Aesthetic Reason

L i t e r a t u r e

a n d

P h i l o s o p hy

A. J. Cascardi, General Editor This series publishes books in a wide range of subjects in philosophy and literature, including studies of the social and historical issues that relate these two fields. Drawing on the resources of the Anglo-American and Continental traditions, the series is open to philosophically informed scholarship covering the entire range of contemporary critical thought. Already published: J. M. Bernstein, The Fate of Art: Aesthetic Alienation from Kant to Derrida and Adorno Peter Bürger, The Decline of Modernism Mary E. Finn, Writing the Incommensurable: Kierkegaard, Rossetti, and Hopkins Reed Way Dasenbrock, ed., Literary Theory After Davidson David Haney, William Wordsworth and the Hermeneutics of Incarnation David Jacobson, Emerson’s Pragmatic Vision: The Dance of the Eye Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Narcissus Transformed: The Textual Subject in Psychoanalysis and Literature Robert Steiner, Toward a Grammar of Abstraction: Modernity, Wittgenstein, and the Paintings of Jackson Pollock Sylvia Walsh, Living Poetically: Kierkegaard’s Existential Aesthetics Michel Meyer, Rhetoric, Language, and Reason Christie McDonald and Gary Wihl, eds., Transformation in Personhood and Culture After Theory Charles Altieri, Painterly Abstraction in Modernist American Poetry: The Contemporaneity of Modernism John C. O’Neal, The Authority of Experience: Sensationist Theory in the French Enlightenment John O’Neill, ed., Freud and the Passions Sheridan Hough, Nietzsche’s Noontide Friend: The Self as Metaphoric Double E. M. Dadlez, What’s Hecuba to Him? Fictional Events and Actual Emotions Hugh Roberts, Shelley and the Chaos of History: A New Politics of Poetry Charles Altieri, Postmodernisms Now: Essays on Contemporaneity in the Arts Arabella Lyon, Intentions: Negotiated, Contested, and Ignored Jill Gordon, Turning Toward Philosophy: Literary Device and Dramatic Structure in Plato’s Dialogues Michel Meyer, Philosophy and the Passions: Towards a History of Human Nature. Translated by Robert F. Barsky Reed Way Dasenbrock, Truth and Consequences: Intentions, Conventions, and the New Thematics David P. Haney, Ethics, Hermeneutics, and Romanticism: The Challenge of Coleridge

Aesthetic Reason
Artworks and the Deliberative Ethos

Alan Singer

The Pennsylvania State University Press University Park, Pennsylvania

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Singer,Alan, 1948– Aesthetic reason : artworks and the deliberative ethos / Alan Singer. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-271-02312-0 (cloth : alk. paper) 1. Aesthetics. I. Title. BH91 .S56 2003 111'85—dc21 2003007010 Copyright © 2003 The Pennsylvania State University All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America Published by The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA 16802-1003 The Pennsylvania State University Press is a member of the Association of American University Presses. It is the policy of The Pennsylvania State University Press to use acid-free paper. Publications on uncoated stock satisfy the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Material,ANSI Z39.48–1992.


Acknowledgments Introduction 1 2 The Adequacy of the Aesthetic Aesthetic Community: Recognition as an Other Sense of Sensus Communis Acting in the Space of Appearance: Incontinent Will and the Pathos of Aesthetic Representation Beautiful Errors: Aesthetics and the Art of Contextualization Aesthetic Corrigibility: Bartleby and the Character of the Aesthetic From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics Living in Aesthetic Community: Art and the Bonds of Productive Agency Notes Bibliography Index

vii 1 9







139 173

6 7

219 275 289 297

Alex. my best aesthetic reasons .For Nora. and Anna.

I would like to thank Professor Guido Traversa and the Accademia D’Ungheria in Rome for allowing me to present a portion of this book as an invited talk. O’Hara has helped shape the structure of the manuscript from its first pages. I wish to acknowledge the publication of earlier versions of some chapters in article form: “The Adequacy of the Aesthetic. David M. once more. Rasmussen. Finally. Robert Caserio for their sustained and energetic debate about matters of art and act. and Gregg Horowitz at Penn State Press for their support and generous appreciation of this project. I must give particular mention to Allen Dunn and. Franca Camiz. most particularly. and Pia Candinas have been inspiring collaborators in the enterprise. Evelyn Tribble. Steven Cole. William Van Wert. Brunella Antomarini. My graduate students in aesthetics and literary theory at Temple University and. over many years. A study leave from the College of Liberal Arts at Temple University enabled me to set the foundation for this work and hasten its completion. and Ross Posnock have read drafts of chapters and contributed astute commentary.Without their conviction and principled critique I would have made many missteps.Tony Cascardi. Robert Caserio. the act of its writing is indebted first and foremost to the continuity of reasoned discussion. My teaching colleagues in Rome.Acknowledgments While this book honors the reasons art can give us to act. Many others have patiently and generously contributed to the progress of the arguments unfolded here: Daniel T. the mix of artists and students who have participated in the Temple Seminars in Art and Culture in Rome over the past many summers and helped focus the lines of perspective drawn here. I want to express my gratitude to colleagues and students who have contributed richly to the conversation. I want to thank Sandy Thatcher. Susan Stewart.” . Ralph Berry. Charles Altieri.

24. “Scieglier e di Vedere: Rendere Visibile il Fare Estetico. 2 (1998): 7–34. vol. 25. no. 3 (1997): 239–71. “Acting in the Space of Appearance: Incontinent Will and the Pathos of Aesthetic Representation. vol.” Journal of Narrative Theory 23. Brunella Antomarini.” trans. . no. “Beautiful Errors: Aesthetics and the Art of Contextualization. 1/2 (1994): 39–72. 1 (1997): 205–36.viii Acknowledgments Philosophy and Social Criticism 20. Boundary 2.” in Thinking Through Art: Aesthetic Agency and Global Modernity (special issue) Boundary 2.” Annals of Scholarship 11. Montag: Collana Periodica Filosofia 25 (July 1997). no. no. 3. “Aesthetic Community: Recognition as an Other Sense of Sensus Communis. no.“Aesthetic Corrigibility: Bartleby and the Character of the Aesthetic.

I argue that the aesthetic has affinities with the logic of reversal/recognition in Greek tragedy. I strive to reconcile post-Kantian aesthetics with the more worldly goals of contemporary literary theory. I demonstrate the relevance of the aesthetic to practical rationality and. the epistemological and formal features of classical tragedy. The aesthetic is thereby judged inadequate to the tasks of social agency and ideology critique. They epitomize an unwillingness to own up to the aesthetic value of the literary artwork. These affinities suggest how the aesthetic might serve protocols of rational choice-making and ethical subjectivity that legitimate aesthetic practice as a meaningful social enterprise rather than as a guilty refuge from the conflicts of social existence. which are ideologically complicit with instrumental reason. But this reconciliation will be made coherent with a comprehensive account of literary production. The anti-aesthetic rhetoric that permeates much contemporary literary debate charges that the aesthetic either invites irrational sensuous indulgence or embodies elitist class-biased standards of taste. By contrast.Introduction ARGUMENT In this book I defend the category of the aesthetic as a cognitive resource for literary study. Treating the aesthetic chiefly as a presentation of sensuous particulars that compels a reconfiguration of conceptual wholes. The past twenty years of literary study have witnessed a subtle disarticulation of theories of literary art from the category of the aesthetic. by extension. Such conclusions have produced a curious disengagement of literary theory from literary art. Working out of Aristotelian ethics. . to the social context within which literary art is produced. and Alexander Baumgarten’s seminal attempt to theorize a cognitive aesthetic in the early eighteenth century. in this volume. with contemporary thinking about human agency and with ethical theories of subject formation based on intersubjective recognition.

might further political agendas in more convincingly political ways. neo-Marxists. Even more pointedly. I seek to redefine the conflicts between post-Enlightenment subjectivity and aesthetic experience. Consequently the category of the aesthetic. The Anti-Aesthetic. and its irrationalist. The aesthetic. intended to remedy the ills of post-Enlightenment culture. In this way I want to show how aesthetic theory is surprisingly well suited to the project of carrying through the project of Enlightenment without succumbing to the authoritarian excesses of the Enlightenment ego. are indicative of the current presumption that the aesthetic. in turn. For these reasons. Baumgarten’s assumption that the aesthetic is compatible with rationalist principles was quickly challenged by Enlightenment philosophy on the grounds that it lacked cognitive rigor. and Hal Foster’s anthology. Tony Bennett’s Outside Literature. Specifically. and popular culturalists.2 Introduction As a result the aesthetic has not only ceased to be a bridge between the literary text and the philosophical grounds on which notions of literary form (at least since Aristotle) have been erected. but it has also become the object of a concerted attack by cultural materialists. I will seek to engage the cognitive resources ascribed to aesthetic value by Alexander Baumgarten in the seminal works Reflections on Poetry (1711) and Aesthetica (1750). thus caricatured as a nefarious tool of Enlightenment dogmatism. sensuous decadence. because it is intimately connected to the wellsprings of subjective agency. new historicists. Works such as Terry Eagleton’s Ideology of the Aesthetic. we will envision an aesthetic interest that. deconstructionists. can no longer serve the socially responsible purposes of literary study. in its complicity with class-based ideologies of distinction. christened by Baumgarten. Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction. my defense of the aesthetic is based on a realignment of our understanding of the aesthetic with Enlightenment rationality. its political disinterestedness. is judged to be woefully inadequate to the most urgent tasks of literary criticism. Literary judgment is now seen to be intertwined with imperatives of political agency and social justice that are. In this purview we can envision an ethical legitimacy in aesthetic interests that cannot easily be dismissed by the political agendas of poststructuralist literary theory. . The nineteenthcentury drift of aesthetic theory in the direction of affectively based intuition and conceptually indeterminate judgments invites us to forget that Baumgarten originally gave currency to the term aesthetic by positing the parity of artistic production with methods of rationalist understanding. gained currency under the sway of later Enlightenment culture in the noncognitive guise of the Kantian judgment of taste. Paradoxically.

and ethical community. paradoxically became increasingly independent of. But I want to suggest that it is precisely because aesthetic . with the increasingly oppressive authority of Enlightenment reason. the aesthetic courted autonomy at the cost of community. much of the contemporary suspicion of the aesthetic seems to be based on the proposition that the formalist bias of aesthetic value is utterly incommensurable with the political activisms with which so many contemporary literary-critical schools are affiliated. It will therefore not be presumptuous of me to propose that this work provides a basis for speculating how the category of the aesthetic serves to comprehend the role of the literary in relation to the problems of subjective agency. Percy Byssche Shelley. then. and Monroe Beardsley. and in the peripeteia of Greek tragedy) with protocols of human deliberation and rational action. These. As I have already said. In Schiller’s model of the aesthetic state. Nevertheless. For all these theorists. if not alienated from. are strikingly concordant with Schiller’s ideal of an aesthetic state.Introduction 3 Aesthetic theory pursued increasingly nonconceptual rationalizations of aesthetic perfection in works by Friedrich Schiller. that noncognitive aesthetics. ideology critique. and too ideologically invested in the instrumentalizing ends of rationalist ideology. Aesthetic Reason posits a continuity between aesthetic value and rational value that inheres not so much in the ends but in the means of rational self-reflection and ethical action. I believe that the premise for this claim is strengthened in observing that the cognitivist aims of Baumgarten’s aesthetic are strikingly coherent with an older Greek tradition of equating aesthetic judgment (in Aristotelian phronesis. we should not be surprised that the aesthetic is currently vilified for being both too affectively based. As a result. I want to reconsider the cognitivist roots of modern aesthetic theory in order to salvage it from the cognitive dissonances of these contradictory claims. instrumentalizing vices of Reason. It is not surprising. Matthew Arnold. Clive Bell. Samuel Taylor Coleridge. gaining prestige under the auspices of Enlightenment reason. artistic practice and social community are reciprocating projects. despite the legacy of eighteenthcentury Reason’s contempt for aesthetic irrationality. preempting the dualisms of art and life that now flourish in the rhetoric of the anti-aesthetic schools of contemporary criticism. The late twentieth-century critique of Enlightenment reason consequently found aesthetic theory to be complicit in the reifying. it came to be identified. then. in turn. in another paradoxical turn of fate. rational agency. too irrational. Following the spirit of the Schillerian initiative. Walter Pater.

Because I seek to reintegrate aesthetic value with the joint projects of literary production and literary criticism—at a time when literary criticism is becoming increasingly alienated from the realms of art—my argument intimates how Enlightenment ideals are predisposed to aesthetic practices. Herman Melville. without succumbing to the ideological traps of reifying reason. It buttresses a venerable Frankfurt School conviction that Enlightenment must be transformed.4 Introduction value is deemed to be too deeply complicit with the Enlightenment prejudices in favor of dogmatic subjectivity. can the purposes of its most vociferous critics be meaningfully served. . In this book. at least in the work of Baumgarten. Samuel Beckett. The realm of the visual arts is a fully complementary field of production in which subjectivity. If I can promote some reconciliation between literary criticism and literary art my work may serve as a reminder of how complicit the modes of aesthetic valuation are with the forms of cultural production at large. Cindy Sherman. and hence a proving ground for undeluded human agency. and Gerhard Richter. We lose sight of the fact that the political agendas of contemporary criticism require the very capacities of subjective agency that Enlightenment rationalism originally imputed to aesthetic judgment. These include both literary and visual texts. Stated differently. It may prove feasible to speculate how the elaboration of aesthetic theory in postmodern culture is the unexpectedly necessary tool of postmodern culture’s critique of modernity. Barbara Kruger. The structure of this work proceeds alternately through speculative argumentation and close readings of artworks. I explore the formal-compositional complexities of Caravaggio. In addition to literary works by Sophocles. therefore. the locus of tragic experience and Enlightenment hope. at least insofar as we see the mandate of self-recognition to be the imperative of engagement with the work of art. Hans Haacke. not abandoned. I propose a rerationalization of aesthetic practice and value that holds faith with the Enlightenment goals of rational action. My desire to read beyond the bounds of orthodox literary aesthetic value is coherent with my wish to assert the premise that literary production is epiphenomenal of cultural production in other modalities of subjective human expression. pursues self-realization. and James Joyce. I will try to persuade the reader that on both the verbal and the visual registers the stakes of subjectivity are the same. that we risk a more damaging blindness. William Faulkner. I will propose that only by restoring the aesthetic as a resource of rational deliberation.

Lord Shaftesbury. I establish tragedy as a frame of reference for advancing a cognitive aesthetic. has extrapolated this civic identity to the Kantian aesthetic project of sensus communis. among others. The argument is furthered in Chapter 3 through a focus on the epistemological dilemma of tragic character—the agonia of tragedy—in terms of the reversal of human will portended in incontinent action. Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Ill Said—which I take as a paradigmatic tragedy—I will attempt to demonstrate that the intelligibility of tragic experience presupposes not the annihilation of subjectivity but rather the disposition of subjectivity toward a self-revising consciousness. This is the legacy of Neoplatonism. Inasmuch as Arendt’s own sense of what establishes this trajectory of thought (about the relations of art and politics) is epitomized in the forms of Greek tragic knowledge. The problematic of error in turn becomes a way of joining the self-revising subjectivity conditioned by tragic experience to aesthetic experience. Francis Hutcheson. This view is balanced by a prospect of what might be gained by countenancing cognitive protocols of human choice-making as the threshold of aesthetic experience: an alternative legacy out of Baumgarten. G. This is accomplished through the rationalistic practices of contextual understanding. I propose that the suffering of tragic character with respect to akratic action be joined with a broader consideration of the relation of aesthetic experience to the dynamics of error. .The integrity of this consciousness derives from an Aristotelian lineage—namely. Johann Gottfried von Herder. I establish a context for these claims.Introduction 5 ORGANIZATION In Chapter 1. engage as akratic character. where an agent seems to lose rapport with the best reasons for actions. I will argue. Hegel. and. and an important branch of contemporary ethical philosophy. In turn. discussions of Frederic Jameson. In Chapter 2. In Chapter 4. Here. This dilemma is what the ancient Greeks. The prospect for assessing the adequacy of the aesthetic is presented as a historical view of what we have arguably lost by eschewing the cognitive imperatives of aesthetic valuation. F. the practical agency extolled in the Nichomachean Ethics. and Theodor Adorno. even Kantian aesthetics. Louis Althusser. Hannah Arendt. I locate the situation of human choice-making within the context of a civic identity with its roots in the agonistic arena of the Greek polis. Akratic character serves as a framework for contemplating the stakes of tragic reversal. W. Hegel. through a close reading of Beckett’s late narrative Ill Seen.

Here I elaborate my original attempt to reconcile the aesthetic and the political on the epistemological topoi of tragic experience. I employ a close reading of Joyce’s “The Dead” to think more practically about how works of art instantiate the kind of deliberative “space” that I posit both as a ground of aesthetic character and of the determinateness of aesthetic value. and that our analytical grasp of this constraint is crucially mediated by the forms of engagement with aesthetic objects—in this case. Guillory and Bourdieu seek an admirable reckoning of the artwork with ethicopolitical practices that unfortunately necessitates a nullification of the artistic experience qua aesthetic form. Chapter 5 contains a more explicit consideration of how the problematics of Enlightenment subjectivity must be seen to stand in a reciprocal relation with the formal densities of aesthetic experience. I rely upon the reading of Melville’s “Bartleby” to advance the notion that the critique of Enlightenment subjectivity can be achieved only from within the precincts of the subject. I model in more detail the deliberative métier of the aesthetic character limned in previous chapters. . The value of aesthetic experience is thus defended in the elaboration of the warrant for choice-making that art imposes upon the subject. My reading of Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” is presented as a counterpoint to the paradoxically anti-aesthetic aesthetic stances—epitomized for the purposes of this argument by Guillory and Bourdieu—that trivialize the stakes of aesthetic experience in the gesture of valorizing it. Again the “tragedy” of subjectivity—here dramatized in the character of Gabriel Conroy—is linked to a prospect for ameliorating human experience through deliberative action. Or at least this is the case if we want to salvage a notion of the ethicopolitical usefulness of aesthetic value. In Chapter 6. Reacting against Nancy’s claim to reconcile aesthetics and politics by abandoning the determinants of human agency in favor of the indeterminacy of sublime intuition. It is nonetheless coherent with the choice-making imperatives that dignify tragic death. The “tragic suffering” featured within the context of akratic action is here clearly identified as a quality of readerly attention distinct from the fatality of the tragic protagonist. I articulate more fully the deliberative means of aesthetic character.6 Introduction and Jean-Luc Nancy serve to situate choice-making subjectivity with respect to a long-standing critical ambition to compensate human agency for the limitations of the contexts of knowledge in which action must be undertaken. the “text” that dramatizes such readerly attention is Caravaggio’s The Conversion of Saint Paul. the forms of readerly response conditioned by the verbal specificity of Melville’s text. In this case.

the aesthetic deepens reflection upon the question of how art is a resource for the kinds of agency we acknowledge in the recognition of contingency. Rather. I believe that partisans of the aesthetic and the anti-aesthetic both agree that such self-knowledge must meet a test of adequacy. by eschewing the presentational values of aesthetic form. Barbara Kruger. As I note in the final chapter. But the standard of adequacy here has nothing to do with judgments of canonicity or hierarchies of taste. and Cindy Sherman) strive to evade aesthetic bad faith.Introduction 7 In Chapter 7. . I argue that these works of oppositional postmodernism (by Hans Haacke. This métier is grounded in the cultural knowledge of tragedy. the adequacy of the aesthetic defended in these pages relates most eloquently to the sociopolitical pressures that human subjects contend with in the common deliberative prospect of sharing a common world. I conclude the argument by juxtaposing the ethicopolitical claims championed by anti-aesthetic criticism with the art practices patronized by those claims. Ultimately my purpose in these pages is to found a reasonable faith in the aesthetic as a métier of human activity. where individuality contends with the recognition of human contingency. Neither does it bear upon the relative truthfulness of the work of art vis-à-vis the scientific facts of nature or the political facts of human history as told from the vantage points of power or powerlessness. More to the point. My point here is to tease out the inadequacy of such works with respect to the cognitive stakes inherent in the political justifications for their existence. It is this discipline that keeps faith with the project of Enlightenment mind and the “tragic” burdens of self-recognition and rationalistic self-justification that Enlightenment mind cannot dispense with. the lapse into unworldly aestheticism.Alternatively I reassert the necessity to tap cognitive resources of the aesthetic that depend upon the presentational densities of aesthetic forms and thereby to hold the attentive subject to a discipline of choice-making.


by virtue of its presentation of sensuous particulars. But if so. has become a target of critique for literary theorists who discount appearance as an ideological counter of value. .1 The Adequacy of the Aesthetic This amounts to enunciating the requirement that the Idea and its plastic mould as concrete reality are to be made completely adequate to one another. judged by the standard of its own nature. the partisans of this critique propose to redefine the culture of oppression promulgated in selfconsciously “aesthetic” literary representations.Any content whatever may attain to being represented quite adequately. Lectures on the Aesthetic [T]he very disintegration and inadequacy of the world is the precondition for the existence of art and its becoming conscious. In this view. The traditional identification of the aesthetic with appearance (Schein). . . But now this rhetoric is put in the service of a largely unarticulated standard of political efficacy. which consists in the expression of any meaning whatever in appropriate fashion so its import may be readily recognized in the shape created. de facto. —Lukács. but it does not therefore gain the right to claim the artistic beauty of the Ideal. The Ideal is not to be thus understood. This standard seeks to vitiate the so-called artistic content of the artwork by transcending its formal features and the sensuous scope of its presentational powers. —Hegel. Theory of the Novel I The claim of the inadequacy of the aesthetic proffers a perverse standard of adequacy in contemporary literary-critical discourse. an instrumental lever of the institutional powers of art culture inasmuch as art culture itself is merely epiphenomenal of the power structures of post-Enlightenment reason. . aesthetic form is. by recourse to the very liberational rhetoric that was formerly the property of Romantic literary aesthetics. the required truth of the Ideal is confounded with mere correctness. Ironically.

There he declares that the “anti-aesthetic . Precisely because the partisans of the anti-aesthetic preclude formal particulars in favor of the factual par- . Foster effectively reprises the very dualism he seems to deny.g. by succumbing to a descriptive protocol that can only enumerate the ideological distortions said to be perpetuated in the aesthetic register of the artwork. aesthetic form were taken to be an active proliferation of sensuous differences. But contrary to privileging the aesthetic realm as a refuge of sensuous immediacy or sublime irrationalist transport. that is sensitive to cultural forms engaged in a politics (e. the anti-aesthetic is complicit with what it criticizes.1 By soliciting the political “others” of the aesthetic in order to demonstrate the emptiness of the category of the aesthetic. By evading these cognitive constraints of aesthetic form. I want to point out that its articulation here comes at the expense of a recalcitrant dualism of art and politics. cross-disciplinary in nature. . I want to defend the cognitive efficacy of the aesthetic. my position will be that such productivity falls within the cognitive precincts of the aesthetic itself. Partisans of the anti-aesthetic such as Foster stress the “privileged” status of aesthetic form as though it obtained strictly as a condition of reified sensation. alternatively. The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. I want to expose the artistic as well as the political impotence of any critique predicated on treating the aesthetic as a “realm” of its own. They thereby minimize the productive aspect of the artwork. signals a practice. by eschewing the “aesthetically formed” sensuous particulars of art (which I will engage in Chapter 7 as the presentational field of the artwork). we would see how it possesses a cognitive efficacy equal to the warrant it presents for making choices among differences. I seek to defend the aesthetic. feminist art).. I will show that the partisans of the anti-aesthetic.10 Aesthetic Reason A keynote of the anti-aesthetic is sounded in Hal Foster’s preface to his anthology volume. We would see how making choices among differences presupposes a discipline of intersubjective recognition. By the same token. Alternatively. and by their corollary attack on literary formalism. can only give an inertly conceptual and passively descriptive account of the very “cultural forms” that they promise to redeem from the representational injustices of aesthetic practice. to forms that deny the idea of a privileged aesthetic realm” (xv). However admirable this goal of secularizing art may be. The anti-aesthetic thus fails to take an analytical stance that might actually produce ameliorative social and artistic change. By my emphasis on the cognitive. or rooted in a vernacular—that is. . If. In order to challenge this dualism.

in turn. The oppressive powers of autonomous or instrumental will. 2 They are.” I seek to reconnect the category of the aesthetic to a cognitive ground . indebted to Hegelian and Nietzschean models of expressive agency that. As I have already intimated. new historicists. I n keeping with this goal. they cut us off from the productive agency without which the very appearance of factual particulars is unintelligible. the preface to the Foster anthology bears witness to a telling irony here: the rhetoric of the anti-aesthetic echoes the rhetoric of multiculturalists. They invite us to forget that facts are intelligible only in the context of conceptual choices. which each of these groups ascribes to the subjective. my appeal to a cognitive aesthetic seeks to obviate the need for transcending subjective distortions by rationalistically reconciling the distorting perspective of subjectivity with other subjective perspectives. feminists. bear out their continuity with Enlightenment values. A more reasonable solution to the problem would therefore seem to require the theorizing of an agency that could carry out the program of social justice without ignoring the impediments to social justice latent in such agency. not in terms of simply redescribing a collective good. conceived along these lines. Subjective agency is therefore not sacrificed to social justice. Notably. Furthermore. threatens to preclude the ever more tragically fated personal self that presumably warranted a program for social justice in the first place. because I want to try to resolve the debates about the axiological prospect of literary-theoretical discourse. I will follow a philosophical direction that is in line with the work of neorationalists such as Jürgen Habermas and pragmatic-realists such as Hilary Putnam for whom ethical community is a function of ethical action. free of subjective prejudice. expressive bias of aesthetic form.The problem for such would-be critical insurgencies is that the project of social justification. They presuppose a universalist or collectivist rationale. leads them invidiously to posit a knowledge of social-historical particulars that purports to be unmediated by egotistical distortions. but in terms of the ethical agency that could produce such goods. a majority of the essays in the Foster anthology (by such politically motivated critics as Fredric Jameson and Edward Said) boast a descriptive authenticity vis-à-vis lived cultural life. and neoMarxists. for all their post-Enlightenment skepticism. I n following the methodological lead of Habermas’s communicative action and Putnam’s “internal realism. for whom the agenda of social change is the clarion selfjustification.The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 11 ticulars of lived experience. nor is politics sacrificed to morality.

By this means the aesthetic may be relegated. the aesthetic constitutes a lever of social change that does not seek to transcend its own means to such an end. and Michel Foucault. wherein all differences are scientifically authenticated. This charge of complicity between ideology and the aesthetic is an attempt to subordinate the political efficacy of the study of literature. I will show how the demystifying power mustered by ideology critique too easily devolves to a descriptive “exteriority” rather than to a participative “interiority” with . however. to the status of a decadent antirealism. been based on this dichotomy since the earliest attempts to redeem the work of art from Plato’s judgment in book 10 of the Republic. Matthew Arnold. as ideological delusion. at least rhetorically. to a broader program of ideological demystification. A critic such as Pierre Bourdieu is indicative of this stance. Georg Lukács. Karl Marx. wherein all differences are “apparently” reconciled. By purporting to expose the “ideological” premise of the claims for artistic autonomy.3 I can most succinctly indicate my reasons for wanting to rebut this claim by observing how the critique of the aesthetic.This rhetorical maneuver insinuates the frivolity of imaginative acts of mind—linked as they are to the aesthete’s proverbial detachment from. The putative truthvalue of literary art has traditionally.4 In what follows. furtively resurrects the old realism-antirealism dichotomy. he alleges. the putative real. Getting at the merits of the formal analysis I have just proposed will of course involve a reckoning with the concept of ideology. I n that capacity. Ideology is understood to be a corollary of the false appearance configured in the sensuous form of the artwork. Since the eighteenth century. the partisans of the antiaesthetic are in effect appropriating the historically authoritative place of realist truth. The protocol of choice may thus be seen to establish a minimal condition both for thinking responsibly about social action and for grounding the valuation of artworks in attentiveness to the particulars of sensuous appearance as form. among other arts. Raymond Williams. It should already be clear that the literary aesthetic stands indicted by partisans of the anti-aesthetic under the sign of ideology. if misguidedly. the most hegemonic class interests may be plainly seen to cloak themselves. or disinterestedness with respect to.12 Aesthetic Reason that might establish its efficacy as a protocol of rational choice-making. the will toward such demystification has found expression in a suspiciously diverse array of critical manifestos including the social reformist projects of Thomas Love Peacock. Bourdieu pegs sensuous appearance qua art form to a Kantian disinterestedness within which.

” Marx’s argument in the Grundrisse. in this way.The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 13 respect to the social realities that might be embodied by literary representations. the diverse practices of social life that otherwise seize hold of the subject under the tyrannical will of a bureaucratically interpellating “official culture. Outside Literature. Bennett sums up an argument that had its most perspicuous formulation in Foucauldian and Althusserian revisions of Marx in the 1970s. that questions relating to the effects of works of art require that the labour of theoretical abstraction be orientated to examining the modes of interaction of the complex concatenation of factors regulating the reception of such works. the anti-aesthetic. The anti-aesthetic indictment of the ideological character of the aesthetic. itself falls prey to the kind of judgment usually voiced in the charge of feckless aestheticism. for example. polemicized in terms of ideology critique. that he or she can proffer nothing to put in the place of the social injustices that literature would be authorized to critique. I have already suggested that this inherently more ideological exteriority is conditioned by a particularly stubborn political fact: if the anti-aesthetic purview eschews the formal armature of choice-making. In other words. II The polemical scope of the anti-aesthetic. It suggests. which serves as the springboard of my argument here. is usefully epitomized in Tony Bennett’s diatribe. succumbs to its own ideological corruption. that the concrete is the concrete because it is the concentration of many determinations whose interaction can only be grasped by the violent abstraction of thought thus embodies a methodological orientation that is precisely the reverse of that of philosophical aesthetics. the partisans of the anti-aesthetic indulge too much abstraction from the very social particulars that would instantiate the social agency they otherwise seek to valorize. In choosing to theorize a literature “deliberately severed from the aesthetic. Without gaining some purchase on agency through the choice-making imperatives of aesthetic form.” Bennett proposes to treat the artwork as a means of knowing more concretely. the critic remains so resolutely divorced from the productive capacity of active imagination or creative mind (anchored in appearance). rather than transcending subjectivistically. Within philo- .

aesthesis. the latter having gained ascendancy under the powerful influence of natural-right philosophies and the theory of taste. It is for this reason that Bennett’s idea of a critical discourse that could display the array of “diverse social practices” that the aesthetic meaning of the artwork obscures. Yet within the devoutly materialist constraints of his thinking in Outside Literature. is fated to follow a paradoxical trajectory of self-attenuating description. is necessarily manifested as a determinative agency. understood as immanent to formal or perceptual complexity. Bennett’s perspective is resolutely oblivious to the Continental tradition linking sense to action and aesthesis to practical activity. Rather. which he alleges to be displaced by the aesthetic sublimation of “concrete determinations” into an increasingly metaphysical judgment of good taste or beauty. in the passage just cited. emphasis added) I believe that the chief liability of Bennett’s thinking here derives from his tendentiously British empiricist view of what constitutes philosophical aesthetics in the first place. For Baumgarten the category of the aesthetic sustained a fundamental concern for the materially formative. it embodies a procedure for disengaging works of art from the mundane particularities regulating their reception in different contexts in order to arrive at a conception of their effects as being always subject to the influence of an invariant aesthetic relation. (Outside Literature. The conceptual poverty of Bennett’s stance here elicits an eloquent contrast with the history of the very philosophical aesthetic he wants to impugn as hopelessly impractical and haplessly apolitical. who founded the aesthetic as a scientia cognitionis sensitivae in 1735.14 Aesthetic Reason sophical aesthetics. rather than the metaphysically preformed unity of things. the process of abstraction pulls in the opposite direction. He postulates that the more sensate determination there is in the artistic form. For Baumgarten. Bennett can give no substantive basis for constituting the social agency. by contrast. itself rooted in an unchanging faculty of the subject deduced from a transcendental analysis of the constitutive properties of art in general. The contrast is nowhere more striking than in the German tradition inaugurated by Alexander Baumgarten.5 . He renders the goal of social justice proffered within that description an increasingly virtual prospect because it fails to animate the “social practices” in which its self-justifying burden of political change resides. the more actualizable is the aesthetic realm as a site of human activity. the aesthetic is deemed to be inadequate to the demands of social practice insofar as the social agency of the practical subject is posited as the crucial counter of value. 119. Here.

