Literal readings of terms such as centralisation and de-centralisation can
lead to misinterpretations of the issues involved when assessing the fibre
and composition of legitimacy and statehood. When applied to modern states,
for example, centralisation and the division of powers are mutually
reinforcing rather than contradictory or antithetical. Similarly, social
systems are dispersed and nonetheless in steady communication with one
another through a wide range of mediations. One of the crucial points for
this chapter and for the book as a whole is that social systems are not
joined according to a model of mediated unity. Their relations can be
compared instead to a constellation of constituent elements that transmit
and receive coded communication. At this historical juncture it can be said
that inter-systemic social communication proceeds according to the
dialectics of mediated non-identity. The dialectics of mediated non-identity
imply a qualitatively different model of statehood than the dialectics of
mediated unity. However inchoately, it is a model of social statehood in
tune with the potentially constitutional dimensions of social systems.
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'.