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Nostalgia, as a Philosophical Mood

Nostalgia, as a Philosophical Mood

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Published by Pino Blasone
So often nostalgia is an ambivalent mood, that it may seem like contested by opposite but complementary feelings: in a spatial sense, between those which in German are called Heimweh and Fernweh ("homesickness" and, literally, "longing for the faraway"), or, in French, "mal du pays" and "horreur du domicile" ("homesickness" and "horror of home [life]", a hyperbolic expression coined by the poet Charles Baudelaire); on a temporal level, between a conservative and a progressive attitude, or regret for the past and hope in the future; more in general, between an introverted and an extroverted inclination and, ultimately, between illusion and disillusion. Moreover, mainly thanks to the intuitions of poets, we have striven to focus on a perception of nostalgia not so much as a selfish, but rather as a potential altruistic sentiment. In doing so, we have tried to give an interpretation of Novalis' input, "Philosophy is authentic homesickness, an instinct driving to be at home everywhere".
So often nostalgia is an ambivalent mood, that it may seem like contested by opposite but complementary feelings: in a spatial sense, between those which in German are called Heimweh and Fernweh ("homesickness" and, literally, "longing for the faraway"), or, in French, "mal du pays" and "horreur du domicile" ("homesickness" and "horror of home [life]", a hyperbolic expression coined by the poet Charles Baudelaire); on a temporal level, between a conservative and a progressive attitude, or regret for the past and hope in the future; more in general, between an introverted and an extroverted inclination and, ultimately, between illusion and disillusion. Moreover, mainly thanks to the intuitions of poets, we have striven to focus on a perception of nostalgia not so much as a selfish, but rather as a potential altruistic sentiment. In doing so, we have tried to give an interpretation of Novalis' input, "Philosophy is authentic homesickness, an instinct driving to be at home everywhere".

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Published by: Pino Blasone on Jul 07, 2014
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Pino Blasone
 ostalgia, as a Philosophical Mood
1 – Above, Arnold Böcklin,
Ulysses
 
and Calypso
,Kunstmuseum, Basel; 1883. Below, a scene from te !reek film
Ulysses’ Gaze
, directed b" #eo An$elo%oulos; 1&&'
Nostalgia, or Homesickness
#e term itself ma" sound somewat nostal$ic. (t is an earl" modern one, made u% of ancient !reek roots) *+-/0
nostos
, meanin$ return 2ome4, and 567/0
algos
, sorrow4 or sufferin$4. ri$inall" referred to te %ain a sick %erson feels for is wis to return to isnative land, and to is relevant fear never to see it a$ain, tis neolo$ism was coined b" teAlsatian student in medicine 9oannes :ofer 1<<&=1>'?@ in is
 Medical Dissertation on Nostalgia, or Homesickness
 at te niversit" of Basel in witCerland. Det us read a %assa$efrom it, %ublised in Datin in 1<88, were a word destined to become so successful in teEuro%ean lan$ua$es was born)
 Neque vero de nomine deliberanti convenientius occurrit,remque eplicanda praecisius designans, quam
 Fostal$ia
vocabulum, origine graecum, et quidem duabus e vocibus compositum, quorum alterum
 G+-/
reditum in patriam,
1
 
