Multi-space dialogue in Greece

Toward a Spatial Dialogue…1

To say that Homer and Hesiod were “nonvisual” poets is to explain in a phrase every problem of the world of Greek scholarship since Lessing and Schliemann. The Greeks never [fully] entered pictorial or visual space. They tended to use all their senses at once. They approached [ie, anticipated]2 the [later] European [more emphatically visual] modes of awareness by a gradual playing down of acoustic space, of kinetic space, of tactual and visceral spaces, in favor of a heightened visual organization of experience.
The change from multi-spaces to a single, uniform, rational space is often associated with the Euclidean breakthrough. [However:] In Art and Geometry William Ivins explains that Euclid never freed himself from kinetic space. In The Beginnings of Architecture, Siegfried Giedion says that the Greeks no more managed to achieve the visual enclosure of space than did the Incas. The new space breakthrough [to visual enclosure] was left for the Romans. (Through the Vanishing Point)3

Plato and Aristotle, the representatives of the new literate culture of Greece in philosophy, had this same doubleness. They straddled the written and oral traditions. They translated the tribal encyclopedia of the preceding culture into the written, classified form, and they too [like Bacon]4 produced an (…) encyclopedic philosophy. (Toward an Inclusive Consciousness, 1967)5

  1. This is a section heading in Through the Vanishing Point, 1968, p33.
  2. Later on the same TVP 225 page: “Bruno Snell’s The Discovery of the Mind: The Greek Origins of European Thought marshals the available conventional evidence, apropos Greek poetry, to show how the Greeks succeeded in sloughing off most of their nonvisual experience in order to anticipate European rationalism.”
  3. Through the Vanishing Point, p225.
  4. The sentences immediately prior to this passage concern such “doubleness”, or “inclusiveness”, in Francis Bacon: “What Bacon did was to take the Book of Nature, which had been the medieval image of the natural world, and to this he added the Book of Scripture, the Sacred Page. He took both these pages (together) and directed to them a kind of analytic gaze of comprehensive inclusiveness. I’m suggesting that the very components that make for a divided consciousness also can (…) become the means of an inclusive consciousness such as Bacon took for granted in his own case.”
  5. Toward an Inclusive Consciousness’, Lecture of March 17, 1967 at the University of Toronto, in Understanding Me, pp124-138.