6 According to Herder.The genealogy of this tradition includes Baumgarten. is closer to the caricature “man of taste.” constituted an interruption of this more critical German tradition. It sustains its polemical purity by ignoring the more strictly cognitive tradition that locates a standard of aesthetic value in cultural practices and the analytics of action embedded in those practices.That is. Shaftesbury. the aesthetic object is only productive of occasions for cognitive activity when it obviates that premise of the theory . so reductively featured in Bennett’s account. Herder turns the discipline of aesthetics away from taste and in the direction of act. his astute overview of the historical development of aesthetical judgment-power. Bennett’s attack on the adequacy of the aesthetic may be seen as presuming upon tenets of taste that figure more prominently in a literary aesthetic strictly divorced from rigorous philosophical principles. and Nelson Goodman. and Arnold. By invoking this etymological distinction against the more empiricist theories of taste.The aesthetic subject.The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 15 It is furthermore important to realize that the specifically cognitive terms of the aesthetic that was founded by Baumgarten in Reflections on Poetry and Aesthetica summarizes or culminates the regrounding of value in experience that was begun by the neophyte humanist philosophy of Pico della Mirandola and sustained through the early Enlightenment by Thomas Hobbes and Giambattista Vico. Ludwig Wittgenstein. than in the philosophical aesthetic which is Bennett’s declared target. Hegel and more recently. which seems to be presupposed in Bennett’s agentless valorization of “mundane particularities. a more practical reference to the utility of the sense of touch in probing and experimenting with the world of physical phenomena as a mode of synthetic intuition. As Howard Caygill explains in Art of Judgement. and Tasten or Tastende. For my purposes. John Dewey. which inflects the history of the philosophical aesthetic and marks it off from its empiricist rivals. a decidedly metaphorical reference to the subjective synthesis of sensuous particulars (as on the palate or tongue) that is ordained as a prerational intuition.” who locates the beautiful in Nature. this is the direction of cognition and choice. Herder is the pivotal figure in this etymological controversy.There are two etymological frames of reference here: geschmack. It could be argued that the utilitarianism-inspired British theory of taste (a late eighteenth-century phenomenon). Herder. The inadequacy of the tradition out of which Bennett is working is perhaps most starkly dramatized in a consideration of the competing etymological claims upon the German word for taste.This is a sensibility exemplified in the loosely ethical tradition of such thinkers as Hutcheson.

and for theorists of an emergent cognitive aesthetic.7 For Herder. Hutcheson’s and Shaftesbury’s theories of beauty.16 Aesthetic Reason of taste that. Accordingly. suffice it to say that the weakness of the argument against productive agency. inhibits the emancipatory politics of a noninstrumental will. the term production itself has recently become a fulcrum for critique of the aesthetic. in a Humean fashion.Thomas McCarthy has alleged this refusal to be the crux of Michel Foucault’s failure as a social theorist. In Foucault’s later works. I want to establish the adequacy of the aesthetic on the basis of its capacity to challenge an inert. I t represents a refusal to see agency as vitally situational rather than as an oppressively inexorable universality.8 This claim. stems from an even more fundamental failure to understand the nature of aesthetic production. derives the act of judgment from natural rather than social contingencies. and politically oppressing—which is to say. where the productive dimension of the aesthetic has been crudely equated with the instrumentality of subjective rational action. however. this might be not the least of Foucault’s motives for returning to the personal subject at the end of his career. unproductive—lifeworld. Jürgen Habermas has alleged that the production paradigm. the historical view of the aesthetic that I will develop in the next section will lead us to see that.”10 For the moment. subjective agency—virtually synonymous with “Power”— becomes so amorphously pervasive a concept that the only prospect for liberation from its effects entails our imagination of a vacuum of social interactions. This is the productive power of judgment per se. I believe. denoted a correspondence between a human faculty (the “aesthetic attitude”) and a natural harmony. intrinsic to the aesthetic. for example. in order to postulate a project of self-realization or self-production that he characterizes explicitly as an “aesthetics of existence. like the weakness of the argument against the aesthetic in general. a quasi-stoical cessation of productive imagination. ideological. Ironically. however. For instance. merely typifies a refusal on the part of critics of the aesthetic to distinguish instrumental from strategic agency. But I would stipulate other conditions: this notion of adequacy must be seen to acknowledge a constitutive gap between productive value and the recognition of productive value to be part of the activity of production itself . Recognition marks the interface of agency and intersubjectivity. the beauty of the aesthetic inheres as a human act of differentiation. because the productive .9 As I will speculate later. For reasons that are in fact harmonious with the political idealism of the anti-aesthetic.

. rather than the punctual instantiation of a transcendental logic. Conversely. achieving terms of fit with the culture of its intelligibility.” In effect the notion of the aesthetic I promote here denotes a capacity to interrogate the concept of adequacy itself. will be seen to intimate a capacity for construing artworks as contexts for contemplating rational choices. it also entails a transformative register. aesthetic judgment. understood as the legacy of Tastende. Such reciprocity thwarts the caricature of the post-Romantic Kantian aesthetic as a disinterested enterprise. entails a reflective register. Kantian judgment presents a faculty constrained by a universalizability that—indistinguishable from necessity and thus uncomfortably like a “thing in itself”—is the definitive inhibition to recognition. Specifically these are choices within the realm of action that is endowed by cognitive interests. This obtains specifically in recognition of the gap between artistic production and audience recognition. conceived as a universalistic subsumption of the manifold. determined by the dialectic of production and recognition. Revealing an affinity with tragic emplotment that will be elaborated in later chapters. Thus the adequacy of the aesthetic will be seen to inhere in its going beyond judgment power. Moreover. The gap therefore invokes the standard of adequacy as a commensuration of differences—the differentials of formal production and recognitional value—on a temporal axis. the gap between production and recognition thereby favors the reversibility of logical perspectives. I am assuming that such a gap is exigent in the temporal distantiation occasioned by any act of aesthetic-making that demands from its audience a new construal of contextual boundaries to facilitate its making whole: in other words. according to what Tony Bennett calls “an unchanging faculty of the subject. It is furthermore just such cognitive interest that guarantees the status of the aesthetic as a nonaestheticizing phenomenon: one that eschews any reification of the sensuous medium upon which its cognitive agency presumes to work. as its totalizing imperative.The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 17 aesthetic. For interestedness in this perspective quite explicitly denotes an intersubjective (not universal) reciprocity of necessary knowledges. we shall see how it is precisely because the historical progress of philosophical aesthetics—from metaphysical truths to cognitive acts—increasingly acknowledges the gap between production and recognition that we can now pass beyond the specifically Kantian threshold of aesthetic judgment that post-Romantic literary aesthetics subsists upon.

he ignores a salient possibility: that what he is dismissing as indeterminately transcendental in the aesthetic may be more positively construed as an “other” order of determination. as Karl Mannheim has famously observed. It is precisely this forgetfulness that we risk perpetuating if we persist in the blanket indictment of what Terry Eagleton calls an “ideology of the aesthetic.This is the case when we appreciate how aesthetic theory historically prioritizes the phenomenon of determination in the realms of both artistic and social practice. the most dubious authority of aesthetic theory is its claim that artistic meanings transcend the social determinations of artistic practices. For Bennett. this claim obtrudes the chief obstacle to what he otherwise anticipates.They unwittingly carry the . disowned their own ideological interests. 146). as a “sober materialist analysis of the relations between artistic practices and social practices” (Outside Literature. Eagleton furthermore obscures the degree to which the methods of ideology critique have. I will argue that this determinative order is vitally continuous with social determination. Because he insists that there is a coercive and eudaimonian substrate of aesthetic ideology.”11 With this phrase.18 Aesthetic Reason III We have seen that for critics of the aesthetic such as Tony Bennett. For it is one that cannot be anticipated within the binary opposition of abstraction and concreteness that furtively props Bennett’s polemic. I believe that the idea of “aesthetic transcendence” has only ever presented a threat to our rapport with the materiality of existence when its own determinations have been ignored or forgotten—when it has not been treated in the context of aesthetic cognition. My task here is to show that the possibility of understanding aesthetic theory as a subsuming of both the social and the artistic under the determinative enterprise of value-making is precluded by Bennett’s critique. Eagleton joins Bennett in inhibiting our knowledge of the potential conceptual continuity of aesthesis with the interests and methods of ideology critique: a continuity key to my claim for the reciprocity between production and recognition. Only in this context will it make sense to go on to demonstrate how aesthetic value-making per se entails or arises in the very production-recognition gap which the anti-aesthetic polemicists ironically blame it for opening under the epistemological delusions of a productionist ideology. in almost millenarian terms. while Bennett faults even so socially engagé a theorist as Lukács for having the transcendental blindness of the disinterested aesthete.Yet.

We can see this in the fetishistic mutual exclusiveness of subjectivism and objectivism that was Plato’s legacy to art theory. On this basis. especially within the formalist canons of literary art. Plato’s disenfranchisement of art promulgates the original confusion of production and recognition. the knowledge instanced in the particularity of the artwork allows judgment only in the absence of the very sensuous (which is to say discursive) discriminations (as opposed to sense percepts) that warranted the judging imperative in the first place. I t thus links the disenfranchisement of art to a crisis of ethical community. Otherwise the scope of ethical decision-making is minimized in Plato. It is implicated in Plato’s ethical bad . the conflation of production with recognition could be said to be at the root of the preemptive universalism for which many social critics hold aesthetic judgments accountable. So the most fundamental error of anti-aestheticism that I want to redress here is its de facto conflation of production with recognition. however. I must show how this conflation perpetuates the caricature of art as an ideological phenomenon.This is a transcendence that cannot be effected except as a negation of all that is at stake in the choice-making prerogative of any individual will. More to the point. I believe that the philosophical inadequacy of the Enlightenment theory of taste is most unsatisfactory in its own conspicuously Neoplatonist aspect. as an expressive power that reifies through its productive agency. Accordingly. Plato makes philosophical truth depend on a subjectivity that is wedded to its objects.The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 19 taint of their own aestheticizing bad faith. Since the publication of Auguste Comte’s Cours de philosophie positive (1842) the “science” of ideology critique has purported to transcend the egocentric will— a site of production—by conflating it with a collective will. if only by establishing discursive grounds of judgment.Yet it is a philosophical truth that may never be adequately embodied in those objects. a site of recognition.This schema points up the difference between epistemology and ethics. the subject-object dichotomy reasserts itself as an irresolvable dualism and hence as an obstacle to rational regimens of choice. The crucial flaw in such thinking is that where production is confused with recognition. Dating from the precipitous spirituality of Hegel’s Aesthetics. the conflation of production and recognition has been widely acknowledged to be the premise of positive aesthetic production. it does so in a way that anticipates how the phenomenon of recognition might offer a remedy. For according to the Platonist aesthetic. and of the subjectivist hermeticism for which the aesthetic has consequently been blamed.

on that basis. and despite its Lockean grounding in the percept.The existence of such a law would be assumed as a necessary but necessarily mysterious condition of its articulation in the consensus of taste. proffers a concept of the beautiful without conceiving a cognitive agency for that concept. the meaning of beauty is to be considered an “emblematic symbol” as opposed to “conventional” or “iconic” symbols. The emblematic beauty is coterminous with the unceasing and plastic manifestation of God in the transformations of Nature. But now we must also realize that the fundamentally reproductive mindset of utilitarianism effectively preempts that aspect of productive imagination that might otherwise correlate a standard of conceptual clarity with the extensional register of sensuous experience. But on the basis of this distinction between internal and external senses. The genealogy of the problem begins with Shaftesbury. Enlightenment taste. But whatever qualities might be intuitable are..e. Its objectivity is intrinsic to forms of human experience. neither cognitively nor formally productive. As I’ve anticipated. Hutcheson seems to open the possibility for endowing Shaftesbury’s emblematic symbolism with discernable productive “qualities” by distinguishing percepts as an external sense and taste as what he terms an “internal sense. Hutcheson establishes the “disinterestedness” of taste . such agency had a virtual existence in the basically utilitarian consensus they presupposed as the relevant context of judgment. and David Hume.20 Aesthetic Reason faith. arising from an idea of beauty that is coordinate with a percept but not bound by a Lockean determinism. like the Platonic truth it mimes. Hutcheson. by its setting up standards of beauty that are deemed to be universal before there is any particular instantiation of beauty that might call the universal standard of taste to any meaningful account.We have already noted that for Shaftesbury. In the Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (1725). Hutcheson.This remains the case so long as the mandated disinterestedness of Shaftesbury’s taste precludes any ascription of qualities to the object of judgment. the act of judging) to revert to an ahistorical spiritualism. in Shaftesbury’s Characteristics (1711) the correlation between the “unity” of the beautiful object and the sense of taste or the “inward eye” of its apprehension exhibits Neoplatonist idealism. I n Shaftesbury. and Hume the philosophy of taste thus founders upon that threshold of experience where the presumed “natural harmony” between mind and world begs the question of the provenance of natural law that presumably governs it. Emblematic beauty encourages judgment (i. As Shaftesbury explains.” 12 This internal sense is reactive.

for each of these thinkers. where he accepts the dichotomies of practical versus formal utility. For an internal sense as Hutcheson describes it has no specifiable relational status with respect to the sensorium from which it derives an expressive efficacy. Hume states that sentiment refers to “nothing outside of itself” but is itself presupposed by a prior regularity between object and mind. it was by their elision of differentia that Shaftesbury and Hutcheson precluded choice as an agency of taste. which is the social glue of Humean ethics. By contrast.This ultimate recourse to pleasure. and reason versus sentiment. extols the power of making distinctions as a learned experience.This disinterestedness is quite comparable to Shaftesbury’s own internal sense of taste devoid of qualitative differentia. Such a formulation inevitably induces a collapsing of objective into subjective or subjective into objective registers. Hume’s thinking is even more problematic in the Treatise of Human Nature (1739). the very inhibition of cognitive agency inherent in the uni- .The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 21 as an effectively nondiscursive premise of judgment. As we have seen. amounts to reprising the “disinterested” standard of “unity in variety” upon which Shaftesbury and Hutcheson predicated taste and according to which they elided differentia. rationalistically speaking. When the hogshead is drained. form itself is mystified because in its presuppositional status it is. Its disinterestedness is thus a condition of experience but not a counter of any self-knowledge that would be shareable as such. Hume relates the prowess of wine tasters who—against the grain of common sense and Nature—discern a “taste” of leather and iron in a hogshead of wine. For example. In a famous anecdote borrowed from Miguel de Cervantes. Unfortunately he fails to specify the agency of that learning beyond the “connoisseurship” of specialized knowledges or the more fundamentally inductive pursuit of pleasurable feeling. Hume here exemplifies a standard of taste whereby the picking out of qualities by an aesthetic judge augments the quality of mind upon which judgment depends. Although this regularity is instantiated formally. Hume’s apparently more practical emphasis on the power of distinction articulated in the standard (faculty) of taste would seem to achieve an advancement upon the ideal of a beauty without qualities promoted by Shaftesbury and Hutcheson. its dregs reveal an iron key with a leather thong attached to it. in distinguishing sentiment from reason. or through which the self could reflectively relate to itself as experience. cut off from the very practice it might be expected to authenticate. So while taste is equated with moral universalism. Hume’s “Of the Standard of Taste” (1757).

the phenomenon of recognition gives access to a realm of choice-making: one that in fact induces new cognitive constraints. taste is construed as an incipient dialecticism with respect to its own cognitive constraints. By ethical choice I mean of course the practical application of a belief in moral duty. In fact. as I have alleged. and that requires our exposition if we are to salvage the efficacy of the aesthetic as an analytical lever of art production and art criticism.The naturalistic fallacy operative . cognitive activity is a prerequisite of the universalistic knowledge that attests to cognition’s universality. recognition predicates understanding on an acknowledged discrepancy of perspectives. Such constraints by definition purvey no universalistic values.22 Aesthetic Reason versalistic judgment (which is to say moralistic-aesthetic judgment) they promote would appear to preclude ethical choice. nevertheless. Hutcheson. is partly explained in term of its adherence to a naturalistic fallacy. we might see how recognition could be deemed to be already intrinsic to the judgment of taste and hence to production if. I would argue. In other words. IV The failure of beauty theory to exploit its own immanent dialecticism. that our awareness of the incommensurability between the moral and the ethical itself depends upon a prior acceptance of the phenomenon of recognition as a variable of the judgment of taste. only such cognitive constraints as are embodied in the project of recognition enable the productive faculty of mind to escape the taint of transcendental reason or truth that most Enlightenment aesthetics or theories of taste propound. there may already be within beauty theory a potential for intersubjective recognition that the theorists of the beautiful failed to exploit. on this basis. Furthermore. Production and recognition are thus made coherent because they are acknowledged to be continuous enterprises. After all. without which it would be unintelligible. though they possess a universalizing rationale insofar as the demand for recognition is always susceptible to new standards of self-justification. intersubjectively contingent. under its auspices. moral (theoretic) and ethical (practical) realms seem to be rendered incommensurable and mutually exclusive. Such a discrepancy is the threshold and warrant of recognition.And by contrast with the constraints of universalist or disinterested criteria of judgment. because all constraints of knowledge are. Because for Shaftesbury. and thereby to reckon with recognition. and Hume.

For the “Natural self. is doomed to compete with the unencompassable universality of Nature that it is otherwise assumed to mirror. In his very useful article “Beauty and the Genealogy of Art Theory. would they then be palatable in ways that escape the more absolutist thinking that defensive Cartesianism gave rise to? In this case it might be argued that subjective experience is indistinguishable from intersubjective experience and that the dialectic of production and recognition (rather than the radical opposition of subject and Nature) would be a more practicable premise for the kind of elaborations of selfhood that artworks are meant to promote. conflicted consciousness is the tragedy that comes home to roost in the egocentric domain of the naturalistic fallacy. Without a more considered view of what their failure inhibits. this insight will ramify the specific grounds for a cognitive aesthetic that I want to adduce out of a reading of Theodor Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory. because mistakenly characterized. Nevertheless.” in which beauty claims to be anchored. But rather than leaping in one conceptual bound the historical chasm between the Enlightenment theories just summarized and postmodern aesthetics. out of this tragic knowledge we may be prompted to ask a different question. conflict between human consciousness and Nature. Consequently. with a decidedly Hegelian cast: if the existential conflicts that divide the self from itself were deemed to be originally internal to the self. It is perhaps the most constructive contribution of postmodern philosophy to this debate over the status of aesthetic values. vis-à-vis production and recognition. it mires analysis in an irremediable.The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 23 in beauty theory rejects any distinction between what is and what ought to be counted as a conditionality of human judgment. most emphatically in recognition of the ineluctable temporal successiveness within which self-consciousness arises. I would like to draw some more inferences from the failure of beauty theory.The vaunted autonomy of the natural self gives way to the old problematics of Cartesian divisions within the self. Adorno’s defense of artistic autonomy in that text offers what I see as the strongest retort to a materialist inspired anti-aesthetic.” Noël Carroll addresses the naturalistic fallacy as a prime cause of the logical contradictions that plague modern speculation about the mean- . Adorno’s cognitive aesthetic will seem to have less consequence in the service of the literary and the visual arts than I am counting on. Because this failure to acknowledge the distinction between the practical and the theoretical eschews the intersubjective register as a condition of individual character and agency. In the following section.

nonetheless anticipated the polemical anti-aestheticism that I see as equally blind to the potential for cognitive knowledge harbored within aesthesis. Seen in this way. as a blatant contamination of art theory. Indeed we can hear in Bell’s rhetoric the motive for Tony Bennett’s indictment of the political bad faith that Bennett insists aestheticism is heir to:“[T]o appreciate a work of art we need bring with us nothing from life. we are lifted above the stream of life” (Bell. 27). Or. at least. . Art. is rightfully directed at the standard of disinterestedness that derived from eighteenth-century beauty theory. Art transports us from the world of man’s activity to a world of aesthetic exaltation. like Bennett’s. arising out of Hutcheson and leading to Clive Bell and Monroe Beardsley. a more dialectical protocol of judgment. For a moment we are shut off from human interests. and that is accordingly inapplicable to the presumptive interestedness of artistic practice or production. which predicates the judgment of taste on cultural production. . Carroll makes it clear that by failing to distinguish beauty theory from art theory. Carroll’s objection to this stance. defending the aesthetic as a realm of autonomous value. Bell actually opens an experiential gulf between the realms of art production and consumption. But I think Carroll misses an even more important implication.24 Aesthetic Reason ing of art. at the heart of aesthetic theorizing. Carroll’s critique of an aesthetic theory that cannot distinguish beauty from artistic practice focuses on a standard of judgment enunciated most influentially by Clive Bell in Art (1958). . I am strongly in accord with Carroll’s conclusions. He counts this as an abiding confusion. Although Carroll fails to advance this alternative.The distinction between beauty theory and art theory that he would foster as a corrective intimates a specific cognitive regimen for the project of aesthetic valuation: one that requires. Carroll sees the tradition of taste. in its turn. he nonetheless offers a framework for its articulation. with beauty theory. which predicates the judgment of taste on natural sentiment. it has the effect of inhibiting any discussion of the “cognitive and moral significance of art” (330) in analytic theory. our anticipations and memories are arrested. Because this argument is consistent with my sense that the anti-aesthetic perpetuates a confusion between production and recognition. He argues that the easy conflation of natural sense with the art theorist’s formalism has the effect of removing the artwork from any context of judgment that is conceptually determinate and socially grounded. I believe that Bell’s man- . that threatens its usefulness in the context of contemporary critical discourse about specific artworks. Bell.

in reference to Comte. But the same self-contradictory problematic in Foucault yields a richer result. Contrary to Bell’s reasoning. it intimates how the critics of the aesthetic might discover their own best interests in a new protocol of aesthetic valuation based on a choice among competing interests. we should listen for the echo of Foucault. such a goal would be precisely to construe our interaction with the artwork as a transport into the “world of man’s activity. Quite aptly for my purposes. . I suggest that if we can hear the echo of Bennett in Bell. Since I have already mentioned the Foucauldian argument against the instrumentalism of interest as an influential pretext of the anti-aesthetic. . This will give us the deepest knowledge of what is wrong with the stance that would make aesthetic valuation and social transformation mutually exclusive projects. as Carroll acknowledges. I will argue that the concept must nonetheless transcend the particularity of its own praxis by a historically transformative rather than by a metaphysical means. is that the ticket to such transport would necessarily be an interestedness that maintains the force of the concept as a threshold of knowledge. it might be fair to say that the specific logical impasse toward which Bell’s thinking leads motivates the “crisis” of the aesthetic that was the initial point of departure for this chapter. More important for my purposes. In fact. the prevailing attitudes toward the aesthetic—epitomized by Bell.” What is implicit. We shall see that Foucault’s appeal to the aesthetic puts him unexpectedly in sync with the Frankfurt School’s emphasis upon cognitive agency and thereby anticipates my own refutation of the political critique of the aesthetic that Foucault himself has inspired in critics such as Bennett. and later by Beardsley—demand our sacrificing the concept to an “exaltation . In other words. above the stream of life?” I would simply suggest that the self-contradictoriness of Bell’s stance gives us no alternative. . since the vitality of the concept is a variable of its enactment. but never acknowledged in Carroll’s critique of Bell.The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 25 ifesto gives fresh urgency to my own sense that a duly cognitive aesthetic could serve to rationalize the relations of beauty and art. as) a positivistic disinterestedness in the archeology of discursive formations leads him to a methodological reversal that specifically invokes the aesthetic as its ground. it is precisely what necessitates the speculative turn toward cognition as a mode of aesthetic judgment. Foucault’s adherence to (what I have characterized. it might now make sense to note how the career of Foucault’s thought follows the perilously self-contradictory logical path I have just traced in Bell. But how is this transport to be effected if.

26 Aesthetic Reason For the early Foucault. recognition-based identity structure which underlies even the rigorously materialist praxis he espouses. in order to better honor the particularity of social practice that nonetheless instantiated such agents.” For both Foucault and Bennett however.13 The difficulty for Foucault is that such a calculated divestiture of autonomy seems to require a reflective power of mind that is indistinguishable from the very subject who would otherwise be the locus of autonomy. the dedifferentiating power of autonomous subjectivity prompted his own redefinition of power as depersonalized force fields of contesting interests. Because in Greco-Roman culture these practices were indexed to material pleasures not reasons or conceptual desires. the sublating of particularized human practices to the kind of dedifferentiating aesthesis fostered in Bell’s formalistic manifesto is deemed to be symptomatic of Enlightenment culture. That such a paradoxical proposition was posed as an alternative to an intractably instrumental rational formalism makes it no less paralyzing a paradox. In Discipline and Punish power is so radically desubjectivized that it promotes an effectively disinterested ethos. Foucauldian power promotes an emancipation of human will only insofar as it inhibits the preeminence of any particular will. as Dreyfus and Rabinow see it. this ambition led precipitously to the foreclosure of subjective agency as a locus of judgment. specifically in The Care of the Self. as for Bennett. We will remember that for Foucault.Yet in his final works. After all. as distinct from Bennett.These force fields are alleged to be ever more particular in their accession to unending conflict. Foucault’s desire to objectify or explain this freedom as a realm of ends led him to posit a historical precedent in the social/sexual practices of Greek and Roman culture. This body of practices he conspicuously dubbed “an aesthetics of existence. however. Or.”Aesthetics here seems to denote a self that is parsimoniously constituted in practices. on the basis of the cultural precedent of GrecoRoman praxis. We must therefore decide if paradox must be the limit of our knowledge in this domain. as Bell would have it. . Foucault’s most mature critique of reason calls for a shift in ethical substance from “desire to pleasure” and a shift in telos from autonomy to aesthetics of existence. an “aesthetic emotion” arises to lift us “above the stream of life. they represented for Foucault an exemplum for the dismantling of the conceptual apparatus of Enlightenment autonomy. the fact that Foucault has recourse to the “aesthetic” in his articulation of this paradox reveals the intersubjective. reminiscent of Enlightenment aesthetics. For me. Foucault’s remedy calls for challenging the autonomy of those human agents in whom.

(Care of the Self. And precisely because this predicative agency demurs a Nietzschean agonism. . 65). but through predicative agency. .The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 27 It indicates. . Self-knowledge here is not a power of naming oneself (the claim of autonomy) but of changing oneself and thus appealing to some generalizable standard of selfhood. which Foucault can therefore invoke (without self-contradiction) as rational (64). a need for conceptual. .Yet in order to characterize it. . it entails a power of choice respecting properties that might be predicated on one’s self. conceived in terms of the juridical model of possession: one “belongs to himself. [Instead. as contrasted with the transformation or conversion of others: [T]he final goal of all the practices of the self still belongs to an ethics of control. I would conclude that the normative and intersubjective or recognitional imperative of this rational knowledge inheres in the requirement of the self-possessing subject to know one’s self as something other than what one already is. rationalistic. whether autonomous or agonistic. . at the heart of Foucault’s materialism. This point is borne out most evocatively in the passages of The Care of the Self that deal with what Foucault calls an “ethics of control. one holds the potestas sui.” In this third volume of The History of Sexuality. Foucault calls the civil bond a less complex “aesthetics of life. For Foucault significantly links this consciousness to the emergence of the marital couple in Roman civil society. leverage that his early work devalues as a means for ameliorating the otherwise purely destructive effects of power.” one is “his own master” . which is to say. one exercises over oneself an authority that nothing limits or threatens.” It is less complex insofar as the subject’s “adequacy” to public statute demands a basically denotative reg- . But the most important thing to observe here is that one becomes one’s own property (possession) not through any reification of selfpresence.The goal is to become one’s own property. the “aesthetic” pleasure achieved in the self-reflective emancipation of the self from the traps of autonomy is linked to recognition through the implicitly rational “power” of predication. It is specifically manifested as a power of selftransformation or self-conversion. The relation of the conjugal couple supplants the more abstract relation of the individual to civil statutes. moralists are not content with invoking the agonistic form of a victory over forces difficult to subdue. t]his relation is . .

clothing and accommodations. In the second half of The Care of the Self. spending behavior. in the epigraph I have taken from the Aesthetics. 64. urges us to see. hitherto wedded in the legal institution of Roman marriage. descries. my emphasis). gestures of generosity and munificence. He identifies this divorce with the triumph of the universality of reason. and so on” (85).15 As I have anticipated. adequacy comes into relief only against the background of a statutory standard of correctness that it challenges. I would argue that such an assessment is conceivable only in the context of discriminations that proliferate criteria for further assessment. which has its outcome in the didactics of Victorian moralism. Or. By contrast. above all else. the idea of an unreasoned severance of the aesthetic from the ethical (rational) is preeminently what Theodor Adorno wants to redress through his reclamation of the concept of the aes- .14 Otherwise. as Foucault admonishes: the purpose of striving to possess a self “is not to try and decipher a meaning hidden beneath the visible representation [of self]. the cognitive efficacy of choice is dissipated in its degree of instrumental or utilitarian success. Ethical content is now indistinguishable from its aesthetic métier because adequacy is effectively elided with adequation: as Hegel. the relationality of the conjugal relation fosters an expressive register of self-knowledge. the instrumentality of reason would be mitigated by its dependence upon human interaction. it is to assess the relationship between oneself and that which is represented.The standard of adequacy is subsumed to the activity of soliciting recognition of adequacy. as opposed to what we might otherwise be more free to characterize as a universe of rational practices: within this characterization.The important thing to observe here is that Foucault’s chronicle of this transformation. so as to accept in the relation to the self only that which can depend on the subject’s free and rational choice” (Care of the Self. The reciprocity of divergent perspectives that obtains in this “new” relationship of the couple is the only context within which self-possession makes sense as rational self-mastery. Foucault of course narrates the fate of this Roman activity of pleasure (63–64) as it was transformed over centuries of “enlightenment” into an increasingly metaphysical discipline of desire: self-conversion ceased to be active and was displaced by metaphysical counters of pious or sacred identity. The goal of universality would be secularized within the constraints of historical self-consciousness.28 Aesthetic Reason ister of self-knowledge: “One seeks to make oneself as adequate as possible to one’s own status by means of a set of signs and marks pertaining to physical bearing. the divorce of ethics from aesthetics.

what is posited in such a stance is an aesthetics of pure “self-enjoyment” from which reflective agency is exempted by sense-certainty. V However divergent the ultimate purposes of his Aesthetic Theory. In a way I have been treating Foucault as a thinker who.The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 29 thetic from historical abuses at the hands of the philosophers of disinterestedness or the philosophers of a “radical nominalism” (Aesthetic Theory. if ambiguously acknowledged. Thus any severance of the aesthetic from the ethical in effect threatens the conceptual or philosophical efficacy of both categories. however. In Hegel’s point of view. He only transcends the opposition by returning to the conceptual dynamic of reflection theory. In the introduction to the Lectures in Aesthetics.” vacillates between the positions of disinterestedness and nominalism. Hegel condemns the “genial Godlike irony” promulgated by Romantic aesthetics (Fichte and the Schlegels) in which the subjectivizing “concentration of the I into itself” becomes the counter of artistic nature by breaking all bonds with social otherness. 457). the concept is retained because it conditions intersubjectivity. His aesthetic theory sustains the integrity of the concept of artistic or formal autonomy because it sustains the efficacy of the concept per se. we are bound to remember that in the Lectures. Adorno maintains the force and trajectory of Hegel’s critique of any aesthetics cut off from the historical production of intersubjective mind. until his postulate of “aesthetics of existence. After all. in Adorno. Hegel starts with the proposition that art/beauty is already a presupposition of philosophy and is therefore implicated in the laborious intersubjective strivings of Geist. without which the notion of an “aesthetics of existence” would be fundamentally incoherent. This is explicit in Adorno’s will to maintain the aesthetic as a realm of conceptual autonomy. It thereby ceases to be a strong enough warrant for theorizing the aesthetic in the first place. rootedness in Hegelian aesthetics. I believe that it is no distortion to claim that. the aesthetic self is decisively denatured as a philosophical consciousness.That the underlying principle eliciting a reconciliation of the aesthetical and the ethical in both Foucault and Adorno depends upon a reflective and therefore conceptual lucidity is apparent in their common. In this exemption. It reaffirms the necessity of their reciprocity if they are to have the kind of historical thrust that their competitive universalisms point toward. Or this would be the case insofar as the concept seems .

