Philosophy Forum 10/09/2014 -Nicholas Royle: The Uncanny

Dear All

as promised an extra early post for next week’s meeting. The vague sense of unease you exprerience at receiving the post early may receive some elucidation after reading Nicholas Royle’s short writing on The Uncanny.

The meeting is in UL102 14:15-15:45.

best wishes



One thought on “Philosophy Forum 10/09/2014 -Nicholas Royle: The Uncanny

  1. It seems relatively clear to me that the sensation referred to as ‘uncanny’ concerns the transition from familiar to the unfamiliar (though not all instances of this will be uncanny). With this in mind I am considering three horizons on which the uncanny occurs:

    i) The Ontic horizon: This occurs where some phenomena from within the ordinary contents of world changes from one into another -yet does not move outside of it e.g. I thought it was a stone until it moved.

    ii) The Ontological horizon: This is the uncanniness of being-at-all. That is, a response to the sudden disclosure of the facticity of being which makes it appear suddenly strange and alien and prompts philosophical responses such as: ‘Why is there something other than nothing?’The sheer uncanniness that one is, that there are things, people and language. The first concerns the notion of beings as a whole, the second the experience of consciousness within being. Solipsistic concerns also come under this heading, these too give an ontological uncanny -a phantasy fueled by skepticism -the utterly incoherent possibility that there is somehow only me as an actually conscious being.

    iii) The super-natural horizon: All super-natural interventions (or the manifestation of them) make the world look suddenly uncanny. Synchronicity is again a powerful example of this kind of phenomena, though all telepathic, spiritual manifestations still unsettle a rationally perceived world into a suddenly irrational one.

    The problem with the notion of the super-natural horizon is a) that it is possibly not necessary i.e. it is possible to treat the world as if the magickal phenomena are rare but not something that doesn’t happen (are essentially natural) and b) that they are not transcendental illusions but rather aspects of reality that we do not as yet possess the abilities to comprehend. b) evokes two rational approaches: one says that when we experience the super-natural we are deluded and there is an alternative explanation to the super-natural one which makes no appeal to forces outside those already known; the second says when we experience the super-natural, whilst it is possible there is a solid world explanation (a ‘ghost’ that was a creaking floorboard), there is also the possibility that no explanation from within the current framework is sufficient to be satisfactory. The latter option is still rational because it essentially subscribes to the principle of sufficient reason. So even if there is an extra unexplained aspect to the phenomena we still speculate that there must be a reason for this, it is just that physics for example, are still beyond us.

    This gives us a kind of Kantian sense of the power (or hubris) of reason, for we feel even in the face of the utterly strange that comprehension is still a possibility here.
    What does comprehension here mean? Only this: that we can speak of a reason and someone else can understand. I appreciate this might sound unconvincing however I think if we consider that in some epoch God/spirits is a reasonable reason, we can see that comprehension grammatically does not entail a more sophisticated explanation and that the sophisticated explanation itself would also be subject to a possible overturning.

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