Monday, October 6, 2014

Who Frames Roger Rabbit? - Cartoon Characters as Recognized Individuals (Part Four)

Part Three

Section Two: Sittlichkeit Mouse - Toward a Hegelian Model of Cartoon Recognition

[Short post today, might put up another part later this week.]

Having briefly outlined a history of cartoons, I would now like to briefly review Hegel's Three Stages of History. The First Stage is pre-enlightenment sittlichkeit (roughly, 'non-alienation'), where social roles and norms are seen as part of the “architecture of the universe,” that is to say, they are as much a part of the natural world as gravity. Human individuals recognize each other by these laws, and do not suffer alienation. Hegel quotes from Sophocles' Antigone to show the relationship between individual self-consciousnesses and these eternal laws:
“'They are not of yesterday or today, but everlasting,
Though where they came from, none of us can tell.'
"They are. If I inquire after their origin and confine them to the point whence they arose, then I have transcended them; for now it is I who am the universal, and they are the conditioned and limited. If they are supposed to be validated by my insight, then I have already denied their unshakable, intrinsic being, and regard them as something which, for me, is perhaps true, but also is perhaps not true...” (Phenomenology 437).
Problems arise when these eternal, perfect laws come into conflict, particularly the self-consciousness-dissolving law of the community and the individualistic law of the family. The community “creates an internal enemy for itself in what it suppresses and what is at the same time essential to it (femininity in general)” (ibid 475). The two “natural” laws come in conflict, exposing their human-made nature. This conflict paves the way for the Second Stage.

The Second Stage is the Modern, where the Enlightenment reveals social rules and norms to be entirely man-made. Modernity is making a contrast between things that physically exist and moral attitudes, which are created by humans. Although Hegel views this as an overall positive development, it also results in alienation and cynicism. Hegel gives us the picture of the “moral valet” who can only see the disparity between handlung (intention) and tat (actuality) that all action involves.

This niedertkiet individual sees nothing but invalid man-made normative attitudes all the way down. It is in this stage that Hegel frames the tension between Faith and Reason. In his formulation, Reason rightly criticizes Faith's ontology, while failing to recognize the value of the communally recognized normative structures that Faith allows.

The Third Stage is the Post-Modern, in which Enlightenment is recombined with sittlichkeit. Social roles and norms are recognized as valid and binding, not in spite of the fact that they are the products of the human mind, but rather precisely because of mutually binding social recognition. In other words, norms really exist and people's normative attitudes are sometimes right. By a process of repentance and forgiveness, all of history is made meaningful and the inherent meaningfulness of communally-recognized norms is established.

This is, of course, an extremely truncated version of Hegel's model, but it will serve for the purpose of comparison with the evolution of comics and cartoons.

(Continued in Part Five)

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