Monday 2 May 2005

Art as Philosophy of Healing (2005)

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXIII No. 1 Spring  2005


By Anna Zahovaeva

Within Russia, the art-therapy method is one of the new technologies in humanistic psychiatry. It is a method of treatment based on the use of artistic production. Art- therapy is a vivid example of a direct influence of art upon a human being, when a particular place is created for the use of the emotional suggestion mechanism. This includes transmitting certain emotional states inherent ina work of art to the patient.

But one of the problems of this psycho-therapeutic method is the absence of a sound methodological philosophical basis.
* * * * *

Nobody can imagine their life as full without art. Art is creation, play, beauty, communication, intuition. All of these are ART. But what is the meaning of art, what is its true purpose?

Artists express their emotional world through art, and the spectators or readers let this world pass through the realm of their sensuality. The specifics of art lie in its perceptible and image-bearing nature. Art is the sphere of feelings and sentiments of a person arising from of their direct experience. The carriers of emotions in art are images and symbols, which are organised and visualised in material of certain forms.

Art approaches the phenomena and objects ,not merely for the purpose of representing them, but for raising emotions to stir up feelings within a persons soul. All of its products, that is, works of art, are meant to be perceived by human organs of sense, of eye or ear, and it is the senses that also help grasp the meaning and content of an artistic work.

What art influences directly is feelings, and through the human feelings and soul it makes an impact on the personality itself. 
Emotions in art are special: 
• Feelings in art pass over to a spectator through mediators, that is, from an object, to the author, the material, the interpreter, and to the recipient. Therefore the art not only mirrors the world, but also represents it, gives it an expression.
• Feelings and emotions in real life have different colouring, both negative and positive. Emotions in art are always positive.
• Emotions in art have social implications, and they always have something in common with the original feelings experienced by every human being, so an artist never experiences merely a simple emotion, but rather a kind of a general social feeling. 
Through feelings, art reaches the inner world of a human being, inspires us and makes us humane, creates a 'personality' within a person. Art can bring up and develop this personality and, as a result, solve pedagogical and psychological problems. Moreover, art is a psycho-therapeutic remedy for a soul, a means of psychological and psychic relief. It is here that art can assist medicine.

The question of relations between art and medicine is not new. Long ago, ancient magical rites of healing could not be performed without a rhythmic dance, music, and dramatisation. It is now known that the sanctuary of Aesculapius (the Greek god of medical treatment) in Epidaurus had a music room and a theatre as well as areas for medical purposes. Paracelsus introduced a vibration method into medical practice, a method that used art, music in particular, as a remedy. 

Art is the world of emotional images deliberately created by people; it is the world which is aimed to bring beauty, knowledge, enjoyment, elements of creative work, play of imagination and spirituality into human life. Art makes people humane, forms a wholesome personality; moreover, art is able to correct psychological pathologies.

The object of art-therapy is the human mind, that is, the emotional world of a human being, a human soul. Here one can clearly see the sensual and image-bearing nature of art. Art can purify the sensual world (catharsis), and correct its orientation. Through art-therapy, psychical and psychological disorders can be diagnosed and cured. 

The art-therapeutic influence on a person can be exerted in three ways. Firstly,├Ła patient creates a piece of art on a specified subject out of a specified material. 

Secondly, the patient chooses the subject and material all by themselves. In both these variants, the patient expresses their feelings and worries through line and colour, and, in consequence, reveal all hidden sides of the disease.

And finally, the third way is when the therapy is in the form of a piece of visual art. Here the mechanism of the author and the spectator's joint creative work is engaged. 

The influence of art upon a person is caused by human conditioned reflexes. Perception of a piece of art by people depends on a whole system of conditioned reflexes called dynamic stereotypes. But Art is not just a form of a conditioned reflex; it is the soul of a person, their emotional world. Emotions in art are emotions of a higher level, and they are controlled by the human mind. So one of the tasks of the art-therapy is to expressthe special emotions of thoughts and feelings about art as a kind of synthesis, an organic union of emotions and the intellect under control.

