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Befindlichkeit and Stimmung as Modality and Mode


Welcome the wild.

Befindlichkeit and Stimmung as Modality and Mode

Mark Douglas

Modality is my interpretation of Befindlichkeit. Befindlichkeit has been translated as state of mind, so-foundness, basic disposition, and more. Befindlichkeit is a capacity. Stimmung is the realization of that capacity. Stimmung most readily translates as mood. But since I take Befindlichkeit as modality I take Stimmung as mode. Also, mood has connotations related to subjectivity. Even though we say that someone is in a mood, we tend to consider moods to be internal phenomena. Mode is what Dreyfus calls style.

Modes determine what it makes since to do. Modes aren't beliefs or rules. Modes are not represented in the mind of somebody. Modes are becoming. A mode becomes somebody. Spinosa, Flores, and Dreyfus (1997) are interested in the relationships among modes and practices. "Things show up for us in terms of our familiar practices for dealing with them" (p. 18). Practices gather in relation to our familiarity and conventions. The way practices interrelate is through a cultural mode.

Mode "acts as the basis on which practices are conserved and also the basis on which new practices are developed" (p. 20). Mode "is the ground of meaning in human activity" (p. 20). There are three aspects which appear in consideration of mode in its role of opening disclosive space. Mode opens a disclosive space "(1) by coordinating actions, (2) by determining how things and people matter, and (3) by being what is transferred from situation to situation" (p. 20).

How have others interpreted modality (Befindlichkeit)? For Gendlin, it is the capacity of being open to moods; that is, our "human feeling capacity" (p. XXX). Gendlin gives four distinctions for modality. (1) Modality is "how we sense ourselves in situations" (p. XXX). This is a capacity whereby we somehow place ourselves outside ourselves and gather a sense for how we are getting along in the world. (2) Modality relates to the ability to sense our "own understanding of how one is living" (p. 13). (3) But modality is implicit. It's sensed rather than thought and holistically complex. It's holism and complexity means that modality is not atomizable. You can't ordinate modality into units. (4) Discourse, that is, saying, is grounded in modality. The "feeling-understanding" stemming from modality (mode) perfuses saying.

Before going further is our examination of Stimmung in terms of mode, we need to look at the conceptual evolution of Stimmung. Welsh (2012) uses Stimmung to demonstrate how concepts migrate between disciplines. Stimmung is grounded in the world of music. There are three distinct musical connotations for Stimmung (mode). It can refer to tone intervals, temperament, or a post-tuning state. The connotations are fluid but our work will focus on the post-tuning state. Welsh says that "Stimmung is most frequently applied to describe a general emotional state or disposition" (270). One of the first studies in mass psychology (Cantril, 1940) invoked Stimmung to characterize the disclosive influence of the 19XX radio broadcast of H.G. Wells' 'War of the Worlds' (Welsh, 2012).

Welsh (2012) begins in 18th century Europe. During the mid 1700s mode moved from music to physiology. Mode became analogous to a physiological process to interpret human intelligibility. Humans were thought of like musical string instruments. Somebody's mode was their state of attunement on account of which things mattered. For Kruger (1748 umlaut) and Hartley (1749), our brains were composed as networks of vibrating clusters. These clusters directly related to associations strung together and leading to our understanding of things in the world. Weikard (1790) took the idea further. He suggested that different people have different modes or tunings. These different tunings relate to different 'harmonic clusters' which in turn relate to different chains of ideas. For Weikard, "a specific 'Stimmung' of the brain would automatically enhance particular chains of association not common in another 'Stimmung' " (Welsh, 2012, p. 272).

Welsh offers Sulzer (1773) as an interpreter of Stimmung (mode) more closely related to the term's roots in music. Sulzer held Stimmung to be akin an instruments post tuning state. Sulzer aligned Stimmung with poetry. His claim was that the way somebody interpreted a work of art depended on their emotional condition. The Gemutsstimmung was the soul-mood. The soul-mood was aesthetically expressed in sayings, metaphors, and visual images evoked. With Sulzer, modes "not only have an effect on the way we perceive the world, but they also lead to different chains of association" (Welsh, 2012, p. 274). Welsh differs to Bal (2002) and the characterization of soul-mood as a concept "which structured ideas about a general psychological disposition of the subject and its interactions with the environment as a result of this disposition" (p. 275).

The interactivity between somebody and the environment is crucial to our interstitial perspective on mode. With mode, agency is ambiguous since "the subject either tunes or retunes itself (consciously or unconscuiously) or it is retuned from the outside in interaction with the environment. In both cases the borderline between the subject and the object of tuning becomes permeable" (Welsh, 2012, p. 277).

In the 19th century, Stimmung takes a material turn. Building from the work of Reil (1795), Humboldt conducts physiological experiments by treating nerves with alkaline and sodium solutions to create general organism conditions. The assumption was that Stimmung "depended upon the specific mixture of organic substances responsible for the general condition of the organism" (Welsh, 2012, p. 278). This is important for realistic reasons. Keeping all the elements grounded in the world conceives of life as vibrant activity more than mere echo. This takes a living organism to be a "complex system, able to tune and retune itself. In 'Stimmung,' this autonomy of life is a vibrant energetic system in interaction with its environment" (p. 278-279).

Humboldt (1806) later invoked Stimmung in another real and worldly way. Stimmung characterized the effect that landscape has on somebody through their perception of it. In this way, the environment at large tunes somebody. Stimmung comes out of "the typical physiognomic aspects of the landscape, especially its geological structure and its characteristic vegetation" (Welsh, 2012, p. 279). Welsh concludes that while there have been multiple iterations and applications of Stimmung, at root it describes "a general disposition of a dynamic system" and this dynamism cannot be overlooked. Stimmung address questions about an "interaction between and internally organized living system and the environment" (p. 280).