Abstraction of the Object
I am quoting again from The Condition of Man by Lewis Mumford, page 246. The text is accompanied by a series of paintings. I have chunked up the text into more paragraphs.
Interest in the external world was not confined to the scientist. What the physicist observed in terms of matter and motion, the painter described in terms of light and shape, color and texture, seeking verisimilitude and life-likeness…
The search for the object began early; but as in the detail from Tintoretto’s Last Supper, the object remained a subordinate part of the painting whose meaning lay elsewhere.
In Vermeer’s The Cook interest is divided between the figure and the utensils, both treated with almost photographic realism. But in the painting below the maid’s face is hidden: she herself has become part of the “still life.”
Finally, in Chardin’s characteristic study the object becomes completely detached from other human interests, and is significant in its own right: the breadishness of the bread, the copperishness of the copper, have become values…
Nothing became quite real for primitive man until he subjectified it and personalized it: now the test of reality becomes objectification and depersonalization. The last step in this process was the camera…
Having by strenuous self-elimination achieved achieved objectivity with respect to the external world, man must now by an equally rigorous discipline achieve a complementary subjectivity by a renewed command of the inner world. Instead of freezing out feelings, emotions, internal states, he must utilize them more intensively and rationally: only so can he do full justice to all the dimensions of human experience.
This healing of the split personality of modern man is today one of the critical tasks of education.
As usual, I relate this to developments in Software – in the obsession with object-oriented programming in the Nineties. This was nothing but the attempt to model people as objects – which as programmers are now beginning to realize, did not accomplish much.