PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue No. 195 21st August 2015
Edited by Mike Adams
I. 'Aesthetic Intuition Apodicticity' by Wilson Hurst
II. 'Purism: Meta-Politicized Concrescence and Critique' by Lorena Morales Aparicio
III. 'Poly-Subjectivism at the Cosmic Dinner Table' by Mike Adams
Welcome to Issue 195 of Philosophy Pathways, devoted to the confluence of art and philosophy. Contributors Lorena Morales Aparicio, Wilson Hurst, and I are students of the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts (IDSVA), a low-residency PhD program in Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory. IDSVA is based in Portland, Maine, USA, with residencies held around the world. Lorena, Wilson, and I are geographically dispersed, representing the East, West, and Middle of the continent; and, in some ways these essays mirror intellectually this physical separation. Yet, these essays are linked thematically by their exploration of art and philosophy. I like to think of art, half-jokingly, as applied metaphysics, an endeavor that makes visible the ideas of philosophy. One could also say, to avoid a pecking-order, that philosophy turns the ideas of art into a (hopefully reasonably) logical discourse. Ideally, art and philosophy should support each other, recognizing commonalities, but allowing that there are irreconcilable divergences of method and intent.
An overarching theme of these essays is an exploration of how art intersects with ideas -- how art both reflects existing ideas and promulgates new ones. Wilson's paper explores intuition in the creative process from two vantage points, that of the artist and of the philosopher (the ultimate goal, of course, is becoming an artist-philosopher!). My paper uses Cubism as a metaphor for the fracturing of a dominant subjectivity, in other words, arguing for a multiplicity of valid viewpoints from which to experience the world. In general, we see an attempt on the part of all of this issue's contributors to bridge a gap between the Anglo-American and Continental traditions, even when we do not explicitly acknowledge an opposition.
In Lorena's paper this is least obvious because she is not making a direct comparison between Anglophone authors and Continental ones. Nonetheless, her work reveals the influence of American Pragmatism in the sense that she sees Purism as a movement in painting that was intended as a political critique intended to bolster democracy. This, I would say, is the ghost of John Dewey that pervades American philosophy to this day: the idea that change can be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. There are certain parallels here with the American Revolution versus the French Revolution (or the Russian Revolution). The American Revolution was primarily political. Social structures did not change greatly, unlike in France and Russia after their respective revolutions. Needless to say, there is a kind of conservative bent in Anglo-American thought that sees Continental thought as 'too radical,' too willing to use language in a 'suspiciously poetic' manner. However, our own program at IDSVA engages late 20th century French philosophy to a great extent, and from a personal standpoint, it was a profound and startling revelation that thinkers like Jacques Derrida and Jean-Francois Lyotard are such admirers of Immanuel Kant. My point is that these French thinkers go back to Kant, who was not only the godfather of the study of aesthetics as we know it, but also the great reconciler of the empiricism of the Anglophone school, and the rationalism of the Continental school. The 'rift' between the Anglo-American and Continental schools today is probably overstated, and from my standpoint not particularly useful. I think that you will agree that our contributors avoid falling strictly into either camp.
I would like to thank Geoffrey Klempner for the opportunity and honor to edit this issue, and of course, Lorena and Wilson, who put up with editorial suggestions from me in the midst of their busy schedules. My boyfriend, Derek Scheips, was the go-to-guy for English usage questions, and acted as editor for my essay. My mother, Roberta Adams, was the steadfast proofreader for this issue. I am sure my fellow authors join me in extending gratitude to our faculty at IDSVA who acted as advisors on these papers. Thanks to you all.
(c) Mike Adams 2015
About the editor: https:---
I. 'AESTHETIC INTUITION APODICTICITY' BY WILSON HURST
This essay is about the problems of philosophical intuition and its potential aesthetic currency. From the position of a working artist, several questions ensue: how is intuition defined, how does it occur, is it valuable, and can it be nurtured? The idealist philosopher, Benedetto Croce, especially important for promoting intuition's role in aesthetics, notably asserted, 'Art is intuition,' (8). John Mill argued that external truth is intuitively dependent on experience (Kenny IV: 9). Immanuel Kant considered intuition as the process of sensing or the act of having a sensation (Critique of Pure Reason line 649). Aristotle argued that scientific knowledge is intuitively apprehended (33). However, how does this reconcile with claims that the intellect and intuition are entirely separate modalities as positioned by Henri Bergson (Creative Evolution 70)? Situated within biological evolution, Bergson relates intuition to a harmonic but disinterested instinctual force penetrating 'duration' (Creative Mind 165) and the 'vital impulse' (CE 139). To be disinterested is to harbor no interest in something, completely uninfluenced by considerations of personal advantage.
The above references indicate, and John Dewey promotes that, 'The term intuition is one of the most ambiguous in the whole range of thought,' (294). Nevertheless, as I will articulate in the following discourse, understanding intuition supports creative expression, the soul of artistic achievement. Elaborating on intuition's role in aesthetics, Croce tells us that 'What we admire in genuine works of art is the perfect imaginative form that a state of mind assumes there; and this is called the life, unity, compactness, and fullness of the work of art,' (25). In Bergson's analysis, art when based on intuition provides direct (immediate) access to reality, unobstructed by mediating reason. Intuition is often considered an immediate form of knowledge, in which the knower is directly acquainted with the object of knowledge. In this essay, I will argue that intuition, as a valuable cognitive creative process, is neither immediate nor disinterested. I will do this by expanding on ample classical philosophical ideas in the discourse archive, considering intuition in relationship to cognitive processing as much as the product of that process. To elucidate this investigation through a quick reference to history, I chose Aristotle from ancient philosophy, Baruch Spinoza from early modern and Immanuel Kant from modern philosophy, and Edmund Husserl from early twentieth century philosophy. Aristotle's dominance in ancient Greek philosophy influenced subsequent conceptualizations of intuition detached from experience. For Spinoza, reason operates incrementally while intuition is an immediate mental revelation. Both of these thinkers' positions represent views with which I am in partial opposition. In Kant's definition, intuitions are mental representations generated by sense perceptions structured by space and time. I favor this experiential explanation, although consider cognitively it is more broadly applicable. Husserl established phenomenology, advancing consciousness intentionality implying an interestedness component sustaining intuition.
My intuition interpretation is grounded in the subjective aesthetic drive, the universal need to produce, the essence of creative evolution. In addition to arguing that intuition is neither immediate nor disinterested, I will also argue that intuitive consciousness provides a mental environment in which creative expression flourishes, and this mental state can be actively developed. In support of this position, I will enlist Henri Bergson, Benedetto Croce, and the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. In terms of potentially identifying its indiscernible origin, linking intuition with instinct is a reasonable connection. 'It is to the very inwardness of life that intuition leads us -- by intuition I mean instinct that has become disinterested, self-conscious, capable of reflecting upon its object and of enlarging it indefinitely,' (Bergson CE 176). Cartier-Bresson answers Bergson by stating, 'In photography, visual organization can stem only from a developed instinct,' (43) (fig 1).
Although Bergson distinguishes instinct from intuition because intuition is 'disinterested,' I will argue that intuition is a kind of instinct developed through experience. With the phrase 'To intuit is to express,' Croce directly connects intuition with aesthetics, claiming that art knowledge is a product of intuition. The consequence of intuition's extent is evidenced by originality contributed to the human experience. Creative expression is defined as a display, materialization, or revelation of a thought, generally for transmission. Here 'creative' relates to and involves the imagination in generating innovative ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. In the creative process, something new and valuable is fashioned. Originality is 'unforeseeability itself,' (Bergson CE 95). Intuition functioning as a process to spark inventive insight thus has inherent value. As an expression of relative worth, artists construct and continue constructing. Equating imagination with invention -- a form of construction -- Paul Klee's relation between intuition and imagination is relevant to this argument. Klee acknowledges the importance of intuition in his artwork when he explicates the following: '[I]ntuition is still a good thing. A considerable amount can be done without it, but not all.' (159) (fig 2).
As a tool to see beyond the conventional and the obvious, intuition is a source of inspiration and invention.
Rationality is the process or condition of cognition, contingent on fact or reason, instead of feeling or emotion. Aristotle states that humans have a rational principle in addition to the instinctual life shared with other animals (318). Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, for establishing and verifying facts, for applying logic, and adapting behavior and thought based on new or existing information. Cognition is mental processing by which sensory input is interpreted, altered, elaborated, condensed, stored, retrieved, and deployed. Kant distinguishes between speculative theoretical cognition which 'relates to an object... which is not given and cannot be discovered by means of experience,' opposed to natural cognition, 'which concerns only those objects or predicates which can be presented in a possible experience,' (Critique of Pure Reason line 15305). Thus, cognition includes attention, reasoning, planning, problem solving, understanding and using symbols, memory, and decision-making. Consciousness is cognitive awareness of an external object or something within oneself. The unconscious, subconscious, and preconscious are all distinctions of cognition that function below awareness. Each of these three terms has been variously defined, with their own established connotations. For the purpose of simplicity, I will combine these three below-awareness states together under the moniker of the avant-conscious. Intuition bridges the avant-conscious and consciousness. Is intuition ontologically idealistic or materialistic, epistemically rational or empirical, or none of these? Perhaps intuition is all of these and more, depending on the interpreter.
