At one level, I can conceive the aesthetic in particular terms, but then quickly discern other possibilities. I am tempted, for instance, by the 18th century notion of the aesthetic as concerned with the realm of sensible experience, but am also hesitant to portray the aesthetic as preconceptual or radically disengaged from language and understanding. Taking another step, the aesthetic can possibly be conceived as a space of hesitation and contradiction – in which sense and concept (as well as freedom and determination) intersect in unexpected ways. This positions the aesthetic as a form of unsettled (and politically charged) apperception, involving a meta-level awareness of mediation – clearly a very modern conception. While arguably there are really only ever modern conceptions of aesthetics, we tend conceive the aesthetic more broadly – to recognise its relevance, for example, to interpreting traditional craft ‘art-making’ practices. The latter demonstrate a different aesthetic conception focused on continuity and aligned with processes of cultural maintenance (rather than disruption).
Perhaps these tendencies are not so opposed? Perhaps the contemporary concern with medial complexity and non-reconciliation (the lack of integrated experience and identity) represents, at least partly, a lament for earlier more holistic experiential and aesthetic modalities?
[Deeper tension evident here between an historical and trans-historical conception of aesthetics – both alternatives problematic. Former probably preferable, but also more pointedly in need of careful unpicking and criticism (in order to question simple-minded relativism).]