149). . Choice is what distinguishes cognition qua concept from aesthetic cognition. M. need without recognition is mere difference.16 We must of course first be willing to see that the imperative of this choice-making arises in the instance that Adorno acknowledges to be a sine qua non of artistic experience and aesthetic knowledge: “Every aspect of aesthetic illusion carries with it aesthetic inconsistencies in the form of contradictions between what the work of art pretends to be and what it is” (Aesthetic Theory. articulates its illusoriness as a contingency of what is not illusion . which would devolve in the course of conflicting wills to a demand for recognition and. Recognition. Bernstein. For Adorno artistic knowledge obtains only where conceptual truth.30 Aesthetic Reason to entail recognition in Adorno’s construal of the aesthetic as an emphatically cognitive enterprise. particularly with respect to the impossibility of writing poetry after Auschwitz. Artistic knowledge thus depends upon a dialectical exchange of perspectives that cannot be abstracted from an intersubjective realm of reference because it does not permit any abstraction from the contingency of meaning. I am well aware that.What is not illusion is intelligible as a rational preference conditioned by the exigencies of the knowledge of illusion. and Thomas Huhn have ably represented this dimension of Adorno’s thinking. Within the Adornian scheme. Recognition in effect makes the difference between need and desire where we count the distinction between need and desire as a barrier between individual and communitarian ethos. After all. given the oppression of that demand. But my emphasis on choice-making here dictates my faith in a more rationalistic Adorno. Inherent in this understanding is the idea that need induces community through the mediations of recognition. a correlative desire for alternative choices. a self-conscious illusion. For the link between the concept and aesthetic cognition is tacitly a phenomenon of choice. aesthetic cognition would be rendered unintelligible without a structure of recognition.17 Here we might further understand choice to be consistent with the epistemic claims of Hilary Putnam’s “internal realism”: where we take something to be true in a consensus based on a choice of alternatives. in featuring Adorno’s cognitive investments in the aesthetic. within which the scope of alternatives arises.18 The consensus is a function of the need to see alternatives as more or less desirable within a community of mutually recognized needs. is for that reason an ethical corollary of rational choice-making. I ignore much in Adorno’s thinking that insists upon our respecting the limits of rationality. Critics such as J. Richard Wolin.

Such a valorization of choosing agents is at the heart of Adorno’s project in Aesthetic Theory where he distinguishes art from other conceptual mediations. Here it is useful to observe how Hegel’s account of “Romantic art. epitomizes the dynamic of this “reversion” as an effective “revision” of the contextual . So long as form must be conceived under the constraint of recognition (the recognition that it is articulated in relation to other needs and thereby submits to protocols of self-justification). choosing agents are bound ethically by dint of the very self-transformational impetus understood here to be a feature of choice itself. is a de facto annunciation of communitarian ethos because its intelligibility entails what is needed as a ratio of self and other.19 In the case of “second reflection” we are effectively acceding to the inexorable transformability of form per se. He goes on to complete the thought in a way that compels us to follow a logical path from need to desire. In other words. as I have already noted.” By pegging critique to the “relationship.The heightened relationality marked by Adorno between need and thinking helps us to see how choice between alternatives is decisively subordinated to choosing agents rather than abstractly ordinational principles or rules. Since by choosing in the eyes of others one is choosing to be chosen. This doubly reflective “process” is precisely what reveals illusoriness to be. Adorno’s second reflection is decisively a re-cognition. we can more richly appreciate that need becomes a threshold of recognition.This is most clearly the case in the inducements to self-transformation that are inevitable within the framework of any such conscientiously relational knowledge.” Reflective of the process of the formation of the concept. a “meaningful” contingency of what is not illusion. but the relationship between the two.The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 31 In this regard we might assert even more convincingly that need. and emphatically the need for recognition.“second reflection” signals the necessary “reversion” of form to the enabling conditions of formalization.Adorno intimates the point himself when he says in Negative Dialectics “[N]eed is where we think from” (408.The object of critique is not the need in thinking.Adorno figures the distinctiveness of art by calling it a “second reflection.” the reciprocity between passive need and active thinking. from being to acting and so from individuality to community: “[T]he motor of the need is an effort that involves thought as action. In second reflection we can perhaps see more clearly than before that what is not illusion is thereby a touchstone of transformation. my emphasis).” despite its ultimate capitulation to a narrative of spiritual apotheosis. one is always implicitly choosing to change.

For Hegel the standard of correctness or perfection in the form is effectively a Kantian-style rule of taste. It renders form “transient and fugitive. more even than a nominal standard of adequacy. In that way it dovetails with the formal imperative of Adornian aesthetics. Hegel’s valorization of Romantic form is predicated upon a transformative capacity: the form of the artwork serves as the “self-consciousness of a defect in the form” or rather.20 In these terms Hegel means to herald the freedom of Spirit as a counter for a consciousness of contingency that does not unphilosophically converge upon a reifying concept of contingency. 116–17). Adorno is closest to Hegelian intentions where he is furthest afield from Hegelian conclusions. Ironically. Correctness epitomizes the preemption of Spirit that obtains in any one-sided appeal to external registers for the consciousness of form. as an appreciation of the form itself as something “transient and fugitive. which a consciousness conditioned by subject-object dualisms is otherwise susceptible to.” because the embodying sensuous form (language) through which the idea is animated is. This is clear where we can correlate Adorno’s speculation on aesthetic form with Hegel’s insistence that the standard of aesthetic judgment must be one of the “adequacy. It is no surprise that Hegel asserts poetry to be the truest “embodiment” of this “Romantic art.” a consciousness of the form as something else. Correctness inhibits the notion of form as transformational because the externality of the judgment of “correct” form constitutes a concession to the laws of a Natural determinism. however. It checks the judgers’ temptation to embrace either the kind of metaphysical or materialist one-sidedness.” inasmuch as we respect the determinative (determinative of what is not transient and fugitive) density of the self-consciousness instantiated within those constraints. It is thereby inevitably a medium of adequation. It is of course the subject’s hapless “confinement” within subject-object dualisms that Adorno sees as the tragic self-inhibitor and nemesis of Hegelian dialectic. By contrast with the standard of correctness.Adequation establishes the efficacy of adequacy as a praxis of truth rather than as a judgment of truth. Specifically.” of the form.” rather than the “correctness.32 Aesthetic Reason determinants of form. it entails a freedom from the Natural determinations of physical existence. .” according to which Hegel valorizes the authenticity of art production qua action. the standard of the “adequacy. already a sign. In Aesthetic Theory. entails a freer determination. Adorno seems to endorse this self-consciousness of form. a freedom “owing to [the fact that] the sensuous appearance sinks into worthlessness” ( Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics. in this case.

Accordingly. Although this discussion is contextually remote from the expository passages on second reflection per se. Adorno elaborates his understanding of aesthetic cognition in Aesthetic Theory as the “reliquifying” of objective spirit.The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 33 Thus Adorno’s “second reflection”21 strives to overcome precisely the kind of one-sidedness that Hegel claims is imposed by a standard of correctness. As such they constitute an insuperable inhibition to artistic production.” By these means.” Adorno gives us a phenomenological account of the transformative selfconsciousness induced by the artwork in terms that preserve the historical thrust of Hegelian “truth. the kind of history invoked here does not subordinate itself to a Hegelian objectifying spirit that mandates the transcendence of art. in that traditional equation. With this formulation he strives to reverse the Hegelian idea that the aesthetic follows historical change. I believe it offers a convincing gloss on the reflective agency Adorno wants to endow in his use of the term. In other words. It is a means of reconditioning spirit to experience. unlike Hegel. however.” But unlike Hegel. in a chapter of Aesthetic Theory aptly titled “Society. The chapter “Society” thereby helps to refute the persistent charge that in second reflection Adorno invites Hegel’s nostalgia for a utopian “reconciliation” of self . Adorno pursues this truth within a recognition model of selfhood that does not entail the sacrifice of “lived experience” (Aesthetic Theory. He argues that philosophical truth and reflection are. Furthermore.Thus he marks a selfconsciously polemical contrast with Kantian “disinterestedness.Adorno would obviate the invidious distinction between art and philosophy that Hegel saw as the self-sacrificing discipline to which the artwork must submit. rendered antithetical. 348). Second reflection is thus proffered as a way of making truth once again immanent to reflection. he says. In this way he intimates its ties to a choice-making protocol.22 It is important to note that when Adorno valorizes aesthetic reflection he does so by contrasting it invidiously with rational intention. On this basis he can assert that “history is intrinsic to the truth content of aesthetics” (490).They reprise the theorypraxis split upon which Plato’s fateful disenfranchisement of art was so self-servingly founded. Rational intent. should be equated with idealist truth. if subjectivity was to be guaranteed a secure passage from art into life.Adorno “overcomes” by seeking to make “non-identity” the telos of identity rather than by a teleology of Spiritual identity. Adorno’s interest in the claim that history is intrinsic to the truth content of aesthetics is clearly intended to construe the constitutive interestedness of the subject as an unbreakable bond between the aesthetic and the social.

Tremor (Erschütterung) is specifically a “concern” triggered by “great works of art” when the subject “gives himself over to the work. But that its purchase on nonidentity implicates it in recognition comes clear only with Adorno’s further linkage of mimesis to deixis. He loses his footing. That tremor is a counter for Adornian mimesis in this respect is clear enough. This anthropomorphic pointing invokes a demand for “self-recognition” that is necessarily conditioned upon a desire to be “someone in particular. It thus elucidates the non-identical component of nonconceptual . . Similarly. The task of defending Adorno’s aesthetic as a pragmatic. resonant as it is with the Hegelian representation/negation of form as something “transient and fugitive”: “Reconciliation . how recognition completes the meaning of reconciliation.34 Aesthetic Reason and world rather than a pragmatic labor of self-differentiation. according to Adorno.The chapter “Society” gives us the new term “subjective tremor” to buttress the case.”The double-sidedness of this deictic reference mirrors the double mediation of second reflection. tremor displays the way in which “art works seem to point a finger at their content” ( Aesthetic Theory. 347).This linkage is a way of indicating the cognitive boundedness of tremor. tangible possibilities.” since it reminds the ego of “its limits and finitude” (347). however provisional or self-critical it turns out to be. cognitive enterprise here is to show how consciousness of nonidentity remains a lever of rational agency—that is. Deixis. . discovering that the truth embodied in the aesthetic image has real. The gist of my argument here is implied in Adorno’s definition of reconciliation. It would thus belie the contention of critics such as Habermas and Albrecht Wellmer that Adorno’s aesthetic theory lacks a “communicative moment”: one that could be judged adequate to or could do justice to its ethical purport. I want to suggest that this linkage might also be a fulcrum of intersubjective communication.23 Deixis points to a particular object whose particularity is indistinguishable from the mediating attention of another’s consciousness.” By “tangible possibilities”Adorno intimates an effective weakening of the ego that nonetheless is distinguishable from the “weakening of the ego induced by the culture industry. presupposes an other whose recognition makes reference into a conceptual proposition. refers to the mode of conduct of works of art in so far as they become conscious of the non-identical in their midst” (Aesthetic Theory. 194). Tremor is Adorno’s way of understanding the subject as a counterpart of the artwork: such that recognition determines the subject’s self-knowledge in a sustasis of cognition beyond the limit of a single concept of the artwork. a distinctly public gesture.

We have seen that it is precisely this charge of subjective universalism that critics like Wellmer hurl against Adorno on the basis of their demand for a “communicative moment. Aufforderung. It is no coincidence that Fichte.” is purveyed as a ground for subjectivity that eludes any transcendental conditionality and thus entails reciprocal recognition as the key to its intelligibility. in which the subject gives itself to the work. A master term in Fichte’s Science of Knowledge. however. 1794) offers a compelling perspective for rethinking the relative efficacy of reconciliation and tremor. the preeminent post-Enlightenment. how this critique depends on a highly selective reading of Adorno’s aesthetic theory: one that too glibly privileges the concept of reconciliation over the concept of tremor in the account of Adorno’s second reflection. much as I saw choice embedded in Adornian tremor (second reflection). is subject to the charge of subjective universalism for his predicating self-consciousness on an . Aufforderung.A brief account of the threshold of that choice—expressed as subjective freedom in Fichte—might motivate a reading of Adorno’s aesthetic theory that reverses the priority of reconciliation over tremor and obviates the objections of his critics. analyzed by Adorno in the context of tremor.The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 35 mimesis.” an objectifiable measure of “reciprocity” between subjective consciousness and the intersubjective “Other. is the motor of my argument here. I want to propose that it entails a reciprocal subjective act that could only be intelligible in terms of a choice to be recognized as one making a certain kind of choice. is furthermore deemed to be an “adaptive response” to the deictic gesture.We might even see Adorno’s proximity to the specifically communitarian ideals that Wellmer and Habermas wield against him. like Adorno. the freedom of an otherwise alienated self-consciousness is unthinkable except under the condition of intersubjective recognition. Here an affinity between Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory and Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s Science of Knowledge ( Wissenschaftslehre.”This demand arises from their conviction that Adornian reconciliation demurs any such discursive mediation. For Fichte. proto-Hegelian philosopher of the subject-as-activity (“self activity”). I want to show how the specific mode of Fichtean recognition devolves to choice. We shall now see. For like tremor. or “summons. Since mimesis. Here is the crux of my claim that Adornian aesthetics is staked in the idea of the inherently productive agency of second reflection. It rebuts the charge of subjective universalism that would otherwise nullify the choice upon which I am saying second reflection is predicated.

despite his granting the subject the authority of self-positing. Rather. a condition that Fichte elsewhere characterizes as a “determination to selfdetermination”25 Thus it is that Fichte. which constitutes the other’s solicitation of self. J. is inevitably recessed into an ontological realm exempt from the privileges of choice that are public and social. in The Fate of Art. the recognition of the other. For Fichte in particular. to the universality of subjective ego. wedded. Quite to the contrary. is to show how a solicitation. then. may be construed as parallel to the solicitation that plays between the subject and the work of art in Adorno. But close attention to Fichte’s sense of the Aufforderung as a nontranscendental grounding of the self challenges this appearance. which is clearly intersubjective in Fichte.24 In effect. as in Kant. Subjective freedom (and responsibility) is carefully stipulated to be a solicitation of the consciousness of freedom. Bernstein has suggested that this solicitation serves Adorno as a vehicle for redeeming “the abstraction of modernism directly” (Fate of Art. create a circumstance where I infer my freedom from the freedom of others. M.This is by virtue of the fact that neither Fichte nor Adorno see the solicitation in Aufforderung or in tremor as a solicitation of the being of freedom that subjectivity is a counter for. which I have located in Adornian tremor. but in a highly situational one. I posit my freedom in the act of choosing to accept the other’s recognition of me. not the being of freedom. as a solicitation of nonidentity by the artwork. 192). in the most fully articulated version of Fichte’s argument. in both cases. even if it is a self-alienating self. however. does not. Even more . has characterized the “cognitive claim of aesthetic culture” in Adornian aesthetics. one posits that one is posited. as it otherwise is. First. By analogy.This denotes recognition by the self of its dependence on the solicitation of its selfhood from the place of the Other. I must emphasize how. Bernstein. insists that this is a nontranscendental posit.36 Aesthetic Reason active subject.This was already intimated in the insight that the self “summoned” in Aufforderung is mediated by a kind of deixis. it prompts us to see how Adorno extricates himself from the ethical impasse of subjective universalism “as if” on the model of Fichtean subjectivity. but its intelligibility depends upon the “decision” of the self to recognize it. The act of the other is prior to the act of the self. subjectivity is self-positing not in a transcendental sense. The remaining burden of my exposition. the term Aufforderung denotes an active solicitation of subjectivity by another in an act of recognition (Anerkennung). For Fichte the impasse of subjective universalism inheres in the idea that any ethical action predicated on the self.

”26 Fichte in effect grounds this assertion by perpetrating a confusion between Aufforderung and an earlier evocation of its problematic in the Wissenschaftslehre as Anstoss. that gains the status of “event. vis-à-vis the subject’s apprehension of the artwork. In that regard. Such reciprocity is acknowledged in what Adorno calls an “externalization” of the .” by contrast with a self-inflating Brechtian didacticism.The Adequacy of the Aesthetic 37 disarming of the traditional critique of German Idealism.With reference to this ambiguity Adorno seems to evoke or “summon” a reciprocity of knowledge. It thus locates the cognitive urgency of Adorno’s aesthetic. which I have been asserting is crucial to second reflection. Anstoss is the more primitive. Brecht is faulted for mistaking the “alienation effect.”This is consistent with the notion of event as contingent upon nonsubjective elements (Aesthetic Theory. Certainly Anstoss.Williams argues. it is independent of the universalism that its affiliation with reconciliation seemed to burden it with. Anstoss means “blockage” or “shock. But more implicitly.” 27 The Anstoss is the restriction of the freedom of the selfimposed by the other which guarantees the community of the freedom of others from whence the freedom of the self can be seen to arise. construed as analogous to Aufforderung.” which is a kind of Anstoss/tremor.The fact that Fichte deliberately blurs the line between the transcendental (nondiscursive) Anstoss and the nontranscendental (situational) Aufforderung (in the development of his thinking from Wissenschaftslehre [1794] to the Naturrecht [1796]) suggests a desire to throw off any appearance of subjective universalism by refusing to allow a presumption that otherness could be nonreciprocal. conditional premise of recognition that the nontranscendental Aufforderung complements in its more specific articulation of recognition as a form of social reciprocity. transcendental. as a blockage against the flow of subjective free will. It is an imperative to choose one’s-being-posited in certain terms. Fichte asserts that the self is not a ground since “the ground falls outside what it grounds.This is especially the case if we observe that tremor. Adorno himself seems to invite this logic in a trenchant critique of Bertolt Brecht that serves as the contextual setup for the exposition of tremor. 344). forgetting that true reflection requires a structural “ambiguity. Adorno charges that Brecht is too one-sided. as the full scope of the “reflective attitude” art is meant to induce. it recalls the cognitive bearing of the shock presented to the subject by the artwork. displays an affinity with the shock of Adornian tremor. and especially if we acknowledge Fichte’s stratagem of making Anstoss reciprocal with subjective agency in Aufforderung. As Robert R. must be treated in Adorno’s framework indisputably as an event.

” a reason that thereby possesses a vitally “situational index” (204). Wellmer reveals that his strong interest in the aesthetic depends on his belief that universalistic morality can be said to be cognitive only under the specific condition that its normativity is secured by the application of norms. not by a grounding of norms. . but—expressed through these norms” (“Ethics and Dialogue.” in The Persistence of Modernity.The moral impasse is roughly analogous to Wellmer’s sense of the fatal lack in Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory: its appearance of sacrificing communication to reconciliation. structures of reciprocity” (208). For Wellmer. Here his critique of modernity quarrels openly with Kant’s desire to sublate the I ought into I will. Only when we recognize that the universal ought is without foundation does it become “accessible to reason. Its “cognitive” consequence obtains in the artwork’s capacity to summon (through tremor) the most primitive identificatory self into an intersubjective force field: one that forces the self out of itself (345) without submitting to a Hegelian sublation. VI I have acknowledged that this reciprocity is the quite admirable goal of Albrecht Wellmer’s ethical-political analysis of modernity. we must infer that expressivity is specifically a matter of reciprocal recognition. In other words.Wellmer revises Kant in order to put this ideal within a practically cognizable perspective: “[T]he view that I am propounding is that the validity of moral norms only stretches as far as the validity of the moral judgments that can be—not grounded. . After all.“Ethics and Dialogue. In an important essay.38 Aesthetic Reason subject through the artwork. In light of Wellmer’s denial of the possibility to ground normativity universally. for Wellmer. which he understands as an ethical corollary of aesthetic judgment.” 204). But because we can now understand how Adorno’s discussion of tremor answers Wellmer’s objections. modernity is morally inhibited by the Kantian postulate of a universalistic ought in particular will. Kant’s categorical ought is rationalizable into a practical will only if we accept that “the development of a universalistic morality can then be understood as the successive elimination of the foundations of a particularist understanding of . it makes sense to conclude by assessing the validity of Wellmer’s own insistence upon reciprocal recognition as a way of maintaining the communicative efficacy of the aesthetic and thereby establishing its cognitive value. recognition of the “elimination of the foundations of a particularist under- .

The Adequacy of the Aesthetic


standing” (208) is possible only within a specifiable circumstance of need or crisis like that actualized in Adorno’s tremor. Here recognition accedes to the aesthetic. If we can sustain the notion that Adornian tremor, seen in the light of Anstoss and Aufforderung, instantiates need as something that must be mutually recognized, we might assert that the efficacy of the cognitive subject, in Adorno and Wellmer both, depends on something like a regimen of training in reciprocal recognition. The protocol of such training portends the emancipation from the universalist traps of Enlightenment that both Adorno and Wellmer aspire to. Wellmer is explicit on this point, insisting that a lack of moral sense is not “a cognitive deficiency” but a recognition that the “person concerned has not been adequately trained in reciprocal recognition” (“Ethics and Dialogue,” 210).The possibility of “training” intimates an “aesthetic education of man” more amenable to ethical agency than that imagined by Schiller in his anticipation of an aesthetic state.28 We might even say that such training is remedial for the Schillerian curriculum humanitas because the only reconciliation it proffers is one that submits to the diverse interests— to the irreducible interestedness—of the parties to any reconciliation. They would be obliged to see themselves produced in the idea of the reconciliation they seek. Indeed, the appeal to “training in reciprocal recognition” helps to sharpen the distinction between what I want to evoke in the name of a cognitive aesthetic and the phenomenalist and formalist paradigms of aesthesis against which the anti-aesthetic directs its fervent political critique. Earlier in this chapter I indicated how the phenomenalist aesthetic, epitomized by the philosophy of taste, and the formalist aesthetic, epitomized by a standard of emotional response, are both universalist in their privileging of disinterestedness. Phenomenalist aesthetics (Shaftesbury, Hutcheson, and others) takes Nature as its realm of inquiry and taste as its standard of judgment. Formalist aesthetics (Bell, Beardsley, and others) takes culture (the artifactual) as its realm of inquiry and an “aesthetic emotion” or “significant form” as its standard of judgment. In the former, disinterestedness is the proof of the rule of taste in artistic sensibility. In the latter, disinterestedness is the effect produced upon the artistic sensibility by the artwork, in other words, an “aesthetic effect” conditioned by a “significant form.”The liability of both traditions is their putting production and recognition in barren opposition to one another, thus opening a chasm between aesthetic form and a “possible world” of political action. By comparison, the cognitive aesthetic that I have tried to lay the


Aesthetic Reason

groundwork for in this chapter takes culture as its realm of inquiry, but makes active choice its standard of judgment. In this respect, aesthesis essays to maximize dimensions of the artwork by increasing the aesthete’s (the judger’s and the maker’s) power of making distinctions. Choice, as opposed to disinterestedness (whether valorized as a proof of the universal and immanent to taste, or as the universalizing effectivity of the judgment of taste) makes production and recognition duly reciprocal.And because this reciprocity is a variable of choice, its meaning is vested in the unapologetic interestedness of a purposive but plausibly counterideological agent of change. When the standard of adequacy is assimilated to the exigency of act, the activity of adequation serves the adequacy of the aesthetic. What is proposed here, then, is a stance toward aesthetic valuation that stresses the active mode of subjectivity. If we can, in this way, countenance analytical terms for interpretation of the artwork that preempt the reigning universalisms of aesthetic tradition, we might render the artwork, and our responses to it, plausible sites for thinking about how to demystify the mutual exclusion between art and politics, the artwork and the polis.The partisans of the anti-aesthetic must perpetuate these dichotomies in order to remedy the social ills for which they hold the aesthetic accountable. Because, for them, aesthesis is the opposite of action. And yet the Greek polis, an arena of civic action in which the vital aesthetic tradition of tragedy arises, presupposes precisely the inextricability of the deliberative mind of the prospective agent from the worldly and sensuous involvements that aesthesis grounds. The ensuing chapters of this work develop out of an account of the affinities between aesthetic valuation and political agency that originate within the cultural framework of the “tragic” polis. Accepting these affinities forces us to recognize the common stake of aesthetic valuation and political agency in cognition.This acknowledgment imposes upon our appreciation of the artwork burdens of reflective subjectivity without which work and world would be mutually inconceivable.


