Jeffrey Carduner, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
Americans are asking: How can the injustice among people be truly ended? Here—in “Respect for What Is Real”—are urgently important, thrilling answers for our country! The people of America can have at last the authentic desire to comprehend one another, and the means to do so—through study of the knowledge in this new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
We’re proud to publish “What Is Real?,” a discussion that took place in a 1976 Aesthetic Realism class taught by Eli Siegel. The subject what is real? is huge in philosophy and art. But it’s also tremendous, ethically tremendous, in the lives of people and nations. Whether we know it or not, how we see the question what is real? is central to the choices we make, and to our happiness and sorrow, kindness and unkindness, justice and injustice.
In the class, Mr. Siegel responds to questions asked by students, and he himself asks questions. His discussion of the subject is logical, imaginative, philosophic, down-to-earth, often humorous—and groundbreaking. He answers a question about death in a way that is great in its logic and kindness.
A big reason the question what is real? matters mightily, even desperately, is this: all cruelty begins with making another person less real than oneself. All cruelty, Aesthetic Realism explains, begins with contempt, and contempt is “the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.” The first thing we lessen contemptuously in another person is his or her reality: we do not grant this person the fullness of feeling, the ongoing thought, the aliveness of hopes and fears, even the deep confusions that we have.
Making someone who’s different from us less real than we are is fundamental to racism. And this contempt is the filthy basis of the efforts in America now to suppress the vote. Isn’t voter suppression a saying that certain people’s possible votes must be rendered unreal—that the only real voters should be those who are like oneself?
Contempt robs things and people of their reality in other ways too. Meeting life dully, coldly, being unmoved and bored, is frequent; but it’s a making of the world’s excitement and wonder unreal. It is a wiping out of the vibrancy that is in objects and happenings, in books, music, people. It’s a making of all this livingness and meaning unreal so that oneself can feel superior—miserably superior, but superior.
About midway in the discussion, Eli Siegel refers to his definition of reality, and I’ll quote it now. In Definitions, and Comment: Being a Description of the World, he defines and comments on 134 words. The first is reality. Here is that definition, and the opening paragraph of the comment:
Reality is all that which can affect one.
As soon as one is alive, and anywhere or in any time, one is up against, surrounded by, possessed of reality. Reality is all that which all things have in common, and all the time. It is under our finger tips, and where no bird has flown, explorer has gone, or astronomer definitely peered at or into….
I consider that paragraph beautiful….Read more