Friday, September 16, 2016

Whitehead’s Influence on Susanne Langer’s Conception of Living Form

Due to the fact that I've been engaging in research in aesthetics as much as I have been teaching it (both this past summer but also this fall), my Philosophies of Art & Beauty class has propelled me through Whitehead into the very interesting work of one of his most important students, Susanne Langer.

Susanne K. Langer (1895-1985)
For those of you who haven't heard of her work it is most certainly worth looking into, even if at first glance a skimming over of it, before finding a text that would suit one's own vision in aesthetic philosophy, might be found. In her work I see much of Dewey, Merleau-Ponty, Schelling, and Whitehead; but of course, her work is highly original and impressive in its own right.  If I had more time I definitely would like to write a "Philosopher Profile" about her (I've been meaning to, in addition to one on John William Miller - another important American philosopher connected with idealism, realism, process-relational philosophy, ecological and environmental aesthetics.)

First and foremost I would recommend her Feeling and Form (1953), a .pdf of which can be found HERE. Otherwise do look over a nice biography concerning her life and work, also a .pdf, HERE.

Dryden's "Whitehead's Influence on Susanne Langer's Conception of Living Form" is quite excellent, HERE as is his "Susanne K. Langer and American Philosophic Naturalism in the Twentieth Century" HERE. Both are taken from Anthony Flood's very honorable page dedicated to her work, HERE.

Some very nice Langer quotes HERE, some of which I'll put below.
"Art is the objectification of feeling and the subjectification of nature." 
"Every artistic form reflects the dynamism that is constantly building up the life of feeling." 
"Feeling, in the broad sense of whatever is felt in any way, as sensory stimulus or inward tension, pain, emotion or intent, is the mark of mentality." 
"If a work of art is a projection of feeling, its kinship with organic nature will emerge, no matter through how many transformations, logically and inevitably." 
"Music is 'significant form,' and its significance is that of a symbol, a highly articulated, sensuous object, which by virtue of its dynamic structure can express the forms of vital experience which language is peculiarly unfit to convey. Feeling, life, motion and emotion constitute its import." 
"Music is the tonal analogue of emotive life."