Monday 3 August 2009

Being and Nothingness, creativity and chaos

I've been thinking of Sartre's famous pour-soi and en-soi: the en-soi is being that is solid, opaque, dense. It suffers no pangs of consciousness. It is simply supremely itself. It is all non-conscious - or perhaps we must say, non-rationally conscious - being. The pour-soi instead is being that is conscious. To be conscious, according to Sartre, is to admit a hole into being. It is to admit nothingness into being. It is the admittance of nothingness that gives rise to consciousness - and with consciousness comes pain.

Now this notion of consciousness is probably radically wrong. It is the exaltation of the famous split between subject and object. Consciousness is probably first and foremost identity, as our father Aristotle said already so many centuries ago. The distinction comes later, it is a second moment. So the split is not primordial.

And still, there is something in what Sartre is saying - if not on the ontological, constitutive level, at least on the 'psychological' level. Like a chap who is too happy is not like to create. Like there seems to be some connection between creativity and chaos. Nietzsche it was who said that all creativity comes from chaos, and that it is chaos that gives birth to a dancing star. And Lonergan talks about evolution coming to dead ends in those branches that become too perfect, as for example the bees and the ants, who have been doing the same thing perfectly for several million years now; it is the right combination of instability between the underlying manifold and the supervening solution that gives rise to newer and newer forms of life.

My point is that creativity seems to require that chaos, that tension, that nothingness in being that Sartre hints at. Too much happiness - whether real or manufactured (by food, drink, sex, whatever...) - is just not conducive to creativity. Too much happiness amounts to the en-soi, the in-itself that is simply stable, dense, opaque, just content to be.

Perhaps there's something wrong there - I know you will be asking about God, and God's happiness, and God's creativity. I need to think that through. Any help is welcome!

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