Monday, January 23, 2017

Is there a Rationalist contribution to aesthetics? continued

The German Rationalists thought aesthetic ideas were confused representations of that which is really perfect, and which can be seen clearly and distinctly by reason.  But, more likely, aesthetic ideas are ideas of something that can never be perfect in itself but which are experienced as if perfect.  Perfection is really two things, perfection as experienced and perfection in reality.   It is the wonderful con-fusion of the particular and the universal in the aesthetic idea that actually constitutes perfection as we experience it.   The particular by itself can never be perfect, and the universal by itself is never really experienced.  Perfection as idea is prior to its experience.  Perfection is an ideal, not the object of what Kant would call an Idea of Reason.  So we must distinguish between kinds of confusion, a good sort and a bad sort, although the good sort should probably not be called confusion, since “confusion” has such a negative connotation.   Let’s call it the fusion of the particular and the universal.  It is in sensual perception of the particular as also universal that perfection is manifest.   

In order to fully understand the notion of perfection however we need to understand the role of the sublime in aesthetics.  Actually, we need to go further and revise our notion of beauty.  Beauty should be subsumed under the sublime.  This is the opposite of the Rationalist tendency to subsume the sublime under the beautiful in the sense of the merely proportionate or harmonious.  Also it is in opposition to those who would see the beautiful and the sublime as very different.  Actually understanding one in terms of the other is very illuminating.  Both have what I called, in The Extraordinary in the Ordinary, “aura.”  So how is beauty so subsumed?   It is a mistake to see beauty just in terms of harmonious surface, or even in terms of a specific harmonious whole that is right in front of us.  Beauty is only beauty if it fits, and is harmonious with, something much broader than the object just in front of us.  So beauty too, like the sublime, has an unendingness to it.  When we fall in love and see our beloved as beautiful there is something sublime here as well.  Beauty partakes of the sublime.  Just as there is a pain aspect of the sublime, so too with beauty.   Beauty would not be beautiful without the potential of its loss.   The aura of the sublime is that which is behind beauty.   The sublime has an element of horror, but so too does beauty, i.e. as something in the background, something we are vaguely aware of.  In the 20th century we came to see the beautiful more and more in terms of the sublime, i.e. in terms of the mysterious and the wonderful.

Both the sublime and the beautiful have aura.   Aura unifies aesthetics: the sublime, the beautiful and the merely pretty.  This is all connected with Dewey’s idea of pervasive quality and infinite background to be discussed later.

In explaining the Rationalist position of Mendelssohn, Beiser writes, “We take pleasure in the sublime because it is immeasurable and unfathomable, but perfection is by its very nature measurable and fathomable, the structure by which we grasp an object as a whole.” (218)  But perfection is neither measurable nor fully fathomable, even though it is the structure by which we grasp an object as a whole, what the Rationalists called unity in diversity.    Beiser continues: “The aesthetics of perfection, as Baumgarten first defined it and as Mendelssohn later endorsed it, claims that all aesthetic pleasure consists in the intuition of such a structure, in its confused sensible representation.”  (218)  The problem for the Rationalists is that this cannot explain the sublime.  But it can, if we recognize the continuity between the sublime and the beautiful, and that perfection itself has been misconceived.  Of course to have unity you need to be able to grasp the object as a whole, and yet unity is constituted in the perception.  The object extends beyond the immediate unity, the organic whole of which it is immediately a part.  In having unity one could say that it participates in the larger unity of which it is part.  Organic wholes can be seen as self-contained and immediate organic wholes or as not self-contained and as parts of larger organic wholes. An important element of the properly beautiful object is not simply that it is an organic whole but that it is in harmony with other larger organic wholes of which it is a part.  “The problem with the sublime is that by its very nature it transcends the limits of beauty.  The pleasure of the sublime seems to arise precisely from our incapacity to grasp the object as a whole; it stirs out admiration just because it is immeasurable, unfathomable, and infinite.”  (219)  But this is true of beauty too, although in a different way. 

So, Beiser says, “All sensible pleasure is for [Mendelssohn] the intuition of perfection, which consists in unity-in-multiplicity.  He want all sensible pleasures, of which the sublime is only a species, to be the confused perception of the forms of reason, the sensible analogues of the purely rational pleasures we would have if we were completely rational beings.”  (220)  The last part is an unrealizable myth:  we are not and should not want to be completely rational beings.  Sensible pleasure is indeed intuition of perfection, of a unity in multiplicity, but this unity is an ideal, not an idea of reason. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Is there a German Rationalist contribution to aesthetics?

It seems strange to find myself sympathetic to some of the things the German Rationalists (I capitalize Rationalists since the reference is not just to people who value reason but to a specific philosophical school of thought) held in the 18th century, for example in their thoughts about aesthetics.  However I have been reading Frederick Beiser’s Diotima’s Children:  German Aesthetic Rationalism from Leibniz to Lessing (Oxford University Press, 2009) and I must say that the whole thing has given me some pause.  The Rationalists, for Beiser, are Leibniz, Wolff, Gottshed, Baumgarten, Wincklemann, Mendelssohn and Lessing.  Kant is not included, and, in fact, much of his Critique of Judgment is seen as a systematic attack on the aesthetic Rationalists.  (Beiser sees Kant as largely misunderstanding the Rationalists, particularly in assuming that the concept associated with perfection must be a concept of purpose.)  Baumgarten is important for aesthetics in that he invented the term "aesthetics." He is also important for everyday aesthetics in that Richard Shusterman has recently argued for revival of some of his ideas.  Winklemann is important as the father of Art History.  

My theme here will simply be Beiser’s list of the fundamental propositions held by the rationalists.    They are

1.    “The central concept, and subject matter, of aesthetics is beauty.
2.       Beauty consists in the perception of perfection.
3.       Perfection consists in harmony, which is unity in variety.
4.       Aesthetic criticism and production is governed by rules, which it is the aim of the philosopher to discover, and reduce to first principles.
5.       Truth, beauty, and goodness are one, different facets of one basic value, which is perfection.”  

There are ways in which I can see all of these as true, although interpreted in a manner way different from that of the Rationalists.  

(1)  I take the central concept of aesthetics to be “aura” (as described in my book  The Extraordinary in the Ordinary) and I take this to be the replacement concept for “beauty” which itself is still a paradigm of aura.  I would, however, not want to limit aura to things that are harmonious. There are many more things that have aura that are not particularly harmonious.  For example, something can be "new" in an aesthetic sense, and thus have aura, and yet lack any obvious harmony...for example the early works of a revolutionary rock band.     

(2)  I was not, at first, inclined to think of beauty as perception of perfection.  For one thing, perfection seems incredibly rare in this world.  However, when I think of the word "perfection" I think of something like a perfectly straight line, i.e. one in which no mathematical point deviates from straightness.  Such perfection is not even available in our world: only in the world of mathematics and logic.  

Yet this may be an overly narrow view of perfection and there may be other sorts of perfection.   Or, to put it differently, one should not necessarily reject everything associated with a word, such as the word "perfection," given that it may be used to do many sorts of things.  

Think of the experience of perfection on drinking a really great cup of coffee.   You take the first sip and say "Perfect!" “Exactly right” may be part of the experience, but the perfection of the cup of coffee is more than that.  Perhaps it is just ineffable.  In any case, it is very unlike the perfection of a perfectly straight line.  It it more like a perfectly aligned door or perfectly placed piece of furniture. Of course what we are talking about here may have a larger subjective element than what we find in mathematics:  "looks perfect" is perhaps the aesthetic quality we are really looking for here.    