alterum
H67/
dolorem aut tristitiam signi!icat" ut adeo e vi vocis
 F-I67JI
designare possit tristem animum e reditus in patriam ardenti desiderio oriundum
 For in trut,deliberatin$ on a name, did a more suitable one occur to me, definin$ te tin$ to bee%lained, more concisel" tan te word Fostal$ia, !reek in ori$in and indeed com%osed of two sounds, te one of wic is Fostos, return to te native land; te oter, Al$os, si$nifiessufferin$ or $rief; so tat tus far it is %ossible from te force of te sound
 Nostalgia
 todefine te sad mood ori$inatin$ from te desire to return to oneLs native land4@.
1
E%licitl", te nostal$ia of :ofer is an illness, tat is wen te feelin$ usuall" calledomesickness – in !erman,
 Heim#e$
 – de$enerates into a real %atolo$". :e studied tismental disease, wit s%ecial reference to contem%orar" wiss mercenaries, $one to carr" onteir %rofession of arms abroad. #e as%irin$ doctor ad to be learned in classical lan$ua$esand literatures tou$, so mucas to be ins%ired b" :omerLs
%dyssey
 and b" l"ssesLlon$in$ to return to is omeland, te isle of (taca. (n fact, te nostal$ic e%ression *+-MN* ONI0
n&stimon 'mar 
, da" of te return4, is recurrent in te e%ic %oem. And, Qustat its be$innin$, we can read about its %rota$onist) R66S TL U 7L V* R+*-W R5XY* Z67YI [*\I-S X]N+*,0 ^*_NY*/ `* -Y ]* \I *+-* -IJ*, e suffered man" sorrows2
algea
 b" sea in is eart,0 stru$$lin$ in order to save is life and to $ain a wa" back 2
noston
 to is comrades4 lines g='@. Don$ before te term was invented, l"sses ad become a m"tic ero of nostal$ia. Also after tat invention, for a lastin$ %eriod te vocable
 Heim#e$
 continued to be %referred in te !erman usa$e, to desi$nate omesickness. #is iste case of (mmanuel Kant, still in 1>&8. (n
 (nt$ropology !rom a )ragmatic )oint o! *ie#
,te %iloso%er sows tat e was achuainted wit :oferLs s%eec and ad reflected on it. (n
 (nt$ropologie in pragmatisc$er Hinsic$t 
, suc is te ori$inal title of te work,actuall" e writes)
 Das Heim#e$ der +c$#eizer 
 
und #ie ic$ es aus dem Munde eineser!a$rnen Generals $abe, auc$ der -estp$.ler und der )ommern in einigen Gegenden/,#elc$es sie be!.llt, #enn sie in andere 0.nder versetzt #erden, ist die -irkung einer durc$die 1ur2ckru!ung der 3ilder der +orgen!rei$eit und nac$barlic$en Gesellsc$a!t in i$ren 4ugend5a$ren erregten +e$nsuc$t nac$ den 6rtern, #o sie die se$r ein!ac$en 0ebens!reuden genossen, da sie dann nac$ dem sp.tern 3esuc$e derselben sic$ in i$rer 7r#artung se$r  get.usc$t und so auc$ ge$eilt !inden8 z#ar in der Meinung, da9 sic$ dort alles se$r  ge.ndert $abe, in der :$at aber, #eil sie i$re 4ugend dort nic$t #iederum $inbringenk;nnen
 #e omesickness of te wiss – and, as ( ave it from te mout of ane%erienced $eneral, also te est%alians and Pomeranians from certain re$ions – tatseiCes tem wen te" are transferred to oter lands, is te result of a lon$in$ for te %laceswere te" enQo"ed te ver" sim%le %leasures of life, aroused b" te recollection of ima$esof te carefree life and nei$borl" com%an" in teir earl" "ears. jor later, after te" visittese same %laces, te" are $reatl" disa%%ointed in teir e%ectations and tus also find teir omesickness cured. #o be sure, te" tink tat tis is because ever"tin$ tere as can$eda $reat deal, but in fact it is because te" cannot brin$ back teir "out tere4@.
?
19. :ofer,
 Dissertatio medica de
 Gpq
 , oder Heim#e$e
, Basel) :ans 9. Bertsce, 1<88,  ((; and #ets and ocuments) edical issertation on Fostal$ia b" 9oannes :ofer4, trans. . K. Ans%ac in
 3ulletin o! t$e <nstitute o! t$e History o! Medicine
 Baltimore, ar"land) 9ons :o%kins niversit" Press@, ol. ?, 1&3g, %%. 38=81.?(. Kant,
 (nt$ropologie in pragmatisc$er Hinsic$t, abge!asst von <mmanuel =ant 
, Köni$sber$) j.  Ficolovius, 18, %%. 8<=8>; and
 (nt$ropology !rom a )ragmatic )oint o! *ie#
, trad. x. B.
?
 
