Personal / Universal



Personal                              -                      Universal
Individual                           -                      Collective




Personal causes have as much or as little to do with a work of art as the soil with the plant that springs from it.

We can certainly learn to understand some of the plant's peculiarities by getting to know its habitat, and for the botanist this is an important part of his equipment. But nobody will maintain that everything essential has then been discovered about the plant itself.

[...] the special significance of a true work of art resides in the fact that it has escaped from the limitations of the personal and has soared beyond the personal concerns of its creator.

[...] a work of art is not transmitted or derived - it is a creative reorganization of those very conditions to which a causalistic psychology must always reduce it [...] the meaning and individual quality of a work of art inhere within it and not in its extrinsic determinants.

[C.G. Jung]
On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry
found in The Norton Anthology: Theory and Criticism
, p.994





The kind of blogging I do has to be based in personal obsession, in spats and rivalry, in a kind of light, oblique but perpetual autobiography.

There has to be a subject for all this data to make any sort of situated sense, and that subject has to be seen to have a body, clothes, a way to wear those clothes, and so on.

As soon as I get tugged out of that embodied, situated world I get bored and anxious and mistrustful.

I want to know always who's speaking, how old they are, what culture they were raised in, what their vested interests are, and so on.

For me, the Anon is suspicious because I can't see what s/he looks like or what life his/her comment is rooted in. For the Anons (or some of them), I'm the suspicious one, because my comments are far too obviously rooted in an ego, a persona.

[Momus]





Somehow, a creative product must give a sense of reconciliation, of having resolved in an aesthetic and harmonious way the discords and disharmonies present in the original situation.

The work of art, for example, for a moment re-orders and brings into balance the tensions of form and space, and in so doing, moderates the inner tensions of the observer, giving him a sense of encounter and fulfilment.

By identifying ourselves, however fleetingly, with the creator, we can participate in the integrating process which he has carried out for himself.  

The more universal the problem with which the artist is dealing, the more universal his appeal.

This is why the pursuit of the personal, the neurotic, and the infantile in the work of artists is ultimately unrewarding, although it will always have some interest.

[Anthony Storr]
The Dynamics of Creation, p.236





[...] the mind of an artist, in order to achieve the prodigious effort of freeing whole and entire the work that is in him, must be incandescent, like Shakespeare's mind [...] There must be no obstacle in it, no foreign matter unconsumed.

All desire to protest, to preach, to proclaim an injury, to pay off a score, to make the world the witness of some hardship or grievance that was fired out of him and consumed. Therefore his poetry flows from him free and unimpeded.

Clearly her mind has by no means 'consumed all impediments and become incandescent'. On the contrary, it is harassed and distracted with hates and grievances.

One might say, I continued, laying the book down beside Pride and Prejudice, that the woman who wrote those pages had more genius in her than Jane Austen; but if one reads them over and marks that jerk in them, that indignation, one sees that she will never get her genius expressed whole and entire.

Her books will be deformed and twisted. She will write in a rage where she should write calmly. She will write foolishly where she should write wisely. She will write of herself where she should write of her characters. She is at war with her lot.

[Virginia Woolf]
A Room of One's Own, p.66, 68, 80-1





Montaigne’s subject, officially, was himself, but this was mostly as a means to facilitate the discussion […] He was mainly interested in discovering things about himself, making us discover things about himself, and presenting matters that could be generalised - generalised to the entire human race.

Among the inscriptions in his study was a remark by the Latin poet Terence: Homo sum, humani a me nil alienum puto - I am a man, and nothing human is foreign to me.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan, p. 191




It has gradually become clear to me what every great philosophy has hitherto been: a confession on the part of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir; moreover, that the moral (or immoral) intentions in every philosophy have every time constituted the real germ of life out of which the entire plant has grown. 

To explain how a philosopher's most remote metaphysical assertions have actually been arrived at, it is always well (and wise) to ask oneself first: what morality does this (does he -) aim at? 