Now let us investigate mental processing distinctions, supporting a necessary understanding of intuition to sustain the argument that intuition is an avant-conscious process employing all cognitive modalities. As we have seen, intuition is a nebulous concept, a vague evaluation of comprehension precisely unidentified as to its source, but affecting decision-making. Can intuition involve a sensory element irreducible to thought, or is intuition a function of thought? Aristotle's metaphysics positioned intuition as part of the intellect, but 'at the point where ideas are farthest removed from experience and immediate perception,' (Russell 166). So in effect, my argument is in opposition to the Aristotelian concept of intuition as removed from experience and immediate. Yet I do agree with him on the focus and importance of intuition as part of the intellect. 'The intellectual virtues are then excellences that make reason come out with truth. There are five states, Aristotle says, that have this effect: skill, science, wisdom, understanding, and intuition,' (Kenny I: 271). Spinoza also allows for the magnitude of intuition, formulating an epistemological theory based on three tiers of knowledge: imagination, reason, and intuition (Kenny III: 67). 'Knowledge of the third kind is called by Spinoza 'intuitive knowledge,' and it is clearly the form of knowledge that is most to be valued,' (Kenny III: 141). Intuition grasps the essence, understanding universal features and their universal causal order (fig 3).
'This kind of knowledge precedes from an adequate idea of... the essence of things,' (Spinoza Ethics 57). Kant believed both time and space are forms of pure intuition, framing our environment but logically functioning independent of experience (Russell 708). Thus, space and time are structural forms that dictate sensation-processing parameters, but are neither the process itself nor the resulting product. Kant argues that concepts arise from the understanding of intuitions, 'by means of sensibility, therefore, objects are given to us, and it alone furnishes us with intuitions; by the understanding they are thought, and from it arise conceptions,' (CPR line 1716). For Kant, intuitions are synonymous with perception while concepts necessarily contain some empirical or sensory evidence. Cartier-Bresson seems to concur when he states, 'Above all, I craved to seize, in the confines of one single photograph, the whole essence of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes,' (22) (fig 4).
For Kant, thinking is only possible by means of universal concepts in the abstract, not by means of a singular concept in the concrete. Thus, mediated knowledge of the understanding is distinct from the immediate knowledge of intuition. 'All our intuition is bound to a certain principle of form, and it is only under this form that anything can be apprehended by the mind immediately,' (Kant CPR 307). 'The whole Kantian conception is summed up in this cerebrated sentence: 'without intuition the concept is empty; without the concept intuition is blind,'' (Kojeve 117). By this account, somehow intuition directly apprehends objects by means of formal principles. Kant's description of intuition as synonymous with perception is specific and limiting, not representative of a complete working definition. Intuition by most other accounts is a mental modality beyond sensory perception. Thomas Aquinas opens the possibility that intuition is associated with the intellect: 'But intellect and reason differ as to their manner of knowing; because the intellect knows by simple intuition, while reason knows by a process of discursion from one thing to another,' (391). It is interesting how Aquinas here anticipates both Hegel and Bergson. In this capacity, the intellect is associated with the ability to conclude correctly what is true or real, and how to solve problems. John Locke claimed, 'We can have no knowledge except (1) by intuition, (2) by reason, examining the agreement or disagreement of two ideas, (3) by sensation, perceiving the existence of particular things,' (Russell 612). In this case even a staunch empiricist places intuitive knowledge first, separate from perception and reason.
Although Bergson makes a clear distinction between intellect and intuition, he does allow that we can 'probably be aided in this [intellect] by the fringe of vague intuition that surrounds our distinct -- that is, intellectual -- representation,' (CE 24). Thus, the intellect can be influenced by a disconnected intuition. Piet Mondrian echoes this sentiment, as the 'intellect confuses intuition,' (fig 5).
Here Mondrian is indicating a compartmentalized notion of intuition, as something separate but detrimentally susceptible to intellectual contamination. Cordoning off thought processes into distinct unaffecting regions, however, seems problematic. As mental powers to think, understand, and form judgments, reason is probably constantly functioning, although perhaps not always in conspicuous conscious awareness. Thinking about the relationships between sensation, perception, and intuition, creativity is balanced across these modalities. Sensation is the most easily definable, as simply the stimulation of the biological sensory system. In the case of vision that would be activation of the rods and cones, which restrict what small part of electromagnetic radiation is made available (less than one percent of the total electromagnetic spectrum) by human anatomy. Perception is the cognitive process that assigns meaning to these raw sensations by organization, identification, and interpretation (fig 6).
Perception is memory and intellect directly linked to signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical or chemical stimulation of the sense organs. So sensation is the raw input from sensory receptors, while perception is the identification, interpretation, and organization of sensory signals used to represent and understand those raw inputs.
So far, we have looked at processing distinctions, supporting the argument that although functioning below awareness, intuition employs all cognition. An interpretation of Husserl's philosophical ideas supports my argument that intuition functions below awareness. He believed pure intuitions occur in autonomous thinking. His phenomenology is a descriptive, non-reductive investigation of whatever appears in the consciousness, in the manner of its appearing. Evidence is experience, and genuine knowledge is intuitive, rather than what is established by inference and deduction. Recognized inferences and deductions would manifest in aware consciousness. Because intuitions function below awareness, their mental process associations are not readily apparent. Yet intuition can engage universals, abstract objects, propositions, and a multiplicity of evident forms of perception. Entering into dialogue with Bergson, Husserl's philosophical investigations featured intentionality of consciousness as thought is always directed toward or about objects. He developed the idea of intuition modalities. In this regard, he distinguished between sensible intuition, categorical intuition, and eidetic intuition. Through sensible intuition, our consciousness passively formulates a 'situation of affairs' where objects themselves are presented. To this situation of affairs, ontological categories relate objects through a faculty of understanding called categorical intuition to create a 'state of affairs.' Eidetic intuition (essential intuition) establishes possibility, impossibility, certainty, and contingency among concepts and categories. For Husserl, truth is mainly intuition informing judgment with reference to interest.
This next section investigates the temporal nature of intuition sustaining the argument that as a process, intuition is not instantaneous. Sometimes it seems intuition is immediate, as it suddenly springs into awareness. The term immediate refers to something occurring or done at once, in an instant. 'For me the camera is... an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously,' (Cartier-Bresson 15) (fig 7).
However, this is actually the result of an avant-conscious progression. John Dewey tells us 'intuition is that meeting of the old and new in which the readjustment involved in every form of consciousness is effected suddenly by means of a quick and unexpected harmony which in its bright abruptness is like a flash of revelation; although in fact it is prepared for by long and slow incubation,' (266). This supports the conception that although a product of intuition might seem to appear suddenly, in a flash of inspiration, the avant-conscious process has a long gestation period.
'An intellect bent upon the act to be performed and the reaction to follow, feeling its object so as to get its mobile impression at every instant, is an intellect that touches something of the absolute,' (Bergson CE 7). Nevertheless, what is an instant? A systematic series of actions or steps directed to achieve a particular end, any process requires time elapse (fig 8).
There is a limit to the amount of active information focusable in conscious awareness. Underneath this critical conscious thought layer, a potent processing capacity of the avant-conscious mind churns. 'My mental state, as it advances on the road of time, is continually swelling with the duration which it accumulates,' (Bergson CE 10). In the case of intuition, the associated 'gut feeling' that often is reported as integral, necessarily results from a development period, a naturally progressive continuing operation of ripeness. The totality of mental processes, most of which operates in the avant-consciousness, comprises a repository of knowledge and prior experience informing intuition. Intuition as process can correlate to Bergson's idea of duration, 'the continuous progress of the past which gnaws into the future and which swells as it advances,' (CE 10). We are always engaged in the present informed by our accumulated past, including significant avant-conscious resources. Intentionally leveraging the capabilities of the avant-conscious mind, and an awareness of how it functions, advances aspirations.
Consciousness as awareness is quite limited in its immediate capacity. Cognitive science now postulates the conscious mental processes account for a small percent of brain activity. The avant-conscious mind is capable of approximately ten million observations in any given setting. The conscious mind can only keep track of about one hundred (fig 9).
This functionality is also a survival economy. We use different brain subroutines at different times because we could not function otherwise. Total awareness constitutes a debilitating mental overload. 'We are aware of a tiny fraction of the thinking that goes on in our minds, and we can control only a tiny part of our conscious thoughts. The vast majority of our thinking efforts go on subconsciously,' (Gordon). It is from these vast underground mental processes, the avant-consciousness, from which intuition as insight emerges. Regardless of the precise neurological course, the ability to access and utilize intuitive knowledge is extremely valuable in fulfilling creative aspiration. 'Composition must be one of our constant preoccupations, but at the moment of shooting [with a camera] it can stem only from our intuition, for we are out to capture the fugitive moment, and all the interrelationships involved are on the move,' (Cartier-Bresson 34) (fig 10).
