This chapter introduces the idea of ‘the Existential drinker’, placing it in
historical, literary, and philosophical contexts. It gives a clear account
of Existential philosophy and issues in relation to drinking, such as
questions of authenticity, freedom, self, and finitude, while also
addressing wider concerns around questions of will and consciousness. A
section on ‘happiness, hedonism, and illness’ analyses other possible
understandings, including contemporary concerns to do with alcoholism and
ethics. A canon of Existential-drinker texts is established, and the
characteristic features of these are noted, paying attention to the uses of
narrative and lyric selves in the novels. The Introduction also places The
Existential Drinker in the context of other books on drinking and
literature, noting how this is the first study to treat the material
extensively in this way, often contrary to prevailing attitudes around such
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on some of the main accounts of the human subject and on the conceptions of art and language which emerge within the Kantian and post-Kantian history of aesthetics. It discusses the work of two of the founding figures of aesthetics: Alexander Baumgarten and J.G. Hamann. Baumgarten's Aesthetica and Hamann's Aesthetica in nuce, begin to suggest what is at stake in the emergence of aesthetics as an independent branch of philosophy. The book describes the story of modernity told by the proponents of the 'postmodern condition', like Jean-François Lyotard, has its roots in the work of Heidegger. It also describes the power of Heidegger's ideas is evident in the way they have influenced many contemporary theories of modernity.
The importance attributed to aesthetic questions in recent philosophy becomes easier to grasp if one considers the reasons for the emergence of modern aesthetic theory. Immanuel Kant's main work on aesthetics, the 'third Critique', the Critique of Judgement (CJ), forms part of his response to unresolved questions which emerge from his Critique of Pure Reason (CPR) and Critique of Practical Reason. Dieter Henrich regards the crux of Kant's epistemology as the justification of 'forms of cognition from the form and nature of self-consciousness'. Kant's attempts to come to terms with the 'supersensuous substrate' of the subject's relationship to the object threaten to invalidate the boundary between law-bound nature and the autonomy of rational beings which was essential to the CPR. Kant himself actually follows aspects of the Enlightenment tradition of understanding music and objects, by seeing music as a 'language of emotions'.