Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dichotomizing the Kosmos

James notes at the end of "The Stream of Consciousness" that "each of us dichotomizes the Kosmos in a different place":

"One great splitting of the whole universe into two halves is made by each of us; and for each of us almost all of the interest attaches to one of the halves; but we all draw the line of division between them in a different place. When I say that we all call the two halves by the same names, and that those names are 'me' and 'not-me' respectively, it will at once be seen what I mean. The altogether unique kind of interest which each human mind feels in those parts of creation which it can call me or mine may be a moral riddle, but it is a fundamental psychological fact."

I consider it a fun game to apply this demarcation to the reader/writer relationship specific to each work. In Barthes' The Pleasure of the Text, he writes (of the author of a "prattling" text): "You address yourself to me so that I may read you, but I am nothing to you except this address; in your eyes, I am the substitute for nothing, for no figure.... [F]or you I am neither a body nor even an object... but merely a field, a vessel for expansion." I imagine this to be the way Wittgenstein's first essay was written. The person of the reader was irrelevant to the text; it was written to no one as much as it was to anyone. On the opposite end of the spectrum is a writer like Nabokov, who actually wrote the reader's psyche into his text, as if he were almost (but not quite) a textual character. I'm really interested in this difference, specifically between Wittgenstein and Nabokov, but also between philosophical and creative works in general-- in what bearing the placement of this "dichotomy" has on the text, and how it reflects the ideology of the writer in question.

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