As a result, art becomes a means of relieving fits of passion, because an artistic image can accumulate and hold the feelings caused by transfer and counter-transfer, gradually making them easier to be interpreted and realised. Moreover, through art one can move information possessing emotional value up to the cognitive level, causing the fit of passion to remain within the psychotherapeutic limits. And there is another result, the patient's behaviour ichanges, they develop an ability to look for meaning when acting, the relationship between the patient's inner world and the social system deepens, they begin to show interest increative work and its analysis, their self-control improves.

The therapeutic influence of visual arts is exercised through colour, lines and volume. The patient reproduces their feelings directly through the colour scale and shapes in their works. The viewing of a well-selected picture collection on a certain subject can raise the patient's spirits, make them optimistic, reduce nervous tension, relieve fatigue.

Friedrich Schelling, the German philosopher, asserted that geometrical forms influence a person's emotions. A straight line can symbolize brutality, a curved line can stand for flexibility, an elliptic horizontal line for tenderness, a wavy line for life. But the strongest psychotherapeutic influence is achieved through colour. Colours chosen by the patient reveal their inner emotions. 

Doctor Rubinstein, a Russian psychologist, wrote about the influence of colour upon a person: red colours excite, they are warm, lively, active, cheerful; yellow colours calm, they offer a comfortable feeling; blue is peaceful, sad, quiet.

Art helps to decode symbols (colours, forms, perspectives), so that one can find hidden meanings, interpret subconscious aspects.

A special place in art-therapy is given to music. It is common-place that music appeals to the human feelings directly. Survey show that cheerful music hastens the secretion of gastric juice and works up one's appetite, and also increases muscle efficiency and even temporarily relieve muscle fatigue. Dr Rubenstein also noticed that minor accords make muscles relax whereas major accords make them work. The most exciting of the music intervals is the major sixth.

Music therapy activates emotions in interpersonal relations, offers facilities for the patients social activity. Doctor Karvasarsky, a Russian psychiatrist, suggests a specific programme of music psychotherapy:
Bach: Sonata in G minor, part 1.
Chopin: Sonata No. 3
Rakhmaninov: Concerto No. 1, part 1.
Chopin: Nocturne in E flat minor, Op. 9, No. 2.
Schubert: Symphony No. 7 in C major, part 2.
Tchaikovsky: The Seasons. February.
Liszt: Nocturne No. 3.
Mozart: Symphony No. 25, part 2.
Chopin: Waltz No. 2.
There are specific recommendations for specific psychic disorders. For instance, musical pieces of Handel, Bach, Gluck, Haydn, Beethoven, Paganini, Liszt, Grieg, Chopin, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Rakhmaninov, Shostakovich and Shchedrin are prescribed to defensive schizoids.

The success of art-therapy owes to the fact that different kinds of art are connected with different functions of the brain. So, instrumental music activates the right cerebral hemisphere, reciting a poem sets the left hemisphere to work, and singing a song, consequently, is a task for both hemispheres. Knowing that depression attacks the left hemisphere, doctors can apply art-therapy to the patients who need it.

y, or curing by means of reading, was introduced by the Russian physiologist B.M.Bekhterev. The use of specially selected books helps exert a considerable impact over the emotional state of a person while using minimal efforts. In some cases, a book draws the reader's attention away from bad influences and directs their energies towards reaching positive goals, saves them from boredom, arousing a thirst for knowledge. In other cases, books make readers revise the whole of their life, not only to change their attitude towards certain things, but their behaviour in general. For example, psycho-asthenics are advised to read Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Pushkin, while works of by G. Sand, Bunin are thought to be best for hysterical psychopaths.

To combat the effects of being over-strained, theatre therapy is recommended. Emotions, artificially stirred-up by the show, are crowned with a natural reaction, which alleviates fits of suffering and fear, at the same time bringing the feeling of satisfaction and relief, similar to the one found when grief expresses itself in tears. Here we should once again emphasise the peculiarities of emotion in art: first of all, its positive colouring, irrespective of whether it is tragic or not. The use of the Stanislavsky system methods in psychotherapy allows expansion of the human mind's domination over emotions and instincts.

