*Populist.—Hypocrite. … —Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists. (Edinburgh International Book Festival, 2012): *—a review. …

*(… —the following originally appeared as a review of  Alain de Botton’s ‘What non-believers could learn from faith’ talk-event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival,  Sat 18th August 2012, 20.00-21.00, RBS Main Theatre,… over on the Edinburgh Spotlight website. …

… —I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing, & of… fiddling with it here, as today I discovered that Mr. de Botton has blocked me on Twitter, perhaps as a direct result of the substance of this review. … ).

 

They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. […] We other hold otherwise. When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again[. …] Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessarily remains in one’s hands.

*(Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘G. Eliot’, in Twilight of the Idols, ‘Skirmishes of an Untimely Man’, §5)

 

 

Populist.—Hypocrite (—?)
—Alain de Botton, ‘What non-believers could learn from faith’ (—Religion for Atheists). …

By Mark Bolsover

 

The event with Alain de Botton took place in the Book Festival’s RBS Main Theatre. The venue was full to capacity, and de Botton spoke (performed?) to a predominantly white late-middle-aged, middle-class audience. Despite its inexplicable and corporate décor, the space proved an effective one, de Botton holding forth from an angular and imposing metal lectern-cum pulpit, to one side of the broad stage.

 

The event was chaired by BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, an engaging host who, despite his obvious skepticism towards de Botton’s ideas, provided an interesting, useful and objective introduction to the speaker and warmed the audience well. The event took the format of a talk by de Botton, followed a brief interview with Gompertz and finally a question and answer session with the audience. This format worked extremely well given the obvious time constraints on the event.

 

The aim of the event was, in essence, to promote de Botton’s new book Religion for Atheists and drew its focus from a number of topics which he addresses in the book.

 

de Botton himself proved an extremely fluent, effective and engaging speaker. During the segue from the talk into the interview Gompertz rather shrewdly teased de Botton that he both ‘looks and sounds like a vicar’ and this is indeed the impression one gets listening to him, the talk somewhere between a lecture and sermon, which is ironic given de Botton’s self-characterisation as an ‘atheist’ and distaste for all things ‘academic’.

 

de Botton’s project in Religion for Atheists is, by his own admission, to cherry-pick from the ‘buffet’(?) of world religions, extracting key ideas, concepts and practices, in order to provide ‘replacements’ for religion for a ‘secular society’. Drawing on his book, de Botton began his talk by summarizing a few key claims on the nature of education. He argued that ‘atheists’ dismiss religion out of hand as superstitious nonsense and that ‘secular society’ and ‘secular’ education have therefore abandoned traditional forms of the transmission of what, somewhat problematically, characterises as universal human ‘wisdom’. In this regard, de Botton was particularly vociferous in his attacks on academia. Gompertz had begun by introducing de Botton as a ‘populist’, and these attacks could be seen to be evidence of his uneasiness with this status, a certain self-styled demagoguery and inferiority complex with regard to academia.

 

Whatever the underlying causes, de Botton wants to oppose his ‘neo-religious’ ideas to those he sees at large in ‘secular’ society. In answer to the potential objections that it is either unethical or simply not possible to cherry-pick from religions, he drew a parallel to ‘culture’ (—as he conceives of this term), and to reading. If one were reading Austen, he argued, it would be ridiculous for anyone to suggest that one ought not to read, say, Dickens, or Woolf. In the same way, de Botton argued, one can ‘read’ (or, in fact rather,—extract) from any number of religious texts. His conception is one of ‘culture’ over ‘scripture’. And this is, I believe, reveals the crucial problems with de Botton’s ideas…

 

de Botton positioned himself as speaking out against what he argued is ‘our’ conception of art,—deriving from the art for art’s sake philosophy of art of the late-nineteenth century.

 

Frankly, de Botton crudely mischaracterised late-nineteenth and Modernist art and literature for his own rhetorical purposes.

 

However, it seemed to me at least that his crude reductivism found its foundation in a genuine misunderstanding of art and a lack of understanding of literature and the art of reading.

 

Against what he characterised as a false conception of the autonomous artwork and of art as not needing to deliver any ‘moral’ message, de Botton put forth his own conception of art as ‘propaganda’.

 

—According to de Botton, art can, and ought, to deliver a ‘moral’ message.

 

Apart from the obvious and rather sinister connotations of the term ‘propaganda’, this conception depends on the assumption of a smooth transmission of the (moral) intentions of the author, through the work, to an uncritically receptive readership.

 

If de Botton were to perhaps put aside his distaste for academia and put himself through the soulless ordeal of a literature degree, he might discover some key ideas in literary criticism, such as the ‘intentional fallacy’ or Roland Barthes’ ‘The Death of the Author’, which clearly set out the problems of any attempt to read back from a work to the intentions of the author (and, indeed, de Botton gave such a reading in his example of not being able to ‘understand’ Rothco’s work until he had heard the artist discuss it).

 

The crucial problem, however, lies in the notion of art as solely a vehicle for the transmission of ‘moral’ lessons and this is the reason for the epigraph with which I began this review.

 

—In the passage I quoted from Twilight of the Idols (—an attack on George Eliot and late-nineteenth century Religious Humanism), Nietzsche astutely argues that one cannot be rid of God,… —cannot be rid of the metaphysical (that is,—be an atheist), and yet still… hold on to (maintain) the system of moral values which find their foundation in or on that—metaphysical—ground. And yet this is precisely what de Botton, despite his own claim not to believe in: ‘what  I broadly call the “supernatural”’, very blithely attempts to do.

 

Despite his claim to ‘atheism’, de Botton clings to a recognisably Judaeo-Christian moral world view, perhaps with some badly appropriated and rather cliché ‘Eastern’ ‘mystical’ notions thrown in for breadth and good measure.

 

In mischaracterising all developments and movements in literature as ‘art for art’s sake’, he fails (not entirely deliberately) to recognise that a great deal of the art which he is thus dismissing, arose precisely in reaction to a loss of faith and a recognition that with any claim to a metaphysical ground for values gone, those values themselves become objects of contention and debate.—Hence the lack of moral didacticism and the artistic experimentation he so evidently deplores.

 

Though some of his ideas are interesting, de Botton is, for this reason, condemned to remain a somewhat shallow and misguided populist. For example, he argued fluently and persuasively for the adoption of the Catholic notion of ‘original sin’ in which all people would be regarded as broken creatures, in need of redemption, and that education should be reconceived as having to have a humanising effect, rather than as a process for the acquisition of vocational ‘skills’. However, this is where (at least in his talk) his point broke off, and this left the impression that he was merely vaguely retaining the notion of sin, despite having dispensed with any notion of extra-mundane justice. If we dispense with a notion of ‘natural’/automatic and inalienable ‘humanity’ (as perhaps, we ought) what are the practical political consequences of this for (debates on) ‘Human Rights’ and indeed, Humanism more generally?—de Botton offers us no clue. …

 

Also telling is de Botton’s uncritical retention of terms such as ‘inner self’ and the ‘soul’, which he used liberally. … —Surely anything characterising itself as thoroughgoing atheism must involve a thoroughgoing critique of these terms and the metaphysics they imply?

 

In the end, de Botton cannot avoid two charges: either, he is simply using the term ‘atheist’ far too loosely, or—in his dismissal of the metaphysical, and retention of religious values—he is guilty of a form of intellectual hypocrisy. …

 

—In the end, de Botton is a populist. … —His pulpit-style demagoguery can come across as pompous, narrow-minded and patronising to anyone who does not already share his convictions, but he is able to work his audience extremely well, and is impressively effective at preaching to the choir. …

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*Lacan & the Question of the ‘real’ reading group: By way of a sort of an introduction to Lacan himself. … *brief notes, … —from a lecture on Lacan.

*(—follows on from *‘—notes of a dilettante attempting to read Lacan,… —an Introduction an Invitation to this Lacan & the question of the ‘real’ reading group thread. … ).

 

 

By way of a sort of an introduction to Lacan himself. …
*brief notes, …
—from a lecture on Lacan.

 

*—the following, then, is what’s left (over) from notes for lectures I gave on Lacan on the course on ‘Critical Theory’ I gave (taught) in the Drama Department at Queen Margaret University,—between 2008 and 2010. …

 

*… —the lectures were intended as a (very) basic introduction to Lacan’s thought.

 

—going back,… there’s not a great deal of substance in the notes *(—I think I riffed a great deal in delivering the actual lecture). …

 

… —a lot of what remains in the copy of the notes that I still have to hand has to do with contextualising Lacan in terms of the other thinkers and philosophers we were studying on the ol’ Crit. Theory course: Saussure and Barthes on Semiology and Structuralism, and Freud, in particular,—as well as setting up for Derrida, deconstruction, post-structuralism, (and so on… ).

 

… —I have, in the main, cut most of that material here, in the interests of clarity and brevity,—but I thought it was worth reproducing the notes here:

 

… —partly for ol’ – time’s – sake (—hell, … why ever not, ‘ey… —?),

 

and-but also—mainly—because it represents my first (—only, really) thoroughgoing (academic) engagement with Lacan, and an attempt to introduce and explain his thought clearly, and hopefully interestingly-engagingly *(though I’m not s’ sure such was the case f’ the poor fuckers I wus teachin’ ‘n’ tha- …), for-to an audience-readership new-fresh to him, and thus pulls out (so to) those things-concepts-ideas (—sic) that formed my own interest-focus at the time and the simplest, clearest… description of ‘em, of which I was capable. …

 

* … —part of what the lectures were trying to do was to set-up close-reading, and discussion workshop-seminars on ‘The Mirror Stage’,… and, since tha-s what we’re setting up to do here, it seemed sort-a… apt. …       

 

*—a curio, then, (of sorts). …

 

*—I hope that it proves useful—still—as a brief introduction to Lacan himself, and to one or two key ideas-themes. …

 

 

—In attempting to develop and refine these notes here, I owe debts, in particular, to Rob Lapsley’s introductory essay on ‘Psychoanalysis’, and to Huw Jones’s entry on Lacan in Simon Malpas and Paul Wake (eds) The Routledge Companion to Critical Theory, Routledge 2006, *—in which I also happen to have been published (with entries on ‘Northrop Frye’ and ‘Carl Jung’, those delightful maniacs … ), and which I’d recommend as a reference, study, and teaching resource: … —the essays and glossary are short, clear, and concise, and give great introductions to thinkers, concepts and areas-modes of thought. …

Routledge Companion to Crit. Theory

 

 

So, …

 

Lacan.

*Jacques Lacan (1901–1981). … —French psychoanalyst and intellectual. …

 

background:

 

Lacan has (had) a number of important historical and (often) personal overlaps with the most significant intellectual and artistic movements and figures of the early C20th. …

 

*(For example… )—During (what we now think of-characterise as) the inter-war period, Lacan associated with important artistic and intellectual figures such as: André Breton, Georges Bataille, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso. …

 

—He published in the Surrealist journal Minotaure, and attended the first public reading of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

 

*—Importance, then of a formative influence of, and relation to, Modernism *(—plastic and literary arts), and esp. to Surrealism. …

*(… —seen to colour his thought (so to). … ).

 

*—Early interest in the philosophies of Karl Jaspers and Martin Heidegger and attended the incredibly influential seminars on Hegel’s philosophy given by Alexandre Kojève.

 

—Lacan’s (awareness of, and relationship to) contemporary emergence of Existentialism, and Existentialist philosophy *(—esp. Bataille, with whom he had a… troubled personal relationship), Sartre, and de Beauvoir. …

 

—Also,… —importance of revolutionary politics in ‘60s France.

*(—Lacan encouraged students to participate—and, indeed, facilitated this participation—but was careful to distinguish his own ‘revolt’ (so to) from mainstream politics. …)

 

*—Lacan as Parisian intellectual.

(—Paris as artistic and intellectual centre-focal point in early C20th. … ).

 

*—It’s from this important time, and this… nexus of artistic and cultural influences that Lacan’s thought emerged and developed.

 

 

… whilst (of course… ) best-known for his work in(-on) psychoanalysis, and as an analyst (himself),… Lacan’s intellectual influence extends well beyond *clinical psychoanalytic practice, to the study of (amongst other things-subjects): philosophy, literature, politics & ideology, and (… —of course,… —and very usefully for our current purposes) to *Critical Theory (—there it is. … … ).

 

*—inf. of thought (esp. on language) on ‘poststructuralism’: Derrida, Foucault, and (also) on feminism: (most notably, perhaps,) Julia Kristeva. …

 

 

—In his own (—idiosyncratic) practice of psychoanalysis, Lacan lay emphasis on its primary purpose being that of the treatment of a patient’s suffering.

*(… —a practical purpose, that is,… —with philosophical, literary, critical, political, artistic (… —&c.) ends or purposes, therefore having a secondary status. … ).

 

(…) —As different forms of suffering are seen to arise according to the influence—the particular conditions—of time and place (space), Lacan argued that psychoanalysis had to constantly evolve *[/—be evolving], in order to address these, continually changing, and therefore [always] new circumstances and developments *(—in the conditions of the suffering of patients). …

 

—He emphasised the singularity, then, and the individuality of each patient [/—the conditions of each patient’s suffering], and of each session of treatment with the patient. …

 

*—In this sense [/—for this reason] there is no [/—we cannot properly talk of there being] a *“Lacanian system”:

 

…rather,… each of his seminars was different *(—i.e.: … —not intended to—add up to a total work or comprehensive/total (philosophical/psychoanalytic) system. … ).

 

As such (/As a result … ),—It’s important to note that, in his career/-lifetime, Lacan published no actual books or finished (whole-entire,—concrete) works. …

 

*—Such work(s) as now bear his name (—in print) are, in fact, comprised of *transcriptions of seminars which he delivered (between 1948 and 1980). …

*(… —tie back to Saussure [—Course in General Linguistics]?, and bring up problem of authorship, and of a remove from authorship and *authority. … (—?): ‘d be useful when we get on to Derrida. …

 

—?).

 

*Lacan’s most important-significant and influential ‘works’ (so to speak/sic), then,… are… gathered together (—better way of saying that? … —collated. … —?) in *Écrits *(… —first published in 1966, and available in English translation in a reduced-edited-selected (and therefore selective) form in Écrits: A Selection *(available from Routledge),—first published in 1977, but now in a complete edition, translated (and annotated) by Lacan scholar Bruce Fink: *Jacques Lacan, Écrits, trans. Bruce Fink (London: W.W. Norton & Company, Ltd., 2006)… *(—wave the bloody book at ‘em. … ). … ), and especially the opening essay of the volume:

*—‘The Mirror Stage as formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience’

(or,… —‘The Mirror Stage’, for (merciful) brevity. … ), which will be the focus of our own reading-study here. …

 

 

Lacan viewed his (idiosyncratic, psychoanalytic) work as a *return to the tradition in or of psychoanalytic criticism and practice, begun by (none other than) Sigmund Freud (and… —there he is ol’ Ziggy,—whom we’ve already read-studied-looked at-considered. … ).

 

And Freud is the most important and profound influence on Lacan and Lacanian thought.

 

—Lacan saw this tradition as having (essentially) been corrupted by Freud’s’’Freudian’,—North American, exponents-accolytes, after his influence spread-crossed the Atlantic.

*(…

 

—there’s an interesting historical-fictional take on Freud’s own visit to the States in E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime *(—a brilliant novel), for any interested (in such things). … —?).

 

—In his influential seminars (—begun, privately, in 1951, becoming public in ’53, and continuing for 27 years) Lacan ‘returned’ to, and re-read Freud’s works,—in relation to contemporary philosophy, linguistics, ethnology, biology, and topology. …

 

*—So,… whilst I won’t dwell (here—for our current purposes) on the nature and details of the adoption (or, in Lacan’s terms,—expropriation (perhaps) of Freud over in the ol’ States (there),… —it’s worth bearing in mind the details of our own reading-study of Freud, as we go along here…

*[—briefly recap. … ]. …

 

 

*(N.B. … *—I’m being selective and offering a summary here for our current study, but it is fair to say, I think, that: … ) Lacan can be seen, in the main, to have made two crucial contributions to psychoanalysis *(in particular), and (—more widely) to the theory of human subjectivity:

 

 

*key ideas-concepts:

 

I.—‘the mirror stage’. …

 

—The first is the concept of ‘the mirror stage’ itself (—hence our focus … ), in which he put forward his account of the original formation of the ego *(— = “I” …). *[—ref. Freud.—? … ].

 

 

(in short. … )

—A child (—an infant. *—prior to development of instrumental intelligence-engagement-activity) recognises itself as(-in) the image it sees in a mirror.

*[—ref. debate over when (exactly) this: … ‘event’ takes place (… —around six months, is it… —?), and the efficacy of Lacan’s reading. … —?].

 

*… —Lacan argues that the child, in[/within] this moment or instance, *—misrecognises itself as the unified, coherent, singular, mirror image. …

 

 

—He argues that physical (—i.e. bodily) and psychical/(or)psychological unity, then,… are dependent upon the resulting, and fundamental, error in the child’s (—the subject’s) perspective. …

 

—Following ol’ Ziggy Freud—and particularly Freud’s early conception of ego-formation *(—especially up to point-time of the ‘Narcissism’ essay),… —Lacan saw ‘the mirror stage’ (and, consequently,—the formation of the ego itself) as a moment of (essentially) narcissistic self-misrecognition, founded(/-grounded) in a self-idealisation *(—and the term Ideal/ideal (—idealisation) which prove crucial to us in our own discussion of Lacan. … ).

