Levy’s idea has not, unfortunately, been taken up by intellectual historians. Perhaps this is because one thinks, still, of emotion as being a very intimate and incommunicable state of feeling, which, though perhaps aroused by an external incident, is wholly enveloped within the individual self, much as a tooth ache is felt by the possessor of the tooth and not by the dentist who pulls it. But the affections are not spontaneously invented within us, even if they are, of course, neurologically guided. In fact, one would expect that the kind of epistemic and social ruptures that are thought to constitute the great transformation within the Occident – defined as capitalism, or the industrial or scientific revolution, or the emergence of new encompassing institutions – should present situations that evoke feelings that are ‘underschematized’.
It is an oddity of the work of Foucault, and of his followers, that though Foucault was very clear about the kind of epistemic rupture that he dates, approximately, to the late 18th and early 19th century, the rupture is not witnessed. On his account, it happens in a sense without any contemporary realizing it. I call this odd in that Foucault thought that he, on the contrary, could very well recognize the ‘end of man’ and the shifts that signaled another epistemic rupture. If we suppose that such things could be witnessed, perhaps the witnesses would struggle with hypo-cognition – perhaps they would not be able to interpret their feelings about what they witnessed, about the new thoughts they thought. Suppose, suppose. We are not, I think, looking for total witnesses, but instead searching for partial testimonies. Testimonies of those who were something like affective pioneers. Among whom I would put Rousseau.
Perhaps the enormous influence of Rousseau in the French revolution and in the late Enlightenment owes something to the obscure sense that Rousseau was not only a 'thinker', but he was a sort of witness to what had grown up within the old order as it began to fail affectually - he articulated a certain collective problematic of articulation, in which a connected system of new ways of living sought a schema in which to feel. The feeling about things is not a given: nor are the people of Europe or the "West" magically equipped with an all embracing set of affective categories that they can wrap around the world. The total social fact of collective feeling is not an unchanging universal, although the form in which it works is to make it feel like a universal.