(3)  The idea that perfection is "unity in variety" really surprised me.  Although I would agree that there is unity in variety in experiences and works of art that are organic wholes, one of the main problems with this phrase is that it seems to allow too many things to be beautiful.  It cannot be that every unity is beautiful. That would mean basically that every thing is beautiful, which is implausible.  The phrase "unity in variety" even seems redundant, since to have unity you must already have many different things that are unified.  What exactly is the force of adding the "variety" part?  This may be our clue to resolving the problem of limiting unity in variety.   Perhaps what is suggested is that beauty comes when there is unity of parts that are more different from each other than one would normally expect.  Here is another solution.  Websters says that unity in variety is "a principle that aesthetic value or beauty in art depends on the fusion of various elements into an organic whole which produces a single impression." Perhaps beauty is apprehension of unity in variety in objects that are not just unified but are also organic wholes.  This would still be too broad, however, since it is arguable that almost all works of art are organize wholes, and yet only some can be judged as beautiful. If, as another option, we add that there must be a feeling of perfection then we lose the economy of identifying perfection with unity in variety.   All of these parts of the conceptual field must fit together for the idea to work, but I do not know how.

Yet it strikes me that there is a lot in common between the early German rationalists and my hero, John Dewey.  His idea of a pervasive quality that dominates our experience of something in “an experience” seems to fit the idea of "unity in variety."  Sure, there can be beauty in imperfection, as the Japanese followers of wabi-sabi insist.  But is there beauty without the pervasive quality?   Perhaps the perfection referenced here is consistent with the Japanese notion of imperfection.   

Some everyday aestheticians have criticized Dewey for stressing the harmony of "an experience" too much.  I agree that there should be some things that count as "an experience" that are lacking in harmony, and that there are some things that should count as "aesthetic" that are not examples of "an experience."   So, harmony, unity in variety, and perfection, are not required for the aesthetic. But perhaps they still indicate an ideal.   

(4)  Of course both aesthetic criticism and production are governed by rules, e.g. when they are academic or when they exhibit a skill that has been passed down from generation to generation.  And yet they are also, it seems, not governed by rules, i.e. in the ways they are creative.  So, in one aspect or way they are, and in one aspect or way they are not, governed by rules.  Yet, Kant, who agreed that rules are important in fine art, also asserted that in fine art the genius gives the rule to art.  So, for Kant, the creative genius is someone who makes her own rules.  This would not be inconsistent then with the fourth principle.  Perhaps we can have rules that are not explicit. Another acceptable possibility would be that we do have rules but they are quite general and vague, for example "A work of art should have some sort of unity."  The existence of such rules would be no great constraint on creativity.  

(5)  One of the things I have never been happy with about Kant is his radical separation of truth, beauty and goodness.  This is one of the things that gives rise to his famous idea that art is autonomous.   There is something to the notion that truth, goodness and beauty are one, although I am not sure how that plays out. The idea goes back to Plato, particularly in his Symposium, although it might have first been explicitly stated by the Renaissance philosophy Ficino.  A similar idea, that Unity, Truth, and Good are one was promoted by Aquinas.  See this Wikipedia article on transcendentals.,  

Here, the Rationalists are followers of Plato, but also seem to be in line with the Pragmatists!   Dewey would not radically separate truth, beauty and goodness.  Sure, you can say that not all truths are beautiful, or even pretty, and not all beautiful things purvey or encourage the truth.  Sure, you can say that not all good things are beautiful or even pretty and also that not all beautiful things promote the good.  But the idea here is that there is a deep inner connection between the three.  I think there is, although it would be awfully hard to express.   

What if judgments of beauty that disagree with the good and judgments of the good that disagree with beauty are just problematic?  What if we could just assume that there is something wrong happening when beauty, good and true disconnect?  What if intuition of essences gives an experience of beauty which is here, also, truth?  What if intuition of essences gives us the good in a thing too?  My intuition is that there could be an identification of beauty, good and truth.  

With regards to Pragmatism, isn't it interesting that there is a quote from Peirce that goes "Logic follows Ethics and both follow Aesthetics." Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, ed. Hartshorne C. and Weiss P. (Harvard University Press, 1931), Vol. 1, p. 311  [I owe this reference to the above cited Wikipedia article.]  If we took that quote seriously, wouldn't that upset the entire apple-cart of philosophy?  
Here are some other ideas from Beiser or from the philosophers he discusses and my thoughts about them.

Here is Beiser on Baumgarten:

"Following Wolff, Baumgarten's central thesis is that beauty consists in the intuition of perfection.  Much careful thought went into that definition.  Every feature of it is strategic, accounting for some aspect of aesthetic experience or some desideratum of aesthetic judgment.  Such a thesis attempt to explain both the subjective and objective aspects of beauty.  In making perfection essential to beauty, it makes beauty partially objective.  If there were no unity-in-variety in the object, there would be no beauty. But in making intuition also crucial to beauty, it also makes beauty subjective.  If there were no sensible perception of perfection, there also would be no beauty.  The advantage of the objective component of beauty is that it is possible to justify aesthetic judgment, to give some reasons for it, where these reasons point to some features of the object itself, chiefly features of its formal structure." (145)  He also observes that Baumgarten recognizes that "we cannot precisely identify and determine what it is that makes an object so pleasing or appealing."  (145) So, for Baumgarten, "As a direct awareness of a particular, intuition has an extensive clarity and liveliness that cannot be fully elaborated or explained by concepts."  (146)  That seems about right. 

See my follow-up on this here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Further thoughts on Liu Yuedi

I have previously posted on Liu Yuedi here but have new motivation to look at his ideas especially as expressed in his  "'Living Aesthetics' From the Perspective of the Intercultural Turn." [see previous post for reference] Part of the motivation is that I plan to teach my Philosophy of Art class this semester as a World Philosophy class.  The title in itself is interesting.  I am not entirely happy with the term "Living Aesthetics," because in English this would imply a distinction between living and dead aesthetics, and I am not sure of the value of that or that it meets Yuedi's intention.  A better title for his project might be "The Aesthetics of Life."  I think I have used this phrase before myself. 

Although mainly I have been writing in the field called "the aesthetics of everyday life" the appeal of "the aesthetics of life" is that it is broader and will definitely include the aesthetics of parties and ritual as well as more strictly everyday life phenomena.  

The other aspect of the title is also intriguing:  we have had "the linguistic turn" and then also I think "the pragmatist turn."  Is there, or has there been, an intercultural turn?   Perhaps there is one in the offing and if my decision to teach a course in world aesthetics is any indication then perhaps we have a trend, but who is to say.  In any case, it is at least interesting that Yuedi elaborates this thought in terms of the notion that the closely related fields of environmental aesthetics and art aesthetics are now gaining a sort of prominence that puts them up there with the philosophy of art as central to aesthetic theory in general. Rereading Yuedi's essay suggests that thinking in terms of world trends has its attractions. Some of the historical context he gives is familiar to me and some not:  isn't it fascinating to look at the rising field of everyday aesthetics from a very different perspective, i.e. from the standpoint in this case of Chinese aesthetics and contemporary art theory?   Yuedi says that "the dialogues between West and the East....are bound to be more frequent" and I hope that this is the case.