 

*—The child(-infant), then,—identifies itself with an image of unity and of completeness [finality… —?]—an ideal which it anticipates, but which it will—and cannot—ever hope to (properly) embody. …

 

*—(As with Freud, and this will prove important in-to our study of Derrida: … ) No human being (that is) can ever hope to fully coincide with an(—the) ideal. …

 

 

Self-understanding (/self-comprehension), in this sense, then,… is seen as/—is revealed to be  … —a form of misunderstanding,… —ironically undermining or undercutting (so to) any claims to self-identity or self-knowledge. …

*(… —link to, and recapit., study of Nietzsche and Freud in particular, and to both Marx and Barthes,… particularly in-through L.’s influence on the study of *ideology… *—projection of ideals onto subject—forming-informing the subject, then,—from without. … ).

 

 

II.—language. …

The second of Lacan’s key contributions to the theory of subjectivity was (in) his *(later) adoption of the terms of Saussure’s critique of language: … —Semiology/(or) Semiotics.

*[and, again,… —(briefly) recapit. reading-study of Saussure (—to refresh). … ].

 

Language, Lacan argues,—building on elements of his theory of ‘the mirror stage’, both *joins subjects together—as it allows them to communicateand yet also (and, importantly,—at the same time … ) serves to *separate them: —communication is never complete. …

 

… —Just as we saw in-for Saussure, and his account of the ‘denaturalising’ of language and its arbitrary or shifting nature (—as coincidence of thought and sound… —of signifier and signified … )… Lacan argues that meaning is shifting, and is only constructed through a system of differences. …

 

(—in (roughly) psychoanalytic terms… )

—At different stages of in-of analysis, patients ascribe entirely different meanings to earlier episodes or utterances. …

 

This is where Lacan becomes an influence on the study of art (specifically literature) (and hence drama—?)

 

 

—If reinterpretation is always possible ((that is)—if the event or text itself is—can never be—finished, self-identical,—complete … ), then there can be no (such thing as a)—final reading.

 

—In different contexts, and at-in different times and/or places, that is, artworks can assume entirely different meanings. …

 

*—For Lacan, then,… —the meaning of an artwork (always) comes from the future. …

 

 

For Lacan, the speaking subject can never put everything into words. … —They, at once, (always) say, on the one hand, more than they intend to

*[—this is tied to Freud’s conception of the inevitable return of the repressed, and compensation structures: … —jokes, verbal slips, etc. … ].

and (and—at the same time) … less than they intend to say *(—there is always something missing, something that it is impossible to put into words-to say. … ).

 

—The unconscious can never be fully verbalised, and, as result, psychoanalytic treatment/analysis is always endless-interminable. …

 

There is always something that it’s impossible to say… —some form of remainder or unspoken. …

 

—The subject is always between signifiers, and cannot attain self-identity.

*(—This element of Lacan’s thought most of all is a profound influence on the thought which will follow him: poststructuralism—especially the work of Jacques Derrida, and that of Michel Foucault, as well as Feminism—such as in the work of Julia Kristeva, as well as Gender and Queer Theory, each of which we will be studying next semester. … ).

 

The results of this are two other key Lacanian concepts. …

 

I.—*Alienation.

 

—To be a subject, the subject must (try to) identify themselves with a  signifier, even though it is impossible for them to ever fully coincide with it.

 

Prior to its birth, the human infant is spoken of with hopes, fears, and desires, and is assigned an identity: … —is given a (proper) name. …

 

—This name acts as a summons to the child to adopt an identity not of its own making or choosing, and which, then, embodies an—ideal. …

 

This summons,… —the impossibility of its fulfilment, and the sensed imposition of an ideal… give rise to Alienation. … —Although there is no (sense of) ‘self’ prior to the assignment of a name, the subject revolts (on some level—so to speak … ): … rebels, then, against the assignment-imposition of the ideal as betrayal, or a loss, of their ‘true self’. …

 

 

II.—*Separation.

 

The sense of something having been lost gives rise, for Lacan,—to desire. …

 

—The child’s (—the infant’s) existence(-experience) is delimited by its entrance into signification, and a feeling is born that there must be more to existence than the role assigned to them (—to the subject) by society and by signification.

 

… —From the moment of their entrance into society and the chain of signification, the subject is in search of something they feel themselves to be lacking. …

 

Lacan argues,—pessimistically, that this search is (—will always have been)—in vain. …

 

—The ‘object’ (so-called) of the search never truly existed, nor could ever truly exist. …

 

 

*—There will be (-have been) a perpetual gap,—between the enjoyment of whatever the subject finds (will have found) to fill the place of the ‘lost object’, and the enjoyment that they will have anticipated. …

 

—Existence falls short (inevitably) (—of imagination). …

 

 

*—The most common form of this kind of fantasising (—of coinciding, or of identity, with the ‘lost object’) is romance. …

 

*—Lovers imagine that the other embodies the ‘lost object’, and will (—can) make good the feeling of a lack.

 

Lovers, Lacan argues, bring to each other not what will make good the lack, but (in fact) the lack itself.

 

*Hence one of Lacan’s key axioms: *—there is no sexual relation.

 

*Rather than accept or confront this (nonetheless unavoidable) reality, Lacan argues,—we take refuge in fantasy.

 

 

*—The concepts, then,—of the imposition of the ideal, alienation, and the lack and (in) the Other, will prove crucial in-to our study of Critical Theory, and, more particularly (for our current purposes), to our reading of Lacan’s ‘The Mirror Stage’. …

 

 

*’image’. ‘complex’. ‘VORTEX’. —on Ezra Pound, Imagism, and the ‘image’… *part (i). ‘the exact word’. …

*(… —follows on from *‘the image.—vs. Platonic ressentiment’, *‘—toward a disruptive, anti-transcendental “classicism”’, and *‘—the “classical”.—vs. the “romantic” (in Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hulme.)’ …).

 

*I’ve struggled (again) to write all this. …

 

I know that between the previous two posts here there had been a fairly substantial (and, frankly, unintended) hiatus of sorts. …

 

—I’ve struggled to (re-)write the material on the ‘classical’—working from notes, fresh readings-materials, and fragments—in a way that I hadn’t foreseen (after all,… the parallels between the opposition of the ‘classical’ to the ‘romantic’ in Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hulme are fairly obvious and straightforward, and I had the mass of the material ready prepared from the fragments of my doctoral thesis).

 

Particularly difficult was to re-jig (so to) the conclusion of my reading of The Birth of Tragedy in the light of Nietzsche on the ‘classical’ and the ‘romantic’. …

 

—This actually took place in the reverse order in my doctoral thesis, with the ‘classical’ material preceding my chapter on Birth, and the Birth chapter (perhaps more simply) speaking back to the ‘classical’. …

 

And perhaps this original structure does indeed actually work better. …

 

hmm.

 

More, though, I had wanted in the doctoral thesis to talk more about Pound, and about Imagism,—using them to qualify, clarify, and to use as examples of, the ‘classical’. …

 

—Without ever truly being (absolutely) sure why (or how). …

 

 

—It wasn’t until I went back over my thesis material, notes, and Pound’s and the Imagist texts here *(—in preparation for this), that I had what, at least at the time, felt like (a sort of) a revelation: …

 

* …—of the way in which Pound’s writing on the ‘image’ and the key terms of the Imagist’s ‘manifestoes’, when taken in the light of some of the Imagist poems,… —bring together the philosophical and artistic (aesthetic) ideas and concepts I’ve been concerned with (throughout the various posts-fragments-chapters of this ‘ere ol’ blog project), and how—in turn—these ideas and concepts can help, then, to contextualise and to elucidate the key terms of Pound’s writing on art and the ‘image’ and the Imagist’s key artistic claims. …

 

*—a sort of (quite sweeping, perhaps) assessment, I s’pose of the… (for want of a better term-turn-of-phrase) intellectual (artistic and philosophical) *tradition (—yes, yes,… —I know, I know…) formed between Nietzsche, Bergson, Hulme, Joyce, Pound, and the Imagists…

 

*—of (—toward) a disruptive, anti-transcendental neo-classicism. …

 

And that is what I hope to present here.

 

 

—I’ve struggled to do any real justice to the material, I think. …

(I’m still anxious that all of this is too… superficial. … —too precious and too loaded).

 

I’m aware that there is a fair amount of assumed knowledge—of Pound, Imagism, and the Imagists, without a great of background: historical, biographical (etc.)—in my reader (as there was in my argument on Nietzsche and Birth).

 

I’d refer the reader back to my incredibly cursory and ineffectual ‘brief history’ of Imagism in the context of Joyce’s writing, and I do do so,—at the outset of all this here. …

 

*—My focus here is theoretical: … *(that is,…) I’m interested in the detail of the artistic and philosophical claims (—about poetry, and about the nature, and (the treatment of) the proper subject matter of the poem…) in-of Pound, and of the Imagists. …

 

As such, I focus on a small number of (what seem to me to be) their key collective claims, eschewing wider discussion of the key figures involved in Imagism (and their wider literary output), and—to be honest—I do no real justice to ol’ Ezra (really), focussing on the key terms in the development of his writing on Imagism and the ‘image’, and not discussing his life or wider work.

 

 

*—I’m aware that a lot of the posts I’ve put up here are, really, far too long for the patience of most readers.

 

And so,…        (hell)

 

I’m going to present this as a series of shorter fragments, for the sake of much easier and more comfortable digestion. …

 

(hmm)

 

 

*…—It’s often the case *(a fairly common conception) that the Imagists receive a great deal of (let’s call it) critical – flak for (what even ‘Modernist’ Scholars with an interest in Imagism and its place and importance in Modernism, and Modern Art more broadly, have been known to characterise as) the poor quality (so to) of their poetical output,… —especially when measured against the innovation, (intellectual) integrity, and promise(-potential) of their artistic claims and manifestoes. …

 

 

*—I want here—by(-in) contrast (hmm)—to draw out the fundamental details of the aesthetic  claims promoted in the writings of Pound, and by the Imagists, and (and perhaps more importantly(—?)) to read a small selection of their poems in terms of, and as examples of the practical executions of, those claims. …

 

*In order, in the end,—to… —draw out (then), in effect, the deep-rooted connection between the ‘classical’ and the ‘image’.

 

 

*image. ‘complex’.—‘VORTEX’. …

 

So, …

(hmm).

 

*—The concept of the ‘image’ lies at the very heart (of the evolution-development) of Ezra Pound’s critical writing, as well as (—clearly) the (self-styled) Imagists shared project.

*(For a crude, brief, and largely incompetent history of ‘Imagism’, the reader is pointed toward the last portion of my ‘the “image”.—vs. Platonic ressentiment.

 

—For a more lucid, detailed, and developed history, the interested reader is recommended to consult Peter Jones’s excellent ‘Introduction’ to Imagist Poetry. …).

 

 

*—. I want to pause here (as a sort of an—aside, I s’pose) to dwell on the work of Pound and the Imagists.

 

In particular, I want to examine, and to draw out the stakes of, the close (nay—the intimate (let’s say it)) relationship between the concept of the ‘image’ and that of the ‘classical’. *(—what a ‘classical’ art-poetry might indeed look like. … ).

 

 

So then,…

 

—I’ll read from Pound’s critical writing and the Imagist’s manifestoes in order to draw out their key artistic claims (or demands), as well as the philosophical (so to) characteristics of the ‘image’, before moving on to read some examples of Imagist poetry, in order to analyse the artistic practise and poems (poetry) to which these claims and characteristics gave rise.

 

 

—The aim here, then, is to examine more closely the development of the ‘classical’ in(-within) self-styled neo-classical Modernism (more broadly understood):

*—the intimate connection between the ‘classical’ and (the concept of) the ‘image’, and the impact of this development on literary-poetical theory and practise.

 

*Whilst, as I said in my ‘brief history’(sic) of Imagism, it’s problematic at best to try to regard Joyce himself as, in any way, a practising ‘Imagist’,… examining the ‘image’ (or, rather: images) of Pound and of the Imagists, will help me to clarify what I believe is at stake in Dedalus’s theory of the ‘image’ in Portrait (and its development from the ‘epiphany’ of the Stephen Hero draft),—helping me to demonstrate its (intrinsic) alignment or parallel (for want) with the overall development of Nietzsche’s theory of, and writing on, art and the relevance of an understanding of Nietzsche, his theory of art, and relationship to Romanticism, to an understanding of the intellectual (—philosophical and artistic) underpinnings of (self-styled. ‘neo-classical’) Modernism.

 

 

In particular here, I want to focus, quite liberally and freely actually,  on Pound’s ‘A Retrospect’ (incorporating ‘A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste’, first printed in Poetry, March 1913, and reproduced in ‘A Retrospect’: Pound, Pavannes and Divisions, 93-111)) as well as the prefaces to the 1915 and 1916 ‘Imagist’ anthologies. *(—The two prefaces are reproduced in Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 134-140).

 

 

*the exact word. …

 

*—In Some Imagist Poets (1915), Lowell et al. lay out a set of principles for the movement which helpfully (at least for my own current purposes here) form an almost verbatim repetition of Ezra Pound and F.S. Flint’s earlier definition of ‘Imagisme’, and of the image, in ‘A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste’, presenting them in the form of a convenient and easily digestible list, and it’s worth, I think, reproducing it in full here… —

1. To use the language of common speech, but to employ always the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.

2. To create new rhythms—as the expression of new moods—and not to copy old rhythms, which merely echo old moods. We do not just insist upon “free-verse” as the only method of writing poetry. We fight for it as a principle of liberty. We believe that the individuality of a poet may often be better expressed in free-verse than in conventional forms. In poetry, a new cadence means a new idea.

3. To allow absolute freedom in the choice of subject. It is not good art to write badly about aeroplanes and automobiles; nor is it necessarily bad art to write well about the past. We believe passionately in the artistic value of modern life, but we wish to point out that there is nothing so uninspiring nor so old-fashioned as an aeroplane of the year 1911.

4. To present an image (hence the name: “Imagist”). We are not a school of painters, but we believe that poetry should render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and sonorous. It is for this reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to shirk the real difficulties of his art.

5. To produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.

6. Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of poetry.

(repr. in Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 135; & cf. Coffman, Jr., Imagism, 28-29. …

—See also, F.S. Flint’s ‘Imagisme’—which immediately preceded ‘A Few Don’ts’ in Poetry—in Pound, Early Writings

1. Direct treatment of the “thing,” whether subjective or objective.

2. To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation.

3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome. [—209-210]

).

 

*— …

 

‘to employ always *the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.’

 

*… —an absolute (in the sense of uncompromising), sharp, hard (that is,—ruthless) poetic-literary *economy (—‘concentration),—& (an equally absolute) fidelity to the (artist’s) model, & to the impression (so to.—the experience, I s’ppose, of artistic inspiration).

… —an aversion (then) to ‘decoration’: to sentiment, & to metaphor &/or simile. …

*—a commitment to concision: …

—to a fidelity to the model/experience, eschewing (so to) any attempt to add to, or to… inflate the model-experience, or to attach to it(/them) the prosthesis of a transcendental-metaphysical significance *(—a ‘Platonic Idea-Form’) that would surreptitiously serve to lift them out of the sphere of the everyday (in-onto the ‘otherworldly), and, thus, imbue the poet-artist (so to. again,—surreptitiously and ingenuously) with some form of special-elect prophetic-‘mystic’, ‘consciousness expanding’ insight (—as the one who has access to the otherworldly (Platonic), which is why, I’d argue, their terms echo (oh so very closely) those of Stephen’s rejection of ‘symbolism and idealism’ and aesthetical metaphysics *(—the ‘romantic’ …):

—‘To present an image’. … ‘—‘poetry should render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and sonorous. It is for this reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to shirk the real difficulties of his art.’

 

‘To create new rhythms—as the expression of new moods—and not to copy old rhythms, which merely echo old moods.’

 

… —

 

This echoes ol’ Fritz (in ‘On Truth’, and in Birth) and Henri Bergson on the laceration of the stultified… skin (—a membrane. so to) of linguistic convention (and prejudice),… —down (back)—into flux, through ‘intuition’,… and the need for new words-forms: ‘he speaks only in forbidden metaphors and in unheard-of combinations of concepts. He does this so that by shattering and mocking the old conceptual barriers he may at least correspond creatively to the impression of the powerful and present intuition. (Nietzsche, ‘On Truth’, 118)… —‘new rhythms’,—to capture (—to incorporate) the new ‘moods’ (so to), which result. …

And this is what is meant, I’d argue (at least), by the Imagist’s appeal to: ‘a principle of liberty’: ‘a new cadence means a new idea’.

