Irreversibility and the power to forgive

“Here, the remedy against the irreversibility and unpredictability of the process started by acting does not arise out of another and possibly higher faculty, but is one of the potentialities of action itself. The possible redemption from the predicament of irreversibility –of being unable to undo what one has done though one did not, and could not, have known what he was doing– is the faculty of forgiving. The remedy for unpredictability, for the chaotic uncertainty of the future, is contained in the faculty to make and keep promises. The two faculties belong together in so far as one of them, forgiving, serves to undo the deeds of the past, whose “sins” hang like Damocles’ sword over every new generation; and the other, binding oneself through promises, serves to set up in the ocean of uncertainty, which is the future by definition, islands of security without which not even continuity, let alone durability of any kind, would be possible in the relationships between men.”

Hannah Arendt


Leisure, the basis of culture

“But the Gods, taking pity on human beings – a race born to labor – gave them regularly recurring divine festivals, as a means of refreshment from their fatigue; they gave them the Muses, and Apollo and Dionysus as the leaders of the Muses, to the end that, after refreshing themselves in the company of the Gods, they might return to an upright posture.”


The Category of the Ultimate

Creativity is the universal of universals characterizing ultimate matter of fact. It is that ultimate principle by which the many, which are the universe disjunctively, become the one actual occasion, which is the universe conjunctively. It lies in the nature of things that the many enter into complex unity.

Creativity is the principle of novelty. An actual occasion is a novel entity diverse from any entity in the many which it unifies. Thus creativity introduces novelty into the content of the many, which are the universe disjunctively. The creative advance is the application of this ultimate principle of creativity to each novel situation which it originates.

(…) The ultimate metaphysical principle is the advance from disjunction to conjunction, creating a novel entity other than the entities given in disjunction. The novel entity is at once the togetherness of the many which it finds, and also it is one among the disjunctive many which it synthesizes. The many become one, and are increased by one.

Thus the production of novel togetherness is the ultimate notion embodied in the term concrescence. These ultimate notions of production of novelty and of concrete togetherness are inexplicable either in terms of higher universals or in terms of the components participating in the concrescence. The analysis of the components abstracts from the concrescence. The sole appeal is to intuition.”

A. N. Whitehead

Duración y simultaneidad: El espacio-tiempo de cuatro dimensiones

“El tiempo es para mí lo que hay de más real y de más necesario; es la condición fundamental de la acción: -¿qué digo? Es la acción misma; y la obligación en la que estoy de vivirlo, la imposibilidad de jamás franquear el intervalo de tiempo por venir, bastarían para demostrarme -si no tuviese su impresión inmediata- que el porvenir es realmente abierto, imprevisible, indeterminado. No me toméis por un metafísico, si llamáis así al hombre de las construcciones dialécticas. No he construido nada, simplemente he comprobado. Os entrego lo que se ofrece a mis sentidos y a mi conciencia: lo inmediatamente dado debe ser tenido por real en tanto no se tenga la convicción de ser una simple apariencia; a vosotros os corresponde pues, si veis allí una ilusión, aportar la prueba. Pero no sospecháis una ilusión sino porque hacéis una construcción metafísica. O más bien la construcción está ya hecha, a partir de Platón, quien tenía al tiempo por una simple privación de eternidad, en tanto que la mayor parte de los metafísicos antiguos y modernos la han adoptado tal cual, porque responde en efecto a una experiencia fundamental del entendimiento humano. Hecho para establecer leyes, es decir, para extraer del flujo cambiante de las cosas ciertas relaciones que no cambian, nuestro entendimiento es naturalmente llevado a no ver sino a ellas; únicamente ellas exiten para él, quien realiza pues, su función y responde a su destino, situándose fuera del tiempo que fluye y dura. Sin embargo el pensamiento, que desborda el puro entendimiento, sabe bien que, si la inteligencia tiene por esencia extraer leyes, es a fin de que nuestra acción sepa con qué contar, y de que nuestra voluntad tenga más alcance sobre las cosas: el entendimeitno trata a la duración como un déficit, como una pura negación, a fin de que podamos trabajar con la mayor eficacia posible en esta duración que es, sin embargo, lo más positivo que hay en el mundo. La metafísica de la mayor parte de los metafisicos no es pues, sino la ley misma del funcionamiento del entendimiento, el cual es una de las facultades del pensamiento, pero no el pensamiento mismo. Este, en su totalidad, tiene en cuenta la experiencia integral y la totalidad de nuestra experiencia es duración. Luego, sea lo que hagáis, elimináis algo, e incluso lo esencial, al reemplazar por un bloque una vez planteado los estados del universo que pasan por turno.

Os dais así menos de lo que es necesario, pero, en otro sentido, os dais más de lo que es necesario.”

