Nancy Huntting, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
What would it mean to value and use our senses—touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing—wisely? What is their fundamental purpose, and their relation to our intellect? These big questions are answered—magnificently, truly—in “The Grand Everyday Drama,” the new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known!
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
It is an honor to serialize the 1964 lecture Aesthetic Realism Looks at Sensation, by Eli Siegel. Through it we see that something so fundamental to what we are—our senses, and the physiological organization that enables them to work—is aesthetic. Our senses are in keeping with the principle at the basis of Aesthetic Realism: “The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites.”
Mr. Siegel shows that our power of sensation, our ability to touch, hear, taste, smell, see, is always a oneness of in and out, self and world. In every instance of any one of our senses, what is outside us is able to be in some fashion within us; the world becomes ourselves. If I touch the wood of a table (as I am doing now), I am experiencing a great yet everyday drama: meeting what’s other than myself and having that otherness become of me too, through that touch.
The rich, exact, sometimes humorous lecture we’re serializing can enable a person to have a deep pride because one’s own being is made aesthetically, and a deep respect for one’s fellow humans and the world. In the first part of the lecture, Mr. Siegel used, as illustration, passages from a textbook. Now he begins to discuss a poem of Keats.
Sensation, Intellect, Knowledge, Pride
For much of the last century the reign of Sigmund Freud brought a certain vastly hurtful foolishness and ugliness to the way the senses were often seen. Freudianism encouraged millions of people to see sensation, in its multitudinousness, as really about sex. If a child, for instance, wanted to touch her lips to a red balloon, or her fingers to her own arm—well, she was engaged in some kind of “polymorphous perverse sexuality.” Eli Siegel was a clear, scholarly, and courageous critic of Freud, including at the very peak of Freud’s power. Now psychiatry has gone away from Freud, without ever having stated that he was unscientific and incorrect, and that psychiatry was incorrect in its long adherence to him.
Meanwhile, a torment that has been with humanity for many centuries continues: people feel that the world of their senses, particularly touch, is a different world from that of their intellect, reason, logic. Of course, we can find technical statements that in a fashion relate the two—like this, from a National Institutes of Health webpage:
Sensory information undergoes extensive associative elaboration and attentional modulation as it becomes incorporated into the texture of cognition. [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9648540]
Yet because the aesthetics of the matter—which is also the real science of the matter—was not understood by the writers, such statements do not have a person see that the war one has made between the tactile and the intellectual is a false war. They do not give one hope that the pain-making, shame-making rift they feel can end: the rift between touch and logic, body and careful thought. I am immensely grateful to say: Aesthetic Realism can end that rift, and some of the reason why is in the lecture we’re serializing…. Read more