 

 

*—The ‘Direct treatment of the “thing”’. …

 

direct,… —a pragmatic, detailed, attention, with ‘thing’ notably placed in parenthetical quotation marks: *—the ‘Direct treatment’ and the ‘new mood’ bringing its very ‘thinghood’ (so to) into question. …

 

*…—attention. being brought into focus upon the ‘thing’ in question (—the ‘thing’ itself exciting-eliciting this attention, and thereby becoming the artist’s model … ), which serves to bring into question (to—undo?) the dismissive complacency (—of habit, apparent familiarity,—of (quotidian) prejudice) with which it would, otherwise, have been greeted.

*(—compare on this: ‘A Few Don’ts’… —on ‘sincerity’, and a ‘certain limpidity and precision’ as ‘the ultimate qualities of style’. … *[103: on ‘Technique’, and 132] … ).

 

 

*—This particular iteration of the Imagist ‘manifesto’ (so to) is also important or significant in-through the (self-styled) ‘Imagists’ location of their shared project-interests in relation to (broader) contemporary debates on art and aesthetics. …

 

 

*—. —The reference here to ‘free verse’ (vers libre.—a form of unrhymed verse divided into lines of no particular length and without a consistent metrical pattern, but still recognizable as poetry due to the complex patterns which it employs and that readers are able to perceive to be part of a coherent whole)—represents, at least in part, an allusion to the French Symbolist poets, who popularised the form. …

 

—In their adoption of free-verse, but rejection of it as the only possible method of writing poetry, the Imagists sought both to appropriate what they saw as valuable, and to reject what they saw as restrictive, within Symbolism: opening the potential ( and freedom) to appropriate form and formal experimentation, whilst remaining at liberty to fundamentally reject any metaphysical ambitions or aspirations (—prejudices?) underpinning Symbolist poetry. …

*(—For an extended discussion of the relationship of Imagism to Symbolism, see Wallace Martin, ‘The Sources of the Imagist Aesthetic’ PMLA, Vol. 85, No. 2, [March, 1970], 196-204. …

 

—Martin argues that though they are markedly different, neither Hulme nor Pound’s conception of ‘the image’ ‘is historically derived from or theoretically similar to the aesthetic of the Symbolists.’ [197-198])…

 

 

 

—The rejection of ‘aeroplanes and automobiles’ as (automatically-necessarily) fit subjects for art, and openness to the recuperation-or reclamation (so to) of the past as a fit subject for poetry, form pointed (—implicit, yet, in their specificity, actually fairly arch) allusions to ‘Futurism’,—founded by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909. …

 

*.—In his ‘Manifesto of Futurism’, Marinetti defined Futurism as the art of (violent) velocity… —

We say that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty; the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath—a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot—is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.

*(Filippo Tommaso Marinetti ‘Futurist Manifesto,’ La Gazzetta dell’Emilia, 5th February 1909 reproduced in Le Figaro, 20th February 1909. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, ‘The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism,’ in Marinetti: Selected Writings, ed. R.W. Flint, trans. R.W. Flint, Arthur A. Coppotelli [London: Secker & Warburg, 1972], 39-44 [41])

 

—In obviously intentionally sexualised terms, Marinetti defines Futurism as a celebration of emergent technologies, particularly those of transport, and with(-in) a particularly fervent rejection of the (historical, technological, and artistic) past…

*—‘Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible? […] We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind’. (41-42)

 

 

*—In ‘Vorticism’, Pound dismissed Futurism as mere ‘accelerated impressionism,’ dubbing it ‘a spreading or surface art.’ (279.—See also, Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 21).

 

*—With what can be characterised as its combination of Impressionist (—particularly the plein air movement’s self-avowed goal of capturing the vitality and flux of the lived-experience *(—the artist’s subject-model) and Cubist (—Picasso’s form of psychological realism) influences, … —Futurism marks, or rather names, the artistic attempt to capture and to articulate the changes in the perception and velocity of daily life opened up with-in the advent of new technologies (—particularly of the aeroplane and automobile… ).

 

 

—The Imagists, then, sought (explicitly and conscientiously) to place their emphasis on (what here could be called) the *stasis, … *—the concision (—exactness), and clarity of images and, thus, the very concept of the ‘image’ (itself), in stark contrast-opposition to Futurism’s (Marinetti’s) emphasis upon technology, velocity, and also (by extension, I’d argue) its violent reactionary politics, which glorified militarism and nationalism, and offered a violent rejection of feminism: ‘We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman’ [ibid.]. …).

 

 

Imagism—that is the Imagists—then, are at some pains in their ‘manifesto’ to locate themselves beyond or (perhaps rather) outwith , both the ‘Platonism’ *(the—pseudo-transcendentalism, so to) of, I’d argue, an especially ‘Yeatsian’ brand/derivation of ‘Symbolism’ *( … —in his later essay, ‘Vorticism’, pausing to define ‘symbolism’, Pound again draws out and rejects this pseudo-transcendentalism: … —‘It is not necessarily a belief in a permanent world, but it is a belief in that direction.’ *[—281]), as well as the technologically focussed (and fuelled, so to) obsession with (sheer) *velocity (—of both technology, and (in-)of time) in-of Futurism. …

 

 

In the stead of the ‘Platonic’ otherworld of the ‘cosmic’ symbolist poet, and the brash high-velocity machismo of the Futurist artist, then,… —the Imagists lay an emphasis, echoing the terms of the ‘classical’, as I have laid these out, in Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hulme, on an unflinching, anchored (pragmatic) concern with (fidelity to) lived-experience,… —what could be summarised here, for my current purposes as the experiential stoicism and philosophical scepticism of the ‘classical’,—as evinced by ol’ Jimmy J.., Fritz, and Hulme.

 

*—toward the concept of a disruptive, anti-transcendental ‘classicism’. (‘*on the Becoming Actual of the Being of Beauty’ part (iii). & ‘*a paean’ part (ii). …)

*(follows on from ‘from the epiphany to the esthetic image’, ‘a paean’, & ‘*on the ‘image’.—vs. Platonic ressentiment.  …).

 

*—toward the concept of a disruptive, anti-transcendental ‘classicism’.
(—a paean. part (ii). …
—an… amalgamation, of sorts, of all of the gone before…).

 

So. …

 

*In the previous chapter-fragment, I argued that Stephen’s aesthetic theory in Portrait opposes the *image to a conception of art which grants the artist (turned… privileged visionary) and, subsequently, the artwork, a form of access to the transcendental realm (so to) of the (‘Platonic’) Ideas (which I argued was exemplified in Yeats’s early critical writing, and especially in his definition of transcendental Symbolism). …

 

 

At the end of the chapter, I tied this to my reading of the evolution of the concept of the ‘epiphany’ (in-of Stephen Hero) into that of the ‘image’ in Portrait

 

—I suggested that the latter refines the terms of the former, bringing out (or rendering explicit) the—implicit—a-religious anti-metaphysics at stake within it, and incorporates the opposition of the ‘classical’ and ‘romantic’ artistic ‘tempers’ of Stephen’s ‘Art and Life’ paper in Stephen Hero (and in-of Joyce’s own early critical writing).

 

 

*—In ‘Intuition, Flux and Anti-metaphysics’, in discussing Nietzsche’s early rejection of Schopenhauerian metaphysics, I’ve already gone some way to outlining the transcendental (the a priori) in (for) Kant. …

 

—Before moving on to analyse the terms of the opposition of the ‘classical’ to the ‘romantic’ in Stephen’s aesthetic theory (between Stephen Hero and Portrait), and the parallel that I’ll argue that this establishes (reveals, rather) between Joyce and Nietzsche, T.E. Hulme and neo-classical Modernism, I want to pause (briefly) here to recapitulate the substance of my reading of Kant and of the nature of the transcendental, linking this more explicitly to my reading of the terms of Schopenhauer’s aesthetics *(—in ‘*“purgation” and the Dionysian sublime’). …

 

This will allow me (I hope) to go at least some of the way toward clarifying and substantiating the (what Nietzsche, and, following him, Joyce and Hulme, characterise as problematic) relationship of the ‘romantic’, and of Romanticism, to the transcendental. *(—maintaining the capitalisation when referring to the artists and movement-period now, somewhat problematically it must be admitted, identified as Romantic, in distinction to the term’s use by Joyce, Nietzsche and Hulme, for which I’ll maintain the lower case and quotation marks here…).

 

*… That is,—I’ll seek here, by way of introduction, to clarify what I’ve already (somewhat pre-emptively) called the rejection of ‘Platonic ressentiment’ in Stephen’s aesthetic theory, and, thus, to contextualise the philosophical stakes in-of the image and the ‘classical’ as I’m going to seek to lay these out here.

 

 

*And so. … (—to recapitulate)…

 

Schopenhauer followed Kant in distinguishing between the phenomenon and the thing-in-itself:

*—‘Kant’s greatest merit is the distinction of the phenomenon and the thing-in-itself, based on the proof that between things and us always stands the intellect, and that on this account they cannot be known according to what they may be in themselves.’ (‘Appendix: Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy’ in Schopenhauer, WWR, I, 413-534 (417-418)).

 

 

*—For Kant, all that can be known of an object is that which appears within the limits of the human intuition of space and time. *(—on this, see Jacquette, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, 19).

 

Space and time constitute the appearance’s form: allowing the manifold of appearance to be ordered according to certain relations.

 

They are a priori: constituting the very condition of the possibility of the realm of appearance and sensible knowledge, but have no meaning if applied beyond it.

 

*—They are transcendental.

 

 

—For Kant, the thing-in-itself is conditioned by neither space nor time.

 

Our understanding cannot transcend the limits of sensibility and therefore we can attain no knowledge of things as they are in themselves. *(—Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, A 30/B 45. Cf. 85 A 45/B 62 (—on the ‘transcendental object’), and also A 128. And, again,—see Howard Caygill, A Kant Dictionary— esp. 79-80 and 393).

 

*—That which is not an appearance cannot be an object of experience.

 

*—For Kant, experience remains (and must remain) on this side of the transcendental.

 

 

*In his division of the world into ‘will’ and ‘representation’, Schopenhauer retains Kant’s distinction of the thing-in-itself and the appearance.

 

However, he refutes the method by which, he argues, Kant arrives at his deduction of the thing-in-itself.

 

Kant refutes what he argues is ‘the absurd conclusion that there can be appearance without anything that appears’. *(Critique of Pure Reason, B 27).

 

… —In the criticism of Kant which he appended to The World as Will and Representation, Schopenhauer accuses Kant of contradicting his own idealist distinction, by claiming that the thing-in-itself has an objective foundation,—independent of subjective representation.

 

He argues that Kant reached his account of the thing-in-itself via an erroneous application of the law of causality: that empirical perception and, more fundamentally, sensation, from which the former arises, must have an external (that is, an objective) cause.

 

*In contrast, Schopenhauer emphasises what he argues is the subjective foundation, of causality, and of empirical perception. (—Schopenhauer, 435-436)

 

 

Opposing what he claims is Kant’s attempt to locate the objective foundation of the thing-in-itself, Schopenhauer seeks to derive his own conception from the introduction of the element of self-consciousness… —

 

[Self-consciousness is a] knowledge which everyone possesses directly in the concrete, namely as feeling. This is the knowledge that the inner nature of his own phenomenon, which manifests itself to him as representation both through his actions and through the permanent substratum of these his body, is his will. This will constitutes what is most immediate in his consciousness, but as such it has not wholly entered into the form of the representation, in which object and subject stand over and against each other. (109)

 

Schopenhauer argues that the thing-in-itself lies on the side of the subjective.

 

—The body is that of which the subject is most immediately aware.

 

It represents, for Schopenhauer, the manifestation of the subject’s own ‘inner nature’ (—? h-mm. …), but is also, and at the same time, an object for-to the subject.

 

As both subject and object, it thus constitutes (for Schopenhauer) the most immediate form of representation.

 

—Through the body, Schopenhauer argues, the subject becomes aware of their ‘inner nature’: the force which precipitates their actions. *(—See Magee, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, 137: ‘The movements of the material object which is my body are known to me not only through external sense, as are the movements of other material objects, but also directly, non-sensorily, non-intellectually from within, as acts of will’, and also Jacquette, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer,—73-74).

 

As this precedes, and is the source of consciousness of the body and its actions, and therefore of the relationship of the subject and the object, for Schopenhauer it must thus exist prior to and outside of representation.

 

He argues that the consciousness of this ‘inner nature’ of the subject’s ‘will’, known both directly and indirectly, can be extended to phenomena known only indirectly,—as representations. …

 

As such, it becomes, for him (at least), the ‘key to the knowledge of the innermost being of the whole of nature.’ (109)

 

This, he argues, allows him to extend his understanding of the ‘will’ (—as the motive ‘force’ underlying subjectivity), to all vegetable and animate life, as well as mineral development and phenomena such as electro-magnetism and gravitation,… —all of which he thus portrays as phenomenal expressions of  a unified and universal (inchoate) striving ‘force’.

 

 

—In contrast to Kant’s attempt to locate its foundation in objectivity, Schopenhauer extends his analysis of the subjective ‘will’ to the thing-in-itself.

 

He argues that the willing of which the subject is conscious is the most immediate and adequate phenomenal expression of the noumenal. As such, he adopts the name of the subjective phenomena of the will in order to name the thing-in-itself.

 

*—The ‘will’ is then, for Schopenhauer, the ‘magic word’ (hmm) that reveals ‘the innermost essence of everything in nature’. (111)

 

 

As I argued in *‘“purgation” and the Dionysian sublime’, Schopenhauer’s aesthetics are grounded in an appropriation of philosophical concepts, not only from Kant’s philosophy, but from that of Plato. …

 

 

*—The third book of The World as Will and Representation is dedicated to his analysis of the Platonic Idea as the (proper) object of art. …

 

—In particular, he appropriates, and attempts to marry, the Kantian ‘thing-in-itself’ and the Platonic ‘Idea’. …

—‘we find […] those two great and obscure paradoxes of the two greatest philosophers of the West—to be, not exactly identical, but yet very closely related, and distinguished by only a single modification.’ (WWR, I, §31, 170) …

 

*As I’ve argued,… —as far as Schopenhauer is concerned, the ‘will’ (the—Will) is the thing-in-itself. …

 

—Following Kant, he argues that time, space and causality *(—the principle of sufficient reason), are the forms of our knowledge, which is knowledge only of the phenomenal realm, constituted by ‘plurality and all arising and passing away,’ to which the thing-in-itself (—the Will) is not subject. (171) …

 

Schopenhauer uses his refutation of Kant’s claim to the objectivity of the thing-in-itself to draw a distinction (—his ‘modification’…) between the thing-in-itself and the (‘Platonic’) Idea. …

 

—He argues that, for Plato, the phenomenal realm represents the realm of becoming.

 

*That is,… —The objects of the phenomenal realm (for Schopenhauer) can be considered only as the imperfect shadow copies of the ‘real’ ‘archetypes’ of the Ideas, which ‘always are but never become and never pass away’ and are thus not subject to time, space and causality. (Ibid.)

 

Schopenhauer argues that, for Plato, The Idea is nevertheless ‘necessarily object’,—‘something known, a representation’, and not the thing-in-itself. (Ibid.)

 

 

*—The Idea, then,—as Schopenhauer appropriates and deploys the ‘Platonic’ term-concept *(and I’m being careful, as I was in my reading of Yeats and Plato, to maintain the quotation marks here)—represents the level, or grade, of the will’s most immediate objectivity. …

 

—It’s not subject to the principle of sufficient reason, and is, therefore, independent of the ‘subordinate forms of the phenomenon’. (175—emphasis added.) …

 

However,—‘it has retained the first and most universal form, namely that of representation in general’,… *—‘that of being object for a subject.’ (Ibid.)

 

 

*—The phenomenon, for Schopenhauer, can only ever constitute the indirect objectification of the will. …

 

*… —(In-)between, then, the phenomenon and the will, stands the Idea—‘as the only direct objectivity of the will.’ (Ibid.—and, again,—emphasis added here).

 

 

*The Idea, under the aegis of Schopenhauer’s self-styled Kantian-Platonic conjunction (synthesis), represents ‘the most adequate objectivity possible of the will or of the thing-in-itself; indeed it is even the whole thing-in-itself, only under the form of the representation’, of which the (spatiotemporal) representations are only so many plural copies,—‘multiplying the Idea in particular and fleeting individuals’. (175)

 

 

*Schopenhauer argues that it’s possible to be raised from knowledge of particular things to knowledge of the Ideas through a change in the subject’s apprehension of the object: —from its imperfect extension in(to) space and time, to its timeless Idea. …

 

In order to attain to knowledge of the Ideas, the elevation of the object,—from (mere) representation to the Idea, must be accompanied (—must be matched) by a corresponding elevation of the subject,—above (mere)—individuality. (§33, 176) …

 

—And this,—elevation, consists, for Schopenhauer, in the tearing free of knowledge from service to the striving, suffering and interestedness of the will…

*—‘we no longer consider the where, the when, the why and whither in things, but simply and solely the what.’ (§34, 178)

 

And this elevation occurs (according to Schopenhauer) in—*aesthetic contemplation. …

 

 

*—In aesthetic contemplation, then,… —just as the object is no longer the particular, individuated spatiotemporal object, but (instead)—the ‘eternal form’ of the Idea,… —the subject is no longer (simply) an individual, and ‘[w]e lose ourselves entirely in this object’. …

 

*—The subject becomes *the ‘pure will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge.’ (-179)

 

 

And, for Schopenhauer, the type of knowledge (so to) which continues to exist outside and independent of phenomenal objectivity and individual subjectivity is *‘art

*(—‘the work of genius’. …) (—§36, 184) …

 

*… —Art ‘repeats’ the Idea, apprehended through pure contemplation.

