Artistic Detachment in Japan and the West

Artistic Detachment in Japan and the West: Psychic Distance in Comparative Aesthetics

Copyright Date: 2001
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    Artistic Detachment in Japan and the West
    Book Description:

    Artistic Detachment in Japan and the West takes up the notion of artistic detachment, or psychic distance, as an intercultural motif for East-West comparative aesthetics. The work begins with an overview of aesthetic theory in the West from the eighteenth-century empiricists to contemporary aesthetics and concludes with a survey of various critiques of psychic distance. Throughout, the author takes a highly innovative approach by juxtaposing Western aesthetic theory against Eastern (primarily Japanese) aesthetic theory. Weaving between cultures and time periods, the author focuses on a remarkably wide range of theories: in the West, the Kantian notion of disinterested contemplation, Heidegger's Gelassenheit, semiotics, and pragmatism; in Japan, Zeami's notion of riken no ken, the Kyoto School's intepretation of nothingness, D. T. Suzuki's analysis of the function of no-mind, and the writings of Kuki Shuzo on Buddhist detachment. "Portrait of the artist" fiction by such writers as Henry James, James Joyce, Mori Ogai, and Natsume Soseki demonstrates how the main theme of detachment is expressed in literary traditions. The role of sympathy or pragmatism in relation to disinterest is examined, suggesting conflicts within or challenges to the notion of detachment. Researchers and students in Eastern and Western areas of study, including philosophers and religionists, as well as literary and cultural critics, will deem this work an invaluable contribution to cross-cultural philosophy and literary studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6150-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction Artistic Detachment as an Intercultural Theme
    (pp. 1-24)

    This book takes up the notion of artistic detachment, or psychic distance, as an intercultural motif for East-West comparative aesthetics. Specifically we will examine the notion of beauty as a function of psychic distance in Western and Japanese aesthetics, including both the philosophical and the literary traditions. On the Western side I underscore the notion of artistic detachment that developed from the revolution in aesthetics initiated by Kant’s much celebrated (as well as much criticized) idea of beauty as a function of disinterested contemplation. On the Eastern side I highlight the Japanese notion of beauty as hidden depths apprehended through...

  5. Part One Artistic Detachment East and West
    • Chapter 1 Artistic Detachment in Western Aesthetics
      (pp. 27-98)

      The use of “disinterestedness” or “disinterested contemplation” to describe aesthetic perception first became widespread after Immanuel Kant, who spoke of delight in beauty as that which satisfies “without interest”(ohne Interesse).But in an important series of papers Jerome Stolnitz traces the principle of disinterestedness back to what he claims is its origin in the work of the Third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713). Stolnitz argues that disinterestedness is largely an innovation of seventeenth-century British empiricism and is nowhere to be found in classical or medieval aesthetics. Although the idea of disinterestedness became a staple concept for empirically oriented English...

    • Chapter 2 Artistic Detachment in Japanese Aesthetics
      (pp. 99-169)

      The Japanese tradition of Zen aestheticism has articulated a variety of highly refined, elegant, and pervasive qualities of atmospheric beauty such asaware(sad beauty),yūgen(profound mystery),wabi(rustic poverty),sabi(loneliness),shibumi(elegant restraint),ma(negative space),iki(chic), andfūryūorfūga(windblown elegance). Although it is common for studies of Zen Buddhism and Eastern culture to mention such aesthetic qualities in order to convey the Japanese sense of beauty, they generally neglect the aesthetic attitude of detached contemplation required for the intuition of beauty. As emphasized by scholars like Izutsu Toshihiko (1981:16), the immediately felt aesthetic...

    • Chapter 3 An East-West Phenomenology of the Aesthetic Attitude
      (pp. 170-196)

      In concluding Part One of the book, I want to outline a phenomenological interpretation of the aesthetic attitude of disinterested contemplation as articulated by both the Western and Japanese philosophical traditions. While the argument gradually unfolds in the course of exposition, it is worth outlining some advantages of this phenomenological approach here at the outset. The Copernican Revolution in the history of Western philosophy is the transcendental idealism of Kant—a view which argues that in human experience sense objects are “constituted” by mental acts of subjects—just as the turning point in the history of Western aesthetics is Kant’s...

  6. Part Two Psychic Distance in Literature East and West
    • Chapter 4 Psychic Distance in Modern Western Literature
      (pp. 199-213)

      The problem of psychic distance as a factor in art and beauty has been explored not only in the field of academic philosophy but in modern and postmodern literature as well. The notion of psychic distance has been thematized, for example, in the “portrait-of-the-artist” novel that proliferated in the late nineteenth-and early twentieth-century movements under the rubric of aestheticism, including the controversial school of decadent aestheticism. It can be said that aestheticism is a religion of art whereby salvation is achieved in an epiphany, or moment of illumination, by disinterested contemplation of beauty. As Ian Small writes in the introduction...

    • Chapter 5 Psychic Distance in Modern Japanese Literature
      (pp. 214-280)

      Whereas Nishida Kitarō (1870–1945) became the leading philosophical representative of the “modernization” process during the Meiji Restoration (1868–1912) through his attempt to synthesize Eastern and Western values, the novelists Mori Ōgai (1862–1922) and Natsume Sōseki (1867–1916) were his counterparts in Japanese literature. Indeed, Mori Ōgai and Natsume Sōseki are regarded as the two giants of Meiji-period fiction. Their efforts to forge a creative synthesis of Eastern and Western ideals through the medium of imaginative literature derives partly from the fact that both Ōgai and Sōseki were products of the new Meiji imperial university system—sent abroad...

  7. Glossary
    (pp. 281-282)
  8. References
    (pp. 283-290)
  9. Index of Names
    (pp. 291-294)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 295-295)