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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, September 16, 2013


Back in March I said, at the end of DYNAMICITY/DEMIHERO DELIBERATIONS:

I hope to work around to an "ethic of the combative mode" in future, FYI.

In the context of the essay itself-- meditating on the narrative elements of two very disparate fantasy-films, and the reasons why they were or were not combative in nature-- I suppose that the final remark looked like a throwaway comment.  But there was a method to my madness. 

I'm aware that much of my narratological project would seem irrelevant to elitist critics, if any of them sought to understand any part of it.  For them, criticism is about separating the bad from the good, the sheep from the goats, and little besides.  Such is the limited manifestation of "ethics" in their world. 

I would imagine that for all or most of them, they would hold a similar opinion with regard to Kant's meditation on the sublime, which are the proximate-- though not ultimate-- source for my own meditations on the matter. What, they might ask, do Kant's extraordinarily detailed analyses of aesthetic states have to do with ethics?

Were I asked this question, I would respond that the only way one can speak knowledgably of human ethics is to know what human beings are capable of doing.  If, as Marx and Engels said, we have no free will, then any ethics focused on purposive activity loses all credibility, and one can only examine ethical stances as to whether they are or are not allied to the advance of history's progress.  But of course Kant did believe in free will. Since he did not support theistic solutions to the role of free will in human life, he sought to explore all the ways in which the human mind worked, whether under external compulsion or acting with some measure of freedom.  He advances the notion that the aesthetic affects are promoted by what he calls "the free play of the imagination," a form of play generated without utilitarian purposiveness or even conscious "cognition."  This in turn leads to a potential effect upon the subject's ability to think ethically:

the beautiful prepares us to love something, even nature, without interest; the sublime, to esteem it, even contrary to our (sensible) interest”-- Kant, JUDGMENT, General Remark following §29, 267.

Since my concept of freedom is not identical to Kant's, it took me some time to work out my own concepts as to how free will functions within the aesthetic, ethical, and mythic dimensions of human nature. In additon, while I see some justice in Kant's insistence upon an absence or modification of "interest" in the world of aesthetics, I would not go as far as Kant does in this regard.  My orientation owes more to the position of Bataille, to whom both the taboo and its transgression are holy.

In future installments I will attempt to show how the mode of the combative-- which, I will note again, is essentially allied to Kant's concept of the "dynamic-sublime"-- bears on the ethical propensities of humankind.

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