Yuedi says "with the boundaries between art and everyday life being dismissed by contemporary art and the environment turning into the environment of human life; contemporary philosophy of art and environmental aesthetics have taken on a tendency to fuse into aesthetics of living."  (14-15)  Yes, maybe.  Contemporary art does sometimes dismiss such boundaries, although to be frank, I seldom have trouble distinguishing between an object of contemporary art and an object of everyday aesthetic interest.  I usually find contemporary art in galleries, whereas I find everyday objects outside of galleries, for example.  Contemporary art is certainly interested in everyday life.  

The other claim about fusion of philosophy of art and environmental aesthetics into another broader field, an aesthetics of living, is intriguing.  Dewey long argued against separation of art and life.  Current debates in everyday aesthetics often center around whether we should understand it in terms of traditional categories of art aesthetics or in terms of something very distinct from art aesthetics.  Yuedi's solution is admirably to try to overcome the dualism between art and life implied in such debates.

Yuedi writes that "The aesthetic is acknowledged to be the 'profound standard' for the quality of human life and development of the environment and lifeworld."  If that were true then the aesthetic would be immensely important, far more important than philosophers in the U.S., at least, take it to be.  The word "the" here also seem to imply that the profound standard would no longer be religion or ethics, and that would be momentous.

"there is a deep-routed tradition of aestheticizing everyday life in Chinese culture and art." (15)  This seems to be so, and if part of the goal of the aesthetics of everyday life is to actually promote this, then the West has a lot to learn from China.  Yuedi uses this also to make the aesthetics of everyday life into a bridge between Chinese and Western aesthetics.  

Yuedi also observes different motives in the move to "living aesthetics" from the East and the West, where the move from the East is more a matter of appropriating what is already theirs, and the move from the West is to react against fine art-centric ways of looking at aesthetics that go back to Hegel, at least. (I would argue that the problem is even deeper historically, that it goes back to the dominance of dualism and rationalism and can be found in the Cartesian and even the Platonic violence against aesthetics, especially against aesthetics of everyday life, a violence which is often, however, deeply ambiguous and hence open to deconstruction.)

In another related paper Yuedi discusses what he calls Neo-Chineseness.  This is "Chinese Contemporary Art: From De-Chin eseness to Re-Chineseness" in Mary B. Wiseman and Liu Yuedi eds.  Subversive Strategies in Contemporary Chinese Art:  Western Criticism and Chinese Aesthetics (Leiden and Boston:  Bill Academic Publishers, 2011)  There he discusses the issue of natural or cultural identity in relation to matters of aesthetics and philosophy of art.  The specific danger for him is the Chinese art, as contemporary art, is "in danger of losing its identity" and must pass through a phase of "Re-Chineseness" as a necessary step to a "neo-Chineseness" based on the general principle that "The more ethnic features art reflects, the more universally acceptable it becomes." Back to the Living Aesthetics article, this move towards Neo-Chineseness is, in his view, "making important contributions to the two-way expansion of Chinese and Western aesthetics."  (15)  He calls for a "new pattern of development of world aesthetics" that goes beyond merely encountering and understanding "the Other."  

For Yuedi,  "art," "environment," and "lifeworld" are the "main trends of contemporary global aesthetics."  If so, this would mark a major shift in which concern for aesthetics of environment and aesthetics of life or lifeworld become much more important than they currently seem to be, at least in the West.  It is my view that some of the troubles of the marginalization that Aesthetics currently suffers from within philosophy is that (1) it is pushed aside by Ethics (why should Ethics eat up most of the realm of value?) and (2) it is ghettoized into the realm of high art, at least in the minds of other philosophers.  Contemporary philosophy just fails to recognize the centrality of aesthetics to any adequate philosophy of the person, philosophy of life, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, or even to and adequate epistemology or metaphysics.  The problem is mainly one of institutional structures, which is also related to the history of the discipline.  Any discipline that begins with an anti aesthetic anti-art bias will never be good to aesthetics.  The dominance within mainstream philosophy of a form of rationalism that gives priority to standard forms of logic over sensuous experience and intuition, the very problem that prompted Baumgarten to introduce the term "aesthetics" in the 18th century, continues today in this marginalization.  Chinese aesthetics, and perhaps world aesthetics, does not have this problem.

"aesthetics of everyday life is formed in breaking free of the confinement of art and returning to life."  (17)  Of course art is not always confining, but this sentence might be usefully rewritten to stress the confinement to fine art by a logic-centered rationalist philosophical orthodoxy and a returning to the aesthetics of life from that.

Yuedi has an interesting take on the evolution of aesthetics in relation to Danto's idea of the artworld, thinking that the end of art allows for a liberation which actually opens up to and is suggestive of an aesthetics of the everyday, and further, that defining art in terms of the artworld turns our attention once again to the world of human interactions (although, albeit, only one small part of it), the move to artworld being preliminary to the move to the lifeworld by way of the end of art.  Yuedi associates "the end of art" with specific artistic movements, e.g. conceptual art, performance art and land art, i.e. a continuation in which art does not really end but rather opens up to the lifeworld where art returns to body and nature, at least the second two instances, maybe becomes philosophy in the first, although Yuedi sees it as returning to "the concepts of real life." (19)

"These branches of aesthetics [conceptualism, somaesthetics, and natural aesthetics] further correspond to the conceptualism of the Chinese traditional Zen Buddhism, the syntheticism of Confucianism, and the natural aesthetics of Taoism."  (19)

Yuedi posits an important element of shift in the move within environmental aesthetics from the aesthetics of nature exclusively to a new concern for human environments, there being a radical change "in terms of the object of study."  I wouldn't say that this actually happened:  it was more that environmental aesthetics expanded to include human environments.  But I do like the his claim that "[w]hile aesthetics of everyday life is regarded by many as a part or a branch of environmental aesthetics, the inverse is also true.  That is, environmental aesthetics can also be considered a part of living aesthetics, in that we all 'live' in the environment." 

Yuedi himself favors the idea that "the environment is centered on human life" although he recognizes that this leads to the charge of anthropocentrism.  But without the human, he says, "who cares whether the environment exists or not?" and "The environment is always the environment for the human."  (21) However, I agree with those who would say that the environment is not always for the human, and that it is worthwhile for us sometimes to try to think outside of anthropocentrism.  Even though, as Yuedi has observed, our environment has been "humanized" over the last few thousand years, it still exists, for example, for the cat, when it comes to cat consciousness, and for the whale, when it comes to the whale.  Still, a recognition that we cannot ever entirely escape the human perspective does lead to the idea of environmental aesthetics fusing into the aesthetics of living.  Or as Yuedi also says, environmental aesthetics, ecological aesthetics (insofar as it also includes cultural ecology) and social aesthetics all lead to living aesthetics.  

"The Euro-American countries need living aesthetics because they want to go beyond analytic aesthetics, while China needs living aesthetics because it tries to rediscover the tradition of Confucianism, Taoism and Zenism."  Both seek to "underline the necessity of appreciating asrt by way of living aesthetics, and looking at everyday life by way of art."  (23)

Why?  "profound changes have taking place in contemporary culture and art, such that living aesthetics rises as a direct reaction against them" and "in an age of globalization, three is a two-way, pan-aesthetic movement sweeping the world" but "life as art" and "art as life" (the later happening when art loses its "aura" in Benjamin's sense).  This all is directed against "aesthetic disinterestedness" and "autonomy of art" so central to classical aesthetics, the former idea actually challenged by "the aestheticization of everyday life."  

