The reductionist assumptions that lead to the idea of folk psychology themselves involve serious methodological problems which are shown up by arguments from the aesthetic tradition. The ideas about the role and nature of self-consciousness from Immanuel Kant to the Romantics suggest that attempts to explicate subjectivity in the terms used to explain objective nature will themselves fall prey to the problems of reflection. Theodor W. Adorno is an apt figure to invoke in the context because, in the wake of Friedrich Nietzsche, he thinks, as does Martin Heidegger, that the ills of modernity are rooted in the attempt by the subject to dominate the world of objects. Richard Rorty characterises the development of modernity in terms of how the 'public', problem solving resources of natural science and 'projects of social cooperation' become separate from 'private' projects of self-development, in which he includes 'romantic art' and, possibly, religion.
All art is situated in social contexts that involve links between cultural production and mechanisms of power. One of the assumptions of traditional literary or other artistic education is that its job is to promote the development of people's ability to judge well, a skill which is part of being able to live well. Culture thrives on critical judgement, and criticism needs models which, without becoming fetishised, can reveal the deficiencies of inferior cultural production. Immanuel Kant's aim of universality in aesthetic judgement depends on the freedom of the subject which seeks a community of agreement with others in relation to its affective and other responses to art and natural beauty. For T. W. Adorno universality is precisely likely to be the result of objective pressures for conformity of the kind which recent theory analyses in terms of the repression of the other.