Friday, July 10, 2015

rewriting, page by page, the references below quoted in the text.
Eliot was like James but also Duchamp, who less refused to embalm the past than made art out the art of embalming itself: an art about post-adolescent nostalgia. The question for Santayana, and for Duchamp -or at least his later academic champions- is whether this observant counterpoint to Modernism can be called analysis, since that implies a claim to objectivity that Santayana might otherwise avoid.

Anti-moderns were moderns who opposed the present and preferred an idea of the past; the past itself was gone. The paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites represent a fantasy, at best borderline kitsch; Eliot understood that and wrote about and against his own desire. Duchamp avoided the fate of Alfred Jarry as Warhol avoided the fate of many of his “superstars”, by understanding them better than they understood themselves. Santayana refers to distance, and “the outer world”, dodging the fact that it’s no more than a relation, Europe to America, and one relation among others. Rather than fantasizing a historical place he fantasizes the history of a manner: James, Eliot, Duchamp, Russell and Proust, all hewed to the manners of the aristocracy and the high bourgeois. But Santayana indulges aristocratic sentiment and Russell elides it, trying to escape contradictions that all the artists dive into head first. Santayana chides Russell but in the end they’re both philosophers, men of ideas before experience. And again that’s the final subject here: the relation not of art to science, but of art and science to independent philosophy and theology, of empiricism to rationalism.

It would take more of a philologist than I am to describe to the history of analysis, with all the word implies, because all of the various 20th century pseudo-sciences begin in the 18th century, and earlier. It’s not a question anymore whether or not Descartes’ imagination was formed in the 17th century counter-renaissance. “History” he writes, “is like foreign Travel. It broadens the mind but does it not deepen it.” Stephen Toulmin quoting him in the early 90s is much too polite. James Boon, twenty years before Toulmin, writing about the relation of Levi Strauss to the Symbolists is apologetic to the point of obsequiousness. But it’s no longer a question whether or not Saussure and Mallarmé exemplify the concerns of an era, whether ideas of synchrony and timelessness, of ideal order, satisfied a desire in an age of dynamism and instability. It’s interesting that in books on the relation of fine art to philosophy, reticence is the least of the authors' problems, again due to the historical relation of the fine arts to the Church, to theology and to “truth” as opposed to fiction and “lies”. Eliot and Santayana both would be surprised to find Duchamp, another heir to Huysmans, hailed as a philosopher by none other than the editor of the Journal of Philosophy. But Arthur Danto was nothing if not an heir to the genteel tradition.

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