Given the creative power of intuition, awareness of enabling behavior would promote interested inquisitive thinking. Various creative tasks, such as probing, thinking, artistic creation, and invention, are intuitively supported by immersion in creative activity, populating the avant-consciousness. Total engagement and commitment exercised in the desired activity leads to more effective intuition actualization in that activity.
When photographing, intuition organizes the radiation patterns found in the field-of view at hand, stimulating action in a complex amalgamation of impulses (fig 11).
Imagination is dreaming up possible scenarios in the mind, while intuition is deciding on their viability without specific articulated evidence or logical reasoning. This distinction relates nicely with Paul Klee, when he says, 'The painter should not paint what he sees, but what will be seen,' (fig 12).
Intuition thus works as indistinct thought made available to the conscious mind for use, drawing on knowledge considered genuine, necessarily compiled from information pre-processed in the avant-consciousness. Not quite an emotion, functioning as a subjective feeling used as an aid to decision-making, intuition seems to be value based. We act in ways that best suit our interest. Thus, it follows that to make even more use of intuitive potential will build on a deeper understanding of the process. Confronted with visual possibility, a 'gut feeling' indicates circumstance and energy spent in exploring potential. The reliability of intuition, as opposed to animal instinct, seems empirically to depend significantly on past knowledge and occurrences in a specific area of interest. I will further elaborate on intuition and instinct distinctions later, but for now consider evidence that directed intuition is stronger for individuals who are experts in a specific field of knowledge, and have familiarity with a given situation. A specific knowledge field relates to a discipline, a branch of knowledge. This does not imply that individuals must only be interested in one field of inquiry. Polymaths do exist, whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. Nevertheless, the key to intuition is disciplinary engagement, with experience building an avant-consciousness register. Masters with many years' experience are able to predict intuitively with accuracy within their field of interest, while novices lacking such experience cannot. In his book, The Social Animal, David Brooks tells of experienced soldiers who could look down a street and predict the presence of an IED (improvised explosive device) with incredible accuracy, where all others were oblivious. When asked how they knew, the soldiers could not specially identify the source of this intuition. In Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink, intuition relative to predicating tennis performance is describe as a function of years of experience in the sport. Adriaan de Groot conducted some famous chess experiments in the 1940s-60 (1-409). One of the things he discovered is intuitive knowledge is the result of experience and expertise. Therefore, immersion in the area of interest will increase intuitive proficiency. 'In reality, the past is preserved by itself, automatically. In its entirety... it follows us at every instant,' (Bergson CE 11). Intuition arises from familiarity with a given situation, and most of that familiarity is situated in the avant-conscious. Intuition emergent from the combination of experience and expertise indicates the path for its own development: total immersion in an activity or discipline. This gives the avant-conscious mind the opportunity to absorb patterns and make connections (fig 13).
In those areas in which a subject is passionate, intentional immersion facilitates intuitional capacity.
Now consider distinctions between instinct and intuition, while investigating the value of intuition and thus its level of participatory interest. This supports the argument that intuition is not disinterested instinct, but functions to realize subjective desire. Intuition provides us with observation, understanding, judgment, or faith that we cannot empirically verify or rationally justify. It is a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence, a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why. However, what is the difference between intuition and instinct? Russell uses the two words interchangeably, whereas Bergson distinguishes intuition as being 'disinterested.' 'Intuition and intellect represent two opposite directions of the work of consciousness: intuition goes in the very direction of life, intellect goes in the inverse direction, and thus finds itself naturally in accordance with the movement of matter,' (Bergson CE 103). 'Intuition, at first sight, seems far preferable to intellect, since in it life and consciousness remain within themselves,' (Bergson CE 72). As conceived by both Spinoza and Bergson, intuition is taken to be concrete knowledge as an interconnected whole. This contrasts to a fragmented, 'abstract' knowledge supplied by observation. Bergson further positions the intellect connected with space, with instinct or intuition connected with time. 'Space, the characteristic of matter, arises from a dissection of the flux which is really illusory, useful, up to a certain point, in practice, but utterly misleading in theory. Time, on the contrary, is the essential characteristic of life or mind,' (Russell 795). By this account, instinct is an innate, fixed pattern of behavior in animals responding to definite stimuli. Individual life forms are created with preconceived structures and related capabilities that are species determined. Instinct is reactive while intuition is proactive, both emerging from the avant-consciousness. Nevertheless, instinct autonomously functions without reason; while intuition functions with reason as avant-conscious processing, and in due course becomes an awareness result. Consciousness requires an intricate organization of interconnected nerve cell networks. At birth, the human being awakes, takes its first breath, and begins to experience life. All conscious thought is thus a function of experience -- 'being' immersed in a unidirectional time progression. The mind exists and develops its own latent resources, but thinking is an experiential modality.
Bergson relegates knowledge of the real as disinterested, in distinction to processes that are generally employed for practical purposes (CM 159). However, as previously established, intuition is the full mental capacity functioning in avant-consciousness. Even Bergson says that 'it must be remembered that the normal work of the intellect is far from being disinterested,' (CM 177). Many associated visual sensations contribute to the harmonious free play of imagination and understanding. However, philosophically all of consciousness involves intentionality. Directed in thinking toward structures, objects, or states-of-affairs, creativity involves intentionality of consciousness. Simply put, this means that aesthetic thinking is about or directed at something. Phenomenology, as developed by Edmund Husserl, makes thinking central to experience by bracketing-off all questions of real existence, or problems relative to the physical or objective nature of contemplated objects. 'Intuition of an essence is consciousness of something, an 'object,' a Something to which the intuitional regard is directed,' (Husserl 10). In this way, subjective perception becomes more pure, disaffected by symbolic meaning. To accomplish this aim requires the exercise of intuitive fulfillment. Being directed towards some goal or object, mental thinking is about something. In the case of aesthetics, Kant claimed this intentionality is 'disinterested' pleasure in beauty. For him aesthetics is a pleasure that does not involve desire. Similarly, Bergson claims intuition is disinterested instinct. In conversation with Kant and Bergson, Lacan identifies the object as the cause of desire, of that which is lacking (32). Disinterested can mean the same thing as uninterested, not wanting to learn more about something or become involved in something. More often, disinterested is used to imply impartiality, or being uninfluenced by personal feelings, opinions, or concerns. I wonder how anyone can be disinterested in experiencing satisfaction and enjoyment, or that these goals are not personified. As a practicing artist, I actively seek aesthetic encounters, and desire drives this interest. 'From the moment that I began to use the camera and to think about it... I became serious. I was on the scent of something, and I was busy smelling it out,' (Cartier-Bresson 20). As a refinement and distinctive nuance, how does the idea of disinterestedness, also used by Kant to describe judgments of taste, relate to intuitive aesthetic response in image making? Dewey responds to Kant's notion of disinterestedness: 'Because interest is the dynamic force in selection and assemblage of materials... no amount of technical skill and craftsmanship can take the place of vital interest,' (266). Dewey acknowledges that art is achieved with consistent nurture of interest.
Advancing the argument that intuition is a valuable artistic modality worthy of amplification, I will now more fully elaborate on the association of intuition and aesthetic creative discovery. Energy, matter, space, and time coincide in lyrical concert with an apparent immediate reality (fig 14).
Understanding and formulating responses to stimulation without apparent effort, intuition is a multifaceted concept incorporating biological, philosophical, and even mystical connotations. Husserl tells us that intuition can become transmuted into eidetic seeing (ideation) -- a possibility which is itself to be understood as non-empirical. 'What is seen when that occurs is the corresponding pure essence, or Eidos, whether it be the highest category or a particularization thereof -- down to full concretion,' (Husserl 8). When unidentified sources of knowledge, divorced from reason and sensation are privileged, logic suffers by reduction. Nevertheless, as Benedetto Croce tells us, accepting intuition comfortably activates aesthetics between actuality and potential. In Croce's system, intuition is a simple and elementary form of knowledge, best understood by negation, by defining it by what it is not. Art is not a physical fact, because the physical lacks reality (Croce 9). Art cannot be utilitarian, pleasurable, or a moral act, but rather operates on a higher plane. 'As theoretical activity, intuition is against anything practical,' (Croce 12). Furthermore, 'with the definition of art as intuition goes the denial that it has the character of conceptual knowledge,' (Croce 14). Ideality distinguishes intuition from concept and art from philosophy (Croce 15). Directly opposed to Kant, Croce stipulates that intuition is neither perception, nor sensation, nor association; rather it is expression. In his view, deep intuition empowers profound expression.
Intuition often has a mysterious quality to it, even to the mind experiencing the intuition. I have limited this research to the history of philosophy and recent discoveries in cognitive science. It is possible that intuition is a mystical power aimed at human transformation. Some sages consider contemplative spirituality and unexplained intuition the methods by which we focus our minds, purifying and consecrating an inner-space of heavenly light. Extrasensory perception considered as an intuition regarding events beyond what are discernible through physical senses or deduced from experience or knowledge is potentially relevant. In this exposition, I have chosen to set aside ESP as a source of intuition. The apparently paranormal experience of 'seeing' future distant events is not part of this essay. Intuition could be something that is innate and entirely divorced from experience. Its source could be unexplainable, or a gift or emanation from the Gods. However because intuition is a phenomenon that arises based on contingency of circumstance, it seems unreasonable that we are born with innate mental capacity relative to our specific locus in historical space/ time and associated tribulations.
