Pantheism and the Pathetic Fallacy

Convictions, morals, other societies and religions.
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Cancer
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Re: Pantheism and the Pathetic Fallacy

Postby Cancer » Fri Sep 14, 2018 1:21 pm

Smaragd wrote:
Cancer wrote:Attributing redness to the leaf is already unscientific, because trees lack eyesight.
The whole Pathetic Fallacy thing sure sounds like the critique is trying to bring scientific objective authority in the subjective worlds. Well, atleast such notions can point past errors in these areas that get finer and finer.
As a sidenote: trees lack eyesight, yet the colour of their flowers seem to be there to attract pollinators.
I was writing ironically to convey something of the sort you are saying here. The property of looking forlorn in the way that appealed to Coleridge's imagination is no less "in the world" than the property of redness. Trees or other natural objects cannot be considered in abstraction of their surroundings, at least not very meaningfully - and their surroundings include poets as well as birds and insects with intense color-vision. For the trees "themselves" (metaphorically, as it's clear they are not actually selves) redness is nowhere to be found - it's the pollinators and other observers that enable it to exist, that so to speak let the trees borrow their eyes as we our emotions. Natural science that doesn't take itself into account - as constituent of nature - is doomed to remain naïve.
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Re: Pantheism and the Pathetic Fallacy

Postby obnoxion » Sun Sep 30, 2018 11:28 am

Smaragd wrote:When challenged by these thoughts I've tried to defend the pantheistic point of view by the simplicity of the basic powers of death and rebirth making structures from simple ingredients. Therefor the complexity is no reason to draw impenetrable walls between human experience and other natural phenomena. Roughly: in my simple mind the pathetic fallacy is not a poetic license when it assosiates through the structures of the writers pantheist world view or mind by honest intuition. (btw. I'm not sure I can make difference between mind and world view.) It's like penetrating the whole structure with a lightning, passing information (sympathy-to-assosiation) between these complex and simple and again complex similarities.
I think I agree with your defence on Pantheism, and in that there is no reason to question the spiritual sincerity of the Romantic Poets.

As an aesthetic strategy, I think pathetic fallacy (I suppose this term sounds more prerogative now than it did in Ruskin's time) merits criticism. It is true that it did make Tennyson to adopt a sort of scientific carriage to his imagery. But as I see it, this criticism might assist a poet to cut throught the more banal forms of fancy, and reach the highly imaginative. By banality I mean that if you would ask a classroom of kids of almost any age group to write a poem about nature, you would likely get an endless array of smiling suns, waving branches, singing rain drops and - indeed! - some dancing leaves. And it would hardly merit the conclucion that we have a classroom full of serious pantheists.
Cancer wrote:Trees or other natural objects cannot be considered in abstraction of their surroundings, at least not very meaningfully...
Not making a distinction between natural and other objects, I actually find it intensely meaningful to momentarilly divorce things from their surroundings. This morning I was contemplating my tea spoon, and the awesome divine strangeness of it. When completely cut off from everything else, it becomes like a pagan idol from some other world. This same thing happens to any fragment of the whole when considered separatelly from the whole. Such a fragment does not have to be seemingly perfect microcosm such as a tree. It can be a composition, a branch of a tree seen against a window of a car, with everything else around them conpletely snuffed out - a pantheistic entity hidden in plane sight; an intense aesthetic shock.
One day of Brahma has 14 Indras; his life has 54 000 Indras. One day of Vishnu is the lifetime of Brahma. The lifetime of Vishnu is one day of Shiva.
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Re: Pantheism and the Pathetic Fallacy

Postby Smaragd » Sun Sep 30, 2018 9:49 pm

obnoxion wrote:
Smaragd wrote:When challenged by these thoughts I've tried to defend the pantheistic point of view by the simplicity of the basic powers of death and rebirth making structures from simple ingredients. Therefor the complexity is no reason to draw impenetrable walls between human experience and other natural phenomena. Roughly: in my simple mind the pathetic fallacy is not a poetic license when it assosiates through the structures of the writers pantheist world view or mind by honest intuition. (btw. I'm not sure I can make difference between mind and world view.) It's like penetrating the whole structure with a lightning, passing information (sympathy-to-assosiation) between these complex and simple and again complex similarities.
I think I agree with your defence on Pantheism, and in that there is no reason to question the spiritual sincerity of the Romantic Poets.

As an aesthetic strategy, I think pathetic fallacy (I suppose this term sounds more prerogative now than it did in Ruskin's time) merits criticism. It is true that it did make Tennyson to adopt a sort of scientific carriage to his imagery. But as I see it, this criticism might assist a poet to cut throught the more banal forms of fancy, and reach the highly imaginative. By banality I mean that if you would ask a classroom of kids of almost any age group to write a poem about nature, you would likely get an endless array of smiling suns, waving branches, singing rain drops and - indeed! - some dancing leaves. And it would hardly merit the conclucion that we have a classroom full of serious pantheists.
Well put. Going a bit offtopic, but that's the thing: this conversation reveals a bad habit of mine. When finding ones own point of view to a subject it is easy to find the extremes and remember how they have clashed before, and go on a defence mode. It's an occupational disease of a nonconformist and a failure to follow the Adversary to the Garden of Plenty.

