Friday, January 12, 2018
Seeing as, seeing in, seeing plus
Here's a hypothesis. I have been reading Paul Guyer's A History of Modern Aesthetics vol. 3, 20th century. (Cambridge U. Press, 2014.) Great book. I can't wait to read the first two volumes. There is a lot of talk about Wittgenstein's idea of "seeing as" and Wollheim's idea of "seeing in." It strikes me that these may be both subcategories of something that is even more essential for aesthetics: an umbrella concept for aesthetic seeing, one might say. I will call this umbrella concept "seeing plus." Seeing plus happens when you not only see an object but see it as with what I have called, adapting the word from Walter Benjamin (but not the concept), aura. Seeing plus happens when you experience something with heightened significance. Seeing plus can happen through seeing as and it can also happen through seeing in. But neither seeing as or seeing in are required for seeing plus. Nor is either sufficient for seeing plus. So, you can see plus an item of everyday life even though you do not imagine that thing as something else or see something in it. Seeing plus is very much like what the Buddhists call mindful seeing, and yet Buddhists do not tend to accommodate the aesthetic dimension of mindfulness. Seeing plus might also be described as truly seeing the object. There is of course hearing plus, smelling plus and tasting plus. Seeing plus and its cognates are always attended by pleasure. Wollheim was famous for spending hours looking at one painting. What is the value of this? Perhaps at a certain point he no longer sees in but also sees plus. Seeing plus must also be involved with seeing as it is in itself, or at least seeing something as if you were seeing it as a thing in itself. Seeing plus might be seen as seeing something not living as if alive. But when we see the our beloved when in love we also see her plus. Seeing plus is like seeing as in that it adds something. But in this case what is added cannot be described: we have more, but it seems that we have more of the same thing, of the thing itself. Some Buddhists talk as though we do not really see thing until we have achieved enlightenment: perhaps seeing plus is an intimation of enlightenment, a small fragment of heaven. I have sometimes spoken of everyday aesthetics as having a high point. This would be experiencing the world by way of seeing plus. Seeing plus is not limited to the everyday: seeing something sublime in nature is seeing plus. Seeing something beautiful, when you see it as beautiful, is seeing plus. Pater thought that the goal of life was to have as many moments of aesthetic ecstasy as possible: perhaps this is a matter of maximizing experience plus. Dewey thought that great art should give us an integral experience. Perhaps "integral" is just another word of seeing plus. Seeing plus might be related to imagination except that an specific image is not required.