I accordingly do not believe a 'drive to knowledge' to be the father of philosophy, but that another drive has, here as elsewhere, only employed knowledge (and false knowledge!) as a tool. But anyone who looks at the basic drives of mankind to see to what extent they may in precisely this connection have come into play as inspirational spirits (or demons and kobolds-) will discover that they have all at some time or other practised philosophy - and that each one of them would be only too glad to present itself as the ultimate goal of existence and as the legitimate master of all the other drives. 

For every drive is tyrannical: and it is as such that it tries to philosophize. - In the case of scholars, to be sure, in the case of really scientific men, things may be different - 'better', if you will - there may really exist something like a drive to knowledge there, some little independent clockwork which, when wound up, works bravely on without any of the scholar's other drives playing any essential part. The scholar's real 'interests' therefore generally lie in quite another direction, perhaps in his family or in making money or in politics; it is indeed, almost a matter of indifference whether his little machine is set up in this region of science or that, whether the 'promising young worker makes himself into a good philologist or a specialist in fungus or a chemist - he is not characterized by becoming this or that. 

In the philosopher, on the contrary, there is nothing whatever impersonal; and, above all, his morality bears decided and decisive testimony to who he is - that is to say, to the order of rank the innermost drives of his nature stand in relative to one another.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 6




When […] Kant philosophizes, say on ethical ideas, he maintains the validity of his theses for men of all times and places. 

He does not say this in so many words, for, for himself and his readers, it is something that goes without saying. In his √¶sthetics he formulates the principles, not of Phidias's art, or Rembrandt's art, but of Art generally. 

But what he poses as necessary forms of thought are in reality only necessary forms of Western thought, though a glance at Aristotle and his essentially different conclusions should have sufficed to show that Aristotle's intellect, not less penetrating than his own, was of different structure from it. 

The categories of the Westerner are just as alien to Russian thought as those of the Chinaman or the ancient Greek are to him. For us, the effective and complete comprehension of Classical root-words is just as impossible as that of Russian and Indian, and for the modern Chinese or Arab, with their utterly different intellectual constitutions, “philosophy from Bacon to Kant" has only a curiosity-value. 

It is this that is lacking to the Western thinker, the very thinker in whom we might have expected to find it — insight into the historically relative character of his data, which are expressions of one specific existence and one only; knowledge of the necessary limits of their validity; the conviction that his "unshakable" truths and “eternal" views are simply true for him and eternal for his world-view; the duty of looking beyond them to find out what the men of other Cultures have with equal certainty evolved out of themselves. 

That and nothing else will impart completeness to the philosophy of the future, and only through an understanding of the living world shall we understand the symbolism of history. Here there is nothing constant, nothing universal. We must cease to speak of the forms of “Thought," the principles of "Tragedy," the mission of The State." 

Universal validity involves always the fallacy of arguing from particular to particular.

[Oswald Spengler]
The Decline of the West, Vol. 1, p. 23



Within and for the purposes of the world that Classical man evolved for himself, the Classical mathematic was a complete thing - it is merely not so for us. 

We, having minds differently constituted, must not argue from our habits to theirs and treat their mathematic as a “first stage" in the development of “Mathematics." […] It must be repeated, “Mathematics" is an illusion. 

A mathematical, and, generally, a scientific way of thinking is right, convincing, a "necessity of thought," when it completely expresses the life-feeling proper to it. Otherwise it is either impossible, futile and senseless, or else, as we in the arrogance of our historical soul like to say, “primitive." 

The modern mathematic, though "true" only for the Western spirit, is undeniably a master-work of that spirit; and yet to Plato it would have seemed a ridiculous and painful aberration from the path leading to the "true" - to wit, the Classical - mathematic. 

And so with ourselves. Plainly, we have almost no notion of the multitude of great ideas belonging to other Cultures that we have suffered to lapse because our thought with its limitations has not permitted us to assimilate them, or (which comes to the same thing) has led us to reject them as false, superfluous, and nonsensical.

[Oswald Spengler]
The Decline of the West, Vol. 1, p. 67



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