below: Sonnets, #110, 5
table of contents commented bibliography and index say what? noframes


Most true it is that I have looked on truth
kance and strangely. But, by all above,
blenches gave my heart another youth,
Factors missing from Heidegger's kind of temporal thinking; Nietzsche's values on play and life; Paul Ricoeur's exploration of metaphor and narrative temporality; Susanne Langer's organic approach to symbolic form.
Jean Delville's 'Orpheus' (1893) Perhaps Heidegger's orientation is truly metaphysical and he describes a kind of mind more original even than life itself, which surfaces only finally through human self-awareness. Or perhaps Heidegger was so impelled to distill the comprehensive essence of western thought that he allowed himself to be drawn into how this could be best expressed, leaving others to struggle with the aspects of reality to which western thought cannot do justice. For though philosophy in its history has ranged over many subjects, it could come no closer to most than to make for them 'explanatory pictures'. Such pictures cannot be considered to hold truth for a thinking grounded in temporality. Heidegger may therefore have deliberately neglected the apparent range of philosophy. A third possibility is that Heidegger's omissions are justifiable on grounds which can only become evident as thinking more adequately appropriates its native temporality - grounds perhaps lying between the metaphysical and the historical.

variant on a Necker cube
But a contemporary Heidegger scholar torn between a 'metaphysical' and a 'historical' interpretation of his work might experience it in the fashion of the well known 'Necker cube' optical illusion - where perception oscillates between seeing outward and inward projections of perspectival depth. Heidegger may not have intended such an effect, but Nietzsche's aphorisms, in their contexts, are meant thus to bedevil interpretation. The same might be said for some of the later Wittgenstein's fragments. Thinkers in our time must regard these kinds of effects as more than confusions to be overcome - because they exhibit one of the ways thinking has entered the element of temporality.
Thus the insistent conceptual 'hammer' with which Nietszche purports to philosophize breaks up even his own ideas into myriad metaphors - themselves often also questionable - which overflow any consistent species of comprehension.
In Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, equivocal or polyvalent propositions use the space which would hold the experience of an answer to confine, instead, the experience of a question. The very oscillating instability of such meanings, particularly when we find them deployed in full scale mosaics, as in Nietzsche, teach us to read in a way that no longer simply accumulates structures of meaning, but involve us in superposed and instantaneously shifting fields of potential. Nietzsche thus perhaps deserves credit for anticipating even how today's quantum physicists try to think.
The mirth whereof
so larded with my matter,
that neither singly
can be manifested.

When Nietzsche raises ideas into a suspension where they put each other in question, put him in question, and challenge us to put ourselves in question, he can be understood to eccentrically conjoin the three movements of transcendence described above. The overall impression is one of play. Wittgenstein's later reliance on the notion of games too, cannot be separated from connotations of play, while Steiner's account of human development gives play near sacramental status.
not Ibsen's... From the perspective of this exposition, thinking's value is as antennae for evolving experience, and so the deadliest critique of thinking's past is that it teaches us so little about play. It is play that guides the trajectory of human development, and so shows itself as one key to the integration of temporality we seek. Philosophy's ignorance of play may derive from its traditional point of departure - individual experience. Play assembles self-experience from fluid presumptions of shared experience.
Emil Nolde's 'Wildly Dancing Children' (1909) But if the autonomous 'I' is not in charge of play, what is? The most playful of thinkers, Nietzsche, replies: the body. Such an assertion raises immediate difficulties. Materialistic, physiological, instinctual, and appetitive connotations thrust themselves to the fore. But perhaps body is another way to say life. Undoubtedly, the body is radically temporal, an orchestration of motion and change to which we may consider ourselves by and large mercifully oblivious. Nevertheless, despite Nietzsche's Nineteenth century provocations, attempts to bring the body toward its rightful place in our discussion will be dieted to how its modalities become further evident in the work of Twentieth century thinkers under subsequent consideration.

Paul Ricoeur

Nietzsche's own play is largely play of metaphor. We may recognize his expressive strategies as having well developed roots in literature and other arts. There is, as well, general acceptance that essential aspects of play are central to creative Art. It seems almost predestined that as thinking shifts its ground from offering systems of ideas toward encountering mind's temporality, even its mainstream should draw on how the arts have expressed mind's condition. Cassirer had seen the fecundity of metaphor in making meaning through establishing identifications, Paul Ricoeur (1913- ) further develops an account of meaning as based on the sustained potency of the kind of differences retained in such metaphorical identifications. Similarly for Ricoeur, symbols for meaning function from their ambivalent - and equivocal - referentiality. He finds symbols and metaphors integral to narrative temporality, which thereby exhibits itself as a balancing act between unifications and dispersals of meaning.
Where such literary elements come to the fore, as elements of exposition or explanation, we find thinking which evades Heidegger's original injunction that thinking abandon the element of representation for the sake of navigating temporality. Instead, functions developed from literature license thinking to subsist 'amphibiously', allowing it to more or less shift between temporal and representational elements.

