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Stimmung: From Mood to Atmosphere

Abstract

Unlike human beings, landscapes, cities and buildings cannot feel anything in the literal sense. They do not have nervous systems. Nevertheless, we attribute “Stimmungen” such as peacefulness and melancholy to them. On what basis? With what right? And why does it matter anyway? This paper attempts an answer to this bunch of questions. The first section clarifies the concept of “Stimmung,” by distinguishing its three major meanings, namely harmony, mood and atmosphere. Section two discusses various models of how “Stimmung” (in the sense of mood) is infused into our natural and artificial environment (as atmosphere). Section three lists several ways of how we experience atmosphere, preparing the ground for the specifically aesthetic claim in section four: how, when we experience atmosphere aesthetically, we respond to it by resonating or feeling at home.

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Notes

  1. Kronauer (2017). In the German original, the passage refers to paintings of landscapes and not to landscapes themselves.

  2. Cf. Spitzer (1963); Wellbery (2003); Gumbrecht (2011), English: Gumbrecht (2012), chapter one; and Reents (2015).

  3. Nussbaum (2001).

  4. Cf. e.g. Scheler (2000), English: Scheler (1973), where vital feelings are contrasted with spiritual feelings (our moods proper), standard emotions and localized bodily feelings.

  5. For philosophical treatises, see Bollnow (1995); Goldie (2000), chapter seven; and Ratcliffe (2008). For a psychological survey, see Breedie et al. 2005.

    Affective disorders such as clinical depression, paranoia and schizophrenia seem to stand between emotions and moods in many respects, cf. e.g. Ben-Ze’ev (2000).

  6. Cf. Krebs (2015), which uses insights from the debate on joint action (the main protagonists of which are Margaret Gilbert, John Searle and Michael Bratman) in order to further the understanding affective sharing.

  7. See Bollnow (1963), English: Bollnow (2011); Norberg-Schulz (1980); Augé (1992), English: Augé (1995); Böhme (1995); Casey (1997); Schmitz (1998); Fuchs (2000); and Griffero (2014).

  8. Simmel (2001), English: Simmel 2007.

  9. Bollnow (1995). It is strange that Bollnow’s classic has not been translated into English yet. A translation of two central chapters of his book can be found in this collection on the meaning of moods. The quote is from this translation.

  10. It does not seem to hold for some animals either. As Robert C. Roberts warns in (2009), we should not underestimate the complexity of animal emotion. Many animals are capable of other-regarding emotions like compassion, which presuppose the distinction between self and other. – To be fair to Bollnow, it must be noted that in later chapters of his book he tries to bring together the moods we undergo passively with the more refined attitudes (“Haltungen”) that we actively adopt. Still, he does not confront what this means for the initially postulated undivided unity between self and world in “Stimmung”.

  11. Cf. Goldie (2008); Scheler (1999), English: Scheler (1954); and Merleau-Ponty (2007).

  12. Cf. Gebhard (1994).

  13. Cf. Wollheim (1993).

  14. On resemblance, see Kivy’s (1980), chapter eight.

  15. Cf. Goodman (1988); Levinson (1990); and Scruton (1997a). – For a good survey of the large variety of affective responses to music, see Robinson (2010). However, Robinson regards moods as non-intentional. Therefore she believes that music arouses moods primarily via contagion (“Jazzercise effect”), which corresponds to our causal model.

  16. Scruton (2012).

  17. Litt (1959).

  18. See Scheler (1999), English: Scheler (1954); and Stein (2012), English: Stein (1989). For an English summary and elaboration of Scheler’s position, cf. Goldie (2000), chapter seven; and Krebs (2011).

    In his 1934 treatise (2005a), John Dewey draws a similar distinction between recognition (identification, stereotyping, labeling, which corresponds to 1. perception), perception in the true, full sense (which for him is emotional and thus comes close to 3. sympathy), and being overwhelmed by something (which is passive and corresponds to 4. infection).