"Chinese classical aesthetics is in essence a real living aesthetics, and provides an ideal of human life."  Confucianism for example centers on the concept of "qing" meaning emotion/feeling, the essence of Confucianism being a unity of li (rituals) and yue (music) the harmony of these being perfect beauty and goodness.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Bibliography of Everyday Aesthetics since 2011

Below is my bibliography for everyday aesthetics since 2011.  If you are an author working in this field and you are not included, please let me know. Also, it is far from perfect, but I thought I would get it up in this state.

Berleant, Arnold. "Aesthetic Sensibility," Ambiances [on line], Enjeux - Arguments - Positions, March 30 2015, Accessed Jan. 13. 2017.

Berleant, Arnold.  Aesthetics Beyond the Arts (Aldershot:  Ashgate, 2012).

Berleant, Arnold.  "Tranformations in Art and Aesthetics," in Yuedi, Liu and Curtis L. Carter (eds.), Aesthetics of Everyday Life: East and West, (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2014): 2-13.

Berleant, Arnold.  "Negative Aesthetics in Everyday Life," Aesthetic Pathways 1:2 (2011):75-91. 

Bhatt, Ritu.  Rethinking aesthetics: The role of body in design (Routledge, 2013).

Carlson, Allen.  "The Dilemma of Everyday Aesthetics," Aesthetics of Everyday Life:  East and West ed. Liu Yuedi and Curtis L. Carter, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.

Carter, Curtis.  "Art Photography and Everyday Life," Yuedi, Liu and Curtis L. Carter (eds.), Aesthetics of Everyday Life: East and West, (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2014): 80-89.

Davies, David.  “Applied Aesthetics.” A Companion to Applied Philosophy, (Wiley Blackwell, 2016).

Davies, David. “Sibley and the Limits of Everyday Aesthetics.” Journal Of Aesthetic Education 49: 3 (2015): 50-65.

Davies, Stephen.  "The Aesthetics of Adornments," in 
Aesthetics of Everyday Life: East and West, Yuedi, Liu and Curtis L. Carter (eds.), (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2014): 124-133.

Dowling, Christopher. “Thomas Leddy:  The Extraordinary in the Ordinary:  The Aesthetics of Everyday Life.”  Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. May 19, 2012.

Elkington, Sam. “Disturbance and Complexity in Urban Places: The Everyday Aesthetics of Leisure.” Landscapes of Leisure (Palgrave: 2015).

Farías, Gabriela.  “Everyday Aesthetics in Contemporary Art.” University of Guanajuato, Mexico  Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities 3:3 (2011): 440-447.

Feagin, Susan.  "Theatre and the Everyday:  Three Models." Yuedi, Liu and Curtis L. Carter (eds.), Aesthetics of Everyday Life: East and West, (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2014.):  96-114.

Fernández Gómez, M. Rosa. La estética de lo cotidiano y el ars contextualis en asia oriental. Suplementos de Contrastes: Revista Internacional de Filosofia 17 (2012): 109-125.

Forsey, Jane. “The Promise, the Challenge, of Everyday Aesthetics,” Aisthesis. Pratiche, linguaggi e saperi dell’estetico, 7:1 (2014): 5-2.

Forsey, Jane. “Appraising the ordinary -- tension in everyday aesthetics.”Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics 5 (2013) 237-245.

Forsey, Jane.  The Aesthetics of Design. (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Freeland, Cynthia.  “Jane Forsey, The Aesthetics of Design (Oxford U. Press, 2013).” Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.   Jan. 1, 2014.

Furrow, Dwight.  American Foodie:  Taste, Art, and the Cultural Revolution (Rowman and Littlefield, 2016.)

Highmore, Ben.  Ordinary Lives:  Studies in the Everyday.  (London: Routledge, 2011).

Iannilli, Gioia Laura. “Inter-facing Everydayness From Distance to Use, Through the Cartographic Paradigm” Aisthesis, Pratiche, linguaggi e saperi dell’estetico, 7:1 (2114).

Irvin, Sherri (ed.), Body Aesthetics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.)

Kaplan, David M. The Philosophy of Food  (University of California Press, 2012).

Kim, Kwang Myung. "The Aesthetic Turn in Everyday Life in Korea." Open Journal of Philosophy, 3, (2013): 359-365. 

Leddy, Thomas. “Aesthetization, Artification, and Aquariums,”Contemporary Aesthetics  (2012).

Leddy, Thomas. “Experience of Awe: An Expansive Approach,”Contemporary Aesthetics 13 (2015)

Leddy, Thomas.  “Shusterman's Thinking Through the Body and Everyday Aesthetics,” Contemporary Pragmatism, Author-Meets-Critics Symposium on Richard Shusterman’s Thinking Through the Body (2015). 79-99.

Leddy, Thomas.  “Everyday Aesthetics and Photography,” Aisthesis. Pratiche, linguaggi e saperi dell’estetico, 7, no. 1 (2014): 45-62. 

Leddy, Thomas.  “Everyday Aesthetics and Happiness,” in Aesthetics of Everyday Life: West and East ed. Liu Yuedi and Curtis Carter (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2014).

Leddy, Thomas. Review “Stroud, Scott R. John Dewey and the Artful Life: Pragmatism, Aesthetics, and Morality. Penn State University Press, 2011,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 71 (2):215-217 (2013)

Leddy, Thomas.  “John Dewey,” Aesthetics: The Key Thinkers ed. Alessandro Giovannelli (New York: Continuum, 2012).

Leddy, Thomas. “Defending Everyday Aesthetics and the Concept of 'Pretty',” Contemporary Aesthetics 10 (2012).

Leddy, Thomas.  Review: "Allen Carlson, and Glen Parsons. Functional Beauty," Philosophy in Review 31:3 (2011) 231-234.

Livingstone, Paisley.  “New Directions in Aesthetics,” The Bloomsbury Companion to Aesthetics (London:  Bloomsbury, 2015): 255-267.

Matteucci, Giovanni. “The Aesthetic as a Matter of Practices: Form of Life in Everydayness and Art” Comprendre  18:2 (2016)  9-28 link

Matteucci, Giovanni, ed.  Estetica e Practica del Quotidiano:  Oggetto, esperienza, design  (Milano: Mimesis, 2015),

Melchionne, Kevin.  “The Point of Everyday Aesthetics.” Contemporary Aesthetics 12 (2014).

Melchionne, Kevin.  “The Definition of Everyday Aesthetics,”Contemporary Aesthetics 11 (2013).

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Everyday Aesthetics as a New Direction in Aesthetics

The Bloomsbury Companion to Aesthetics edited by Anna Christina Ribeiro (2015) (but originally published in 2012 as the Continuum Companion to Aesthetics) features everyday aesthetics its last chapter titled "New Directions in Aesthetics" by Paisley Livingston (255-267).  The article focuses on Livingston's response to my own work on everyday aesthetics from 2005 ("The Nature of Everyday Aesthetics" in The Aesthetics of Everyday Life, ed. A. Light and J. M. Smith, New York: Columbia U. Press, 3-22) and to Yuriko Saito's book Everyday Aesthetics from 2007.  Of course I continued to develop my ideas on the nature of everyday aesthetics after that period, particularly in my The Extraordinary in the Ordinary (Broadview Press, 2012) but also in a series of more recent articles. 

