Empirical Truths and Critical Fictions: Locke, Wordsworth, by Cathy Caruth

By Cathy Caruth

Within the winning account of English empiricism, Locke conceived of self-understanding as an issue of mere statement, certain heavily to the legislation of actual conception. English Romantic poets and German severe philosophers challenged Locke's perception, arguing that it didn't account competently for the ability of concept to show upon itself -- to detach itself from the legislation of the actual global. Cathy Caruth reinterprets questions on the center of empiricism via treating Locke's textual content now not easily as philosophical doctrine but additionally as a story during which "experience" performs an unforeseen and uncanny position. Rediscovering strains and alterations of this narrative in Wordsworth, Kant, and Freud, Caruth argues that those authors mustn't ever be learn in basic terms as rejecting or overcoming empirical doctrine but additionally as reencountering of their personal narratives the advanced and tough relation among language and experience.Beginning her inquiry with the instant of empirical self-reflection in Locke's Essay bearing on Human realizing -- while a mad mom mourns her useless baby -- Caruth asks what it implies that empiricism represents itself as an act of mourning and explores why scenes of mourning reappear in later texts akin to Wordsworth's Prelude, Kant's Metaphysical Foundations of usual technology and Prolegomena to Any destiny Metaphysics, and Freud's Civilization. From those readings Caruth lines a ordinary narrative of radical loss and the continuous displacement of the article or the agent of loss. In Locke it's the mom who mourns her lifeless baby, whereas in Wordsworth it's the baby who mourns the useless mom. In Kant the daddy murders the son, whereas in Freud the sons homicide the father.As she lines this trend, Caruth exhibits that the conceptual claims of every textual content to maneuver past empiricism are implicit claims to maneuver past reference. but the narrative of dying in each one textual content, she argues, leaves a referential residue that can not be reclaimed via empirical or conceptual common sense. Caruth therefore unearths, in every one of those authors, a rigidity among the abstraction of a conceptual language free of reference and the compelling referential resistance of specific tales to abstraction.

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The Death of a Child, that was the daily delight of his Mother's Eyes, and joy of her Soul, rends from her Heart the whole comfort of her Life, and gives her all the torment imaginable; use the Consolations of Reason in this case, and THE FACE OF EXPERIENCE / 35 you were as good preach Ease to one on the Rack, and hope to allay, by rational Discourses, the Pain of his Joints tearing asunder. Till time has by disuse separated the sense of that Enjoyment and its loss from the Idea of the Child returning to her Memory, all Representations, though never so reasonable, are in vain; and therefore some in whom the union between these Ideas is never dissolved, spend their Lives in Mourning, and carry an incurable Sorrow to their Graves.

The problem with the mother's "remembering," indeed, is that it is not a remembering at all, any more than it is a forgetting. Its only excess or abnormality is in its attempt to establish a relationship which is something like that of remembering, with an object that has lost its empirical status—or rather with no object at all. The impropriety of the endlessly mourning mother is precisely that she attempts to remember the child properly, as it properly is—that is, in its death; the thought of "its loss" always "accompanies" her memory.

It is not common to think of empiricism as an aesthetic; this term is generally reserved for critical and post-critical arguments. " Empiricism involves a different strategy but not an entirely different set of issues as aesthetic philosophies. " The power of tjiis aesthetic strategy, or the mode of selfreflection that appears in the association chapter, can be gauged by the effectiveness of its explanations. To say that experience is THE FACE OF EXPERIENCE / 33 a type of figuration permits one to say that figuration is a type of experience, and it is by this logic that the association chapter develops.

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