17.188 representing

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Tue Aug 12 2003 - 03:01:48 EDT

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 188.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2003 06:48:16 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: representing

    Philip Davis, in "Keeping faith with real reality", TLS 4806 (12 May 1995),
    pp. 13-14, quotes John Henry Newman on the attempt at verbal representation:

    "No analysis is subtle and delicate enough to represent adequately the
    state of mind under which we believe, or the subjects of belief, as they
    are presented to our thoughts. The end proposed is that of delineating, or,
    as it were, painting what the mind sees and feels: now let us consider what
    it is to portray duly in form and colour things material, and we shall
    surely understand the difficulty, or rather the impossibility of
    representing the outline and character, the hues and shades, in which any
    intellectual view really exists in the mind, or of giving it that substance
    and that exactness in detail in which consists its likeness to the
    original, or of sufficiently marking those minute differences which attach
    to the same general state of mind or tone of thought as found in this or
    that individual respectively .... Is it not hopeless, then, to expect that
    the most diligent and anxious investigation can end in more than in giving
    some very rude description of the living mind, and its feelings, thoughts,
    and reasonings? (University Sermons, Sermon xiii: "Implicit and Explicit

    Davis then comments, "Now if this is not certainty, then it is not mere
    scepticism either. For although Newman describes the task of representing
    reality inside and out as finally 'hopeless', it is only finally and not
    absolutely 'hopeless'. To be very precise, it is hopeless to expect more
    than a very rude description. But it isn't entirely a hopeless thing to end
    up giving a very rude description. Nor is it hopeless to hope for something
    a little more than that...."

    Discussing Ruskin's view in Modern Painters: "The gap between
    representation and what it stands for itself constitutes part of the
    communicative power of art; the gap holds within it a silent and implicit
    call, which the work incorporates within its very means and limitations, a
    call for a bridging imaginative vision between the work and the life it
    recalls. Artistic realism for Ruskin does not finish life off; it is an art
    that precisely sites itself between art and life."

    So, our task is not entirely hopeless, nor should we give up on hoping for
    something better. And in the gap between the not-entirely-hopeless and the
    better-to-be-wished-for is a call we need to be hearing?



    Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
    Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
    7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk

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