Aesthetic Community: Recognition as an Other Sense of Sensus Communis
In man, otherness, which he shares with everything that is, and distinctness, which he shares with everything alive, become uniqueness, and human plurality is the paradoxical plurality of unique beings. —Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

In her last published work, Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, Hannah Arendt extrapolates from what she takes to be the socializing aptitude of Kantian aesthetic judgment and implicitly revives a longdormant project of Western philosophy: the ideal of the aesthetic state. In the act of imagining a politics for Kant,Arendt evokes the Greek faith in making political order out of aesthetic judgment: the ethical artifice of the polis. Within the specifically Aristotelian tradition that Arendt works so productively, there is no invidious hierarchy of aesthetic and political values.This admittedly partial view of the Greek polis nevertheless shows aesthetical and political values to be determinable within a context of human choice-making constrained by social recognition. Such was the spirit of Greek republicanism as Arendt saw it, a spirit that I will argue contemporary aesthetics is bound to reckon with again in its pursuit of ethical and political goods. In The Aesthetic State:A Quest in Modern German Thought, Joseph Chytry has sketched a historical basis for the link between aesthesis and republican government in a way that highlights the relevance of Arendt’s work on Kant to contemporary debates about the relation of art to political life in postmodern culture.1 Chytry traces the ideal of the aesthetic state originally to Paris’s judgment of Hera (property as power), Athena (authority, martial success), and Aphrodite (the procurer of beauty). Prior to the act of judging, the three divinities present a problematic configuration of the disciplines of the ethical, the


Aesthetic Reason

political, and the beautiful as alienated from one another.This mutual alienation of the disciplines bears a striking resemblance to the perceived overspecialization of science, morality, and aesthetics that Jürgen Habermas, among other communitarian universalists, has descried as a specter of civic injustice, not to say doom, upon the modern state.2 In fact, Chytry’s glance backward shows how well founded Habermas’s conscientiously forward-looking concern might be. After all, the healing of the split between the disciplines is precisely what was proffered in Paris’s judgment, a judgment whose efficacy was promulgated in the ideal of beauty. By rewarding Paris with Helen, Aphrodite heralded a “presencing of beauty” that brooked no divisions between power and authority, politics, and ethics. The ideal of judgment purveyed in Greek myth had its political analogue in fifth-century participatory democracy, under the beneficent rule of Solon. The paradigmatic sense of justice for which the name Solon is emblematic follows from his extending participatory rights, a protocol of choice, to the lowest classes, the “Thetes,” and thereby fostering a universality of judgment within a practicable public sphere.3 On this basis, it could be said that the idea of beauty or the judgment of the aesthete, an individuality determined in the realm of aestheta (the sensorium of experience), locates a concern for a practical particularity that is not sacrificed to an abstract universality. Correspondingly, the “presencing of beauty” in an act of judgment shows itself to be preferable to the insubstantial, metaphysically abstract ideals, otherwise proffered independently by politics and morality: it has provenance in the offices of human rather than Natural or divine ordination. Under the auspices of beauty, judgment is securely anchored within the realm of malleable appearances over which human choice exercises an inclusive will.Willful human nature is coextensive with appearances. In this way it projects an optimistically historical rather than a fatalistic and metaphysical trajectory of knowledge. It plausibly incorporates both political and ethical interests rather than setting them tragically, because mutually exclusively, against one another. In Chytry’s narrative of Greek social institutions, the realm of the aesthetic only split off from the political and the ethical again at a distinctly “metaphysical” moment in the history of the Athenian polis. At this time, the participation of particular individuals in the governance of the state ceased to be a reality of civic life. Such was the consequence of the decline of the Ionian League and the loss of Athenian independence that climaxed with Sulla’s razing of the city in 86 b.c.4 In other words, subsequent to the dissolution of a political structure,

Aesthetic Community


which promoted the particular rights of individuals as participants in power, the understanding of the aesthetic as a locus of universality displaced the understanding of the aesthetic as a locus of particularity. Painted in admittedly broad strokes, this is a story of cultural dissolution, which we might see usefully, if tragically, reprised in the waning of the Florentine Renaissance, and which Habermas influentially (following Horkheimer and Adorno) equates with the historical vicissitudes defining the movements of Romanticism and modernist formalism. Not coincidentally, these are three signal moments of Western cultural history (Renaissance humanism, English and German Romanticism, and international modernism) when artistic production resumes its antagonism with political and ethical institutions by presuming its transcendence of them, thus leading judgment back into a realm of metaphysically absolutizing mutual exclusions. I would suggest that it is precisely the dissolution of a political structure dependent on the productive acts of particular human agents that Hannah Arendt means to redress in the Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy. Her purport here is to refocus attention on the particular human agent such that agency is susceptible to universalization without succumbing to a preemptive universal.This is a defining concern of Arendt’s work beginning with The Human Condition (1958) and extending through the incomplete The Life of the Mind (1978). The Lectures (1982) remain the last clue about how this project would have been concluded. I will argue that, specifically in the Lectures, Arendt’s appropriation of the Kantian concept of “exemplary validity,” in order to bridge aesthetic judgment with political agency, rearticulates, for the late twentieth century, rudiments of the Greek political enterprise: of making judgment universalizable within a social universe that can accommodate the particular as particular. It will therefore be my contention in this chapter that the redemption of such particularity ought to be an ethical common concern of aesthetics and politics. Particularity constitutes the genealogical link between the “aesthetic state” and the aesthetic ideal of ethical community (politics) that Kant famously reformulated in the term sensus communis . 5 Sensus communis, identified with the judgment of taste in Kant’s third critique, denotes a common sense that is neither commonplace nor ahistorically universal, but constitutive-analytical of the idea of community itself. Sensus communis is therefore a resource of reflective mind that, particularly in Arendt’s reading of it, has political consequence because it elides community with the communicability of individual nature.Aptly in one of his last essays,“Perpetual Peace” (1795), Kant himself purveys


Aesthetic Reason

a notion of community that shows strong affinity with the political principle of Greek republicanism: the freedom of the members of a society “accords with the principles of the dependence of everyone on a single, common [source of] legislation (as subjects), and . . . accords with the law of the equality of them all” (“Perpetual Peace,” 112). In the following pages we shall see that as the idealism inherent in the aesthetic state or sensus communis was for the Greeks, for the Florentine Renaissance, and for Kantian idealism, so it ought to become, for the sake of contemporary debates, the preferred framework within which any discussion of the category of the aesthetic as a value-making enterprise takes place. It will not be my purpose to assert the truth or even the scholarly success of Hannah Arendt’s subsumption of Kantian aesthetics to a politics he never wrote.6 Rather, I wish to see how her reading of sensus communis gives a more general warrant for rethinking the category of the aesthetic, in light of what we might describe as the political exigencies of human judgment.This rethinking intimates a productive reckoning between the artwork and social community, such that the idea of social community may be seen to be consistent with ideals of justice and perfectibility that have long been assumed to be touchstones—albeit spiritual—of artistic truth and practice. I take Arendt’s work as emblematic of the need to respond to a world in which aesthetics and politics have succumbed to a singularly unproductive dualism, where aesthetics has been corrupted into aestheticism for the mutually destructive sake of making invidious distinctions on both sides.7 To show the urgency of a warrant for rethinking the aesthetic along such lines it will therefore be necessary to rehearse the historical reasons that precipitated the dualism.These reasons concomitantly explain the disappearance, until recently, of the ideal of the aesthetic state or sensus communis as a lever of cultural creativity.Then we shall see how Arendt’s revisionist reading of sensus communis, in Kant’s third critique, both reflects these reasons and the history that embodies them. We will furthermore see how Arendt anticipates the resurgence of the ideal of sensus communis in postmodern philosophy, and the corresponding resurgence of ethical concerns in poststructuralist literary theory, where the gap between poetics and politics has become an increasingly anxious locus of critical inquiry. I think that Arendt’s work of the 1960s and 1970s constitutes a prescient corrective to the prevailing noncognitive reconstructions of the aesthetic in the poststructuralist era. Contemporary literary criticism has given new currency to the ideal of sensus communis, but at the expense of a credible sociopo-

offer a framework for rescuing aesthetics from aestheticism. the proverbial ground of the beautiful and the locus of individual experience.” we have accepted that sense qua sensation is always multiple in our deferral to a discriminatory faculty by which we might gain a reflective purchase on it.Aesthetic Community 45 litical agency.Yet insofar as this discriminatory faculty calls each individual’s particular experience to account. the universalist consensus presupposed successively by classical. I have already noted that in the 1770s Johann Gottlieb Herder worked in the service of an emergent cognitive aesthetic to preempt such forgetfulness of the provenance of consensus in the capacity for discrimination. might lead us toward a notion of the political that has real cognitive-rationalist potential for maximizing the choice-making capacity of the members of a social community. Lyotardians. and its speculative corollary in sensus communis.As if in response to recent valorizations of an essentially disinterested and hence unreflectively pluralistic “political aesthetic. multiculturalists. It might. Since the ill-fated struggle of Neoplatonism to reconcile “intelligibles” with “sensibles. it implicitly solicits a standard of publicity and consensus.9 It is the inescapable self-contradictoriness of this proposition that has induced the consequent and recurrent alienation of the aesthetic from the political. and feminists. In other words. II If we are to approach the history of sensus communis as an encompassing of the aesthetic and the political (not a reduction of one to the other) we must begin where the classical etymology of aesthetics begins. the alienation of art from politics accrues in proportion to the tendency to ignore or forget the provenance of consensus in the capacity for discrimination (choosing) itself. which valorize pluralism at the expense of human plurality.8 Arendt’s work permits us to speculate that the category of the aesthetic. with sense. He characterized this capacity as an “apperceptive discrimination. and Romantic aesthetics has eluded the contradiction between privacy and publicity by positing in beauty or sublimity a community of judgment that lacks an effectual protocol of individual judging. neoclassical. .” promoted by Baudrillardians. Such a program would confer the ethical nature of these members with more authority than they might otherwise muster from regnant noncognitive and antirationalist agendas.” 10 In his Essay on the Origin of Language (1771). along these lines. Following Plato.

the goddess of persuasion. To put this in its richest historical perspective.13 Although in the age of its flourishing it contended with mystical counterforces abroad in Greek culture. we may extrapolate that insofar as classical and Romantic aesthetics evade a standard of communicability in judgment.12 The judgments they promulgate will tend to be objectifying rather than reflective. Herder himself became more mystically minded about the consensus forged in the judgment of taste. but by recognizing properties that distinguish objects from one another. owing to their inability to distinguish the properties of objects judged from the capacity of judgment endowed by the discursive situatedness of the judger.” Representative thinking promotes the insight that thought cannot be thought directly but only in relation to the means of our representing to ourselves that which we do not perceive—an indirection predicated on proliferating the “standpoints I have present in my mind” ( Lectures. Peitho. is a touchstone of reciprocal recognition: whatever truths may be propounded within the dialogic structure of its discourse depends upon what Hannah Arendt will call a mode of “representative thinking. But for the moment suffice it to say that the operative indirectness of eristics indexes the agonistic other. key to the republican idealism of the aesthetic state—and the concomitant ethical charge of sensus communis—because it indexes self-knowledge within a social consensus to human activity or interaction with another. they produce an impoverished social consensus. and correlatively. conceptually productive philosophy of taste. the rhetorical pragmatism of the beautiful. Recognition is. we must remember that the exemplar for this interaction with another within the Greek polis—which in turn gives us the prototype of sensus communis. I believe that this impoverished consensus is underwritten and perpetuated by a flawed concept of human self-recognition: one that is relatively unreflective insofar as it is nonreciprocal.11 This insight imposes a burden of communicability on the formation of consensus. 107). We will see shortly that Arendt qualifies the practical sociality of this idea. a fact that suggests the entailment of rhetoric in the knowledge of beauty. By this designation Herder made the point that we reflect upon experience not by recognizing properties in objects.46 Aesthetic Reason Herder wanted to distinguish a passively sense-bound connoisseurship of taste—which he associated with classical theories—from an active. in fact. . But if we confine ourselves to his pre–Sturm und Drang writings. Even more important for the argument that follows. eristics. the salient techne of sophism. albeit by Roman extraction—is the discipline of eristics or sophistic persuasiveness. was the assistant and double of Aphrodite in Athens.

This communication. one does not deliberate where ends are already known (Ethics.14 The self emerges by positing ends beyond the knowledge of self. as an aspect of human practical judgment. yet without forcing the abandonment of the teleological perspective. It is this principle that guarantees the reciprocity of recognition as a predicate of what I am calling the cognitive aesthetic. phronesis is the motor of tragic action.Teleology submits to contingency. In fact. Specifically. because its intelligibility within the scope of “representative thinking” defers strategically to another.This acceptance in turn submits to a standard of knowledge claims rendered revisable in its very implementation.The contingency of tragic fate is of course distinguished from the contingency of phronesis because phronesis. More important. phronesis is deployed in such a way that it encompasses both praxis and poetics. eristics recapitulates peripety insofar as tragedy marks the recognition of the limits of self. The practicality of phronesis follows from its situatedness in a crisis that demands action.” It intimates the idea of a world of sense—aistheta—that is potentially communitarian. both recapitulates the peripety (and anagnorisis) of Aristotelian tragedy and proffers an extension of the knowledge purveyed in tragedy. where Aristotle considers the actions that determine the quality of the good life. which Aristotle alleges “call for more deliberation than .15 This difference is critical where Aristotle stipulates the conditionality of phronesis upon a deliberative process.This will be a topos of discussion in all the ensuing chapters. the difference between art and phronesis is that art is end-bound while prudential praxis is means determinant. For Aristotle. by virtue of the priority given to communication over sensuous ecstasy. Deliberation is typically understood as the procedure by which an agent gives himself a rule through action. We can more clearly see the special affinity of eristics for the aesthetic if we realize that the principle of reversibility. as I will argue is the case in tragic drama. Its relation to art follows from the assertion that the arts (poiesis). rather than following a preconstituted rule or fate.Aesthetic Community 47 Eristics or sophism is a dialectical métier of argumentation that subsists on a highly thespic protocol of questioning “the Other. eristics extends tragic knowledge inasmuch as it is related to Aristotelian phronesis (prudential judgment). we might add. for Aristotle. 118) or. 16 As Aristotle says. in book 3 of Ethics. where they are formally necessary. depends on a structure of discursive reversibility: the sense dependent on a sign presupposes the acceptance of its (the sign’s) meaning by another. eludes the fatality of the tragic protagonist. By the same token. In that capacity it also denotes an ideal of self that emerges at the threshold of a limit. so integral to its practice.

Indeed. so to speak. they do not succumb. Only in this way will the historical urgency of Arendt’s argument be persuasive enough to credit her relevance to our moment of doubt about the political usefulness of the aesthetic.48 Aesthetic Reason the sciences.18 Interestingly. afterward. it was a philosophical stance that encouraged the leveling of the social barriers of class and ethnicity and precipitated an unprecedented level of public conflict. the tragedy that befell tragedy—most notoriously in Athens—was the institutional polarization of eristics and metaphysics. as a result of the collapse of the Ionian League and the retreat of intellectual individuality from the public sphere. while metaphysics led to contemplative reverie. But before we leap across the centuries to contemplate a remedy for this problem.19 We will recognize that this is prototypical for the alienation of praxis from poetics and devolves to the severance of the aesthetic from the life of the polis.c. we must continue to sketch the historical-institutional markers by which we can identify it as a problem that denotes a plausible continuity between classical and modern cultural crises. to that fatalistic knowledge whereby éthos is determined in a fulfillment of preordained ends. We must return. 21 The dialectical spirit thus advanced an agonistic ethos and a tide of democratization in the polis that threatened aristocratic and authoritarian social establishments. Antidemocratic forces fatefully met this threat by espousing an ideal of beauty in the place of the praxis of argument. when the result is obscure and the right course not clearly defined. It ensures the alienation of the aesthetic from the community as a locus of credible political agency. and. was legitimated within the Athenian academy as a split between the sophists and the metaphysical philosophers. the tragedy that historically befell eristics as a source of knowledge in the Greek polis.”17 Ethics and tragedy intersect here in the interest of a self-knowledge that is not self-blindingly ego-logical.” take as their field of deliberation “that which happens . like the tragic hero. eristics led human ethos in the direction of political action. such an alienation in the Greek polis sets the pattern for the alienation of politics and aesthetics that Arendt wishes to remedy by reviving the idea of sensus communis. consequently. therefore. Because this division of labor. Inasmuch as eristics and sophism promoted the rule of persuasion over passion or violence ( bia —the antagonist of Peitho) 20 as a political means. to the observation that the polarization of eristics and metaphysics occurred between the fifth and the second centuries b.This was a conveniently . . .Whatever rational “ends” are countenanced here. it had widespread practical consequence in the everyday lives of citizens.

reprised the fate of the Greek model we have just reviewed. Following the pattern of the Greek displacement of sophistical beauty with metaphysical beauty. they were likewise linked with a Greek sophistical tradition.24 But no sooner was the role of the artist equated with the creation of the state. Active reflection succumbed to a contemplative judgment. the Florentine notion of the state as a work of art drew upon a model of recognition that. Drawing upon Neoplatonist and hence nonsophistical models of the artist/creator who can impose a unity without disclosing the rules of its production.Where formerly beauty’s link to judgment denoted an exercising of participatory political rights in the practice of the art of persuasion. the eclipse of a public sphere. 23 The constitutional guarantees of the free access of citizens to the offices of the republic presuppose a reciprocity of the recognition of the civic roles of individual citizens and their representatives. the Medici promulgated an idea of the state as a work of art.22 Insofar as beauty and the patronage of art were intimately linked with this innovation of civic government.The dawn of Florentine Hellenism. than the Medician introduction of councillor government co-opted the artist’s public prestige. the importation of Neoplatonic philosophy from the east. such that the “aesthetic vision of a material city” becomes an imperative of the vita activa . . through participatory action. Leonardo Bruni’s Laudatio Florentinae Urbis (1403) is an exemplar of this ethos of civic humanism in its equating of beauty with the constitutional delegation of social powers. namely. in the early fifteenth century. would not submit to any cognitive threshold of access. displaced them into a meditative sphere. coincided with the rise of the Florentine civil state as a locus of republican activity.This ideal is of course correlative with a prevailing institutional ideal of political autonomy at the time—autocracy.Aesthetic Community 49 metaphysical truth with which to mediate social conflicts and check the decentralizing drift of power in civil society. because it was nonreciprocal. within which those rights could be exercised. sublimity and the arrogance of connoisseurship. it disappointingly gave way to the attenuated conceptuality of aestheticism.This was correlative with a new valorization of the belief that beauty was an inborn value that in turn licensed a return to feudal and monarchical forms of government. We can even better understand the difference between aesthetics and aestheticism implicit in this history by observing how the Florentine republic. Just when a practice of judgment linked to the aesthetic might have heralded something presciently akin to the Herderian prospect for a cognitive philosophy of taste (a mode of judgment pegged to the active production of concepts).

cast in the epistemic shadow of a modernity driven to abstraction by an increasingly deactivated social agency.This shift in social structure indicates the degree to which the aesthetic.26 In the absence of such practices. It is well known that Greek tragic drama was performed for citizens by citizens. is sublated into a social sentiment and rendered metaphysical. it reconstituted social community in symbolic rather than participatory terms. which characterized the relation of art to politics in terms such as “an aesthetic utopian ideal. Kant augurs for the resurgent political efficacy of the aesthetic. which at one time was composed of three thousand citizens representing diverse strata of society and enjoining reciprocal responsibilities between individuals and classes. nondemocratic political regimes. to be the next significant moment for theorizing the aesthetic state.28 By . When the Florentine Grand Council. what has been aptly called a “poetic theology. for example. comes at the expense of the constitutive roles of individuals in the very social structures that claim to be predicated upon their individuality. dramatic representation becomes a more one-sided proposition comparable to the one-sidedness of nonrepresentative.”This utopianization of sense is tantamount to the supplanting of experience with affect and attitude. attested to in the aesthetic. precisely because Kantian aesthetics holds faith with particularity as a ground of judgment. represents an antithesis of the premodern techne of Greek sophism. by contrast with what we might imagine to be a more sociable community of rational Sense.”25 Indeed. marked as it is by the convergence of aesthetic with moral doctrines. wherein the particularity of political participation is supplanted by the abstract universality of citizenship. It accommodates nothing like the social structure of the polis wherein we might. such terms demonstrate how the particularity of sense experience. soberly equate dramatic with political representation. I take Kantian aesthetics. Kant’s persistent merging of aesthetic judgment with morality (moral feeling contrasted with interested pleasure)27 tends to “de-politicize” or to “aestheticize” the ideal of sensus communis. and by invidious comparison with Aristotle and Vico. This metaphysical community of sentiment. And yet a famous problem ensues from Kant’s own universalizing imperative. gave way to councilor control. In the complex and controversial aim of sensus communis.50 Aesthetic Reason In the late Renaissance the fusing of the concept of the beautiful with the political structures of aristocratic oligarchy was completed and epitomized in treatises such as Baldassare Castiglione’s Courtier (1582). almost three hundred years after the Florentine Enlightenment. As Hans Georg Gadamer has pointed out in Truth and Method.

for her. by which so many are limited’ . 43). for her. III I anticipated in the first section of this chapter that what is lost in sacrificing cognition to aesthesis is particularly well comprehended in Hannah Arendt’s project of reading political implications into the métier of Kantian judgment. reflective judgment—which is as close as we come to a practical province of art in the third critique—is deemed by Kant to be instrumental to community precisely insofar as it is noncognitive.”While “enlarged thought” is explicitly pegged to noncognitive aesthetic judgment by Kant. the lever of a plausible politics.” of disregarding its ‘subjective private conditions . .Arendt’s reading of Kant’s text hints at a cognitive agenda latent in the communicative imperatives of enlarged thought.The incipient split between the willful agency of community and the communitarian ideal that produces the depoliticizing effect diagnosed by Gadamer ominously echoes the split between the Greek sophists and metaphysicians insofar as Kant’s moral duty seems to preclude reflective volition. has a decidedly volitional cast whereby the eschewing of “private conditions” signals the preeminence of “thinking” qua discriminatory act. shapes much of the argument of the third critique and has particular resonance in number 40. because it points up the con- . . Here the standard of disinterestedness. Gadamer wants to redeem a substantive as opposed to a merely formal notion of the ideals of beauty. so famously set as the condition of aesthetic judgment. according to Kant is not enlightened or capable of enlightenment but is in fact limiting” (Lectures. “broadened way of thinking”) which. taste. Enlarged thought provides a further springboard for Arendt’s extrapolation to politics from Kantian aesthetics. which.“On Taste as a Kind of Sensus Communis.Aesthetic Community 51 this critique. which specifically harks back to Greek and Roman civil society. It dictates that I go beyond the terms of Gadamer’s critique and negotiate this famous Kantian impasse within the purview of Hannah Arendt’s reading of Kantian judgment.The keystone of this reading is her solidarity with the Kantian goal of an “enlarged thought” (also called “enlarged mentality”. enlarged thought is the result of first “abstracting from the limitations which contingently attach to our own judgment. . It is therefore my desire in what follows to secure the potential cognitive usefulness of aesthetics as a means for rationalizing human community. . According to Arendt. In fact. and community.These imperatives constitute. .

and “preservation of the species. I would then draw an image of the scheme of a bridge which of course is already a particular bridge. 81).To compound this paradox.52 Aesthetic Reason tradictoriness of moralizing beauty. Her excursus on exemplary validity is an extension of this point:“Suppose someone comes along who does not know ‘bridge. 76). Imagination links a percept with a concept in Kantian judgment.29 “Dignity.’ and there is no bridge to which I could point and utter the word.Arendt sees this self-contradiction most clearly in terms of the tension between human dignity and human progress that is harbored within the prospect of enlarged thought. Such particularity is the sine qua non of the aesthetic.” Interesting enough.” a corollary of the aesthetic. Kant insists that the fate of the human species. especially where the discussion of the sublime in the third critique dovetails with the deontological premises for the metaphysic of morals. I have suggested that Arendt seeks to overcome the contradiction by focusing on Kant’s term “exemplary validity” as a vehicle for producing “enlarged thought. And indeed such generalizability is a crux of moral duty. just to remind him of some schema known to him such as ‘transition . the communicability of the idea of “bridging” itself serves as the exemplifying instance of her reading of exemplary validity.The point would be to escape the deontological strictures of Kantian moral duty without giving up a purchase on rational agency. which guarantees the integrity of thinking particulars. depends upon a principle of “infinite progress” actualizable only in the feats of generalization or communication.” in the bridging activity of the faculty of the imagination.This schematizing function she conspicuously characterizes as compensating for a deficit of recognition: “without a ‘schema’ one can never recognize anything” (Lectures. But she notes that to think the impetus of enlarged thought means to generalize (Lectures. are thus mutually dependent but mutually exclusive propositions.Arendt points out that the possibility of human dignity for Kant demands that human judgment (of the beautiful) be particular.” a corollary of morality/universal reason. For Arendt. Arendt specifically sees the warrant for exemplary validity in the formal necessity of the Kantian “schema. Gadamer had seen this to be the inescapable drift of Kant’s philosophy. Exemplary validity for Arendt obtains in an exigency of communication where one seeks to express an idea for which there is no concept that could solicit perception in the mode of active imagination. Arendt’s fullest account of exemplary validity charts a path from the particular to the general that secures grounds for speculating productively on the prospects for bridging the gap between art and politics.

Interestingly.“On Beauty as a Symbol of Morality” (Critique of Judgment. understood to be analogous with a schema. I believe that this prompts us to see the potential for reading a reciprocity (adequation) of recognition into Kantian schematization (adequacy) and hence into exemplary validity. 84). I will furthermore suggest that Arendt’s reticence about marking the significance of both the Kantian symbol and reciprocity as aspects of exemplary validity weakens the argumentative force of her own account of exemplary validity. both schema and symbol are examples of Kantian hypoty- . Curiously enough she characterizes this section of the third critique as a discussion of schema in which Kant solves the problem of combining universals with particulars that otherwise—in the absence of a cogent account of schematization—remains intractable. In order to fully appreciate the thrust of Arendt’s thinking here however. as Arendt implies. She notes that the act of thinking the particular itself impels Kant to find a tertium quid to mediate the otherwise incommensurable registers of general and particular knowledge involved by such thinking (Arendt. however. such that no particular is adequate to its concept and no concept is adequate to the imagination’s power of adducing particulars. the particular bridge. it helps to remember that her original impetus for an exposition of exemplary validity seems to derive from her reading of section 59 of Kant’s third critique. then. my emphasis). is this tertium quid. Lectures. will be to complement her reading of exemplary validity. the real force of Arendt’s reading of section 59 depends paradoxically on our knowing that section 59 itself is not given over preeminently to an exposition of schema.Aesthetic Community 53 from one side of the river to the other’” (83. My task.The example. For my purposes. in order to buttress her claim for its importance vis-à-vis a political aesthetic precisely where her own conclusions do not fully justify the claim. but to mastering a distinction between schema and Kantian symbol. More important it does so without any concessions to the unsituated intelligibility or the metaphysical adequacy of the metaphor of the bridge itself. exemplary validity seems to make the threshold of knowledge tantamount to a mode of linkage between particulars that effectively bridges the distance between particulars and universals. exemplary validity seems to denote the dependency of the concept upon a transition between particulars. 76). For Kant. because Arendt makes the particularity of the bridge an irreducible feature of its conceptualization.The distinction between schema and symbol itself entails a strong intimation of this reciprocity. As we shall see more explicitly later.

Courage is like Achilles” (Lectures.31 Neither is it a deduction from the experience of particulars that would transcend the register of particularity from whence deduction originates. one is a direct and the other an indirect representation of a concept. 43). Kant means that “[s]ymbolic exhibition uses an analogy (from which we use empirical intuitions as well). Kant goes to considerable lengths to explain the latter. and then it applies the mere rule by which it reflects on that intuition to an entirely different object of which the former object is only the symbol” (227). 77).As Arendt puts it. it makes sense to note that Arendt equates the access to enlarged mentality with the imperative to “train one’s imagination to go visiting” (Lectures. 226). We are meant to understand that insofar as the presentational power of the symbol (which is a vehicle for “our reflection” [228]) depends on a “transfer of our reflection.54 Aesthetic Reason posis. Like the symbol. exemplary validity would seem to depend instead on an interaction (hence training—in other words. By indirect representation. It is not an image in itself. denotes a direct relation between a concept formed by the understanding and our intuition of it. according to Kant. By contrast symbolic hypotyposis entails the application of the rule that conditions our reflection on an intuition “to an entirely different object.” our reflective purchase inheres as a condition of transition between particulars. imagination goes visiting) that . In the cases of schema and symbol. exemplary validity plausibly facilitates this “training” in the following way.The exemplary image of exemplary validity has a different status.While Kantian beauty is an end in itself.” It thus imputes a transitional linkage between particulars that I would compare with the bridging function already imputed to exemplary validity. to which all experience must conform. Hypotyposes render a concept sensible (Critique of Judgment. Following from Kant’s distinction between the schema and the symbol. eschewing cognitive linkage with other instances of beauty. in which judgment performs a double function: it applies the concept to the object of a sensible intuition. Schematic hypotyposis.30 In light of what I have just observed about the affinity of exemplary validity with symbolic hypotyposis. the presentation of an image that is the crux of exemplary validity does not depend on the status of the image as a kind of Platonic ideal.“This exemplar is and remains a particular that in its very particularity reveals the generality that otherwise could not be defined. Kant’s well-known exemplification of the principle of symbolic exhibition is as follows: a monarchy ruled by constitutional law would be presented as an animate body and a monarchy ruled by an absolute power would be presented by a machine such as a hand mill (227).

In the existing text of the Lectures. . .This in turn conditions the political efficacy of human community. We will remember that in the case of the Kantian symbol it is similarly the reflection on whatever rule presents the image (intuition) to a concept that is material to the intelligibility of that image. But on the same page Arendt also links communicability with Kantian reflective judgment. each new table adduced as possessing exemplary validity. For Arendt. as implicit in symbolic hypotyposis. Arendt asserts that what makes particulars communicable “is that in perceiving a particular we have in the back of our minds . reflective judgment—understood as the act of “bringing [the particular per se] to a concept” as opposed to “subsuming [it] under a concept”—gives exemplary validity its strong purchase on communicability. She puts her emphasis on the example as something that is temporally prior to the meaning it exemplifies: “this particular table is valid for all particular tables” (Lectures. recognition in light of) another particular.The insufficiency of the image to itself determines its articulation with (that is. . rather than granting the adequacy of the image independent of the agencies of its use. Arendt herself stops short of articulating this understanding in these terms. . 83).This mandates generalizability without succumbing to a historically inert generalization. exemplary validity conjures an activity of making the image adequate.After all. the vita activa is strategically integral . insofar as the criterion of validity subtly changes with each new particular. then Arendt’s argument may appear to suffer less glaringly from internal contradictions. 83).Aesthetic Community 55 has no generalizable end except the enlargement of the community of knowledge it instantiates. and . This of course evokes a decidedly nonreciprocal recognition tantamount to the subsuming of particularity under a concept. If we can equate the communicability she privileges here with the notion of exemplary validity as an activity of adequation rather than a conceptually preemptive standard of adequacy (determinant concept). In this case the imagination is trained to go visiting. .What she misses here is the fact that recognition of the table as “valid” is the condition for a reciprocity of recognition. so to speak. that this schema is in the back of the minds of many different people” (83). for example. as invidiously distinct from determinant judgment with its irreversible subsuming of the particular under a concept.32 Arendt is quick to point out that this makes the intelligibility of the image equivalent to its communicability (Lectures.That is. Her argument will be seen to show stronger solidarity with the vita activa. . by virtue of the insufficiency of the image to itself. a ‘schema’ .

Arendt’s postscript on imagination intimates precisely what her discussion of exemplary validity at the conclusion of the Lectures does not: that the exemplarity of exemplary validity is communicable only because the recognition of it is reciprocal. 84. in her other mature works. Their counting as examples is a function of their linkage. But when she appends a requirement of right choice. . Although this imperative of choice appears as a kind of postscript to the Lectures proper—a coda entitled “Imagination”—I believe that it indicates Arendt’s interest in a reflective aspect of judgment. Arendt herself stipulates that exemplarity is something that is made (“we . she goes beyond Kant to intimate that we are led in turn to lead.35 If exemplarity is contingent on a multiplicity of contextual imperatives (particularly if we must choose .Accordingly. .” Arendt seems to conjure the very recognition of a recognition as valid to be key to its efficacy. In the caveat of “right choice. proceed to make it ‘exemplary’” [ Lectures. Rather. the name Napoleon only exemplifies the qualities that are constitutive in the person when they are recognized in successive instantiations of what would count as examples (Lectures. my emphasis). She seems to abandon the deliberative sphere of action that her sense of the political would otherwise seem to depend upon for its historical efficacy.Arendt retreats problematically in the direction of the vita contemplativa. When she affirms that examples lead us and guide us she is strictly in step with Kant’s more deontological doctrine of moral duty. “has exemplary validity to the extent that the example is rightly chosen” (Lectures.56 Aesthetic Reason to the historical precedents that she adduces for a political aesthetic going back to the Greek polis. upon which judgment presumes. 85]). This may take us several steps toward mitigating the fact that. 84). Right choice demands extending a maxim to cover a multiplicity of cases such that what is being exemplified is both reflected and reflected upon as a reflection: for example.The constraint of the recognition of recognition—which I believe is implicit in the requirement that exemplary validity satisfy a standard of “right choice”—depends of course upon taking the mandate to train the imagination to go visiting as the driving insight behind Arendt’s politicization of Kant.33 Arendt herself gives us the strongest impetus to assert this equation of exemplary validity with an activity of adequation/reciprocal recognition in her striking claim that the exemplary particular.34 It mitigates the appearance elsewhere in this text that the concept of exemplary validity is collapsible into the schematic priority of the example (mere adequacy). rendering the content of exemplification an effectively cumulative rather than a strictly intuitional phenomenon.