*(and, again,… —for readings of Schopenhauer’s use of the Platonic Forms or Ideas and their place in his aesthetics, the reader is advised here to consult Julian Young, Schopenhauer, 77-78, 129-134, and Jacquette, ‘Introduction’ (8-9) and Paul Guyer, ‘Pleasure and Knowledge in Schopenhauer’s Aesthetics’, in Jacquette, ed., Schopenhauer, Philosophy, and the Arts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 109-132 (109).

 

 *            *            *

 

 

So then, …

 

—Kant seeks to outline the impossibility of gaining access to (and beyond) the transcendental

*(—the a priori.—the very condition of the possibility of experience. …).

 

 

—Schopenhauer, then, in his metaphysics and aesthetics,… in effect seeks-attempts to over-leap (so to—sic) Kant,… —the bounds of experience and of the transcendental—in naming (and in claiming knowledge of) the thing-in-itself, and in seeking to define art as granting a form of access to the—‘eternal’, immutable,… transcendental—(‘Platonic’) Ideas…

*(—In ‘early Nietzsche vs. Schopenhauer’, I presented my reading of the terms of Nietzsche’s rejection of Schopenhauer, and what (the young) ol’ Fritz saw as the Schopenhauer’s attempt, in-and-through his conception of the ‘Will’ (—single, self-identical, metaphysical), to drape the thing-in-itself in the vestiture of the appearance(-representation). …).

 

*… —And I want to argue here that it’s this—Schopenhauer’s (attempted-staged) over-leaping of Kant and of the limits of the transcendental through his conceptions of the ‘Will’ (as thing-in-itself) and, more particularly, the Idea—which is at stake in Romanticism and the Romantic conception of art (—bearing in mind that Schopenhauer represents one of the most obvious and direct inheritors of the Romantic tradition…). …

 

*That is. … —In (or for) Romanticism and, by extension, the ‘romantic’, as it will be cast in Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hulme,—artistic inspiration grants the artist a form of access to (or—beyond) the transcendental (—to the ‘Idea’) (—as I’ve Yeats, and this will be seen to be true, in the sequel, also of Shelley—as a sort of Romantic model (that is,—a model for the Romantic conception of artistic inspiration) here…).

 

 

*In their translator’s introduction to Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy’s brilliant text on ‘philosophy’ and ‘literature’ in the early period of the ‘romantic’ movement (—the Jena frühromantik),—The Literary Absolute, Barnard and Lester clearly and lucidly summarise the authors’ reading of the ‘romantics’ attempt to move beyond Kant (and, by extension—to exceed the limits of the transcendental). … —

 

Following this genuinely radical insistence on the incompatibility of sensible presentation and the ideas of pure reason, on the impossibility of an adequate presentation of ideas, Kant’s successors in idealism and romanticism, albeit in quite distinct but ultimately related ways […] will reinvest the concept of presentation in such a way as to transform it into the kind of adequate and ever more perfect operation they perceive to be lacking in Kant.

[… —]

In the romantic theory of literature and art, what is perceived as both the dead end and the most formidable challenge of the Kantian of presentation is transformed into a model of art as the aesthetic activity of production and formation in which the absolute might be experienced and realized in an unmediated, immediate fashion […] a presentation of what in Kant remained unpresentable.

*(—Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy, The Literary Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism, trans. Phillip Barnard and Cheryl Lester [Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988].—ix.).

 

hmm.

 

*… —‘ in which the *absolute might be experienced and realized in an unmediated, immediate fashion’.

 

 

*—And it’s precisely this claim—to the transcendental,—to the absolute,—to the ‘sensible actualisation of the Idea in the realm of the aesthetic’ (Ibid.—emphases added here…), that, in their definition and championing of the ‘classical’ over (and against) the ‘romantic’, Nietzsche and the self-styled neo-classical Modernists, I will argue, seek to reject

*(here: —under the rubric of Joyce’s/a ‘Joycean’ realism, Nietzsche’s conception of the structure of ressentiment, and Hulme’s rejection of a ‘Rousseauan’, Humanist politics in particular. …).

 

… —Rejecting the (supposéd) exceeding of experience (—that experience has, as yet, indeed been something known,… —been known well enough (—an exhaustive knowledge-knowing),… —has indeed been something whole, controlled, and self-identical that it could be ‘exceeded’ …),—the exceeding of (the limits of) the transcendental *(—to the perfect, immutable, unchangeable Idea, if not so far as the thing-in-itself (=X)…).

 

(… —Building, then, on my conception of the fold in the ironic self-(re-)creation of the artist in Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, and on the notion of a sudden and uncanny ironic inversion in-of quotidian experience in the ‘epiphany’–the image in Stephen’s aesthetic theory between Stephen Hero and Portrait. …)

 

*—toward a disruptive, anti-transcendental ‘classicism’.

 

*the ‘image’.—vs. Platonic ressentiment *(—on the Becoming Actual of the Being of Beauty.—part II).

*(—follows on from *‘from the “epiphany” to the “esthetic image”… *—the evolution of the aesthetic theory in Joyce’s early fiction’ and, more particularly, *‘on the Becoming Actual of the Being of Beauty (—the “classical” vs. the “romantic”).—part I: a paean’ …).

 

*on the ‘image’.—vs. Platonic ressentiment. …
(—the image vs. the ‘symbol’. …).

*In Portrait, Stephen employs his focus on artistic inspiration and creation to articulate the resolution of his struggle to interpret claritas… —

 

It would lead you to believe that he had in mind symbolism or idealism, the supreme quality of beauty being a light from some other world, the idea of which the matter is but a shadow, the reality of which it is but the symbol.( Portrait, 230)

 

Stephen opposes his own interpretation of claritas to that of its (potential) otherworldly interpretation, according to the rubric of *‘symbolism’ or ‘idealism’, which would consign reality to an inferior and subsidiary position to the ‘idea’. …

 

*This, for Stephen, represents mere—‘literary talk’,… —a form of artificial (that is,… —artistically crafted) prosthesis, then,… —grafted onto reality, and which would have the undesirable effect of making the ‘esthetic image’ ‘outshine its proper conditions’. …

(231.—Cf. ‘Drama and Life’ [1900],—*CW, 23-29, where Joyce opposes himself to what he calls the ‘doctrine of idealism in art’. [—27]…)

 

 

*So,…

 

—I want to argue here that Stephen’s stark (almost belligerent) rejection of the terms of this… *—otherworldly idealism, in effect, constitutes a kind of implicit parody of the terms of W.B. Yeats’s definition of Symbolism.

 

… Or, rather (—more accurately and less controversially, perhaps),… *—Yeats’s ‘Symbolism’ embodies (that is,—provides the clearest philosophical and aesthetic example of) precisely what it is that Stephen seeks to reject. …

 

*—In particular, I want to argue here,… Stephen is opposed to what Charles Chadwick defines as the ‘transcendental’ ‘mode’ of Symbolist poetry.

*(… —And I’ll follow Chadwick’s distinction between the ‘personal aspect’ of Symbolism, in which it attempts to express ideas and emotions, and its ‘transcendental’ aspect, in which it attempts to express the ‘ideal world’.—Symbolism [London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1971],—2-3. …

*—Joyce became familiar with the central tenets of Symbolism through his association with Yeats and through Arthur Symons’, The Symbolist Movement in Literature [London: William Heineman, 1899].

In his biography of Joyce, Richard Ellmann states that Joyce had first read Symons’ work in 1900, and goes on to suggest that this formed part of Joyce’s early search for his own distinctive style as a writer *(—See Ellmann, James Joyce, 76).

Joyce met Symons through Yeats in 1902, when he stopped in London on his way to Paris. Symons befriended Joyce and made a promise, which he later delivered on, to publish some of Joyce’s early poetry. [111-112] Symons was a close associate of Yeats and dedicated The Symbolist Movement to Yeats as a friend and ‘the chief representative’ of the ‘movement’.—See also Yeats, ‘The Symbolism of Poetry’ [1900] in SCP, 43-52 [—43]. …). …

 

*—In his essay on William Blake’s illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy (—1896), Yeats offers a definition of Blake’s concept of ‘vision’ in terms of the ‘symbol’, and in contradistinction to ‘allegory’…

 

A symbol is indeed the only possible expression of some invisible essence, a transparent lamp about a spiritual flame; while allegory is one of many possible representations of an embodied thing, or familiar principle, and belongs to fancy and not to imagination. (Yeats, SCP, 22-32 [—22])

 

Yeats’s Symbolism, then, constitutes the attempt to articulate an ‘invisible essence’ (a—‘spiritual flame’… —?), in contrast to ‘allegory’, which, for Yeats (at least), is merely a representation of the material, ‘embodied’ object: *—of something both concrete and ‘familiar’. …

 

 

*… —In ‘transcendental Symbolism’, as Chadwick argues,—

*—‘concrete images are used as symbols, not of particular thoughts and feelings within the poet, but of a vast and general ideal world of which the real world is merely an imperfect representation.’ (3)

 

… —At the heart of the transcendental Symbolist aesthetic is an implicit metaphysics which opposes an ‘ideal world’ to that of the ‘real’, ‘concrete’ world of experience.

 

 

—Yeats’s ‘transcendental’ Symbolism, in essence,—uses the quotidian world merely as register from which to draw ‘symbols’ as a means to express the ‘ideal world’ which is portrayed as the true subject of art.

*(—See Matthew Campbell, ‘The English Romantic Symbolists’, in David Holdeman and Ben Levitas, eds., W.B. Yeats in Context [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010],—310-319:

*—‘Blake taught Yeats that a symbol stands prior to and posterior to poet and poem, and poetry must return to it, seeking its “invisible essence”.’ [—312.—Emphasis added here…]). …

 

 

*Again, in terms evoking the ethereal, ‘spiritual’, and intangible,… —in ‘The Symbolism of Poetry’ (1900), Yeats elaborates on his earlier definition of the symbol…

 

All sounds, all colours, all forms, either because of their preordained energies or because of long association, evoke indefinable and yet precise emotions, or, as I prefer to think, call down among us certain disembodied powers, whose footsteps over our hearts we call emotions. (Yeats, SCP, 43-52 [—46])

 

*Yeats distinguishes between two ‘types’ of symbol. …

 

—The first, (in line with the passage quoted above), he calls ‘emotional symbols’.

 

To these he contrasts the second type of ‘intellectual symbols’, which, he argues, ‘evoke ideas alone, or ideas mingled with emotions’. (49)

 

In his definition of the limitation of ‘intellectual symbols’, Yeats is even more explicitly ‘Platonic’, and invokes the terms of his earlier reading of Blake:

*—‘symbols, associated with ideas that are more than fragments of the shadows thrown upon the intellect by the emotions they evoke, are the playthings of the allegorist or the pedant, and soon pass away.’ (50)

 

*—These two types of symbol correspond, then, to what Chadwick defines as the ‘personal’, and ‘transcendental’ aspects, respectively, of Symbolist poetry. (2-3) …

 

 

—In ‘The Symbolism of Poetry’, Yeats privileges the emotional or personal symbols, relegating transcendental, intellectual symbols to a secondary role as mere shadows generated by their emotional counterparts. (SCP, 46)

 

 

*—For Yeats, then,… —either through the familiarity of some form of atavistic association, or by its possession of ‘preordained energies’ (—?), poetry (… —‘sounds’, ‘colours’ and ‘forms’) is capable of invoking (—of ‘calling down’) ‘powers’, which are seen to lie outside, prior to, and beyond empirical experience. …

 

—These ‘powers’, in turn, are experienced as (apparently) precise emotional responses by the reader, which however, apparently paradoxically, for Yeats, remain ‘indefinable’. …

 

—For Yeats, poetry is concerned not with the world of quotidian experience, but with a quasi-mystical invocation of ‘invisible essence[s]’ and ‘disembodied powers’. …

 

This accounts for what Chadwick defines as the necessary allusiveness and evasion of Symbolism (that is,—what he succinctly and punctually dubs its ‘built in obscurity’. …) —

 

[Symbolism is the] art of expressing ideas and emotions not by describing them directly, nor by defining them through overt comparisons with concrete images, but by suggesting what these ideas and emotions are, by recreating them in the mind of the reader through the use of unexplained symbols. (2-3)

 

Poetry, for a ‘transcendental’ Symbolist, must aim, then, to express an (—the) ‘ideal world’, and to recreate the poet’s (quasi-mystical?) experience of it (—the ‘ideas’ and emotions’ this experience gives rise to) in the mind of the reader and, as such, supersedes religion as the means of attaining the ‘ideal world’. (Ibid.)

*(—Cf. Margaret Mils Harper,—‘Yeats and the Occult’, in Marjorie Howes and John Kelly, eds., The Cambridge Companion to W.B. Yeats [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006], 144-166 [—144]. …). …

 

 

*—I want to argue here that, through his *rejection of ‘symbolism’ and ‘of idealism’, Stephen is alluding to the (implicit) Platonic metaphysics at stake in Yeats’s conception of transcendental Symbolism. …

 

 

In particular, it forms an allusion to Plato’s conception of the two ‘Orders of Reality’, as outlined in The Republic. *(—I’ll refer here to H.D.P. Lee’s translation [—Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955]. … ). …

 

… —Its extreme brevity indicates that Stephen’s allusion to Platonic metaphysics is a rhetorical move, designed (I’d argue) to render Yeats’s ‘Platonism’ and transcendental Symbolism a foil for the exposition of his own aesthetic theory, and it’s true that it thus remains at the level of a caricature. …

 

Nevertheless,—it’s worth pausing briefly in order to summarise Plato’s conception of the relationship of the Forms (—Ideas) to quotidian experience, in order to demonstrate its pertinence to an understanding of (what I’m going to call here) Yeats’s *aesthetic metaphysics,… and to clarify what is at stake in Stephen’s (implicit) rejection of Yeats and of transcendental Symbolism (—and thus his relationship to Platonism) in his definition of the ‘esthetic image’. …

 

 

*So. …

 

… —Plato’s Socrates distinguishes between the world of the everyday experience of visible and sensible things—of becoming and change—and the unchangeable, eternal world of the ‘Forms’ or ‘Ideas’. …

*(—Though contemporary criticism of Plato prefers-privileges the term ‘Form’ over that of ‘Idea’ (—which suggests ‘things in our minds’…), I’ll retain the latter term here as that available to both Yeats and Joyce and in… deference to Stephen’s explicit rejection of ‘idealism’…). …

 

 

*—The quotidian world, then, is the shadow, or the—image of the world of Ideas, which contains the patterns—the ‘absolutes’ or ‘essential realities’—which the physical world imperfectly imitates. (Plato,—234) …

 

 

*—In his definition of the philosopher, Socrates defines the Ideas through a series of polar opposites:  beauty and ugliness, justice and injustice and good and evil…

 

*—The terms of each pair, he argues, constitute ‘a single thing in itself’.

 

However, each appears (—in-within-through the world of becoming and of change) only as a ‘multiplicity’,… —‘because it is seen in combination with actions and material objects and other characteristics.’ (238) …

 

He refers to the Ideas as ‘formal characteristics’. …

 

—They are the forms, then, (for Socrates) in which actions and objects only ever imperfectly participate

*(—On this,… see, in particular,—Allan Silverman, The Dialectic of Essence: A Study of Plato’s Metaphysics [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002],—16, and Penner, 242. …).

 

Nonetheless they have a real existence—independent of the mind. (—see Plato,—238)…

 

 

Absolute beauty, then, wouldn’t (could never) be identical with anything that is beautiful, but everything which is beautiful (nonetheless) *partakes of (—participates in) the ‘essential nature’ of beauty. (Ibid.) …

 

 

*—Socrates distinguishes between the ‘Intelligible’ world and the physical,—‘visible’ world, by defining a hierarchy *(—the ‘Divided Line’) between them. …

 

*—The ‘Intelligible’ world of the ‘Ideas’ is the world of knowledge. …

 

—He divides this into, on the one hand, the knowledge (—or ‘power’) of pure thought, which begins and ends with the Ideas as ‘first principles’, and, on the other, the knowledge of the ‘mathematical sciences’, which are subordinate to pure thought insofar as they ‘proceed from assumptions and not to first principles [Ideas]’ and must therefore be ‘reasoned out’,—in contrast to the Ideas which are directly perceived.

*(—See ‘§6. The Divided Line’,—274-278 *[—277]). …

 

 

For Plato’s Socrates,… —the physical, ‘visible’ world is the world of opinion,—as opposed to that of knowledge…

 

—It’s comprised of physical things which are the objects of belief and the ‘images’ of objects which are (themselves) the objects of illusion. …

*(—In defining the ‘images’, Socrates refers both to shadows and to the images of objects in reflective surfaces such as water and glass. …).

