Sunday, March 28, 2010

More NeoKant: Beauty, Realism and Organic Unity

This neo-kantian stuff about how experiencing beauty = being set of on pleasurable chains of judgements and imagination, (where you are tempted to explain more and more of the artwork as being made to have a certain effect on you, while not thinking of the artwork as having an overall purpose) seems to explain soo much!

- Why things that are unrealistic often but not always seem un-beautiful: if some character just randomly does something which seems flatly psychologically implausble (i.e. you can't fill in the details to make it seem likely that someone in that situation would so behave), this decreases your temptation to find out explanations for how other actions of characters are really likely or plausible. Hence, ceterus paribus, psychological unrealism is bad. BUT If however the unrealistic psychology persists through the novel, and all seems related, like maybe the extreme reactions of Dostoevsky characters, then this doesn't tempt you to just give up on psychological explantions, all together, but rather to seek different ones than you normally would. And ditto if the story has something else going on where you are tempted to explain the behavior in terms of that instead e.g. in terms of symbolism, or in terms of how a person's actions can *seem* to a different person. (maybe Kafka stories are an example of this, but im not sure)

- What people are talking about when they insist that beautiful artwork has "organic unity". Obviously, 'unity' here doesn't mean that the art has to be all the same color, or the same events over and over again. Rather, I propose the idea is one has to be tempted to explain why any one piece/aspect of the artwork is the way it is, in terms of other features of the artwork e.g. this thing happens at this part of the novel to contrast with this that thing at the beginning of the novel. A very natural way to make sure there are lots of chains of thought suggested by a single chunk of text would be to put the reader in a state where they think there might well be an interesting relationship between each piece/aspect of text and each other one. In contrast, if an artwork seems NOT unified, then this means that you won't go looking for relationships between the different parts, so it thereby has that much less of a tendency to spark chains of thought.

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