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The complexity lies in Adorno's complex account of how works of art possess truth-content. In the first place, though committed to a constitutive connection of philosophical knowledge with social criticism, Adorno rejects vehemently the idea that the truth-content of art is something that can be determined on a theoretical, external basis—as for instance naive Marxist art criticism may impute truth to representational art on account of its social verisimilitude or didactic political potential.

For Adorno the truth-content of art is aesthetically p. In part for this reason, on Adorno's account it is above all music that presses, in an exemplary pure form, a claim to truth, with which philosophy should concern itself. On the contrary, this level of musical meaning is declared illusory:. The ideological element of music, its affirmative element, does not lie, as with other arts, in its specific content, or even in whether or not its form operates in terms of harmony. It lies merely in the fact that it is a voice lifted up , that it is music at all.

Its language is magical in itself, and the transition to its isolated sphere has a priori a quality of transfiguration. The suspension of empirical reality and the forming of a second reality sui generis seem to say in advance: all is well. Its tone is by origin consoling, and to that origin it is bound. But that does not apply unambiguously to music's status as truth. In describing truth-content as involving this complex conjunction of three moments—ideological-transfigurative, negative-critical, and hope-sponsor- ing—Adorno is in a sense simply taking seriously the common idea that musical structure is akin to argumentation.

All that can be done at this point is to turn to concrete musical examples and their interpretation. Adorno's reason for thinking that the negation of the world order and correlative articulation of authentic hope requires art and is unavailable in its full import outside it, lies in his general critical theory of reason as bound by its conceptuality to an instrumental, repressive, ideological function. This thesis plays in Adorno's Aestheticist strategy the role played in Merleau-Ponty by the critique of objective thought and in Heidegger by the critique p.

Adorno's Aestheticist strategy both presupposes and subjects to critique the Philosophical Aestheticism of the German philosophical tradition. Schiller's claim that art aims at human emancipation, the Romantic programme of magical idealism, Hegel's claim that art realizes the Idea—all these ideas are accepted by Adorno, in the sense that, he agrees, they do indeed correspond to the telos which art, by virtue of its aesthetic semblance, projects. What sets Adorno apart from his predecessors is his conviction that the realizability of this telos, with its incorporated claim that suffering is redeemable, is, for us now, unintelligible.

Hence the falsity of idealist philosophies of art that promise more than reality can deliver, and the predominantly negative character of the truth-content of art. Claims concerning the transcendence of philosophy by art and affect continue to be made in present-day Continental philosophy. They are of course not all of a piece, but typically they have an orientation which differs importantly from that of the three twentieth-century philosophers just discussed, and which reflects the influence of deconstruction. The radical critiques of rationality offered in deconstruction go beyond what is attempted in Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, or Adorno, whose intention in criticizing objective thought, traditional ontology, and identity thinking, is to contest an entrenched philosophical paradigm, but not philosophical thought as such; p.

In the hyper-critical context of deconstruction, it is not surprising that themes in philosophical Romanticism should have been picked up on, 58 but there is a deep difference of Philosophical Aestheticism from deconstruction which it is crucial to keep in view in order that the former should not be exposed to criticism drawn by the latter. Philosophical Aestheticism seeks to interpret in philosophically coherent terms the features p.

Deconstruction of this species therefore crosses the line between a philosophically grounded elevation of the Aesthetic designed to complement and extend philosophical reflection, such as Philosophical Aestheticism provides, to a philosophically ungrounded critique of philosophy from the standpoint of the Aesthetic. When the Aesthetic is conscripted in opposition to philosophy in the deconstructionist manner, we have what was called earlier the Subversive view of the relation of art to philosophy.

The problem lies in seeing how this Aesthetic anti- rationality can be recognized as such. If the opposition of the Aesthetic to philosophy is held to be total and unmediated, i. If on the other hand the opposition is philosophically mediated, then it seems that the moment which the Aesthetic is held to represent is really a further moment of philosophy. In the former case, the Aesthetic protest against philosophy seems mute and contentless; in the latter, the Aesthetic seems reduced to a mere cypher for discursive philosophical claims, i. The point to be grasped, in any case, is the logical distance of this scenario from that of Philosophical Aestheticism.

