10 March 2013

Being v. Becoming, Part 7: Flux and Fictional Narrative

Matter, Life, Consciousness, Emotion, Knowledge, Society, Civilization, Art, the Universe, Reality: For A.N. Whitehead, these are all Processes. Call them Adventures of Becoming. Flux is at their foundation(-s). This is the premise of his Process Philosophy.

Relatedness (or Interdependence) and Interiority (or what he calls Feeling) are its key mechanisms. From quantum entanglement to Minkowski world lines to emotion to linguistic communication, Process Philosophy holds explanatory power. (It isn't just some naive Romantic poetic notion.)

To understand these processes of Becoming—these Adventures—requires more than propositional logic (as, say, Gödel demonstrated w/r/t mathematics).

How do we tell the story of the history of the universe? How do we tell the story of life emerging from cold, dark matter? How do we tell the story of the emergence of consciousness and even self-consciousness and empathy? How do we tell the story of the rise of agricultural? Science? Civilization? Creativity? How do we tell the story of how mass emerges from, say, the Higgs Boson? How do we tell the story of Jack falling in (or out) of love with Jill? How do tell the story of Wally finding meaning in the death of his father? How do we tell the story of an injustice done to Billy? How do we tell the story of Becky's rise and fall?

Each of the narratives we seek to tell takes time to develop. Or, to put it generally, Processes take Time. Time is the ground of Process.

Moreover, each process takes time to recount. Stories take time to be told. Time is also the ground of narrative.

Now we're getting closer to the point of this, admittedly, abstruse series of posts. Or at least one of the points.

Process is the condition of narrative, and narrative is itself a process. Narrative has a certain mimetic power which is not propositional. Rather, it enacts process at the same time as it recounts it. Narrative has the power to represent Reality truthfully.

Truth, however, as A. N. Whitehead points out, is a limited concept, much more so than Beauty:
"...Beauty is a wider, and more fundamental notion than Truth. ... Beauty is the internal conformation of the various items of experience with each other, for the production of maximum effectiveness. Beauty thus concerns the inter-relations of the various components of Reality, and also the inter-relations of the various components of Appearance, and also the relations of Appearance to Reality. Thus any part of experience can be beautiful. ... But Truth has a narrower meaning in two ways. First, Truth, in any important sense, merely concerns the relations of Appearance and Reality. But in the second place the notion of 'conformation' in the case of Truth is narrower than that in the case of Beauty. For the truth-relation requires that the two relata have some factor in common. ... 
"[Yet]...the general importance of Truth for the promotion of Beauty is overwhelming. ...[T]he truth-relation remains the simple, direct mode of realizing Harmony. ... The type of Truth required for the final stretch of Beauty is a discovery and not a recapitulation. The Truth that for such extremity of Beauty is wanted is that truth-relation whereby appearance summons up new resources of feeling from the depths of Reality. It is a Truth of feeling, and not a Truth of verbalization. The relata in Reality must lie below the stale presupposition of verbal thought. The Truth of supreme Beauty lies beyond th dictionary meanings of words." Adventures of Ideas, p. 265-67
Fictional narrative allows us to go (Gö-del?) outside the propositional facts of our lives and create models of meaning. It is an Adventure.

Fiction writing is modelling. Fiction writers create models of selves in the process of becoming. Ideally, these model selves are at hinge points in their fictive lives. Crises. The character is affected by this crisis and must either change or, importantly, decide not to change in some meaningful way as a result.

These models are pictures of the process of becoming as embodied in a realized fictional character. Such change will be a result of both external (social) as well as internal (emotional) factors. This is where the fiction writer's artistry is important.

If we accept the premise that Being just is Becoming, i.e., that the process of growth/change/decay/resistance is the foundational quality of selfhood in human beings, then fiction (at least humanistic fiction) is ideally suited to present us with a model—call it a case study—of this process in all its over-determined detail.

Fictional narratives can create instructive models of the process of becoming, most often and usefully in individual characters at specific, critical points in time. Consistent with Whitehead's systematic (prehension—>concrescence) analysis, such a model must, at a minimum, contain, i.e., depict/portray:
  • (a) an existing subject, 
  • (b) some specific interaction with an Other (character, nature, society), 
  • (c) the subject's perceptions of same (conscious or unconscious), 
  • (d) the subject's emotional state, 
  • (e) the impact on the subject (externally and internally), 
  • (f) the subject's emotional coloring/filtering of the significance of the interaction, 
  • (g) the subject's judgment to accept certain aspects of the interaction and reject others (to the extent such are in the subject's control) into the subject's self-identifying trajectory, 
  • (h) the change in the subject wrought by the interaction, and
  • (i) the effect (external and emotional) of this change on the subject and all his/her future interactions.
This is a Process schema for fictional narrative.

How does this tie in to our Ur-story framework (see Pages in the right column and remember to read from the last post to the first)? That was a look at what I was calling the "Substance" of literature—the coming to consciousness of mortality and the ways to deal, or not, with this fundamental situation. This is, of course, a look at the formal Process.

(to be cont'd)

1 comment:

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Nonny DID NOT read the post!