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.
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.
art and interpretation
The recent growth of interest in German Idealist and Romantic philosophy has
tended to focus on Fichte and Hegel, and, to a lesser extent, on Schelling.
However, given the philosophical motivation for the new attention to the
thought of this period, it is actually rather strange that its main focus has
not been the work of F.D.E. Schleiermacher (1768–1834). The contingent
reasons for the neglect of Schleiermacher are, admittedly, quite simple.
Schleiermacher’s theological work, as the major Protestant
The beginning of aesthetic theory and the end of art
the beginning of aesthetic theory
and the end of art
Hegel’s work has come in recent years to exemplify many of the choices facing
contemporary philosophy. The changed status of Hegel can, though, seem
rather odd, given the labyrinthine nature of his texts, the huge divergences
between his interpreters from his own time until today, and the fact that some
of the philosophers who now invoke him come from an analytical tradition
noted for its insistence on a clarity not always encountered in Hegel himself.
Even contemporary interpreters range
everywhere. It is the ‘subjective’ side of human endeavour, as materialised in institutions and artefacts.
I understand it to be that improvement of the soul which the latter attains not directly from within, as with the profundity that is the fruit of religion or with moral purity and primary creativity, but indirectly, by way of the intellectual achievements of the species, the products of its history: knowledge, lifestyles, art, the state, a man’s profession and experience of life – these constitute the path of culture by which the subjective spirit returns to
language and art is, as we have seen, already part of Romanticism.
Schlegel’s conception of irony puts in question the assumption that texts must
inherently be about truth in a limited, propositional sense. Look, for example,
at the essay ‘On Incomprehensibility’, where Schlegel at one point plays with
the strategy of claiming that what he is saying is not ironic, a claim which it
seems impossible to make in the context of a text about irony, because the very
making of the claim ironically undermines it.
The core problem for the interpreter of Nietzsche is that
The diﬃculties involved in giving an account of the contemporary signiﬁcance
of the ‘aesthetic tradition’ from Kant to Nietzsche become apparent when one
considers phenomena such as the following.1 It might, for example, seem surprising that many of the thinkers who enthusiastically pursue a postNietzschean undermining of the illusions and repressions they associate with
‘Western metaphysics’ still have a considerable investment in art and in philosophical reﬂection on art. A radically anti-metaphysical view of art is in some
respects more congruent
Schelling: art as
the ‘organ of philosophy’
Nature and philosophy
One of the great issues which divides thinkers in modernity is the status of
‘nature’. If nature can no longer be said to have a theological basis, what determines how we are to understand what nature is? Kant’s ambivalence with regard
to ‘nature’ suggest why this issue creates so much controversy. On the one hand,
nature ‘in the formal sense’ is simply that which functions in terms of necessary
laws, and is therefore the object of natural science; on the other, in the form of
organisms and as
Miserabilism and hope – Dialectics – Paradoxes – Principles and themes – Counter-heteronomics: an overview – Culture industry – Jazz and jazzness – Dependency – Authoritarianism – High art – Liquidations – Autonomy – Postmodernism – Benjamin – Ethics and educationality
It is commonplace to invoke Theodor Adorno as probably the greatest Marxist cultural theorist of the twentieth century. If there is any reason to read him in the twenty-first century, however, this is as much for ethical as for respectable Marxist reasons.
At one stage of
visit the Bauhaus … [soon], at
Tagore’s suggestion, a selection of Bauhaus works was
shipped to Calcutta to be exhibited, in December 1922, at the
fourteenth annual exhibition of the Society of Oriental Art
… Among the exhibits (which mysteriously never returned
to Europe) were two water colours by
Wassily Kandinsky and nine by Paul Klee [and a larger