This post will just be a jotting down of connections. I ordered some books recently and they came in the mail today. New books mean new thoughts. Yeah!
Okay. Two of the books are Metaphysical Horrorby Leszek Kolakowski and The Thomas Ligotti Readeredited by Darrell Schweitzer. They’re more or less related in their respecitve subjective matters.
Kolakowski writes about the problems of philosophy and the question of meaning. Many philosophers have come to the conclusion that philosophy is at a dead-end. Kolakowski calls this anti-philosophy. It seems to me that the Pessimistic philosophy of Zappfe and Ligotti could be categorized as anti-philosophy. So, Kolakowski’s analysis and response would be helpful in seeing Pessimism in the larger context of the development of Western thinking. He writes about Descartes and horror which reminded me of Cartesian anxiety, but I don’t think he uses that specific terminology. I first heard of Cartesian anxiety in discussions about the relationship of enactivism and integral theory (which are theories that speculate about the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity). Kolakowski also writes about the phenomenologists (i.e., Husserl and Merleau-Ponty) who tried to respond to Descartes’ mind-body dualism. Phenomenology was a major influence on enactivism and is of interest to integral theorists. Also, in the volume of the Collapse journal that published Ligotti, there was an essay related to these ideas (“On the Horror of Phenomenology: Lovecraft and Husserl” by Graham Harman)… and Ligotti considers Lovecraft to be one of his most important influences.
The Thomas Ligotti Readerhas an essay by Ligotti: “The Dark Beauty of Unheard Horrors”. In it, Ligotti references Lovecraft quite a bit and he uses a specific quote from Lovecraft that I’ve seen in a blog by Matt Cardin (Autumn Longing: H.P. Lovecraft). This isn’t surprising as Cardin is a fan of Ligotti’s writing and he even has several essays in the Ligotti Reader. Both Ligotti’s essay and Cardin’s blog cover a similar set of ideas. This dark aesthetic appreciation of the world can be put into the context of phenomenology and enactivism (autumn longing is an experience that I’m sure many phenomenologists and enactivists would understand). In the essay directly after Ligotti’s, Cardin discusses the topic of liminality in terms of Ligotti’s fiction. The liminal is another concept that deals with the meeting of and mixing of categories such as subjectivity and objectivity and also the personal and the collective.
One further thought involves something Ligotti brings up in his essay. He describes two tendencies in horror writing… that of making horror concretely specific and that of making horror emotionally evocative. This relates to Ligotti’s desire to present the horrific directly which he acknowledges as ultimately being impossible. He, in a sense, wants to decontextualize the experience of horror. A horror that has no form is all the more horrific, but a horror story by its very nature needs form. In the essay, he recognizes that “Of course, mystery actually requires a measure of the concrete if it is to be perceived at all: otherwise is only a void, the void.” This sense of a hard to grasp truth that must be approached subtly also reminds me of his style in writing about Pessimism in the Collapse journal.
There is a sense I get from Ligotti’s non-fiction writing (and his writing in general) that feels like he is circling around some singular insight. Along with his desire to free this insight from the constraints of the concrete, what it makes me think of is my experience of dealing with a particular person who was a very good example of dominant Introverted Intuition (Jungian typology). I use Extraverted Intuition (Ne) much more and there is a clear difference to the two styles of thinking. When Extraverted, Intuition thinking style goes off in a million directions sometimes simultaneously. It scatters and looks for connections, for context. When Introverted, it’s the complete opposite. It focuses in such an inward fashion that it attempts to leave the concrete entirely and so it’s hard to communicate. The Introverted Intuition type (Ni) has a very convoluted communication style that is plodding and meandering, but there is a core insight around which it all revolves. Going by Ligotti’s fiction and non-fiction and his interviews, that is the way his thinking seems to me (according to my Ne-biased view).
Also, there is the aspect of pessimism in Ligotti’s writing (by which I’m not referring specifically to his ideas about philosophical Pessimism). In that Introverted Intuition causes a desire for freedom from context, there can be a conflict with exterior reality, the concrete world (Extraverted Sensation). Ligotti’s story “The Shadow, The Darkness” seems to be an expression of what I’m sensing. The way Ligotti describes Grossvogel’stransformation feels like a dominant Ni type’s experience of an eruption of inferior Se (or something like that… anyways, not the way a dominant Se type would experience it). Ne types are often just as detached from the concrete, but their abstract and imaginative thinking is focused outward. The expansive nature of Ne can lend a quality of optimism as there is a sense of infinite possibilities (although this would also include negative possibilities as well). For example, I’m a very depressed person with Ne (althought it’s secondary/auxiliary rather than dominant). The expansiveness of Ne counteracts my depression all the while the abstractness of Ne exacerbates it, but no matter how dark my thinking when I consider possibilities I feel inspired and even a bit hopeful. Ligotti’s thinking challenges me and I meet that challenge by seeking to give his ideas a larger context.
I could go on with my thoughts, but those are the basic ideas rumbling around in my brains.