• Pantagruel
    2.3k
    One of the more interesting themes that I find recurring in Proust is the way in which an experience is thought to be enhanced through the benefit of some predisposing information as to its supposed sublimity. Often, however, the actual experience comes up wanting, as the trivialities of the moment intrude upon the "merely real." And if reality can be merely real, can something else can be more than real? Indeed, the text itself begs that question, for which is it?
  • Vera Mont
    836
    The real can be sublime, but most of the time it's tedious, annoying, frustrating, sad, painful or downright horrible. For most people, most of the time it's both tedious and uncomfortable. So they long for more - something special. When an ordinary moment of joy or relief or understanding is noticed - really noticed and savoured - it's still ordinary, and yet enhanced, made special and remembered.
  • jgill
    2.7k
    And if reality can be merely real, can something else can be more than real?Pantagruel

    Say a comedian is lauded by the media, and your expectations are high, but you are disappointed in his performance. That's reality. Say a friend wants to dine at a new restaurant, but someone you know didn't like the food. Then you go there and are pleasantly surprised.

    It all has to do with expectations. Reality stays the same, but a heightened sense of reality occurs at times. No, there's nothing "more real".
  • Tom Storm
    5.8k
    in which an experience is thought to be enhanced through the benefit of some predisposing information as to its supposed sublimity.Pantagruel

    I think this may be as simple as everything seems better if you are in an appropriately receptive frame of mind. I often shared this when younger - the need to imbue the real with anticipation and aesthetic significance in order to experience it with a heightened sense. I wanted to be awakened to how special the thing I was about to see, hear, eat, read was in order to be fully aroused and engaged. The risk is that merely living though it will make many experiences seem pedestrian.
  • Wayfarer
    16.7k
    It might be helpful to include an example of Proust's prose or perhaps some aphorisms in which this idea is articulated. I've never wrestled with Proust but I understand his major work is 7 volumes of rather dense literature, comparable to James Joyce and other heavyweights of the era.

    And if reality can be merely real, can something else can be more than real?Pantagruel

    Without reference to Proust, I would venture that there a distinction can be made between what is real and what is merely existent. I interpret the major philosophical traditions (in which I don't include a great deal of modern philosophy) as the attempt to discern this distinction. Very briefly, the domain of existence is the phenomenal realm, the Buddhist realm of 'name-and-form', the perpetual flux of Heraclitus, the māyā of the Bhagavad Gita. Within this realm there is no ultimate satisfaction or peace to be found, because all is perishing, transient and ultimately empty. (And as I say, I don't know if Proust was intuiting this.)
  • Pantagruel
    2.3k
    @Vera Mont @jgill @Tom Storm @Wayfarer
    It seems like this attitude is a denigration of the real in favour of the ideal, but that the ideal is also a form of embodied cognition. So everything about his experience of the sublimity of the church at Balbec is subjected to the "tyranny of the particular." These passages abound.

    The embodied cognition passages are even more interesting to me. He talks a lot about the omnipresence of habit, how habit governs the interplay of memory and perception: "most of our faculties lie dormant because they can rely on habit;" and "the general laws of memory...in turn are governed by still more general laws of habit." He describes how the "better part of our memories exist outside us," in environmental cues; and the awakening disappointment of his expectations of Balbec is an awareness "to which [his] body would have to become accustomed."

    "It is our noticing things that puts things in a room, our growing used to them that takes them away again."

    There is an omnipresent theme of conceptualization being an expansion and improvement of reality, hinging on the text, which is itself both a representation and an enhancement of reality. I just finished a book on embodied cognition which made a lot use of the idea that our thinking is fundamentally structured around conceptual metaphors. Proust's technique of characterizing of people in terms of their towns, and of towns in terms of their must unique feature, strikes me as very similar to conceptual metaphor, perceptual metaphor perhaps?

    To sum, I guess that someone who is abiding in a realm of "substantialized concepts" might well not agree with the general or traditional preconception of what constitutes reality.
  • Pantagruel
    2.3k
    It all has to do with expectations. Reality stays the same, but a heightened sense of reality occurs at times. No, there's nothing "more real".jgill

    And yet, in encapsulating his disappointments, Proust's sublime text seems to create something more than real out of the shards of his expectations.
  • Pantagruel
    2.3k
    Within this realm there is no ultimate satisfaction or peace to be found, because all is perishing, transient and ultimately empty.Wayfarer

    He definitely sets up a dichotomy between the transient and the eternal. It leans towards a mystical (more than eastern) conception of some kind of transcendental, supra-personal consciousness:

    Perhaps this fear that I had...that is shared by so many others...is only the most humble, obscure, organic, almost unconscious form of that great and desperate resistance...against our mentally acknowledging the possibility of a future in which they are to have no part; a resistance which was at the root...of the difficulty that I found in imagining my own death, or a survival...in which I should not be allowed to take with me my memories, my frailties, my character, which did not easily resign themselves to the idea of ceasing to be....

