober hues of nature" are the sole source of his "wonderful tinge."  At the same time most of his works avoid the outright presentation of either the marvelous or the naturalistic: Hawthorne always seeks the uncanny, the liminal space between the two opposed states.

That said, because Hawthorne gives the world of fantasy its own identity, I deem him closer to Tolkien than to Conrad.  Many literary critics would dispute this, deeming Hawthorne and Conrad together within the corpus of canonical "literature" while Tolkien occupied a vague category of "paraliterature."  Nevertheless, such allotments are usually made by critics given to focusing on the rendering of isophenomenal reality as paramount, and so would be opposed to my statement in the Meta-Iso Conclusion:
In both its "uncanny" and "marvelous" manifestations, however, the metaphenomenal stands free to delve into the depths of what Kant calls the "productive imagination."
The isophenomenalist is usually indifferent to any concept like that of the "productive imagination," in that he's already committed to the proposition that all that we imagine derives from sensory experience; what Kant calls "reproductive imagination" and what Conrad calls "my consciousness of the marvelous."

It's certainly a beguiling enough proposition.  For me Freud was one of the great challenges.  Because his theory seemed to work so well for some works of literature and so poorly for others, I concluded here  that his theory was best seen as a example of "reproductive imagination." I added that such a theory could be adequately subsumed by a superior theory that took in both productive and reproductive forms of imagination, such as that of Kant, and to some extent the theory of Carl Jung.  The same formulation applies to Todorov, whose Freudian underpinnings slanted him to state that fantasy could only be judged in terms of "the real."

In the next part of this series (which will at last explain the title) I'll consider in greater depth the tripartite theory of "fear, dread, and awe" that C.S. Lewis presented at the outset of his nonfictional work THE PROBLEM OF PAIN.  I haven't explicitly written on Lewis since this 2010 essay, but though I part with him in terms of the "solution" he gives to his PROBLEM-- that of Christian hermeneutics-- Lewis is almost as important as Kant and Jung in having helped me formulate my entire NUMtheory.


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