Aesthetic Community 57 rightly).” Interestingly. But only by reading exemplary validity in this way does Arendt’s grasp of aesthetic judgment accommodate precisely what. Without saying so explicitly. . In other words. Lectures. at the end of the Lectures. phronesis promulgates a protocol of deliberation or training insofar as it forces a reconciliation of discrete temporal moments and contexts through a perforce. She makes the actual transition from particular to particular the condition of a virtual generality. if it is contingent on a proliferation of cases. We “go visiting. So I would admit that my construal of the implications of exemplary validity in some ways goes against the grain of Kantian beauty. 77). As we have seen already. however. as with Kantian morality. on judging. then the judgment it facilitates appears to have at least as much affinity with Aristotelian phronesis. would have been a return to the concept of history (Arendt.36 In this connection Ronald Beiner points out that the destination of Arendt’s final projected volume of The Life of the Mind. by stressing the virtuality of the general. by this course of reasoning. This speculation is supported in Arendt’s own postscriptum to the first volume.” so to speak. namely. Arendt’s Lectures break off with an acknowledgment of the difficulty of sustaining the contradiction that “[i]t is against human dignity [particularity] to believe in progress [generality]” (Lectures. a solution to the original contradiction between the particularity of dignity (a basis of cognitive experience) and the generality of progress (a noncognitive basis of experience). It thus constitutes a solicitude of others. on thinking. It is as if she seeks an alternative that she cannot supply out of the resources of her own argument. Arendt suggests.The backward glance of the historian would seem to be the logical corollary of that pragmatism. rule-generative practice of judging.As we have seen.Arendt understands quite well that Kantian beauty must be posited as an end in itself “—without linkage . I do not deny that what is purveyed here privileges precisely that modality of linkage between instances of judgment that is anathema to Kantian beauty. insofar as this reconciliation cannot be conceptualized independent of our inhabiting particular standpoints other than our own. 131). where she alleges an etymological link . . to other beautiful things. she fears will be lost in the capitulation of dignity to progress: “[a] point at which we might stand still and look back with the backward glance of the historian” (77). the alternative Arendt seeks here involves some mode of linkage if her proposed assimilation of the aesthetic to the political is to have the pragmatic consequence implied by her dual emphasis on exemplary validity and enlarged mentality.

Kant holds quite rightly that the literal assumption of another’s point of view is as fatefully prejudicial as closing oneself up in a personal standpoint. Kant’s requirement for achieving a general standpoint is seen to be just as self-deceiving as a blindly empathic identification with another: after all. Kant of course does not want to be misunderstood to be advocating mere empathy. 44)—as in pass through—the particular conditions of any discrete standpoint. I am suggesting that Arendt’s valorization of exemplary validity as a crux of . since one would still be bound within a nongeneralizable circumstance. Lectures.39 unless the imperative for the imagination to go visiting (to move from particular to general) is to be rendered as antinomical as dignity and progress. is “‘to inquire in order to tell how it was’” (Life of the Mind. 43–44). the deontological self that Kant admonishes to adopt the general standpoint is at odds with the requirement to go through particular conditions of knowledge in any credibly pragmatic way (Arendt. if we solicit recognition. For it intimates specific terms according to which the imagination might “go visiting” in a realm where the “general [or universal] standpoint” is coherent with the world of appearances—the world where Kantian judgment itself is securely anchored. It was an admonition to take another’s point of view. not unlike that of Theorein.58 Aesthetic Reason between the judge and the historian that follows the logic of exemplary validity itself. He is careful to insist that one can only take another’s point of view with respect to a notion of one’s self as constituting the limit that one must go through to arrive at the more “general standpoint” (the standpoint of the other). 5).The mandate of Historein.The historian. by relating to the past. which prompted us to go visiting in the first place. within Arendt’s purview.” Significantly. is bound to sit in judgment of it.The juxtaposition of the activity of inquiry with the activity of telling promulgates the Kantian ideal of a “general standpoint. One cannot move into another’s consciousness.The active stance of the imperative to “go through” seems to be the crux of the matter. My position is that one could not meaningfully go through without soliciting recognition. 38 Nevertheless. in the Lectures. was tantamount to an admonition against prejudicial attitudes. On the contrary. Indeed. In other words.37 We might recall in this context that the aim of the enlarged mentality.This formulation contains the strong inference that every particular standpoint is thereby reconstituted retrospectively by transition to a new set of particular conditions. Arendt approaches this general standpoint by formulating the imperative to “go through” (Lectures. we in effect concede a cognitive scope (enlarged mentality) for noncognitive ideals (general standpoint).

I think Ronald Beiner correctly points out that. The vicissitudes of this idealism can perhaps best be indicated by Arendt’s own concession in The Human Condition: that Kant makes the faculty of judgment inherently tragic because he never resolves the antinomy of dignity and progress. dignity and so on and a view of judgment as noncognitive. on how to keep faith with the ideals of Kant’s exemplary validity and enlarged mentality (as Arendt wishes to do).41 Human action inevitably “falls into the determinism of natural laws” and judgment “cannot penetrate the secret of absolute reality” (Human Condition. enlarged mentality. of the cognitive and the noncognitive. 75). . Arendt was forced to expel judging from the world of the vita activa.40 We might speculate.This of course entails surrendering the rigid dichotomy between cognitive and noncognitive dimensions of experience. in the guises of representative thinking. . which she ultimately justifies in terms of the Kantian valorization of disinterested spectatorship. . yet it remains the mental faculty that verges most closely upon the worldly activities of man.Aesthetic Community 59 Kantian judgment reorients us to the Kantian contradiction between dignity and progress.Arendt is abandoning what was in the earlier installments of Life of the Mind a productive tension between a view of judgment as cognitive. such that we can contemplate a modification of the Kantian position. Arendt establishes a plausible relation between the cognitive dimension of dignity and the noncognitive. to which it maintains a natural affinity. She abdicates any effectual analytics of this tragedy by pointedly abandoning the vita activa (which had been the impetus of The Human Condition) for the vita contemplativa. 235 n. concept of judgment. Unfortunately. . 140) . The upshot is that her more systematic reflection on the nature of judging resulted in a much narrower . In my mind Beiner realistically assesses the costs of resolving these terms: Arendt tries to overcome this tension [at the end of Lectures] by placing judgment squarely within the life of the mind.Arendt finesses the difficulty by making a virtue of necessity. without succumbing to the methodological impasses that. . (Lectures. in this move. disinterestedness and infinite progress. in the guises of retrospective judgment. which Kant adamantly maintains.Arendt indicates. therefore. deontological dimension of progress by treating the imperative to go through and to go visiting as a strictly historical phenomenon. By adhering to a firm disjunction between mental and worldly activities. reveal these ideals to be significant in the first place.

Arendt’s viewpoint promulgates an ethically and reflectively useless corollary of Aristotelian catharsis. the role of “awestruck spectatorship” it fosters would seem to be a profoundly inapt response to human tragedy.They will give us an exemplification of going through that is not effectively a going outside of the historical. which Arendt must cross in her extrapolation of a Kantian politics from the judgment of taste.60 Aesthetic Reason I now want to show how this expulsion of judgment from the world of the vita activa constitutes an evasion of the tragedy of judgment. in keeping with the gist of argument to this point. In this case the storytelling function of tragedy. 42 In light of Arendt’s own political interests. cognitive situation of tragic experience.Arendt herself sees that in the peripetic structures of tragic drama. In this way they may both be seen as instrumental to reconceptualizing the goal of sensus communis as the responsible political enterprise that was intimated in Arendt’s own gloss on exemplary validity.This resignation is tantamount to the acceptance of an antinomy between dignity and progress. she concedes what Paul Ricoeur calls the “unanalyzable mixture of constraints of fate and deliberate choices” (Oneself as Another. thinking becomes judging insofar as it [thinking] returns to the world of appearances to reflect on particulars. which I alleged Arendt intimates but does not herself articulate. I now want to speculate how the cognitive aesthetic. Contrarily. with emphasis on the traditions of Greek tragedy. may be duly articulated by a social theorizing that desists from treating human tragedy as a mode of resignation to an “unanalyzable mixture” of fate and choice. So.As such. and to aesthetic judgment in particular. . the theoretical perspective with which I now propose to complement Arendt’s stance toward judgment will be seen to suffice insofar as it deepens our understanding of what would be entailed in restoring a protocol of reciprocal recognition—derived from paradigms of tragic emplotment—to the project of judgment generally.44 It goes without saying that this world of appearances is the threshold of the aesthetic. In her demurring from the vita activa. which Arendt herself professed to value for its capacity to renew human agency through reversal43—a prototypical “going through”—could be shown to have cognitive consequences consistent with Arendt’s earliest stake in political agency. where the province of judgment remained the vita activa. 242) at the heart of tragedy.

it posits ends beyond the knowledge of self. and of poiesis in general.Tragic catharsis otherwise compels us to confront these differences without rational recourse. I have already noted how. because the tragic self emerges on the threshold of a limit. G. Furthermore. Buxton further emphasizes that the name of the deity Peitho evokes the susceptibility of all action (praxis) to the Pythagorean maxim: where two antithetical sides of an issue present themselves— the site of catharsis—there is an inexorable third term. A. I would assert that this is conceivable as a nontranscendental posit in tragedy. For it defers to another positing agent in the reversibility of fate denoted by catharsis. precisely in its structural emphasis on catharsis. . elicits a detachment and disinterestedness from practical experience that is altogether comparable to the stance of the Kantian judge of beauty. knowledge from universality—we can begin to see what might be gained from resituating that goal (sensus communis) in the framework of Greek tragic knowledge specifically. Buxton’s account of Greek tragic drama and its relation to the art of persuasion. As we saw earlier. and which we shall see in a moment is strictly antithetical.Aesthetic Community 61 IV If the ideal of sensus communis is inhibited by the failure to make recognition reciprocal—which I see as corollary to the split of dignity from progress. Likewise in Greek tragedy. reason from duty. recognition is keyed to reconciling the form of human fate with the exigencies of human understanding.The equation of catharsis with irrationality has perpetuated the idea that tragedy. to both the cult of Peitho and the efficacy of persuasive praxis in overcoming radical (noncognitive) differences. Hence we have the modern imputation of the political impotence of tragic drama in particular. Such detachment would of course presuppose the rigid distinction between cognitive and noncognitive modes that we have been resisting.45 This fact mitigates the popular conception that catharsis is a blind access to the irrational. In Greek tragedy. recognition is strictly conducive to reciprocity. We must note that in R. he intimates an affinity of catharsis—the structural core of tragic experience—with sophistic modes of argumentation promulgated within the cult of Peitho.This term arises not logically but discursively from the recognition of contradiction: which is perforce the threshold of discursivity itself. this implication of the intersubjective substrate of tragedy is consistent with the social and cultural imperatives of its Greek prototype.

Within Buxton’s discussion of the cult of Peitho as a cultural underpinning of Greek tragic drama. it portends an intersubjective dynamic that thwarts finality of argument. It is for this reason that I want to suggest that tragedy ought to be seen as inducing sensus communis. One of the tenets of Peitho most famously attacked in Plato’s “Gorgias”46 is the ongoingness of reasonability in debate. the standard of Peitho/persuasion belies the metaphysical limit of absolute otherness or impasse otherwise implicit in tragic fate where catharsis is deemed to mark only the collision of incommensurable wills. it is self- . but as a condition of the solicitude that tragic experience reveals. already charts a parallel rhetorical path. in its discursive effectivity. as an anxiety about the possibility of mutual recognition of equality. we might now contemplate the possibility that sensus communis is a social ideal that. My point is that this need not be seen as inducing the relativity of infinite differences. For where the power of Peitho does not submit to a higher logos. Its reversibility follows as a ratio of effectivity and discursivity.62 Aesthetic Reason It is after all precisely this distinction between cognitive and noncognitive protocols of experience that we have seen Arendt maintain at the cost of her desire to assimilate aesthetics to politics in sensus communis. By the same token. such contextual recognition is compatible with a principle of reversibility. not as an end in itself. putting sensus communis and tragedy into a potentially dialectical relation. Arendt herself might have seen as an overcoming of differences compatible with tragic Peitho. where all questions about the self are predicated on the disposition of another to give an intelligible answer.This solicitude is especially pertinent to tragedy conceived under the influence of eristics and Peitho. namely.We would thereby be led to construe tragedy not simply as the misrecognition of the other—the impasse of deliberative action—but. in the test of exemplary validity. Furthermore. This follows from the fact that every solicitation is modified. we may more positively construe it as the reconciliation of differences within historically provisional frameworks of consensus. Because Peitho makes persuasion depend on a recognition that must be solicited across a boundary of difference and a threshold of inequality. Rather. barring the distinction between cognitive and noncognitive modes. her linking of sensus communis to a standard of communicability. the deferral of final truths. where dialogue is an imperative of the recognition of differences. in a more Hegelian mode. which such misrecognition arouses. After all. we can imagine how this anxiety is both conditioned by and appealable through a contextualization of selfrecognition. Consequently. so as to augment its discursivity.

As I have anticipated.The opposition Peitho/bia recurs in Greek oratory as well as tragedy where Peitho proffers an antidote to violence from above (tyranny) and is correlative to nomos (tradition) as an antidote to violence from below (mob rule). The determinateness of negating consciousness. is the telos of Hegelian tragedy. That this stance of solicitude has social institutional ramifications. since the efficacy of rule depends on its acceptability. as if its universality with respect to the other could be presupposed.” which. There is a complex set of reasons why this is unacceptable to Hegel. Hegelian tragedy has the function of binding private and public realms.49 As is the case in the Greek prototype. . in other words. imply the irreversibility (contra peripeteia) of human actions. 670). while it “determines from itself alone.Aesthetic Community 63 regulating in its very ongoingness.” which is the “circle . It is an artifact of an irreducible. its publicity. reconciliation here is a rhetorical. 50 This inevitability obtains in the necessity to act from a law of subjective moral consciousness. in this capacity. by no small coincidence. by contrast with forgiveness. For presupposed within it is the idea that one cannot have community of rule (nomos) without recognition (Peitho) of it. Again. one cannot have recognition without rule. Hegelian tragedy assumes the inevitability of the individual’s trespass against others in the exercise of personal will. . Sensibility. because inexhaustible. following Greek precedent. .That is. by the same token. social praxis that bears further fruitful comparison with Aristotelian phronesis. the stance of solicitude implicit in persuasion is at once temporally determinate and temporally open-ended in its very dialogic dimension. within which determinateness as such falls” (654). not a metaphysical. within the worldview fostered by tragic knowledge. proposition. Indeed the pair Peitho/nomos intimates something like the dynamic of reciprocal recognition I wish to elicit from tragedy.” depends for its content on “sensibility. is furthermore evident in Buxton’s characterization of the realm of Peitho as a key site of interaction between public and private arenas. But. For Hegel. But for Hegel such presuppositions constitute a cardinal “hypocrisy” (Phenomenology of Mind. tragic catharsis seen only as misrecognition would.48 There is a striking analogy to the “stance of solicitude” limned above with Hegel’s well-known ideal of “forgiveness. without which violence and the mutual exclusiveness of private and public arenas would be inevitable.47 This interaction was posited by the Greeks in the highly conventionalized opposition of Peitho to violence (bia) where we understand violence to be a touchstone of the radical difference that instantiates tragedy.

by contrast with self-consciousness is. 51 Furthermore. is socially mediated in the imperatives of Sittlichkeit.That is.All this goes to say that tragedy harbors a beneficent insight about the social dynamics of self-knowledge that. In deference to Sittlichkeit. paradoxically as mutually exclusive and mutually dependent. the correlation of Hegelian action (difference and distance) with a slippage between ideal conditions of knowledge and the actualization of knowledge. Just as important.64 Aesthetic Reason entails a gesture toward the physical world that. for Hegel. we must note that Hegelian forgiveness prompts us to conclude that where tragedy is conceived of as an impasse of action. For this reason it requires forgiveness. As such. only the phenomenon of forgiveness yields access to. required a remedial understanding: that moral selfconsciousness involves a revaluation of the subjectivity of consciousness.52 Such a judgment demands a compromise of competing perspectives. It thus appeals to a standard of knowledge yet to be articulated. namely. I believe that this insight is most perspicuously signaled for us in the necessity to think that where the subject of Hegelian action trespasses against another. This slippage would be a necessary constraint of any social self-understanding conditioned by the original Hegelian distinction between selfconsciousness and conscience: under that constraint the identity of self-consciousness is ironized by the contingency of conscience. Hegel characterized the hypocrisy of taking subjectivity for objectivity as a kind of indulgent aestheticism. This is the birth of “conscience. however. it constitutes a de facto injury to the other. it also acknowledges an inexorable slippage between the ideal conditions of knowledge presupposed within the self and the actualizable claims of knowledge dictated by its social situatedness (Sittlichkeit).” Conscience. 658). or social situatedness (651. since they must otherwise be accepted. . the other can only speak of the wrong done to him or her in a language that assumes the inadequacy of the knowledge of the trespasser. according to the Hegelians. for Hegel. reality [because it is] the moment of being recognized by others” (650). potentially militates against the fatalism of tragedy: Hegel comprehends that the necessarily discursive determination of tragedy is mandated in the elision of substance and recognition. that other can only speak in a mode of solicitude. . a conflict of perspectives. Precisely because subjective conscience is determined by the difference and distance obtaining in intersubjective action. the “substance in which the act secures .The concept of “the beautiful soul.” which he judged to be symptomatic of this aestheticism. they would be unacceptably inde- .

But in this case undoing would still constitute a dutiful doing. be confined to one single deed from which could never recover” (Human Condition.The slippage between ideal conditions of knowledge and actualizable knowledge claims devolves to a dutiful reciprocity of recognition at least insofar as one presupposes the other as its necessary but unfulfillable condition of intelligibility. Arendt furthermore pegs forgiveness to an intersubjective “plurality” (237).This compromise of perspectives in turn acknowledges that “perfect knowledge” must therefore be a variable of the inherent variability of the conditions for imagining it. released from the consequences of what we have done. above all. Here we conjure the sense of sensus communis out of a potential for judgment that remains within the constraints of knowledge and experience that instantiated it.This is specifically achieved by submitting it to a further constraint of contextuality. not irreversibility) what has been done in the realm of human action.53 There is both in the condition of changing one’s mind and in the condition of acceding to an intersubjective publicity—if we accept these as intrinsic elements of tragedy—precisely the possibility I imagined earlier: that the burden of tragedy is. Contrary to the notion of tragic catharsis.”Arendt observes. understood as a terminal or nonnarrative misrecognition that does not offer scope for this variability. 237). to establish a standard of recontextualization for human self-understanding that obviates any strong distinction between cognitive and noncognitive experience. Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition evokes this Hegelian appreciation of forgiveness—which she calls a “redemption from the predicament of irreversibility”—as a “constant willingness to change [one’s] mind and start again” (240). Hegelian forgiveness proffers the possibility of undoing (reversibility. in direct refutation of the common charge that Hegelian forgiveness is hopelessly monosubjective. our capacity to act would.“Without being forgiven.Aesthetic Community 65 terminate. as it were. a redemption from the “predicament of irreversibility. implicitly sanctioned in forgiveness. The force of this discussion of Arendt/Hegel on the subject of forgiveness furthermore intimates that in pursuing a rational consensus (sensus communis) based on forgiveness we would in fact be obliged to conscientiously blur the distinction between cognitive and noncognitive modalities of experience: only in this way can catharsis be a mode of self-transcendence. we might speculate that the impetus to blur the distinction between cognitive and noncognitive registers of knowledge. On this basis. ought to be a necessary condition . Only in this way can it be a release from the consequences of our actions.

Geuss in fact sees the possibility of “freer” recognition as a ratio of ideal conditions and perfect knowledge. says Geuss. has called the “freeing” of recognition from self-deceiving constraint. Geuss reminds us of the strong continuity between my advancement of a cognitive aesthetic and the legacy of post-Enlightenment expressivist thinkers—from Hegel and Nietzsche in the nineteenth century to Freud and Adorno in the twentieth. our pursuit of self-interest compels us to confront the incommensurability between our idealizations of knowledge and the less-than-perfect conditions under which such ideals could be imagined or realized. in that conflictual encounter with the “Other” that is also and inexorably the expressive threshold of human action. which prompted our consideration of tragedy in the first place. Another way of understanding the deliberate blurring of distinctions between cognitive and noncognitive knowledge as a positive social practice consistent with the recognition value of tragedy is to put it in terms of what Raymond Geuss. Critical theory. in The Idea of a Critical Theory. this ratio exists in lieu of a tenacious double bind. Such a project would be alternative to the evasion of society that otherwise looms in Arendt’s ultimate willingness to treat tragedy as a necessary sacrifice of the vita activa to the vita contemplativa. But he concedes that “to be in ‘optimal conditions’ is not only to be in conditions of freedom but also not to lack any relevant knowledge. however.They take the human propensity for self-deception to be the tragic circumstance upon which artistic and philosophical enterprises must subsist. as I have already proposed. In other words. arises from the need to escape the inherently tragic circumstance of being unable to recognize what our real interests are. we see the idea of sensus communis not as an end in itself but as the condition of solicitude that tragedy reveals.Thus the aesthetic determinant embedded in sensus communis might be elucidated as a socially constructive response to tragedy. Geuss points out that knowing our real interests depends on the possible convergence of perfect (ideal) knowledge with optimal conditions for attaining such knowledge. For Geuss. We cannot be fully free without having perfect knowledge.This he takes to be the cardinal aim of critical theory.This way of thinking satisfies our previously stated desire to elude the inherent tragedy of judgment where the rigid distinction between cognitive dignity and noncognitive progress is maintained. This would be emphatically the case if. nor acquire perfect knowledge unless we . very much like the relationality that governs in Hegelian forgiveness and tragedy.66 Aesthetic Reason for speculating pragmatically upon the prospects for sensus communis/the aesthetic state.

the knowledge of what we don’t know in this case is “enough to recognize how we might act to abolish some of the coercion [ignorance of conditions] from which we suffer and move closer to optimal conditions of freedom and knowledge” (54). and to perpetuate the very violent incommensurability of perspectives that tragedy otherwise seems designed to avert. This reasoning makes what Ricoeur accepted as the “tragic unanalyzability” of fate and choice promulgated in catharsis amenable to analysis. . But this would neutralize the temporal/narrative praxis of tragic recognition that I have alleged to be the salient determinant of self-knowledge in the previous episodes of this argument. by contrast. construed in this case as a freeing of recognition from the limiting cases of knowledge. by contrast. To grant the constraint of unanalyzability. In effect the moral charge of critical theory. is not an appeal to a far-from-optimal freedom per se —where knowledge departs from experience—but a conscientious elaboration of the experiential protocols of recognition (knowledge) that denote the prospect for such freedom. Insofar as knowledge of real interests here concedes the asymmetry of perfect knowledge and ideal conditions.This would consign its meaning to the solipsistic sensuous registers of tragic spectacle and visual gestalt. Quite to the contrary. 54). would be to reduce the aesthetic dimension of tragedy to the counterrationalistic caricature of its most politically minded critics: in other words. Geuss’s way out of the double bind is disarmingly to accept it.After all. the only available alternative would seem. Moreover it supplants the connoisseur’s metaphysically inclined standard of artistic perfection with a more political standard of prospective perfectibility. In this way thought crosses a threshold of activity. to require the mediating office of a third term. it also seems to demand their reciprocity. to catharsis per se. qua appearance. to be unthinkable.54 In this way analysis is made equivalent to a choice-making activity. namely.Aesthetic Community 67 live in conditions of complete freedom” (Idea of a Critical Theory. a faculty for marking differentiations. but to stipulate expressivistic terms for this acceptance: though we may not live in the utopia of judgment that self-knowledge requires. my contention from the start of this chapter was that aesthetics must be seen as a constraint to think what in catharsis appears. In this way it better serves a Herderian aim of making the sensuous counter of visual spectacle more dialectical with cognitive decision making.This course of action ratifies Herder’s censure of the elision of sensuous with noncognitive experience that occurs within the protocols of art connoisseurship.

however. Or. of course. Rather. In other words. we might think of the artwork as producing a regimen of training in reciprocal recognition. it is the strongest warrant for seeking the cognitive aesthetic I have been adducing in this chapter. to full consciousness changes them. the epistemic principles are “theirs” in the sense that they can be brought to recognize these principles as a good rational reconstruction of conceptions underlying their behavior. the basic assumption of the critical theory is that simply bringing certain attitudes. in the recent parlance of Albrecht Wellmer.As Geuss explains. With this warrant I have tried to meet the demand of Arendt’s project for a political judgment of taste/sensus communis without incurring the liabilities that arise from the deontological bias she shares with Kant in pursuit of that end. this description itself is proleptic. But. 94) I would say that the difference between teaching and teaching to go visiting is captured in this account of prolepsis as a potential aesthetic tenet insofar as Geuss understands how the field of choices from which we solicit recognition expands in proportion to the knowledge possessed: where the proleptic status of such knowledge is stipulated as knowledge of what we do not know . as if to satisfy the demands articulated in Plato’s infamous disenfranchisement of art. we go visiting when we formulate the interests of others—upon which the freeing of recognition depends—because such a formulation entails a conscientious prolepsis. it means we propose to draw a distinction between the Platonist version of aesthetics as teaching “the truth” (which devolves to uncritical moralizing and varieties of political repression) and what we may now call an “Arendtian” version of the aesthetic as expressly teaching imagination to go visiting. in formulating the interests of others we may impose upon them a determinateness they didn’t before possess. . (Idea of a Critical Theory.55 For such teaching constitutes an activity (praxis) within which the political remains a contingency of the historical. . behavioral patterns etc. beliefs.68 Aesthetic Reason The privileging of knowledge over perfection here does not mean. that aesthetics is subsumed to philosophy once and for all. Specifically.When I describe the epistemic principles of the “addressed” agents from which the critical argument begins. For with this stipulation the . . The “freeing” of recognition that I have postulated as the project of tragedy and that I see as consistent with Geuss’s “idea of critical theory” helps us to draw precisely this distinction between merely didactic teaching and teaching to go visiting.

it might now be fair to say that the real sensus communis of tragedy is that common sense of anxiety about prospects for the equality of recognition from which we all suffer. the interests for which we cannot acknowledge cogent motive) is. not destructive. is the task that I have tried to promulgate here. .This procedural imperative is what is at stake in the prospect of teaching the imagination to go visiting..e. we are conceding a communitarian interest where a change of consciousness is perforce constitutive. not a standard of truth (an exigency of ontology). When we are asking for acceptance. lends itself to procedures of self-recognition based on freer choice-making.This “enlarged mentality” is purveyed in tragedy and in the paradigm of reciprocal recognition that tragedy imposes upon aesthetics. which expresses that anxiety. Indeed.To confront this anxiety without seeking to allay it. coterminous with the cognitive prospects for the augmented scope of reflection. It is perhaps the most pragmatic intimation of what the idea of aesthetic community can bring to the enterprise of social conscience. It is predicated on a real instead of a virtual intersubjectivity. I would now argue.We can reasonably call it a mode of visiting because prolepsis dictates that any reconciliation between self and other arising from it is understood to be constrained by a standard of acceptability (an exigency of time). of social identity.Aesthetic Community 69 knowledge of what we don’t know remains a yet rationalizable contingency rather than a stigmatically irrational misrecognition. The change of consciousness that Geuss solicited as the recognition of “how we might act to abolish the coercions” implicit in what we don’t know (i. but only to make it more cogent. I have tried to show how the attitude of solicitude.


—Hannah Arendt. In this way. who want to abdicate the presentational field of the artwork in favor of a political battlefield. in the German idealist valorizations of art as universal or Spiritual (allegorical appearance). even as the balance is now being tipped by the partisans of a vehement anti-aesthetic. The Human Condition To scrute together with the inscrutable face. it is alleged. Ill Said I The realm of appearance has always been a well-worn threshold of the aesthetic. or in the objectifying canons of modernist formalism (instantiating appearance). —Samuel Beckett. Ill Seen. the aesthetic evades the very social conflicts that must consequently be made all the more urgently apparent . it does not survive the actuality of the movement which brought it into being. . Appearance remains the fulcrum of debate about the relevance of artistic practice and appreciation in postmodern culture. The anti-aesthetic sentiment voiced by historicist and materialist literary criticism advocates subordinating the aesthetic to the project of salvaging the public sphere (and its correlative political agencies) from an increasingly alienating and crisis-ridden cultural horizon.This antagonism toward the aesthetic pegs the presentational field of the artwork as a fetishizing of appearance (a fetish of affective sense). whether in the Platonist-inspired critique of art as sensational (delusional appearance).3 Acting in the Space of Appearance: Incontinent Will and the Pathos of Aesthetic Representation The space of appearance comes into being whenever men are together in the manner of speech and action . but disappears not only with the dispersal of men—as in the case of the great catastrophes when the body politic of a people is destroyed—but with the disappearance or arrest of the activities themselves. .

for Hegelians. then publicity is a site of recognition because it is a site of conflict. .72 Aesthetic Reason in the service of any prospective. This truism is the core of Greek tragedy. As we have already seen. and therefore potentially ethical. It should be clear . the realm of appearance was fundamentally the realm of politics because it precipitated the actions of diversely interested agents recognized by virtue of their common stake in concerted public actions. however. Publicity is perforce recognition. what appears for me appears precisely because it appears to another. the fact of publicity per se imposes. is that the animus of human conflict is irreducible even in the realm of appearance. where recognition is a cardinal principle.1 This invidious comparison so resonant of the familiar thought-feeling dichotomy is meant to galvanize the human agent out of the affective stupor induced by pleasurable beauty. we have seen that for the Greeks. even in the realm of “mere appearance” from which the aesthetic can never be cleanly severed. Hannah Arendt is right that “[t]he space of appearance comes into being whenever men are together in .The evasion of conflict ascribed to the aesthetic is unmasked as a culpable premise for the mutual exclusivity of art and politics. speech and action” (Human Condition. if only a conflict between the registers of speech and action: these are the realms of what is seen and what is said. Furthermore.The insight of course arises first in the exigency of action that. subject to the contest of interpretations and the conflict-engendering initiatives to act that are latent in all intersubjective recognition. then. Hegel observes this to be the case in the dialectic of recognition that drives the master-slave relation. 99). in the previous chapter. by taking tragedy as a point of reference. it is within the prototypically “aesthetic” tradition of Attic tragedy that we find strong intimations of precisely the vital relationship between art and politics (the polis) that partisans of the anti-aesthetic are inspired to deny in the name of the very political ideals that Greek tragedy so influentially disseminated. . Likewise. Ironically enough. from whence tragedy arises and from whence the no-less-tragic Hegelian perspective itself was projected. I might minimize the controversy of equating the realm of appearance that is politics with the sensuous threshold of appearance so commonly equated with the presentational field of aesthesis. What this critique of the aesthetic ignores. The subtext of this polemic sets up a radical opposition between a caricature of the aesthetic as “mere appearance” (Vorstellung) and an anti-aesthetic politicization of “appearance as enactment” (Darstellung). It is a de facto imperative of the public agora. If in her influential account of the Greek polis. political change.