Is intuition an innate knowledge immediately made available to a disinterested party? In this paper, I have argued that because intuitive consciousness provides a mental environment in which creative expression flourishes, understanding intuition supports creative expression. Furthermore, as intuition is a kind of instinct developed though experience and expertise, this desirable mental state can be actively developed through immersion. As a valuable cognitive creative process, intuition in this regard is neither immediate nor disinterested. It is rather an avant-conscious process employing all forms of thought functioning below awareness, with a gestation period. For the artist, desire manifests to express what has yet to be expressed, to make what has yet to be been made, and to communicate that which has yet to be communicated. Essentially, it is just these possibilities that render intuition a mental occurrence of intense interest. Intuitive processing is a potent force in accomplishing imaginative mental goals, satisfying creative desire, a central lack needing realization (Lacan 105). Therefore, interest in intuition and methods of intuitive enhancement are of considerable interest to the creative mind desiring expression. Certain circumstances of disparate elements combine through appearance in a conscious episode appropriate for expression. Intuitive visual art making involves what I call seeming. Things just seem right, without specific reasonable justification. 'To take photographs means to recognize -- simultaneously and within a fraction of a second -- both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning,' (Cartier-Bresson 16) (fig 15).
Intuition is a progression of trusting both our inherent biology and our accumulated avant-consciously compiled experiences and processing.
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(c) Wilson Hurst 2015
Wilson Hurst has been involved in the professional disciplines of Photography, Graphic Arts, Printing/ Publishing, and Imaging Technology for four decades. After graduating with degrees in Professional Photography and Printing Technology from The Rochester Institute of Technology, he worked at the executive level in a variety of organizations recommending and directing the implementation of technology across the entire production process, from content creation to distribution. In addition, he provided photographic, artistic, and creative skills for corporate communications, and product development. He also holds a degree in Biology from The University of South Carolina, and a MFA in Visual Art from The Vermont College of Fine Arts. After a highly productive and successful career in industry, he transitioned to academia as an Assistant Professor.
Approaching fine art philosophically, Wilson's personal work is devoted to visual image creation employing diverse photographic processes. He concentrates on leveraging the intrinsic unique characteristics of energy, matter, space, and time to explore the boundaries of physical and transcendent existence. His images are exhibited in juried shows and select art galleries, with artwork held in corporate and private collections.
II. 'PURISM: META-POLITICIZED CONCRESENCE AND CRITIQUE' BY LORENA MORALES APARICIO
Purism emerged between the World Wars in France as part of the French government's rappel a l'ordre, the 'call to order' for French citizenry between the World Wars, when France was trying to forge a specific national identity for herself in the wake of World War I chaos. The art movement of Purism was designed to give an identity in a fractured Europe, not only to France, but inspirationally to all of Europe. This paper investigates the politicized artwork in Purism with respect to symbolism as process. Content and context in process is framed by Henri Bergson's duree or duration, a conception of time and processes occurring in tensions and deferrals. From the Bergsonian perspective, the apparent frozen concrescence of form in the Purist artwork indicates the politicized desire to codify value. This is recuperated by the meta-political Bergsonian dynamic reassessment and crossing of plural realities evident in the duree. The Hegelian representation of the objective/ subjective discourse will focus the examination of these politicizations as will Freud's assessment of totems in society. This paper culminates in an attempt to recuperate Purism from the traditional Modernist perspective according the subject and objective societal structure through the Post-Modernist critique of specialization asserted by Jurgen Habermas. Habermas refers to the dynamism of Henri Bergson's duree as apposite the Modernist 'longing for an undefiled, immaculate and stable present' (Habermas 1128) cursorily expressed in Purist painting.
This paper defines Purism as an art movement begun by Amedee Ozenfant and Le Corbusier (aka Charles Edouard Jeanneret) to institute a utopian visual language accessible by basic, outlined form -- particularly the forms of still lifes. Sensuous vision is the immediate representation of the artwork to the mind through the eyes before its intellectual interpretation. The transcendental stands above and apart from the artwork and a moment in time in order to compare values. Process is understood as a dynamic continuum of thought and action. Concrescence is a coalescence of ideas and form. Intuition is an a priori, processual, intellectual faculty that creatively negotiates between reality and surreality, citing reality as occurring first within the mind where relational connections are created and understood. This paper reassesses Purism utilizing the writings of Georg Hegel, Sigmund Freud, Benedetto Croce, Henri Bergson, Amedee Ozenfant, Le Corbusier, Georges Bataille, and Jurgen Habermas.
Georg Hegel, writing Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics in the early nineteenth century, asserts his theories of aesthetics, taking up the anvil of aesthetics forged nearly a century earlier by Immanuel Kant, overturning Kant's ideal of form in nature. Whereas for Kant, objects (including nature) exist outside of cognition and remain things by (or in) themselves, Hegel asserts Kant is too general and thus deprives the subject of true, holistic cognition. Kant places independence in nature, whereas Hegel sees nature as transient in comparison to the immutable ideals expressed in mutable materiality -- this includes nature and artworks.
For Hegel, it is only when the subject recognizes herself in the object through the mind that unity between the subject and the object occurs. This is Hegel's dialectic of content: the object is synthesized with the subject's sensuous vision (Kant's representation) and knowledge. Hegel's aesthetics asserts that the mind is most fulfilled when it engages in self-reflection to undermine the alienation of its subjective feeling from a world (of objects) laden with relationships and unity in their synthesis of form and content. Hegel's subject determines a transcendental idea about herself and the world as represented to the mind by the object. For Hegel, the mind is truly creative (Kant's term is imaginative) when it constructs from ideals, from the spirit of the age, from a specific place, in the context of specific events, as embodied by the object. Hegel asserts the mind unifies the ideals suggested by the artwork, from its own universal and individual concrescences.
Hegel asserts 'the sensuous in works of art is exalted to the rank of a mere semblance in comparison with the immediate existence of things in nature, and the work of art occupies the mean between what is immediately sensuous and ideal thought,' (Hegel 43). For Hegel, the artwork is a process connecting objective nature with subjective thinking through eidetic vision. The artwork is a process, or processual, between our perception and our thinking of its content and context, positioning reality not in the artwork itself but in the subject's mind. Symbolism, or the meaning of forms, is an ever becoming that shatters ideas of static concrescence. Amedee Ozenfant's Guitar and Bottles, 1920 (Figure 1),
exemplifies the Hegelian dialectic between the subjective and the objective universal. Purism's terse, silhouetted, geometric forms engagingly push and pull from foreground to background. Ozenfant does this within an ambivalent space that seems gravitationally anchored then deliberately challenges vision by anchoring the forms to the left side of the canvas at a ninety degree angle. Ozenfant again causes vertigo by plunging the forms through the top of the canvas using an ephemeral gray in contrast to the marbled whites of the foreground and left-ground. The mahogany guitar, for one, seems to alternately float in and come to bear on space -- a liminal form ever becoming and in processual concrescence, or in the concrescence of process.
Hegel and Ozenfant are further qualified by the parallel valency of Benedetto Croce's process of intuition. Intuition is 'the lack of distinction between reality and unreality -- to the image itself -- with its purely ideal status as a mere image,' (Croce 104). The traditional dialectic posits what an object (or subject) is vis-a-vis what it is not, thereby providing a sense of balanced unity. For Croce a dialectic exists between reality and unreality. Intuition is the creation of opposition and an ever deferring tension in nuance demonstrated by Ozenfant's Guitar and Bottles (Figure 1). It is a double consciousness of becoming (Croce 103). There is the dialectic of thingness and its opposite of being, in which being imparts value to the thing by its very being which is a becoming. Thus the artwork in creative genesis is an interstice between reality and the yet-to-be, and an interstice between the symbolic concepts and their interpretation. Thus concrescence can take on a metaphysical interpretation as process itself: 'For in the symbol the idea is no longer thinkable by itself, separable from the symbolizing representation, nor is the latter representable by itself effectively without the idea symbolized,' (Croce 106). This is eidetic vision as it relates to screened and authentic recapitulated memories, or experience, and interpretations in relation to the artwork.
Purism's founding colleague, Le Corbusier, paints counterpoint in Still Life, 1920 (Figure 2),
with forms that are heavily delineated, redolent with chiaroscuro in contrast to Ozenfant's Guitar and Bottles (Figure 1) of the same year. Le Corbusier's mahogany guitar seems to encompass an internal middle ground while a nearby bottle emphasizes line and thus immediate, tactile form. Le Corbusier utilizes archaic overlapping perspective to indicate a hierarchy of forms and depth. His realization of space is a play of planes which includes a doorway to confirm his visual pun of the two dimensional table against the staggered, recessing planes of the wall in the background. Le Corbusier's Still Life (Figure 2) is an alliteration of the rappel a l'ordre. Croce would criticize this painting as allegory, 'the conventional and arbitrary juxtaposition of two spiritual facts -- a concept... and an image -- whereby it is posited that this image must represent that concept' (Croce 106). Still Life (Figure 2) represents an order that tries to qualify the republican ideals of equality, freedom and brotherhood.
