Featured Post

NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

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...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

RETURN OF THE MASTERY MASTER, PT. 1

The title refers back to my October 2011 essay-series THE MYSTERY OF MASTERY, beginning here.  I'll be drawing on my quotes of Frank Fukuyama from those essays.

In this essay I pointed out how Gore Vidal used the terms "prevail" and "endure" to describe two separate, though implicitly overlapping, actions.  This schema recalls a similar approach by Frank Fukuyama, who devises the term *megalothymia* to describe a given subject's "desire for recognition" through proving himself superior to others, and *isothymia* to describe a given subject's "desire for recognition" through proving himself "the equal of other people."  In Part 4 of MYSTERY OF MASTERY I asserted that that when compared through Fukuyama's Hegelian lens, sex and violence-- humanity's predominant means of achieving recognition in the eyes of others-- lined up as respectively *isothymic* and *megalothymic,* a point to which I'll return in Part 2.

Though I don't disown the Schopenhaurean remarks that led to my analysis of goal-affects, both abstract and concrete, I must admit that it can be difficult to demonstrate the many ways in which a given character's goal-affect inclines more to the "intellectual will" or to the "instinctive will." It's one thing for Schopenhauer to generalize as to the separability of "percepts" and "concepts" in the human psyche, but fictional characters have neither.  All fictional characters are rather *gestural* constructs that reproduce those qualities that human beings align more with percepts or with concepts-- or to invoke other pairings seen on this blog, Jung's "sensation" and "intuition," or archaic Greece's "moira" and "themis."

The question may be fairly asked: if I must jump any number of hurdles to prove that in a comparison of two characters, both of whom have high intellectual qualities, only one is really dominated by the "intellectual will"-- then are the Schopenhaurean terms particularly useful?  In addition, since I began writing of goal-affects I've also invoked *thymos,* which I see as the affective correlative of will.  Though in general I prefer Schopenhauer to Hegel, it may be that in this case Hegel-- or what followers like Kojeve and Fukuyama read into him-- is more on target. 

This minor privileging of one set of terms over another does not contradict anything written earlier.  In EXPENDITURE ACCOUNTS PT. 4, I wrote:

Whereas Frankenstein’s senseless ambition merely stems from the “negative persistence” of his own ego, Fu Manchu’s mad science is informed by “negative glory.” 

 It's a good deal easier to show that these two fictional film-characters-- both similar to and different from their prose originals-- behave in ways that parallel Fukuyama's "goal-affects" than to prove the nature of the "will" each one expresses.  That Fu Manchu desires the "negative glory" of being a world conqueror should be a clear instance of *megalothymia.*  Baron Frankenstein's "negative persistence," in contrast, is shown as a negative form of *isothymia.*  Although the ideal of "being the equal of other people" sounds a great deal less sinister than the ambition of the great tyrant, Fukuyama is careful to note that the downside of *isothymia* is that the desire for utter equality may lead to the phenomenon Nietzsche called "democratic man:"

For Nietzsche, democratic man was composed entirely of desire and reason, clever at finding new ways to satisfy a host of petty wants through the calculation of long-term self-interest.  But he was completely lacking in any megalothymia, content with his happiness and unable to feel any sense of shame in himself for being unable to rise above those wants."-- Fukuyama, THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN, Chapter 28.

 But of course one need not be as one-sided toward democratic man as was Nietzsche, any more than one must believe the official Christian contumely toward mighty kings and princes.  In EXPENDITURE ACCOUNTS PT 3 I used two teleseries ensembles-- the Space Family Robinson of LOST IN SPACE and the Challenger Expedition of THE LOST WORLD-- to indicate the "positive persistence" of the demihero and the "positive glory" of the hero.  Here too it would seem that the everyday connotations of "intellectual" and "instinctive" clash with my specialized usages of them.  However, in a structural sense the Robinsons are also a group as governed by their "petty wants" as is Baron Frankenstein, but the diegesis of their program justifies that all-American family interdependence, whereas in CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN the Baron's pettiness and childish desires can only lead to destruction. 




And though the heroes of the Challenger Expedition are not particularly "intellectual" in the everyday sense-- even Professor Challenger is better known for his pugnacity than his soaring intellect-- their determination to carve out their own brand of justice within a raucous primitive world provides a positive correlation to Fu Manchu's form of negative glory. (Note how the professor has been given an "Indiana Jones" look in the still below.)





In other words... sorry Arthur S., but it looks like George H. wins this one.


No comments: