Home

The Romantics argued that at the core of being there is an authentic self that is pure in nature, although corruptible by society. What made the Romantic era unique within the context of the evolutionary history of empathic consciousness is the great stress placed on what Rousseau, and later Wordsworth and Whitman, called the “Sentiment of Being.”

1755 In “Discourse on the Origins and Foundations of Inequality among Men” Rousseau argued that the noble savage man, alienated from others was more authentic than the hypocritical, servile social man who tells people what they want to hear. Kant developed the concept of the “enlarged mentality” – the ability to exercise empathy, to “stand up in the mind of others”.

“the savage lives within himself; the social man lives always outside himself; he knows how to live only in the opinion of others, it is, so to speak from their judgment along that he derives the sense of his own existence.”

The social man is someone who cares only about appearances. Rousseau abandoned Paris (and the modern age) for rural isolation claiming that even the politeness of the city promoted corruption. He concluded that,

“We have only a deceptive and frivolous outward appearance, honour without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness. It suffices for me to to have proved that this is not the original state of man, and that it is only the spirit of society and the inequality it engenders which thus transform and corrupt all our natural inclinations.”

Rousseau sees human history as beginning with the struggle for mutual recognition that Hegel analyzed as the master-slave dialectic. Rousseau’s Sentiment of Being.”

1762 Rousseau’s self-help book on proper parenting entitled Emile was published.

1790s Rousseau’s self-help book on proper parenting entitled Emile rose in popularity at the dawn of the Romantic period. Romantics were attracted to Rousseau’s emphasis on nurturing the child’s natural instincts in direct opposition to John Locke’s assertion that children are born a tabula rasa, a blank slate. Rousseau argued that children who are naturally inclined towards the good and that childhood is a time for parents to honour and nurture their children so their naturally good instincts will develop (See Rifkin EC:354).

1790s Jane Austin introduced the two sisters Elinor and Marianne in her satire of dominant currents of the later 18th century entitled Sense and Sensibility (published in 1811). The reliable, predictable Elinor, who is the voice of reason, has a deep sense of responsibility, keeps her emotions in check, fulfills her social responsibilities but ultimately finds happiness when she discovers her inner sensibility and finally marries her true love. The overly emotional, romantic, Marianne is spontaneous to the point of being irresponsible represents the bleeding heart liberal governed entirely by passions and desires. She finds happiness when she balances her exercises more sense and reason in her decision-making and actions. keywords: ideological thinking. See Rifkin (EC:320).

1805 In The Prelude begun in his twenties by Romantic poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850)’s semi-autobiographical poem of his lifelong spiritual journey. early years spiritual autobiography, he associated the experience of beauty as transcending rational thought: Wordsworth’s “Sentiment of Being.” See Trilling 1972 Sincerity and Authenticity.

The song would speak
          Of that interminable building reared
          By observation of affinities
          In objects where no brotherhood exists
          To passive minds. My seventeenth year was come
          And, whether from this habit rooted now
          So deeply in my mind, or from excess
          In the great social principle of life
          Coercing all things into sympathy,                         390
          To unorganic natures were transferred
          My own enjoyments; or the power of truth
          Coming in revelation, did converse
          With things that really are; I, at this time,
          Saw blessings spread around me like a sea.
          Thus while the days flew by, and years passed on,
          From Nature and her overflowing soul,
          I had received so much, that all my thoughts
          Were steeped in feeling; I was only then
          Contented, when with bliss ineffable                       400
          I felt the sentiment of Being spread
          O'er all that moves and all that seemeth still;
          O'er all that, lost beyond the reach of thought
          And human knowledge, to the human eye
          Invisible, yet liveth to the heart;
          O'er all that leaps and runs, and shouts and sings,
          Or beats the gladsome air; o'er all that glides
          Beneath the wave, yea, in the wave itself,
          And mighty depth of waters. Wonder not
          If high the transport, great the joy I felt,               410
          Communing in this sort through earth and heaven
          With every form of creature, as it looked
          Towards the Uncreated with a countenance
          Of adoration, with an eye of love.
          One song they sang, and it was audible,
          Most audible, then, when the fleshly ear,
          O'ercome by humblest prelude of that strain
          Forgot her functions, and slept undisturbed.

Whitman “Sentiment of Being.”

1807 G.W.F. Hegel major philosophical work entitled  Phänomenologie des Geistes [Phenomenology of Mind, Phenomenology of Spirit] was published. Hegel traced the evolution of consciousness distinguishing between lower and higher levels of consciousness. In the section entitled “Self Consciousness > A: Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness > Lordship and Bondage” Hegel developed the Master-slave dialectic.

1870 In “St. Paul and Protestantism” Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) wrote,

Below the surface stream, shallow and light,
Of what we say and feel — below the stream,
As light, of what we think we feel, there flows
With noiseless current, strong, obscure and deep,
The central stream of what we feel indeed.

Trilling cited this in Sincerity and Authenticity (1972).

1968 Student uprisings at Columbia University, Trilling’s academic intellectuals community. The adversary culture, the cruder form of liberalism, asserted itself. Complex arena of mental struggles were forced into the arena of simple political struggles. Moral, psychological, social selves that we imagined ourselves possessing were split and fragmented and a “dissociation of sensibility” took over. Wordsworth and Rousseau are crucial to Trlling in Sincerity and Authenticity.

1972 Trilling, Lionel. 1969-70. Sincerity and Authenticity. Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard published in 1972. “It comprises a history of the elaborate development of mind and self since Shakespeare, a brief consideration of certain literary texts he sees as central, a polemical refutation of some prophets of our time, and an authorial credo that conceals hope about literature while it counsels stoic resignation about life. And as his last argument with the forceful reality of death, it is also Trilling’s attempt to discover a means by which estrangement of self from self might at last be resolved. Trilling’s authentic authenticity is perhaps best embodied in Conrad of Heart of Darkness. Lesser authenticities Chace, William M. Lionel Trilling, criticism and politics. Lionel Trilling makes the point that authenticity is not to be confused with sincerity, which is being true to one’s social self. Authenticity runs deeper-it is, in the words of Trilling, a “primitive” strength that is continually compromised by society. Maintaining one’s core authenticity, for Rousseau and the Romantics, required a life of personal suffering and constant attention and sympathy to the plight of others. Only the alientated could enter into this world (Rifkin EC:350).

Sartre, the French existential philosopher of the mid-twentieth century, defined the sentiment of being as the place where

“each of us finds himself as well as the others. The common place belongs to me; in me, it

 

 

1990 Kenneth D. Bailey defined social entropy  as “a measure of social system structure, having both theoretical and statistical interpretations, i.e. society (macrosocietal variables) measured in terms of how the individual functions in society (microsocietal variables); also related to social equilibrium” in his publication entitled Social Entropy Theory. (State University of New York Press).

1999 In their publication entitled A Primer of Jungian Psychology  , (New York: Meridian), Calvin S. Hall and J. Vernon described “psychological entropy as the distribution of energy in the psyche, which tends to seek equilibrium or balance among all the structures of the psyche.”

Robinson, Jeffrey Cane. The current of romantic passion.


Digitage on Barbara Kruger's Nature/Culture Barbara Krueger’s (1983) “We Won’t Play Nature to your Culture” somehow comes to mind when reading Žižek on nature/culture.

During breaks I would walk through empty rooms to discover changes curators had made in their spaces. I was a teenager when I began to feel at home in the silent, often light-filled buildings that held public art collections. I was annoyed by, resented, then was intrigued by, read about, studied, spent time with pieces that came to be my favourites. Visual artists were deeply informed about and experimenting with emerging, complex theories, cultural studies, political philosophy . . . academics did their best to avoid them until it became impossible to do so.

Reading Slavoj Žižek’s Organs without Bodies is a lot like my non-linear NGC meanderings in the 1990s. His writing provokes me but there is enough brilliance there that makes me keep his book in the reading stand beside my monitor, opened at different pages on different days. He is not a lazy thinker. Each page is like a hypertext reader indexing a myriad of artists, philosophers, scientists and entrepreneurs. He discusses Hawkins, Hegel, Heidegger and Hitchcock with equal comfort because he has actually ‘read’ and analysed’ their work.

I was drawn to his chapter section on hyphen-ethics more because of the probing, unsettling questions it raises than because of his conclusions. It will be one of those recurring themes that will be part of my own lifelong teaching, learning and research.

“What is false with todays discussion concerning the ethical consequences of biogenetics is that it is rapidly turning into what Germans call Bindenstrich-Ethik, the ethics of the hyphen – technology-ethics, environment-ethics, and so on. This ethics does have a role to play, a role homologous to that of the provisional ethic Descartes mentions at the beginning of his Discourse on Method: when we engage on a new path, full of dangers and shattering new insights, we need to stick to old established rules as a practical guide for our daily lives, although we are well aware that the new insights will compel us to provide a fresh foundation for our entire ethical edifice (in Descartes case, this new foundation was provided by Kant, in his ethics of subjective autonomy). Today, we are in the same predicament: the provisional ethics cannot replace the need for a thorough reflection of the emerging New (Žižek 2004:123).”

“In short, what gets lost here, in this hyphen-ethics, is simply ethics as such. The problem is not that universal ethics gets dissolved in particular topics but, on the contrary, that particular scientific breakthroughs are directly confronted with the old humanist “values” (say, how biogenetics affects our sense of dignity and autonomy). This, then, is the choice we are confronting today: either we choose the typically postmodern stance of reticence (let’s not go to the end, let’s keep a proper distance toward the scientific Thing so that this Thing will not draw us into a black hole, destroying all our moral and human notions), or we dare to “tarry with the negative (das Verweilen beim Negativen),” that is, we dare to fully examine the consequences of scientific modernity with the wager that “our Mind is a genome” will also function as an infinite judgment (Žižek 2004:123-4).”

“The main consequence of the scientific breakthrough in biogenetics is the end of nature. Once we know the rules of its construction, natural organisms are transformed into objects amenable to manipulation. Nature, human and inhuman, is thus “desubstantialized,” deprived of its impenetrable density, of what Heidegger called “earth.” Biogenetics, with its reduction of the human psyche itself to an object of technological manipulation, is therefore effectively a kind of empirical instantiation of what Heidegger perceived as the “danger” inherent to modern technology. Crucial here is the interdepedence of man and nature: by reducing man to just another object whose properties can be manipulated, what we lose is not (only) humanity but nature itself. In this sense, Francis Fukuyama is right. Humanity itself relies on some notion of “human nature” as what we inherited and was simply given to us, the impenetrable dimension in/of ourselves into which we are born/thrown. The paradox is thus that there is man only insofar as there is inhuman nature (Heidegger’s “earth”). (Žižek 2004:124).”

Notes
Slavoj Žižek is a dialectical-materialist philosopher and psychoanalyst. He also co-directs the International Centre for Humanities at Birkbeck College. The Parallax View appeared last year.

Webliography and Bibliography

Žižek, Slavoj. 2004. “Against hyphen-ethics.” Organs without Bodies: on Deleuze and Consequences. New York/London: Routledge. pp. 123-132.

Titles >> Subtitles: Organs without Bodies >> on Deleuze and Consequences >> Consequences >> Science >> Cognitivism with Freud, Autopoiesis, Memes, Memes Everywhere, Against Hyphen-Ethics, Cognitive Closure?, “Little Jolts of Enjoyment”,

folksonomy: cultural studies, theory, philosophy, Deleuze, globalization, democracy, democratization, war on terror, Joan Copjec, biogenetics, hyphen-ethics, capitalism, Richard Dawkins, Jacques Derrida, Daniel Dennett, ethics, Ethical turn, Habermas, Kant, Laclau, Levinas, Lacan, Varela, religion, Pascal, Spinoza, The Quite American, Hegel, Heidegger, Massumi, Fukuyama, liberal democracy, Self, personhood, ethics, mind/brain, mind body, psychoanalysis, nature/culture, technology, mind and consciousness,

More by Slavoj Žižek:

Žižek, Slavoj. 2003. “Bring me my Philips Mental Jacket: Slavoj Žižek welcomes the prospect of biogenetic intervention.” London Review of Books. 25:10. May.

Žižek, Slavoj. 1999. “Attempts to Escape the Logic of Capitalism.” Review of Vaclav Havel: A Political Tragedy in Six Acts by John Keane.” London Review of Books. 21:21. October 28.

Žižek, Slavoj. 1999. ‘You May!’ London Review of Books. 21:6. 18 March.