I suggest that Le Corbusier's Still Life (Figure 2) functions as a coded message very much as Jacques-Louis David's Neoclassicist The Death of Socrates (Figure 3)
subtly asked the people before the outbreak of the Revolution: 'who will you be?' The cornice piece in the foreground reminds us that Le Corbusier is primarily an architect, interested in form as function. Utility behooves logic. Le Corbusier and Ozenfant assert that logic utilized 'without intuition... is a sterile device,' (239). Thus the rational, geometric forms of Purism can be understood as metaphoric of Croce's intuitive symbolism as ideal process. Purism can be interpreted as notational in the continuous process of interpretation which strives to deny absolute definition. Socrates dies for the subjective right to ceaselessly interrogate to achieve Truth, the negation of absolute concrescence instituted by secular government. In its geometry and ambivalent spatial relationships, Purism's notation impels a consideration of entropy, of chaos.
Yet the process of Purism remains provocatively political as 'economy is the law of natural selection' (Jenneret and Ozenfant 240) and 'the highest declaration of the human mind is the perception of order' (Jenneret and Ozenfant 240). This returns the artwork to the French Royal Academy's hierarchy of genres, established in the seventeenth century during the apogee of monarchical rule. Political authority is the spatialization of people according to class, race and gender. While Purism officially strived to provide a universal language of simplified forms, Purism can be meta-political and intuitive even as it is used to specifically institute French nationality. This is qualified by Henri Bergson's space as ever becoming. In 1922 Le Corbusier paints Still Life (Figure 4),
reflecting a greater ambivalence of space. Space for Bergson is problematized when the intellect requires concrescent moments, thus politicizing representation as Le Corbusier's Still Life (Figure 2) seems to candidly portray (or document) reality in keeping with the canonical and conservative art historical traditions of the Royal Academy utilized to construct and interpolate identity in France between the two World Wars.
Bergson interrogates the politicized practicality of order and disorder (Bergson 141) as demonstrated by Ozenfant and Le Corbusier regarding France's rappel a l'order:
an intelligence which aims at fabricating is an
intelligence which never stops at the actual form of things
nor regards it as final, but, on the contrary, looks upon
all matter as if it were carve-able at will... action, in
particular fabrication, requires the opposite mental
tendency: it makes us consider every actual form of
things... as artificial and provisional... it makes us
regard its matter as indifferent to its form. (Bergson 141)
Thus Purist forms are 'indifferent' to their meta-politicization, in other words not opposed to their meta-politicization. Purism can be reinterpreted as provisional, presenting both order and disorder to suppress hierarchical order (Bergson 144). Presence is as justified by absence and disorder as the desired potentiality for other presences and order(s). Ozenfant's Grande Composition Puriste, 1926 (Figure 5),
illustrates this. A near symmetrical, vertical bifurcation of the picture plane holds a wine glass and a chalice in opposition to each other and to their shadows with a vase and an architectonic bottle in the center foreground. This essentially pared down canvas exhibits duality (secular-spiritual) and alterity in shadow, thus the plurality of realities that both Croce and Bergson agree must be negotiated through intuition as 'our eye perceives the features of the living being, merely as assembled, not as mutually organized' (Bergson 142). Mutual organization, or parity, implies the cognizance of what is, what is not, and what is becoming. 'The whole of matter is made to appear to our thought as an immense piece of cloth in which we can cut out what we will and sew it together as we please... a space... is never perceived: it is conceived... space is therefore, pre-eminently, the plan of our possible action on things,' (Bergson 141). The cursory spatial immobility of Purist compositions offer a radical reinterpretation by intuitively deferring content in opposition to static concrescence. Thus the Purist artwork offers unification, or the unequivocal social reconciliation of freedom, in the republican values of freedom, equality and brotherhood in the tapestry implicating the perception of essential form.
Bergson continues, 'in placing himself back within the object by a kind of sympathy, in breaking down, by an effort of intuition, the barrier that space puts up between him and his model... is reciprocal interpenetration, endlessly continued creation,' (Bergson 142). The artwork is made real in its processual, relational quality with subjectivity. This mediation is non-hierarchical as one cannot have one process relate meaning and generate it without the other. This is exemplified by Freudian dreamwork in which images are made real in the individual, intuitive interpretation of eidetic visions pertaining to a unifying impulse interpreting the uncontainable unconscious, a priori processes of elision (condensation), experiential memory, transference and the irruption of Freud's Eros and Thanatos. Freud provides a bold methodology for interrogating the artwork as comparable to dreamwork. Additionally, he assesses how the values structuring society emerge from the instinctual drives of Eros and Thanatos interpolated by the intellect into intuition. In Totem and Taboo, Freud asserts that the inception of all neurosis is the Oedipus complex. Further, that it is 'the beginnings of religion, morals, society and art' (Freud 510). Freud cites the field work of prominent cultural anthropologists to confirm his theory of intent and actuality in producing neurosis vis-a-vis the Superego.
The totem, or the patriarchal spiritual embodiment (of government and nationality), provides impunity against the taboos of murder and incest by metaphorically reenacting these taboos in ritual. The symbolic ritual practice prevents the visceral taboos from occurring. The totem displaces the actual patriarch who has been subsumed by the brotherhood to fulfill the ambivalent wish for the patriarch's power and women. The totem is recreated in the patriarch's essential characteristics from remorse and a remembered love for the father, who now becomes the Godhead. It is an apt metaphor for the castigated child and the wish to overpower the father to fulfill a wish. Thus, the difference between the actuality of Urzeit -- a time before the rule of the Godhead (the government), where consciousness is not divided, remaining in holistic concrescence as process -- and the intent replicated in quotidian relations. The kinship of the brotherhood in ritual is metaphoric of the community under the rule of a state, a religion, or cultural norm. This is the identity of the Id, or of the structured and unstructured subconscious common to all.
For Freud, conscious order and presence revolve around the artwork (the totem) and its ritualization in space and time. Subjects partake of the Purist artwork in a systemic and sited observation in the attempt mandated by the government to reconstitute modern France as hereditary to the legacies of the monarchy and Classicism. This entails repetitive, 'objective' social concrescences (events) to restate the integrity of the totem (the artwork representative of France) within each temporally finite subject. A reconstitution of Purism through Croce and Bergson transgresses any such absolute concrescence of the artwork for political gain to socially integrate every person everywhere in intuitive and un-politicized Hegelian holistic cognition without performing the ritual. Within intuition, neurosis does not exist, yet an equitable exchange of deferral pronounces perception, interpretation and consequential action as free and equal and valid to all. Arguably, Purism's modeling of intuition as process attempts to foment change but is foreclosed by the overdetermination of Enlightenment classification and specialization disguising 'deep-seated reactions against the process of societal modernization,' (Habermas 1126) in favor of the structured, technological generation of capital.
Georges Bataille's Surrealism, a Freudian critique of the rational, capitalism, and concrete identity in nationality, challenges the elegant simplicity of Purism. Bataille parallels Croce and Bergson in writing that 'great constructions of the intelligence are by definition prisons. That is why they are persistently overthrown,' (Bataille 485). The natural irruption of the Thanatopic drive is destined to overturn delineated concrescence to return to the natal Urziet. Salvatore Dali paints in The Lugubrious Game (Dismal Sport), 1929 (Figure 6),
a sickly marble figure atop a pedestal reaching out from great attrition with an abnormally large hand towards an effervescence of life in explosive heteronomy of color and form in which its shadow is inconsequential to its spiraling vivacity. The figure covers its visage as if perception were already false, falsified and stultified, as his body emerges from the marble pedestal labeled in increasing diminution with 'Gramme, centigramme, milligramme.' Dali critiques the prison of thought, specifically thought since the Enlightenment and the codification of Classicism and the classification of people, the natural world, and the inanimate world.
Confirming this is the lion, an attribute of royalty, with its paw atop the globe of the world. A second lion willfully exits the canvas to the left. However the spiraling jetty encloses a womb-like form with small rocks, hats, visages and eidetic imagery contained in round stone-like forms. It is the contiguity of thought as process bounded by process as concrescence. In other words, it is the Thanatopic drive to parity in stasis and 'space [as] pre-eminently, the plan of our possible action on things,' (Bergson 141), in other words, unsuppressed and genitive freedom. Further, Bergson asserts 'we are immersed in realities and cannot pass out of them; only, if the present reality is not the one we are seeking, we speak of the absence of this sought-for reality wherever we find the presence of another. We thus express what we have as a function of what we want,' (Bergson 143). This is radical in its proposal of fomenting change.
