Space, time and the artist : the philosophy and aesthetics of Wyndham Lewis
My study, in Part I of this thesis, of Wyndham Lewis's philosophical principles outlined in Time and Western Man (1927), reveals a mode of thought which is inspired and determined by beliefs about visual art and its metaphysical significance. The ultimate rejection of the philosophies of Bergson, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and the 'Space-Timeists' such as Spengler, Whitehead and Alexander, in pursuit of a 'philosophy of the eye' was, I argue, fashioned according to aesthetic objections. 'Time-values' are challenged by 'space-values', ideally expressible for Lewis in the static, spatial medium of visual art. The aesthetics of Vorticism, discussed in Part II, was formalized in the two Blast journals (1914-15), and provides the key to an understanding of Lewis's later philosophy in its negation of Bergsonist-related doctrines. His aversion to chronologism' had emerged in various ways well before the public launch of Vorticism and had subsequently achieved a subtle, effective coherence in the 'logic of contradictions' which directed the theoretical strategies of Blast. But In modernism Lewis recognized 'empty' abstraction and thus the taint of the time-cult itself. As a method of working, abstraction was not abandoned, but was directed away from the sensational and emotional in the service of intellect and rational thought. In order to clarify the interdependence of art and philosophy in Lewis's thought, I propose two schematic models. The first characterizes Lewis's philosophical principles and posits the concept of the vortex as Lewis's noumenon. The second superimposes the aesthetic values and form of the vortex symbol itself as a prior justification of the philosophical schema: each 'model' is clearly incomplete without cognizance of the other. Since, for Lewis, the essential character of Vorticism was first expressed in art practice, the findings of this thesis support Lewis's own retrospective view (1956), that Vorticism was a 'new philosophy' in visual form.