Re: Sublimation and science and art (was Re: Balzac's hairy palms(was

Brian Manning Delaney (
Thu, 30 Sep 1999 16:52:47 -0700 wrote:
> In a message dated 9/30/1999 11:41:22 A.M.
> Pacific Daylight Time,
> writes:

>> Further, is sublimation a requirement of art? If it is, will
>> science's ability to give us direct fulfillment of our needs
>> eliminate art?


> Actually, the reason i didn;t coment wasn't
> your oneliner-- it was funny at first.
> I laughed out loud, but the reason I have
> nothing to say about
> sublimation causing art is pretty simple:
> I don't believe in it.

Fascinating. I'd love to hear where you think art DOES come from. (For the record: no problem not commenting; no problem anywhere, actually, except perhaps your "private email.... boys" comment, but not really there either. No problema.)


> I never bought that, but I had to study that
> stuff in college. And I have Jungian therapist
> pals who believe in myth and collective
> consciousness too, and that also seems sketchy..

I think Jung is far more sketchy than Freud, though quite interesting.

> ... Anywayz........ there's no evidence in my
> personal experience that we artists sublimate
> in order to create. I think that in Freud's time,
> Victorian times, that may have held credence,
> I dunno, but i was a creature without that
> social pressure to conform- and/or sublimate my
> desires, I have pretty much done as I please
> all my life, and I still create.

Freud's notion of sublimation is entirely different from the one you're working with here, though yours is the notion I was curious about in connection with Balzac. Freud's theory of sublimation is about a sublimation that takes place in the first few years of life. This sublimation has a formative, highly "inertial" effect on us. Personal experience as an adult, and personal inspection of one's drives, and of the degree of suppression of these drives, etc., has little if any bearing on the accuracy of Freud's theory. Whether Freud was right would be difficult to prove empirically, though I think he almost certainly had the basics right: an infant's needs are overwhelmingly powerful, and constant. Becoming post-infantile requires "channeling" of these needs, these drives, since reality doesn't fulfill them as the infant would wish (food doesn't appear on demand, etc.). This channeling has an inertia to it: one is _formed_. An adult can't (yet) simply will that s/he have a different personality, different desires, etc., and instantly change (though over time one can certainly change, slowly).

So the bit often said about Freud -- that Victorian Vienna was a repressed place, and thus that his theories don't apply more generally -- is not true. To be sure, aspects of his theories are clearly wrong, and resulted from the time and place of his origins. For example, the fairly direct manifestation, in adults, of repressed sexuality, might not exist to the same extent in less repressed cultures. But this doesn't mean the important aspects of the structure of personality aren't formed at an early age via sublimation.

So, then, my question: whatever one's current degree of creativity, can it be increased through a kind of sublimation taking place in adulthood (_pace_ Freud)? Balzac appeared to have thought so.

The more interesting question though, to me, doesn't require the theory of sublimation as a basis for art; it simply requires that art be a means to pleasure. The question, then, is whether a pefected science of pleasure would obviate art.

> (I will say that when i am painting and it's
> going really well and I'm doing good work, it
> does feel very much like a tantric version of
> sexual union. [...])

Being "in the zone" while doing jazz improvisation is a feeling like no other. Seems better than sex, actually -- to me anyway. (But this is the advantage of sublimation: indirect pleasure is better than direct....)

Indirectly Yours,

Brian Manning Delaney