From Philosophical Aesthetics to Poetics
Bakhtin’s full name is Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975), a Soviet philosopher, linguist, semiotician, esthetician, literary theorist, and one of the most important thinkers in the 20th century. , folklore, literature and art, anthropology, and psychology all have a huge impact, and have brought important inspiration to the research in these fields. In my country, Bakhtin was first known and accepted as an outstanding interpreter of Dostoevsky’s novel art and the founder of polyphony theory. As Zeng Jun said: “Bakhtin first started from Dostoevsky scholars gradually stand out and finally gain an independent status.” This is also the original origin of “Bakhtinology” in today’s China. Today, however, the negative impact of this initial reception may have outweighed its positive impact: the first impression it brings is so strong that it has been criticized in academic circles for various poetic theories, language At present, when the study of philosophy and philosophical aesthetics has made great progress, when it comes to Bakhtin, people often think of his famous “Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics” at the first time, which is his complex. Tone theory (to which the theory of carnivalization is presumably to be added nowadays). At the same time, Bakhtin’s other important theoretical thoughts—especially the philosophical and aesthetic thoughts as the root of his thoughts, and their close connections are often under cover, and it is only after the understanding of these theoretical thoughts and the relationship between them During excavation, in the continuous understanding of Bakhtin’s thought as a whole, poetic theories such as polyphony theory can be truly understood. In view of this, this article intends to briefly outline the transition of Bakhtin’s early research focus from philosophical aesthetics to poetics, hoping to help more readers know and understand this complex thinker “from the beginning”.
Bakhtin’s “Philosophy of Action”
From his first article “Art and Responsibility” published in 1919 to various writing activities in the first half of the 1920s, Bakhtin’s initial focus of research was undoubtedly on philosophy and aesthetics, with philosophy at the head, gradually transitioning and developing. Become a unique philosophical aesthetic thought. Although this early stage lasted very short, Bakhtin himself began to contemplate and write “Problems of Dostoevsky’s Creation” (which was the title of the first edition of the book) even at the same time, and will write The center of gravity has been adjusted to the field of poetics, but from the perspective of the author’s overall theoretical thinking, this shift in the focus of creation is more in the sense of methodology, and its expression and ultimate purpose can still find echoes in the original philosophical and aesthetic creations. Among Bakhtin’s incomplete early works, “Art and Responsibility” and “On the Philosophy of Action” can be regarded as his representative works in philosophy. Among them, compared with the very short and declarative “Art and Responsibility”, the unfinished “On the Philosophy of Behavior” shows readers the background and unique appearance of the “behavior philosophy” that Bakhtin intends to construct in a more comprehensive and detailed manner.
In Bakhtin’s view, the crisis of modern civilization is rooted in the antagonism and separation between the world of culture and the world of life, in which “the behavior of our activities and experiences, like the god Janus with two faces, confronts Different orientations: one faces the objective and unified cultural field, and the other faces the unrepeatable and unique actual life”. This huge separation makes the behavior itself lose its value, “losing the integrity of vivid formation and self-definition”, so whether it starts from the world of a single culture or the world of life, neither can be integrated in behavior. Linked to obtain the final unity, “a gap is formed between the motivation of behavior and the product of behavior”, and “the whole cultural wealth is used to serve biological behavior”. Modern European philosophy represented by Kant’s philosophy tried to understand and explain people’s real life through abstract speculative reason, not only failed to solve this problem in the end, but further aggravated the division. Subsequently, even if new schools of philosophy such as modern philosophy of life tried their best to get rid of the complex and abstract theories of the old metaphysics, and shifted their goal from theoretical understanding to aesthetic intuition, they still could not fundamentally bridge this gap. In Bakhtin’s view, even the aesthetic world, which is closer to the real world, is “just a factor of events and existence”, and there is still a non-negligible distance between the two.
So, what is so special about Bakhtin’s philosophy to solve the crisis of modern civilization (behavior) that is different from the ideas and methods of other schools of philosophy? First of all, Bakhtin emphasized the importance of life that actually happened. His “philosophy of behavior” is ultimately proposed for the behavior of real events in which everyone participates. Here, both theoretical activities and aesthetic activities should be regarded as a certain aspect of the event in the end. The important thing is “the unique event of real existence”. In the final analysis, Bakhtin’s “behavior philosophy” is a kind of “human science”, which attaches importance to the unique “I” in specific events, which is different from the traditional speculative philosophy. The abstract cognitive subject is quite different. Secondly, based on this eventual understanding of the subject, Bakhtin’s “behavior philosophy” not only hints at the uniqueness of each subject and “I”, but also heralds a positive “participatory thinking”, pointing out “Others” as opposed to it. Just like “I”, “others” are also in a unique and non-repeatable space-time position. Both “I” and “others” are outside each other, and they have “super vision” for each other. Behavior is therefore always participatory, between “me and others”. Lu Xiaohe believes that “Bakhtin subverted the epistemology of ‘subject-object’ since Descartes, and established the ontological existence of ‘subject-subject'”. Different subjects coexist equally. Therefore, Bakhtin’s philosophy is also A philosophy of “other-me”. Finally, whether in “Art and Responsibility” or “On the Philosophy of Behavior”, Bakhtin emphasized the “responsibility” of behavior, which made his philosophical thoughts closer to the actual choices in life and the responses between people. communicate with. In Qian Zhongwen’s view, in the specific behavior of individuals, the “responsibility” that represents the active choice and response to others is indispensable, and it will inevitably be accompanied by value judgments. “The noble character of responsibility, The improvement and sublimation of value also determines the character of behavioral motivation and behavioral products.” Only in the connection of specific responsibilities can behavior truly realize the unity of motivation and product, and the unity of the world of culture and the world of life.
