Re: Aesthetics, PCP and broaders issues in general.

Esteban Laso (
Wed, 20 May 1998 03:42:14 -0500


Charles Smith wrote:

>Firstly, I personally think you are a bit dismissive of psychoanalysis. The
>discourse promulgated by Freud, of the individual freely constructing his
>her identity (ego) in a socially constrained world, has pervaded
>psychological thinking throughout the 20th century, both popular and
>academic, and including PCP.

Not at all. I was trained on psychoanalysis, and I respect Freud's
writings -I still find them useful to understand a lot of things (like
meaning of dreams, jokes, and lapsus linguae). But I also think that there
are lots of pages written about nothing -which have no meaning; like all
that stuff about "metapsychology" and "economic explanations" of behavior.
And also I believe that the "cultural interpretations" psychoanalysis offers
are too simplistic and too rooted on the "sex-and-law" stuff -but that's
another story! I don't want PCP to become a "general theory of
everything" -from the therapy room to international politics and the like.
If we do, maybe we'll find ourselves trying to explain the whole of human
affairs with a couple of generalities, vague statements and uncompromising

>If we look for a wider value of PCP, most theories of aesthetics, from
>onwards, are basically associationist, so in principle you can use PCP to
>analyse the connections in my aesthetic constructs, finding perhaps that I
>connect Van Gogh's use of perspective with the futility of life, or the
>taste of red wine with rasberries. But this is superficial (providing no
>explanations of why I make these associations) and purely verbal. I cannot
>explain the impact on me of the slow movement of Brahms' Bb string quartet.
>It relates to something pre-verbal and intangible.

I don't find it superficial. The constructs which give meaning to our lives
are frequently not verbalized -but you can still reconstruct them with
words. Something is lost, I agree -but something is found! And maybe art is
an exploration on the perennial problems of mankind -love, understanding,
death, the meaning of life. About "using PCP to analyse the connections", I
find your example similar to the laddering procedures -and the final
constructs you get after laddering are not "superficial" but deeply rooted
in the person's structure.

>Lacan (a post-Freudian theoriser) talks of signifier-signified chains, in
>which words, of course, are socially based, and always signifiers of
>something else. Thus, if I could speak of what the Brahms signified, then
>that word itself would only be another signifier. At the end of the chain,
>the signified is lost, or so knotted with the signifier that it cannot be
>separately expressed. And discussing music in terms of this verbal chain
>sends the question of its significance along a route of social meanings
>which may not be helpful. This theory tells me nothing about my taste - but
>at least it explains why all theories of taste are ultimately speculative.

Pierce and Wittgenstein pointed out something very close -that we live
inside a world of words, and that we can't rest over an external "reality"
to ultimately validate them. Speculative? Are not every single theory and
proposition speculative in some way?

>I don't know if this helps. In principle I'm saying that I think PCP can
>(and should) form a basis to examine the overt, tangible and verbal aspects
>of wider issues such as aesthetics as they affect the individual, but it
>can't address the more fundamental questions.
I'm not so sure about it -PCP (or anything!) being incapable of account for
the "more fundamental questions". To begin with, what questions are these?
Is it that the "profound" questions are not verbal? We can't claim that
we've found "the" truth; but we can surely look for it.
Any comments?