Livingston rightly complains that in the 2005 article I proposed that everyday aesthetics covers, as he puts it "all aesthetic experiences that are not already included in 'well-established' domains of aesthetic theorizing" so that not only fine arts and the natural environment are outside everyday aesthetics but also aesthetics of mathematics, science and religion.  His complaint is that, as disciplines get established in everyday aesthetics, for example the aesthetics of food, they then fall outside of it, and "[t]he very success of everyday aesthetics as a branch of aesthetic inquiry would lead to the continuous expulsion of its own topics and results from this subfield." (259)  I agree that this is a problem. 

Livingston, nonetheless, recognizes that the motive of everyday aesthetics has been to deal with material that has been neglected through emphasis on fine arts and nature aesthetics, and so, he defines the field more simply than I did as "the aesthetic experience or aesthetic appreciation of things familiar or everyday, but not the aesthetics of the fine arts and scenic nature." (259)  Interestingly, although controversially, he seems to imply inclusion of non-scenic nature under everyday aesthetics.  It is also not clear whether decorative and popular arts fall within or outside everyday aesthetics on his definition.  At best, his offer constitutes a necessary and not a sufficient condition for everyday aesthetics:  a partial definition that should probably be narrowed further.

I appreciate Livingston's next point which is in favor of my view that, as he puts it, "there have been valuable interactions between the aesthetics of the fine arts, nature, and everyday life."  He rightly observes, via a reference to Bryson, that still-life paintings can make us more aware of the aesthetic properties of everyday phenomena.  He also agrees with me that we should not see everyday aesthetics as a radical break from something negatively called "traditional aesthetics."  

Livingston's article gets interesting when he discusses what I have called a "tension" in everyday aesthetics.  This is a much-discussed issue these days, and Allen Carlson has his own solution, as does Saito.   I will be providing my own solution to what Carlson has called "the dilemma of everyday aesthetics" at the American Society for Aesthetics conference at Asilomar this Spring. 

Livingston, drawing on an article by F. Dretske, puts the issue somewhat differently than I would.  He observes that some experiences "do not cross the threshold into the domain of aesthetic experience...[but] satisfy behavior and motivation conditions on what should be recognized as perceptual uptake in the absence of awareness" (260) and that these often include "what is wholly commonplace and familiar."  So we have non-aware perceptual uptake that is also non-aesthetic.  His example would be a person who makes a daily commute but pays little attention to the "complex flow of sights, sounds and smells along the way."  I am a bit confused about this line of discussion since the commuter is surely aware of her surroundings, including the sights of braking cars and perhaps the smells of burning oil.  I admit that there are some things that are beneath consciousness and yet involve some sort of perceptual uptake, but the question at issue is when something rises to the level of the aesthetic, and I cannot see how unconscious perception is even relevant to that.  Of course, as I have long argued, there can be low-level aesthetic experiences, ones that can be described, for example, by applying aesthetic property terms such as "pretty," or "nice," or "looks good."  It seems that once perceptual uptake reaches the level of awareness it has reached the domain of the low-level aesthetic. 

Still, we may be quibbling about terms here.  Livingston can fairly argue that I am using "aesthetic" in a stretched way, that what he is really talking about is "aesthetic" in the sense of that which is attended to "for its own sake," and that the attention paid to the sounds and smells of brakes and so forth is "practical" (which is the word he uses later in the essay) and not aesthetic.  I suppose the issue for a Deweyan like myself is whether the "practical" can so clearly be delineated from the aesthetic, of which I will have more to say later.  

Livingston further thinks that the everyday aesthetician comes along (not the theorist here, but the person who practices her life in such a way as to focus on everyday aesthetic phenomena) and "reclassifies this part of the world as falling within the sphere of everyday aesthetics."  She does this by attending to the same stretch of road aesthetically.  But, and here is where the tension comes in, the worry is "that although the philosophical operation has been successful, the very 'object' of everyday aesthetics has somehow vanished or been vitiated as a result."  (260)  Well, the answer seems obvious to me since, if the commuter is not aware at all, if she is a kind of automaton, then she is not having either aesthetic or non-aesthetic experience, and thus what happens to her is not a matter of any sort of aesthetics.  But if she is aware and has low level positive or even negative aesthetic experiences, then no re-classification or special philosophical operation is needed to get her experience to the level of aesthetics.  

I can see that there is a difference between the two commuters, but it just seems that the first is attentive to more practical-oriented aesthetic qualities than the second.  I do not know how other people experience driving, but my way tends to alternate between the two modes.  If I smell gasoline or hear knocks in the engine I am going to be more focused in the practical mode, and yet these smells and sounds are ugly, i.e. negatively aesthetic. (As you can see, I do not accept the practical/aesthetic dichotomy that Livingston apparently does.)  On the other hand, usually I am attending mainly to the sights along the road, say on a drive up the 280 Freeway to San Francisco, and this is a less practical-oriented form of aesthetic perception.  Alternatively, I might be attending to the conversation of my companion, or to the music or other entertaining shows I get over the radio, and these experiences have aesthetic qualities too, although, again, at other levels.

Admittedly, because of my strong love of visual arts, I am probably more attentive to what I would consider to be interesting features in the passing visual environment than most.  One point at issue here is whether everyday aestheticians are promoting an approach to the world that is more like mine to the road:  i.e. what is sometimes called an aestheticization of everyday life.   (I want to add that there are differences between kinds of driving that are significant to what one might call the aesthetics of road experience.  For example, it is particularly difficult to have high level aesthetic experiences during commute rush hours.  I find commute driving stressful and quite the opposite of non-commute driving.  Some of my best road experiences have come when driving on 280 when there is no significant traffic.)  

In any case, if the worry is that, by making the ordinary extraordinary, or at least special (as I would currently put it), one harms the ordinary because one takes it out of the ordinary, I think that this is a misleading worry.  The person who is stressed by her daily commute is not helped by learning how to attend to or perhaps even accept the boring, humdrum, or stressful nature of that commute.  She needs to be able to experience things differently.  Her ordinary bad experience is not harmed by transforming it into something better!  Nor are ordinary very low-level aesthetic experiences harmed by being enhanced.  So I am at a loss to how rendering the ordinary extraordinary can be a bad thing, unless it causes moral problems.  I suppose, for example, that if the commuter has achieved a kind of aesthetic enlightenment and can only experience the commute in an aesthetically heightened way she might be less willing to support sensible measures to lessen congestion, and this would be immoral since she would not be considering the suffering of others.  

There is also the problem of neglect of everyday life phenomena, especially the most ordinary ones, by aesthetic theorists.  Such theorists forget that much of our lives operate at a low aesthetic level, both in terms of pleasures and pains.  All everyday aestheticians, I think, agree on this point.  I admit this for example by my talk of aesthetic property attribution that does not rise to the level of aesthetic experience and yet indicates an aesthetic aspect of our everyday lives, talk like "its a nice day."  

