A is for art.
A is for aesthetics (because aesthetics is much larger than art – if art is conceived in miniature as contemporary art).
A is also for Adorno, for he deserves a mention and I am fundamentally shaped by his aesthetics. Adorno conceives a tortured space of contradiction, in which beauty appears only to disappear and disappears only to appear.
A is also, of course, for Aristotle. He let the poets back in, but equally qualified their particular role.
B is for beauty, the key model of aesthetic experience.
B is Baumgarten and his notion of a mode of sensible thought – a stage towards reason, but also an awkward double.
B is also for all manner of French philosophers and critics who are concerned with aesthetics (in various guises) – Badiou, Bataille, Blanchot, Barthes, Bourdieu, Baudrillard, Bourriaud, etc.
B is also for Bakhtin who so precisely describes a carnivalesque aesthetic sensibility.
C is for the carnivalesque, which for me provides a model for how art and society can be conceived, in terms particularly of representing an intimate and indeterminable relationship between continuity and change.
D is for Dewey and his sense of the intimate relation between art and everyday experience.
E is for Empedocles and his understanding of the sensible mediation of the world.
E is for Eagleton’s Ideology of the Aesthetic.
F is for forests, for becoming lost in forests – for instance, (F)rancis Ponge’s Notes on the Pinewoods.
G is for gestalt. The magic of aesthetics is to see everything at once – to perceive a specific quantity, for instance, without the need to count.
H is Hegel and Heidegger. Hegel for restricting aesthetics to the history and philosophy of art. Heidegger for envisaging the complexity of appearance and disappearance in art.
H is also for Hesiod, who conceives not only a blind, aesthetically cast basis for human experience, but also a divine accession to knowledge and truth that is framed aesthetically as the intercession of the divine.
I is for intoxication. Plato also writes of intoxication.
J is for January, the month I was born.
K is Kant and his defining conception of aesthetics.
L is for Leibniz and his crucial sense of a graduated space between rational insight and irrational blindness.
M is for Martin – Agnes Martin, one of my favourite painters, who understands the relationship between meticulous process and transcendence.
N is for Nietzsche. His sense of Greek tragedy as a reconciliation between Apollonian and Dionysian tendencies in Greek culture has proved very important for me.
O is for Ong and his account of oral techniques of memory.
P is for Parmenides, particularly his aesthetically cast transition beyond common thought.
P is for Plato’s rejection of the poets as a corrupting influence, conveying illusory truths.
Q is for quiet – the reflective quiet of aesthetics.
R is for Ranciere and his notion of art as dissensus and aesthetics as the self-understanding of art.
S is for the sublime.
S is for Schiller and his argument that aesthetics provides the only sound basis for enlightened political community.
S is for Schelling who regarded art as the highest truth because it partakes of what lies beyond the conscious, subjective and rational articulation of truth.
T is for time, the curious time of aesthetics.
U is for the underworld – as a liminal field of experience.
V is for vision, though aesthetics need not involve vision.
W is for whatever.
X is for X (according to Leibniz).
Y is for yes, yesterday and yellow.
Z is for Zeno and the impossibility of ever reaching the door.