“To See With Justice”
Number 2022. January 8, 2019
Dear Unknown Friends:
We are serializing A Thing Has This, of 1969, one of Eli Siegel’s landmark lectures on the relation of art and science. He is the critic who showed what that relation is—the great likeness, agreement, friendship, essential oneness of those so different tremendous matters, science and art. In this talk, he explains that there is an agreement between art and science in the seeing of what a thing is. It is utterly against science, he says, and utterly against art, to sum up a thing: any thing “is everything it has, not just the part you want to see or do see”; a thing is “all the ways it can be seen,” all its possibilities.
In the section that appeared in our previous issue, Mr. Siegel discussed “The Blind Men and the Elephant,” the J.G. Saxe poem based on a tale of India. Six men, who cannot see, touch some part of an elephant and each decides what an elephant is in terms of the part he touched—ear, trunk, tail, etc. Yet none has a sense of the whole elephant. Wrote Saxe: “Each was partly in the right, / And all were in the wrong!” For the rest of the lecture, Mr. Siegel uses a very different text, which, he shows, illustrates the same idea. It is an essay about various critics’ views of Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach.”
In my previous commentary, I quoted Mr. Siegel from Self and World about how urgent this matter of how we see things is—and things include persons, happenings, truth itself:
The first victory of contempt is the feeling in people that they have the right to see other people and things pretty much as they please….
The fact that most people have felt…they had the right to see other people and other objects in a way that seemed to go with comfort—this fact is the beginning of the injustice and pain of the world. [P. 3]
The looking at things however one pleases, in whatever way makes one comfortable or important, is what people do every day. They do not know that 1) they are unjust; 2) they are injuring themselves; 3) there is another way of seeing—which is both the art way and the science way. In Aesthetic Realism consultations, people are learning to see in that other way—the way they most deeply long to see.
Take a young man who, like millions of people, is very angry with his father and also sees that father as uninteresting and beneath him. Among the many questions he might be asked are these: Do you think your father has to do with the whole world, not just with you?…Read more
The Right Of is edited by Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, who is author of its commentaries.