    In fact Scheler proposes two additional categories of how we experience the emotions or moods of others: identification (or unification) and shared feeling (feeling-in-common/community of feeling). Both categories seem irrelevant for landscape experience. Scheler introduces identification as an extreme form of infection. An I sucks another in in all its vital attitudes or is sucked in by that other. Some of Scheler’s examples for this are child’s play (“I am mommy”), hypnosis or obsession. In shared feeling, two personal Is cooperate so as to feel one and the same emotion or mood. His example is two parents standing beside the dead body of a beloved child.

  19. Cf. Goldie (2000); and Walton (1997).

  20. For this distinction between two different kinds of sympathy cf. the first chapter of Stein (2012), English: Stein (1989); and Walther 1923.

  21. Dewey (2005b). On Dewey’s affective approach, see Voss (2013).

  22. Wittgenstein (1966). See also Scruton 2011.

  23. Cf. von Wright (1993). See also Scruton (2009), who calls active pleasure “pleasure in” and contrasts it with “pleasure from” and “pleasure that.”

  24. Csikszentmihalyi (1990).

  25. Buber (1997), English: Buber (2004).

  26. The metaphor of resonance therefore also fits non-aesthetic human phenomena such as being infected by laughter or crying, which could be called “causal resonances.” Other non-causal types of resonance are “biographical resonance” (when you feel at home in your neighborhood) and “social resonance” (when you are in harmony with certain people, sharing activities, emotions and moods with them). In his book (2016) Hartmut Rosa investigates all these types. See also his earlier book (2005), English: Rosa (2013), which views social acceleration as a “resonance killer.”

  27. Rosa (2016).

  28. This is also how the phenomenon is accounted for by Litt (1959); König 1978; and Misch (1994).

  29. Scruton (1997a).

  30. Dewey (2005c), compares artistic expression with the extraction of juice from grapes in a winepress. Scruton (1997b), and Scruton (2012), chapter five, denies that landscapes can express anything.

  31. See Jonas (1973), English: Jonas (1954). See also Berleant (1992); and Böhme (1995).

  32. Cf. e.g. Robinson (2012). – But could not all that is special about nature be faked or imitated in architecture (or cyberspace or art)? The answer is no. As imitations go, if people know they are only imitations, they want the original, the authentic and real thing. And how could they not know if nature was faked (given transparent political systems and public knowledge of human and natural history)?

  33. On how architecture makes us feel at home, see Rasmussen (1959); Bollnow (1963), English: Bollnow (2011); Mitscherlich (1965); Scruton (1994); Harries (1997); Pallasma (2005); and Zumthor (2006).

  34. Bollnow (1988).

  35. Cf. Heidegger (1951), English: Heidegger (2013).

  36. Cf. Cochrane 2012; and Brady (2013). Otto Friedrich Bollnow makes a similar point in “Mensch und Natur,” http://www.otto-friedrich-bollnow.de/schriften/detail/mensch_und_natur-215.html, p. 25. He stresses that we should not confuse our being at home in nature (“Geborgenheit”) with absolute security (“Sicherheit”), as nature always has aspects of the uncanny and the threatening, too. As the example of the Alps famously shows, only existential threat and sublimity exclude each other; see for example Cosgrove (1984); and Bätzing (1991).

  37. See Dutton (2009). In his Ästhetik der Natur (“Aesthetics of Nature”), Martin Seel calls this functional aesthetic dimension “corresponsive” and contrasts it with two other aesthetic dimensions, the “contemplative” and the “imaginative.” Cf. Seel (1991). For an English translation of some core ideas, see Seel (1992).

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Krebs, A. Stimmung: From Mood to Atmosphere. Philosophia 45, 1419–1436 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11406-017-9890-4

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Keywords

  • Atmosphere
  • Feeling at home
  • Resonance
  • Aesthetics
  • Landscape
  • Architecture