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poiesis

poiesis

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PoiesisAuthor(s): Hans Robert Jauss and Michael ShawSource:
Critical Inquiry,
Vol. 8, No. 3 (Spring, 1982), pp. 591-608Published by: The University of Chicago PressStable URL:
Accessed: 11/02/2010 01:55
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Poiesis
HansRobertJauss
TranslatedbyMichaelShawHistorically,theproductiveaspectof the aestheticexperiencecanbedescribedas aprocess duringwhich aestheticpracticefreeditselfstepbystepfrom restrictionsimposedonproductiveactivityinboththeclassicalandthe biblical tradition.Ifone understandsthisprocessasthe realiza-tionofthe idea of creativeman,it isprincipallyartwhich actualizesthisidea.1First,when thepoietic capacityis stilloneandundivided,it assertsitselfsubliminally;later,inthecompetitionbetweentechnical and artisticcreation,itexplicitlyclaims to beaproductionofaspecialkind.It isinthehistoryof theconceptslaborandworkthatthe restrictions becomemostpalpable.2IntheGreektradition,allproducing(poiesis)remainssubordinate topracticalaction(praxis).Astheactivityof slaveswho arerigorouslyexcluded from theexerciseof thevirtues,poiesis occupiesthelowestrank insocial life.Inthe Christiantradition,handiworkiscursed,whichmeansthat man ismeantto maintainhimselfonly by toilingagainstaresistant nature("cursedisthegroundforthysake"[Gen.3:17]);salvation canonlybefoundbeyondhisactivityinthisworld.But
1.See HansBlumenberg,"'Nachahmungder Natur': ZurVorgeschichtedesschop-ferischenMenschen,"StudiumGenerale10(1957):266-83,stillunexcelled.Ialso basemydiscussion onJiirgenMittelstrass,Neuzeit undAufkldrung:StudienzurEntstehungderneuzeit-lichenWissenschaftundPhilosophie(Berlin, 1970),andonthe results oftwoseminarsatConstance heldjointlyandto whichIowe essentialinsights.2.SeeWernerConze,"Arbeit,"inGeschichtlicheGrundbegriffe:HistorischesLexikonzurpolitisch-sozialenprachenDeutschland,ed.Conze,OttoBrunner,andReinhartKoselleck,4vols.(Stuttgart,1972), 1:154-215,and WaltherBienert,DieArbeit nachder Lehre derBibel(Stuttgart,1954);anabbreviatedversionappearsinBienert's"Arbeit,"DieReligioninGeschichteundGegenwart (Tiibingen,1957).
?1982byTheUniversityofMinnesotaPress.Allrightsreserved.
591
 
592HansRobertJaussPoiesisinboth theclassicaland theChristianconceptualfieldrelatingtolabor,wealreadyencounterambivalent definitions which could introduceandjustifyanupwardrevaluation ofman'slabor.Accordingto the Aristotelianconception,thesubordination ofpoiesistopractice correspondedtoarankingofknowledgeinwhichtheactivityof the craftsmanor artistastechnewasdistinguishedfromthelaborofslaves,whichwasmerelythefollowingof orders. Suchpoieticcapacityshareswithethical action thepresuppositionthatphysicalser-vicesandassistanceare subordinate work.(InAristotlePolitics 1254a.5-8,the slaveisno morethan an instrument ofaction.)The technicalskillof the craftsman who can makeanobjectaccordingtoamodelis anacquired knowledgeand thus ranksbelowmoralknowledge(phronesis)which,asself-knowledgewithoutanteriorcertainty,isdirected towardtherightlife asawholeand canonlydefineitself initsapplication.3Theoreticalknowledge(episteme)ccupiesahigherrank becauseit isnolonger groundedinthechangingsphereof action.Incontrast tomoralinsight, poietic capacity characteristicallycan havedegreesofperfection:"Wisdominthe arts we ascribetotheirmost finishedexponents,forexample,to Phidias asasculptorand toPolyclitusasamakerofportrait-statues,and here we meannothing bywisdomexceptexcellenceinart"(AristotleEthics1141a).Asthehighestattainableformoftechne,theworkofartherefallsoutsidethedogmaticjuxtapositionofworkandvirtue. Theproductofartisticworkpointsinadirectionthat leads tophilosophicalwisdomthroughtheperfectskill ofthemasters.It isnonethelessfarfrombeing recognizedas a"medium ofself-knowledgeand self-activation forman":aslongas technical and aestheticwork canonlyreproducewhat nature sets beforehim asexemplary,binding,andessentially perfect,mancannot understandhisactivityascreative,as theelaborationof asyetunrealizedideas.4 Whathadtohappento transcendthelimitingconditionsof the imitationaturaehasbeen elucidatedbyHansBlumenberg.Theprocessinwhich aestheticexperiencediscoversart asthesphereof creativeoriginalityand as theparadigmofthecreationof ahumanworld has thesecond,nolesssignificant,source ofitslegitima-tioninthehistoryof Creationinthe Bible.
3.SeeHansGeorgGadamer,TruthandMethod,ed.GarrettBardenandJohnCum-ming(NewYork,1975).4.Blumenberg,"'NachahmungderNatur,'"p.273ff.
HansRobertJaussisprofessorofliterarycriticismandRomancephilologyattheUniversityof Constance.Heis the author ofmanybooksandarticles, includingtwo worksforthcominginEnglish,TowardanAestheticofReceptionandAestheticExperienceandLiteraryHermeneutics,fromwhich thepresentessayistaken. MichaelShawhastranslatedmanyworks,amongthemMaxHorkheimer's Dawnand Decline.

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