Modern American literature began with a statement of enthusiasm from Emerson's writing in Nature. 'Enthusiasm', in Emerson, is a knowing word. Sometimes its use is as description, invariably approving, of a historic form of religious experience. Socrates' meaning of enthusiasm, and the image of the enthusiast it throws up, is crucial to this book. The book is a portrait of the writer as an enthusiast, where the portrait, as will become clear, carries more than a hint of polemic. It is about the transmission of literature, showing various writers taking responsibility for that transmission, whether within in their writing or in their cultural activism. Henry David Thoreau's Walden is an enthusiastic book. It is where enthusiasm works both in Immanuel Kant's sense of the unbridled self, and in William Penn's sense of the 'nearer' testament, and in Thoreau's own sense of supernatural serenity. Establishing Ezra Pound's enthusiasm is a fraught and complicated business. Marianne Moore composed poems patiently, sometimes over several years. She is a poet of things, as isolated things - jewels, curios, familiar and exotic animals, common and rare species of plant - are often the ostensible subjects of her poems. Homage to Frank O'Hara is a necessary book, because the sum of his aesthetic was to be found not just in his writing, but also in his actions to which only friends and contemporaries could testify. An enthusiastic reading of James Schuyler brings to the fore pleasure, the sheer pleasure that can come of combining, or mouthing, or transcribing.
political claim to resistance from a different ideological persuasion. All the while, liberal peace operations often normalised vulnerability and insecurity in lands where peace once resided. And yet the ontologising of vulnerability came up against its own violent limits, drawing forth the pent-up rage and anger among downtrodden white populations in the liberal democratic West.
We could return here to the enduring appeal of ImmanuelKant, who was the first to propose the idea of a perpetual peace. Notwithstanding contentions regarding Kant’s racism and lack of concern
, and because since the 1850s American writers, poets
especially, have been working on the house that Emerson and Thoreau built, a
structure designed to house or at least to accommodate Kant, hence Emerson’s
explanation of the otherwise unhelpfully numinous term by which he and his
contemporaries made themselves known:
It is well known to most of my audience that the idealism of the present
day acquired the name of transcendental from the use of the term by
ImmanuelKant of Konigsburg, who replied to the skeptical philosophy of
Locke which insisted that there was
In 1796 a German politico-philosophical manifesto proclaims the 'highest act of reason' as an 'aesthetic act'. The ways in which this transformation relates to the development of some of the major directions in modern philosophy is the focus of this book. The book focuses on the main accounts of the human subject and on the conceptions of art and language which emerge within the Kantian and post-Kantian history of aesthetics. Immanuel Kant's main work on aesthetics, the 'third Critique', the Critique of Judgement, forms part of his response to unresolved questions which emerge from his Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason. The early Romantics, who, after all, themselves established the term, can be characterized in a way which distinguishes them from later German Romanticism. The 'Oldest System Programme of German Idealism', is a manifesto for a new philosophy and exemplifies the spirit of early Idealism, not least with regard to mythology. The crucial question posed by the Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling of the System of Transcendental Idealism (STI) is how art relates to philosophy, a question which has recently reappeared in post-structuralism and in aspects of pragmatism. Despite his undoubted insights, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's insufficiency in relation to music is part of his more general problem with adequately theorising self-consciousness, and thus with his aesthetic theory. Friedrich Schleiermacher argues in the hermeneutics that interpretation of the meaning of Kunst is itself also an 'art'. The book concludes with a discussion on music, language, and Romantic thought.
The importance attributed to aesthetic questions in recent philosophy becomes easier to grasp if one considers the reasons for the emergence of modern aesthetic theory. Immanuel Kant's main work on aesthetics, the 'third Critique', the Critique of Judgement (CJ), forms part of his response to unresolved questions which emerge from his Critique of Pure Reason (CPR) and Critique of Practical Reason. Dieter Henrich regards the crux of Kant's epistemology as the justification of 'forms of cognition from the form and nature of self-consciousness'. Kant's attempts to come to terms with the 'supersensuous substrate' of the subject's relationship to the object threaten to invalidate the boundary between law-bound nature and the autonomy of rational beings which was essential to the CPR. Kant himself actually follows aspects of the Enlightenment tradition of understanding music and objects, by seeing music as a 'language of emotions'.
F.D.E. Schleiermacher's essential move is to argue, while providing an account of self-consciousness which is still significant for the philosophy of mind, that these conditions depend on language, and that languages change with history. Instead of setting up definitive boundaries between art and non-art, Schleiermacher sees the possibility of transitions from one to the other in any sphere of activity. In the Aesthetics Schleiermacher distinguishes between 'identical activities' and 'individual activities', which is his version of what Richard Rorty sees in terms of 'public' and 'private'. Schleiermacher introduces the notion of art in order to suggest how the individual, disclosive dimension of language is always an issue in interpretation. The individuality that Immanuel Kant reserved for the genius in art, who established new rules via aesthetic production, is carried over into all areas of linguistic usage and thus into all areas of human activity.
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.
This chapter presents an account of Immanuel Kant's 'invention' of aesthetics that allows its terms to become both operative within and yet also transformed by the practice of critical engagement with literary and visual works of art. The sense of a struggle between mechanism and life is Wyndham Lewis's version of the relationship between teleology and mechanism elaborated within Kant's Critique of Teleological Judgement. The chapter also presents an account of aesthetic criticism that makes clear the nature of its historical purchase. Criticism's ends can include the destruction of a work just as easily as its perpetuation and reproduction. The arrival of cinema and photography as contemporary means of production altered the condition of literature in terms of both its production and its criticism. The photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe are a reference of some import for discussing the nature of visual media.
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.
tradition began with the philosophers of the Scottish
Enlightenment (particularly Adam Ferguson), and culminated in ImmanuelKant’s conception of the pacific federation of liberal
governments as the cosmopolitan purpose of history. The centre-piece of
this tradition is the construction of government in terms of civil
society. In order to understand how the West came to see the Kosovo war
as necessary for