Continuing on this ill path of defence, for the sake of clarity, I thought about these associative communications between different natural things today while driving a car and listening to the engine. I was adjusting the speed with the cruise control one unit at a time, and when the speed was getting too low for the current gear the disharmonious vibrations spoke of destruction. If I've understood the car mechanics right the engine is harmed that way (using acceleration when the tachometer shows too low numbers) and by simple disharmonies this is communicated. Similarly we see visual disharmony in a dying flower, and it is not a question of whether the flower is experiencing the ache like humans do, for it is a matter of translation. It's a translation by association that is carried by faith. Similarly the pantheist human experience itself translates things in to human language of visions etc. Maybe the above isn't so much off topic after all if the Pathetic Fallacy critiques point is to see clearly in to the pantheist humanbeings beautiful blossoms opening in such incredible potential and integrity. Integrity that is so well put in that spoon fragment by obnoxion.
Alfalfa

Re: Pantheism and the Pathetic Fallacy

Postby Alfalfa » Mon Oct 29, 2018 1:54 am

Wanderlust.jpg
First of all, an excellent question. The connection between romantic art and pantheism makes us to consider the relationship between art and theology, or rather philosophy of art and philosophy of religion. As is well known, the romantic conceptions about both owe great deal to Kant's philosophy as a whole, i.e. the impossibility of knowing the absolute or ”God” if you will. This impossibility manifest itself in moral philosophy's commands, which are usually thought to be devoid of emotions. Even though one could here talk about guilt, it's rather not an emotion in Kant's sense. Here feeling is all about beauty, which is also the proper subject of art, even though beauty is not only of human origin. Kant placed the beauty of nature above that of human art. So, for Kant beauty originates first and foremost in ”nature” and can only be imitated by human art. On the other hand, this view about beauty is not an ”objective” one, i.e. for Kant it's not about natural beauty as an object of nature, but of the merely subjective imagination reflecting on nature. Notwithstanding there's a great deal of sublimity in the nature depicted in romantic art, i.e. the famous painting Der Mönch am Meer (1808-10) of D. F. Caspar, in which the subject is shown as something really small in comparison to nature's ”majestic” sublimity. For Kant, this kind of sublimity is not beautiful in the least and can't be the proper object of art, since it's first of all earnest and secondly a feeling which befits the majesticity of the moral object, not any natural object. This separating of moral and nature, things pertaining to an ”ought” (Sein-Sollen) and mere ”being” (Sein) runs through Kant's philosophy and can't be reconciled. So, for Kant subject and especially it's artistic feelings have no objective validity, even as natural beauty is also a mere feeling.
                    Kant's most famous opponent in the 19th century, Hegel, reasoned otherwise. For him human art is more absolute than natural beauty, since for him nature doesn't shine (scheint) the beautiful (Schöne) as the sun of morality sets it's rays on the sunflower of natural man. On the contrary, it's the spirit of man, which shines forth in nature and so can make it's lifeless ”mechanism” beautiful. One could in some sense talk about Hegel's pantheism, since for him philosophy is about God as the absolute, even though it's strictly speaking nothing ”beyond” earthly existence, but rather the spiritual elevation (Aufhebung) of this earthly existence. Hegel's views about art and religion are on the other hand preposterous and there's no place for feeling in his system, since everything is supposedly more elevated when thinked through.
                    Schelling should be considered the main philosopher, when one wants consider combining artistic feeling with pantheism. For Kant, artistic feeling can't be united with the world a spirited God, i.e. ”Weltgeist”, since religious faith has as it's object only the moral idea and not the being of nature. Hegel in turn considers artistic feeling and religious faith ultimately as bygone in relation to systematic philosophical thinking. Schelling's God rather is the ”Weltgeist”, even though it shouldn't actually be called 'Pantheismus', since he means by the word 'Pan' the total (All) and not the whole (Ganze). ”Total” is an abstract concept, while the existing God is the whole, and as such I'd rather talk about 'holotheism' in his case. Here is satisfied the necessary precondition for fusing religion with philosophy: speaking about ”being” as ”God”, which Kant would never have approved, even though his 'Ontotheologie' is rather theology of the not-being. Schelling certainly appreciates the nothing of God as an essential side of the being of God, even though this negativity can never be totally mediated the way Hegel thought. For Schelling, the being of God is inspiration and artwork, going over the crudeness, or insanity of nature, not destroying it as such, but giving it form. This sounds quite like Kant's concept of inspiration and artwork, but for Kant it doesn't have anything to do with the objective differing of nature and subject. On the other hand, while Hegel wanted to reconcile the opposited totally with each other, Schelling rather thinks them in their unity and difference. Here Schelling also has more room for art than Hegel, even though unlike Kant he makes this division both subjective and objective. For Kant knowledge, religion and artwork could not have real influence on their different territories. Hegel in turn tried to subordinate religion and artwork under knowledge. Schelling is the one to think their differences in their unity and likewise their unity in their differences: here the philosophical ”holotheism” has artwork as it's necessary 'Organon', i.e. organ, like a body without hands would be quite defective.