at Kant %oints out in tis %assa$e is tat omesickness0nostal$ia is often a contrast between e%ectation and disillusion; wat is even more im%ortant, tat te dimension of suc a sentiment or mood is s%atial as muc as tem%oral. Earl", te conce%t evolved todesi$nate not onl" omesickness for a familiar %lace or for %ersons, wo are related wittat %lace for instance, in te
%dyssey
, l"ssesL desire for omecomin$, and to reQoin iswife Penelo%e or is son #elemacus@. Also, it was understood as a "earnin$ for te %ast, for a time wic most of times cannot revive at te %resent or in te future, in its $enuinenessand inte$rit". uc a memorable %ast ma" be not onl" %ersonal and individual, butcollective or cultural too. #at is wat is e%ressed b" an artist coeval wit Kant, te wiss9oann :einric jyssli in 1>>8=8, in a ver" stran$e and emblematic Feoclassical or Pre=xomantic drawin$, toda" in te Kunstaus of zuric)
 Der =2nstler verz#ei!elnd vor der Gr;sse der antiken :r2mmer 
 #e ArtistLs es%air Before te !randeur of Ancientxuins4@. #ere, an artist is %ortra"ed wile sittin$ disconsolate near a few fra$ments of acolossal xoman statue. e deal wit wat as been called nostal$ia for antihuit", and wit arealiCed im%ossibilit" to restore or even onl" imitate te true s%irit of classical arts.:owever, (. Kant did not consider omesickness Qust onl" in a %ra$matic4 albeitantro%olo$ical4 wa". (n
 >e!leionen =ants zur =ritik der reinen *ernun!t 
 KantLsxeflections on te ritihue of Pure xeason4@, edited b" B. Erdmann at Dei%Ci$ in 188g, is%oint of view4 $rows more teoretical and almost meta%"sical. Det us translate tereflection tere numbered ?g4, %robabl" written in 1>>>)
 Die =ritik der reinen *ernun!t ist ein )r.servativ !2r eine =rank$eit der *ernun!t, #elc$e i$ren =eim in unserer Natur $at?+ie ist das Gegenteil von der Neigung, die uns an unser *aterland !esselt Heim#e$/? 7ine+e$nsuc$t, uns ausser unserm =reise zu verlieren und andere -elten zu bezie$en
 #ecritihue of %ure reason is an antidote to a malad" of reason, wic ori$inates in our nature. (tis te o%%osite of te %ro%ensit" linkin$ us to our faterland, or omesickness. #at is alon$in$ to overste% our bounds and to relate ourselves to oter worlds4@. Fo doubt, in tisa%orism tere is an antici%ation of te transition from Enli$tenment to xomanticism,altou$ te oriCon is still rationalistic and te %ro%ensit" linkin$ us to our faterland4 istreated – meta%oricall", indeed – as a malad"4 in :oferLs fasion, of wic above.#o our minds, we sould ave %resent te com%le and not seldom contradictor"sensitiveness, wic was $oin$ to be te dialectic back$round of an earl" xomanticism and(dealism. Fot too man" "ears later, in 1>&8=&&, te %oet and tinker jriedricvon:ardenber$ alias Fovalis4 will annotate anoter famous and somewat eni$matica%orism, in is fra$mentar"
 Das allgemeine 3rouillon
 or niversal Fotebook4)
 Die )$ilosop$ie ist eigentlic$ Heim#e$, ein :rieb 2berall zu Hause zu sein
 Piloso%" isautentic omesickness, an instinct drivin$ to be at ome ever"were4@.
3
 Fo lon$eomesickness is re$arded as a malad". Fot necessaril" %iloso%" is %erceived as a fullrational activit", but rater like an intuitive %redis%osition, needin$ to be rationaliCed. For isnostal$ia understood as omesickness in a selfis sense, but rater like a %ulsion toward anelsewere and an oterness, wat coincides wit te uto%ian as%iration to be at omeever"were in a broad acce%tation it would be %erfect, if Fovalis ad added and in ever"
Douden, ambrid$e, . K.) ambrid$e niversit" Press, ?<, %. >1.3Fo. ?1 in Fovalis,
+c$ri!ten
, edited b" 9. inor, 9ena) E. iederics, 1&?3, ol. ((; %. 1>&. jor a different translation, and numberin$, see
 Notes !or a >omantic 7ncyclopaedia" Das (llgemeine  3rouillon
, edited b" . ood, tate niversit" of Few {ork Press, ?>; %. 1'', fr$. 8'>.
3

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