From Philosophical Aesthetics to Poetics
In “On the Philosophy of Behavior”, Bakhtin also revealed to readers the four parts of his research plan, except for the political ethics and religious ethics that were not discussed in the end, the other two parts are aimed at the real world and behavioral ethics. aesthetic activities. In these two parts, Bakhtin has always focused on the study of aesthetic activity as an act in his later career, because in his view, the world of art “is characterized by its concreteness and the connection with emotional will. Intonation, … is closer to a unified and unique world of behavior. This analysis will help us understand the construction of the actual world of events”. After the introduction of “On the Philosophy of Behavior”, in order to better explain the construction of the aesthetic world, Bakhtin immediately discussed Pushkin’s lyric drama “Farewell” as an example. It can be seen that the aesthetic turn of this philosophy heralds its attention to poetics at the very beginning (this kind of poetics often manifests in different forms such as language poetics and historical cultural poetics at the same time, but in the final analysis they are all based on the original philosophy and poetics. a natural extension of discussions of aesthetic thought).
This aesthetic turn towards poetics is more obvious in “The Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activities” and “Aesthetic Methodology of Discourse Creation” created at the same time. In the first part of “Problems on the Methodology of Aesthetics of Discourse Creation”, Bakhtin pointed out straight to the point: “Poetics without systematic philosophical aesthetics as a basis is fundamentally a fragile and accidental thing. Poetics should be the aesthetics of discourse art creation.” Then, what exactly are the “systematic philosophical aesthetics” and “poetics expounded from a systematic perspective” given by Bakhtin? In “The Author and Protagonist in Aesthetic Activities” created at the same time, readers can actually find part of the answer. In the more than 200 pages of incomplete manuscripts, the transformation of the content of the original “behavior philosophy” on the aesthetic level can be seen everywhere: among them, the relationship between “I and others” in the original “behavior philosophy” was gradually replaced by Bakhtin. It has been transformed into the relationship between “the author and the protagonist”, and has become a relationship to be specifically discussed in aesthetics and poetics, and aesthetic events are produced from it. In Bakhtin’s view, since “the aesthetic event can only be realized with two participants, it requires two different consciousnesses”, according to the difference in vision between the author and the protagonist, The distance between these two levels will also change accordingly: once the author and the protagonist overlap each other, or if any of the participants of the author and the protagonist is cancelled, the aesthetic event will not be established and will turn into an ethical event. events, cognitive events, or religious events. Thus, “participatory thinking” is also emphasized here in the sense of aesthetics and poetics.
If the theoretical thoughts in “The Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activities” created in the first half of the 1920s can be regarded as the embryonic form of “systematic philosophical aesthetics” in Bakhtin’s mind, then Bakhtin published in 1929 The first book on poetics “Problems of Dostoevsky’s Creation” is undoubtedly his attempt to “explain poetics from a systematic perspective”. These two works are not only closely related in terms of creation time (according to Bakhtin’s letter to his friend Kagan in early 1922, the writing of the two works is likely to be carried out at the same time), but there are also obvious differences in ideological content. Obvious conversational relationship. For example, in the expression of the most critical relationship between “the author and the protagonist” in the two works, Dostoye, who was originally classified as “the protagonist controls the author” in “The Author and the Protagonist in Aesthetic Activities” Dostoyevsky’s novels are regarded as a new type of novel in which the author takes a dialogue position with the protagonist in “The Problems of Dostoevsky’s Creation”, and it is a “polyphonic novel” that is different from “monologue novels”. Although some scholars point out that the two different evaluations imply a change in Bakhtin’s philosophical and aesthetic standpoint, and imply his inconsistency in the cognition of the relationship between “author and protagonist” necessary to achieve aesthetic events, However, if we carefully examine the original intentions of the two works and examine the selection of classification categories and comparison objects for Dostoevsky’s novels, then this kind of view can actually be ruled out: because, in the case of Dostoevsky In essence, the relationship between Dostoevsky and his protagonists, the author who “has to see the object world through the eyes of the protagonist” and the author who let the protagonists talk freely are actually the same author , in which the protagonist’s enthusiasm and the author’s abandonment of the protagonist’s “supervision” are fundamentally consistent. Fundamentally speaking, they all embody the aesthetic world’s overcoming of the modern cultural crisis, and are closely connected with existential events. They all establish the core position of human beings from the standpoint of transcending abstract theory and opposing materialization “.
From the original “philosophy of behavior” to the proposal of polyphony theory, from the study of philosophical aesthetics to the study of poetics, Bakhtin’s seemingly amazing transformation in just ten years in the 1920s actually followed the original philosophical thought plan and The goal is just like his own perception of himself in the interview: “I am a philosopher and a thinker.” Therefore, if we only introduce and describe Bakhtin as a literary theorist, it will undoubtedly be a reflection of his thoughts. Narrowing (not to mention the identity of a “polyphonic theorist”), merely trying to absorb Bakhtin’s poetic thought without understanding the philosophical and aesthetic thought that underlies it, often leads to a one-sided understanding. However, it may seem inappropriate to call Bakhtin a “philosopher”, because even judging from the shift in the field of research outlined in this article, it is obvious that Bakhtin, who dabbles in many fields of research at the same time, is difficult to compare with the traditional sense of philosophers are grouped together. Perhaps, only titles like “thinker” are sufficient to describe Bakhtin. According to the famous American Bakhtin experts Clark and Hodquist, “this word is generally used to refer to non-systematic philosophers, and only this The appellation is suitable for him who has a broad research field”; from the perspective of this article, only in the knowledge and understanding of Bakhtin as a thinker, can readers truly grasp his ideological context and theoretical implications.