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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...

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Since I want to redefine my usage of the terms "cognitivity" and "affectivity" so as to get them as far as way as possble from an empiricist like Todorov, there seems no better corrective than Ernst Cassirer.  In this passage from MYTHICAL THOUGHT he opposes the law-following nature of theoretical formations of causality to the extra-legal, non-theoretical nature of cultural myth.

Physical space is in general characterized as a space relevant to forces: but in its purely mathematical formulation the concept of force goes back to the concept of law, hence of the function.  In the structural space of myth, however, we see an entirely different line of thought. Here the universal is not distinguished from the particular and the accidental, the constant from the variable, through the basic concept of law; here we find the one mythical value accent expressed in the opposition between the sacred and profane.  Here there are no purely geometrical or purely geographical, no purely ideal or merely empirical distinctions; all thought and all sensuous intuition and perception rest on an original foundation of feeling.-- Cassirer, MYTHICAL THOUGHT, p. 95.

In my discussions of my NUM formula of phenomenality, I've often stressed the "rational order" or "the causal order" as the domain of "the cognitive," which utterly dominates works of "the naturalistic" phenomenality.  In works of "the marvelous," this borders of this orderly domain are completely breached by the non-rational intrusion of elves, aliens, crazy rays and all the rest.  In works of "the uncanny," the borders are not so much broken as stretched like a membrane by such figures as men raised by wolves, psychos, hunchbacks, and the rest of that lot. 

In contrast, I've stated that affectivity in the naturalistic domain is entirely subjected to the causal order.  However, I didn't formulate just how affectivity took on new levels of sublimity in the metaphenomenal works, though I did make some suggestions to that effect in this essay.

In MYTHICAL THOUGHT Cassirer defines causality as "the general concept of force" (p. 14). Cassirer knew that primitive peoples were as aware of causal forces as was Isaac Newton; otherwise, they could hardly have constructed those objects that take advantage of Newtonian forces, such as clubs and boats and pyramids. However, in addition to their awareness of such forces, Cassirer asserts that primitives also believed in what I would term an "acausal force," though Cassirer's term is "magical efficacy."

And later:

Given that myth "appears closely bound up with the world of efficacy," the two of them together comprise "a translation and transposition of the world of subjective emotions and drives into a sensuous, objective existence."
Now, thanks to my investigations into the concept of the combinatory-sublime-- wherein I've reversed some earlier statements, and taken the position that such sublimity is stronger in works of the metaphenomenal-- I would say that the "strangeness" of the metaphenomenal assumes qualities covalent with those of Cassirer's "magical efficacy."  In one of the "combinatory" essays I wrote:

This "challenge [to reason]" is the foremost element which gives rise to the affect of "strangeness" in a fictional work, irrespective of whether or not the work abides by the rules of causality (at least on the "cognitive" level) or thwarts those rules.

In the first Cassirer quote the philosopher makes clear that all aspects of thought, intuition and perception proceed from an "original foundation of feeling," which is to say, an affective order, though one that cannot be reduced down to associations produced by mundane experience. 

Things that are strange-- that is, that are either impossible or extremely improbable within a naturalistic phenomenality-- are incoherent within that phenomenality, and so have no status, no "efficacy," of their own.  But in the uncanny and marvelous phenomenalities, they do possess such efficacy, and in that sense they challenge the cognitive order, whether with an outright breach or an elastic stretching of the boundaries.

Within my phenomenological system the emotions that exist in "the space of myth" are as real as the physical objects within "the space relevant to forces."  For that reason I have some qualms about the terms I devised for the three types of phenomenality sublimity in this essay. The terms "iso-real," "supra-real," and "anti-real" would all seem to privilege the idea of "reality" as one dependent on physical objects.  However, I probably won't modify them, given that I've also defined the three phenomenalities in terms of their challenging, or not challenging, the rules of reason.  That is certainly not the sole appeal of each phenomenality, but it's signficant enough that it should remain a touchstone nevertheless.  And in any case I will defining the questions of "reality" in fictional narrative more narrowly in a forthcoming essay, "The Two Verisimilitudes."

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