    Sorry for all the ellipses. Even thus edited, Proust's sentences are voluminous. Therein lies the magic that eludes some readers, I think. When you successfully wrap your head around his page-long sentences, you get a real sensation of having grasped something beautiful and intricate, something that required as much effort to create as it does to perceive. The abundance and beauty of the variety of tropes, metonomy, synechdoche, prosopoeia, metaphor, and the way they all blend and merge seamlessly and effortlessly into one another. If anything is more than real, for me, this is.
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k
    1. God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived.
    2. If god is not real then God is not that than which nothing greater can be conceived.
    Ergo,
    3. God is (merely) real.
  • Pantagruel
    2.3k

    My take is that (in the context of consciousness which I take to be a definitive feature of what is in question) necessarily there exists some greatest thinking thing. Ergo that thing is by definition God (without attaching any further implications or speculations as to the nature of that thing, which, it would be invalid for inferior beings to do anyway).
  • Shawn
    12.6k
    I haven't read any Proust, but philosophers routinely say some things of the real, apparent, and immanent in reality. So, it's a pretty popular theme.
  • Wayfarer
    16.7k
    And if reality can be merely real, can something else can be more than real?Pantagruel

    Thanks for that example. That passage is clearly a poignant reflection on mortality, but I will have to continue to explore that theme, sans Proust.
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k
    My take is that (in the context of consciousness which I take to be a definitive feature of what is in question) necessarily there exists some greatest thinking thing. Ergo that thing is by definition God (without attaching any further implications or speculations as to the nature of that thing, which, based it would be invalid for inferior beings to do anyway).Pantagruel

    :ok:
  • Agent Smith
    8.9k
    It must be quite disheartening for philosophers to hear someone say "This? This is merely real!" What's priceless is the unreal and we do an about turn, leave philosophy (tata Thales) and head for mythology (hi there Homer).
  • Tom Storm
    5.8k
    The abundance and beauty of the variety of tropes, metonomy, synechdoche, prosopoeia, metaphor, and the way they all blend and merge seamlessly and effortlessly into one another. If anything is more than real, for me, this is.Pantagruel

    I enjoyed the Proust I read back in the 1990's - he seems to be prefiguring a form of phenomenology, particularly through the experience of memory.

    Merleau-Ponty was influenced greatly by the proto-phenomenological insights presented by the novelist Marcel Proust in his seven-part novel À la recherche du temps perdu. Like Merleau-Ponty's philosophy, Proust's novel was about the experience of experience. Indeed, Merleau-Ponty himself wrote: "No one has gone further than Proust in fixing the relations between the visible and the invisible," (6) meaning the relations between the objects we perceive in the world and the sens of those objects (or situations) we mysteriously perceive in the same moment. For Merleau-Ponty, Proust - though a novelist and not a trained philosopher or phenomenologist - offered a model of how to get "back to the things themselves."

    https://www.themontrealreview.com/2009/Travel-and-habit-in-Merleau-Ponty-and-Proust.php
  • Pantagruel
    2.3k
    :up:

    If it is possible to have a science of introspection then he is an expert. As I noted, his observations fit well with the modern model of embodied cognition in many ways.
  • Pantagruel
    2.3k
    It must be quite disheartening for philosophers to hear someone say "This? This is merely real!"Agent Smith

    There is no property of "reality." People comprehend reality by means of various metaphors, like solidity, continuity, causality, etc.. I used the expression "merely real" to contrast the relative intangibility of the mundane concept of reality with the inherent sublimity of the products of the mind, whose reality is sometimes discounted.
  • Pantagruel
    2.3k
    A minor addendum from my currently reading. Engels take on Hegel's famous observation "All that is real is rational and all that is rational is real." Engels interprets: "not everything that exists is without exception, real. The attribute of reality belongs only to that which is at the same time necessary."

    So while this moves in the other direction from my OP, it does offer the rather intriguing prospect of separating the concepts of existence and reality. Maybe I should have said, "the merely extant"? :chin:
  • SophistiCat
    2.1k
    One of the more interesting themes that I find recurring in Proust is the way in which an experience is thought to be enhanced through the benefit of some predisposing information as to its supposed sublimity.Pantagruel

    In Proust this juxtaposition of experience with expectation and imagination can go in different ways. Remember his disappointment when at last he was allowed to see the famous Berma in Phedre? "The deliberate monotony" of her unconventional delivery was something to which the boy-narrator was unconditioned: he expected "intelligent modulations or beautiful gestures." And yet it was precisely "the trivialities of the moment" intruding on the "merely real" that lifted up his experience, at least momentarily: "Then at last I felt my first impulse of admiration, which was provoked by the frenzied applause of the audience." (Look at that - a short Proust sentence!)

    What was the Balbec passage that you were thinking about? (I read that volume - A l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs? - some years ago.)
  • Janus
    13.2k
    One of the more interesting themes that I find recurring in Proust is the way in which an experience is thought to be enhanced through the benefit of some predisposing information as to its supposed sublimity. Often, however, the actual experience comes up wanting, as the trivialities of the moment intrude upon the "merely real." And if reality can be merely real, can something else can be more than real?Pantagruel

    I think it's just a matter of a shift in consciousness. The "merely real" is the sublime, when "the trivialities of the moment" do not intrude upon it, or in other words, are not seen as trivial.

    William Blake:

    To see a World in a Grain of Sand
    And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
    And Eternity in an hour


    1. God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived.
    2. If god is not real then God is not that than which nothing greater can be conceived.
    Ergo,
    3. God is (merely) real.
    Agent Smith

    Defusion:

    The idea of God is the idea of that than which nothing greater can be conceived. I'll leave the rest for you to fill in.
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