Movement as Concept and as Image in Philosophy and in Modernist Literature

Dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo (2003)

The signifier 'movement' is theorized here as the paradigm of the relation between concept and image. Traditionally set as an oppositional pair, concept and image, in fact, are bound in a relation of interchangeability which is achieved by a movement between the two. This "movement" is a signifier used throughout the history of philosophy to characterize the activity of thought and appears in different guises as logic's most productive instrument. Yet, 'movement' functions as an explanatory tool due to its reference to the phenomenon of motion; it is itself an explanatory image. Furthermore, movement itself cannot be pointed out in the world without the application of abstraction or generalization to a moving body. It is, then, a concept given in an image, even as it comes to explain the relation between the two. ;Heraclitus coined the river as an image of flux; Plato differentiated the world from the Forms by the movement that defines the former and is absent from the latter; Aristotle defined movement in logical terms yet employed it as an image in his natural science. Kant invented synthesis and Time as the activity and the category of understanding while defining both in terms of movement. Hegel and Bergson strived to think movement as such, providing the term with specific articulations and recognizing its existence in the activity of the mind. ;Uri Nissan Gnessin's prose provides an example of a poetics of movement in the form of dialectical composition that hides under the guise of static plot. Samuel Beckett demonstrates the irreducibility of movement in language, thought, and existence. Furthermore, through paradox and contradiction he shows how the rules of semantics and logic are kept in practice even as they are proven impossible. ;This incessant reappearance of these rules is precisely movement in the form that Bergson and Hegel thought it: an activity of the mind that finds its correlate in the physical world; an activity geared towards change, thus having the potential of producing the new as much as circulating in endless repetition; finally, an activity which is inexplicable, nonsensical for the mode of thought that regards concept as a fixed and final conclusion
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