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Definitions, and Comment:
Being a Description of the World

By Eli Siegel


Liking is the feeling that something outside of oneself has something in common with oneself; and that that something in common is for one.

       We can't like anything unless we feel that it has something in common with us; for·to like something means to have pleasure from it, and this would mean that we are at one with the thing we like; further, we can't be at one with something unless there is something in common between it and ourselves.

      However, when there is something in common with ourselves, and this something in common doesn't seem new or different, there is a likelihood of our disliking it. For though the big thing in liking something or being pleased by it is its oneness with ourselves, this oneness must be accompanied by a feeling of difference. All liking or pleasure goes after the utmost oneness with ourselves, along with the utmost difference.

      If something is too close to us, too familiar, too "old," a certain rhythm that the whole self wants, does not exist; we are bored, sated, unexcited. If something is too different, too far away, too strange, we are frightened, or just uninterested, or puzzled.

      That is why, in the definition, the words "outside of oneself" are so important. To see something really as outside oneself and yet common to oneself, would be liking it definitely, truly, greatly. Most like, however, is wavering, incomplete, corrupt. In every human being, liking is in danger of becoming either possession or indifference, either identification or fear, either contemptuous familiarity or aloofness. For people want to like themselves also, when they like something outside themselves; and this is hard to do.

     We find that in liking a thing, if it is to be done truly, neatly, wholly, those conditions which, in a general way, I have given in the definition of aesthetics, are to be had. There is, however, quite evidently, an inability, or an indisposition, to welcome these conditions.


© 1945 by Eli Siegel

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