 

—The quotidian world remains one of only opinion or belief. It can never be known because the object of knowledge is the world of the Ideas. (276)

 

 

*In order to represent our experience of objects Socrates uses the (now famous-infamous) simile of prisoners chained to the floor of a cave… *—

 

Imagine an underground chamber, like a cave with an entrance open to the daylight and running a long way underground. In this chamber are men who have been prisoners there since they were children, their legs and necks being so fastened that they can only look straight ahead of them and cannot turn their heads. Behind them and above them is a fire burning, and between the fire and the prisoners runs a road, in front of which a curtain-wall has been built, like the screen at puppet shows between the operators and their audience, above which they show their puppets. (‘§7.The Simile of the Cave,’ 278-286 [—278-279])

 

*—For Socrates, we are the ‘prisoners’, then, of the constitution of our senses. …

 

That is,… —We don’t (—we can’t) know objects as they exist in themselves, but only their projected ‘shadows’ or ‘images’. …

 

 

Because our senses are ‘fastened’ and our experience is, therefore, limited to the ‘shadows’, we’re subject (—damned, in effect) to a form of *naïve realism, in which we take the objects of our experience to be things-in-themselves. …

 

This, for Socrates, is the nature of the world of ‘belief’ and ‘illusion’ *(—the illusion that we truly do know things as they are in themselves…). *(279.—Cf. 274) …

 

 

*He represents the role of the philosopher in the figure of a man who is first somehow liberated from his captivity and allowed to see the objects whose shadows are projected onto the wall by the artificial light of the fire at the rear of the cave, and who, next, manages (somehow) to step outside even the bounds of the cave itself,—out into daylight and the natural light of the Sun *(—and thus ascends through the Platonic-Socratic hierarchy from the ‘visible’ to the ‘Intelligible’ world), and is thus enabled finally to see things as they are in themselves. (281-282) …

 

*For Socrates, then,… —*‘the mind as a whole must be turned away from the world of change until it can bear to look straight at reality’. *(—283.—Emphases added here. … —See also 284).

 

 

*—Implicit in Socrates’ distinction is a seeming imperative—to privilege the eternal, intelligible world of the Ideas and (equally) to *renounce (to have renounced) the ‘visible’ (—quotidian) world. …

 

 

*Yeats’s definition of the ‘symbol’, then,… —as ‘the only possible expression of some invisible essence, a transparent lamp about a spiritual flame’, in stark opposition to the ‘allegorical’ poet’s focus on the ‘embodied thing’, in effect, represents an adoption or appropriation both of Platonic metaphysics’ distinction between the degrees of truth in the conception of the object, and (more importantly for my current purposes) its imperative toward the renunciation of the quotidian world (—of objects and their ‘shadows’), in favour of the eternal forms of the ‘Ideas’. …

*(… *—Bornstein argues that Yeats ‘found support’ for his ‘drive from the actual to the ideal world’ and ‘habit of seeing mutable things as types of immutable beauty’ in the ‘psychological theories accompanying Plato’s doctrine of the forms’. (—Yeats and Shelley,—69). …

 

 

*—And I’d argue that what Stephen overtly rejects in his dismissal of ‘symbolism’ and of ‘idealism’ is precisely the… life-renouncing mysticism at stake within this poetical Platonic metaphysics. …

*(… —In his discussion of the fin de siècle Irish literary scene in ‘A Symbolic Artist and the Coming of Symbolic Art’ (1898), Yeats himself renders this connection between his Symbolist aesthetic and mysticism explicit… —

‘When I have written of literature in Ireland, I have had to write again and again about a company of Irish mystics, who have taught for some years a religious philosophy which has changed many ordinary people into ecstatics and visionaries’. (—SCP, 33-42, [33].—emphasis added),… —identifying the poet A.E. (—George Russell), along with Althea Gyles, as being at the centre of this movement… —‘a beginning of what may become a new manner in the arts of the modern world’ (34),—‘creating a new religion and poetry’. (37) …

 

hmm. …

 

… —In his early criticism, Yeats builds his definition of transcendental Symbolism and the revival and cultural-political role of (Irish) literary art on the foundation of this new ecstatic, visionary, mystic religion and poetry. *(—see Harper, ‘Yeats and the Occult’, The Cambridge Companion to W.B. Yeats,—144-166.)… ).

 

 

*—Stephen dismisses Yeats’s ‘Platonic’ assumption (—‘symbolism or idealism’) of an other-worldly ideal, of which sensible experience (—‘matter’) is (merely—solely) a ‘shadow’ or ‘symbol,’ as a fantastical artificial prosthesis to experience … —a purely ‘literary’ construct, to which he opposes that which is ‘logically and esthetically’ necessary *(—the ‘proper conditions’ of the ‘esthetic image’. …). …

 

 

*And what accounts, I’d argue, for the far greater length and detail of Stephen’s (implicit) opposition of the ‘esthetic image’ to Yeatsian—late-Romantic—transcendental Symbolism in this passage of Portrait (—when held in direct comparison with the counterpart passage-extract, pinpointing the moment of the object’s ‘epiphany’ in-of Stephen Hero. *—see [‘evolution’.—link…]), is that this passage in fact incorporates and refines the terms of the opposition between the ‘classical’ and ‘romantic’ artistic ‘tempers’ and the privileging of the ‘classical’ in the ‘Art and Life’ paper and associated material in Stephen Hero into the concept of the ‘epiphany’ itself. …

 

 

*—To draw out what seems to me is at stake in this incorporation will allow me to align Stephen’s aesthetic with the opposition of ‘classicism’ to ‘romanticism’ in the works of  both Nietzsche and T.E. Hulme (and by extension with the neo-classical Modernist aesthetic manifesto of the Imagist poets, in particular with the doctrine of the ‘image’). This will serve to locate Stephen’s ‘classicism’ within a wider context of late nineteenth and early twentieth century philosophical and artistic reactions against late-Romanticism.

*(

*—towards a brief history of Imagism, then
*(on the ‘image’ as a kind of ‘Modernist’ nexus. …) …

 

—Imagism is, essentially, associated with the work of Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), John Gould Fletcher, Amy Lowell, Richard Aldington, F.S. Flint, and D.H. Lawrence, between 1912 and 1917. …

 

Its origins extend back to two poetry clubs founded by T.E. Hulme: the first,—‘the Poet’s club’, formed in 1908; the latter, unnamed, formed with F.S. Flint in March 1909.

*(—See Peter Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry [London: Penguin, 1972], 13-43 [13-16] and Stanley K. Coffman, Jr. Imagism: A Chapter for the History of Modern Poetry [Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951],—3-7).

 

Pound first dubbed Aldington and H.D. Imagistes in spring-summer, 1912 (—see Jones, ed. Imagist Poetry, 17), and claimed that ‘The first use of the word “Imagiste” was in my note to T.E. Hulme’s five poems, printed at the end of my “Ripostes” in the autumn of 1912’. (‘A Retrospect’, in Pavannes and Divisions [New York: Alfred A. Knopff, 1918], 93-111 [96]. … *—See Canzoni; & Ripostes of Ezra Pound [London: Elkin Matthews, 1913],—*59, where Pound refers to ‘the “School of Images”’, and to ‘Les Imagistes’…).

 

In Poetry (March 1913), Pound and Flint published ‘Imagisme’, a brief article, supplemented by Pound’s ‘A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste’. Both pieces were intended to define the principles of the movement (Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 129-134. Coffman, Jr., Imagism, 9-10).

 

In February 1914, under Pound’s direction, the movement published its first anthology, Des Imagistes, including poems by Joyce, Skipworth Cannell, Ford Madox Hueffer (Ford Madox Ford), Allen Upward, and John Cournos.

 

At this time, spurred by both his involvement in Wyndham Lewis’s Vorticism and by growing friction between himself and Lowell, Pound distanced himself from the Imagists (—Coffman, Jr., Imagism, 21-25).

 

Lowell assumed responsibility for the movement and the publication of a further three anthologies, in 1915, 1916 and 1917, under the title of Some Imagist Poets, including poems by John Gould Fletcher and D.H. Lawrence.

 

The anthology of 1917 was the last for the movement whilst all its participants were still alive. Lowell wrote…

—‘The collection has done its work. These three little books are the germs, the nucleus, of the school; its spreading out, its amplifications, must be sought in the unpublished work of the individual members of the group’.

*(—Lowell, Tendencies in Modern American Poetry [New York: Macmillan, 1917], 255. —See Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 24).

 

However, a further anthology, Imagist Anthology 1930, organised by Aldington, appeared, including poems by Joyce, Aldington, H.D., John Gould Fletcher, Ford Madox Ford, William Carlos Williams, and D.H. Lawrence. Lowell had passed away in May 1925 and Skipworth Cannell couldn’t be located *(See—Richard Aldington, Life for Life’s Sake [London: Cassell & Co., 1968], 130-131. Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 27).

 

 

I won’t be making the claim (in case you were genuinely concerned,… —ne’er fear, dear reader o’mine…) that Joyce himself was an: ‘Imagiste’. …

 

In ‘“Dubliners” and Mr James Joyce’, in terms which (by no mean coincidence) will become crucial in my later discussion of Joyce and Hulme, Pound praised Joyce for qualities which he had (ostensibly) attached to ‘Imagisme’ (Imagism), and to the ‘image’: …  *—‘Mr Joyce writes a clear hard prose. He deals with subjective things, but he presents them with such clarity of outline’ (—Pavannes and Divisions, 156-160 [156].—my emph.s), linking ol’ Jimmy J. to what he refers to as the ‘school’ (sic) of ‘impressionist writers’, including Stendhal and Flaubert,—*‘intent on exact presentation […—] intensity, selection, and concentration’… (157. Again, my emph. And the interested reader is also politely advised to consult ‘James Joyce, At Last the Novel Appears’ and ‘Paris Letter, May 1922, Ulysses’ (Pound, Early Writings: Poems and Prose, Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Ira B. Nadel [London: Penguin, 2005),—330-333 and 334-341, respectively. …).

 

 

However,…

 

*… —Joyce’s inclusion in Des Imagistes seems, to me (at least), to have stemmed in the main from the patronage he received from Pound, and from a desire to be published and have his work reach the largest audience possible. …

 

—‘I hear an Army’ was originally published in Chamber Music (XXXVI) in 1907. Its inclusion in an anthology seven years later, then, marks an attempt, perhaps, simply to extend its reception. (—Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 83).

 

—Instead, then…

 

I want to focus on Imagism, and, far more specifically, the concept of the ‘image’ as a kind of *nexus for the aesthetic and philosophical concerns (and early artistic projects) of a number of significant artists who defined themselves as, or (at the very least) tactically aligned themselves with, (self-styled) neo-classical ‘Moderns’ or Modernists. …

 

 

—I’m concerned to draw a parallel between Stephen’s interpretation of Aquinas and rejection of Symbolism and ‘romanticism’ with Imagism.

 

—This has already been pursued, to some extent, by A. Walton Litz…

 

—Litz refers Joyce’s having published with the Imagists in Des Imagistes, but goes on to provide a definition of the ‘image’ (—with a brief reference to Portrait) which allows him to define the entire texts of both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake as themselves constituting ‘images’. *(—The Art of James Joyce: Method and Design in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake [London: Oxford University Press, 1961], 53-62)

 

—By-in contrast,… —avoiding Litz’s somewhat questionable adoption-appropriation of the concept of the ‘image’ (—?),… —I’ll focus solely on the parallel between Stephen’s explication of the ‘esthetic image’ and the principles of Imagism). …

 

*on the Becoming Actual of the Being of Beauty (—the ‘classical’ vs. the ‘romantic’).—part I: a paean…

*(—follows on from ‘on “Art and Life”.’ …).

 

 

a paean to the ‘classical’. (—a pinch of salt). …
(—legitimate criticism part II.).

 

 

I’ve struggled to edit and to rewrite this material…

 

*            *            *

 

This all contains, and is motivated by, a prejudice. …

 

*            *            *

 …

 

—All of this grew, originally, out of my reading (having read) Joyce’s Portrait (—the theory of art) and my attraction, in particular, to the concept of the ‘epiphany’ in-of the aborted Stephen Hero draft…

*—the experience of a sudden revelation of what had been the case (—in-within the ‘thing’,… —in-within the ‘self’), but which had remained… unsensed,—unseen,… —unknown, until the moment of that revelation *(the ‘epiphanic’ moment.). …

(—what I’ve attempted to analyse and to define in ‘on “Art and Life”’, in my reading of the ‘epiphany’ and (—to) the image, from Stephen Hero to Portrait. …).

 

But,

 

(hmm).

 

Stemming, I think (it seems to me), from my, in the wake of the death of someone I regarded as a kind of mentor, having come to realise or to understand that I’d never had a genuine, heart-felt (so to), or abiding faith, my… abandonment (so to) of the church, and a still quite adolescent, if maturing, dislike-distaste for the ‘metaphysical’ and of the faux-lyrical, pseudo-profound, slightly prating, platitudinous ‘mystical’/‘spiritual’ tone and philosophical claims that it is used to support/gives rise to,…

—I wanted (and it was (is) a desire and a deliberate purpose… agenda in studying and in writing the chapter of my doctoral thesis that this material is adapted from…) to starkly differentiate the ‘epiphany’ (—the image) from the… almost (what?)… shamanistic (?—sic), prophetic, self-aggrandising, life-renouncing mysticism and otherworldliness of what will here be referred to as the ‘romantic’.

 

 

*… —In particular, I read Stephen’s rejection of ‘symbolism’ and ‘idealism’ in Portrait as an incorporation and revision of the definition of the ‘classical’ (—vs. the ‘romantic) in his earlier textual incarnation in Stephen Hero (which Joyce seems to have appropriated and adapted directly from his own early critical writing), and I link this to Nietzsche and his definition (in what is referred to as his ‘middle period’—the ‘free spirit trilogy’: Daybreak; Human, All Too Human, and The Gay Science) of the ‘classical’ and rejection of Romanticism (—the ‘romantic’) and Christianity (—particularly in On the Genealogy of Morality).

 

 

And therein, I think, lies the-my problem here (and why I’ve found it quite so difficult, awkward and… anxious to revisit and to revise this material). …

 

*            *            *

 

*… —Though I reference Percy Bysshe Shelley (whom I’ve already used as a touchstone (so to) or exemplar of-for Romanticism-the Romantic in my reading of Birth)—particularly as Stephen explicitly references Shelley’s account of artistic inspiration (in A Defence of Poetry) in his exposition of aesthetic theory in Portrait—I read Stephen’s rejection of ‘symbolism’ and ‘idealism’ as a (somewhat coded) rejection of Yeats’s early critical writing and, in particular, his definitions of the ‘symbol’ and of Symbolism, and , in effect, treat of Yeats as a kind of synecdochal  representative of the ‘romantic’ itself. …

 

—in effect, that is, I turn Yeats (who I here confess I don’t like, either as a poet or a theorist —for his characterisation of the artist as a kind of mystic visionary, somehow elevated above or beyond the common run by what would become that odious sixties cliché of the ‘expanded’ consciousness… ; his naïve (deluded), unsettling—and not unconnected—occultism-mysticism; and for all of those strange, culturally essentialist, pseudo-mythic, nationalist political claims that these lead him into…)

… —I turn Yeats into a sort of straw man and arch- artistic and philosophical criminal here…

 

*            *            *

 …

—In the hardness, concision, and clarity of the ‘classical’, as Joyce, Nietzsche, and T.E. Hulme all seek to define it, I see an honesty, integrity, and adherence to life-as-lived (to the quotidianness of the quotidian (so to),—without it’s being characterised or employed as a strait gate to the transcendental, or the otherworldly…),—a making art about those moments of (uncanny) ironic inversion, and what they give or can tell us about the nature or (faulty, provisional, always—ineluctably—incomplete and inadequate) process of self-knowledge. …

 

*That is,… —In the conception of art and the artwork (—of the image) that Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hulme’s definitions of the ‘classical’ and rejection of ‘romantic’ seek to establish, I see, I confess, the embodiment of what I think art is (—ought to be, and to do…).

 

*            *            *

 

*And so,…

 

—This will be (have been), in the end, a kind of a paean to the ‘classical’, then. …

(partial, prejudiced, loaded,… bereft of a seemingly necessary—distance, and balance (&c.), then, I suppose…)

 

—I pay no mind, really, here to the problems that this throws up…

 

*—For example, in ‘The Modern Mind’, an essay of 1933 (so, not insignificantly, later than the works I’m focussing on here), T.S. Eliot, in reaction to Jacques Rivière’s characterisation of ‘Romanticism’ as (what Eliot sarcastically dubs—good man): ‘a new literary disease’, Eliot rejects the ‘classical’ and ‘romantic’…

*—‘I wish myself to avoid employing the terms Romanticism and Classicism, terms which inflame political passions, and tend to prejudice our conclusions’… (in The Use and Abuse of Poetry and The Use of Criticism [London: Faber and Faber, 1970], 121-142 *[128-129]).

 

—Their use, then, (it’s safe to say) is not without problems.

