Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sentimentality and the Difficulty of Returning to the Things Themselves

(This is a revision of part of a correspondence.)

     'Sentimentality' is something that I would like to address, as it frequently comes to mind (since I read Schiller's distinction between simple and sentimental poetry). To frame this topic in a new, and experimental way (for me), I will begin by saying that sentimentality is being captive to our reflections. This captivity is recognized in the symptom of taking reflective judgments to be determining of objects. 
     The terms that I employ here in my understanding of sentimentality are of two groups, the shocking (captivity) and the Kantian (reflections, determining). The captivity is related to a risk of our being reflective. The risk is clarified by explaining what confusions between reflective and determinative judgments are.
     (For Kant, all judgments involve a universal to a particular. Determinative judgments relate a universal to a particular, while reflective judgments take a particular and request, in a certain way, that there be a universal put on it. For more information on this distinction see the introduction to the Critique of Judgment. I will discuss reflection below as well in different terms.)
     The a priori is a discovery for us, yet not as something empirical; rather we find the a priori in reflection.  (Here I allow myself to depart from Kantian  terminology, but may find myself right back at the Kantian position.) Reflection is a process where another 'image' is produced in the likeness of what is reflected; the 'image' is not an actual duplicate. My account of reflection here is being used as a metaphor for the process of reflection, which takes what we encounter, and, instead of producing another encounter (as a pool of water, or glass or bronze mirror does) produces something else that we do not encounter but that we also understand. The reflected image is more complete than what we originally encounter because it does not itself need content to be full - yet without content it only makes a place where something is revealed, or towards which we are directed. The results of this reflection as spoken word is formal terminology.  By formal here I mean that which deals with the form rather than matter; terms that deal with the form of experience, or possibility of experience, and transcendental terms generally are formal.
     In my estimation, the essence of logic is simply this sway that reflection has over us, and Logic as a body of knowledge is guided by the goal of understanding reflection as it underlies dialogue. (Logic already presupposes all that is possible for dialogue - a considerable amount.) Logic is, in my parlance, the essence of, 'hearing' and 'being heard', and dialogues in formal terms are communications that try to make reflectivity itself an object to reflect on. This (present writing) is a formal account of these formal dialogues, which can become illustrative of my concerns with sentimentality. The sort of captivity we can fall into when we speak formally is in taking the formal language to be material, or otherwise being taken (either by speaker or listener) as determinative rather than reflective. Taken as determinative we are forced to see the formal as matter, and we will fail to do this, requiring us to go beyond appearance, but in the mode of objects still.
     This first way of confusing the formal and material leads to taking the formal as referring to the 'beyond': the "true" world. As a result of trying to reject this "true" world in a formal discussion, the "true" world butts up against the apparent world. This apparent world is itself purely formal - we never encounter the apparent world, it only arises in our reflecting on reflecting, and analogizing on analogy. One place we can become captive to reflection is in the apparent world.
     Another source of captivity from reflection is from idols. We can formally express Socrates through the ideals he presents to us immediately in his actions, and then, not having the courage of Socrates, merely become professors of the merit of these values while not living a Socratic life.
     It is not enough to just point out the difference between the reflective and determinative in formal terms, but the next step is much harder: finally looking back through the formal (wherever, and however, and through whoever it appears) into being itself. What formality can we express to achieve this again? This may be the use of the shocking, even as it man open opportunity for new confusion and hesitation.
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