Henri Bergson

The Hormic Psychology

“In the volume Psychologies of 1925 I took the field as an exponent of purposive psychology. Anticipating a little the course of history, I shall here assume that the purposive nature of human action is no longer in dispute, and in this article shall endeavour to define and to justify that special form of purposive psychology which is now pretty widely known as hormic psychology. But first a few words in justification of this assumption.

Fifteen years ago American psychologists displayed almost without exception a complete blindness to the most peculiar, characteristic, and important feature of human and animal activity, namely, its goal-seeking. All bodily actions and all phases of experience were mechanical reactions to stimuli, and all learning was the modification of such reactions by the addition of one reaction to another according to the mechanical principles of association. The laws of learning were the laws of frequency, of recency, and of effect ; and, though the law of effect as formulated by Thorndike may have suggested to some few minds that the mechanical principles involved were not so clear as might be wished, the laws of frequency and recency could give rise to no such misgivings. The law of effect, with its uncomfortable suggestion of an effect that somehow causes its cause, was pretty generally regarded as something to be got rid of by the substitution of some less ambiguous and more clearly mechanical formula.

Now, happily, all this is changed ; the animal psychologists have begun to realise that any description of animal behaviour which ignores its goal-seeking nature is futile, any ‘explanation’ which leaves it out of account, fictitious, and any experimentation which ignores motivation, grossly misleading ; they are busy with the study of ‘drives’,’sets’, and  ‘incentives’. It is true that their recognition of goal-seeking is in general partial and grudging ; they do not explicitly recognise that a ‘set’ is a set toward an end, that ‘a drive’ is an active striving toward a goal, that an ‘incentive’ is some-thing that provokes such active striving. The terms ‘striving’ and ‘conation’ are still foreign to their vocabularies.”

William McDougall

Could this be art?

“Nor should it be of any wonder that this philosophical conquest has cost an extraordinary amount of effort, because it is like having set foot on a hill long contested in battle, making it an altogether different accomplishment from a relaxed climb by a carefree hiker during peacetime. This is no mere resting place along a stroll but the result and symbol of an army’s victory. The historian of Aesthetics follows in the footsteps of this arduous march, in which (and here is more magic of thinking) the victor, instead of losing strength from his adversary’s blows, gains from them in strength and reaches the coveted knoll, thus denying his adversary but still remaining in his company. (…)

And yet, at the foot of truth, ‘like a shoot’ – as in the tercet by Father Dante – a doubt is born, which then drives man’s intellect ‘from height to height.’ The doctrine of art, as intuition, as fancy, as form, gives rise to an ulterior (and I have not yet said ‘last’) problem, which is no longer one of opposition or of distinction from physics, hedonism, ethics, and logic, but internal to the field of images itself; and by putting into question the adequacy of the image to define the character of art, it in fact sidesteps the manner of discerning the genuine image from the spurious and in so doing enriches the concept of the image and of art. What function (one wonders) can a world of mere images have in the spirit of Man, devoid of philosophical, historical, religious, or scientific value, devoid even of moral or hedonistic value? What is more futile than dreaming with open eyes in a life that demands not only the eyes but that the mind be open and the spirit vibrant? Pure images! However, to live on pure images has the less than honourable name of ‘daydreaming’ – that usually follows the epithet of ‘idle’ – and is something rather unproductive and vapid. Could this be art? Indeed, there are times when we enjoy ourselves by reading some dime-novel, where image after image follow one another in the most diverse and unexpected ways, but we enjoy this during moments of fatigue, when we are forced to kill time, and are fully aware that it is not art. In such cases, it is a matter of a pastime and a game, but if art were a game, and a pastime, it would fall into the broad, always welcoming, embrace of hedonistic doctrines. A utilitarian and hedonistic need is what occasionally pushes us to relax the bow of the mind and the will, lean back, and allow images to parade by in our memory, or combine them in odd ways in our imagination, in a kind of reverie, which we shake off the moment our rest is over. And we shake it off at times to return precisely to the work of making art, which is never achieved by lying down. So it is that, either art is not pure intuition, and the demands made by the doctrines – which we thought were refuted above – then remain unsatisfied, and is then the reason why the refutation of those doctrines is itself troubled by doubt; or that intuition cannot consist of a simple imagining.”

Benedetto Croce

What is art?

“To the question – What is art? – we might respond in jest (but it would not be such a foolish jest) that art is what everyone knows it to be. And in truth, if in some way we were not to know what it is, we could not even ask the question, because every question implies a certain knowledge of what is being asked, designated by the question, and therefore qualified and known. (…)

But he remains unperturbed and continues along his own path, because he does not ignore the fact that the question on what is art (as with every philosophical question on the nature of the real or of knowledge in general) – if even, in the choice of words, the question takes on the aspect of a general and total problem, which is expected to be resolved for the first and last time – always actually has a circumstantial meaning, referable to the particular difficulties that arise in a particular moment in the history of thought.”

Benedetto Croce