Re: Aesthetics, PCP and broaders issues in general.

Mancuso, James C. (
Wed, 20 May 1998 10:16:20 -0400

Thanks for taking up the issue related to the matter of "dismissing"
psychoanalysis. You did a nice job -- though I might have been more
than "a bit dismissive" of psychoanalysis than you have been in your

Esteban Laso wrote:

> Hi
> 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
> or
> >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
> answers.
> >If we look for a wider value of PCP, most theories of aesthetics,
> from
> Plato
> >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?
> Esteban

James C. Mancuso        Dept. of Psychology
15 Oakwood Place        University at Albany
Delmar, NY 12054        1400 Washington Ave.
Tel: (518)439-4416      Albany, NY 12222
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