Aesthetic Spontaneity: A Theory of Action Based on Affective Responsiveness

Dissertation, University of Hawai'i (2004)
This dissertation is an attempt to analyze an indigenous concept of early Chinese Philosophy in its own context, interpreting it outside of a contemporary Western philosophical framework , then to comb the history of Western philosophy for related concepts, in order to finally enrich the contemporary philosophical landscape by incorporating this concept through a useful and familiar set of conceptual tools. ;The concept in question is ziran, rendered spontaneity, a central notion of early Chinese philosophy but one that has not been philosophically elaborated to an adequate degree in sinological literature. Preliminary to addressing spontaneity, one must first address the outstanding metaphysical issue of intersubjective interaction in early Chinese philosophy, and such an investigation must center on the difficult notion of qing, rendered affectivity in a general sense meant to encompass not only emotion but all cognition. On the sensitivity-and-response model of Chinese interpenetrative interaction, affectivity is found to be a central component of such interaction. ;Having laid the groundwork for an analysis of spontaneity, I examine the skill episodes of the early Chinese Daoist work Zhuangzi, abstracting out four defining features of spontaneous action. After elaborating on these features in context and in relation to each other, I turn to the Western philosophical tradition to see if any aspects of spontaneity or its underlying metaphysics can be discovered there. Although metaphysical differences are constantly an obstacle, I find significant parallels to spontaneity in such figures as Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Schiller, James, and Dewey. Through extended examination of this wide variety of philosophical theories, a more nuanced and enriched understanding of spontaneity results. ;Finally, I bring spontaneity to bear on aesthetic and moral action. Here I make a number of original contributions regarding how to conceptualize spontaneous action with regard to formality and syntax of actions in activities, regarding a division of the arts into somatic and non-somatic, regarding the relationship of spontaneity to improvisation, and regarding the possibility and challenge of cultivating spontaneity in art and in moral action. ;Similar philosophical gains are prompted through the dissertation, such as the logical impossibility of judgment, the possibility and desirability of unnatural action, the distinction of numismatic terminology, and the usefulness of the inchoate
Keywords Spontaneity  Action  Daoism  Zhuangzi  Aristotle  Schiller  Chaos  Action Syntax  Freedom  Qing
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