chapter  13
Detail and atmosphere. René Le Senne
Pages 2

Two of Jankélévitch’s themes are dealt with by René Le Senne. One, that of the ‘organobstacle’, whereby value is conceived as brought into being through overcoming, or at least meeting, the resistance of reality, and ‘transcending’ the ‘contradiction’, is already familiar, and receives in Le Devoir1 a more than usually Hegelian treatment, although acknowledgement goes to Maine de Biran.2 In an earlier work, Obstacle et valeur,3 this theme is discussed, but in relation to the notion of value as atmospheric rather than determinate. Le Senne uses the term extraversion to refer to the move from ‘atmosphere’ to ‘detail’, and introversion for the reverse procedure.4 In so far as the self apprehends detail, it is the perceptive and expressive self, the public self, which is in question, whereas atmosphere is related to the intimacy of the private self. We are warned against confusing introversion, a term borrowed from Jung, with introspection, a hybrid operation involving self-consciousness and discrimination. Introversion consists in opening oneself to atmosphere, giving preference, over the detached scrutiny of a picture, to the undivided feeling of its totality.5 Value is atmospheric, because it is not made up of parts.6 Norms can therefore be expected to be analysable into details which are in opposition to atmosphere and destructive of it, as the social is to the intimate.7 Le Senne’s dislike of ‘determination’, ‘detail’ and objective being as components of the world of value is exceptionally strong, and he is led to suppose experience in general as an ‘act’, in Lavelle’s sense, which is basically undifferentiated, with the result that it does not ideally lend itself even to the formation of values, but only to that of Value.1 The encounter of this spiritual flow, or upsurge (essor), with the obstacles presented by reality, gives rise to acts of will and produces ‘determinations’. The upsurge is to be distinguished from the will. In the former, the power of the self is not specified by any definite intention; it aims at value.