.”There is a strong implication here that the mode of inhabiting time as a self-reflective medium is de facto a training protocol for ethical self-understanding.As such it lends itself to a mode of production that would be strictly at odds with the sensationalistic and naturalistically impersonal canons of conventional beauty theory. . For Aristotle. According to Aristotle. needing to be called to a better account of itself ( Ethics. the changeability of the self in time. . or incontinent judgment. the mode of action that instantiates the ethical agent according to a necessary temporalization of appearance. [and is a] “virtuous activity [in which] one can take part” (81). it is “acquired . the appearance qua appearance of the actor to the chorus. . is the Greek ethicophilosophical touchstone for this experience. I will be broadening the definition to include the intersubjective repercussions of acting akratically .Akrasia is typically delimited by appetitive drives that overrun rational knowledge. Following the lead of post-Aristotelian philosophy. I will argue that akrasia figures the gap between intentions and actions as reciprocity because it dictates a retrospective view of the self as erroneous. . 237). weakness of will). 80) .The ineluctable temporality of eudaimonia adumbrates the moral frame of reference for the audience.As it has been from the start of this enterprise. and eudaimonia. The notion of akrasia (literally. Even Aristotle stipulates that one only knows akratic action after the fact. that is. above all other considerations.Acting in the Space of Appearance 73 from this methodological point of departure that I am still advancing an account of the aesthetic that is decidedly cognitive. by some kind of study or training” (Ethics. best reasons. For it designates the time of their spectatorship as a corollary of the tragic protagonist’s life “training. Certainly. The Dionysian festival stages the dialectic of daimon. since its intelligibility inheres strictly in an enactment of beliefs. akrasia specifically denotes acting against rational best intentions. tragedy is the place in Western culture where the constituent persons of the polis submit to a mode of rationalistic reflection through a discipline of self-recognition. Eudaimonia is not a quality. Between daimon and eudaimonia there obtains. my stake in the cognitive resources of the aesthetic is intended to reanimate a dormant political dimension of the aesthetic—one that I believe is integral to the ethical agency of tragic protagonists. It is thus fair to say that tragedy is an exemplary cultural site where appearance mediates human agency and where the inexorable split between human intention and human action—always the trigger of tragic insight—is displayed with unusual scrupulousness.

74 Aesthetic Reason Because this figuration of the gap between intentions and actions accrues within an expressly public forum. her analysis of the judgment of taste is specifically an occasion to argue linkage between Kantian aesthetics and the public sphere. In other words. .2 In this chapter I will therefore explore the ways in which the aesthetic. to act akratically (however irrational) is to purchase reflective distance on one’s actions in a way that no inanimate belief structure can hold faith with. 198) is a logical point of departure. because public accountability requires personal change. [in the] space of appearance” (Human Condition. Obviously such an expansive claim on behalf of a category that has typically been criticized for unduly narrowing the sights of cultural experience—perpetuating the recurrent dualism of art and politics— requires a perspicuous recontextualization of the issues. it demands a redefinition of the artwork as that which reveals the realm of appearances in the above terms. rather than merely appearing within that realm as an exemplification of its factitious “reality. and to the energetics of an evermore-viable public sphere. Hannah Arendt’s definition of the political. Where the discrepancy between intentions and actions recedes from public scrutiny it increasingly defers to an ideational sphere of value. Moreover. that is. any calling to account is an occasion to revise the criterion of judgment that one submits to in the trials of self-recognition. the akratic moment—eloquently glosses the exigencies of acting in the space of appearance. public recognition. then the aesthetic proves its ethical relevance to secular cultural practice. akrasia succumbs to mere self-deception. If that space can be seen to mark an overlap of the aesthetic and the political.” For me. For she explicitly correlates it with protocols of aesthetic judgement. we could say strategically that akrasia unites both contesting senses of appearance—as “mere appearance” and as “enactment”—within a potentially therapeutic frame of reference. taps this potential. as “acting and speaking together . Furthermore the aesthetic.The polis is always already an arena of akratic self-knowledge because the ineluctable publicity of actions incurs a calling of individuals to account. the polis in particular.3 In that way . Above all. I believe that this is a fact that is too easily lost sight of outside the structural dynamics of the polis that are both represented in and enacted by tragic drama. Political agency reifies into private ideological belief. . As I noted in the previous chapter. seen as an outgrowth of the circumstances of tragic knowledge—epitomized by the slippage between intention and act. the mere alienation of belief from action. Outside the context of the polis. particularly in the mode of tragedy.

This idealism is the operative sine qua non of the tragic agon of physis-nomos. For it begs the question of what one is . presupposes the artifice of sociality. I want to concentrate on how the ideal of nomos—culture or tradition—which is assiduously served by tragedy. both in ethical and in aesthetic theorizing. specifically the tesserae hospitalis.The status of appearance is thus inextricable from an idea of community. for Gadamer. It follows that the judgment of taste for her is perforce a standard of communicability or publicity within which both individuality and rational normativity might be compatible.Arendt shows us how this community requires the choice-making agency of those who would predicate their existence on the choice of belonging to it. politics is not framed by institutions but.This reconciliation in terms of a preexisting whole. always potentially expands the institutional frame of reference that bounds social activity. seen in its broadest historical and anthropological outlines. For. For a recognition predicated on such binarism is far too simple. in its tendency to make human freedom from Nature depend upon the transparency of a self-recognizing subject. Out of this reckoning the structure of classical tragedy itself arose. that.4 It is relatively uncontroversial for me to allege that a principle of community has in fact always propped the project of the aesthetic. or in the urbane impersonality of high modernist formalism. the aesthetic pursues a perennial reckoning of human making (poesis) with the monstrous indeterminacy of Nature ( physis ). and unwittingly renders it a problem. discussed in Chapter 2 as a background of the culture of Peitho. even in the most unworldly guises of ego-driven Romantic genius.Acting in the Space of Appearance 75 she intimates how the political inevitably circles back to the aesthetic. if only in the recognition of a shared ideal of human personhood: the universally desirable good life. poses an obstacle to any real reciprocity between individual and group. The liability of this mode of recognition is typified in Hans Georg Gadamer’s referencing of the aesthetic to symbol. in a notable departure from Kant. which. I have tried to show. is generalized as the touchstone of artistic sensus communis. because it is instantiated as an active sharing of words and deeds. a clay emblem.Yet I want to suggest that it is the desire for simple self-recognition that underscores the venerable binary of nature and culture. however. When host and guest meet again they “recognize” each other by presenting their fragment token of a preexisting whole. As Arendt sees it through the lens of the Greek polis. I will follow the consequence of this assumption in Chapter 6. a sensus communis. But now. broken between host and guest in Greek society on the occasion of a social gathering.

II Literary theories of recognition have too often ignored the fact that recognition is always a choosing to be recognized as something in particular. we might persuasively redraw the boundaries of the aesthetic as a more inclusive and prudential community of human agents. that the abbé Dubos could confidently declaim in his Critical Reflections (1719) (which Voltaire called the most useful book ever written on this subject) that artistic taste may be judged on analogy .This is a protocol that I believe is latent both in tragic drama and in the states of akratic knowledge that tragic drama illuminates. Indeed. in its mission to bestow the imprimatur of beauty. constitutes a choice among other particulars. The burdens of training in reciprocal recognition will be seen to outweigh the moral valuations borne by any more generalized and idealized recognition of human identity. In the absence of such an assumption we have been content to sever recognition from rationality. It is one that does not evade the knowledge that recognition. the universals of sensibility crowd out the particular sense percepts that are their occasion. Such is the enormous historical influence wielded by the neoclassical edicts assigning social valuations to art. no modern philosophical discourse is as culpable of obviating the necessity to choose the terms of self-recognition vis-à-vis the contingent relations with a “particular other” as aesthetic theory itself. Only under that assumption do we understand that recognition is necessarily communicable or it would be strictly irrational. In that way. in its particularity. producing exactly the alienation of art from politics descried by the partisans of the anti-aesthetic. we need only think of the force of the eighteenth-century doctrine classique. which proffers the standard of the beautiful as a selfrecognition pegged to obliterating all prejudicially individuated sentiment. I propose to do this by showing how the richest account of recognition will depend upon a protocol of training in reciprocal recognition like that sketched out at the end of Chapter 2. independent of the concrete desires out of which such recognition is solicited.To illustrate the point.5 By following Arendt’s definition of politics as implicitly an outgrowth of the aesthetic—inasmuch as for the Greeks art was linked to politics by the realm of tragic appearance—I want to complicate this precipitously metaphysical standard of recognition.76 Aesthetic Reason recognized as.6 In beauty theories.

In fact. one knows if it’s good. unlike Dubos. In Art poétique. and in no way an efficient methodological lever for potentiating its purported social efficacy. reciprocity is a figment of recognition’s imagination. since it appeals to a de facto community of refined sensibility. It begs the question of aesthetic production. Beauty theory is almost tautologically a name for the involuntary consensus of “men of good taste.” Nicolas Boileau (1636–1711) is the most famous disseminator of this standard of beauty and the anticognitivist recognition it perpetrates. we must accept that the basis of whatever public agreement can be posited here is an intrinsically unreasonable—because noncognitive—presupposition of aesthetic theory. let alone the social formation of consensus itself. Dominique Bohours. his claim to authority roots itself in the pretense of scientific objectivity. he proclaims that “a work which is not at all to the taste of the public is a bad work. manifested in the guise of an uncritical universalism. such tastemaking propositions promulgate a rule governance that is every bit as politically abstruse as the standard of Kantian disinterestedness that it anticipates.The agency of artistic production is obviated by the naturalness presupposed in the prevailing Lockeanism of these views. any preoccupation with the means or agency of artistic production would be judged heretical within a philosophy that seeks to denigrate imagination as an idiosyncratic obstacle to the intuition of common experience. without even knowing these rules [governing its production].”7 Here. it is only as a counter of consensus that supersedes the concrete formality of the artwork. In this purview.” Crucially. or in the work of his immediate successors such as Dubos. It is even more important to see that the conspicuous paradox of beauty theory (whether science based or sensibility based) is that it . that adduces any methodology to produce or motivate that agreement. In the 1701 edition. there is nothing in Boileau’s own work. rather than subjective universality. By denying access to the rule-making agency that underwrites them. but only an ex post facto mode of expressing or accounting for it. if recognition underwrites aesthetic value. Boileau makes the judgment of the beautiful depend upon a standard of public agreement. Indeed. though. In this proposition we have a presumption of community interest. a mode of strictly mutual as distinct from reciprocal recognition. and Charles Batteaux.The irony is that Boileau’s appeal to science blurs the very boundary between subjective and objective knowledge that he otherwise wishes decisively to cross in the direction of establishing scientific or empirical norms.Acting in the Space of Appearance 77 with culinary taste: “one tastes the stew and.

because nondiscursive.After all. one that is discursively mediated and on that account seems to eschew sense. and anchor judgment. a movement from sensation to idea that mimes Lockean empiricism.That is to say. in the cases of Hutcheson and Shaftesbury. might engage the practical world (which sense begets) as productively as beauty theory made a mere pretense of doing. Reciprocity remains a virtually irreducible variable of choice wherever public standards of choosing have currency. by imagining a protocol of training in this mode of reciprocal recognition. beauty theory posits a faculty of taste in which the sensibility and the natural world are in markedly unspoken. the mode of reciprocal recognition I’m promoting here. Perhaps. between which poles beauty theory gets articulated. the common medium of appearance and aesthesis. Perhaps only a cognitively based aesthetic. Such solicitude may not rest at the reflective poles of self or other. then. the cardinal Enlightenment cognition is a choosing between differences. and therefore irrational. By thus reversing the polarity of sense and reason. would take up the burden of producing public agreement that mere affective recognition reflects as an abstraction. we might redress the flawed concept of recognition that constitutes the irrational underpinning of the doctrine classique. we do indeed acknowledge that choosing to be recognized is always choosing to be recognized as something in particular. In this respect. for the reason that its restlessness is a function of an irreducible intersubjectivity.And since this constrains any analysis of act to the unequal variables of choice. it motivates reciprocity. we may be better disposed to consider an alternative paradox. I want to emphasize how the recognition that choosing to be recognized is always choosing to be recognized as something in particular quite explicitly constrains judgment to acting in the space of appearance. in the practical world. recognition inhibits beauty theory’s transcendental predilections. after all. Particularity is. As we saw earlier. Furthermore. far from instantiating a de facto community.The requisite mediation of a public space presupposes that the significance of action denoted in such choosing is an ineluctable solicitation of the opinion of others. while actually idealizing that world.78 Aesthetic Reason seems to privilege sense. Taste is a kind of shadow cognition that is designed to make sense an increasingly transparent medium of empirical reality. I will argue that in postulating the judgment of taste (and the desire for public/communal recognition historically implicit in it) as an active choosing between differences. agreement. we might come closer to actually producing the communitarian ethos/consensus that Boileau and beauty . In consideration of this irony.

A reading of this text might make it possible to articulate more convincingly how the significance of the category of the aesthetic is directly proportionate to the perceived significance of the problem of akratic action. remains a heuristic contingency of imaginative activity. From the time of the Greek polis—if we accept the Arendtian perspective—this task of making knowledge reciprocal with action is the fundamental challenge of acting in the space of appearance.Acting in the Space of Appearance 79 theory rendered incoherent.We must then look closely at how this protocol of training is adumbrated in a specific aesthetic form. by understanding that the choices it prompts are expressible as a tension between discrepant temporal moments. On this . namely. After all. As we shall see. in order to satisfy this test. both formal and historical. for the akrates (the akratic agent) the inescapable task of closing the gap between knowing and acting. Only in these terms can knowledge serve as a space of convergence for the aesthetic and the political that would tolerate no hegemonic allegorizing of the individual to the social other and no utopian recourse to a spiritual hypostasis of Otherness itself. Samuel Beckett’s Ill Seen. my claim that what is entailed by a protocol of training in reciprocal recognition (and the concomitant production of a communitarian ethos) is best viewed from the perspective of tragedy will be most persuasive if I can spell out precisely what needs are satisfied by reciprocal recognition and match them with the needs traditionally served by tragedy. the space of appearance must in turn be mapped upon narrative coordinates. by consigning it to a preemptive universalism. Finally. III Three needs served by reciprocal recognition match up with the traditional rewards of tragic drama: (a) the need for recognition of the indeterminacy of human actions (the slippage between intentions and acts. (b) the need to make this recognition self-conscious—which we gain rapport with in the dynamic of akrasia. Ill Said —a work that construes the tragic as a speculative reckoning with error rather than as a positive assimilation of knowledge claims—will serve to exemplify my belief in the aesthetic as a training ground for recognition. thinking and feeling. since it is a “goal” of training. We must of course add the proviso that any such communitarian ethos. reveals the stakes of every recognition-based cultural identity. and (c) the need to make akratic judgment productive by understanding that it follows a narrative trajectory.

which the moment of reversal (peripety) so apocalyptically portends. . Hamartia. 195). the great liability of action (deliberately contrasted with poesis or making. after all. extinguish the possibility of future intentional action.As “an imitation of an action that is serious and complete. effectively collapses the perspectives of the human agent into the world of fated events. where action may be reconciled with intentional knowledge tragedy might be averted. under the sign of hamartia. reciprocal recognition satisfies the need dramatized in classical tragedy for imagining a community in which human plurality (otherness) does not preclude human uniqueness (situated/individuated identity). It is a daunting obstacle to any project of self-realization whereby one expects action to be reconciled with intentional knowledge. This would not. craft) was its potential boundlessness and uncertainty of outcome (Human Condition. If recognition were reciprocal it would provide a check against hamartia or unintended consequence by bounding it within a circuit of human communication. its meaning is effectively realized through actions that point up a discrepancy between intentions and consequences. of hamartia.80 Aesthetic Reason basis we will understand how the remedy for akrasia is inseparable from posing the kind of unity/totality of knowledge we typically equate with standards of artistic success. that is.They are actions deprived of knowledge in a way that figures the problematic of akrasia. like akrasia. the aim of Aristotelian tragedy. however. by preserving a framework for intentional action within the contextual constraints of unintended consequences.8 We can start with the proposition that the desire for recognition of the indeterminacy of actions confronts the risk of error.This is. Furthermore. Only where this is the case can intentional agents truly preserve a claim on ethical agency.After all. because reciprocal recognition entails a reconfiguration of intentions according to other criteria of action and motivation. the abiding structural pivot of tragic drama. in turn. Only by maximizing the tensions of discrepant moments under a totalizing imperative are they made amenable to a morally edifying activity: one that recognizes the indeterminacy of human actions to be an urgent premise of deterministic drives. begs the question of its own adequacy to the task. Recognition then could be seen to harbor the reversal of reversal where it holds open the prospect of reciprocity in a discursive situation. the desire for recognition must contend with the dilemma of the unintended consequences of the action through which such recognition is solicited.” it strives to encompass potentially incommensurable variables of human agency within a totalizing framework that.9 Though hamartia is commonly taken as a flaw of character.10 Arendt reminds us that for the Greeks. In other words.

It has been accordingly misconstrued as a counterpart . The dialectic is both reflected and represented by the antagonistic roles of the tragic chorus—in its dithyrambic objectifications of the protagonist—and the tragic protagonist—in his or her embodiment of a mode of action that might obviate the simple opposition of spectator and actor. As Hannah Arendt observes in her discussion of the dramatistic aspects of action in classical Greek culture. It arises from the otherwise intractable incommensurability of otherness and distinctness. and “distinctness” can be seen as a marker for the situation of the objectified (and hence necessarily misunderstood) tragic protagonist. to use the Hegelian phrase that grasps the dialectical dimension of intersubjectivity. human “uniqueness” has the status of a dialectical third vis-à-vis the qualities of “otherness” and “distinctness. one goes beyond the subject-object dichotomy that the daimon is otherwise caught antinomically within. but that are nevertheless continuous with the identity that the protagonist represents to the audience. “a paradoxical plurality of unique beings” (178). It is the audience’s access to motivations that the protagonist’s hamartia precludes. in the dialectic of daimon and eudaimonia. as we saw earlier. then the knowledge that devolves to the audience of tragic drama may be comparable to the knowledge of uniqueness: exhibiting a eudaimonian imperative to know oneself through the continuity of otherness and distinctness. Under the auspices of eudaimonia. Of course eudaimonia has typically been mistranslated as sheer happiness or pleasure. in Arendt’s words. individuals do not have their own daimon except by interaction with those who know them from the outside and hence impel their introspective conscience toward deeds of self-realization that carry them away from the community of judgment. which is to say.” where “otherness” denotes sheer multiplicity and “distinctness” denotes an expressive capacity upon which the recognition of multiplicity depends ( Human Condition.Acting in the Space of Appearance 81 The stakes of this proposition are in fact epitomized. a kind of “reflection of reflection. if “otherness” can be seen as a marker for the situation of the spectatorial chorus.This self-knowledge is.This self-knowledge is the audience’s privilege above the actors on stage. 176). Furthermore.This is the expressly ethical meaning of the Greek eudaimonia. The striving for “uniqueness” thus parallels the logic of eudaimonia.11 In fact. It is the self-distinguishing expression of human distinctness that renders the knowledge of human plurality a locus of uniqueness or.” Anything else would render the project of human self realization too preemptively finite in time and space. transcendentalized or reified by the self-imposing limits of a single deed (194).

82 Aesthetic Reason of beauty theory. So in eudaimonia. awakened to his need to act on behalf of that ruined personage. like an anachronistic Beckett character.Thus Oedipus sees his ruination in the chorus’s pronouncements of his fate.This logic is compatible with Aristotle’s own linkage of eudaimonia with phronesis (Ethics. a term that he puts decisively at odds with poiesis on the grounds that poiesis demands the mutual exclusiveness of thinking and acting. at least to suffer exile on his own terms and against the will of both Creon and the oracle. would have reasoned themselves into the logical corner where it is concluded that death is the price of happiness. in the immediacy of the action.Aristotle’s eudaimonia always presupposes a life lived in linked actions.13 If we juxtapose Aristotle’s linkage of eudaimon and phronesis in the Ethics with his rationalization of tragic insight in Poetics. In that way. but is. To be fair. In doing so it would confer a reflective purchase on the imperative to act. 193–94). however. Or at least this is the case where poiesis constitutes an inducement to finite totalizing action (208–9). For he does go on. To be eudaimonia. and hence as an escape from the inconstancies of human action. as the counterpart of a noncognitive pleasure aesthetic. he is excluded from the possibility of reflection. the Greeks did treat the actions through which eudaimonia was allegedly realized retrospectively. that is. the meaning of daimon is made available to the actor as well as to the spectator. is to complement the relative punctuality of daimon with whatever “reason” might sustain the daimon over a succession of temporal moments. we might think the Greeks incurred the paradox of making the concept of eudaimonia ultimately antithetical to life itself (Aristotle. as opposed to punctual pleasures. I want to argue that the action denoted in eudaimonia. Only with this understanding does it make sense for Oedipus to go on as he does. and thinking might be actualized in appearance. It would clear an avenue for approaching the aesthetic as a space of appearance wherein action may be productively reconciled with thinking. in effect.The space of appearance adumbrates a self-reflective protocol of recognition that reanimates the daimon. Ethics.Those actions would thus appear to be cut off from the temporality of their occurrence and implicitly from any meaningful reflection upon temporality. eudaimonia might be said to presuppose reversal by its very bridging of otherness and distinctness.12 Contrary to these plausible hypotheses. we might see . Aristotle avers. After all. The daimon suffers from an inability to see himself because. just as credibly fosters a distinctly cognitive and therefore worldly/life-perpetuating trajectory. 78). in turn. They.After all. standing in the place of the actor. under the auspices of a resurrected will.

as its condition of possibility. What makes this narrative constraint specifically cognitive is that when we ask why an agent acts akratically—since we must ask in the context of a tension between two disparate but not mutually exclusive moments—we are furthermore required to solicit reasons not as causes but as choices vis-à-vis other reasons. akrasia is act dependent. after all. actions and choices are understood to be continuous. For narrative constraint is the place where the needs satisfied by reciprocal recognition most consequentially meet the needs satisfied by tragedy. We have already seen that akratic knowledge obeys a comparable narrative constraint that is essentially tragic because. This figuration is. Unlike mere self-deception. where appearance elides with recognition and the burden of judgment. This is the case because the discrepancy between intentions and unintended consequences appears strictly on the threshold of social mediations that denote an always potentially wider discursive field of reference. The recognitional structure latent in akratic causality offers a useful contrast: in akratic causality. knowledge. The common interest of both is finding a corrective to error. because acts submit to act descriptions . Narrative is the “space of appearance” within which these interests can be pursued as the continuation of action.Acting in the Space of Appearance 83 how peripeteia—epiphenomonal of linked actions—tends to displace catharsis—a phenomenon of punctual pleasure—as the more important fulcrum of tragic understanding. From my point of view. evading as it does the conflictual provenance of human agency.14 What discrepancies play between intentions and the consequences of action entail acknowledgment of another position of knowledge locatable beyond the temporal locus of the original intentions. akrasia presupposes the unremitting tension of distinct moments. where akrasia is judged to be an obstacle to. Where intentions are valued independent of consequences. We can now fairly equate this cognitive trajectory with a narrative constraint and with the framework of akratic knowledge already understood as a warrant for figuring the gap between intentions and actions. It might thereby augur for a more open-ended understanding of tragic action. causality obtains in such a way that reasons are subordinated to a transcendent intention. to the unintended consequences of action. where belief is divorced from action and proffers an escape from reflection. this purveys a weak form of self-recognition. that is. not a test of. unlike mere selfdeception. It would once again give greater urgency to tragic form as a prompt to cognitive over noncognitive initiatives. tragedy’s threshold of moral efficacy.

at least as long as the alternative enkratic self-control remains its ultimate critical measure. becomes . In anagnorisis. Correlatively. and (b) to possess skills for resisting the temptations of incontinence. In fact.The burden is upon the akratic subject to find new motives or reasons for invoking the relevant generality. According to the classical scholarly consensus on akrasia set out influentially in Walsh’s “Aristotle’s Concept of Moral Weakness. since any such totality in action produces a retrospective agency dependent on reconfiguring that totality within the exigencies of time that mark its own existence in time.Thus. a métier that is strikingly amenable to protocols of training. the attempt to exercise enkratic self-control presents two obstacles: (a) to know akrasia to be the case. it denotes a cognitive faculty underpinning akratic action itself. Mele’s account of enkrateia subtly reveals how the focus on akrasia is necessarily a concern for thinking totality in action. the defeat of personal intentions seems to demand (if only on the part of the spectator) the improvisation of new motives.The akrasia-enkrateia continuum is.” and cited by J. Bremer. who follows this principle when he asserts the necessity to accept irrationality as a medium of rational pursuit. as I have anticipated. Akratic causality thus possesses a correlative ethical purport not unlike the anagnorisis of tragic emplotment. rather than truth.15 What is clear here is that without an expectation of success or the prospective integration of intent and act denoted by enkrateia. but on a continuum with akrasia. or self-control. akrasia is altogether irrelevant to human experience. in its presumption of a best reason for acting.The postulate of this continuum follows from the understanding that akrasia.84 Aesthetic Reason in their mere publicity. if akrasia is to be judged remediable. it requires a resituating of the claims of a general perspective within a concrete context of application. the failure to exercise or to possess the knowledge of the particular premiss must be related to appetite” (106–12). akrasia’s ethical remedy and opposite number is identified as enkrateia.“[A] man may be said to act against his [best] knowledge if he exercises his knowledge of the universal premiss but does not exercise or even possess knowledge of the particular premiss. It demands remediation of the loss of self-control suffered by the protagonist in the disastrous outcomes of otherwise seemingly rationally motivated actions. is implicated in the reciprocity of the general and the particular. Hence enkrateia obtains not as a duality visà-vis akrasia. According to Alfred Mele. in the context of both the Greek polis and tragic drama. M. here training. Indeed. But inasmuch as enkrateia is postulated as a cognitive remedy for akrasia. if only by the acknowledged default of enkrateia in akratic acts.

There are other considerations.16 It is good only for exposing the valorization of aesthetic unity to the charge of metaphysical or empirical reification. by its maximizing of tensions between temporal moments. we might be prepared to see how the maximizing of the tensions that play between disparate parts (moments) in aesthetic structure. 17 We might then concede that the access to the problematics of totality availed by akrasia offers a way of revaluing the goal of totality in tragic emplotment/art.We have already noted the irony that.We must take note that the striving for totality exhibited in akratic action obtains only inasmuch as it possesses a narrative structure. then. within contemporary art theory especially. In other words. we would have no warrant for making akrasia or incontinence a locus of moral scrutiny. and upon which narrative peripety depends. which I am arguing inheres in aesthetics generally. the remedy of enkrateia or self-control inevitably prompted by knowledge of akratic action might now be seen as relevant to a richer understanding of the demand for recognition of totality implicit in narrative art. Since this discussion of akratic agency is meant to get us back to aesthetic issues. Such remediation would be credited to one’s mastery of the recognition of error understood in turn as a counter of temporality.The mandate for training in reciprocal recognition.Acting in the Space of Appearance 85 the salient counter of human agency.The “concern” for totality modeled in enkrateia proffers an ethical motive inversely proportionate to the unrealizability of totalizing action that is so unfailingly exemplified . might possess a corollary warrant for moral scrutiny. this totality is invoked only to be debunked and scapegoated. It would be credited to a capacity for self-revision. it exemplifies human error as remediable in time. On that basis. the only human skill practically commensurate with this temporality. since the unending pressure to totalize yields to the open-endedness of the totalizing enterprise.This is especially true if one accepts my prior claim that the structural articulation of the artwork is cognate with the continuum of akrasia and enkrateia in action: their incommensurability is their reciprocity. however. Narrative is the crux of this training because. we now need to attend to the fact that the concern for totality featured in the akrasia-enkrateia continuum implicitly mirrors the privileging of totality in formalist art practice. We must also consider that without a concern for totality (expressed as an impossible reckoning of intentions with unintended consequences). thus becomes coherent with the structural articulation of the artwork.We are now able to countenance it as a métier of ethical conduct rather than as the dubious precept of ethical dogma that has become the easy target of anti-aesthetic polemicizing.

mean simply to blur the lines between ethics and aesthetics here.18 Indeed. by promulgating an expressly prospective recognition of totality. Ill Said. as it is in ethical practice.86 Aesthetic Reason by works of art when they are held to the same standards of knowledge. Between artistic creation and art consumption. In its bid for totality. So I am suggesting that self-control or enkrateia—where enkrateia presupposes a revisable standard of the adequacy of act to intention— might be construed as a proper medium of aesthetic expression. Rather I want to suggest that the social consensus (ethical norm) sought so righteously by a neoclassical (Boileau’s) beauty theory. agreements about what counts as best reasoned behavior are necessarily predicated upon changing conditions.The benefit of this insight is the prospect it offers: that the critic’s concern for totality in aesthetic form may come to displace the more burdensome ontology of totalization that he or she otherwise seems doomed to justify. along the continuum between akrasia and enkrateia. however. moving from akrasia to enkrateia. My reason for choosing Beckett is that his métier in this narrative is an ethical agency that I might now meaningfully call prospective pathos. Self-control and aesthetic totality are both approached through a discrepancy between intentions and consequences. Enkrateia proffers a means of marrying the demand for a generalized norm of self-control. It might do so in a way that binds ethics more closely to aesthetics. IV I want to exemplify these claims in the context of a late narrative by Samuel Beckett. is to be increasingly responsive and sensitive to changing conditions of recognition. Ill Seen. I do not. the same detotalizing totality of judgment obtains. aesthetic form replicates the crisis of akrasia by anticipating new conditions of recognition. might discover the necessary resources for doing so along the akrasia-enkrateia continuum. or best reasoned behavior with the situational exigencies of events in time. hence upon judging reasons among reasons that warrant recognition. that is. it both exemplifies the cognitive exigencies of akrasia and dramatizes . though it lacked the resources of human agency to produce that consensus. through akratic detours. the ethical challenge for the human agent. if we understand aesthetic form as modeling the condition of this attention to changing conditions. For.The continuum between akrasia and enkrateia will therefore count as a useful correlative to aesthetic practice. In its prospective recognition of totality.

