Sunday, June 10, 2012

Image, Structure, Texture

In his "Diapsalmata", Kierkegaard tells us that real pleasure is owed to the image. It is not the feeling of pleasure that is truly pleasurable but the correspondence between the act and the image. (He doesn't develop the idea, but it seems to me that this is the right approach to "feeling". Pleasure isn't really a feeling because it is the feeling of a successful action. Feelings, as normally understood, are the result of failed or deferred actions.) Real pleasure, Kierkegaard tells us, does not come from merely drinking the finest wines, but from "getting what I want", even if it is, at the moment, a glass of water. That is, one has to have an image of the source of pleasure before the feeling (of pleasure, which, like I say, is "more than a feeling", as a song goes) is possible.

But I hear the fair lady sigh that real pleasure cannot be anticipated, must come (at least sometimes) unexpectedly, must be "without structure", or some such bohemian idea. An image, she might say, is always a structure, and structures are always to be avoided. Well, I would argue that the image is not quite a structure. We can lift an image from an appearance and impress it on a surface, in both cases without any effort. The appearance has structure and the surface has texture. (The appearance of, the surface of.) But the image is suspended between the structure of the appearance and the texture of the surface. It presents what is is represented in them, indifferently.

Pleasure is felt when what is done and what is seen is exactly as it had been imagined, or perhaps as it will be imagined afterwards (which is a useful notion to meet our fair lady's objection halfway, since now pleasure is possible even in the absence of a prior act of imagination). Either way, pleasure is not "felt", because it is the direct realization of the image in action, without any intervening emotion. It is the perfect ecstasy of being liberated from feeling. It is the moment when the structure of experience is in complete harmony with its texture. When the surface is the appearance. When the act is the fact.

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