 

 

More importantly perhaps,… the history of the use of the terms goes back at least as far as Schiller and Goethe, through Romanticism (the Romantic) itself, into the aesthetic of Hegel, and so on, and, again, I pay no real mind or homage to that history here, focussing instead, solely on their use by Nietzsche, Joyce, and Hulme (as if, in effect, this/these were somehow apropos of nothing, I suppose)…

*(—I would like to say, however, that I do plan to do more toward this end in this BLOG and have already done so to some extent, having written on Hegel’s aesthetics and Tragedy and used this as a basis for lecturing on them during my tenure as Visiting Lecturer on the Drama degree at Queen Margaret University, both of which I intend to revisit, and to publish here…).

 

 

—There is not nearly enough here, still, really, on the Romantic—Romanticism—and its relation (if such does truly exist) to the ‘romantic’ (as it’s figured here) and to the Romantics (beyond Shelley and Yeats), to justify what I do with-to the terms. …

(though, again, I do hope to remedy this as the material in-of this BLOG develops-continues…).

 

*            *            *

 

*—The agenda (and, hell,… —let’s go right on ahead and call it that) here is to fully lay out and to define the ‘classical’ and its artistic and philosophical implications. … —to tie together (—to clarify the parallel between) Jimmy J., ol’ Fritz, and Hulme…

 

*—Between Nietzsche, then, and Modernism. …

 

 

So,…

 

*—What follows hereafter dear readers, then (and, if you’re reading this, I would like you to know that you truly are dear to me), is a (frankly unrepentant), prejudiced, paean, and ought (as such) to be taken, ideally, with a (really fairly generous) pinch of salt (to coin a very lazy cliché). …

 

 

*on the Becoming Actual of the Being of Beauty…
*—anti-metaphysics & ironic anti-romanticism
in the definition of the ‘classical’ in Joyce, Nietzsche, & neo-classical Modernism

 

 

The mind of the artist in that mysterious instant Shelley likened beautifully to a fading coal. The instant wherein that supreme quality of beauty, the clear radiance of the esthetic image, is apprehended luminously by the mind which has been arrested by its wholeness and fascinated by its harmony is the luminous silent stasis of esthetic pleasure. *(Portrait, 231)

 

In the first part of this chapter, I argued that Stephen’s aesthetic theory between Stephen Hero and Portrait represents an ironic appropriation of the terms of Aquinas’s theory of beauty to an ironic, implicitly anti-Thomist—anti-metaphysical aesthetic project. …

 

*My comparative close reading of the (pertinent) analogous extracts from Stephen Hero and Portrait revealed what I’ve called here the *refining (refinement) of the concept of the ‘epiphany’ in Stephen Hero—as being concerned with experience in general—into the (‘esthetic’) image in-of Portrait,—with its far more specific analysis of artistic inspiration and creation. …

 

 

*—In what follows (here), I’ll focus particularly on Stephen’s final definition of claritas in Portrait. …

 

*…—I’ll argue that it constitutes an implicit critique and rejection of Platonic metaphysical aesthetic at stake in W.B. Yeats’s early critical writing, and, in particular, in his definition of Symbolist poetry *—the ‘symbol’. …

*(and I’ll be focussing in particular here on Yeats’s definitions of ‘Symbolism’ in his early critical writings, dating from the period 1895-1903.

—W. B. Yeats, Selected Criticism and Prose, ed. Norman Jeffares [London: Pan Books, 1980] *(hereafter SCP for convenience).—See George Bornstein, Yeats and Shelley [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970],—xi, 41.

*—What interests me here is the extent to which Yeats and (more particularly) the ‘symbol’, as he defines it, can be seen to represent or to embody precisely what it is that Dedalus seeks to reject, and so I won’t be taking Yeats’s own poetry, nor Joyce’s treatment-quotation-allusions to-from it elsewhere in his writing, into consideration here. …

*—The question of the relationship between Yeats’s poetical output (so to) and his (early) critical writing—to what extent the former embodies, perhaps, the principles of the latter (—?)—is best left, I feel, for another time. …

… —All I want to do here, for my current purposes, is to establish the terms of Yeats’s definition of the ‘symbol’—of Symbolism—and the relationship of this to what I will argue is his establishment of  a form of late-Romanticism. … )

 

—I’ll argue that Stephen’s definition of claritas represents the incorporation and refinement of the earlier opposition of the ‘classical’ and ‘romantic’ artistic ‘tempers’, and privileging of the ‘classical’ in Stephen’s ‘Art and Life’ paper in Stephen Hero. …

 

*Further,… —I’ll argue that the terms of this opposition of the ‘classical’ to the ‘romantic’, are identical to those established by Nietzsche, in his writing on art *(—from Human, All Too Human onward…), and those of T.E. Hulme. …

 

 

*This parallel will form the foundation of a larger comparison of the terms of Stephen’s exposition of the ‘esthetic image’ in Portrait with those of Hulme’s writings on Bergson’s philosophy and Modern art and, in turn, Hulme’s influence on, and relationship to, Ezra Pound’s writing on Modern art, the ‘image’, and the ‘vortex’, and (as well as) the Imagist movement in poetry).[1]

 

And this will, in turn, allow me to argue that Stephen’s adoption of the terms of Shelley’s definition of artistic inspiration in A Defence of Poetry, in his definition of the ‘esthetic image’, represents an ironic appropriation of Romantic aesthetics to an implicitly anti-Romantic project.

 

*… —So,… —The ‘image’, then, will be seen to represent an attempt to forge a new trajectory for the legacy of Romanticism through a rejection of the aesthetics and metaphysics of (what I’ll refer to here as) late-Romanticism, in particular that exemplified by Yeats, and to lie at the heart of an attempt to forge a Romantic–anti-Romantic classicism. …

 

 

 

[1] Though I’ll draw on Hulme’s more explicitly political writing, in particular ‘A Tory Philosophy’ (first published in five instalments in The Commentator, 1912. T.E. Hulme, T.E. Hulme: Selected Writings, ed. Patrick McGuinness [Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1998] [hereafter Hulme, Selected Writings], 157-172) and on Sorel’s Reflections on Violence (‘Translator’s Preface to Georg Sorel’s Reflections on Violence’, first published in The New Age 17/24 [1915], Hulme, Selected Writings, 173-179. ‘Reflections on Violence’, Speculations, 249-260), insofar as these bear on the terms of his aesthetics, I won’t be discussing Hulme’s politics, or their relationship to his aesthetics, at any length here…

*On Intuition, Flux and Anti-metaphysics

 

 

*(follows on *’my (anti-) metaphysics’…)

*I. – Intuition, Flux and Anti-metaphysics between
‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’ and The Birth of Tragedy.
—Nietzsche’s early Schopenhauerian—anti-Schopenhauerianism…

(*On ‘intuition’ and the laceration of the concepts of the intellect:
—Nietzsche’s early ironic anti-Schopenhauerianism…

*On the Undivided Continuity of States:
—the ‘primal unity’ & ‘duration’.

*Conclusion. …
*—on the will to power. …).

 

*            *            *

 

*right at the very outset of The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche frames his reading of Attic tragedy through a contentious but, I think, absolutely crucial claim. …

—making a characteristically subtle and modest statement about advancing what he dubs ‘the science of aesthetics’

*(‘science’ in that (late-)nineteenth century usage, of course, as any ‘organised system of knowledge’, —‘aesthetics’ as the creation and reception of art. …

—an organised system of knowledge regarding the creation and reception of art. … —and well, hell,—that’s what we’re all about here, after all…),

Nietzsche distinguishes between proceeding, on the one hand, via ‘logical inference’, which he dismisses in flatly pejorative terms, and what he clearly champions on the other as ‘the immediate certainty of vision’. …

Hellenic culture, he argues, represented the ‘profound mysteries’ of its ‘view of art’ in the ‘intensely clear figures’ of its gods.

 

—in particular, he (famously) singles out the figures of Apollo and Dionysus as embodying the two opposing artistic ‘tendencies’ of the plastic and ‘nonimagistic’ arts, respectively.

these, he argues, find an analogy in the physiological phenomena of ‘dreams and ‘intoxication’. …

what I think is crucial here is that Nietzsche (somewhat emphatically) contrasts this physiological and mythological foundation for the comprehension of Hellenic culture to that of (abstract) ‘concepts’.[1]

though, on first appearances, this might seem a,… what?,… —a slightly… —oracular, unsubstantiated and, frankly, at least as I understand it, *Romantic opening gambit,… it seems to me that the clear privileging made here of immediate (and ‘intensely clear’) ‘vision’ over the conceptual and logical inference, underpins the key claims about art (with tragedy as its apogee) that Nietzsche makes in Birth.

these hinge in particular, as I will argue (and go on to consider in detail), on the relationship between art and language and, ultimately, the idiosyncratic philosophical naturalism in the early stages of its formation in the text…

*. I originally read Birth for a course on ‘Tragedy’ on my Masters course, sat, on night shifts, in a small, (too) brightly lit and hot porta-cabin on a Northampton commercial estate. (oh-hh… good God.,—those heady, hal-cyon days (etc.—Christ.)… ).

I had already been introduced to Nietzsche as an undergraduate, by Dr Simon Malpas (who continues to be a personal hero of mine, and for whom I feel a great deal of gratitude…).—I had even attempted to write on him, in that sort of misguided, dismal, pretentious way that undergraduates have of doing that sort of thing (with such naïve and idealistic abandon)… (oh those. … (etc.)…).

in particular, I think, I was drawn to the terms in which Nietzsche discusses music and privileges it as primary among the arts in the text.

over the course of my Master’s degree, I think I began to understand that those terms had something to do with the sublime (particularly as Kant and Schopenhauer define it).

—I wrote a dissertation, shot through with some, honestly, thoroughly pish ideas and misreadings, on the subject. (—it scraped by on the ‘quality’ of the writing, I remember (—mark: yes.—a gen-u-ine proud boast, there)…).

I used that dissertation (—the subject.—shorn of the pish, if that manoeuvre is indeed possible (how does/would one,—sheer pish?)—hmm. …), as part of the groundwork for my doctoral thesis…

over the course of the three hundred years it actually took me to write that bastard thesis,… —of re-drafting and refining my reading—(time well spent.—indeed…), it became clear to me that my reading of Birth—of the relationship between the Dionysian and the Apollinian—was really, in essence, about artistic inspiration and the self-(re-)creation of the artist.

and so, (to get, circuitously, to the point),—that’s how I want to read the opening sections (§§) of Birth:

*—as an account, by an emerging artist, thinker and writer of the process of inspiration and of composition-creation. …

 

I think that Nietzsche, here, at the beginning of his career, is mired in the influence and legacy of Romanticism and of Schopenhauer (certainly not in itself a controversial critical claim).—I think that he is enthralled by the terms of Romantic accounts of inspiration, but struggling to get (intellectually, artistically) free of Romantic concepts (particularly those of ‘Nature’, ‘freedom’ and the ‘Absolute’…).

I think that he ironically appropriates the terms of Romantic inspiration to a philosophically and artistically thoroughgoing anti-Romanticism.

I want to perform (so to speak) what might seem like a quite convoluted and certainly pretentious series of moves in setting up my reading of Birth

*—I want to begin by attempting to unpack and clarify the opening gambit of the text…

—the terms ‘logical inference’ (‘concepts’) and the ‘intensely clear’, ‘immediate’ ‘vision’, that in themselves here, as I say (to me at least) are ambiguous and give off a distinctly incense-scented, dewy-eyed, syphilitic waft of Romantic—fragrance, I want to argue, are echoed and clarified in the later essay ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’ (1873).[2]

here, in terms (sharper, cleaner and somehow more caustic-seeming) much more characteristic of his later writing, Nietzsche sets out a critique of language and of the intellect (and its concepts), to which he clearly contrasts a mode of experience he calls—*‘intuition’. (—Anschauung)…

by offering what I hope will be a simple and straightforward reading of ‘On Truth’, in particular drawing out the parallel between Nietzsche’s contrasting of ‘intuition’ (as a projected new philosophical method) to the concepts of the intellect, and the analogous terms of the opening of Birth (—using the latter to illuminate the former),  I want to analyse the terms of Nietzsche’s early rejection of Kantian and Schopenhauerian philosophies, linking ‘On Truth’ to the earlier critique in ‘On Schopenhauer’ (—a fragment from 1868).

thus,… whilst it might appear to be ostensibly Schopenhauerian, the fact that these two texts in particular book-end the composition and the publication of Birth, I will argue, thus effectively implicates the text in Nietzsche’s pre-existing and on-going critique of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics and aesthetics.

this will allow me to argue that Nietzsche’s concept of the ‘primal unity’ (Ur-Eine) in Birth is implicitly anti-Schopenhauerian…

*drawing on a parallel between Birth, ‘On Truth’ and the analogous contrast between ‘intuition’ and the intellect (‘analysis’) and conception of time and ‘duration’ in the works of French philosopher Henri Bergson, I will argue that the ‘primal unity’ points, not, as it might appear, to the metaphysical unity of the Schopenhauerian ‘will’ (—Will…), but to a dynamic, hierarchical arrangement of immanent (natural) forces.

this, in turn, will allow me to argue that the ‘primal unity’ is located in far greater proximity to Nietzsche’s own later formulation of the doctrine of ‘the will to power’, read specifically through On the Genealogy of Morality, the material gathered in Nietzsche’s Late Notebooks, and Gilles Deleuze’s Nietzsche and Philosophy, than to the terms of Schopenhauerian metaphysics.

*it will also serve as a form of philosophical-historical bridge between Nietzsche and the neo-classical Modernists, (and especially T.E. Hulme, upon whom Bergson was an important and a considerable influence).

and so,…

*On ‘intuition’ and the laceration of the concepts of the intellect:
—Nietzsche’s early ironic anti-Schopenhauerianism…

 

 *in ‘On Truth’, Nietzsche criticises what he sees as the arrogance of the human claim to knowledge, through the intellect, of the value of existence.

—he contests what he argues is the conceit of the intellect and the attempt to extend its remit beyond the realm of human experience.

for Nietzsche, the concepts of the intellect are anthropomorphisms.

—in an ironic inversion of perhaps the most obvious and straightforward valuation of the intellect—as some form of vehicle for ascertaining the truth or the value of existence—Nietzsche characterises it as the very paragon of ‘dissimulation’,—‘allotted to these most unfortunate, delicate, and ephemeral beings merely as a device for detaining them a minute within existence.’ (114-115)

The intellect lies as a sort of a veil over existence as a means for the creation and the preservation of the individual (—the subject).

—Without the intellect, Nietzsche argues, existence itself would be unbearable.

Whilst the intellect appears ostensibly as the means to knowledge and to truth, Nietzsche argues that its primary function is to conceal the plethora of phenomena which threaten to overwhelm the individual. It is not, as it might appear, a means to self-knowledge but, instead, to self-deception:

What does man actually know about himself? Is he, indeed, ever able to perceive himself completely, as if laid out in a lighted display case? Does nature not conceal most things from him – even concerning his own body – in order to confine and lock him within a proud, deceptive consciousness, aloof from the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers! (115)

For Nietzsche,… —natural existence constitutes a chaotic flux comprised of natural drives and processes.—The intellect is an epiphenomenal, (prosthetic?) artistic creation, appended to this flux in order to repress this flux and thus to render the individual subject (—subjectivity) possible, in order, in turn, to preserve the organism against the suffering that a conscious awareness of, and inability to escape from, the confusion and contradiction this flux would inevitably give rise to.

—By intimation, for Nietzsche, a thoroughgoing knowledge of the effect of physiological drives on consciousness, which the intellect is engendered precisely in order to prohibit, is necessary for any accurate self-perception and self-comprehension to be possible.[3]

This notion (—of the fiction of individuality), shared by ‘On Truth’, and, though in a different manner, as I will seek to demonstrate, by the Apollinian of Birth, anticipates the more thoroughgoing critique of subjectivity in Nietzsche’s later works, which is intimately tied both to his developing naturalism and to his aesthetic conception of what he will later name the ‘classical’. …

*—In a note from a notebook of April—June, 1885, Nietzsche provides an apposite summary of his critique of the concept of the unified subject:

 If I have anything of a unity within me, it certainly doesn’t lie in the conscious “I” and in feeling, willing, thinking, but somewhere else: in the sustaining, appropriating, expelling, watchful prudence of my whole organism, of which my conscious self is only a tool.[4]

The ‘watchful prudence’ of the ‘organism’ equates with the necessity for the formation of the individual in the formation of the intellect in ‘On Truth’ (and, as I will argue, with the inauguration of the Apollinian in Birth).

—the ‘I’ of the (conscious) ‘self’ here appears as a ‘tool’ for the processes of the sustenance of the ‘organism’: of the incorporation of necessary experiences and energies and the purgation of superfluous experience and energies. Nietzsche argues that language represents the means employed by the intellect toward this end. His critique of the intellect represents a theory of the formation of language. It is concerned with the origins and evolution of words and concepts.

 

In The Beginnings of Nietzsche’s Theory of Language, Claudia Crawford argues that Nietzsche’s account of the formation of words and concepts represents their division into two separate languages.