                   It's not like everything worth saying is already said about the relationship of pantheism and artwork. Even so, one could in some degree agree about certain small-spiritedness of the english, like Ruskin here. It would indeed be wrong to attribute feeling to a mere perceptual abstraction, like the stones in ”themselves”, but as an abstraction it's definitely something human and it would be merely fallacious to consider nature in ”itself” any less fallacious this way, than when we attribute human emotions to it. It's not that a ”natural phenomenon” is humanized here by poets and there not by scientists, but rather about the way of humanizing, i.e. feeling against thinking. Schelling is quite right thinking nature in it's connection with artistic and religious feeling, which definitely can't be separated in a simple manner. It shouldn't be said that leaves can't be dancing, since the difference is not only in being objectively real ”in actu” and subjectively imaginative not-beingin potentia”. It's rather about the different modes of being, which can be confused and indeed should be kept apart, even though such separation doesn't presuppose a wholesome division of the not and being, i.e. without at the same time presupposing their unity. It should of course be considered wether as merely pantheists they qualified as ”christians”, since in general german philosophy of the 19th century was still greek to it's core, i.e. ontotheology, which applies even to, as the philosophy of the originator of this word, Kant's ”negative” ontotheology. For example, D. F. Caspar's Tetschener Altar (1807/8) could be seen as evidence of (con)fusing christianity with pantheism. Anyways, I think Schelling is more closely related to the romantic connection between pantheism and artwork than e.g. Kant, not to say a word about Hegel, even though I'd question how much ”romantic” art can anyways be considered as an unified movement.
                  It's of course quite obvious that the relationship between romantic artwork and pantheism is not simple, since it's not at all apparent how different artists interpreted different philosophies. Even so, some general guidelines can of course be stated, e.g. Dilthey's interpretation of the 19th century romantic ”sick” artist brooding in his melancholy, in contrast to the historically conscious would-be artist of the 20th century. Interpreting even a single piece of artwork is a difficult task, but D. F. Caspar's Wanderlust (1818) is today rather iconic. In the bottom there are dark and hard rocks, which are not only rocks as ”natural” beings, but also symbolize the finished, i.e. crystallized form of matter, which makes the lifeless ground upon which beings having life can thrive. Also man's being has a form of crude material existence. Even so, the rocks are only for man's feet: as a being of heights also, he has his head in the brighter upper air. Because air is the most invisible of the natural elements most obious to our senses, it has an analogical relationship to thinking and as such befits man's head as his organ of thinking. Man is a being of extremities, i.e. dark and bright, low and high, visible and invisible, weight and light, etc. At the same time man is also a mediated being, his body and heart positioned between the extremes. Between soul and body is spread the great fog of time, which is here depicted as longing for an adventure, i.e. man as the figuring of the secret of this in-between worlds, which rather make up one world of the actual possibility of grasping the unknown. Man is here only relatively small in comparison to the sublime landscape, since the painting depicts him well in the fore and middle. Nature is not here merely light-hearted, but quite serious with it's dark and mysterious tones. Even so, man's upright position is dignified, even though not strictly heroic in Kant's sense, since man is here not totally over nature. Rather, this is tragic sublime in Schelling's sense and as such carries also a sense of submission. This is why the hands are behind the man's back, i.e. he's not going get over nature and this gives him his dignified submission, which is somewhat sad but also noble at the same time. It should be duly noted, that the man's head is not looking to high heavens, nor the low grounds, but a little hill far away, maybe a hill similiar to which he's standing right at the moment. This adventure is man's freedom, but also his prison. It's not only a quest, i.e. a going after mere something which can be definitely winned over, any more it can be lost under. As much he is as a being of extremities, there's no getting under the earth like worms, or over the heaven like birds. He's this in-between, which shall again find it's troubled and longing being, even on another hill. This is rather in accordance with Schelling's thought, even if it weren't a direct historical influence.
                 Even though Nietzsche wrote closer to the 20th century and interpreted himself in contrast to romanticism, Caspar's painting reminds me of Zarathustra's words: a wandering will be therein, and a mountain-climbing: in the end one experienceth only oneself. Even so, Nietzsche didn't champion a tragical ”hero” sighing after any otherwordly happiness, but triumphant laughter of life and heroism of daring courage to will it. This could be seen as a sort of synthesis between Kant's heroic art on one side and romanticism's melancholic brooding on the other, all the while Nietzsche's subjective artist certainly is not Hegel's objective thinker. Anyhow, Nietzsche's conception of art is beyond romantic and a problem for another discussion.
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