There certainly is a normative dimension to everyday aesthetics in that everyday aestheticians are trying to improve things.  I agree with Saito that "there is a pressing need to cultivate aesthetic literacy, so to speak, with respect to everyday objects and environments." (243) The call for change is ameliorative.  It says, “this is can lead us to better lives,”  "pay attention to this stuff at least some of the time," and “an aesthetically more attentive life is a better one:  try it!”  In some ways the claim is like that of the enthusiast for meditation who recommends that we meditate every day.  To that extent, interest in everyday aesthetics could be a movement, one that calls on a new aesthetic literacy in a way much like previous calls for computer literacy or literacy in the fine arts.

Saito makes these calls partly because she sees this literacy as necessary for changes we need to make in our relationship with our environment.  That is probably true (no, it certainly is!).  Yet one could well call for such literacy even if it would not do much to save the whale or stop global warming.  Maybe we just need it to bear living in a world in which global warming just won't be stopped because of human greed or some other intractable problem. In any case, I certainly agree with Saito that everyday aesthetics "has to be a part of the strategies for the project of world-making" where that is a matter of creating a more healthy, humane and environmentally sound world. 

It is after this call that Saito, in the concluding chapter of her book, talks about the "tension" in everyday aesthetics.  (244)  She understands this tension as one between "descriptive function of everyday aesthetics and its normative function."  I will look at her solution and then get back to Livingston.  My basic take on this is that the distinction between these two functions does not hold.

One approach to everyday aesthetics, according to Saito, is to follow "traditional aesthetic theory" with regards to "aesthetic attitude," and this would be to free ourselves from a practical attitude, i.e. from such normal ways of experiencing or reacting as "appreciating a utensil purely for its functionality or deploring a dirty linen that prompts us to clean it."  Traditional aesthetic attitude theory, on her view, would, instead, call on us to closely attend to sensuous surfaces.  In doing so, she admits, we can certainly find "hidden gems," for example in "the way in which the stain on the linen appears."  However we do not notice or appreciate these "because we usually do not engage with them as aesthetic objects."  In order to find these hidden gems we turn to art, for example to poetry and photography, and we appreciate the help they provide.  She concludes that this is "one way everyday aesthetic functions normatively."

I agree that this is one way to appreciate everyday phenomena, and I have emphasized this in my writings.  But, I wonder what exactly is "appreciating a utensil purely for its functionality"? And do we ever actually do this?  I see a spoon and a cereal bowl in front of me that I have just used.  I like the way the spoon is shaped and how it works, and much prefer this spoon to a plastic spoon or one that has less of a soup-spoon look.  The spoon has fine lines, but it also holds cereal nicely.  The cereal bowl is one we purchased at a Frank Lloyd Wright museum and looks vaguely like the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.  I love this bowl which functions perfectly for my morning cereal.  But I cannot separate in my mind my aesthetic appreciation of the bowl from my appreciation of its functionality.  

I am not always contemplating these two utensils as I am now, and yet I choose them for my morning cereal because they look and feel right.  Even now, as I am more conscious of this bowl and spoon, after I have eaten my cereal and am writing this piece, I think of my life as a little better because of these utensils.  

I insist, however, that my taking an aesthetic attitude toward the bowl is not radically discontinuous from when I just choose it from other bowls for my cereal.  That is, I appreciate the bowl for reasons pretty similar to why I choose it.  So, to go back to Livingston, the "below level of awareness" use of this bowl (if we assume now that this level is nonetheless conscious) is pretty strongly related to the appreciative contemplative level.  You might say that the second level involves taking an aesthetic attitude, but it would be wrong to say that I take nothing like an aesthetic attitude when choosing the bowl for my cereal in the first place, even though that choosing is not in itself contemplative.  

Nor is it fair to say, as Saito suggests, that, either in choosing the bowl or in contemplating it as an aesthetic object, I am simply attending to "sensuous surfaces."  Actually, this point is a bit confusing for me.  Of course I am attending to sensuous surfaces: what else could I attend to in the physical object I am looking at and using?  Maybe the problem is with the word "surfaces."  I do not think that in attending to my bowl aesthetically, even in the contemplative mode, I am just attending to its surfaces.  I also attend to how it feels in my hand, to its heft and weight and balance.  Surely these are not surfaces, although they are sensuous. 

I can also attend to things that are not sensuous but are related to the bowl, for example to conceptual matters, such as how it fits the definition of bowl, or how it could be used as an example in a philosophy paper, or how it fits into my overall taste in design, or how it fits into the history of modernism.  I can also to practical matters, such as how my wife would react if I broke it.  I suspect that all of these things are "there" in the background although I am not currently consciously aware of them. A complex phenomenology of meaning hovers around my bowl.  But if I attend to this I am still not attending to "pure functionality."  There is really no such thing.

The case of the stained linen is interestingly different.  It is certainly true that there is a difference between the person who looks at it as if it were a work of art and someone who looks at it simply as something that needs cleaning.  Imagine an abstract painter who is not maintaining the linen in the house but is actually more interested in getting inspiration for her art; and contrast this to the person who sees it as marring the cleanliness in the house and who commences to clean it as soon as she sees it.   I can see a source of house conflict here.  My view is that both of these attitudes towards the stained linen are aesthetic:  they just focus on different properties and consequences.
I always have trouble understanding what "normative" means. Webster’s says that it is "of, relating to, or determining norms or standards."  A norm is commonly considered a standard or a type, but is also associated with "normal" or "customary" and with "prescriptive."  So, when Saito says that everyday aesthetics functions "normatively" when we appreciate "hidden gems" with the help of art, I wonder what she means.  She says that this is by way of bracketing our normal response, which is to, e.g., clean up the linen stain.  So the normative is not normal?  But which is more normative in this case:  cleaning up the stain or seeing it as a hidden gem by way of the help of art?  It seems that both are equally normative.  Or, at least, each could be if each advocate prescribed his or her own approach.   The society in which the artist looking for inspiration would be more normal might have a norm in her favor, and the other society might have a norm in favor of the linen leaner.  Alternatively, cleaning up the stain is more normative because this is, after all, the more normal reaction...again, in most societies.

I grant that treating the stained linen as a hidden gem is rendering the ordinary extraordinary.  I now reject the idea of jumping all of the way from the ordinary to the extraordinary without considering all of the possible intermediary steps or the continuum of possibilities between these extremes.  Normativity extends all of the way down.  In my current view, cleaning the stained linen is normative in that the very action of making it look better is intended to enhance a low-level aesthetic quality, i.e. "looks nice" or "is clean."  

Now there is the issue of whether we "lose something of the everyday life's everyday-ness or ordinary-ness" in taking the arts-based attitude, i.e. in seeing the stained linen as if it were an abstract painting.  (245)  I cannot see that anything is lost here except that one ought not to be spending time turning the stained linen into an imagined work of art if one's household job is to make sure that such things look nice.  

Saito calls the "clean it up" approach "descriptive" rather than normative.  In my view, "descriptive" is not quite the right word either.  Sure, something is described, in this case, the attitude of the person who has the household job of making things clean, neat and nice.  But we were also describing when we imagined the artist who came into the kitchen from her studio and was mesmerized by the interesting aesthetic qualities of the stained linen.  So, overall, I do not think that the distinction between normative and descriptive really helps resolve the tension in everyday aesthetics.  