The first constitutes an ‘unconscious formal language arising as the product of the instincts,’ whilst the latter constitutes ‘the translation of this unconscious language into the conscious language of fixity according to convention’.[5] The formation of this first, unconscious and instinctual language is a two-stage metaphorical process. First, ‘a nerve stimulus is transferred into an image [Bild].’—In an unconscious and instinctual reaction to a sensible stimulus the mind forms an image—a mental picture—of that stimulus. This is the ‘first metaphor’…

In the second, ‘the image, in turn, is imitated in a sound.’ (116)—The process evolves from the translation and transposition of a sensible stimulus into a mental image, to the further translation of this image (and not of the original stimulus itself) into a sound.

This is Nietzsche’s naturalistic account of the emergence of language.

—The word is formed as ‘a purely natural reaction to a stimulus, whether a cry, a scream, or any other sound, it is primarily an action which reduces the tension created by the perception of the stimulus.’ (Crawford, 203) The formation of words is an attempt to articulate and discharge the natural reaction to a sensible stimulus.

For Nietzsche, a word becomes a concept at the point at which it transcends its function as referring solely to the unique, original experience ‘to which it owes its origin’:

‘a word becomes a concept insofar as it simultaneously has to fit countless more or less similar cases,’—‘cases which are never equal and thus altogether unequal.’—The word emerges as a response to a particular stimulus (as a vocalisation of the image). It becomes a concept at the point at which a vast field of such experiences are reduced to a small number of similarities and yoked under the aegis of a single word. (117)

For Nietzsche, the concept represents the elision of the differences between diverse experiences (stimuli) and the attempt to equate unequal phenomena.[6]

Utility gives birth to both the word and the concept in response to deeply felt needs.

—The individual word emerges from the need to discharge and articulate a particular sensible experience and stands at two removes from this original stimulus. The concept emerges from a need for this original articulation to be transmitted to and to be understood by others and thus stands at three removes from the original stimulus.

Nietzsche defines this process as the invention of designation: the ‘legislation of language’. It is in this establishment of communal (linguistic) convention, Nietzsche argues, that ‘the contrast between truth and lies arises for the first time.’ In other words, the concept arises from need to reduce the plurality of experience to a finite set of linguistic conventions in order to be able to establish socio-political consensus. (115)

Nietzsche argues that by virtue of their artificiality and elision of difference, all— ‘truths’, or concepts of the intellect, are, in reality, lies. …

—After the advent of the legislation of language, the concept of the ‘liar’ comes to designate the person who misuses the terms sanctioned by consensus for selfish or harmful ends by making ‘something which is unreal appear to be real’. What linguistically enabled human beings avoid, Nietzsche argues, is not deception itself—for this is of the quintessence of language—but being harmed by deception…

‘Truth,’ for Nietzsche, represents ‘the duty which society imposes in order to exist: to be truthful means to employ the usual metaphors’. (117) Language is first engendered in order to suppress the chaotic flux and multiplicity of natural drives in order to render the individual possible as a fictitious unity. The intellect, its concepts, and the notions of truth and lies are engendered as a necessary consequence of this individuation, in order to render communal linguistic consensus and thus society itself, possible.

Like the individual, ‘truth,’ for Nietzsche, is an artifice.—‘Truth’ is art (—an artwork)…

What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins. (117)

For Nietzsche, ‘truth’ appears as a projection of epiphenomenal, and purely human, utilitarian physiological, psychological and social fabrications. What is crucial for Nietzsche is that this act of artistic projection, and the subsequent artificial legislation of language to which it gives rise, are not recognised by their human progenitors as works of art. The original linguistic act of creation is inevitably followed by an act of forgetting: ‘Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions’. The forgetting of the artistic origin and nature of language allows for the hypostatisation (the poetic or rhetorical intensification) of concepts and the false belief that they correspond absolutely to things as they are in themselves. Through an ironic inversion, Nietzsche argues that truths are revealed as lies.

The condition of the possibility of ‘truth’, then, is seen to rest on a foundation of falsehood, upon which it is utterly dependent.

For Nietzsche, ‘truth’ emerges from lying, which both temporally and (ironically) ontologically precedes it. It is only through the forgetting of the artistic nature of language, he argues, that the ‘will’ or ‘drive’ to truth (the formation of an intellectual conscience), which he identifies as characteristic of the intellect, is at all possible. It is this which gives birth to the unavoidable structural irony within the will to truth: when the will to truth unfolds itself fully through history (is carried to the extreme limits of what it is able to do) it must inevitably reveal, through its own stringent conscience and integrity, that its own foundation lies in falsehood.

*(and, in essence, it is this account which evolves,—remaining always at stake in Nietzsche’s writings—into his later account of the (fate of the) ‘will to truth’ (—especially in Christianity) in On the Genealogy of Morality. …).

Thus, for Nietzsche, ‘truth’ and the will to truth must, ultimately, inevitably undermine and overcome themselves. It is the unconscious nature of lying which allows for the concepts of the intellect to become ‘fixed, canonical and binding’ and to appear to extend beyond their true anthropological (anthropomorphic?) scope, to a correspondence to things as they are in themselves.

 

*—The object of Nietzsche’s analysis is to demonstrate the artistic genesis of language and the fundamentally artistic nature of the concepts of the intellect. For Nietzsche, language is, in essence, purely metaphorical. It neither corresponds to, nor affords access to things as they are in themselves: ‘we possess nothing but metaphors for things – metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities.’[7] Nietzsche argues that ‘nature is acquainted with no forms and no concepts and likewise with no species, but only with an X which remains inaccessible and undefinable for us.’ (117) For Nietzsche, knowledge of the thing as it is in itself (the thing = X) is impossible. This claim alludes to, and constitutes a criticism of, Schopenhauer’s appropriation of Kant’s distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal, and serves as an implicit refutation of Schopenhauer’s concept of the ‘Will’ (as a metaphysical unity). …

 

*—Schopenhauer followed Kant in distinguishing between the phenomenon and the thing-in-itself: ‘Kant’s greatest merit is the distinction of the phenomenon and the thing-in-itself, based on the proof that between things and us always stands the intellect, and that on this account they cannot be known according to what they may be in themselves.’[8] For Kant all that can be known of an object is that which appears within the limits of the human intuition of space and time.[9] Space and time constitute the appearance’s form: allowing the manifold of appearance to be ordered according to certain relations. They constitute the condition of the possibility of the realm of appearance and sensible knowledge, but have no meaning if applied beyond it. For Kant, the thing-in-itself is conditioned by neither space nor time. Our understanding cannot transcend the limits of sensibility and therefore we can attain no knowledge of things as they are in themselves.[10] That which is not an appearance cannot be an object of experience.

In his division of the world into ‘will’ and ‘representation’, Schopenhauer retains Kant’s distinction of the thing-in-itself and the appearance. However, he refutes the method by which, he argues, Kant arrives at his deduction of the thing-in-itself. Kant refutes what he argues is ‘the absurd conclusion that there can be appearance without anything that appears’.[11] In the criticism of Kant which he appended to The World as Will and Representation, Schopenhauer accuses Kant of contradicting his own idealist distinction, by claiming that the thing-in-itself has an objective foundation, independent of subjective representation. He argues that Kant reached his account of the thing-in-itself via an erroneous application of the law of causality: that empirical perception and, more fundamentally, sensation, from which the former arises, must have an external cause. In contrast, Schopenhauer emphasises what he argues is the subjective foundation of both causality and empirical perception. (Schopenhauer, 435-436) In opposition to what he claims is Kant’s attempt to locate the objective foundation of the thing-in-itself, Schopenhauer seeks to derive his own conception from the introduction of the element of self-consciousness:

[Self-consciousness is a] knowledge which everyone possesses directly in the concrete, namely as feeling. This is the knowledge that the inner nature of his own phenomenon, which manifests itself to him as representation both through his actions and through the permanent substratum of these his body, is his will. This will constitutes what is most immediate in his consciousness, but as such it has not wholly entered into the form of the representation, in which object and subject stand over and against each other. (109)

Schopenhauer argues that the thing-in-itself lies on the side of the subjective. The body is that of which the subject is most immediately aware. It represents, for Schopenhauer, the manifestation of the subject’s ‘inner nature’ (—? hmm…), but is also an object for the subject. As both subject and object it constitutes the most immediate form of representation. Through the body, Schopenhauer argues, the subject becomes aware of their ‘inner nature’: the force which precipitates their actions.[12] As this precedes, and is the source of consciousness of the body and its actions, and therefore of the relationship of the subject and the object, for Schopenhauer it must thus exist prior to and outside of representation.  He argues that the consciousness of this ‘inner nature’ of the subject’s ‘will’, known both directly and indirectly, can be extended to phenomena known only indirectly, as representations. As such, it becomes for him the ‘key to the knowledge of the innermost being of the whole of nature.’ (109) This, he argues, allows him to extend his understanding of the ‘will’ as the motive ‘force’ underlying subjectivity, to all vegetable and animate life, as well as mineral development and phenomena such as electro-magnetism and gravitation, all of which he thus portrays as phenomenal expressions of  a unified and universal inchoate striving ‘force’.

In contrast to Kant’s attempt to locate its foundation in objectivity, Schopenhauer extends his analysis of the subjective ‘will’ to the thing-in-itself. He argues that the willing of which the subject is conscious is the most immediate and adequate phenomenal expression of the noumenal. As such, he adopts the name of the subjective phenomena of the will in order to name the thing-in-itself. The ‘will’ is, for Schopenhauer, the ‘magic word’ which reveals ‘the innermost essence of everything in nature’. (111)

 

In a fragment of 1868 (thus pre-dating the publication of Birth by four years), and usually now referred to as ‘On Schopenhauer’, Nietzsche offers a critique of what he identifies as the problematic nature of Schopenhauer’s conception of the thing-in-itself.[13]

 

—Nietzsche follows Schopenhauer in refuting Kant’s method of arrival at his conception of the thing-in-itself, but, in his own terms, in a more thoroughgoing way, offers a critique of the deduction of thing-in-itself of both Kant and Schopenhauer.

Nietzsche criticises Schopenhauer for not taking the ‘necessary’ step of going ‘beyond Kant’ and his thing-in-itself. He characterises Schopenhauer’s derivation of the thing-in-itself as will as having been ‘born with the help of a poetic intuition’ and argues that the logical proofs which Schopenhauer offers are, at best, unsatisfactory. (25) For Nietzsche, the Schopenhauerian ‘will’ is a work of art. …

 

At the outset of the fragment, he identifies the fictional, or projected artistic nature of the ‘will’ with what he sees as Schopenhauer’s reluctance or incapacity to ‘feel’ ‘the dark contradictoriness in the region where individuality ceases to be.’ (24)

This point is crucial for Nietzsche’s later argument concerning ‘intuition’ in ‘On Truth’ and also for clarifying the nature of the concept of the ‘primal unity’ (Ur-Eine) in Birth, and I want to return to it in due course…

—What I want to draw specific attention to here is that, for Nietzsche, to use the concept or phenomenon of the ‘will,’ as Schopenhauer does, to characterise the ‘region’ prior to, and beyond, individuation, is to project a false identity onto what is essentially a chaotic and contradictory flux.

 

Nietzsche takes issue in particular with Schopenhauer’s claim that, in order to think the thing-in-itself (and he retains Kant’s expression as what he describes as a ‘standing formula’) objectively, it is necessary to ‘borrow’ (the term is Schopenhauer’s, the emphasis is added by Nietzsche) ‘its name and concept from an object, from something in some way objectively given, and therefore from one of its phenomena.’[14]

Nietzsche argues that Schopenhauer illegitimately drapes what must necessarily remain ‘a completely dark and ungraspable x’ with predicates, drawn from the world of phenomena, which is, ultimately, irresolvably distinct from it.[15] He argues that through his ‘borrowing’ of phenomenal predicates, Schopenhauer effectively (and illegitimately) transforms the thing-in-itself into the ‘will’, which already belongs to the phenomenal realm. Schopenhauer ‘allows himself the human and completely non-transcendental use of the unity of the will, and really only then goes back to that transcendence where the holes in the system present themselves as obvious to him.’ (Nietzsche, ‘On Schopenhauer,’ 27) Both the will and its (metaphysical) ‘unity’ are, for Nietzsche, artistic projections.—The ‘dark drive’ of the Schopenhauerian ‘will’ already belongs to the realm of representation. In contrast to its supposed status as thing-in-itself, Nietzsche argues that the (Schopenhauerian) will is ‘brought about’ through a ‘representation mechanism’. (24)

Claudia Crawford presents the structure of the relationship of the ‘dark contradictoriness’ (in terms of Nietzsche’s later coinage of the Ur-Eine: ‘primal unity’), the ‘will,’ appearance, and representation, diagrammatically:[16]

Crawford (edit)

The ‘primal unity’ (Ur-Eine) is split between ‘Being,’ its intuition of itself (self-Anschauung) as being at rest in its own self-identity, and ‘Will,’ through which it views itself as the perpetual becoming and dissolution of the world of appearances through the ‘representation mechanism’. The realm of appearances constitutes the endless striving of the ‘primal unity’ to form ‘symbols’ by which to represent itself (as will). The human intellect here forms representations much in accordance with the limits of the human intuition of space and time, which constitute the appearance’s form: allowing the manifold of appearance to be ordered according to certain relations, as I discussed above in relation to Kant’s distinction of the thing-in-itself and the appearance. Crawford argues that Nietzsche ‘creates the split nature of the Ur-Eine as being (thing in itself) and will (will acts which create the phenomenal real world of appearances) in order to demonstrate the position that what is real is not the thing in itself, which is no concern of ours, but that reality consists of appearances.’ (218. Cf. 158-178) For Nietzsche, Schopenhauer’s ‘will’ belongs to the realm of appearances, and can tell us nothing of the thing-in-itself, which, to reiterate Nietzsche’s later argument in ‘On Truth,’ constitutes ‘an X which remains inaccessible and undefinable for us.’ (27)

 

Already, in the ‘On Schopenhauer’ fragment, then, Nietzsche can be seen to be positioning himself against metaphysics, the transcendental and what he dubs the ‘otherworldly world’,… —a rejection which he thus reiterates in his critique of the thing-in-itself in ‘On Truth’. These two, patently anti-Schopenhauerian, texts (the one composed four years prior to the publication of Birth, the other, originally intended to form the latter portion of a companion piece, a year later) effectively book end Birth.

 

Paul Swift has argued convincingly that, as such, any attempt to regard Birth itself as unproblematically Schopenhauerian (particularly any account which would seek to argue for an understanding of the ‘primal unity’ as thing-in-itself or for an unproblematic access to the thing-in-itself in the Dionysian) renders the text an unaccountable anomaly in Nietzsche’s bibliography.[17]

Birth is inextricably located within Nietzsche’s existing and continuing critique of Schopenhauerian metaphysics and it is this fundamental and ineluctable anti-Schopenhauerian, anti-metaphysical understanding of Birth which will underpin my own reading of the account of artistic inspiration and creation at stake within the text.[18]

 

In the ‘Attempt at a Self-Criticism’ (appended to Birth 1886), Nietzsche argues that in Birth he attempted ‘to express by means of Schopenhauerian and Kantian formulas strange and new valuations which were basically at odds with Kant’s and Schopenhauer’s spirit and taste!’[19] These ‘strange and new valuations’, I would argue, point to Nietzsche’s naturalism and implicit anti-metaphysical stance in Birth, and establishment of an ironic Schopenhauerian—anti-Schopenhauerianism.

This conception of the ironic appropriation of Schopenhauerian terms and concepts to an ostensibly anti-Schopenhauerian philosophical and aesthetic project refutes the critical position, of which Julian Young can be seen to act as a representative, that Birth ‘incorporates without qualification Schopenhauer’s metaphysics’.[20]

—Young argues that Nietzsche’s career can be divided into ‘four main periods’, ‘distinguished from each other by sharply contrasting attitudes to and about art’, hinging his argument particularly on Nietzsche’s relationship to Schopenhauer’s pessimism. (1)

Describing the ‘circular’ path which he argues the development of Nietzsche’s thought maps out, Young argues that the work of Nietzsche’s early period was uncomplicatedly and uncritically Schopenhauerian and correspondingly pessimistic. Young argues that in his ‘middle period’ (the ‘free spirit trilogy’: Human, All Too Human, Daybreak, and The Gay Science): ‘Nietzsche turned against pessimism and against Schopenhauer. But in the end, reluctantly and making every rhetorical effort to disguise this from us and, more importantly from himself, he came back […] to pessimism.’ (3)

—Reading Birth as implicitly anti-Schopenhauerian undermines the precision of Young’s neatly compartmentalised chronology of Nietzsche’s works. If, from the very start of his published career, Nietzsche was already (ironically) at odds with Schopenhauer’s metaphysical pessimism, and, indeed, was pursuing an implicitly anti-Schopenhauerian project, then this undermines any conception of a straightforward rejection of Schopenhauer in Nietzsche’s subsequent works (whether or not we continue to seek to divide them into distinct periods), for Birth is already engaged in the criticism of Schopenhauer’s metaphysics observable both in earlier (posthumously published) fragments and in his later writings.

