This chapter outlines the major philosophical problem for Rousseau: the burden of modernity. It gives an account of Rousseau's place in the emerging world of modernity, and his opposition to secularism and scientism. It shows how his general philosophical—and theological—opposition to modernity underpinned his moral philosophy. Unlike liberal or utilitarian thinkers, Rousseau sought to base his moral judgements on emotions and sensibility, not on rational calculations. It is shown how this made him overcome the poverty of ethical theory that has characterised modernity—and how Rousseau invented post-modernism (with a pre-modern face). The chapter also contains a section on Rousseau's economic philosophy, in which it is shown that he—like Adam Smith—succeeded in transcending the economic theories of mercantilists and physiocrats. An analysis of the relationship between Rousseau and Burke is also presented. Often seen as adversaries, the chapter shows that Rousseau and Burke, in fact, were in agreement on the majority of issues, including opposition to revolutionary change, reverence for religion, and a preference for gradual reform.
This chapter presents an account of Rousseau's philosophy of music. Music was Rousseau's main passion, and this passion spilled over into his political writings in more ways than one. The whole tenor of his prose had a musical aura about it. His works were composed rather than written—which, perhaps, explains his eloquence. Readers of Rousseau's work in the original French have been struck by the rhythmical patterns. This musical quality was not unintended. Through the melodious tone he wanted to prove a philosophical point. Musicheld the key to restoring our original emotions, that natural ‘goodness of man’, which manifested itself in the natural compassion with suffering, weak, and unfortunate individuals. It is, perhaps, indicative that Rousseau—the thinker of natural goodness of man and a composer—never tired of stressing that music and song was man's first impulse.
The term Romanticism is notoriously vague, and it is important to see that the early Romantics, who, after all, themselves established the term, can be characterized in a way which distinguishes them from later German Romanticism. Both Idealism and Romanticism are aware, as was the younger Karl Marx that the revelation of the hollowness of theology does not lead to the disappearance of the needs which gave rise to it. The 'Oldest System Programme of German Idealism' (SP), is a manifesto for a new philosophy and exemplifies the spirit of early Idealism, not least with regard to mythology. The SP introduces the 'idea that unites all ideas, the idea of Beauty, taken in the higher Platonic sense'. The idea of beauty is supposed to overcome the gap between laws of nature constituted via the understanding and what reason is to do with this endless diversity of particular laws.
The beginning of aesthetic theory and the end of art
This chapter focuses on the significance of aesthetics in Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's work. Hegel's work on aesthetics has two main aspects. On the one hand, he produced the most influential systematic aesthetics of the nineteenth century; on the other, he announced the 'end of art' as an expression of the 'absolute' in modernity. The problem in Hegel's aesthetic theory is basically that the truth of a work of art emerges most completely via its conceptual articulation, which leads one beyond the art work towards philosophy. Hegel sees music as only part of the prelude to the fully transparent and articulated concept of philosophy. In Phenomenology of Spirit (PG) Hegel claims that language is the 'existence of Geist', which helps suggest why his communitarian interpreters think he is so vital to contemporary debate. The PG is an account of the stages of the process of 'self-recognition in the other'.
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.
This introductory chapter sets out the purpose of the book, which is to re-open a dialogue with the classics. It attempts not only to see the masters in context—as has become popular among modern thinkers—but rather to seek inspiration from the great minds to deal with contemporary political problems. Rousseau—and indeed any other classic—is politically relevant only if he reveals timeless insights. If a classic cannot inspire he is nothing, and is better confined to the dustbin of failed political doctrines. This book is based on the premise that Rousseau speaks through the ages. It seeks to show that Rousseau, while he may not have the answers to contemporary problems, at the very least provides new angles and perspectives on the debate.
This chapter presents some conclusions and shows that there was an internal coherence in Rousseau's thought. As befits a classical thinker, Rousseau's contribution to Western philosophy was rich in detail and even broader in scope. Like other critics of modernity, his philosophy was a showdown with a society marred by Godless materialism, absurd social inequalities, and unnatural inter-human relations. Men, argued Rousseau, would not be set free if left to himself. Liberty, as understood by Rousseau, could only be acquired once man had reconciled his natural, spiritual, and social sides of himself with the requirements of living in an advanced civilisation. He further argued that men could only be free when—or if—they recognised the imperatives of living in a family, in a republic and in harmony with a universe created by God.
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'.
The divergent interpretations of the relationship between music and language in modernity are inseparable from the main divergences between philosophical conceptions of language. Music provides an ideal illustration of the need for the approach, precisely because, as Paul de Man shows, it helps us to ask vital questions about the nature of language in relation to metaphysics and aesthetics. Music is inextricably linked to the emergence both of aesthetic autonomy and of the modern idea of literature. The idea of Logos, whether in the form of a liturgical text or of the words of a song, is still basic to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's conception. A valid conception of Romanticism, for Walter Benjamin, depends on how one approaches the possibilities of the exploration, and the question of 'reflection', the splitting into related aspects that mediate each other, is central to a conception.
This chapter considers certain aspects of the anti-Idealism of Arthur Schopenhauer and Karl Marx and then focuses on Friedrich Nietzsche's own texts. Echoing Idealist and Romantic philosophy, Marx sees Greek art as based on mythology, which he characterises, in the manner of the later Schelling, as a collective 'unconsciously artistic processing of nature'. The Romantic conception can incorporate both the new autonomy which makes music into a greater resource. Nietzsche's own contradictory interpretations of what music is themselves become an indication of the possible nature of a post-metaphysical aesthetics. Nietzsche's first major work, The Birth of Tragedy From the Spirit of Music (BT) addresses the relationship between mythology, art and science examined in the introduction to the Grundrisse. The BT offers a way of understanding some of the appeal of certain kinds of music in modernity by linking music to the temporality of myth.