File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0001, message 21

Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 22:50:56 +0000
Subject: Re: BHA: Adorno on style

Hi Tobin

We do use the familiar (what else?) to arrive at knowledge of -
precisely, the unfamiliar (not-familiar): the means of arriving is
hardly to be identified with the arrival, let alone with that which is
arrived at. The more novel (creative, original - 'thought which is not
idle') the process of thought, the further it departs from the familiar
(I'm sure you must agree with this - after all, it's a tautology -
otherwise I have to think you really are being flip, or what Hegel
called lacking in seriousness). At the extreme the paradigm-shifting
thought effects a revolution in the familiar, etc etc - the stuff on the
epistemological dialectic in DPF Ch1 seems all very relevant here.

Our means of arriving can certainly include insights derived from
hallucination as one part of the overall process of thought. But that is
not what you seemed to be maintaining originally - and it in no way
undermines the tautology! Adorno uses the tautology to make the point,
which shouldn't need labouring, that original thinking is in the nature
of the case (at first, for it becomes familiar in its turn...) somewhat
difficult to communicate and understand, and that to go on obsessively
about clarity is to put the mockers on genuine creativity.

I can't agree that RB doesn't give an argument for the social cube,
though I can say that at this stage I'm not entirely happy with it. (I
say at this stage because in my experience I have often found that a
pretty good argument turns out, after some persistence on my part, to be
'there', when at first it didn't seem to be ie I come to see how he got
across the 'gaps'.) But that's next up, isn't it? Can we talk then?


Tobin Nellhaus <> writes
>Hi Mervyn--
>> No, I don't believe that hallucination doesn't involve thoughts. But
>> Adorno makes it clear that he is talking about genuinely original
>> thinking in philosophy, science etc, and this doesn't proceed by
>> hallucination, so far as I know; even the 'non-rational', 'transcendent'
>> moment - the 'flash of inspiration' etc - seems to me the opposite of
>> hallucinatory. I.e. hallucinatory thinking is not to be *identified*
>> with the critical thinking Adorno has in mind.
>> There is no relevant 'snippet' or 'Intro' that I know of. Hallucination?
>Actually I'd like to question this a bit--not to be flip!  It's just a
>specific aspect: I'm thinking about the role of imagination--of imagery
>itself--in science and theory.  Although RB doesn't expand upon the point,
>on several occasions he (rightly, in my view) states that images, metaphors,
>icons etc lie at the heart of scientific theories, and cannot be wished away
>(as empiricism tries to do) as a mere psychological aid.  (Those of you who
>know my affection for Peirce will hear that drumbeat in the background....)
>With this in mind, I'm not sure it's terribly important where the images
>come from.  For example, I remember once hearing how the scientist who
>proposed that benzene consisted of a chemical ring came up with that notion
>through a dream he had while dozing in front of his fireplace.  Something
>like, six little dancing sparks joining into a circle.  Who knows, maybe
>hallucination *can* be a font of insight.  But it may be that the
>"non-rational" flash of inspiration consists in the introduction of such
>images, such that innovative thinking (even in philosophy and science)
>proceeds not logically, not illogically, but analogically.
>But I don't think this entails "a distance from the continuity of the
>familiar," or if it does, the manner in which it does so must be specified
>much more, er, clearly--because the process of analogy is one of
>understanding the unfamiliar by means of something more *familiar*.  Thus it
>is very far from being opposed to and negating the familiar.  One might even
>wonder if Adorno's notion of "the familiar" is an unstratified, monovalent
>one.  (Of course there is never a "perfect" analogy, since after all the two
>objects are not the same thing; sometimes two or more analogies are needed,
>as in the old "light consists of particles" and "light consists of waves"
>On the other hand, there is no question that "thought is always thickly
>mediated by experience," a point that DCR fully accepts (as you know).  The
>idea that there can be "a pure, clear thought," a value- or theory-neutral
>language, belongs to positivism.  But the mediation of thought by experience
>should again drive us toward understanding thought, including philosophical
>thought, as inherently and necessarily enmeshed with the familiar.  From
>this perspective, the notion that thought can negate/oppose the familiar
>sounds positivist.
>So in rebuttal to Adorno, I'm tempted to say, "Dream on!"  (Sorry, I
>couldn't resist.  ;-g  )
>Anyway, I don't think anyone in this discussion has proposed that RB produce
>"pure, clear thought" in the positivist sense.  Or at least that hasn't been
>my intention.  Actually I'm not sure what "pure, clear thought" would look
>like--since it cannot exist, even in principle, it's hard to think it!  But
>the imagistic leaps seem thin, not adequately fleshed out (so to speak).
>Which is *not* to say that they aren't there.  In addition, the "gaps" to
>which you referred originally are sometimes rather serious.  For example, RB
>speaks in various places of the "social cube," but he does a very poor job
>(in my humble opinion) of explaining why that image is appropriate and
>viable, why the faces that he proposes are the correct ones, what dynamics
>it illuminates, or where the heck the ideology "intersection" fits in.
>(Frankly I've never been able to make head or tale of that diagram.)  In
>this situation, RB simply fails not only to be persuasive, but I think fails
>to even *try* to persuade.  He doesn't give an argument, simply a bunch of
>assertions.  As a result I've never been persuaded by this particular
>analysis.  (I've offered a different CR conceptualization of the social in
>an article, but I won't get into that.)  Creative leaps are wonderful but
>still have to be defended.  I think that to expect explanations of such key
>matters (and telling "why this makes sense" is not the same as "explicitly
>showing all the steps") is scarcely to succumb to a liberal notion of
>universal communicability, nor does it in any way sabotage thought--quite
>the contrary, since it assumes that the reader will exercise critical
>intelligence (rather than expecting the reader to "believe it because I say
>it!", which is anti-critical).  But this is now old ground.
>As for the "intro" that I referred to, I don't recall, maybe it was a book
>review you wrote for Alethia that you later posted here.  Whatever it was, I
>remember thinking the style was very good.  Hey, take the compliment and
>Cheers, T.
>Tobin Nellhaus
>"Faith requires us to be materialists without flinching": C.S. Peirce
>     --- from list ---

Mervyn Hartwig

     --- from list ---


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005