In contrast to Young, then, (though the nature of pessimism will play a key role in my reading of Birth) I want to contextualise Nietzsche’s relationship to Schopenhauer, not in terms of pessimism, but in terms of the contrast of his nascent naturalism to metaphysics.

Therefore, though the text may appear ostensibly Schopenhauerian and late-Romantic, acknowledging and foregrounding its anti-metaphysical philosophical naturalism will allow me to argue that, even while Nietzsche can be seen to appropriate the terms of Romantic accounts of artistic inspiration, the aesthetic of Birth is implicitly fundamentally opposed to Romantic and post-Schopenhauerian late-Romantic metaphysics, and that its terms are therefore much closer to Nietzsche’s own later account of the ‘classical’ (from Human, All Too Human onwards). This, in turn, will allow me to argue that the aesthetic of Birth is located in far greater proximity to the claims of neo-classical Modernism (in particular that of Joyce and of T.E. Hulme) than extant criticism of the text has (as far as I am aware) thus far acknowledged.

 

Against the conventional conception of Nietzsche’s early uncritical adoption of Schopenhauer (as typified by Young), and against the terms of, for example, Aaron Ridley’s argument in Nietzsche on Art that Birth does not wholly refute Schopenhauer but must be read as following either a psychological, or a ‘weak metaphysical’ thesis, the quotations and concepts drawn from Schopenhauer in Birth can, instead, be seen to represent an ironic appropriation of Schopenhauer to an anti-Schopenhauerian naturalism.[21]

As Henry Staten argues, the use of the Schopenhauerian concept of the ‘will,’ enters Birth and becomes problematic only in the later sections of the text (§§16ff.), in which Nietzsche attempts to argue for a modern rebirth of tragedy based on the operatic works of Richard Wagner.[22] The ‘primal unity’ (Ur-Eine) of Birth is anti-Schopenhauerian. As Crawford argues, it belongs to the realm of representation: is itself ‘only one appearance among appearances,’ and does not constitute the thing-in-itself. (Crawford, 218) It represents ‘a sign, a linguistic fiction, rather than a metaphysical reality’ and it is this notion of the thing-in-itself as an artistic projection which is at stake in the critique of the intellect and the problem of the thing-in-itself and the supposed metaphysical correspondence of concepts in ‘On Truth’. (Rampley, 79)

*Nietzsche opposes his thesis of the three stages of: …

(i)—the artistic projection,

(ii)—the repression of the memory of act of projection, and

(iii)—the subsequent hypostatisation of the concepts of the intellect,

to what he argues is the false consciousness that they correspond absolutely to a metaphysical reality:

Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer as coins. (Nietzsche, ‘On Truth’, 117)

Through the gradual process of their hypostatisation, the concepts of the intellect become stale and dead metaphors, which, Nietzsche argues, no longer retain any connection to, or use value for, experience. They are no longer able to capture ‘vivid first impressions’. (118)—They become little more than the mode of expression of a (Platonic) philosophical and of a moral prejudice.

For Nietzsche, existing concepts, as ‘abstractions’ and petrified prejudices, serve to distort human life. In order to overcome the stultification of the exhausted metaphors of the concepts, and in order to revivify the fundamentally artistic drive of the intellect and grasp ‘vivid first impressions,’ Nietzsche opposes ‘intuition’ (Anschauung) to the conceptual:

[The intellect] will now be guided by intuitions rather than by concepts. There is no regular path which leads from these intuitions into the land of ghostly schemata, the land of abstractions. There exists no word for these intuitions: when man sees them he grows dumb, or else he speaks only in forbidden metaphors and in unheard-of combinations of concepts. He does this so that by shattering and mocking the old conceptual barriers he may at least correspond creatively to the impression of the powerful and present intuition. (118)

For Nietzsche, the intensely undergone aesthetic experience—the ‘impression’—of the ‘powerful’ and ‘present’ ‘intuition’, lies outwith the field of possible experience outlined, sanctioned and policed by the concepts of extant linguistic convention. The intellect, he argues, is driven by the need to articulate—to ‘correspond creatively’ to—this experience. In order for this to be possible, it is necessary to lacerate the petrified or stultified surface of the ‘ghostly’ Platonic abstractions of the concepts (the ‘otherworldy world’ of ‘On Schopenhauer’ and of the thing-in-itself), bereft of life and lacking in both substance and any direct, visceral connection to the reality of lived experience.

*—… In the articulation of the intuition, the intellect becomes enmeshed in a process of the bathetic (—‘mocking’) reanimation of the concepts, smashing the ‘framework’ of the concepts ‘to pieces’, throwing it into a state of confusion, and ‘pairing the most alien things and separating the closest.’ (122) In stark contrast to the ‘distortion’ of life, which he argues is implicitly at stake in the forgetting of the act of creation, and false Platonic reification, of the concepts of conventional linguistic experience, ‘intuition’, as a projected philosophical method of the future, is defined, for Nietzsche, by its capacity for self-conscious ‘dissimulation’, enacted with a good (—a clear) conscience.

 

*—Intuition sets the intellect free, and the liberated intellect in turn ‘copies human life’ in its new bathetic, monstrous, hybridised metaphors…

 

In contrast to the hardened veneer of the extant concepts, inaugurated and preserved as a crutch for the ‘needy man’ (the ‘servant’ who requires the legislation of an uncritically accepted linguistic order in order to be able to function and to—persevere)—‘the means by which weaker, less robust individuals preserve themselves’—the intellect, freed through intuition, is enabled to become the ‘master’ of life and of ‘deception’. (122) Freed from its former ‘slavery’, the intellect ‘copies human life, but it considers this life to be something good’ and no longer needing to be redeemed or justified through falsely hypostatised, artistically projected (Platonic) concepts.

 

 

I want to move on in the next section to examine the parallel between Nietzsche’s opposition of ‘intuition’ to the concepts of the intellect in ‘On Truth’ and Henri Bergson’s conception of ‘intuition’ as providing access to the flux of the undivided continuity of states which he claims precedes and subsists beneath the individuated concepts of the intellect and which he calls ‘duration’.

 

I want to be clear that this will not have been an attempt to seek to identify Nietzsche with Bergson’s conception of metaphysics.

As I have already argued here, from his earliest writings onwards Nietzsche is fundamentally opposed to metaphysics.

—Whatever the differences between their respective relationships to, or conceptions of, metaphysics, however, the opposition between intuition and the intellect of ‘On Truth’ is already at stake in Birth, and as such, the parallel between ‘On Truth’ and Bergson’s conception of duration will allow me to draw out what is at stake in Nietzsche’s concept of the ‘primal unity’ (Ur-Eine) in Birth, understood as fundamentally anti-Schopenhauerian and anti-metaphysical.

Instead, I want to use the Bergsonian parallel I will draw here to argue that the ‘primal unity’ of Birth is located in far greater proximity to Nietzsche’s later doctrine of the will to power, as he defines this in On the Genealogy of Morality and the Later Notebooks, than to Schopenhauerian metaphysics and the metaphysical unity of Schopenhauer’s ‘will’.


[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and The Case of Wagner, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Random House, 1967) (hereafter, BT), §1, 33

[2] Nietzsche, ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’ (hereafter ‘OTL’), trans. Daniel Breazeale, in The Blackwell’s Nietzsche Reader ed. Keith Ansell Pearson and Duncan Large (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006), 114-123.

*—Nietzsche originally intended to form part of the second, ‘theoretical’ half of his projected Philosophenbuch, itself intended as a ‘“companion piece” to The Birth of Tragedy’. (Breazeale, Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the early 1870s, trans. and ed. Daniel Breazeale [New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1979], xxv-xxvi. Cf. xliv-xlv). See also Writings from the Early Notebooks, ed. Raymond Guess and Alexander Nehamas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), xiii-xiv and Wayne Klein, Nietzsche and the Promise of Philosophy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), 56-58. As such Birth and ‘OTL’ can already be seen to stand in an intimate relationship to one another.

[3] Nietzsche reiterates and expands upon this point in On the Genealogy of Morality, (trans. Carol Diethe, ed. Keith Ansell-Pearson [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003]. Hereafter OGM):

We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers, we ourselves, to ourselves, and there is good reason for this […] like somebody divinely absent-minded and sunk in his own thoughts, who, the twelve strokes of midday having just boomed into his ears, wakes with a start and wonders ‘What hour struck?’, sometimes we too, afterwards rub our ears and ask, astonished, taken aback, ‘What did we actually experience then?’ or even, ‘Who are we, in fact?’ […] We remain strange to ourselves out of necessity, we do not understand ourselves, we must confusedly mistake who we are, the motto ‘everyone is furthest from himself’ applies to us forever,—we are not ‘knowers’ when it comes to ourselves… (‘Preface,’ §I, 3-4: emphases Nietzsche’s own)

Nietzsche argues that by virtue of the nature of our conception of ‘knowing’; that is, the nature of the intellect and its repression of the flux of natural drives, we must remain unknown to ourselves and alienated from ourselves.

In this passage Nietzsche implicitly reiterates the notion of the necessity of this alienation. True self-knowledge and self-identity must remain impossible if the individual (the subject), and thus morality, are to be maintained. It is possible, at least to a certain degree, to read Nietzsche’s claim that no genealogist prior to himself has yet enquired as to the true origins and evolution of morality, as a claim that each has had an ineluctable stake in the maintenance of the illusion of subjectivity.

[4] Nietzsche, Writings  from the Late Notebooks, trans. Kate Sturge, ed. Rudiger Bittner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2003), 34[46], 2-3 [2]. As I will argue, this conception of the fiction of the ‘I’ is crucial to understanding Nietzsche’s analysis of the process of artistic inspiration and creation in what I will call the fold of the self-creation of the artist in Birth. The philosophical naturalism of the notion of the selection, incorporation and purgation of reality underpins Nietzsche’s later definition of the ‘classical’ poetry of the future:

[T]he good poet of the future will depict only reality and completely ignore all those fantastic, superstitious, half-mendacious, faded subjects upon which earlier poets demonstrated their powers. Only reality, but by no means every reality! – he will depict a select reality! (‘Assorted Opinions and Maxims’ (hereafter HH IIa) in Human All Too Human, trans. R.J. Hollingdale [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996], §114, 239-240)

—I’ll return to Nietzsche’s definition of the ‘classical’ both in defining the nature of the conjunction of the Dionysian and Apollinian artistic drives in Birth and in analysing the terms of self-styled neo-classical Modernist criticism. For now, what I want to note is that I believe that the ‘fantastic, superstitious, half-mendacious, faded subjects’, which Nietzsche derides here, equate to the late-Romantic, and particularly Schopenhauerian and Wagnerian metaphysical aesthetics from which Nietzsche sought to emancipate himself.

—The ‘selection’ of reality, it seems to me at least, equates to the naturalism and ‘classicism’ that Nietzsche is beginning to establish in Birth, and which I will argue are intimately intertwined.

What is significant here is the demonstration that these later categories are already at stake within Birth and ‘On Truth and Lies’. Unfortunately, there will not be sufficient room to address the development of this theme in Nietzsche’s writing in the depth that it deserves. On the ‘self’—the ‘I’—as a fiction, especially in relation to the doctrine of the will to power, the reader is directed to the following material in the Late Notebooks: 34[54]-34[55], 4; 34[131], 9-10; 35[35], 20-21; 37[4], 29-30; 38[8], 36-37; 40[42], 46; 1[58], 59-60; 1[87], 61; 2[91], 77; 2[152], 91; 2[158], 92; 2[193], 96-97; 5[3], 106; 7[1], 127-129; 7[63], 140; 9[91], 154-157; 10[19], 178-179; 11[73], 212-213; 11[113], 221-222; 11[120], 223-224; 14[79], 245-247).

[5] Claudia Crawford, The Beginnings of Nietzsche’s Theory of Language (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1988), 202

[6] 117. Nietzsche gives the example of the concept of the ‘leaf’. In a parody and rejection of the Platonic Idea or Form, he argues that the concept of the leaf is formed by arbitrarily discarding—by forgetting—the differences between individual leaves:

This awakens the idea that, in addition to the leaves, there exists in nature the “leaf”: the original model according to which all the leaves were perhaps woven, sketched, measured, colored, curled, and painted – but by incompetent hands, so that no specimen has turned out to be a correct, trustworthy, and faithful likeness of the original model. (ibid.)

For Nietzsche, the claim to know that such a self-identical Idea or ‘original model’ (the concept) inheres in things is a projection and false hypostatisation.

[7] 116 (cf. Crawford, 203). On Nietzsche’s rejection of the ‘metaphysical correspondence theory’, see Maudemaire Clark, Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), esp. 22. Clark argues that Nietzsche (in the works of his early and middle periods) commits himself to a rejection of metaphysical truth because he ‘accepts a theory of truth such that all truth is metaphysical, that is, is correspondence to things as they are in themselves’ (emphasis added).

[8] ‘Appendix: Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy’ in Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, 2 Vols, trans. E.F.J. Payne, (New York: Dover, 1966) (WWR), I, 413-534 (417-418).

[9] See Dale Jacquette, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer (Chesham: Acumen, 2005), 19

[10] Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003) A 30/B 45. Cf. 85 A 45/B 62 (on the ‘transcendental object’), and also A 128. See Howard Caygill, A Kant Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), esp. 79-80 and 393.

[11] Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, B 27.

[12] See Bryan Magee, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, Revised Edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997): ‘The movements of the material object which is my body are known to me not only through external sense, as are the movements of other material objects, but also directly, non-sensorily, non-intellectually from within, as acts of will.’ (137) See also Jacquette, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, 73-74.

[13] Nietzsche, ‘On Schopenhauer,’ in The Blackwell’s Nietzsche Reader ed. Ansell Pearson Large, 24-29. An alternative translation is provided in Christopher Janaway, Willing and Nothingness: Schopenhauer as Nietzsche’s Educator (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 258-265.

[14] Nietzsche, ‘On Schopenhauer,’ 27. See Schopenhauer, WWR, I,  §22, 110.

[15] Nietzsche, ‘On Schopenhauer,’ 27.  Schopenhauer, WWR, I, 112

[16] Crawford, Beginnings, 161-162(n).

[17] Paul Swift, Becoming Nietzsche: Early Reflections on Democritus, Schopenhauer, and Kant (Oxford: Lexington Books, 2005), 43-50. 

[18] This reading is positioned against the claim to Nietzsche’s early uncritical adoption of Schopenhauer. See Bowie, Aesthetics and Subjectivity, 261 (see also 282, 288, 296); and Ivan Soll, ‘Pessimism and the Tragic view of Life: Reconsiderations of Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy’, in Robert C. Solomon and Kathleen M. Higgins, eds., Reading Nietzsche (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), 104-131 (104-107).

By contrast, I want to align my position with the opposing critical trend to problematise and resist this influence. See Martha Nussbaum, ‘The Transfigurations of Intoxication: Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Dionysus’, in Salim Kemal, Ivan Gaskell, and Daniel W. Conway, eds., Nietzsche, Philosophy and the Arts (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1998), 36-69 (esp. 38-39) (see also Nussbaum, ‘Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Dionysus’ in Janaway, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer [Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid: Cambridge University Press, 1999], 344-374 [esp. 344-345]).

[19] Nietzsche, BT, 17-27 (24). See 15n. on the appended title page/flysheet, added in 1886: ‘In the first edition of 1872 the title was The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music. A second edition with very slight textual changes was printed in 1874 and appeared in 1878. In 1886, the same year that saw the publication of Beyond Good and Evil, the remaining copies of both editions were reissued with the new title [The Birth of Tragedy: Hellenism and Pessimism].’ The original title was retained, but now followed the ‘Attempt at a Self-Criticism’.

[20] Julian Young, Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Art (Cambridge, New York, Victoria: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 26

[21] See Aaron Ridley, Nietzsche on Art (London: Routledge, 2007),—esp. 21-31. …

*—Admittedly, I was lucky enough to meet Professor Ridley (in late 2011), and at that time he said that he had changed his mind and recanted on the reading of Nietzsche presented in this text. Nevertheless, I hope that he wouldn’t mind me citing it in order to contextualise my own argument here…

[22] Henry Staten, ‘The Birth of Tragedy Reconstructed’ in Nietzsche’s Voices (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), 187-216 (esp. 192). According to Staten’s reading it is Nietzsche’s relationship to Wagner that proves problematic to a clear conception of his relationship to Schopenhauer and Schopenhauerian metaphysics.

It is not within the scope of what I want to do here to address Nietzsche’s relationship to Wagner, and, as such, I will not address the argument of the latter, patently Wagnerian, sections of Birth. Nor will I address Nietzsche’s argument concerning the death of tragedy at the hands of Socrates and Euripides. Instead, I will focus on a close reading of Nietzsche’s definition of the Apollinian and Dionysian and of the phenomenon of the Lyric Poet in the earlier part of the text (§§1-8). For a clear biographical study of the intellectual and artistic influence of Wagner on Nietzsche, see Dieter Brochmeyer’s influential essay, ‘Wagner and Nietzsche,’ in Ulrich Müller and Peter Wapnewski, eds., Wagner Handbook, trans. John Deathridge (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992), 327-342 (—on Birth in particular, 329-335).