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Force: A Fundamental Concept of Aesthetic Anthropology

Force: A Fundamental Concept of Aesthetic Anthropology

Christoph Menke
Translated by Gerrit Jackson
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Force: A Fundamental Concept of Aesthetic Anthropology
    Book Description:

    This book reconceives modern aesthetics by reconstructing its genesis in the 18th century, between Baumgarten's Aesthetics and Kant's Critique of Judgment. Force demonstrates that aesthetics, and hence modern philosophy, began twice. On the one hand, Baumgarten's Aesthetics is organized around the new concept of the "subject": as a totality of faculties; an agent defined by capabilities; one who is able. Yet an aesthetics in the Baumgartian manner, as the theory of the sensible faculties of the subject, at once faces a different aesthetics: the aesthetics of force. The latter conceives the aesthetic not as sensible cognition but as a play of expression--propelled by a force that, rather than being exercised like a faculty, does not recognize or represent anything because it is obscure and unconscious: the force of what in humanity is distinct from the subject. The aesthetics of force is thus a thinking of the nature of man: of aesthetic nature as distinct from the culture acquired by practice. It founds an anthropology of difference: between force and faculty, human and subject.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5042-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Sensibility: The Indeterminacy of the Imagination
    (pp. 1-12)

    The history of aesthetics begins with an act of repudiation: a repudiation of the notion that there can be a theory about or a positive knowledge of the beautiful. Aesthetics begins with Descartes’s doubt about its possibility. He writes to Marin Mersenne:

    You ask whether one can discover the essence [la raison] of beauty. This is the same as your earlier question—why [is] one sound … more pleasant than another—except that the word “beauty” seems to have a special relation to the sense of sight. But, in general, “beautiful” and “pleasant” signify simply a relation between our judgment...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Praxis: The Practice of the Subject
    (pp. 13-30)

    Je ne sais quoi—“I know not what”—was the answer rationalist philosophy gave to the question of what is going on in the domain of the senses. The subject, imagining ideas of a sensory nature, knows not what these are, and philosophy cannot know where such ideation comes from—only that it proceeds capriciously and without rule. The sensible imagination is radically indeterminate: it does not arrive at determinations, and it eludes philosophical determination. However, once the domain of the senses is conceived as an “action” in accordance with an “internal principle,” it can indeed be examined. This was...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Play: The Operation of Force
    (pp. 31-48)

    Critics since meier have praised Baumgarten as the “inventor” of aesthetics, who elaborated into a comprehensive theory Leibniz’s program of thinking unconscious sensibility as another “activity” propelled by an “internal principle.” Baumgarten chooses the concept of “sensible cognition” as the point of departure for a systematic reconception of central elements from the dialectical, rhetorical, and poetical traditions. Aesthetics, he writes, is “the science of sensible cognition” and, as such, is a “theory of the liberal arts, science of the lower cognitive faculties, art of thinking beautifully, art of the analog of reason.”* This elaboration of a unified theory is possible...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Aestheticization: The Transformation of Praxis
    (pp. 49-66)

    Man’s nature is aesthetic, because man’s nature, the ground of his soul, consists in the play of obscure forces. This is the fundamental tenet of Herder’s aesthetic anthropology. How does Herder know this? Obscure forces are essentially unconscious—which is why they are called “obscure”—whereas practical faculties are, just as essentially, self-conscious. Practical faculties include the knowledge of their normative substance, the general form of the praxis they realize. The knowledge of practical faculties, then, is reflective knowledge: we know about our practical faculties because we have them. The explicit, and even the philosophical, knowledge of faculties merely articulates...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Aesthetics: Philosophy’s Contention
    (pp. 67-80)

    The first paragraph of Baumgarten’sAestheticsframes the task of conceiving Descartes’s domain of “sensibility” in positive terms—as the domain of both a particular and a legitimate form of cognition,cognitio sensitiva. “Aesthetics,” Baumgarten writes, “(theory of the liberal arts, science of the lower cognitive faculties, art of thinking beautifully, art of the analog of reason) is the science of sensible cognition.” Here, he not only combinestheoriaandars, examination and instruction, he also connects—and this is programmatic—the “lower cognitive faculties,” the “analog of reason,” with the “liberal arts” and the “art of thinking beautifully.” Aesthetics,...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Ethics: The Freedom of Self-Creation
    (pp. 81-98)

    What constitutes the “ethical-political import” of the aesthetic?¹ How does one solve “the problem” of finding the culture that is “appropriate to our music”² and that would fit our aesthetic praxis and theory of art? In other words, how must a culture be constituted to be an aesthetic culture? To think of the aesthetic philosophically, Nietzsche writes, means to raise these questions and deal with the problems they present. For the aesthetic way of doing and contemplating art are not limited to the domain of art. The aesthetic cannot, and should not, concern art alone. The aesthetic praxis and theory...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 99-114)