While Bataille's anarchy undermines France's institutional identity in favor of subjective creation, Jurgen Habermas offers a neo-r'appel a l'ordre, one that addresses society in toto. Habermas asserts confidence in the unfulfilled Modernist project as science and morality were actually kept separate from aesthetics. Thus, Purism's coded proposal of intuition as revolutionary was not only suppressed, it was ineffectual as it did not penetrate every aspect of society: religion, politics, ethnicity, socio-economics and so on. According to Habermas, the Surrealists
waged the most extreme warfare, but two mistakes in
particular destroyed their revolt. First, when the
containers of an autonomously developed cultural sphere are
shattered, the contents get dispersed. Nothing remains from
a desublimated meaning or a destructured form; an
emancipatory effect does not follow... In everyday
communication... evaluations must relate to one another...
A rationalized everyday life... could hardly be saved from
cultural impoverishment through breaking open a single
cultural sphere-art-and so providing access to just one of
the specialized knowledge complexes. (Habermas 1128)
Purism's comparative simple elegance was not forceful enough either. Yet Habermas refers to the dynamism of Bergson's duration, a conception of time and processes, as the apposite Modernist 'longing for an undefiled, immaculate and stable present,' (Habermas 1128), which is quite boldly expressed in Purist artworks. For Bergson, 'Matter or mind, reality has appeared to us as a perpetual becoming. It makes itself or it unmakes itself,' (Bergson 143), yet 'of becoming we perceive only states, of duration only instants... ' (Bergson 143). Thus Purist forms are metaphoric of static thingness and dynamic process when reassessed with perspective and interpretation(s). Bergson and Habermas advocate for a resistance occurring as plural processes beyond the cursory concrescence of the artwork as an allegory for the merely political. The meta-political occurs in the transcendence of concrescent moments that seem to symbolize a Platonic, absolute Ideal. In reality, these are moments that merely stand out in relation to the momentary bias. For Habermas, the separation of disciplines emphasizes a limited specificity of the artwork rather than an applicable, transformative process that would revolutionize society.
One could argue that the Purist artwork retains its canonical interpretation as decidedly Poussiniste -- as a purely academic and classicizing artwork propagandistic of contemporaneous history framed by Greco-Roman history, myth, and idealized form. A reinterpretation of solid form as processual is not only counterintuitive, but visually lacking concrete viability. The evidence of established art historical scholarship points to tangible concrescence and not to the meta-politicization of resistance through Croce's symbolism as process with Bergson's own processual duration. Further, the physical artwork exists autonomously in space and time. Yet its reality occurs in the intellect of the viewing subject. Intuition, interpretation and relationships exist in the mind and are impelled to action based on the choice of free will.
Another contention is the emphasis on philosophical texts to interpret artworks and artist statements remaining under the purview of painters, sculptors, art historians and critics. However the search for episteme is central to artistic production and its analysis. Whereas some may view philosophy as a history of thought, philosophy is a methodology for interpreting Truth in its specificity in the subjective, in relation to the universal objective. Artists, critics and historians aim to glean formal Truths, content and contextual Truths from the artwork in order to understand man's role as a reflexive genitor of culture. The further distinctions of culture (high, popular, low, subversive, political) indicate that thought must be interrogated by texts devoted to promoting ethical culture from subjective and objective thought processes. The artist also claims a genius for interpretation. The systematic study of universal and unique processes of interpretation is greater than medium and style.
The inclusive, architectural compounds built by Le Corbusier would support the argument of this paper. However, for limits of space these architectural works have not been included. This is intended for a future project. Additionally, a study of Purist murals would add insight into the complex machinations of French governmental and cultural institutions that position and reposition artworks in terms of siting, content and context. This paper's assessment of Purism as provocative in its symbolic process undermines the prescribed and proscribed corrupt governmental ineptitude that has been entrenched in France since the seventeenth century.
This paper reinterprets Purism insisting upon process as a negotiation of plural realities. The stark forms of Purism invert the cursory reception of its forms as absolute, into a reinstatement of politically oriented and utilized concrescence. This paper considers Purism as an admonition of the simple, the effortless, and the static. Purism stands in contradistinction to the universalizing language of basic, recognizable form to foment spontaneous, intuitive responses. Purism calls attention that the world not be rewritten in terms of a Classical and monarchial heritage yet through its inverse, the continuous creation of the world anew through Croce's symbolism as process and Bergson's duration of time. Purism is an admonition to the superficial, cursory acceptance of Platonic Ideals as these have been politicized to organize society into a non-egalitarian form. Purism threatened to revolutionize society hence the deliberate lacuna of scholarship in both art history and art theory in contrast to the systematic study of the Western canon emerging from the Classical moments.
Bataille, Georges. 'The Lugubrious Game,' in Art in Theory: 1900-2000. Eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2012, 484-486. Print.
Bergson, Henri. 'from Creative Evolution' in in Art and Theory: 1900-2000. Eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2012, 141-144. Print.
Croce, Benedetto. 'What is Art?' in Art in Theory: 1900-2000. Eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2012, 102-107. Print.
Freud, Sigmund. 'Totem and Taboo,' in The Freud Reader Ed. Peter Gay. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1995, 481-513.
Habermas, Jurgen. 'Modernity -- An Incomplete Project,' in Art and Theory: 1900-2000. Eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2012, 1123-1131. Print.
Hegel, Georg. Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics. Penguin Books Ltd., 2009. Kindle Edition.
Jeanneret, Charles Edouard (Le Corbusier) and Amedee Ozenfant, 'Purism,' in Art and Theory: 1900-2000. Eds. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2012, 239-242. Print.
(c) Lorena Morales Aparicio 2015
Lorena Morales Aparicio is a Ph.D. student at The Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. Research interests in art history include modern and contemporary American and European art, identity narratives, and propaganda. Ms. Morales Aparicio is also a Research Assistant for an established Metropolitan Museum of Art lecturer while also working as an Adjunct Professor of Art History in the New York City metropolitan area.
III. 'POLY-SUBJECTIVISM AT THE COSMIC DINNER TABLE' BY MIKE ADAMS
Imagine that we gather around the elegant dinner table of mathematician-philosopher Bertrand Russell; the cream-colored tablecloth, lit by flickering candlelight, is resplendent with fine china and glittering silver. We guests agree that this is the same dinner table, but we also agree that none of us see it in exactly the same way. Each perspective differs from that of our fellows; undoubtedly our experience of this table, colored by our mood, our health, and so forth, makes each point-of-view quite unique. This early 20th century dinner party evokes the spirit of Cubism concurrently in development across the English Channel: the idea of a multiplicity of simultaneous viewpoints partaking of the same reality. In Problems of Philosophy, Russell writes:
When ten people are sitting round a dinner-table, it seems
preposterous to maintain that they are not seeing the same
tablecloth, the same knives and forks and spoons and
glasses. But the sense-data are private to each separate
person; what is immediately present to the sight of one is
not immediately present to the sight of another: they all
see things from slightly different points of view, and
therefore see them slightly differently. (31-32)
The multifaceted image that all these views could produce, when combined, might look much like Georges Braque's Nature Morte (The Pedestal Table) of 1911 (fig. 1).
As much as Russell's 'involuntary Cubism' might imply that he espouses philosophies that embrace the idea of a multiplicity of viewpoints that share reality, instead, he is at times ambivalent, or even hostile to speculative metaphysical theories that embody what the Cubists were setting down on canvas.
Indeed, in A History of Western Philosophy Russell decries the increasing subjectivism of philosophy over time, almost from the very beginning of Greek philosophy. Certainly, the era starting with the Protestant Reformation in 1517 sees a flourishing of individualism and subjectivism, such as in the writings of Machiavelli (1467-1527). Moreover, Rene Descartes (1596-1650), the 'founder of modern philosophy' (Russell History 557), is famously subjectivist. This unleashes an avalanche in which philosophy appears to become increasingly solipsistic over time, isolating the subject from other conscious beings and the world at large. While Russell is justified in his concern that an individual subject can turn away from communion with others -- with ultimately dangerous consequences for the future of humanity -- Russell discounts and mostly ignores philosophies that embrace a multiplicity of subjects existing in concert. In spite of his comments to the contrary, Russell displays a bias against speculative metaphysics, especially those with a theological aspect, which he tends to dismiss as mystical or illogical absurdities.
I will argue, contrary to Russell, that there is a countervailing trend: philosophies that embrace poly-subjectivism -- a multiplicity of viewpoints -- that together create and share the universe, much like the multifarious facets in a cubist painting, discrete and distinctive as they may be on their own, are integrated into the whole. I will also argue, more importantly, that these speculative metaphysical systems describe the physical and cultural world better than narrower philosophical systems such as Analytic Philosophy, of which Russell himself is considered a primary exponent. These speculative metaphysical theories posit a more social view of consciousness in which individuals not only have unique vantage points, but are also connected in some way --whether they are aware of it or not -- with other entities, and that these entities need not even be living or sentient beings.
