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.
This book presents an overview of Jean–Jacques Rousseau's work from a political science perspective. Was Rousseau — the great theorist of the French Revolution—really a conservative? The text argues that the author of ‘The Social Contract’ was a constitutionalist much closer to Madison, Montesquieu, and Locke than to revolutionaries. Outlining his profound opposition to Godless materialism and revolutionary change, this book finds parallels between Rousseau and Burke, as well as showing that Rousseau developed the first modern theory of nationalism. It presents an integrated political analysis of Rousseau's educational, ethical, religious and political writings.
This chapter presents an overview of Rousseau's life and times. More than any other writer Rousseau's philosophy has been associated with his life. There is something to be said for this interpretation. Without an understanding of his life it is difficult to appreciate why he wrote the works he wrote, and what he sought to accomplish. Yet his biographers have often presented an incomplete account of his life, one based only on his own autobiographical writings. The chapter challenges this tendency by using Rousseau's letters and eyewitness accounts by comtempories as well as his autobiographical writings to paint a more nuanced picture of the Swiss philosopher. It also presents the range of Rousseau's genius, which included operas, plays, novels, as well as political, economic, botanical, and theological writings. Rousseau's work is related to the geniuses who were inspired by his writings, such as Goethe, Kant, and John F. Kennedy.
The conflicting image of the I is evident in three of the most notable explorations of the nature of the I in German Idealism and early Romanticism. Those of J.G.Fichte, Friedrich Hölderlin, and Novalis, and the questions they raise remain central even to contemporary philosophy. Fichte wishes to found philosophy upon the one 'condition' which must be absolute and immediately certain, which is therefore itself 'unconditioned'. Hölderlin poses the problem of the identity of the self in modernity in paradigmatic fashion. Manfred Frank claims that the 'primacy of being over consciousness' leads Hölderlin and the Romantics to a ground which can only be represented by 'the darkness of aesthetic representation'. Frank suggests that for Novalis 'reflection can illuminate and correct the inverted relation of consciousness to being/reality by a further reflection upon the ordo inversus inscribed in it'.