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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...

Thursday, October 17, 2013


THREE INTO TWO WILL GO, SOMETIMES PT 1 was my first schematized assertion that asserted that the cognitive and affective aspects of a given work were equally important in determining its overall effect.  I stated this in contradistinction to Tzvetan Todorov, who advocated an approach based only in the cognitivity—specificially a cognitively heavily invested in Freudian hermeneutics. 

      The work of Ernst Cassirer was not a proximate influence on this division of "the cognitive" and "the affective."  The division was a routine one seen in psychological studies, often phrased roughly along the lines of Freud’s famous “reality principle” (for the cognitive) and “pleasure principle” (for the affective).  On occasion I allowed a few of my essays to repeat this dichotomy without examining it in greater depth, though in general my readings of Cassirer, as seen in my earliest posts, have helped preserve me against the errors of naïve positivism.  I always appreciated Cassirer’s advocacy of expressivity in literature, as opposed to Todorov’s all-cognitive-all-the-time orientation.  Still, not until Oct 12, 2011 did I investigate any aspect of Cassirer’s main argument re: his “concept of force” as expounded in MYTHICAL THINKING.  Cassirer affirmed that there was a justifiable approach to the “concept of force” that paralleled that of Freud’s “reality principle,” one that depended upon analyzing physical forces in an empirical/theoretical manner.  However, Cassirer certainly did not dismiss the contrary mode as some sort of fatuous “pleasure principle,” as Freud did.  Thus he designated “causality” was the domain of empirical/theoretical thinking, while he used the term “efficacy” to denote the domain of mythical thinking, which focused upon a “free selection of causes.” 

       Eventually I discerned that the “free selection of causes” Cassirer identified in archaic mythologies was identical in mode to the “fudge factors” writers use whenever they describe all manner of marvelous beings and devices.  In AFFECTIVE EFFECTS PT 2 I said:
...I would say that the "strangeness" of the metaphenomenal assumes qualities covalent with those of Cassirer's "magical efficacy." 
     Yet it's a little harder to demonstrate that writers who invoked “the uncanny” were making the same “free selection.”  Because uncanny works do not violate the causal order, many readers will not view them as being allied to the marvelous, which does violate that order. 

       Nevertheless, in the first of a possible series of essays to which I alluded at the conclusion of THREE PROBABILITIES,  I will offer a proof that "the uncanny" does indeed participate in the quality of Cassirer's "magical efficacy," even though it does so in a different manner than "the marvelous" does.  I’ve repeatedly asserted that the uncanny is that category in which causality is not broken, as in works of the marvelous, but merely bent.  This “bending” is, like any similar physical alteration, must be the result of an application of force.  But in works of the uncanny, that force only appears to accede to the iron law of causality. In truth such works are dominated by a countervailing law: the law of what I have termed the “combinatory-sublime.” 

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