University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 7 Mar 2015: A Conceptual analysis of the oceanic feeling - with a special note on painterly aesthetics (Saarinen)

Start date: Mar 07, 2015 12:00 PM

End date: Mar 07, 2015 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, Vanha juhlasali, S212

Jussi A. Saarinen. Photographer: Helmi Jukkala
Jussi A. Saarinen. Photographer: Helmi Jukkala
M.A. Jussi Saarinen defends his doctoral dissertation in Philosophy ”A Conceptual analysis of the oceanic feeling - with a special note on painterly aesthetics” . Opponent FT, Adjunct Professor Joona Taipale (University of Copenhagen) and custos Professor Jussi Kotkavirta (University of Jyväskylä). The event is in English.

The present study focuses on the concept of the oceanic feeling. It consists of four individual articles and an introduction. The introduction lays out the theoretical background for current debate on the topic, specifies the scope and aims of the thesis, and introduces its main ideas and arguments. The first article provides a comparative analysis of three primary accounts of the oceanic feeling, namely those of Romain Rolland, Sigmund Freud, and Anton Ehrenzweig. It is argued that these accounts share a basic theoretical structure that establishes as the necessary criterion for all oceanic states the loosening of ego boundaries and sufficient modal contact between differentiated and undifferentiated modalities of the mind. The implications of this notion are critically discussed.

The second article examines Ehrenzweig’s theory of oceanic states within painterly aesthetics. It calls into question two particular claims: first, that utilizing the undifferentiated mode of oceanic depth perception is a necessary precondition for authentic creativity, and second, that it projects into the artwork an unconscious substructure that lies beyond the reach of conscious perception. To sidestep some of the problems that these claims entail, a modification to Ehrenzweig’s theorization is put forward.

The third article introduces a novel taxonomical account of the oceanic feeling. It holds that oceanic feelings come in two distinct forms: (1) as transient episodes that consist in a feeling of dissolution of the psychological and sensory boundaries of the self, and (2) as relatively permanent feelings of unity, embracement, immanence, and openness that do not involve occurrent experiences of boundary dissolution. Based on the work of philosopher Matthew Ratcliffe, it is argued that both forms of oceanic feeling are existential feelings, i.e. pre-intentional bodily feelings that structure overall self-world experience.

The fourth article elaborates on the aforementioned novel view within the context of painterly creativity. It is suggested that existential feelings may become the actual object of creative work. Oceanic changes in existential feeling may thus lead to a wider process of artistic self-transformation and to a restructuring of one’s fundamental relations with oneself, others, and the world.

Keywords: oceanic feeling, Romain Rolland, Sigmund Freud, Anton Ehrenzweig, psychoanalysis, philosophy of emotion, Matthew Ratcliffe, existential feeling, artistic creativity, painterly aesthetics

The dissertation is published in the series Jyväskylä Studies in Education, Psychology and Social Research number 518, 34 p. (+ 4 articles), Jyväskylä 2015, ISSN: 0075-4625, ISBN: 978-951-39-6077-3. It is available at the University Library’s Publications Unit, tel. +358 40 805 3825,

More information

Jussi Saarinen
050 3104741