Feeling through Things


WINDSOR Mark Richard

Year of publication 2022
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
Description Some objects we value because they afford a sense of connection with distant people, places, or events. Visiting Canterbury cathedral, say, you encounter the place where archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered by the knights of Henry II. Knowing that you are standing in the very place where Becket’s blood was spilled gives the past event a sense of tangible reality. In a recent body of work, Carolyn Korsmeyer has developed an account of such experiences in terms of an imperceptible property of genuineness. Against Korsmeyer, I argue that genuineness has no descriptive role in characterising the historical features of objects that afford experiences of being ‘in touch with the past’. I offer an alternative account of the phenomenon in terms of an imaginative activity that represents what an object is historically connected with and that makes the object special as part of the object in the present. One imagines of the site of Becket’s murder Becket being murdered. This mode of engagement can, I suggest, be thought of as an empathy-related response. What is distinctive about the cases in question is that one imaginatively feels through the object to what it embodies in virtue of its past.

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