A WILDERNESS TO HIMSELF: ILLUSTRATIONS AND ANALOGIES OF A (SOMETIME) PERSONAL ITINERARY
A perspicuous representation produces just that understanding
which consists in ‘seeing connections.’
... because the bourgeois concept of individuality contained the
call for its socialization ... its adaptation to social norms, and
because that has been the case ever since the concept of
individuality became dominant, it has had its shadow side,
namely the crisis of individuality.
The title of the work which follows, From Sight through to In-Sight, finds its first justification in the first sentence of Joseph Conrad’s famous Preface to his The Nigger of the “Narcissus”. The most famous phrase in this Preface is where Conrad says that his job as an artist is “to make you see”. And it has long been read as a sense of sense in two senses: namely, empirical sight with presumably the mind’s “eye”, and “seeing” in the colloquial sense of “understanding”. But to start where Conrad does, consider the following (the opening) sentence: “A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art should carry its justification in every line.” I read this sense of “justification” in both the senses mentioned above, necessarily: if you like, scientifically and teleologically. Which is to say, the reasoning adverted to is both a matter of the genetic development of a story with its august sense of eventual destiny, as well as a more synchronic story about a/the story – the transcendental story, if you will, which the empirical story tells – its meta-story. As will become clearer from what follows, these two levels of story-telling are not externally opposed to each other nor mutually exclusive. Rather, from here onwards, it will be seen that the transcendental level of sense and the empirical level of sense are like spirit and letter, two dual “aspects” or reading directions asked of the same phenomenon.
Re-Cognition and the Salutary Weight of (the) Object(ivity)
The ethical impulse of Adorno’s thinking, what it is to think the
world as disenchanted, is fundamentally orientated by remorse,
the need to make restitution, to repair the damage done, to
seek reconciliation, to make amends. Only the backward-looking
impulse, when elaborated, can do justice to the present in a
manner that would redeem the hopes of the past.
If we could have remembrance now
And see, as in the days to come
We shall, what’s venturous in these hours...
In the Introduction to this study, I invoked the revolutionary pattern or structure of “love” as typifying that work – “mourning” in another guise (see Prologue) – which is incumbent upon a hopeful stance in a world bereft of a previously stable, accepted and given anchor and purpose. The implication was that a Modernist aesthetic involved certain ethics: in a time when the self or its auctoritas was beginning to be endangered, that of finding futurity by means of a backward glance, like the Owl of Minerva famously invoked by Hegel. This is what is commonly intended by the term “re-cognition”. And yet it is significant that this last term, anagnorisis,is the closing strophe of the traditional structure of “tragedy”. I connect the latter with that love’s work already discussed, by stressing how in both, the weight, and the salutary weight of necessity, or objectivity, is given its due.