Another method of therapy: curing by dance, is being newly developed. The treatment is carried out in groups with the help of motions and gestures accompanied by music. This method is widely used in therapeutic physical training. Thus, art in art-therapy reforms psychic disorders of a person, without disturbing the individuality, the 'I'; and still allowing indeed facilitating a means of forming a perfect personality. While influencing emotions, art, having a perceptible and image-bearing character, activates the thoughtful feeling, and enriches the emotional world of a person as well as their mind. Art does not solely have a therapeutic impact upon human beings, it makes them more humane and puts the chaos of their feelings into a system, where they become reasonable emotions. 

Vice (2005)

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXIII No. 1 Spring  2005


by Vladimir Krasikov

For two thousand years, moralities have rested upon a traditional metaphysical dichotomy, that between virtue and vice. But what generally is vice? It is a linguistic sign, comprising three basic semantic structures for each of its three possible embodiments.

The first. Vice is a passion, a natural love for something that a humane-being corporally and psychologically cannot live without: fame, money, wine, women etc. It is a separate passion that makes people blind, that hypertrophies itself and that usurps the place of the whole, disrupting the normal harmony of different inner necessities and interests. 

These passions and objects of longings are socially quite normal in themselves. In this case vice expresses the growing gap between strongly expressed natural inclinations and public norms. Passions turn into vices, a human-being symbiosis of corporal orders, psychological habits and states of consciousness.

Consider the cases of a weak resistance to the appeal of alcohol, or peculiarities of the metabolism, sexual constitution or temperament. Self-interest, hungering for drugs, ambition, voluptuousness - in Russian, all these words include the notion 'love'. This is the passion of nature, it is irrational and we understand that, feeling sorry for its victims, muttering only 'never make promises you cannot keep'.

The second kind of sign represented is Vice as a defect, a psychological lack, a consequence of the absence of culture, or of self-consciousness, or lack of work of the self-consciousness on oneself (laziness, apathy of soul, it dissoluteness). Cowardice, recklessness, anger, ruthlessness, shamelessness, irresponsibility, prodigality, callousness, lack of will et cetera. Other people's attitude to these 'defects' is less tolerant than in the first case. They feel the failure to counteract them on the part of their carriers is also 'irrational' yet here reason should have had more say.

The third sign. This interprets vice as an unequivocal and chronic departure not only from social norms, but also from anthropological ones, which are always wider and more tolerant. Thus we have vice as perversion, hatred, ill-intention, gloating, malice, criminality, debauchery, dissipation. Both the enslavement of the man by passion and the enlarging of the crack of defect into a deep sincere break, becoming an obscenity. The first two senses of the word 'vice' are within the framework of social norms, that is, society tolerates them. Not so the third.

Human life as well as the life of many other beings is squeezed between needs, desires and activities that satisfy them. The pauses when we are not anxious about physical needs, or we are not under power of desires to stand out against others or striving for possessing things and values, are rare and short-term. These neutral 'life pauses', free from needs and desires allow for the pursuit of abstract virtue and absolute values. But simultaneously it is that veil which must always hypocritically cover real necessary and the lurking passionate truth of human life.

The needs and desires initiating human activity express a physiological nature and public instincts. The basis of life is that people are beings having physical needs, seeking for public consolations, understanding and recognition. The majority of people use their consciousness only for service of the body, no matter whether they understand it or not. Some people are able to look at themselves critically and to see the whole truth. But they are capable only of the greater solitude and are indeed more likely to experience the feeling of being incarcerated in the flesh, of hopelessness and endlessness.

The great thinkers of antiquity found the origin of sufferings and anxieties of human soul in needs and desires. This origin is natural and that is why it is substantial. There are two different levels in a human-being: the body and the consciousness, between which an indistinct break and constant opposition exist. One can dominate the other, or, which is most unpleasant, both can constantly change roles and places, making human existence a nightmare of uncertainty and absurdity.

The ancients put forward the project of the suppression of the passions and shadowed ego, establishing in place the dictatorship of reason. Rationality and understanding the good were to be the necessary threshold of an ontological jump to another, definitely spiritual existence. For the idea of 'pure consciousness' has always charmed and attracted the representatives of intellectual part of mankind. Its relative embodiment became problematic and at the same time possible on way of self-restriction, self-checking and asceticism. Its complete embodiment was postponed until Transition in another world - whether through a natural death of a body, or break of consciousness that had collected in itself previous understandings and managed by a titanic intellectual effort to make of them a new ontology and thus to move to another, true measurement.

