Gestalt and the judge

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  • 26 Jun 2017 at 5:18 pm #9650


    At the end of BM, the judge tells the man,

    “In any event the history of all is not the history of each nor indeed the sum of those histories”,

    which recently struck me as having a very gestalt flavor ( And then I remembered

    “Whatever [the judge’s] antecedents he was something wholly other than their sum, nor was there system by which to divide him back into his origins for he would not go.”

    which recalled for me its counterpart in WM,

    “Was evil the grand gestalt that could not be divided back into its origins?”

    Are there any other “gestalt” passages in McCarthy’s works? I feel like there’s one or two on the tip of my tongue but I can’t quite get at them. I’m specifically looking for bits talking about how the whole is other than the sum of its parts. And does anyone have any insights into how this kind of holism might play into McCarthy’s conception of evil? It seems a very odd thing to see these three passages linked to the judge. What on earth could evil/the judge have to do with this gestalt worldview?

    26 Jun 2017 at 8:59 pm #9651


    Hi Ed,

    A couple things come to mind reading your post on gestalt in McCarthy.

    The first is the quote in which the judge says the way of the world is to bloom, flower and die, possibly an allusion to Herbert Spencer’s ideas, and which might evoke the concept of the superorganism, something McCarthy seems to make the Glanton gang out to be in this great passage (interestingly, “antecedent” comes up here like in one of your quotes above): “They rode on. They rode like men invested with a purpose whose origins were antecedent to them, like blood legatees of an order both imperative and remote. For although each man among them was discrete unto himself, conjoined they made a thing that had not been before…” (152)

    I’ve written about the “wholly other” phrase in your quote above about the judge perhaps originating with Rudolf Otto’s same phrasing in his book, “The Idea of the Holy.” There is also similarity in some of Nietzsche’s writings, for what it’s worth. Perhaps this connects to gestalt?

    McCarthy is great in this way, opening doors to think about ideas such as gestalt one normally wouldn’t dig into.

    27 Jun 2017 at 12:43 am #9652


    Hi Peter,

    Yes, that “conjoined” quote is one of the ones I was thinking about but couldn’t quite remember. Thanks for that.

    I’ll check out Nietzsche on this, that sounds interesting. Thanks again, man.

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