The Philosophy of Art & Aesthetics.
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Nostalgia is a powerful exemplar of what it is to be human, what distinguishes the human from other animals that suffer pain and experience pleasure. The term 'sentimental' is used often as a derogatory label for writing that looks wistfully on the past and passing present, a mode of feeling that is supposed to be, somehow, weak -- apparently according to some macho standards. But it is the sentiments -- feelings -- that are the core of meaningful existence. Sentience and sentiment are inseparable. The term emotion is better, suggesting a motive force, while a term like passion can easily suggest connotations of either a passive nature or, by frequent association, sexuality. Either term will do. In any case, the point is that it is emotion that gives substance to all thought and behavioral responses. Knowledge of the self just is knowing ones emotions; biography is a script of tears, fears, hopes and joy. And nothing captures that mix of emotion and understanding better than nostalgia. Because we humans live facing the past, even as we walk into the future. Memory is the greater part of knowledge and remembered pains and joys is what comprises a life of continuity. Nostalgia is one more attempt to discover meaning in life, and failing that, to confer it. All such projects may seem vain, but all one can hope for is honesty, despite all frailty and inevitable mortality.
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