Chapter 2 examines the theoretical, practical, and historical incongruities
between presupposed mediated unity, on the one hand, and the sociological
reality of functional differentiation, on the other. It is explained that
there is a widespread inclination amongst expert theorists and the lay
public alike to imagine political authority as having a pyramidal structure
culminating in the state. The factual differentiation of social-systemic
operations stands in stark contrast with prevailing normative conceptions of
constituent power based on the mediated unity of citizens and the state.
When the sociological fact of functional differentiation does happen to be
recognised by scholars, they frequently accept the currently existing
hegemonic model of functional differentiation as somehow natural or
inevitable. This tendency manifests itself when supposed experts casually
assume that privatisation and outsourcing are efficient responses to the
need to respect the differentiation of economic, political, and legal social
systems. The dynamics of politicisation and democratisation need to be
reconsidered without relying on casual assumptions about mediated unity,
ethnic unity, national unity, constituent power, or popular sovereignty.
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'.