Saito has made us more aware of how action in response to what we see in the world is as important aesthetically as experience that is more detached and contemplative.  I wholly agree when she says that everyday aesthetics "should not be exclusively concerned with discounting ordinary and seemingly pragmatically directed reactions that often result in various actions, such as cleaning, throwing away, purchasing, and preserving..." (245)  (Saito herself begins to doubt her critique of what she calls the normative approach when she recognizes that she herself makes normative claims with regard to aesthetic reactions that have "environmental ramifications."  (245))   

Saito's concern seems to be summed up in the opposition between de-contextualized aestheticization and everyday practical concerns. (245)  I will want to pursue this issue further since I think this is the core concern in the tension of everyday aesthetics.  But it depends on the nature of the practical and also on whether a firm dividing line can be maintained between the two.  It depends on whether, for example, there is no role for de-contextualizing in the practical realm and whether there is nothing practical going on when we de-contextualize.  We might need to de-contextualize something to use it for a new purpose for which it was not intended.

Again, there is a big issue as to when we should make the ordinary extraordinary and when we should focus on achieving the low-level aesthetic results indicated by "neat," "nice," and so forth, i.e. results that are not always associated with the term "aesthetic" (which is why Saito calls them "seemingly non-aesthetic").  The problem, as she sees it, is with "indiscriminate aestheticization."  This returns us to what I once called the LSD problem, although it could also be the problem of Zen Enlightenment.  What happens if everything is experienced as extraordinary, as a hidden gem?  Well, the result could be pretty disastrous!  The dirty linen doesn't get cleaned up if everyone is spaced out on incredible relations of lines and colors. So yes, there is a problem with indiscriminate aestheticization.  Yet, Zen Buddhists seem to get on even after enlightened.  And how bad is it really to promote more art-like experiences of everyday life?  

Livingston interprets Saito's descriptive side as the goal of representing "familiar, everyday life and experience faithfully" (261).  I think that representing everyday life faithfully is not just a matter of representing the need to clean up stained linen but also the experience of seeing the stained linen as if it were art.  These are both sides of everyday life, even though the second relates more to the everyday lives of artists, aesthetics, and aesthetically sensitive people generally.  I suppose the problem is that you have to stop seeing the linen as needing a cleaning to see it as an aesthetic gem.  But there is nothing to keep us from alternating between the two perspectives, or even combining them to some extent, or even allowing some people to focus on one and others on the other.  Combinations are possible too.  Consider that in washing dishes one can enjoy the qualities of cleanliness as they emerge in the cleaning process in an intensified way quite different from the ordinary experience if one practices "mindfulness" in the Buddhist tradition described by Thich Nhat Hanh (which is not to be confused with the earliest Buddhists who were deeply anti-aesthetic insofar as they rejected all sense experience).  

Livingston's own solution to the tension of everyday aesthetics is to move to the level of aesthetic properties.  On this view "everyday aesthetics would then be the subfield that investigates the aesthetic properties of items not falling in the categories of scenic nature or the fine arts."  (261) This is something like the approach I took in my book and in my comments above, although Livingston seems to forget that almost all aesthetic property terms may be applied to both art and everyday life.  Both artworks and flower arrangements can be called "beautiful."  It is more that some terms are used more often in the arts, for example “powerful,” and some more often in everyday life, for example “cute.”

Livingston develops this idea however in terms of the kind of strict distinction between the practical on the one hand and "intrinsic valence" of experience on the other that I have questioned. This, he believes, is the clear dividing line between that which is everyday aesthetics and that which is not.  The intrinsic valence is seen to be positive but always instantaneous, as when the nose of a fine wine "is instantly rewarding," or the immediate sensation of pain has "a negative valence."   I have a lot of trouble understanding how this distinction is going to help solve the problem Saito raised (and that I raised in my 2005 article).   A strict distinction between practical and intrinsic just cannot be maintained.  Also, can’t we talk about a continuum between instantaneous and slowly evolving appreciation, or even of an appreciation that starts off as instantly rewarding and then continues is a slower reflective fashion?

Livingston thinks that "what is wanted in thinking about everyday aesthetics is a broad contrast between two kinds of experiences," where, in the first, "means-end rationality prevails" and the primary object of attention is the agent's goal:  these are "instrumental experiences," and they are "predominantly anticipatory."  They are contrasted to experiences that focus on intrinsic valence which is described as "whatever makes the experience positively or negatively valued intrinsically or for its own sake."  (He is following C.I. Lewis in this).  So aesthetic experience is when the intrinsic value is predominant over the instrumental value.  Value by way of contemplation is "inherent value" of which aesthetic value is one type.  It follows that the relation between aesthetic and non-aesthetic is "a matter of degree."  (262)  Also value/valence need not be reducible to pleasure and it can be a matter either of first-order content of the presentation or of second-order evaluation.  For Livingston, "[c]ontemplation of what is immediately presented" is, finally, crucial to aesthetic experience. (263)  As Lewis puts it, the "pause of contemplative regard...suspends the active interests of further purpose."  (263) This all depends on the kind of radical distinction between the practical and the contemplative that Dewey, my hero, would reject.

Livingston explicates his solution of the dilemma of everyday aesthetics in terms of a story of three fictional characters ironically named Yukiko (I suppose he is thinking vaguely of Saito, who's first name is Yuriko...but that is of no importance for the example.) We need concern ourselves only with Yukiko 1 and 2 since Yukiko 3, who focuses on negative aesthetic qualities, raises no new problems.  Yukiko 1 receives a gift of wa-gashi from a suitor and considers what his choice indicates about his discernment and taste. She then attends to the "practical problem" of undoing the package without damaging the materials, which is "the only proper way to do it."  After that, she sets it aside. Yukiko 2, by contrast, "experiences a mild pleasure as she examines the exquisite packaging" and "relishes the cakes."  Livingston then says "it strikes me as uncontroversial to observe that our second Yukiko has an aesthetic experience, while the first one does not."  (264)

It is not uncontroversial!  Actually it is false.  Again, I may be accused of overextending the term "aesthetic" here, but in the Deweyan tradition I see continuity where others see radical division.  As Yukiko1 looks at the wa-gashi gift she considers issues of taste:  although she may not be focusing on the surface qualities of the item as such, she needs to take these into account as she evaluates the taste of her suitor.  So she is more focused on background considerations than Yukiko2, but these are also aesthetic!  Moreover, she engages in an activity which is done in "the only proper way."  Is not "proper" being used here in an aesthetic way, much like "clean" in the case of the dirty linen?   Livingston is correct that both Yurikos are responding to the same object, but they are responding to different features of that object.  
Livingston, anticipating this objection, writes, "It might be of concern that the first Yukiko's reaction is more typical of everyday life with its emotionally and cognitively entangling web of social and practical concerns, whereas it is only the everyday aesthetician who would have people slow down and appreciate everyday packaging 'for its own sake'....yet the second...Yukiko's experiences are by no means so very extraordinary."  (264)   I agree that they are not extraordinary.  But I also think that both Yukikos' activities involve a heightening of significance, a heightening which I have called in my book "increase of aura."  

Perhaps the second Yukiko attends to this in a different way or in a more intensified way than the first.  Perhaps she is at a "higher level," although I am wary of judging without more information: Yukiko1 may be having a very sophisticated experience in her evaluation of the taste of her suitor by way of evaluation of aesthetic qualities of his gift.  

