Blog Post 4: Holmes v James

March 17th, 2011

Jackie Weber   Blog Post #4   Senior Seminar 391W

            In Rebecca Solnit’s essay, “The Annihilation of Time and Space,” she brings forth both arguments for and against the theories portrayed by William James.  Most notably in the “against” camp is Oliver Wendell Holmes.  Holmes says, “Form is henceforth divorced from matter.  In fact, matter as a visible object is of no great use any longer, except as the mould on which form is shaped.” (Solnit 21)  Holmes strongly believed that the “fruit of creation” was perceived through the photograph; that no longer did we need to experience the live event or be in the moment of an event to full grasp and understand the true essence of what is going on.  A photograph, as he believed, was a strong enough replica that “matter” didn’t matter.  Capturing the original is to him capturing the essence of a scene.  William James through his theories of “stream of thought” tended to be swayed the other way.  He believed that one must stay true to the raw emotion exhibited through moments.  In regards to the Holmes quote in Solnit’s essay, James would argue that an experience and/or thought cannot be duplicated or ever thought again.  This is exactly the opposite of what Holmes is trying to portray.  In James’ eyes, a photograph is only an imitation of an event.  It’s like being at a wedding, enjoying the fun, the music, the company, the food and the memories of the evening versus seeing photographs of a wedding in an album; you get to see the excitement, but you never got to feel or experience it.  The essence is therefore essentially taken out of the photograph and out of the new viewers’ eyes.  James would argue with Holmes that the loss of humanity within life, the “natural life” would now become insignificant and taken over to become a part of the man-made, technological nature that was coming about during the Industrious Revolution.  To James, we need to be aware of our “stream of thought” and how it works, which includes combining both our thoughts and knowledge, otherwise we fall victim to ignorance in regards to certain aspects of life.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, what words are truly capturing the essence?  A first hand glimpse on an experience creates a definitive answer within a person – something James was adamant about teaching and Holmes was adamant with arguing against.  Another perfect example of James’ opposition to Holmes in Solnit’s paper is the idea of taking the “texture” out of the true view; considering the differences between running your hand under water compared to seeing a picture of running water – the experiences are nowhere near the same. (Solnit 18).  Holmes tended to lean towards the modernity of life, which in essence started to take away from the nature of humans and human life and started to shift true responsibility onto the technologies that were being created – like relying on a photograph from a camera to depict what is supposed to be something real.

Blog Post 3: Stream of Consciousness

March 8th, 2011

Jackie Weber   Blog Post #3   English 391W Professor Zino

In Rita Carter’s, “Exploring Consciousness” and William James’ “the Principles of Psychology,” the authors are both examining and explaining the range of stages of consciousness.  According to James’ theories, our mind is able to focus on exactly what it finds interesting in viewing and studying while we are consciously perceiving something.  This rang true for me – I often find myself focusing in on what particular part of an image I am looking at – whether it be a photograph, picture or real life view.  Our eye picks up on what exactly we want to notice.  Carter also gets a feel of the incessant stream of consciousness that warps our minds.  She explains through the process of reading that is “present in our perception of everything.” (Carter 24).  When someone is reading, their minds do not pick up on every word, while at the same time highlighting internally words that stick out to us and draw our attention in closer.  Together, both Carter and James acknowledge that our minds are constantly running and working – interrelating and succumbing to the environment around it.  Even while we sleep, our mind is processing different forms and interpretations of reality through our dreams.  Our conscious is able to process for us a plethora of emotions and feelings; it creates our happiness, sadness, anger what have you.  James says in his essay that, “the object is not only apprehended by the mind, but is held to have reality.” (James 288).  This made me believe that not only does our mind work to take in objects and images – but it does it in the most accurate way.  No picture, no photograph can give such a direct image as the mind and the eyes do in the conscious state.  The mind is able to create aspects that it deems to be defining reality – which makes interpretations key in shaping the world.  A point I find thoroughly interesting in James’ essay was the theory that the way our mind is constructed orders a person’s ability to view but after an extended period of time, it becomes harder and harder for a person to distinguish what is actual reality and what is figments of the imagination aiding and molding the thoughts we perceive.  In her essay, Carter quotes Kevin O’Regan, an expert in psychological perception, on what he believes to be the truth behind perception and the conscious.  He believes that everything we perceive is just a grand illusion, but this creates an argument that if it is an illusion we are not interpreting reality.  If one can say that everything we perceive is just a part of this grand magic act – than what is in fact reality?  Is the sky actually blue – or do we just perceive it as such because someone many years ago decided it was blue and we all just liked that answer?  If I say that the sky is purple, is there no room for debate – simply because our perceptions are “grand illusions?”  This theory of O’Regan’s seems pretentious and I enjoyed Carter using it in a way to expand what not to truly believe.  The Anton Delusion I found very interesting – “Can operate very happily as a fully sighted person until they collide with objects that happened not to be in their imaginary picture of the world.” (Carter 18).  This to me rang so very true in what I believe is the conscious working; countless amounts of times I have experienced incidents that I had never witnessed before – shaping and changing the way I see the world and, to be honest, scaring me because it wasn’t something I was used to by any means.  While Carter reflects James in her essay, I found her essay a much easier and enjoyable read.  Both works, however, made me think of the “stream of consciousness” that is found within many writers, most notably Lewis Carroll.  He never feared using his conscious and the stream of words that flowed through it to make up a story or enhance a story – an attribute to the literary field that worked wonders.

Wikipedia Ideas

March 2nd, 2011

the Sublime Turn

Visual Culturalists

Horizon Line

Transparent Eyeball