The suspicion must be, furthermore, that Aesthetic strategies in deconstruction trade off the authority of the Aesthetic that philosophical Romanticism established historically, while undermining the qualified affirmation of philosophy's claim to systematic knowledge which was required to create that authority. Individual instances of Philosophical Aestheticism can, of course, be evaluated only in the context of the philosophical position to which they belong. As regards the strategy itself, the historical discussion in the last two sections bears out, I suggest, the contention in Section 1 that Philosophical Aestheticism is in principle coherent and defensible, within the context of a broadly transcendental, non-naturalistic conception of the task of philosophy, where understanding is sought of the world's non-empirical constitution or coming-to-be.

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Philosophical Aestheticism represents, I have also tried to suggest, the strongest claim that can be made coherently on behalf of the idea that the Aesthetic contributes to the task of philosophy; any stronger claim will either result in epistemological irresponsibility Jacobi , or run into logical difficulty Aesthetic Subversivism.

Two figures in the history of post-Kantian philosophy, Hegel and Sartre, are of particular interest from the point of view of arriving at a balanced critical assessment of Philosophical Aestheticism.

It will be instructive to consider briefly their reasons for rejecting the notion that the Aesthetic enjoys cognitive privileges. Hegel's relation to Philosophical Aestheticism is complex. What cancels the seeming consequent commitment to at least Aesthetic Parallelism, if not to Philosophical Aestheticism, is Hegel's crucial p. Art has, Hegel accepts, served to project the unity of finite and infinite, but he denies that we now can regard a sensible appearance as incarnating the Idea.

Art's loss of import leaves no cognitive deficit, however, because the need to which it once answered, philosophy shows, has been fulfilled. Hegel's grounds for maintaining this position derive from his broader opposition, spelled out in numerous contexts, to claims of feeling and immediacy. Hegel's argument is that feeling, because its form is that of mere immediacy, particularity, and subjectivity, is by its nature incapable of bearing the kind of universal content claimed by Romantics. Further, Hegel argues that if religion for instance is allowed to become a matter of feeling, then, absurdly, so may everything, and that in any case the pressure to ground belief on feeling dissolves when it is grasped that the limits of mere finite understanding are not those of philosophical reason.

What Aestheticism mistakes for an original content of feeling is in fact, Hegel claims, a completed product of reason that has passed over into the form of feeling. Whereas Hegel treats Philosophical Aestheticism as a philosophical error, deriving from attachment to an inferior shape of rationality in the development of spirit, Sartre locates its origin in ordinary consciousness, in the a priori motivational dynamics of the individual subject. Discrediting the truth-claims of art and affect is a central motive of Sartre's early studies of emotion and imagination.

Both of these modes of consciousness emerge from Sartre's analyses as, in effect, forms of self-deception. The essence of emotion consists, Sartre argues, in its phenomenological transformation of the subject's world, and the constant meaning of emotional transformations, he proposes, is to deny the existence or bury awareness of some respect in which the world poses a difficulty for the subject. It is an incantation destined to make the object of one's thought, the thing one desires, appear in such a way that one can take possession of it.

To set cognitive store by art, as Philosophical Aestheticism affirms that we should, is therefore to engage in an intentional falsification of reality and to negate human freedom.

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The grounds on which Hegel and Sartre criticize Philosophical Aestheticism go back, in a sense, to Kant. Hegel's basic complaint is that Philosophical Aestheticism flouts the Kantian condition of conceptuality that cognition stands under, while Sartre's repudiation of art and affect as illusory modes of consciousness is a reaffirmation of the original, austere Kantian conception of the conditions for freedom, which Philosophical Aestheticism is viewed as undermining.

Both are open to challenge. The objection that Aestheticism evades the demands of conceptuality is not a straightforward matter, to be settled by a direct appeal to Kant's Transcendental Deduction. Hegel's own claim that philosophy has come to appreciate the comprehensiveness of conceptuality in a sense that leaves no shortfall in the power of philosophical discourse to express truth, for which art or anything else would be required to compensate, requires that this comprehensiveness be demonstrated; to that extent, his criticism of Philosophical Aestheticism presupposes his Logic.