Acting in the Space of Appearance


the anticipation of those new reasons for invoking general premises of knowledge that I’ve alleged akrasia exposes. It thereby serves the project of reciprocal recognition as a mode of enkratic self-control. I will argue that Beckett’s innovation as a narrative artist is his dramatization of human pathos, not, as is commonly asserted, as a function of the impossibility of action, but as a function of our “being” only in the prospect of acting.This prospective imperative of being is determined by Beckett’s linkage of character and narrative to a site of error—not coincidentally, the dramatic topos of akratic judgment. Beckett’s opus notoriously features protagonists whose condition of existence depends upon what seem to be insuperable obstacles to action, but for whom the imperative to act is nonetheless an uncompromising proposition. Such, after all, is Molloy’s firm infirmity:“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” I believe that this circumstance is given new emphasis in Beckett’s final triad of short fictions, Company; Ill Seen, Ill Said; and Worstward Ho! Interestingly, the hallmark of these works, each struggling with the human craving for company, is the pronominal instability of protagonists and narrators. In these fictions, existence plays uncertainly between first- and third-person pronouns, a circumstance that exacerbates the quandary of how to go on. More explicitly, we are led to know this constraint of being, this slippage between pronoun and referent, self and other, as conditioning a threshold of error that, inasmuch as it denotes a lack of self-knowledge, figures a mode of self-deception. As we’ve seen, both tragedy and the philosophy of akratic action seek to remedy this circumstance in the name of a more dignified human agency. In this regard, the existential error that burdens Beckett’s characters becomes a correlative strategic burden for the reader. For this reason I want to characterize Beckett’s prospective pathos as a method whereby one (the reader through narrator or character) comes to self-knowledge by soliciting the recognition of a concrete other, at least inasmuch as the pronominal self in error is already a kind of other to itself. Because the antecedent (retrospective) knowledge, upon which the pronominal self generally presumes, is made suspect in these fictions, the alternative prospective trajectory is the more credible imperative of otherness. Some reckoning with the other has after all been the abiding stake of reciprocal recognition in the discussion so far. So it will not be surprising if I propose that such recognition serves, within the context of Beckett’s Ill Seen, Ill Said, as a means for us to more intensely appreciate the continuity of akrasia with enkrateia. It has been widely argued that moral theorists from Kant to Habermas have not been able to make this recognition by a concrete


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other sufficiently reciprocal to accommodate a realistic sense of both self and the world to promote a credible Sittlichkeit where ethical selfrealization would be compatible with moral autonomy.19 Rather, moral theory that seeks undeluded or enkratic self-knowledge has typically appealed to the unworkable concept of a general or generalized “other,” incommensurable with the “concrete other.”The most controversial paradigm of this thought is the agent of Kantian moral duty who is charged to act in such a way that the maxim of his or her actions might be a universal law of nature.20 We might notice with Seyla Benhabib, who has written persuasively against the predicate of the generalized other, that the opposition of a general and concrete other was rendered intractable in Kantian morality because it subsisted on a strict dichotomy of cognition and emotion.We will not lose sight of the fact that this is the very dichotomy that has traditionally severed the aesthetic from the political in most post-Platonist aesthetics. All the more reason, then, for me to propose that Beckett’s aesthetic form evokes the concrete other without incurring the problematic incommensurability of a general and concrete other: without incurring an unpayable debt of injustice. Instead, Beckett makes the project of self-recognition reciprocal through a kind of thought experiment, whereby the narrating subject strives for self-realization at the limit of self-knowledge, without attempting to personify that limit beyond the dynamics of self-expressive need.The other does not have to speak for itself, because the narrative self performs this thought experiment on the threshold of error. In Beckett’s text we might persuasively speak of a procedural other rather than an ontological other, without risking Kantian idealism. For in Beckett the threshold and the limit of selfknowledge are coincident in consciousness of error. This is the case because error, in Beckett’s text, is always extendable along a narrative trajectory. In effect the concrete other is merged with error. And this is what constrains the pathos of Beckett’s narrator to a mode of prospectivity. As long as error arises on a self-reflective narrative trajectory, the self in question must adapt perspectivally to the situational mandates for self-reflection.21 Of course I am suggesting that the point of positing the other as a ground of recognition at all is to know boundaries of self that are conspicuously available in the epistemic matrices of akrasia or error. Certainly self-recognition without the pressure of self-limitation would be precisely the circumstance in which akratic action is inevitable. But now I am suggesting that this fact does not require us to reason that self-limitation be read as ontologically intersubjective. One could fol-

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low alternative post-Aristotelian accounts such as Alison McIntyre’s, where the akratic agent is understood to be, de facto, self-revising according to the “recognition of a new consideration”22 that arises in the split of actions from intentions. One could argue that the inexorability of a “new consideration” is what drives the intelligibility of akrasia in the first place. On this basis, McIntyre invites our belief in akrasia as the vehicle for attaining what Hannah Arendt has called “an enlarged mentality.” 23 The idea is that when events reveal the inappropriateness (error) of our motives, we might see how this potentially gives us evidence of what we could be motivated by as a result of further reflection.24 This is the possibility that I anticipated by imagining how akrasia might occasion the intuition of new motives for the akratic subject. The aim of “enlarged mentality” comes more quickly to the fore of our ethical/aesthetic considerations as we pursue this line of thought, because it reminds us how much of Aristotle’s Ethics hinges on cultivating the capacity to change one’s mind (7.1151b110–1152a). While “enlarged mentality” is unequivocally a Kant-inspired ethical resource, it is nevertheless understood by Arendt and Benhabib25 as a threshold of otherness that is tantamount to error or self-deception insofar as it is predicated on a knowledge that the intentional “I” is also a “me.”This self is emphatically not transparent to itself, but nonetheless continuous with itself. Furthermore, it should be clear that there is nothing in this reflection on the “me” that precludes our thinking of the other as an aspect of self that is reciprocal, in a procedural rather than an ontologically intersubjective sense.This was precisely the case where we discerned the “prospectival” narrative underpinning of the continuum between akrasia-enkrateia. Furthermore, we will recall that in Poetics, Aristotle pegs recognition to the movement from ignorance to knowledge.Aristotle’s corresponding subordination of character to action shows us that this is not necessarily a movement across the threshold of distinct subjects. The point is consistent with my sense that akrasia ought not to be treated as merely a falsifiable (nonnarrative) tenor of rationality, but narratively, as a vehicle of self-revising rationality.As I have already stated, akrasia promises to be more useful as a figuration of the gap between intentions and actions than as a conceptual means merely to discredit the rationality of intentions.26 Here is how this ground gets staked out in Beckett. In Ill Seen, Ill Said, the reciprocity of self-recognition stays within the bounds of the narrator’s subjectivity without devolving to an ethically dubious monologue that has no rapport whatsoever with otherness. The title of


Aesthetic Reason

Beckett’s novel is the watchword of his method. In Ill Seen, Ill Said, what is seen is linked to what is said by the mutual susceptibility to error that the opposition of these faculties (seeing and saying) brings to light.The prevailing illness is strikingly symptomatic in the author’s admonitory voicing of the narrative action as a cautionary against going on. Beckett couches this symptom in the dramatic situation of the book’s narrator: the narrator is presented as one consciousness striving to know another within the hedging predicates of an awareness that does not trust itself to risk the other’s confirmation of what he knows about otherness.The hallmark of the narrator’s rhetoric is therefore the persistent cautionary deixis that becomes a veritable refrain of the text: “careful,”“slow,”“quick, move on.”These are all cues for the narrator to avoid the trap of reckoning with a real other about whom what is said is always ill said. In Ill Seen, Ill Said, the particular other, toward whom we look for confirmation of whoever says what is there to be seen, appears to be an old woman approaching the proverbial Beckettian endgame. Here is where Beckett’s thought experiment with respect to self-other relations is particularly resourceful. For he tantalizes us with the prospect of knowing a concrete other.Yet that palpable “otherness” is only available in the self-revising locutions of the narrator.And yet the narrator’s every new initiative seems in turn to be triggered by the inescapability of error. Error persists in the patterns of admonitory deixis that turn the narration into an ever more yawing chasm between the narrator’s act of witness and the old woman who is the testimonial object of his scrutiny. In other words, there is no vicarious escape into a generalized other in order to realize the self free of error. But, at the same time, the self-revising narrator does generalize beyond the conditions of his own concrete self-instantiation.The vehicle of this self-articulation, which I would count as a kind of heuristic other, is the “parsimonious syntax” that is the stylistic signature of all of Beckett’s last narrative experiments. By parsimoniously withholding key counters of syntactical completeness, Beckett appears to be striving to go beyond the effect of the stichomythic dialogue that was so instrumental to advancing the philosophical theses in Godot and in the trilogy Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnameable. In those texts, the self, starved of existence, fed ravenously on reciprocity with another so as to deflect from solipsistic self-consciousness. In Ill Seen, Ill Said, Beckett’s narrative internalizes the project of deflection.Whereas the other in stichomythic exchange is assimilated to a depersonalizing verbal process, which nonetheless frees the self from the task of independent self-realization, the other

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obtruding in parsimonious syntax accrues as a self-consciousness, increasingly implicated in the task of self-realization, but no less dependent on the recognition of otherness. In fact, it is an other invisible interlocutor who is most instrumentally evoked in the gapped locutionary progress of the narrative of Ill Seen, Ill Said. In this way Beckett avoids the potential self-deception of posing the narrating self against an other whose “real” otherness might relieve the burden of self-understanding that the narrating self must otherwise attest to as the self in error . That is to say, Beckett avoids the trap of positing the other as an escape from struggling with the ambiguous act of positing an other. To illustrate how parsimonious syntax works to this effect, let me take a typical admonition for the invisible interlocutor (the reader?) to “Look,” to “See,” in this case to inspect a long greatcoat, picked out in a telltale fragment sentence as “A man’s by the buttons.” Specifically, what is to be seen is deliberately marked by the deletion of what would be said, if the voice were addressing itself to another. The voice of the other, a kind of invisible company solacing the narrator’s solitude, is assimilable to the absence of the syntactical connectives.The absent connectives evoke a ghostly intersubjectivity. I bracket the “absent” syntactical connectives to make the point: “[I can tell it is] a man’s by [looking at the] buttons” (Ill Seen, Ill Said, 42). In other instances the effect is worked more radically to imply a deep dialogue between the compulsively observant narrator and the ghostly intelligence present in the elided parts of speech. Here is the greatcoat again, serving as curtains over the old woman’s only window. Once again I have bracketed the missing syntactical connectives: “A black greatcoat. [It is] Hooked by its tails from the rod it hangs [upon] sprawling inside out like a carcass in a butcher’s stall. Or [it would be] better [to say] inside in for the pathos of the dangling arms. [There is the s]ame infinitesimal quaver as the buttonhook and passim” (47). Beckett’s parsimonious syntax sets up a curious spectatorship whereby the reader is projected into the action not on the register of the (so to speak) “visible” protagonist (the old woman and her pathos) but in the verbal lacunae that paradoxically voice the presence of an invisible interlocutor, to whom a virtual completion of the syntax would be otherwise ascribable.The postulate of an invisible interlocutor in this text then is quite aptly poised between what is seen and what is said.This is a threshold of error where pathos is necessarily deferred or made prospective. For the tension between what is seen and what is said mandates an accommodation of contingency, as a condition of, rather


Aesthetic Reason

than an obstacle to, intelligibility.The tension between what is seen and what is said is furthermore a variation on the daimon-eudaimonia reciprocity that we have accepted as an ethical as well as a formal armature of tragedy. Parsimonious syntax appeals for a standard of lucidity to a scene that is distinctly not seen in the conspicuous ill-saying of what is reputedly here to be seen.What can be seen depends upon our willingness to assume the place of the invisible interlocutor. The most persistent testimonial to the presence of the invisible interlocutor in Beckett’s text is the inquisitorial refrain of the narrator: “What the wrong word?” (Ill Seen, Ill Said, 17).This expostulation is the ever present guidepost of such dramatic action as there is in the novel. In every instance it prompts a cautionary deceleration of the narrator’s narrative progress. More important, this expostulation typically occurs in tandem with the dissolution of the scannable visual image into a blind syntactical scansion.The reader’s (invisible interlocutor’s?) possibilities for erroneous scenic construal are thus arrayed as distinctly unvisualizable verbal ambiguities. I think that something like a protocol of training in reciprocal recognition is densely dramatized here.The question “What the wrong word?” serves as a kind of training where it obviates the hypothesis that there is a right word at all, where it obfuscates the adequacy of the word to a visual register of truth. The fact that the blurring of the image always redounds to, at least, a duplicity of potentially decidable but always as yet undecided syntactical meanings points up the degree to which the imperative of choice-making imposed in the threat of error—of choosing the wrong word—must be understood as rule generative, not rule adherent. In this way it is strictly compatible with the conceit of the invisible interlocutor, assuming the interlocutor’s invisibility confers the imperative to see anew by mustering prospectively a criterion of choice that will be necessarily retrospective, that is, a consequence of error.Within this paradox, knowing reciprocates with error in the solicitation of recognition. Indeed the invisible interlocutor typically appears in Ill Seen, Ill Said in the disappearance of certainty about what can already be seen to be the case.The first admonition by the narrator to be “careful” of making simple retrospective (in other words, foundational) assumptions arises from the first attempt to set the scene of this narrative: “The cabin [where the old woman endures]. Its situation. Careful.” Of what we are meant to be careful we know nothing, except what is contingent upon the imperative to go on: “On. At the inexistent centre of a formless place” ( Ill Seen, Ill Said, 8). The invisible interlocutor deliberately spurred “on,” in this opening gambit of narration, is thus linked to the

Acting in the Space of Appearance


source of tragic knowledge, namely, the wrong word, by a procedural scruple of countenancing error as the only prospect (means of going “on”) for self-understanding. The appearance of the word tears —denoting nominatively those mirrory globes of human grief and verbally the tearing apart of otherwise commensurable registers, which is after all the source of tearful grief—constitutes the first occasion of this error-driven knowledge in Beckett’s narrative. Perhaps Beckett is showing us that tragedy, the fount of tears, is the reflective medium par excellence, insofar as in tragedy one learns to see oneself in reversal (peripety) as one is not, that is, in error.The inaugural tears in the tragedy that is Ill Seen, Ill Said both flow from the intensity of the old woman’s own visual focus and anticlimactically blur it:“Riveted to some detail of the desert the eye fills with tears” (17). These tears born of the exercise of the knowledgeseeking eye, trying to see what is there to be known, curiously blur vision in the manner of a perverse corrective lens. For the curvature of this lens indicates no trajectory of correction that might count as a certifiable prescription, a remediation of what is wrong. Our evidence for this claim is that the word tears in the ensuing sentences is successively “visualized,” so to speak, in multiple registers of implied analogy. However, for all their solicitation of imagistic resemblances, the analogies thwart visuality altogether: “Riveted to some detail of the desert the eye fills with tears. Imagination at wit’s end spreads its sad wings. Gone she hears one night the sea as if afar. Plucks up her long skirt to make better haste and discovers her boots and stockings to the calf.Tears. Last example the flagstone before her door that by dint by dint her little weight has grooved.Tears” (17–18).Tears are “made apparent” analogically, as sad wings of imagination, the water of the sea, rents in stockings, and perhaps even the water that grooves the stone in the manner of the human step. In other words, Beckett’s narrator posits all that can be seen in terms of what he will fixate upon, later in the text, as the discrepancy between two eyes—“one of flesh and the other.” The binarism of this analogizing—visual and verbal, eye and I, seen and said—clearly exhibits symptoms of an illness already evident in the structure of analogy itself: the condition that rightness and wrongness of judgment are determined as inherently revisable standards. Revisability is of course a threshold of error itself. From such binaries, which proclaim their inadequacy by their proliferation of grounds for comparison, the narrator surmises that the only escape is to strategically “ill say the contrary.”This he has done himself, by counterposing the “eye of flesh” with an “other” that, because it is merely “the other,”


Aesthetic Reason

lacks any particularity sufficient to articulate its otherness as binary with respect to the self. By thus privileging error (“ill saying the contrary”) over the tantalizing reconciliations of analogy, he makes the stakes of knowledge conform to the very expectation of change-revisability that analogy otherwise essays to preempt.Analogy hedges assiduously against the “wrong word.” Beckett’s narration, instantiated thus on the threshold of the question “What the wrong word?” suggests the way in which the training aspect of a self-revisable subject is conditioned by the absolute “givenness” of the wrong word. It is keyed to the impossibility of knowing the right word independently of some deliberative, or comparative, procedure.A veritable lexicon of pseudoneologisms serves as the most subtle currency of this “givenness of the wrong word” in Beckett’s prose. Throughout the work, arcane diction such as “dimmen,”“strangury,”“collapsion,”“scrute” abounds. By their juxtaposition with perfectly colloquial idioms, these words present the erroneous appearance of neologism. They are the wrong words in more ways than one. But in this capacity they recapitulate the very temporal confusion of prospective pathos; they recapitulate the reversibility and revisability that we saw evoked in the instances of pronominal instability, in the competing analogical registers that obtrude through parsimonious syntax, and finally in the difference between the two eyes: between what can be seen (eye) and what can be said (I). Contrary to these manifestly inadequate resources of knowledge, what Beckett’s narrator strives for in the desire to bear scrupulous witness to the old woman’s predicament is a lucidity that surpasses difference. Differences after all breed the confusions of trying to avoid confusion: the topos of analogy per se. By confusing “things and their imaginings,” analogy thereby invites a potentially exhausting deliberative vigilance in its concession to shifting contextual horizons. Above all, Beckett’s narrator sues for release from the self-discipline of such deliberations. It is a goal that he would pursue even at the price of irreality:“If only she [the old woman] could be pure figment. Unalloyed. This old so dying woman. So dead. . . . How simple all then. If only all could be pure figment” (Ill Seen, Ill Said, 20). The reader attuned to the varieties of Beckettian skepticism already anatomized here, and thus wary of the ambition to simplify the tasks of knowledge by neuturalizing error, will know that the “figment,” purified of the imperative to compare, dangerously oversimplifies things. Such oversimplification removes the warrant for deliberation itself: it will become clear that the cost of eluding error is the loss of an expres-

Acting in the Space of Appearance


sivity, which the narrator’s text everywhere unwitting supplies. Here Beckett’s sense of tragedy resonates with a growing suspicion among classicists on the subject: that we have permitted our emphasis on the ends of clarity and insight in tragic drama to blind us, even in an Oedipal manner, to the scope of Greek skepticism about the value of any human knowledge that comes free of the exigencies of error.27 We are no less aware that the category of the aesthetic, coined by Alexander Baumgarten in 1735, specifically transgressed the prevailing philosophical binary of conceptual clarity and sensuous confusion upon which the distinction between art and thought had previously subsisted. Alternatively, Baumgarten posited in the aesthetic a quality of “confused clarity.”28 Baumgarten licensed an expressivity that, in a sense, legitimated error by correlating the imperative for conceptual unity with the distinction-making imperatives operative in complex sensory gestalts.The complexity of the sensory gestalt, under the sign of confused clarity, sustains conceptual unity as an active modality. Conceptual unity obtains as an augmenting of the quantity of distinguishable elements within its grasp, thus challenging the limits of the mind’s powers of distinction/ordination. 29 It is this kind of complexity that Beckett’s prose contrives, even against the rhetorical pull of the narrator’s wish to entertain “pure figment.” We see this strikingly in the way that the risks of error, which incite the narrator’s circumspection and spur his romance with pure figment, are balanced by a desire to keep up with inexorable changes within the field of vision: the woman and the cabin set within its perimeter of white stones. Pure figment could never compass these changes. It is a circumstance that inevitably reprises the menace of error. Consequently the word change (the concept of changeability) becomes the refrain of the narrator’s attentiveness to the world and to the figure of the old woman who marks its horizon.The old woman’s physical movements, mapped within a perimeter deliminated by an ominous stone—tombstone or benign milestone, we never know—adumbrates the pattern of this attentiveness. Here the narrator is challenged to decide whether in the relatively closed circuit of the old woman’s comings and goings (toward and away from the totemic stone) her movements change or simply follow the grid upon which they can be charted:“Changed the stone that draws her when revisited alone. Or she who changes it when side by side. . . . Is it to nature alone it owes its rough-hewn air. Or to some too human hand forced to desist? Michelangelo’s from the regicide’s bust” ( Ill Seen, Ill Said, 43; my emphasis).


Aesthetic Reason

Like everything that changes under the focus of the narrator’s errorworrying scrutiny, the question of what is the right perception (echoing “what the wrong word”) here depends on adequating and augmenting the motives for construing these changes one way or another.The threat of error that hovers over this decision in the quoted passage is shrewdly mimicked by the tense change (“changed,” “changes”) that instantiates change as active and passive in the very act of posing the question, Is it active (culture) or passive (nature)? The activity of change then assumes a significance greater than the causal stakes that might otherwise prevail in our reckoning with its effects, were we preoccupied with simply knowing the difference between what constitutes a right and a wrong decision, independent of the process of decision-making itself.This deployment of the word change, like a kind of white magic, produces the compensatory, if not altogether salutary, effect of changing the picture of what is to be gained and lost through the vicissitudes of error. For it involves the reader in a process of change: one that would otherwise loom as the brutally impersonal contingency of error. As if to elaborate this perspective several pages later, when we are invited to contemplate how the natural light changes things, the word change is deployed in such a way as to elicit the temporality of physis. And yet it elicits this temporality not in the guise of the proverbial antagonist of nomos—which, as we saw earlier, masks the need for protocols of social recognition—but in the manner of the sculptor’s hand that hews the stone to give it a “Natural air.” In this context the changing light is reciprocated with by the recognitions of the “changeable eye” that is trying to keep up with it.Accordingly, Beckett’s prose enacts the passage of time, the changing light, as a passing across contextual horizons, such that the reader’s passage incurs a duty to recontextualize. Once again, the contingency of the subject with respect to error is assimilated to the agency of its perception.This assimilation is ingeniously cued by the “apparent” structure of a run-on sentence, which obtrudes that much more urgently in the conspicuous absence of a “real” grammatical error.“The eye has changed.And its drivelling scribe. Absence has changed them [“all the ill seen ill said”]. Not enough. Time to go again.Where still more to change”(Ill Seen, Ill Said, 51;my emphasis). The confusion perpetrated by the idiomatic temptation to run-on “Not enough” with the first word of the grammatically distinct construction “Time to go again,” exemplifies Beckett’s way of involving the reader in the process of change as something more than a spectator. Indeed, I believe that this “structural effect” is at work throughout Ill

if we privilege grammatical correctness we must admit that in the future. it poses a plurality of stances that might be taken toward the predicament of there being “not enough time.” On the one hand. in effect.”And since this predicament. On the other hand. is what makes error inescapable.The divergent referents of the separate locutions —“Not enough” refers to “changes” that do not yet suffice to mark meaningful distinctions.“not enough [time].As such it proffers the kind of usefulness. where it is always “time to go. where the persistence of change vitiates the hope for distinction altogether—cause us to see how one reflects upon the other without canceling the other in a concession to indeterminacy. that I anticipated earlier. we have already noted. conceding that there is “not enough time” we possess a motive. lurks problematically in the narrator’s cautionary admonitions.”This is a knowledge that might impel us to suspend the grammatical in favor of the idiomatic rules by which we construe meaning here. This. if we resort to idiomatic correctness.” (which proliferates existential times)—by exposing complementary but incommensurable meanings. If nothing else.“to go again. By miming this problematic. Thus. and “Time to go” references the future tense. as a vehicle of training for reciprocal recognition.Acting in the Space of Appearance 97 Seen. the construable run-on syntax in this passage also lends substance to the “invisible interlocutor. I have argued. Quite to the contrary.This was my reason for making Beckett the exemplar of claims about the ethical bearing of the aesthetic in the first place. is comparable to the solicitation of consensus. the two registers of meaning “run on” in this passage make the site of error a dramatic threshold of deliberation.“not enough time” (which negates existential time). Ill Said.”This returns us to the force of grammatical rule. it returns us to the arena within which the choice of which rule to follow is the de facto solicitation of a reflective judgment. conjuring error as a paralyzing indeterminacy elsewhere in Beckett’s text.The error of reading the “correct” idiom. even in those passages that do not deal explicitly with time/change. if only out of the desperate lack of meaningful alternatives. change and changeability make us—at least procedurally—other to ourselves and. in this passage and others where parsimonious syntactical elisions purvey a multiplicity of combinatory possibilities. reciprocates with the relative error of reading the correct punctuation—“Time to go again. in that way.” His presence. determination and decision . solicitous of reconciliation with ourselves.” there is. Since the appearance of the run-on invokes competing criteria of choice for making contextual sense. For they both yield versions of “Not enough time. tantamount to changeability itself. I have suggested.

30 For absence might indeed serve as a “supreme good” but only in the stoic repose of a finite perspective. . . Ill Said.“all ill seen. We can perhaps see this imperative take shape most clearly in the concluding section of Ill Seen. the bearer of presences. . The “illness” of what remains to be said is even more symptomatic in the next sentence:“Illumination then go again and on return no more trace” (58). how to come to the end of the worry that one has not got it right.This is precisely the perspective that is here annexed to the antithetical contingency of knowing that there is something more (“and yet”) to be said about it. How does one take the decision to desist from the activity of knowing so that one can rest in the confidence of error-free knowledge? Beckett’s answers are surprisingly compelling.98 Aesthetic Reason making are de rigueur. . after all.This episode invokes “decision” as a thematic corollary to the problem of closing a narrative that has struggled with the menace of error in large part because error thwarts the aim of closure. Light.” invites a continuation of the very line of thought it otherwise (by way of punctuation) seems to finalize. . Ill Said the imperative to muster new criteria of choice retrospectively as a consequence of error. I alleged earlier. in the hopes that one more concession to its presence will guarantee its absence. seems to be the most intractable problem. Ill Said. And this is decidedly preferable to the relative rigor mortis that might otherwise pass for an acceptably postmodern indeterminacy of meaning in such contexts.” Beckett’s narrator at last abandons her with the abortively absolutizing proclamation “Absence [is a] supreme good and yet” (Ill Seen. which the narrator intended to be quit of in the resignation to absence. Having exhaustively tracked the old woman’s elusive presence. One must decide. Of course. the move toward error-free closure.” robs the statement of its declarative power in much the way that the uncompleted run-on “. that the “invisibility” of Beckett’s interlocutor confers upon the reader of Ill Seen. It was with this understanding.” locatable somewhere on the akrasia-enkrateia continuum. the decision that is impending at the end of Beckett’s narrative has been looming all along in the narrator’s unceasing flirtation with error. however ill said it may turn out to be. and yet .The resolution of the problem. What else remains to be said becomes apparent if we observe how the absence of the verb in “Absence supreme good . . 58). returns here as something to be abandoned again. Here the juxtaposition of a run-on construction with an instance of syntactical parsimony exhibits their rhetorical complementarity as vehicles for exercising what Aristotle might call a “deliberative virtue.That this paradoxical notion does not merely give way to an idle .

Acting in the Space of Appearance 99 play of indeterminate forces becomes apparent when. . the word decision itself is configured as a conscientious reflector for the akratic will that we have just observed to be wavering between stoic absence and fully “illuminated” presence. making the point that the full intelligibility of motivated agency depends upon the knowledge of motivation constituted as choices between other motives . .The fact that the idiom “No sooner reached . than revoked” puts an emphasis upon the process of reaching a decision that threatens to preempt the content of the decision itself. a word that speaks to other words. error notwithstanding.“decision” here is not a stand-in for perfect enkrateia. Literally.“Decision no sooner reached or rather long after than what is the wrong word? For the last time at last for to end yet again what the wrong word? Than revoked” (59). what has not been revoked in this passage is revealed in successive qualifying accounts. and rendered operative as a word that does intellectual work other than what was intended as correct. . . Of itself by slow millimeters or drawn by a phantom hand. In other words. which we have seen can often have the paradoxical effect of decontextualizing and hence derealizing its agency. While it is counter to akrasia.This. The syntactical consummation of “decision” in the word “revoked. a little very little like the wisps of day when the curtain closes. the wrong word is. than revoked” is belated with respect to its own declarative purposiveness—by virtue of the intervening and parodistically time-mongering phrasing “For the last time at last for to end yet again”—vitiates the power of the verb revoke to revoke time.” which might otherwise have terminated the agency of the decision maker.” spells out a range of new topoi from which to orient expectations of meaningfulness. . Farewell to farewell” (59). Instead we must countenance the epistemological burden of accepting that every end is a beginning. the syntactical interruptus of the decision “no sooner reached . where the rhetor- . is both identified as “the wrong word” correctly. What is “dispelled. The spectacle of incontinent narration we witness. For the decision to end here gives way to a deliberation upon the motives for ending. is its saving grace. On the contrary. on the final page of the text. I will argue. It is not a will to act according to uncompromising or single-minded intentions. albeit the beginning of a contextual reorientation that doesn’t seek to escape contextualizing imperatives.” in lieu of “revoked. to have been “dispelled . Is not time the very source of error itself? The narrator’s idiom here decisively puts under suspicion the expectation that decision can be an end in itself. .

But we return with a more sanguine picture of how such frustrations have their own rewards. we must read this final declaration as an irrepressible pun.” to “move on. these admonitions anticipate a meaning that obtains only as an unintended consequence of the error about to be perpetrated in the knowledge hazarded at any given moment of the narrative. Like the akratic subject in his inescapable deference to the prospective knowledge that comes of reckoning with the unintended consequences of action. After all. Indeed. reveals what unexpected resources have been born of failure. if the knowledge of happiness toward which the narrator has been striving is thwarted by the ungovernable changes (proliferating differences) that make up the field of play for his cognitive attention. up to this point in the text.” For it is the narrator’s awakening to the necessity of spelling things out by producing a prospective standard of accountability to his own intentions. Beckett’s narrator jettisons the error-haunted ego of his own intentionality. pursued in the name of absence. Ill Said: “Know happiness. He does so most conclusively in the seemingly unintended—at least unanticipated—consequence of the final declarative sentence of Ill Seen.” I believe we can make the best sense of this utterly surprising last sentence by following the dialogical impetus of error-threatening confusion so pervasive elsewhere in the devices of Beckett’s prose. we might say.” to be “quick. then “no happiness” is both the logically inescapable conclusion of this narrative enterprise and. If we do so.100 Aesthetic Reason ical qualifications imposed upon declarative sentences consistently act against the best intentions of the narrator’s will to eschew error. Or. the happiness.“To end yet again” which the narrator essays to do in virtually all of the last sentences of Ill Seen. even more pointedly. epiphenomenal as it is of the “wrong word.This phrase is in effect our “farewell to farewell.” In effect. the presence of the invisible interlocutor has dogged the narrator’s watchful admonitions to “be careful.“Grace to breathe that void” (59)—invites us to doubt the seriousness of the testimonial itself. Ill Said.”The emotional fullness conjured as the consummation of physical absence in this last sentence—and anticipated as it is by the complacent aestheticism of the phrase that invokes it.This is where decision gives way to deliberation.”We might then count the recognition of this error as the reader’s own coming into play as a counterpart of the invisible interlocutor. was perhaps the wrong kind of happiness for this narrator to court.After all. the abortive “decision” to abort presence. . brings us back to the topos of akrasia. the narrator’s most imaginable “happiness” has always taken a negative trajectory in the aspiration towards a stoic “absence. its own prompt to “know happiness” otherwise.

that is. Ill Said. Socrates . If. Only in this way does “decision” remain in play. Finally.Aristotle is careful to insist that the continence of ethical character. 7.The simple declarative “Know happiness” sacrifices the status of happiness as an object of knowledge and hence as a vital register of experience.We might now imagine that by replacing happiness with a discipline of increasingly conscientious dispositions toward happiness. We need to remember that “happiness”—as much the lure of beauty theory as it is the lure of Beckett’s narrator—has historically inhibited aesthetics by seeming to make pleasure an end in itself.Acting in the Space of Appearance 101 That is to say. place. in our reading of Beckett’s Ill Seen. Ill Said. Upon this knowing Aristotle’s most noble pleasure. Only in this way does “decision” yield a prospective view of the contingencies that define it. the complexity of choices for contextual construal that are dramatized by the narrator’s horror of error.31 In Protagoras. In Beckett’s prose the decision-making protocol orchestrated on the threshold of error—the baffles of parsimonious syntax. it is worth noting how the late twentiethcentury complaint that aesthetics is an inducement to erroneous actions. “Know happiness” also is “No happiness. the pleasure of ethical life. the abortive “decision” that precipitated this final “episode” of Beckett’s narrative might be read as a version of “no happiness” but with the understanding that only “no happiness” could sustain our human striving after pleasure as a mode of knowledge. In short. or reciprocal with. as Beckett does in Ill Seen. are always invoked within a highly specific context of time. such happiness is unsituated.“know happiness” is the wrong kind of happiness because. rather than preempting those contingencies in the retrospect of knowing what happiness was meant to be . the directional miscues of run-on constructions.We circumscribe it within the field of deliberative action that it otherwise seems bent upon transcending.1151a32–b4). the best reasons summoned to action. We can usefully recall that the Greek eudaimonia was stipulated to be “no happiness” as long as the happiness it looked for was imagined as a state of being independent of the temporality out of which it was cognized. Furthermore. depends. and manner (Ethics. the multiregistered referentiality of puns—all impose a similar constraint of knowledge: the limits of intelligibility are made apparent only where the reader’s situation entails a deliberative protocol equal to.” then the pleasure of reading Beckett’s text at this juncture is rendered coherent with the human project of knowing as acting . we aspire to reinvent aesthetic purpose. echoes Plato’s complaint against akrasia. inviting affective infringements upon cognitive responsibilities. in its presumption to immediacy.