And indeed nothing has changed for the past several thousand years. Yet, from the evolutionary point of view, our species is young and one can hardly expect any significant natural, i.e. biological changes. A chain of generations lost in thousand years before us, and rolling waves of new lives transform for us, short-term beings, instants from the point of view of a star time scale into stability almost of eternity.

Consciousness of the majority of people is being focused directly or indirectly on service of body and mentality and social-symbolical aspirations. It is genus, The Whole that is tenaciously keeping billions of individual consciousnesses in a collective-unconscious bridle, but so, that each time it is perceived as especially individual, as an independent almost narcissus-like existence. Consciousness of oneself and ability to make choices lie in the individual illusion of autonomy and self-sufficiency.

And this is supported by individual character of satisfactions of physical needs and public instincts. For the nature of corporal satisfactions is such that they always individualised. Even voluptuousness which assumes a partner, nevertheless is independent and individual. Sexual love is a connection of halves of one natural whole. Individual corporal needs are naturally connected and so are social aspirations. And the measure of development of the latter determines degree of satisfaction of the first. The excessive propensity to satisfaction of the first frequently harms success of realisation of the latter. 

Social instincts induce human-beings to aspire to universal aims and purposes. These may involve attracting others' attention, or having a constant influence on others, on shared projects. The situation here is dual: social instincts are inborn, forms of their satisfaction are public, but nevertheless their satisfaction due to self-consciousness becomes individual and intimate in character. Human aspirations to riches, glory, authority, honours, spiritual influence - all strengthen society for the majority of citizens are involved in 'the Game' and play by keeping common rules. Individuals usually do not think of it.

The social environment with all its norms is as natural for them as the forest is for an animal. They follow their social instincts as well as their individual mental and physical prompts. In this 'self-ness', licence is a source of novelty in human development. But the payment for it is high. For the individual it is the disappointment that comes with the belated understanding of their real dependence and banality. For society, it is constant contentions, enmity and wars, a difficult zig-zag search for unity. Selfishness, thus, is natural and understandable, but to that extent when its social displays are self-controlled.

Children pass the stage of egocentrism, that points at the natural primordial character of this human relation to the world and to oneself and also at yielding to one's self-changing efforts. But many turns to be incapable for such efforts because of weak presence of one psychological qualities and excessive development of others, or absence of culture of self-consciousness and self-restrict or combination of all of these. It is possible to regard self-love as a nest where our passions and vices are nestling. Self-love is a nestling both of greatness and vice, it is a source of creating and destroying. It is absence of remoteness from oneself, self-indulgence that result in transformation of inclinations in passions and passions in vices. Merging of human-being with himself is only maximisation of love to himself. Actually it results in the valid ignorance of ourselves and self-submission to our inclinations. On the contrary, doubt in ourselves the split of ourselves by reflection weaken confidence in ourselves, but only this forms love to ourselves among the other people.

Self-love is natural and primordial. Moreover it is a base type of love as a feeling of high friendliness, attention and protection. We are called to love even our neighbours like 'ourselves'. It is ridiculous to demand we love others, more than ourselves. Ridiculous, because it is against nature, against the instinct of self-preservation. Even mad love when man at some moments is seriously ready to give his life for his beloved is merely a bright example of love-to-himself. 

Selfishness though, is the origin of all existing evil...  

Selfishness though, is the origin of all existing evil. The natural inclination of love to itself becomes a self-passion, fussiness and vanity in all that concerns personality. One should not necessarily understand it the way that we mean only dull-witted, closed from external influence, self-satisfied people of the narcissus type. There are quite reasonable and critical, reflective persons among the selfish. However their criticism and reflection is directed only outwards, but not on themselves. Personal opinions and actions are regarded as taboo. It is not a rational prohibition but the stronghold of complacency and sincere belief in moral virtuous impeccability. These people as a rule are successful and vigorous certainly can recognize certain small blunders and casual omissions but they are seriously convinced of their own correctness and legitimacy.