Sartre's anti-Aestheticism, for its part, promises to return us to the much-criticized Kantian dualism of freedom and nature. For as long as a question-mark hangs over the alternatives, the Aesthetic turn in post-Kantian philosophy may be claimed to hold its own.

Criticism of a different sort, taking the form of a charge of conceptual or logical confusion, has come from aestheticians with an analytic orientation. For p. In view of the remoteness of the philosophical preconditions of Philosophical Aestheticism from the basic, predominantly naturalistic working assumptions of much current Anglophone philosophy, it is appropriate to raise the question of the strength of its claim to attention outside the sphere of Continental philosophy.

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However, this still leaves another task in view, namely to show that Philosophical Aestheticism has plausibility from the standpoint of one whose philosophical commitments are to the extent that this is possible neutral as between naturalism and transcendentalism, 73 and on this score there are various things to be said, centred on two connected p.

I will begin with the second. This is Adorno's deep insight: that in so far as engagement with art is distinguished from consumption or entertainment, it is impossible to take works of art in any other way than as saying how things are ; cognitivity, though not among the manifest primary characteristics on the basis of which entities are distinguished as works of art, is a necessary, p. Approximately the same thought was articulated by Schiller in a letter to Goethe deploring the return to a neo-classical aesthetics:.

I think that recent analysts, in their struggle to separate out the concept of beauty and present it in a certain purity, have almost hollowed it out and turned it into an empty sound, and that the opposition between the beautiful and the true or correct has been taken much too far … I should like somebody to venture to dismiss from circulation the concept and even the word beauty, to which all those false notions are attached inseparably, and, as is proper, to set up in its place truth in the fullest sense of the word.

And, if naturalism cannot underwrite art's claim to truth, can it nevertheless offer an adequate account of the value of art? While there is no space here for a proper discussion, some brief points may be made suggesting that a detailed examination of naturalistic aesthetics is likely to return a negative answer to both questions. To the extent that we take our bearings from the results of analytic aesthetics—which, to be sure, is not as such committed to philosophical naturalism, but with which, as indicated previously, it typically shares the presently relevant assumptions—there are good grounds for doubting that any reconstruction of artistic truth which grants it more than an incidental connection with the value of art can emerge.

This is furthermore a conclusion that analytic aestheticians themselves have come to: John Passmore, pursuing the question whether we have grounds for taking art as seriously as we do and considering cognitivity as a candidate, concludes p. While here again no survey of the field is possible, it is fair to say that the basic thrust of analytic accounts of art's value has been, unsurprisingly, towards a broadly affective, Humean view. The second idea which, I said, can be pursued in support of Philosophical Aestheticism is that aesthetic experience tends by nature towards transcendentalism.

Now while the existence of experience which is taken to have these properties is by no means inconsistent with naturalism—empirical-psychological, evolutionary, etc. As Schiller formulates this idea more specifically in his Letters , artistic form is autonomy, the freedom which cannot be found in nature. Hence the suggestion of Fichte and Schopenhauer that the aesthetic and transcendental standpoints are not simply analogous, but that aesthetic experience is itself an instance of taking the transcendental turn, an intuitive enactment or phenomenological realization of the conceptual shift from pre-Copernican philosophy and common-sense realism to the plane of transcendental reflection.

There is a further and important connection with the earlier idea that truth is a condition on artistic value.


The developments in transcendental philosophy p. For which reason post-Kantian idealists were drawn to the idea that the aesthetic is not just one member-branch of human reason, but that it is, or anticipates, the point in human reason at which all of its branches are united. In this light, an explanation of the aesthetic in naturalistic terms will be necessarily, once again, a sideways-on explaining away , which imputes error to the consciousness it explains. That there are limits to what naturalism can make of art, and that there is an elective affinity of aesthetic experience with transcendental reflection, is not sufficient to justify Philosophical Aestheticism, since Aesthetic Parallelism is equally consistent with those conclusions.

It does, however, take us to the point where the Aestheticist strategy can begin to be argued for. Adorno , Theodor W.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte - Bibliography - PhilPapers

Find this resource:. Edmund Jephcott, ed. Theodor W.