Aesthetics is less a mode of experience as such than an effort to conceive features of experience that have proved awkward to conceive within the philosophical tradition. So if, for instance, Descartes, in line with a great deal of ancient philosophy, questions the capacity of the senses to provide access to truth, if he insists instead upon a pure space of cognition, this is bound to pose a rich set of enduring questions. What is the role of the senses? How is mind to be conceived in relation to body? What is the relation between sensible appearance and the space of philosophically guaranteed truth? Leibniz questions the notion of positing an absolute gulf between mind and body, suggesting a more nuanced relation between the austere heights of logical thought and the obscurity, confusion and clarity of the senses. Baumgarten goes further, conceiving a science of aesthetics that can make sense of sensible experience and thinking as an analogue of higher level abstract thought and also as something with its own intrinsic complexity, richness and value. Aesthetics is posited initially then as a philosophical response to the Cartesian dichotomy between mind and body, and the absolute devaluation of the latter. In this sense, aesthetics is also bound to the Cartesian space. Although far less binary, it still subscribes to the sense of higher and lower fields of thought and to the notion of the sensible as a discrete space. What if we were to suggest, in effort to think differently, that the relation between the sensible and the abstract is less determined and much more fluid? What if instead of conceiving a continuous but still separate space of sensible thought we were to think logic sensibly and the sensible logically? Inevitably this would still represent a predictable response to the initial challenge that Descartes makes. Any effort to specify dimensions of paradox and indeterminancy still draws upon binary metaphors of mind and body. In any case, my point is that aesthetics emerges philosophically in terms of problems of conceiving dimensions of experience and knowledge, not as a straightforwardly apparent and unambiguous category of experience.

I should acknowledge that the distinction that I make here between the terrain of philosophical discourse and the apparent silence of experience is itself bound to the Cartesian paradigm. It repeats it even as it struggles to conceive another sense of things. As soon as experience and thought are specified and discussed they cannot step outside the philosophical universe in which they obtain meaning. All one can do is painstakingly confuse the terms until something gives.

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