Livingston says that "in describing such experiences, we do not render the ordinary extraordinary" (265).  Although I am willing to concede that point, I have no idea why that is an issue, since the description of either Yukiko's experience doesn't seem to change it at all!  

Key to this discussion may be the following quote:  "In her concern for social distinction, the first Yukiko misses out on an aesthetic experience, even if she accurately classifies the packaging's place in a hierarchy of goods."  (265)  She would be missing out on one aesthetic experience, in my view, but might be having another.  We miss out on things all of the time.  Is she living a bad life because she is "vain, self-absorbed and sadly obsessed with her relations to other" even though she is "a young woman of leisure with ability to attend to objects around her with discernment..."  I feel like I am reading a novel that is way too short...I need a lot more information to judge Yukiko's life. 
Right now I see no reason, despite her negative character traits, to not grant her aesthetic experience with the gift.   
Livingston stresses that "the key content of this postulated, intrinsically valued experience on the part of the first Yukiko is her own proud sense of her status or identity in relation to the suitor;  in short, her social distinction," and such a self-directed attitude cannot be included in aesthetic experience.  My only question here is, why not?  

Another mark against Yukiko1 seems to be that her pleasure seems not aesthetic but rather "immediate delight in acquiring an expensive object."  (265) By contrast, the second Yukiko is focused correctly on the quality of the packaging, which concern is not "overshadowed" by practical considerations (i.e. how expensive the object is).  The first Yukiko's experience is, according to Livingston, "instrumental," and she "fails to appreciate the inherent aesthetic value of the packaging..."  I cannot help but feel that Livingston has a puritanical judgmental attitude towards Yukiko1 who might rather be linked to the darker, because more ethically challenged, aesthetic world-views.  It is ironic that 
Livingston ends his essay by stressing that "relational properties can be relevant to the objects' inherent value" and that these relational properties include background knowledge about the item of appreciation. (266) given that Yukiko1, who is not favored, is especially sensitive to relational qualities, for example the relation of the gift to the taste of her suitor.  

So, in general, I do not think that the example and the use of Lewis's theory, or the distinction between immediate and intrinsic, has laid to rest the "fundamental tension" of everyday aesthetics as Livingston believes.  One just can't solve the problem by making a clean break between the merely instrumental and contemplative appreciation of surface qualities, particularly given that background considerations are taken into account anyway.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Schlegel: Some Fragments

I can't stop thinking about Friedrich Schlegel, although I don't know why.  An impetus is Andrew Bowie's great book From Romanticism to Critical Theory (London:  Routledge, 1997).  That book itself is awesome, and I can't stop thinking about it either. Bowie, who is fluent in German, provides his own translations of Schlegel.  But I also have before me Friedrich Schlegel Philosophical Fragments tr. Peter Firchow with an interesting long "Foreword" by Rodolphe Gasche (Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press,  1991).  I will put B after Bowie's translations and F after Firchow's.  I will leave out German terms that Bowie includes.  I will leave in Bowie's bracketed explanations.

I can't stop thinking about him because I feel a certain affinity.  But I don't know exactly what that means, or means to me, and so that is why I am collecting my favorite passages here.  Schlegel writes purposefully mainly in fragments, and these are always hard to interpret.   Also it is nearly impossible to string them together into a system.  Here, then are some quotes, to which I will add in later revisions.  

"there is only one inherited fundamental mistake - the fundamentally wrong concept of the thing - which takes merely relative finitude [the particular transient object] as absolute and abstracts the shadow concept of BEING from life - Being is merely apparent, finitude only relative.  Being = life, without life, being = appearance."  (B 68)  Of course this sounds an awful lot like Nietzsche's criticism of Plato.

 "Correspondence with another truth - correspondence with itself [in a coherent system] is a better but empty [in the sense that it is not finally positive] characteristic than correspondence with the object, because one only ever has an idea....instead of the object, or there also is no object [in the sense that many true propositions do not refer to concrete entities in the world."  (B 70-71)

"The criterion of truth, especially since Leibniz, defined as correspondence of the representation ...with the object;  this presupposes the half-empiricist separation of object and representation; the object would, as such, have to be compared with the representation;  but that is not at all possible, because one only ever has a representation of the object, and thus can only ever compare one representation with another."  (B 74)

"Truth arises when opposed errors neutralise each other.  Absolute truth cannot be admitted; and this is the testimony for the freedom of thought and of spirit.  If absolute truth were found then the business of spirit would be completed and it would have to cease to be, since it only exists in activity." (B 78)  

"Massive mistake, that only One definition is possible of every concept.  Rather infinitely many, real synthetic [definitions]"  (B 83)  

"Philosophy thought of in a completely pure way does not have its own form and language;  pure thought and pure knowledge of the Highest, of the Infinite, can never be adequately represented.  But if philosophy is to communicate it must take on form and language, it must employ every means to make the representation and explanation of the Infinite as distinct, clear and comprehensible as is at all possible; it will in this respect wander through the realm of every science and every art, in order to choose any aid which can serve its purpose.  To the extent to which philosophy encompasses all kinds of human knowledge in art, it can appropriate the form of every other science and of art....Just as philosophy as science is itself not yet completed, so its language is also not completed."  (B 85)  [Whenever I read the word "Infinite" in these writers I take it in a non-literal way, more as something like Kant's notion that an aesthetic idea can lead to to a string of seemingly endless thought. For me then "infinite" means that which gives a feeling that seems as if leading to something infinitely valuable.  It is a kind of heightened spiritual feeling, but no more than that, and certainly not a metaphysical claim, i.e. that there are infinite entities.]

"Every art and every science whose effect is achieved by language..., if it is practiced as an art for its own sake and achieves the highest peak, appears as literature."  (B 87) 

"A definition of poetry can only determine what poetry should be, not what it really was and is; otherwise the shortest definition would be that poetry is whatever has at any time and at any place been called poetry." (F 31)  [This point reminds me of Weitz's idea of honorific definitions.]

"Beautiful is what is at once charming and sublime."  (F30)  [This nicely captures the way in which beauty seems not only to reside between these two other aesthetic concepts but also partake of both. We often see beauty as isolated from the others, but it is really in dynamic relation with them.  I think that this is profound.]

"The fact that one can annihilate a philosophy - wherat a careless person can easily accidentally annihilate himself as well - or that one can prove that a philosophy annihilates itself is of little consequence.  If it's really philosophy, then, like the phoenix, it will always rise again from its own ashes."  (F 30)  [Philosophers today tend to see previous ideas as already and eternally destroyed.  Not true.  They can be revived.  "Romanticism" for example is endlessly pronounced dead.  But these fragments are high romanticism and I find them inspiring.]

"An idea is a concept perfected to the point of irony, an absolute synthesis of absolute antitheses, the continual self-creating interchange of two conflicting thoughts.  An ideal is at once idea and fact.  If ideals don't have as much individuality for the thinker as the gods of antiquity do for the artist, then any concern with ideas is no more than a boring and laborious game of dice with hollow phrases, or, in the manner of the Chinese bronzes, a brooding intuition of one's own nose."  (F 33)  [this is the first part of a longer fragment.]  [This seems a more attractive notion of an idea than Plato's.  It reminds us, of course, of Hegel.  But an important feature of this theory is that an idea is something that changes.  Another interesting feature is that it is "self-creating."  It is a meme that has its own life.]