This Is Not … Food: On Food for Thought

  • Paul Stenner
Part of the Studies in the Psychosocial book series (STIP)


This chapter builds directly upon the concept of fabulation crafted in Chap. 2. Its strange title is a reference to one of Aesop’s fables known as The Dog and His Reflection. The dog in the fable loses its food, but this loss gives it food for thought. A fable, as the word implies, is quite literally the product of fabulation. The chapter uses Aesop’s fable as the basis from which to unfold a theoretical account of transformative experience as the crucible for the emergence of novelty. The shocked uh oh! that accompanies the loss of the dog’s food is the basis for a creative ah ha! as the dog enjoys a novel flash of insight by way of this experience of micro-liminality. The chapter grasps this process through a notion of deep symbolism whereby insight is granted into previously unthought depths of felt experience. Resources for this account are found in the work of Susanne Langer (especially her definition of the art object as a perceptible form expressive of feeling, and her distinction between discursive and presentational symbolism), combined with A. N. Whitehead’s theory of symbolic reference. From the perspective developed, the fable-qua-art-object can itself be construed as a presentational symbol expressing the feeling of this insight. The fable (which can thereby be construed as a liminal affective technology) affords its readers a devised liminal experience. But that fabulated experience is ‘doubled’ by the spontaneous liminal experience which haunts it: a counterfactual this is not experience.


  1. Barthes, R. (1967). Elements of semiology. London: Jonathan Cape.Google Scholar
  2. Bateson, G. (1980). Mind and nature: A necessary unity. Glasgow: Fontana paperbacks.Google Scholar
  3. Carnap, R. (1935). The logical syntax of language. London: H. Paul, trench, Trubner & Co.Google Scholar
  4. Cassirer, E. (1944). An essay on man: An introduction to a philosophy of human culture. New Haven: Yale.Google Scholar
  5. Cassirer, E. (1946/1974). The myth of the state. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Deleuze, G. (1994). Difference and repetition (P. Patton, Trans). London: The Athlone Press.Google Scholar
  7. James, W. (1912/2003: 7). Essays in radical empiricism. New York: Dover.Google Scholar
  8. Jaspers, K. (1971). Philosophy of existence (R. F. Grabau, Trans.). Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania press.Google Scholar
  9. Jung, C. G. (1979). Man and his symbols. London: Jupiter Books.Google Scholar
  10. Koestler, A. (1964). The act of creation. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  11. Langer, S. K. (1942/1978). Philosophy in a new key: A study in the symbolism of reason, rite, and art (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Mead, G. H. (1932/1980). The philosophy of the present. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  13. Mead, G. H. (1934/2015). Mind, self and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. Peirce, C. S. (1998). In Peirce edition Project (Ed.), The essential peirce (Vol. 2). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Rose, S. (2003). Lifelines: Life beyond the gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Russell, B. (1927). Philosophy. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.Google Scholar
  17. Simmel, G. (1918/2015). The view of life. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Stenner, P. (2008). A.N. Whitehead and subjectivity. Subjectivity, 22(1), 90–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Turner, V. W. (1986). Dewey, Dilthey, and drama: An essay in the anthropology of experience. In V. W. Turner & E. M. Bruner (Eds.), The anthropology of experience. Urbana/Chicago: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  20. Vygotsky, L. (1925/1971). The psychology of art. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  21. Whitehead, A. N. (1927/1985). Symbolism: Its meaning and effect. Virginia: University of Virginia Press.Google Scholar
  22. Whitehead, A. N. (1929/1985). Process and reality. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  23. Whitehead, A. N. (1938/1966). Modes of thought. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  24. Williams, R. (1977). Marxism and literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Stenner
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

Personalised recommendations