Sunday, October 13, 2019

Neil McWilliam, Dreams of Happiness: Social Art and the French Left, 1830-1850, 

Saint-Simon’s emphasis on overt didacticism underlines the transitional status of his ideas. While the disciples who took up the banner of industry following the philosopher’s death in 1825 were to cultivate a mystical religiosity where sentiment was given pride of place, Saint-Simon’s own attitude toward imagination and the arts remained qualified by an underlying commitment to reason. Positivist leanings provide a continual bedrock to his thought, surviving, and indeed justifying, the modifications in his practical outlook. In this respect, Saint-Simon displays epiStemological convictions that grow out of the rationalist tradition of Enlightenment philosophy. His promotion of a utilitarian aesthetic, too, has eighteenth-century antecedents, not only in the Revolution but also in ancien regime interest in the morally inspiring impact of art. Yet, in certain respects, Saint-Simon makes a break with the Enlightenment. His perception of contemporary medical theory, with its repudiation of the egalitarian connotations of sensationalism, prompted an acknowledgment of the inherent limitations of reason as a faculty found in developed form only among a small minority. It is in this context that sentiment, whose organic origins apparently guaranteed more universal appeal, acquires a pivotal role in the political equation and leads to the artist’s promotion in Saint-Simon’s later work. Such an appreciation of sentiment, while sharing some of the characteristics advanced in eighteenth-century texts, fundamentally deviates from this earlier tradition in its overall place within an explanation of aesthetic response and differs markedly from the essentially elitist conception of sensiibilité.

Saint-Simon’s attitude toward art is, moreover, unambiguously functional in tone. Beauty is a concept entirely foreign to his concerns; art achieves significance in his eyes only insofar as it can be justified on strictly utilitarian lines. Symptomatically, his aesthetic speculations remain on exclusively abstract plane, eschewing any reference to specific works of literature, painting, or sculpture. Nor did Saint-Simon make conspicuous attempts to acquaint himself with contemporary practice. While he had gone to elaborate lengths to cultivate leading scientists, even contracting a short-lived marriage in 1801 as a means of establishing a fashionable salon in his home near the Ecole de médecine, his familiarity with artists of the period remained slight—though the painter Ary Schefier briefly entered Saint-Simon’s circle in 1816, through friendship with his young collaborator Augustin Thierrlv. This isolation confirms the general indifference with which the artistic community responded to Saint-Simon’s promise of unprecedented social eminence, a promise all too apparently qualified by a highly instrumental understanding of culture as subservient to priorities determined through the superior insights of reason.

The rationalist ballast that holds Saint-Simon’s aesthetic in place was largely jettisoned by his disciples. As the following chapter will demonstrate, their cultivation of pronounced religious overtones had far-reaching implications not only for their interpretation of Saint-Simon’s philosophy of social organization but also for their understanding of art and of the artist’s status, which far surpassed anything their mentor had been willing to allow. In this respect, the movement cast aside much of the Enlightenment inheritance in Saint-Simon’s philosophy and forged an understanding of art social that moved beyond his utilitarian commitment to exert a far more potent appeal on the artistic community in the years after 1830. 

It didn't leave rationalism behind for long.
a new tag for Saint-Simon

And reposting the below from a year ago, because I've been writing about Athens and the Renaissance. Double-consciousness is the foundation of humanism and democracy. It's the foundation for art. Art is always the manifestation of double-consciousness, the acceptable form of release: the illusory world of play where self and other are joined. Du Bois was always a positivist of one sort of another, defending enlightenment model of the "rational, single self". Romantics and irrationalists respond by wanting the make the illusion a reality.

But positivism was always a form of romanticism.
17 … But now we have another problem.What is that?
What if we find out what makes each of us internally consistent? What if I find your proper name, that thing which describes exactly what you are?
Than I will always be honest, or predictable at least. And you will be able to interpret everything I say and never be wrong. And of course I’ll know your name as well.
No dishonesty, no subterfuge, no Freud, no art… Then we can all be logical positivists.
But it doesn’t matter. That dream’s irrelevant.
I want unification.
It’s an illusion.
I want the illusion.
Do you want the illusion or do you want the illusion to be real?
What’s the difference?
One means that you have an appreciation of the arts. The other means that you’re a fascist.
...and a new tag for Simon Blackburn. He deserves one at this point.

From Sept 2018:

"Divided consciousness"

"Irony is the glory of slaves."  Milosz

Du Bois.
After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
But bragging is a common vice, and a more specific, and also more decisive, flaw in Eichmann's character was his almost total inability ever to look at anything from the other fellow's point of view. Nowhere was this flaw more conspicuous than in his account of the Vienna episode. He and his men and the Jews' were all "pulling together," and whenever there were any difficulties the Jewish functionaries would come running to him "to unburden their hearts," to tell him "all their grief and sorrow," and to ask for his help.
A repeat

File under Trolley Problems. A soldier explains what Oxbridge philosophers can't. It's a sign of how far we've fallen that it has to be explained at all.
A thousand years ago when I was about to begin my military career, a wise old retired Marine colonel, a veteran of the carnage at Tarawa, gave me some advice. Paraphrased here, he said
So you want to be a career soldier? Good for you. But remember that the longer you stay in uniform, the less you will really understand about the country you protect. Democracy is the antithesis of the military life; it’s chaotic, dishonest, disorganized, and at the same time glorious, exhilarating and free — which you are not.

After a while, if you stay in, you’ll be tempted to say, “Look, you civilians, we’ve got a better way. We’re better organized. We’re patriotic, and we know what it is to sacrifice. Be like us.” And you’ll be dead wrong, son. If you’re a career soldier, you may defend democracy, but you won’t understand it or be part of it. What’s more, you’ll always be a stranger to your own society. That’s the sacrifice you’ll be making.
"A military in service to a democracy is an authoritarian order in service to a free one: every soldier is simultaneously both a soldier and a citizen." A living breathing contradiction in terms. Before we negotiate with others we negotiate with ourselves.

Another recent repeat, an obvious one I missed. Baudelaire
To add to the military metaphors: Soldier of the judicial press (Bertin). The poets of strife. The litterateurs of the advance guard. This habitude of military metaphors denotes minds not military, but made for discipline, that is, for conformity, minds born domesticated, Belgian minds, which can think only in society.

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