Iain Cameron's Diary
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2005-09-08 - 10:15 a.m.

Those really good Sainsbury trout fillets - steamed - with a pepper sauce and brown crusty bread plus some white burgundy.

The Danto book on disturbatory art is taking a while to get across the Atlantic and this is holding me up. In the interim I have ordered Hegelís introductory lectures on aesthetics - and I have been delving into Kierkegaard (who thought Hegel was deeply mistaken.).

A commentary on K that I fished out at the weekend has some very odd judgments (of Ks) about marriage and so I have been trying to dig deeper. An existentialist site offers the following on Kís 3 stages:

1. Aesthetic where individuals are concerned with only experiences or abstract data. The aesthetics of experience include Hedonism, Materialism, and other life approaches dedicated to pleasure or personal gratification. Life is to be enjoyed and experienced in the here and now, without regard to long-term consequences eg sexual pleasures or artificial stimuli such as narcotics.

An interest in abstract data is a Rationalist or Relativist, reflects avoidance of difficult choices. Everything is relative to the individual, without greater meaning. The abstract intellectual observes the world in a detached and objective manner, as if what has happened in the past does not affect the present.

Aesthetic life eventually becomes a source of boredom. There are only so many experiences, and each must be Ďbetterí than the last. For the intellectual, once all is abstracted into nothingness, there is no reason to go on living (really?) . If everything just is, without purpose or relation, then despair takes hold (or minimalism?)

2. Ethical individuals recognize the despair of aesthetics, and are compelled to find greater meaning in life. Ethical individuals develop a system by which they will make choices and build relationships. The act of making decisions and developing and ethical system brings one closer to self-awareness. Learning about others and what they think helps one learn about the self, the ego.

3. Religious individuals experience both suffering and faith. Only at this level does one truly understand the self. The despair leading individuals from one stage to another was the despair of sin. ĎSin is this: before God, or with the conception of God, to be in despair at not willing to be oneself, or in despair at willing to be oneself. Thus sin is potential weakness or potential defiance: sin is the potentiation of despair.í

I found my way from here via the source site to Karl Japsers whom the site judges to be one of the true existentialists. Jaspers is roughly contemporary with Heidegger but took a much more principled stand during the Third Reich and as a result was a major figure in post-war German philosophy up to his death in 1969. It is said that Jaspers genuinely brought K and Nietzsche into philosophy - quite a claim. On the strength of this I have ordered a copy of his book on Kant - for 4 dollars from the US. I will be interested to find out what J thinks of the Kantian aesthetic and its relation to the ethical - whether it can be purified after (say) the Nazi enthusiasm for 19C romantic orchestral music.

Although Kierkegaard thought Hegel was over-ambitious you can see the form of the Phenomenology of the Spirit coming through this threefold categorisation of life-stages - not least in the transition from the aesthetic to the ethical - in Hegelian terms via the unhappy consciousness and scepticism and in KĎs ters via the despair thatís inherent in this position.

Even though he was a theologian, Jaspers thought K overdid the arguments for Christianity. (I read an article which suggests that K hit the USA the same time as Catcher in the Rye. The author - a K enthusiast - regrets the way he helpe sow the seeds of the counter-culture.)

Art and religion go together in Hegel - or at least they did in classical times - serving to support a social unity embedded in religion. Art and social unity seem to be compromised by the experience of the Third Reich where the poetical power of solidarity overcame rationality and morality. So - Jaspers engagement with Kant from a post-war liberal post-Nazi existential perspective is a must.

The other really big post-war liberal theorist - Habermas - seems to have skipped aesthetics so Jasperís take may help with Beuys. Beuys is now seen as a founding father of the German green movement

Last week I mailed the S Plath Forum about some of this stuff - I hadnít realized that the mail was going up straight on the site - but someone mailed back which made me aware that my queries were up. I have replied sending ND and the Cambridge Poets as requested - and a further reply has ensued - dragging me into animus and anima - not my best topic. I can do anima-rising - donít give up the sorrow - your notches liberation doll etc.

I started looking at the poems from SPís Boston period - esp Colossus - which gives the title to the first collection she published. In fact the first verse of Colossus turned up on a vid this morning - who knows where this might lead. Its not clear to me that a lot happens aesthetically between the Boston period - which ends at the start of 1960 and mid 1961. SP emerges as very resistant to criticism.

Steve has commissioned some work for the Learning Grid from me - more chargeable time - hooray.

Still watching Doors DVD - doesnít seem to get any worse. I have realized that the 1968 concert starts with a Glass rip-off on the organ - an extended opening to The End with a cross-rhythm which extends additively - very impressive - it sounds great and cranks the tension until JM comes in.

Back to Nico. From Bruceís Fingers the new Su Lyn has arrived - produced Simon Fell. S Fell is other important musician from Fitzwilliam and BF is his label. Fell admits to influence by J H Prynne - the nex big Cambs poet after Plath-Hughes . Su Lynn is the vocalist of the BF label. At first pass it sounds a bit like Marble Index - enough said?

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