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#67239 04/24/02 03:30 PM
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I'm a bit mixed up about this term, and seek enlightenment.

A quick google turned up a definition by John Ruskin, credited with coining the term in 1856. He wrote: "All violent feelings have the same effect. They produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of external things, which I would generally characterize as the 'pathetic fallacy.'"

I read this to mean that, in the grip of strong emotions, we may not accurately perceive or completely understand what is going on around us (e.g. people unable to accurately recall the sequence of events, or details of events, during natural disasters). But I suspect he means something more than this.

I then found another definition (lost the source, sorry): "ascribing objective truth to personal, subjective feelings." This is what I have generally understood this term to mean - that because I feel like something should be the right answer, or should be true, I judge it to be so, and am thus pathetically fallacious.

However, the most common definition I found was "the ascription of human traits or feelings to inanimate nature (as in cruel sea)" - this example from MW, but I found lots like this. I also found some good discussion of how the Ruskin definition leads into this third one, in that ascribing human traits to inaminate nature is a manifestation of our false impressions, driven by emotion - our emotions tells us the sea is cruel as it washes our last cold beer out to sea - but it ain't really, it ain't even thirsty.

Anyway - where in this range of definitions do you all see this term?


#67240 04/24/02 03:42 PM
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your last sums up my understanding of the phrase. it is sort of pathetic ascribing human qualities to nature.

:)

#67241 04/24/02 03:56 PM
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i reckon i'll drown in this conversation, but it seems to me that the possibility exists that "pathetic" in this case might not necessarily mean 'deserving scorn' as much as a derivation of pathetikos, or "sensitive".

when we're enveloped in emotional turmoil of some kind, our sensitivities may be heightened, producing a sort of reverse empathetic anthropomorphization... an extension of sorts to 'when we laugh the world laughs with us...'

just an unedumacated guess =)


EDIT: it occurs to me to post a brief stanza from dorothy parker which seems exemplary here:

"A Two Volume Novel" (by Dorothy Parker)
The sun's gone dim
And the moon's turned black
For I loved him
And he didn't love back


#67242 04/24/02 04:38 PM
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My high school English teacher taught us that "pathetic fallacy" was the attribution of feelings to nature. i.e. A great person dies, perhaps tragically, and it rains the day of the funeral. People perceive this as the heavens weeping for the dearly departed (pathos), a fallacy since nature has no feelings at all.


#67243 04/24/02 04:51 PM
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The enfant terrible I had as college English instructor used the phrase only to describe attributing human attributes to animals.


#67244 04/24/02 07:18 PM
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[quote]


That sounds like anthropomorphism to me.

anthropomorphism [an´thr p môr´fiz m] Anthropology. the portrayal or conception of a human form or human characteristics in a deity, animal, or inanimate object. Behavior. the attribution of human abilities or emotions to animals, suggesting that their actions are conscious and intentional.


#67245 04/24/02 07:26 PM
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[chopped liver e]

(hi, e!)



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