Russell's A History of Western Philosophy brilliantly follows philosophical threads throughout the ages, yet he discounts the trend toward a multiplicity of subjects and consciousnesses that becomes more explicit in the metaphysics of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), and Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947). Russell's treatment of these two renowned philosophers strikes me as peculiar, since they were also mathematicians, with whom he was extraordinarily familiar. Russell published a book on Leibniz in 1900 and considered himself an expert (591). Whitehead, with whom Russell collaborated on Principia Mathematica, is mentioned twice in passing in A History of Western Philosophy. Oddly, though, it is not in regard to Whitehead's most famous book, Process and Reality, the most substantial expression of a long history of ideas that posit a universe filled with entities of varying levels of consciousness -- and thus, poly-subjectivism on a virtually unlimited scale. Poly-subjectivism in Leibniz and Whitehead fundamentally serves as a response to the old question of the one-and-the-many in Greek philosophy.
We will follow a thread of thought from Parmenides, the Greek Atomists, through Plato, then Leibniz, and on to Whitehead, to trace the development of relativist poly-subjectivism, using Russell as a guide and a debate partner. Significantly, poly-subjectivism manifests during Russell's lifetime (1872-1970) in many ways, described as polyphony by Mikhail Bakhtin in his analysis of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novels, visually in the art of the Cubists, and in science in the Theory of Relativity and in Quantum Physics. It is difficult -- or even impossible -- to prove metaphysical poly-subjectivism in a way that will satisfy the strictest logician; nonetheless, a cultural and scientific grounding bolsters the case for the importance of these metaphysical theories as satisfying explanations of reality.
A broad term such as atomism, the theory that all things are made up of elementary particles, is a suitable description for many of the theories in this study. Yet a closer investigation reveals that the ancient Greek Atomists thought of atoms as the most fundamental particles, perhaps what we could call subatomic particles today. I will take the liberty of using atom in this ancient sense, as the most fundamental indivisible thing; hence, atomism will apply to any theory that posits the existence of indivisible particles of which all things are formed. A monad, as Leibniz uses the term, is close to the ancient Greek atom (47). In spite of the great debt Whitehead's theories owe to Leibniz, we can only call Whitehead's actual entities atoms in their most rudimentary form, since an actual entity refers to anything on a continuum of aggregation (18), where one particle like a water molecule is an actual entity, as is a human being
Russell's eminent status gives his pronouncements a special weight; yet he has a certain bias, as he belongs to a long line of philosophers who speculate upon speculation. That is, his inquiry is mainly epistemological (if I may generalize his long and august career), rather than being metaphysical. I am not arguing against the logical basis for Russell's critique of grand metaphysical systems, but against his apparent desire to limit the aspirations of philosophy, especially where it enters the sphere of theology. Early in A History of Western Philosophy, Russell bemoans that after Democritus, philosophy turns away from speculations about the nature of the universe to a concentration on humanity. Russell states, 'What is amiss, even in the best philosophy after Democritus is an undue emphasis on man as compared with the universe' (History 73). Russell does not attribute this change to a growth in epistemology specifically over time, as I believe he ought to, but makes a blanket statement indicting all of philosophy. Certainly epistemology tends to be subjectivist since it explores the thinking subject, and historically it did lead ultimately to solipsism, according to Russell, with certain philosophers such as Fichte, who 'carried subjectivism to a point which seems almost to involve a kind of insanity' (718). To be fair to Russell, we have to understand that he was writing A History during the height of the Second World War, and he felt that subjectivism, as exemplified by Romantic philosophy from Rousseau to Nietzsche, had led to the lack of critical thinking and misty-eyed mythologizing that created an environment in which Nazi Germany and Stalinism could thrive (94). During the 20th Century, as epitomized by Russell, we see an increasing suspicion of metaphysical systems, as philosophy turns toward a study of logic and language on the one hand and phenomenology and existentialism on the other; consequently, grand metaphysical systems seemed quaint and archaic, like ancient myths, in comparison to more compartmentalized philosophies that very carefully limit the scope of their investigation.
While it is not a simple task to summarize Leibniz' The Monadology and Whitehead's philosophy of organism (which is usually called process theory today) from Process and Reality, nonetheless they are expositions of a kind of atomism. In one sense, Whitehead's actual entities are a modernization of Leibniz' monads, for which he gives a much more exhaustive explanation. Pivotal in both theories is that all things partake, on some level, in what we might call a universal communion or even consciousness, but with each thing maintaining a unique perspective. A multiplicity of individual perspectives is poly-subjectivism, since each subject has a unique outlook upon the universe. These entities are not inert, but have some level of sentience: Leibniz calls it a soul (50), and Whitehead a prehension (19). Leibniz and Whitehead present compelling solutions, as do the Ancient Greeks, to the ageless problem of the one-and-the-many: What is the relation of a multiplicity of things to the entirety of which they are part?
It took two millennia for the atomism of the Greeks -- initially pure speculation -- to be recognized as scientific reality. Thus it is intriguing to explore the debt that Leibniz and Whitehead owe to the speculations of the Greek Atomists. As Russell notes, Atomism was 'the attempt to mediate between monism and pluralism, as represented by Parmenides and Empedocles respectively' (History 65), a balance between the unchanging and ever-changing, between an absolute unity with parts being a mere illusion (History 48), and a universe of pure chance. The Atomists denied chance and attributed the nature of the world to natural laws. Greek Atomism is an obvious precursor to the theories of Leibniz and Whitehead because of the way it describes particles. Yet, I believe that it is Parmenides, his apparent monism notwithstanding, who asks the provocatively how the one (the totality of all things) is related to the many (the multiplicity of things of which it seems to contain)? This is the ground from which Atomism and its progeny spring.
While Leibniz and Whitehead make no mention of Parmenides (whose extant writings are fragmentary) in The Monadology and Process and Reality, I would suggest an undercurrent of ideas derived from Plato's dialogue Parmenides infuses their work. Certain passages entertain ideas about an all-pervading sentience, such as the following comment by Parmenides, as recounted by Plato, 'won't you necessarily think either that each thing is composed of thoughts, and that all things think... ?' (Plato Parmenides 132c). An echo of this pervasive sentience appears in one form or another in Leibniz and Whitehead. Plato's dialogue does not seem to clearly state the non-existence of parts within a whole that Russell claims is Parmenides' stance (Russell 48-49), but merely to present a set of potential possibilities. Nonetheless, it is certainly not an exposition of an atomistic theory. If we return to the dinner table analogy, and think of the dining room as the universe, a strict interpretation of Parmenides would hold that all things within the room are the same, somehow derived from the whole. It is hard to see how anything comes to be in this seemingly static conception, thus the Atomists posited particles in flux, wherein our dining room is a swarming sea of invisible building blocks, randomly coming together to generate various forms. Yet, we seem to be at an impasse. While Braque's painting solves the problem visually, with a multiplicity of objects and viewpoints homogenized into a cohesive image, how do we explain philosophically a world of multifarious, distinct parts, that are still contained within a whole? The important matter for Leibniz and Whitehead, seemingly disregarded by the ancient Atomists, is the significance of the whole, i.e., what the entirety of all things together means philosophically.
A less strict conception of Parmenides' one is kept by Leibniz and Whitehead. They in turn absorb Greek Atomism, although there are some striking divergences. Most notable, if we take Lucretius' On the Nature of Things as our guide, is the absence of teleology and theology in the ancient version. Lucretius sees attributing a purposive goal to the workings of Atomism (33) as mere superstition, making him seem ironically 'modern' because of his apparent atheism. Additionally, Lucretius is loath to ascribe any level of consciousness to his atoms. These 'senseless' atoms may assemble to create life forms, but at their basic level they have no awareness of any sort. 'All we know as sentient is composed of insensate atoms' (Lucretius 49). This is in contradistinction to Leibniz, whose monads have souls, although his definition of soul is subject to various categorizations of sentience (50). In the end, Leibniz' soulful monads are much like Whitehead's actual entities, which, however, are placed on a continuum of sentience, from the virtually inert to the self-aware.
A return to Russell's dinner party and Braque's painting may help explain certain similarities and differences between Leibniz' and Whitehead's theories. In both theories the dinner table and the guests are made of particles, just as modern science describes everything as being comprised of atoms. Similar to the modern conception, Leibniz's monads remain in their fundamental state. A monad could be a silver atom (or perhaps some even smaller constituent thereof) in our glittering flatware. But an aggregation of them in a larger object, say a spoon, is no longer a monad. This is in contradistinction to Whitehead's actual entities, which are scalable, that is, they can be of almost any size. For instance, a water molecule in our tea is an actual entity, but so is the bone-china cup. Whitehead considers them to be organisms in the sense that they move toward becoming what the creative processes of the universe encourages them to be (32). In the case of more complex entities, like the highly sentient party guests, they are aware of the relation of themselves to those things around them. They are consciously in communication with one another as they chat, and willfully interact with their surroundings. As we move down the scale of complexity, we have less and less 'sentience' and 'communication' as we pass from, say, a wine glass to a silica atom within it. What remains, though, is interconnectedness. Braque's table is useful for visually seeing the unified field -- the various faceted elements that are nonetheless linked together -- that both Leibniz's and Whitehead's particles create. They are individual, yet still in communication with each other, indirectly in Leibniz's case, as we will see below, and directly for Whitehead.
