Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Aesthetics Today blog on Suzanne Langer

Interesting post wherein Susanne Langer (student of Whitehead) is discussed in quite abit of detail. I thought this was particularly interesting:
[Langer] emphasizes the “semblance of organism.” Dewey stresses that we are live creatures interacting with our environments. Langer tries to keep the two radically separate, but interestingly the value of art is that it reflects us by resembling ourselves as live organisms. “Living organisms maintain themselves, resist change, strive to restore their structure when it has been forcibly interfered with….organisms, performing characteristic functions must have certain general forms, or perish.” (229) Following Aristotle, once again, she stresses that life has necessity, that only life “exhibits any telos” and that the acorn strives to become the oak. Now she stresses that there is “nothing actually organic about a work of sculpture” (230) and yet is gives us “semblance of living form....As Langer puts it “the human environment, which is the counterpart of any human life, holds the imprint of a functional pattern; it is the complementary of organic form” which see sees in terms of the “metabolic pattern” of our both our feelings and our physical acts. But again as opposed to Langer, it is not just complementary or a counterpart; it is just exactly also where we live. To put it briefly: human life is in the human environment...
This brought to mind the Umwelten of Jakob von Uexküll, meaning the perceptual "worlds" in which various organisms exist as subjects, established by the achievement of form through sensuous interaction with their respective environments. I think Uexküll's notion of "significance" and how it functions midway between creature and environment is strikingly similar to Langer's notion of living form and John William Miller's notion of Midworld.

Link to the post at Aesthetics Today blog HERE. More on Langer from After Nature blog HERE. Corry Shore's entry on Jakob von Uexküll HERE.