Philosophy in a New Key, by Susanne K. Langer – Session 2 [Cosmos Café 2021-11-18]


Jackson Pollock, “Stenographic Figure,” c. 1942

Dear humans of the cosmos: If you are reading along, you are welcome to join us for our second session discussing Susanne K. Langer’s Philosophy in a New Key.

In your time zone: 2021-11-18T19:00:00Z2021-11-18T21:00:00Z
Video conference: https://cosmos.coop/zoom/cafe

This week we’ll be improvising with chapters 4-6 and @madrush will be leading off the logical jam.

If you missed the first session, you can catch up here:

Reading / Watching / Listening

Reading Schedule

  • Nov 04: Chs, I, II, III
  • Nov 18: Chs IV, V, VI ←
  • Dec 02: Chs VII, VIII
  • Dec 16: Chs IX, X

Seed Questions

Lock downs are happening in New York City. Everyone has to have an ID with their vaccination status to get into a movie, cafe or a museum. Austria has made this requirement a national mandate, banning a third of its population from participating in any cultural event. With that as background knowledge, how do you make sense of Langer’s project?

And when does a species turn into another species?

And when does a free person become a commodity?

And when does a meadow turn into a desert?

And when does mouth-feelings become speech?

And what does the New Key unlock?

And as we are reading Langer, a German-American white lady, who studied cultural artifacts of another era, and who wrote during the onset of the Cold War, what difference does reading her make? What are the lenses through which she can be read durng the Pandemic of 2021?

Context, Backstory, and Related topics


:heart_eyes: Thanks to the Anonymous sponsor (“Guest”) who gave $25 shortly after this event via our Open Collective page.

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A brief update on synasthesia. Ambiguity between sound and sense lingers in our day as it did in Langer’s. There is a lot of research to sort through. No doubt poets and singers are more sensitive to mouth-feelings and the overlapping senses. But what is the common sense that can hold together the infinite variety of what our vocal apparatus and our complex sensoriums communicate cross culturally? Aristotle did a lot of theorizing about this. I don’t speak a word of German and I loathe Wagner’s politics but I get chills whenever I listen to certain passages from his operas. And the production of tingling always happens in the same area of the spine and during the same passages, even in different productions, with different performers. This is why opera freaks are so weird. Sung speech is visceral.

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Thanks John. That reminds me of something you posted when we researched Jennifer Gidley’s Appendix C: “Literacy Unveiled: Art as Language from a Palaeoaesthetic Perspective” from The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative:


I do not have much time to post at the moment but I do appreciate you posting the important seed questions Johnny. These are questions I cannot answer easily. The relevance of Susanne Langer to our current cultural climate is still developing as we read, type and speak about this work. I know we can parse things out in our conversation tomorrow, as we do, and want to invite a full spectrum of temperature to the call. Too much of our social media is too hot. Too much of our physical encounters are cold and a certain boundary is lifted or a safety bubble overprotects us from encounters with the full spectrum of what is possible. I believe that sharing our given temperature places, in real time, that which is possible and makes our possibilities a reality. I want to state upfront that I very much appreciated the tone of our last conversation and would like a solid structure or grounding as @achronon graciously provided last meeting (no pressure Marco!). I would also like for us to get down and dirty, to turn up the heat if we feel the thermostat needs shifting.

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I like grounding, too. If we shut up speaking a partial truth because others are made nervous, what happens next? What grounds one person, like the taste of sugar free chocolate and coffee, is not grounding to another person, who prefers vanilla donuts and a snort of cocaine. There are norms and there are violations and it is not all relative and yet it is not driven by conformity to universal essenses either. In this, Langer and ourselves, exploring these aesthetic dimensions, are making very little progress. So, I will take a walk and perform a round of tummo, with barefeet upon a hill and then have my coffee and sugar free chocolate. Life is good.

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And when does mouth-feelings become speech?

And what does the New Key unlock?

I Like These Questions,Why?They Bring Awareness to the Kinesthetic
of The Act/Activity we Engage in when in Verbal Expression,the Key & the Movement of Key /Lock…"The Mouth Muscles we sometimes take for Granted " until Lock Jaw(Cramping) sets in (personal experience) which
some of what Susanne Langer seems to Daze & Confuse this Reader with because of a over-sale of Symbol Transformation that lacks the “Juiciness”
of a Living Human Creature with this Capacity? Not Finished with the Book,
so maybe?
Some Chosen Symbols from my Affect Reading…

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I’ll do my best, Doug. John has given us some good questions to start with, and I’ll see what I can do with those combined with my own questions and conceptions of the reading, and my meta-awareness of the field.

It all might make sense in some way; I’m just not sure how yet…

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Thanks, all, for the enriching and enlivening dialogue. Here are the words I shared at the beginning of our session:

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Often thought of as ‘silent’, in reality, 4’33” is comprised of the unique ambient soundscape of the environment in which it’s performed, reflecting Cage’s belief that music is ever-present.

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A question ? Has anyone else been Moved to Listen to Music as an accompaniment to Reading these Chapters? : Philosophy in a New Key, by Susanne K. Langer

This is one of my meanderings…

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