Heidegger's advance into purely temporal thinking remains a landmark, but so do questions whether his kind of thinking can or should stretch to include more of the things we find of pre-eminent importance in the world and in experience. As emphasized above, among these crucial issues are life itself, the feelings which belong to life's experience, and aspects of development - like play - which example mind's native temporality.
Vincent VanGogh's 'Houses at Auvers' (1890)
Susanne Langer (1899- ) - after a fling with symbolic logic - became known from Feeling and Form as a philosopher of art. Her last and most important work, however, Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling, escapes such categorization. It attempts to tell the story of Mind's emergence, from life's simplest acts up through its expressive involvement in symbolic form. It is indeed a 'prequel' to Cassirer's Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. Its detail, care, thoroughness and elegance likely would have pleased Cassirer. The probes which Langer brings to bear on the coemergence of life and mind are primarily the considerations of biological science and aesthetic form. Langer's takes as her point of departure a contemporary exploration of Aristotle's provocative analogy that sense belongs to a work of art as life belongs to a corporeal form.
Nature is fine in love,
nd where' tis fine,
it sends some precious instance of itself after the thing it loves.
Langer's synthesis is radical because of the role form plays in her account: she interpolates Whitehead's version of the Anglo-English emphasis on form as reality's objective aspect with Cassirer's expression of the Continental relation to form as being given in schemes of subjective synthesis. What Langer calls feeling arises and subsides as it shifts within life's acts to 'guide' the satisfaction of the requirements of form in development, behavior, expression and experience. It is of interest that Langer, known mostly as a philosopher of art, should bring thinking a conception where form, the criteria of all representing, will resolve neither to the subjective nor the objective but 'dances' between them at the behest of feeling. For Langer there appears a 'proto-symbolic' aspect in all organic form because such form stands equivocal in formation and reflection between objective and subjective reality - as does perhaps life itself.
Macaws Langer's importance for the condition of our time deserves special emphasis: In modern culture most of what is generally experienced as truthful or meaningful derives from scientific or artistic activities and their production of facts and artifacts. Langer's path revitalizes Goethe's ideal of phenomenology whereby the labors of Science and Art can be brought to make sense of each other in both richness and rigor. Though contemporary artists do work to broaden the configurations of reality which can be digested by art, our time's need to adaptively evaluate the new knowledge, technology, and socio-economic patterns which fast-forward our lives call for ways to give specific accounts of how feeling invests form with organismic dynamics and symbolic meaning.
'Celestial Deities' at Khajuraho India (ca. 1000 AD)Perhaps polytheism, as William James held, 'has always been the real religion of the common people', because it has always made sense to accord to the facts of experience a life of their own: Life's actions are best informed by its actual occasions, and we meet these most completely by allowing ourselves to see them as what we are most fit to see - life. Science has not extinguished our tendency toward 'polytheism', only misdirected it toward what Langer calls 'the idols of the laboratory', discrediting its immanence in our own experience. The ballyhooed need in our time for 'new myths' addresses these issues, but the need more properly is for cultivating symbolic meanings for life's feelings as they belong to the facts of experience.

Langer's work examples what is most crucial in what we have called 'amphibious' thinking: the ability to 'metabolize' the instrumental and the exploratory representations employed by the activities of diverse cultural developments, and weave them into grounds of public meaning. Moreover, purely temporal kinds of thinking, Heidegger being an early example, can only take broader root in a public ground where they can come to seem plausible - and this hinges on culture's awareness of how it relies on the terms of symbolism's 'quantizations' of meaning.
before after
table of contents commented bibliography and index say what? noframes


Susanne LangerThe Idols of the Laboratory:      Titles chapter 2 in volume one of Langer's Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling. It is a devastating, erudite and closely reasoned critique of reductionism - highly recommended. It is worth emphasizing that Langer's philosophic appropriation of biology remains unparalleled. And though her work is much needed in the context of current concerns in philosophy and biology, for example cognitive science, animal consciousness, and hominid evolution, it seems to have very little presence. Even within process philosophy where her work's relation to Alfred North Whitehead's philosophy of organism should keep her in circulation, one can rarely find any reference. One exception is the Nobel laureate physics renegade Brian Josephson. He has attempted to bring some of her ideas to bear in making the case that mind has its quantum roots in forms that most clearly parallel music. In my opinion what he is asserting likely has considerable validity, but despite Josephson's stature as a physicist, he does not make effective enough use of Langer in arguing his position, and his own work with these ideas is not available in a way that is clear enough to effectively challenge establishment thinking.

Mozart's universal appeal derives in large part from how he fuses playfulness into the living forms of his compositions. Exemplary are Horszowski and Szigeti's recordings of the Sonatas for Violin and Piano. More intentional and reflectively transcendent musical conjunctures of play and living nature are Schubert's Ninth Symphony (Mengelberg) and Mahler's Third Symphony (Horenstein).

...lineup and alibi

The mirth whereof so larded with my matter
That neither singly can be manifested.

- Merry Wives of Windsor, IV, vi, 14
Nature is fine in love, and where' tis fine
it sends some precious instance of itself
after the thing it loves.

- Hamlet, IV, v, 162

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