If this seeming mysticism were not enough to perplex Russell, certainly the role of God in Leibniz and Whitehead would. Leibniz' The Monadology is more grandly theological, as one might expect from the early 18th Century, and his God is in some ways a traditional conception. For Whitehead however, God is more of a fundamental principle, an Unmoved Mover in the Aristotelian sense. Russell's criticism, quite rightly, I believe, would be that we cannot base a philosophy strictly on theology, relying on a deus ex machina to tidy up the loose ends. Leibniz would have been shocked at Russell's skepticism, no doubt, but Whitehead has a different argument: God is creativity (7). God is thus a fundamental idea or force. Yet for Whitehead, like Leibniz, God exists. For Leibniz, God has no bodily form (72). For Whitehead, God is one of the actual entities, but it is not clear if this denotes a physical manifestation (18). The problem for Leibniz is that the monads need God to communicate with each other. Whitehead's impersonal God is not a go-between, but an initial instigator, an underlying principle as the very concept of creativity. 'This function of God is analogous to the remorseless working of things in Greek and Buddhist thought' (Whitehead 244). Thus his theory is marginally dependent on the idea of an Abrahamic God.
To what can we attribute the shift in the atomism of the ancient Greeks to that of Leibniz and Whitehead? The ancient version posits a random universe, whereas Leibniz and Whitehead reinsert God into the picture. Did this merely result from the Christianization of the West? Russell notes 'Leibniz had been taught a neo-scholastic Aristotelian philosophy, of which he retained something through his later life' (582). The Scholastics went to excruciating lengths to prove their piety, and were in potential danger if they did not do so. In Leibniz' own time charges of heresy were still common, thus, if cynical, one could see his theology as purely compulsory. Whitehead, however, faces no such compulsion, yet maintains an integral theological component in Process and Reality. The answer to the theological question I believe comes from the influence of Plato. As Bertrand Russell puts it, for Plato, God 'made the world as a whole living creature having soul and intelligence' (144). This imaginative idea, while eschewed in more orthodox Christianity, proves irresistible to Leibniz and Whitehead, as it places parts in interdependent communication within a whole. This rethinking of Parmenides' monism (as presented by Plato), takes the unequivocal unity of the whole as a means of explaining how a plurality of things within it remain connected to each other; that is, the concept of unity sustains itself through the inter-subjective communication of the parts. A subsequent imaginative leap that posits a certain sentience in every thing is a way of dealing with the problem of communication and coalescence: how do things come together as they do? Both Leibniz and Whitehead propose a teleological -- and implicitly theological -- solution. For Leibniz, God acts as a great administrator and intermediary overseeing all things (84). For Whitehead God is an underlying principle: a creative force (32). Either way, Plato's influence is obvious: 'divine providence brought our world into being as a truly living thing endowed with soul and intelligence' (Timaeus 30c). Russell complains that the Timaeus, while interesting, contains absurdities (History 143). Yet the sublimely speculative Timaeus is so profound that philosophy and religion would never be the same again.
Since Whitehead's Process and Reality is a much longer text than Leibniz', he develops his theory in greater detail. While he traces very carefully the lines of thought that bring him to his conclusions, such as influences that are philosophical or scientific, artistic influences during his creative life may also have affected his thought process, or at least are part of the Zeitgeist -- an environment heady with the potential for the cross-pollination of ideas. Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity (1905) posits, like Leibniz did almost two hundred years earlier (Russell 70), that there is no absolute point of reference from which to view events (Panek 32). Any position, and hence any subject, lays a claim to its own unique perspective, and none is superior. Braque's painting is an effective visual analogy, depicting a multiplicity of viewpoints giving us the sense that we are walking around the table, seeing it from virtually any position. Einstein, in 1907, had the insight that all atoms in the universe exert a gravitational pull on every other atom (Panek 32), echoing Leibniz who attributed the interconnectedness of his monads to the intermediating force of God. Leibniz' and Whitehead's contention that monads or actual entities commune with each other mirrors what is called Quantum Entanglement. Simply put, entanglement means that particles share the same quantum state (basically their energy level) no matter how far apart they are, and the changes in the state of one is mirrored in the regardless of the distance (Nielsen 67). It is noteworthy that separate groups, led by Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger respectively, published papers on entanglement in 1935 (Einstein; Schrodinger) more than two hundred years after Leibniz' Monadology and six years after Whitehead's Process and Reality. While these scientific discoveries do not prove poly-subjectivism or prove Leibniz' or Whitehead's theories, it does show that some of their conjectures are supported and elaborated by subsequent breakthroughs and proven empirically.
Intriguingly, less than two decades before the development of the Theory of Relativity, Fyodor Dostoevsky's novels achieved what Mikhail Bakhtin termed polyphony, and a little later, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque had breakthroughs with Cubism. What the Theory of Relativity, polyphony, and Cubism have in common is the acknowledgement that there is no single point from which 'reality' can be judged. Bakhtin's polyphony is the multiple voices of the characters that make up a novel, each seeing every situation from their own unique point of view, not just visually, but psychologically (6). A Cubist painting famously shows an object from a multiplicity of vantage points, revealing that a singular viewpoint is a mere fragment of reality. Whitehead, expanding on Leibniz' monads, posits a multifarious awareness that each actual entity has of another, placed on a continuum from the virtually (but not quite) inert rock to a sentient being, such as a human. Whitehead's philosophy of organism as speculative metaphysics has its roots in the philosophies of the Ancient Greeks and of Leibniz but is also strongly tied to the Zeitgeist of his cultural and scientific milieu.
A brief paper such as this necessarily summarizes complex philosophies, and compresses thousands of years of history in a way that makes it difficult to do justice to various ideas. I have disregarded Russell's own Logical Atomism, and chosen not to contrast it with Leibniz' and Whitehead's theories because, while compelling, it is primarily epistemological. I have also declined discussion of philosophers such as Plotinus, Spinoza, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and many others, who explore in their various ways ideas of the one-and-the-many. Nietzsche's Perspectivism I have set aside, because it appears to focus solely on human subjectivity. In many ways, his theory has an obvious correspondence to Analytic Cubism's single subject-the painter-showing his own multifarious views of a scene. I prefer to think of the dinner party metaphor, of multiple, simultaneous, and individual viewers enjoying the same scene. I have also avoided more recent correlations with Leibniz and Whitehead, such as Deleuze's and Guattari's rhizome theory of interconnectedness. Instead, I have used Russell as a foil in order to explore the ideas of two philosophers, Leibniz and Whitehead, with whose ideas he was quite familiar.
Russell is correct to point out that philosophy, especially in the modern era, is rife with subjectivism, but he is biased toward epistemology and against speculative metaphysics. His demand for logical consistency in philosophy makes him quick to point out the deficiencies of speculative metaphysical theories, and unwilling to embrace the leaps of imagination and new ideas that these theories explore and their subsequent crosspollination with the sciences and the arts. Granted, it is absurd to contend that that Leibniz' and Whitehead's theories are somehow 'correct.' No doubt some aspects are, and some are not, just as ancient Greek Atomism was proven substantially correct millennia later. What I have tried to show is that there is a strong tradition of speculative metaphysical schemes that are poly-subjectivist, running counter to Russell's contention of increasing subjectivism. Leibniz built upon the ideas of the ancient Greeks, and in turn, Whitehead based his theories on those of his predecessors, and was greatly indebted to Leibniz. Russell's focus on logic and epistemology blinds him to the fact that in his own lifetime, Whitehead's philosophy of organism mirrored many scientific and cultural developments that expressed or developed ideas of poly-subjectivism and the relativity of any viewpoint. The polyphony of Dostoevesky, Cubism, the Theory of Relativity, and Quantum Theory are artistic and scientific examples of the diminution of a privileged viewpoint, and posit poly-subjectivism. This multiplicity of positions from which to see our metaphorical dinner table not only implies the loss of a favored seat at the head of the table, but an invitation to join a communion of interconnectedness.
The import of speculative philosophies, such as those of the ancient Greeks, Leibniz, and Whitehead, is not that they are entirely right or wrong. Newtonian physics, for instance, has been superseded by quantum physics, but that does not render it completely inaccurate or useless. At any given epoch, what we gain with every attempt to describe through what may be a mere inkling -- an educated guess, a flight of fancy -- of how reality really is (hopefully expressed with a sense of finesse and poetry), will pique the interest of many thinkers to come, and spark new ideas.
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(c) Mike Adams 2015
Mike Adams, editor of this issue, is an artist, educator, theorist, and activist hailing from the Seattle-area in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. He received a prestigious Fulbright Creative Arts Grant and spent the 2011-2012 academic year in Norway, where he had a major sculptural installation at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo. Currently a PhD student at the nstitute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts http:---, a low-residency program in Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory based in Portland, Maine, USA, his particular research interest revolves around the idea of spatio-temporality in aesthetic experience. He will present his paper 'Space as Time: Heterotopias in Renaissance Paintings of The Annunciation' at the Renaissance Conference of Southern California in June 2015. His art is represented by Matzke Fine Art and Sculpture Park http:--- on Camano Island, Washington, USA, and can also be seen on his website, http:---.