Mediated unity is introduced as one of the key premises underlying almost all
conceptions of modern statehood. The term mediated unity expresses the idea
that if there was no way to bridge the metaphorical distance between
citizens and the state, representation would be impossible. Within this
framework mediation and the possibility of rational representation are
intrinsically linked with the presupposition of an underlying unity. The
premise is consolidated by the corollary premise that if there was identity
or fusion between citizens and the state, representation would be
superfluous. Identity between citizens and political authority would make
representative institutions redundant. It is shown that although the premise
of mediated unity is closely associated with thinkers with an explicitly
dialectical position in matters of epistemology and politics, virtually all
arguments in support of democratic legitimacy rely on either a strong or
weak dialectical argument. Chapter 1 explains what is at stake in the
deconstruction of the key concept of mediated unity.
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'.