We are managed by them - self-satisfied, self-sufficient and self-confident - in all spheres of social life. They are attractive only in a role of sufferers, in the rest such people are real 'substantial bearers', personified bundles of passions. As well as narcissus persons. 

The passions occupy people because their self-consciousness can not resist them, as they identify themselves with the passions. And how one can want to destroy or essentially restrain himself, bring harm? Though human-beings remain rationalists, rationally acting - there is no denying that power-loving, litigious, misers are rationalists - but only in relation to external, not internal life. People become miserable prisoners of passions, panderers of their lacks, they give themselves to arms of passions. This by the way is precisely expressed in the appropriate characteristics: he was seized by an unfortunate passion; carried away by passions; he is powered by feelings, not mind; enslaved by passions.

If the ego, the spirit lose their sovereignty then biological fury comes forth making of human-beings so many prisoners. Passion is a sincere impulse for something, moral thirst, hunger, involuntary attraction, unrestrained, unreasonable desiring. The original, sense of 'hunger' is 'saturation', aspiration to satisfaction, and in Russian 'belly' meant earlier not only stomach, cavity with digestive organs but also 'life' of human-being and animal. 'Thirst' signifies a desire to drink. 'Thirst' means much stronger desire, than 'hunger', again in accordance with original physiological 'denotates', for physiologically dehydration is much more exhausting and less bearable than absence of food. It is no mere chance that these words are synonyms, revealing and simultaneously clearing up senses of a 'passion'.

There is a deep semantic relationship between them, since they point at kindred human phenomena: appropriation and absorption. At the same time it is possible to speak about their infinite insatiability, their insatiable thirst. 

So it seems that passions are a calque from physiology, a victory of a body-mentality above spirit; a victory of a body-mentality above self-defining spirit. This is an absolute tragedy - as most people have no personal history of spirit at all: instead they consciously and with pleasure choose the tangible and socially prestigious. The problem arises only when one has something to lose. When consciousness of dissonance arises.

When an enslaving passion does not bring clearness of a self-satisfied spontaneity of pleasure, and thus reduce self-consciousness to the state of gloomily snarling but powerless slave. When a human-being man realizes that he has lost something important, having got nothing in exchange. What he was taking for an abyss of pleasure, what could be changed for a boring mind and burdensome duties of the control and responsibility turned out to be a humiliating slavery, in which hedonistic moments, moments of pleasure 'come together' as the passion overrides all.

Passions are fed by our power - the power of self-conscious will. Will is a regal sceptre and authority. While ego keeps the will it is a self-consciousness, i.e. consciousness that manages itself. If there is no will the consciousness becomes a servant, a rational guide of passion and ego becomes its personification. The harmony between two levels of existence in the human-being always is relative and transient. The struggle - between what 'I' want and what my animal belly wants - is eternal. 
Self-indulgence, weakening of discipline, search of accessible pleasures are certainly much more comfortable for a body than restraint, discipline and restrictions. But the latter is an indispensable condition of self-development and cultivation of the spiritual intentions. And people surrender. The mental and physiological nature cries out: 'That's it, and it is real - O! the pleasure of assignment and absorption!' And non-corporal desires, non-pragmatic aspirations, non-utilitarian, not-just-for-show attractions imperceptibly turn pale, lose their former appeal, and those inclinations that are habitual or saturated with power become monsters. Only when passion is tamed by an active ego can the flowers of the human spirit bloom.

Address for correspondence 

Dr Vladimir Krasikov is Professor of Philosophy of Science at Kemerovo State University.

About the Russian Special (2005)

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXIII No. 1 Spring  2005


Introduction by Dmitry Olshansky

Russian philosophy appears as an independent tradition towards the end of nineteenth century. Before that time it largely reiterated foreign, that is to say, par excellence, philosophy drawn from the European tradition. It was not original; always attempting secondary applications of Kantianism, Hegelianism, Nietzsche and so on.

By the end of the nineteenth century, however, if there was no Russian original philosophy, there was a deep and a rich tradition of Russian literature and criticism. It seems that Russian writers were having deeper and more original thoughts than the professional Russian philosophers.

