In 1796 a German politico-philosophical manifesto proclaims the 'highest act of reason' as an 'aesthetic act'. The ways in which this transformation relates to the development of some of the major directions in modern philosophy is the focus of this book. The book focuses on 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. Immanuel Kant's main work on aesthetics, the 'third Critique', the Critique of Judgement, forms part of his response to unresolved questions which emerge from his Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason. The early Romantics, who, after all, themselves established the term, can be characterized in a way which distinguishes them from later German Romanticism. The 'Oldest System Programme of German Idealism', is a manifesto for a new philosophy and exemplifies the spirit of early Idealism, not least with regard to mythology. The crucial question posed by the Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling of the System of Transcendental Idealism (STI) is how art relates to philosophy, a question which has recently reappeared in post-structuralism and in aspects of pragmatism. Despite his undoubted insights, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's insufficiency in relation to music is part of his more general problem with adequately theorising self-consciousness, and thus with his aesthetic theory. Friedrich Schleiermacher argues in the hermeneutics that interpretation of the meaning of Kunst is itself also an 'art'. The book concludes with a discussion on music, language, and Romantic thought.
This book is concerned with the scope of cultural theory in its modern, it might even be said in its modernist, form. The three thinkers under most consideration in the book are Theodor Adorno, Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu, who might hardly be seen as representatives of cultural theory per se if that enterprise is taken to be what it should often taken to be. The book starts with Adorno (1903-1969) not just because his work is an apt way to introduce further some very basic themes of the book: in particular those of critical autonomy and educationality. Adorno's reflections on art and culture are contributions to the ethical understanding of autonomy, emphasising the importance of the cultivation of critical reflection. The argument here is that he is, rather, an ethico-critical theorist of democracy and a philosopher of hope. The book then situates the work of Michel Foucault (1926-1984), in other ways so different from Adorno, in terms of a broadly, if minimally, parallel agenda in modern cultural theory. It outlines some of the importance of Foucault's notion of an 'aesthetics of existence' in relation to his work as a whole. It further invokes related themes in the work of Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002). Finally, it moves things in a different direction, towards postmodernism, invoking the increasing role of the cultural and aesthetic dimension in contemporary experience that is often taken as a central aspect of the postmodern turn.
This book offers a unique and timely reading of the early Frankfurt School in response to the recent 'affective turn' within the arts and humanities. It revisits some of the founding tenets of critical theory in the context of the establishment of the Institute for Social Research in the early twentieth century. The book focuses on the work of Walter Benjamin, whose varied engagements with the subject of melancholia prove to be far more mobile and complex than traditional accounts. It also looks at how an affective politics underpins critical theory's engagement with the world of objects, exploring the affective politics of hope. Situating the affective turn and the new materialisms within a wider context of the 'post-critical', it explains how critical theory, in its originary form, is primarily associated with the work of the Frankfurt School. The book presents an analysis of Theodor Adorno's form of social critique and 'conscious unhappiness', that is, a wilful rejection of any privatized or individualized notion of happiness in favour of a militant and political discontent. A note on the timely reconstruction of early critical theory's own engagements with the object world via aesthetics and mimesis follows. The post-Cold War triumphalism of many on the right, accompanied by claims of the 'end of history', created a sense of fearlessness, righteousness, and unfettered optimism. The book notes how political realism has become the dominant paradigm, banishing utopian impulses and diminishing political hopes to the most myopic of visions.
INTRODUCTION Aesthetics and modernity In recent years it has become apparent that many questions which ﬁrst became manifest during the emergence of philosophical aesthetics at the end of the eighteenth century play a decisive role both in mainstream philosophy and in literary theory. The critiques of the idea that the world is ‘ready-made’ by Hilary Putnam and other pragmatically oriented thinkers, the concomitant attention by Nelson Goodman, Richard Rorty and others to the ‘world-making’ aspects of language, the related moves in the philosophy of language on
Culture and subjectivation – Interpretations – Power – Creative singularity – Aesthetics of existence – Relevance – Truthfulness and ressentiment – Art and creativity – Pastoralism, bio-power and the artistic life – Asceticism – Creative ethics – Political ethos – Resistance – Liberalism as critique – Culture – Critical virtue – Educationality and style Michel Foucault wrote next to nothing specifically about the concept of culture, did not publish too much about art and barely addressed in a direct way the specific issue of creativity. He is
that makes Hegel the target of philosophers whose aim is to deconstruct such pretension, as part of the wider attempt to overcome ‘Western metaphysics’. In the preceding chapters I have tried to show that there always has been something of a ‘deconstructive’ tendency in modern philosophy, though it is generally one which seeks to elaborate new conceptions of subjectivity, not completely to obviate the role of the subject. In the present context it is important to keep the focus on the signiﬁcance of aesthetics in Hegel’s work, but it will soon be obvious that, as we
realism’ (SR). In this chapter, I want to show how the contemporary (re)turn to objects initially serves as a useful corrective to social or political theories that fail to properly engage with the object world (this includes forms of traditional Marxism that often presume ‘reification’ to be a perennial evil, rather than a particular social relation). I take this as an opportunity for a timely reconstruction of early 82 Critical theory and feeling critical theory’s own engagements with the object world via aesthetics and mimesis. This is most evident in Siegfried
postmodernism and still less of all those many other offshoots, in contemporary post-structuralist discourse or second-wave feminism for example. 1 Its aims are much more limited: seeking only to differentiate postmodern cultural theory in the very widest sense (one which might even have included apparently anti-postmodern discourses such as rational choice theory) from the forms of modern cultural theory that have been the focus of this book; and in doing so the focus is quite narrowly on questions of aesthetics, culture and creativity. The basic and simple point is
deserves more attention than he has yet received in the English-speaking world, 184 Aesthetics and subjectivity and why the tradition to which he belongs deserves far more credit for its insights than its sometimes rather crude reception has granted it. The guiding theme of the changes in the philosophy of language has been the move away from the idea that philosophy could establish deﬁnitive ways of explaining meaning and truth by giving an account of how words connect to pre-existing determinate things in the world. Such accounts, as Rorty has suggested, essentially
involves a performative contradiction. By employing language in this manner, one is relying 260 Aesthetics and subjectivity on the fact that one holds it to be true that such people should give up their pursuit of philosophical goals. One is therefore covertly relying on truth at the same time as arguing for its subordination to something else. This argument will in some contexts be a valid objection to some of the Nietzschean strategy. However, the argument starts to look less generally compelling when it is considered in relation to aesthetic questions, where the