So the history of its development defines the peculiarities of Russian philosophy. For instance, despite widespread borrowings from the West, philosophy in Russia was not an academic science. Firstly, it was largely created by critics, publicists and writers (like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky), and not by natural scientists; and secondly, because the Russian 'enlightenment' continued through the first two decades of the Twentieth century, (Lenin's programme for the elimination of illiteracy is part of this enlightenment), philosophers actively aspired to write for general readers, indeed, the first university courses specifically on philosophy did not appear until the end of the nineteenth century.

And so philosophy books in Russia were written for common people and not for the researcher, in accord with Dostoevsky's famous words: "All real Russian people are philosophers". For this reason it has special interests in ethics and religious ideas (Solovyov's tradition), aesthetics and art criticism (Florensky, Losev, Bakhtin) and, most especially, in social philosophy (notably the vast area of Russian Marxism). There was little interest in ontology, theory of mind, logic and investigation of language. The truth, according to Russian thinkers, was not rational, but existential, therefore it should not be rationalised or 'cognized' - but lived. Pavel Florensky, in this way, traces back the derivation of the Russian word for "truth" from the verb "to be". To be true, means to exist, and to exist means to be true. In such a way, Florensky concludes that falsehood is just an illusion of a mind, it cannot truly exist.

Other thinkers have continued to develop this idea and supposed that that objective world constructed by rationalism as epitomised by Kant's a priori forms of perception is also not true.

At the beginning of Twentieth century, the thought that 'truth is out here' was the distinctive slogan of religious Russian philosophy. Lev Shestov, writing in The Conquest of the Self-Evident, believed that "we may perhaps have to admit that certainty is not a predicate of truth, or, to express it better, that certainty has absolutely nothing in common with truth". The Soviet philosopher*, Merab Mamardashvili, writing in How I Understand a Philosophy, offers an analogous non-acceptance of reality: 
"I always distaste of all surrounding order of life and there was none inner dependence on ideology and ideals that were created by that order".
Above all, many Russian thinkers were fond of Dostoevsky's existentialism. Frankly, it was the first serious and original philosophical resource for all further Russian philosophy. Of course, Dostoevsky himself was not philosopher, but investigation of his ideas has been prolific ground for philosophical writing in the Twentieth century. This fact alone shows that philosophy is always a commentary on the texts, or on the research of knowledge, rather than the producer of knowledge.

Philosophy, according to the Greek base, is not a wisdom, but a "love to a wisdom": Philosophers should not be wise, Socrates believed, but through a dialogue with other philosophers assist in the birth of truth. In just such a Socratic way, Shestov forewarns the philosopher against knowledge, and the seduction of the call to become experts.

Russian philosophy also borrowed from Dostoevsky a criticism of Western rationalism, and its habit of searching for general laws of being, indifferent to the person, creating alienation in objectification, research and work. This last problem was consonant with Marx's own appeal to workers to overcome the alienation of capitalism.
Paradoxically, Dostoevsky's religious ideas meshed together with Marx's atheism; these doctrines were coherent as part of the whole: revolutionary project continues a religious moralisation. Many Russian philosophers seek to combine socialism with religious Orthodoxy, and some of them even read Marx as religious thinker. For example, Bulgakhov supposed Marx to be on a religious missionary. Ultimately, because Russian philosophy has never been academic discipline, it is difficult to separate Russian philosophers from the other thinkers: psychologists like Vygotsky, philologists, linguists, economists, and lawyers. Russian writers remain great Russian philosophers too.

Today, the most important Russian thinkers are Makhail Bakhtin, Alexander Kojeve and Jury Lotman.

*The Editor adds, December 2011
Particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is important to note that Merab Mamardashvili is in fact a Georgian philosopher, sometimes called the Georgian Kant. In his philosophy he emphasises the importance of nationality, writing: 'A human being as man is activated from virtue, and as a son of one or another nationality, one can only truly comprehend his personality through his own dignity. To be a Georgian is not biological capacity - this is the will to be a Georgian. As to the will - it is a phenomenon of knightly virtue, and if I do not have it, no matter, how many times I am desired by the nation. I will be neither a man nor a Georgian.'