Our compensation would be the knowledge that what makes human failure such a rich resource for art makes art a serviceable hedge against the kind of self-deluding intentionality that. . What strange beauty can error bestow on art? We shall see that if nothing else. we can finally suspend the misconception that artistic motives are exempt from.The beauty of art will inhere as an actualization of knowledge that does not mitigate the density of act. it would instantiate a value that cannot be equated with the ideal of aesthetic perfection that both error and failure necessarily belie. by now understanding how the dynamics of akratic judgment make a fit with Beckett’s narrative poetics. It would consequently serve to further demystify the auratic function of art by implicating its practices more inextricably in the temporality that aesthetic truth struggles to defy.The truth of beauty will give way to the contextualization of the judging subject. Perhaps. or discontinuous with. In the following chapter I will contemplate more fully the question.102 Aesthetic Reason insists that one only acts against best reasons out of a failure of cognitive will. the problematic of human motivation that is inevitably exposed within the horizon of unintended consequences. by ignoring the contingencies of self-recognition. precipitates ever more tragic reckonings with the world.And indeed we have seen that Aristotle also identified akrasia with the mind overcome by bodily appetites.

In fact. And it is rational deliberation that perfectionist aesthetic theory has most vociferously eschewed by repressing the problematic of error. Process is. Human. But as long as aesthetic perfection remains a prime rationale of art production and appreciation. All Too Human I Particularly in the idealist guise of the beautiful. Lord Shaftesbury. after all. Foucault Reader Error about life necessary for life.4 Beautiful Errors: Aesthetics and the Art of Contextualization What strikes me is the fact that in our society art has become something which is related only to objects and not to individuals. by its axiomatic presumption that the aesthetic object embodies a timeless unity: the aura of timeless beauty is the indefatigable nemesis of aesthetic making. and Kant— and particularly in the paradigmatic modalities of genius and sublimity—have consistently put aesthetic production at odds with the pragmatics of rational assessment. or to life. —Nietzsche. interpretive languages will inevitably founder on this contradiction: the claimants of artistic knowledge must bracket the very criteria of rationality that otherwise offer to make art and knowledge commensurable. perfectionism remains a hallmark of aesthetic value and aesthetic judgment. —Foucault.1 They have systematically elided the rules of production with the product qua intuited object. the identification of the aesthetic with the ideal of perfection is already an impediment to thinking the aesthetic as an aspect of processural reality.The standards of artistic perfection canonized in the eighteenth century by Nicolas Boileau. a sine qua non of the protocols of rational deliberation.This has been the hallmark of the aesthetic’s ongoing defensive maneuvers against the Platonist disenfranchisement of .

The contradictoriness of this logic of course deepens in the conclusion that what preserves the authority of art atrophies its connection to life.The repression of error has served as the fulcrum of aesthetic autonomy whenever autonomy has been the standard of aesthetic perfection. is typically an anticognitivist surpassing of the infinitely fallible methods of truth (methods of proof). for Socrates’ caricature aesthete. may grant us efficient leverage to reinstate the rationality of the artwork as the fulcrum of its expressive powers rather than as the inevitable antagonist of artistic will. Whereas perfection.Thus it might serve to scuttle the Romanticism that too simplistically equates artistic will with irrationality or the unconscious. both the logical and affective nemesis of perfection. for which more rationalistic protocols of worldly engagement might be seen as the morally compelling remedies. . makes perfection originally warrantable as a goal. Error. and for good reason. 3 Socrates believes it is concomitantly a measure of the perfectibility of the world that rational methods are capable of precisely measuring the artist’s deviation from correlatively calculable truths. as we’ve already noted. Similarly. however. error has been the touchstone of political critiques that would discount the aesthetic as a hopelessly unworldly preoccupation. the critics of the aesthetic see perfection as the methodological leverage that truth gains over the affective and ahistorical intuitionism of art.104 Aesthetic Reason art. my purpose in this chapter is to advance the idea that error.What is more important than the differences between them. share a common stake in the standard of perfection. I will try to show how the aesthetic puts error into play so that art can thereby do the work of rationality without which its ability to do anything beyond “being” beautiful remains a dubious proposition. famously articulated in Socrates’ debunking of aesthetic-perceptual intuitionism. and the political/scientific critics of the aesthetic.2 If paradox can remedy contradiction. For this intimates their even more fundamental common dependence upon the liability of error.According to this set of biases. after all. In this context I want to allege that error might be a salutary link between the aesthetic and rational cognition. however. is that both the aesthetes. one that might suspend the mutual exclusions otherwise predicated between them. since. the artwork projects a demonstrably erroneous view of the world. error exposes art to the hazards of time. in relation to more parsimonious empirical accounts of human experience.The paradox I take on here of course intensifies in our awareness that error is typically the standard by which rationalists have invidiously judged the aesthetic.

It would mitigate the morally precarious abstraction of both when they are taken to be mutually exclusive of each other. seems to depend on the irrationality of the contingencies that the rule would otherwise constrain. after all. and not as a mutually exclusive wrong versus right. On the contrary. from Nietzsche’s perspective the intelligibility of artistic form obtains only in relation to what it constrains. in relation to a rule. quintessentially a threshold of error. He judged that only under the stresses of a self-imposed fetter.Beautiful Errors 105 My use of the term error references itself most acutely to the relation between a rule and a contingent practice: namely. under the constraint of formal rigor. we might say that the rationality of the artwork. after all. for the artist. denotes an assessment of representational practice founded on the possibility of discerning a deviation from a rule. It is particularly important to stipulate that these negotiations would unfold in narrative order as a learning process. by “dancing in chains” (140). are the premier instance of unintended consequences. Or. Errors can only come to light within an emergent context of judgment. or indulging the masquerade of originality that is predicated on belligerent unintelligibility. In this chapter I entertain the possibility that broadening the scope of these negotiations is the significant ethical responsibility and cul- .Then our cognizance of error would become a threshold of negotiation between the wrongs of irrationality and right reason. could the artist come to a self-understanding that might evade the two tragic self-deceptions to which artists are otherwise typically prone: purveying the immediate intelligibility of public convention as universal truth. we might.The emergent context reveals prior conceptions to be inadequate to the intentionality instantiated through their deployment. Nietzsche’s more empirically interested championing of classicism against romantic individualism in Human. the situation of its implementation. a cardinal incidence of error. Errors. however. Both stratagems are evasions of the calling to account that is presupposed in the cognizance of error. Nietzsche was notoriously an enemy of perfection and perfectionism because “[w]hen something is perfect we tend to neglect to ask about its evolution” (145). view the possibility of error as a phenomenon of contextuality. struggling as he was in the late 1870s to disentangle his thinking from the metaphysical enchantments of Birth of Tragedy. is precisely what guarantees the vitality of aesthetic experience. because constraint entails contingency. Such a view is famously asserted by the Nietzsche of Human All Too Human. All Too Human stresses the cognitive responsibility (131) that obtains.This relation.4 Formal rigor. If we follow the genealogical ways of Nietzsche’s own perspectivism.

as homologous with the challenge of translating apparently incommensurable languages: conflicts of meaning that seem to defy mediation.Worse yet. by obviating the search for a rule that would commensurate differences. this process constitutes an arena for social exchange within which the very freedom touted by avant-gardists can thrive.7 Aestheticism is perfectionism in this claim because. Since Claude Henri de Saint-Simon brought the term avant-garde into currency in the 1820s.After all.The twentieth-century aesthetic “movements” of surrealism and Dada present conspicuous examples of this self-alienating project. it nullifies the deliberative process that the task of adequation otherwise occasions.This reaction is. the aesthetic has been deeply complicit in the logic of this dilemma because aesthetic perfectionism (particularly in the eighteenth-to-nineteenthcentury rhetorics of genius and the sublime) presupposed the alienation of artistic languages from the discourses of life against which they are often charged to react.106 Aesthetic Reason turally appointed social work of the aesthetic. empirical history. As early as Sir Philip Sidney’s “An Apology for Poetry” (1595) the chauvinism of “the erected wit. carrying this burden of reaction requires some protocols of reciprocal recognition among human agents. But as the earlier example of Sidney . a predisposition to assume the untranslatability of aesthetic knowledge vis-à-vis quotidian existence. which maketh us to know what perfection is” sets the pattern. was de facto in the alleged impermeability of artistic languages to the discourses of science. it indulges a belief in the artwork’s independence from any external criterion of adequation. The avant-gardism of aesthetic theory. in effect.6 its strong-willed alienation of artistic languages from the practices of bourgeois society remains a threshold of error that cannot be reckoned with except in mutually exclusive counters of experience. as we shall see in subsequent discussion. at the limit of translatability. I choose to see the problem of how to augment the scope of these negotiations. too much its own nihilistic nemesis in its effort to purge the ideological corruptions of social life. As I have alleged in previous chapters.5 Brute negative art—the perennial negation of avantgardism—is. philosophical truth. or the skills of contextualization in this regard. so that reaction does not simply elide with negation. even before there was a theory of an avant-garde. The relation of art to life posited by aesthetic perfectionists (among whom the activists of the avant-garde must be seen to be the most traditional) casts the aesthetic as the humanistic discourse that most selfservingly promotes the idea of a conflict of languages as the guarantor of its autonomy.As I have suggested.

would essay to improve society by destroying it. it is a transhistorical phenomenon. and in the runaway ironies of postmodern kitsch. under the banners of surrealism or Dada. the endurance of the self as a site of contested identity mandates some protocol of reconciliation between the discrepant languages (circumstances) of self-identification. self-deception. though remediable. I will take issue with the most reductive versions of this tradition in order to plausibly distinguish cognitive aesthetics from noncognitive aestheticism. but without altogether blurring the line between aesthetics and other discourses of cognitive knowledge. After all. By this means.This is the case even if avantgardists. by contrast. Thus deliberation may be contemplated as the necessary corollary of translatability. We have seen that classical aesthetics. in its Neoplatonist perfectionism. how all such incommensurable language versions of the aesthetic (from Longinus to Kant) eschew or inhibit deliberation in their stand against translatability. In effect they obviate the possibility of the mutual recognition of human agents. why it was attacked by late eighteenth-century methodological partisans of the Enlightenment.This was. I would therefore suggest that if the aesthetic entails a problem of translation between seemingly discrepant languages. More to the point. identity can be generalized beyond the particular moment of its epistemological crisis without transcending the conditions of particularity altogether in the manner of deontological universals. Unduly loose tests of aesthetic value such as Shaftesbury’s “Je ne sais quoi” and Lord Kames’s “amor patria” invited the harsh disciplines of Christian Wolff and Adam . It is operative in the eighteenth-century neoclassical decorums of “general nature. but error understood as a site of potential.Beautiful Errors 107 intimates. always sought a more universalist end. I would point out. ironically.” in the inward trajectories of nineteenth-century Romanticism. without which the moral imperatives touted by perfectionist epistemologies of classical aesthetics must remain stubbornly heuristic. translatability rather than untranslatability will prove a stronger motive for entertaining the conflict of languages as an edifying basis of the aesthetic. the stakes of translatability are not simply error understood as a divergence from a system of truth such as syntactical or semantic rule. It facilitates the communicability of the artwork along with the community-building resources ascribed to the aesthetic by aesthetic perfectionists.The continuity of the self through the vicissitudes of error will be an important crux of my distinction here.They sought to discredit any upstart universalism that would refuse to submit to rational tests.

Not accidentally. But it is important to remem- . Enlightenment thinkers took on the calamity of error in the guise of that long history of unintended consequences that we countenance as the failure of traditional culture. Gilles Deleuze. is in many ways intended to serve as a hedge against conflict. my concern for the aesthetic will prove to be indistinguishable from the late twentieth-century preoccupation with the fate of the Enlightenment. however.9 Concomitantly. are epistemologically earnest partisans of the aesthetic in their efforts to check the rampant instrumentalism of late capitalist technoscientific reason. just at the moment when the aesthetic began its return to cultural prominence.The success of my argument must hang on my ability to demonstrate that these fates are tied in such a way that an anatomy of the entanglement will be more fruitful than any attempt to sever the bond. For the moment. 8 A constructive irony of my own argument will come into play when I demonstrate how a recouping of the rationalistically deliberative resources of the aesthetic might rescue the rationalist Enlightenment subject from its current ill favor. It is premised upon the belief that the fates of the aesthetic and the Enlightenment are tied in error’s persistence as a constraint of subject formation. the aesthetic has been in productive tension with error for many of the same reasons that the ego of modernity took up the cause of Enlightenment. best epitomized in this respect by Hobbes. the most commonplace critique of the Enlightenment —stigmatizing it as the dogma of modernity—took root in the late nineteenth century. Conflict is the nemesis of a social world bereft of universals and their attendant certitudes—beliefs that can sustain the disappointments of human experience by transcending the temporal ravages against human intentionality. And many of the most vehement late twentieth-century critics of Enlightenment. II Viewed in very general terms.108 Aesthetic Reason Smith that followed in their wake. the Enlightenment. if only to cower in conflict’s shadow. Of course. Later in this chapter I will try to disclose the odd complicity of these boosters of the aesthetic with the very weaknesses of aesthetic theory that originally made it vulnerable to Enlightenment reason. we understand that error is conflict. It has fallen into disrepute for the very instrumentalism (inspired by the likes of Wolff and Smith) that it originally wielded against the aesthetic. Foucault. and JeanFrançois Lyotard.

by dint of its formal originality.The failure of Enlightenment devices to potentiate human self-realization gives us the best motive for seeking resources beyond the usual disciplinary boundaries—political science.” It accordingly solicits . rather than as a refuge from conflict. by my earlier insistence that the aesthetic needs to be understood in relation to error.Although I have been calling this fault line between knowing and not knowing error—and declaring it to be the threshold of our engagement with the artwork—recent philosophical speculation on the possibilities of scientific explanation offers an instructive analogue to this phenomenon that brings error. As I implied. brings a theory of the world into contact with a state of affairs that has yet to be accounted for. the conflicts that undergird that relation must in turn be seen specifically as sites of cognitive tension: the cognitive tension arises from the fact that the artwork. plausibly evokes an “anomalous state of affairs. is key to the project of establishing the relevance of art and the efficacy of the discourses of art under the political and economic regimes of postEnlightenment. but as a rationalistic imperative wherein an anomalous state of affairs is at stake.Beautiful Errors 109 ber that the late twentieth-century critique of Enlightenment—for example. and implicitly aesthetic production. The intelligibility we can impute in the mere formality (what Kant would call the “finality of form”) of the artwork—to the degree that the form is innovative—solicits its own revision. economics—all endowed with social prestige by the prescriptions of Enlightenment wisdom. it will be essential to accept the proposition that aesthetics takes us beyond the usual disciplinary boundaries. For it is under these regimes that the problem of a context-specific self-realization of the human subject—which was stymied by the rigidity of Enlightenment precepts— has acquired a fresh urgency. law. in the modes of deductive-nomological truth telling. “Anomaly theory” holds out a prospect for thinking through error as a modus operandi of human purposiveness.11 Artistic form. Foucault’s critique of Kant—reacts against the ineluctable instrumentalism of reason on the basis of a new willingness to accept conflict. anomaly theory contends that scientific explanation (and hence rationalistic judgment) ought to be treated not as a programmatic chain of reasoning.10 I believe that the willingness to see the aesthetic as a site for negotiating conflict. in the defamiliarizing aspect that has most often been touted by aesthetic theory as the hallmark of its identity. For my purposes. into more constructive attunement with contingency. As formulated by Willard Humphreys. philosophy. Recognition of that fact alters the boundaries of the aesthetic. late capitalist culture.

Inasmuch as canonical forms are coterminous with the egotistical rewards of received knowledge. inexorable in the incidence of anomalous circumstance. I am proposing that. is that the transformation of the self.To treat the aesthetic epistemologically as an “art of contextualization” would thus be to implicate it in the project of self-realization. and inasmuch as cognitive tension denotes a locus of human intentionality. Cognitive tension. inclined as they are to posit a transfigurational springboard for the project of human self-realization. unsettling the protocols of intelligibility that legitimate those rationales. after all. integral to the project of self-realization. in canonical artistic forms. presupposes a warrant for establishing better terms of fit between principles of self-understanding and the always “anomalous” circumstances within which the applicability of those principles is mandated. contextuality is the most literal register of experience. this shift of emphasis would constrain us to understand . the bringing of the self into accord with others or other perspectives. this proposition has served the universalizing purposes of aesthetic perfectionism first underwritten by Platonist aesthetics. Here. as it is. Epistemologically this is an old problem. It is part and parcel of the traditional cultural enthusiasm for treating artistic unity as a key to the typologies of human self-realization—allegorically embodied. It puts art potentially at odds with any abiding universalist rationales.To treat the artwork as structurally. in its assimilation of particularities under the constraint of its own temporal contingency. Furthermore. because it portends countenancing art (substantially rather than metaphorically) as new knowledge. however.110 Aesthetic Reason a normativizing language that is most practically conceivable as a transformation of norms. requires a protocol of translatability if we are to “read” correctly the otherwise obscure message of unanticipated or unintended consequences that accrues to the self-transforming actions of intentional subjects. It is the vehicle of most dualistic-transcendental propositions. it serves as a guarantor of moral self-transformation. we ought to take the paradigm of translatability quite literally as an already built-in feature of the contextuality of the artwork itself. Composition is ineluctably contextualization.What is implied here. We are only too comfortable with the popular thematic account of this involvement. would prove to be more controversial. rather than just thematically. At the very least. structurally as well as thematically. What is crucially at issue in anomaly is the possibility of knowing error as a lever for some self-revising scruple. however. In literary art. in the context of our desire to understand the work of art as a determinate practice.

for them. the evasion of conflict perpetrated. Only in that way would they be rationalized under the threat of error that menaces any honestly conflicted perspective. It ought to be apparent already that this subjectless grounding of the aesthetic. . is already focused on the idea that universalization must submit to the very openendedness that would threaten to nullify its epistemological warrant: as a necessary corrective for the manifest error of taking particularity at face value. Perhaps the desire to finesse this recognition—that universalization must submit to temporality—explains why so many contemporary aesthetic theories. so easily avoided. the universalism of the artwork—often articulated in Kantian parlance as a sensus communis—is tied to a subjectless mobility. and cannot be. I want to insist. seek to reassert the universalist claims of classical aesthetics in the guise of a contextual relativism. whereby the incommensurability of discursive positions serves as a refuge from intersubjective conflicts (inducements to abuses of power and unjust domination). is just another version of the untranslatability argument within which more conventional aesthetic theories insulate their moralizing pretensions. making it into little more than a reprise of the caricature aesthete’s ever more self-romanticizing quest after a truth that passeth understanding. however unwittingly. Such mobility is conferred by the artwork on subjects who would otherwise be self-deceiving victims of egotistical drives. Jameson. by such representative poststructuralist figures as Foucault and Lyotard is effectively a trivialization of error.Beautiful Errors 111 as a distinctly nontranscendental enterprise the process of universalization conventionally reverenced in the work of art. It is a nod to making the process of universalization open-ended without having to take into account the situational particulars or the contextual markers that are so relativized. what is sacrificed in this gambit are the deliberative rigors whereby contextual boundaries are determined as reasoned choices among competing possibilities. and Lyotard prevail upon the category of the artwork in order to imagine the means of social transformation or political change. that such conflict ought not to be.12 Anomaly theory.Theorists such as Walter Benjamin. on the contrary. dogmatic thinking. Not surprisingly. But. especially those that profess political consequence. within these neoRomantic schemes. as my willingness to accept the implications of anomaly theory should have made quite clear.What is more. the disposition toward contextual relativism depends on prejudicially conflating reason with instrumental. because it entails a logic of contingency. As I have anticipated. and without taking on the burden of justifying the situation within which universalizability could be posited.

This latter is very clearly intended to augment the deliberative repertoire of rational agents. In order to demonstrate that countenancing conflict is no impediment to theorizing the aesthetic. pace Kant.13 . he might serve as the best prism through which to refract the critique to which. I will take a two-pronged approach. Althusser is a theorist of ideology before he is an aesthetic theorist. it will also provide an occasion for showing how aesthetics proves its relevance to worldly action through its methodological affinity with practices that are emphatically uninterested in art. particularly in the interests of transcending the self-limiting devices of nonaesthetic discourses: the self-deceiving traps of ideology. Before I address the cogency of such claims. Here at last is a disinterestedness that. is tantamount to a principle of untranslatability. predicated on a principle of untranslatability: Althusser and Jameson. I have been arguing that deliberative repertoire ought to be seen as the real stakes of aesthetic practice. Because this rationalist-contextualist argument originates in the nonartistic discourse of act-based moral psychology or practical ethics. and because he addresses the aesthetic most directly as a political lever for mobilizing subjectivity against ideological self-deceptions. because it borders on subjectlessness. however. and Lyotard by their common investment in a subjective mobility that. Jameson. I do so because. and thereby to displace the manifestly unproductive historical polarization of the aesthetic and the rational along the lines just sketched out.112 Aesthetic Reason In this way reason becomes the scapegoat antagonist without which any such aesthetic quest cannot proceed to the sanctifying pedestal of pure art.The conflict between reason and the aesthetic becomes the motive for the aesthetic evasion of conflict. I must now add the name of Althusser to the list. Further. for my purposes.Then I will counter with a look at a contextualist defense of rational choice-making that is predicated on a principle of translatability: Alasdair MacIntyre. the Althusserian aesthetic best indicates the mistake of making untranslatability a premise of the aesthetic. III I have already linked the names Benjamin. I propose to examine two representative contextual-relativist defenses of the aesthetic that are. For each of these aesthetic theorists. I believe. each of the other political aesthetics is susceptible. First. at least implicitly. can justify a practical interest in art. the incommensurability of subject positions (the register of untranslatability per se) curiously endows the aesthetic with a unique political efficacy.

not works of an average or mediocre level) does not give us a knowledge in the strict sense. on the threshold of error and in the name of the .”The morass of value here is a failure of judgment power. insofar as we come to know conclusions without premises (Lenin and Philosophy.”Andrè Daspre.This is precisely the work that Althusser himself charges art to perform. perceiving. In effect. In this essay Althusser strongly admonishes his “correspondent. 222). As a result. bifurcating our ways of seeing. 244). Latent in this bifurcation is a healthy suspicion of the causality that presupposes conscious intentions to be unproblematically realizable in an illusory world of compatible actions. or. the “knowledge effect” of aesthetics is deemed to be dependent on its disqualification as a site of articulable knowledge. or rather an evasion of the responsibility to translate or grant the mutual translatability of feeling and cognition. he must argue that this knowledge can be rendered intelligible according to logical causality only insofar as causes follow effects. and because he understands this to be the métier of aesthetic practice. But because by “lived experience”Althusser designates the self-representation of individuals interpellated ideologically. and feeling it aesthetically from the implicitly singular way of knowing it scientifically or conceptually.”Althusser is unambiguous:“Art (I mean authentic art.” structurally heterogeneous with respect to lived experience and to the locus of individuality that is the boundary of its respective domain. Science is a “different domain of reality. not to mention how one would know the difference between “authentic” art and “mediocre art. his stipulation of the difference between art and science reveals that the object presented by art and the object presented by science are surprisingly one and the same: ideological practice. not to confuse what art gives us with what science gives us ( Lenin and Philosophy. this is a predication of knowledge on error that is consistent with the reflective energies I want to mobilize. as Althusser puts it most explicitly. In his well-known “A Letter on Art.”14 That “certain specific relationship ” is a crux of uncertainty with respect to how one would know the knowledge of art from the relation to knowledge that art is supposed to occasion.Beautiful Errors 113 We need only consider Althusser’s controversial yoking of aesthetic lucidity to scientific knowledge.15 Nevertheless Althusser persists in distinguishing the forms of presentation of this common object. Because Althusser’s critique of ideology presupposes a gap between intentions and actions (Marx’s maxim—in “The Eighteenth Brumaire”—that men make history but not as they wish to). but what it gives us does maintain a certain specific relationship with knowledge. it therefore does not replace knowledge (in the modern sense: scientific knowledge).

would seem to be lost. the stakes of ideology critique. which I’ve already indicated are a sine qua non of a deliberative process. Correlatively. Precisely because they are in the grip of what they do not know. in the very act of valorizing its particular knowledge claims. Since the agency of art is mooted by its complicity in ideology. As I’ve noted. the very ideology in which they are held” (Lenin and Philosophy. By invoking some standard of translatability. both of whom he says are capable of revealing the ideology of their respective historical moments only unwittingly:“They make us ‘perceive’ (but not know) in some sense from the inside.” I deliberately employ the term symptomatic.That translatability is not in the interest of Althusser’s aesthetic theory is clear from his chosen exemplars of the aesthetic.This allows us to draw a contrast with the impenetrable unconsciousness mandated in Althusser’s characterization of the aesthetic as the presentation of conclusions without premises. Clearly my appeal here to a standard of meaningfulness that would hold realms of knowledge accountable to one another is a motive for translatability. this untranslatability is sought by Althusser in order for him to escape the predicament of having to deliberate within the precincts of interpellated subjectivity. where the boundaries of the two contexts of concern cannot be adjudicated or deliberated upon except by their mutual exclusiveness.114 Aesthetic Reason aesthetic. In the absence of deliberative process. Contextual boundaries. their revelatory prowess is haplessly “symptomatic. But the proscription against translatability comes at the cost of any contextual boundaries within which a deliberative process could occur at all. which functions elsewhere in Althusser’s work as an ascription of phantom agency to the unconscious “knowledge” har- . a reflective distance from the object necessary for critical leverage. so to speak. 223). what I am calling the untranslatability of one register (art/feeling) into the other (science/thought) produces a contextual relativism. Consequently Althusser’s insistence that art must be consigned to the presentation of conclusions without premises—while science renders causes undistorted by subjective biases—leads him to beg the question of the agency of scientific knowledge.Althusser renders art and science incommunicable with each other.This predication guarantees what Althusser calls an “inner distantiation” (222). except by virtue of their confused immanence to ideological practice. not merely relative to another. Honoré de Balzac and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. let alone art. can only be known when one realm of knowledge is meaningfully related to another. we might bring art to consciousness. by an internal distance.

the Modernist as Fascist.Althusser’s definition of aesthetic could be criticized as aestheticizing aesthetics.This is true in the sense that subjective (small s) practices arise from the epistemological flattery incurred by the subject’s slavish mirror relation to the big S of interpellating ideology. Curiously enough. Althusser points out that the malignant “beauty” of ideology is precisely that it works all by itself. Fables of Aggression. 21). with the understanding that the difference between aestheticism and aesthetics. what it is in ideology that prompts Althusser to theorize aesthetics is oddly replicated in his aesthetic theory: an imagistic. But once again. deceptively empirical appearance that is cut off from the possibility of self-understanding except by a nondiscursive intuition. 181) without the promptings from a consciously instantiated agency. in a perverse way. as my reference point here because Jameson claims that he finds in Lewis a better example (than Balzac or Solzhenitsyn) of Althusser’s sense of how art “uses and transcends its ideological raw materials” (Jameson. 16 But because Jameson ends up characterizing the effect of Lewis’s style too simply as a dereification of commodified forms of life. is.Beautiful Errors 115 bored within the contradictions that prey upon subjective consciousness. So how could Althusser not see that. In other words. he ends up . above all. the difference that deliberative consciousness makes. The judgment of error would otherwise allow some discursive continuity between presentation and the representational frames within which its valuation is originally possible. Althusser is forced to treat the aesthetic as a mode of presentation that is ironically exempt from the judgment of error. In Fredric Jameson’s furtherance of a neo-Marxist aesthetic. the absence of a protocol for translating the register of unconsciousness into consciousness (for sorting out the attendant contradiction between intentions and actions) seems to mitigate the political efficacy promised as a dividend of maintaining the distinction between them. I take Fables of Aggression:Wyndham Lewis. as if to correct what I am alleging is the Althusserian error of decontextualizing style from the forms of knowledge it makes available. Subjects “work by themselves” (Lenin and Philosophy. the mirror structure of identity he articulates in his theory of ideology is itself a mirror of the agentless subjectivity he ascribes to the aesthetic? In this light. Lacking a deliberative protocol. he follows Althusser by privileging a formal incommensurability between aesthetic modes of presentation and available means of knowledge. He also purports to muster the evidence for this claim from a meticulous anatomy of Lewis’s style. like the difference between conscious and unconscious mind.

These contradictions. the cause of which must be remanded to a more lucid discourse for any satisfactory remediation. the aesthetic remains per- . for example. demonstrates only by virtue of its mutual exclusivity with respect to the virtual agency that generated the relevant contradictions. So. Fables of Aggression. the agency entailed in aesthetic practice is only virtual with respect to the means of its production. because they are revealed retroactively. what we perceive. It lacks what Althusser would call scientific knowledge of its production.17 In the Grundrisse. the “charm” of Greek art apparent in its mode of presentation (qua affective presentation.” It exists before the advent of concepts that can display its status as a made object.The “demonstrative” agency in Lewis’s prose. Furthermore. make the artwork an involuntary diagnostic. since we must countenance the rule that authorizes intelligibility here to be mechanically retroactive and nonvolitional. since the diagnostic power attributable to the artwork is involuntary. Thus. In fact. in order to engage it. according to Jameson’s account. endowing the latter with figuration and with narrative articulation. Marx famously characterizes Greek art as naive about its status as art. for example.Wyndham Lewis’s formal innovation in the novel might be said to defer to a comparable mode of retroactive intelligibility: “great art distances ideology by the way in which. because its birth in Greek culture is “premature. this aesthetic theory inevitably fosters a contextual relativism that inhibits translatability.116 Aesthetic Reason reprising the Althusserian differentiation of the mode of presentation (which in Lewis boils down to a shift from metaphor to metonymy) from the deliberative framework that presents the variables of the act of presentation. 22–23). the text frees its ideological content to demonstrate its own contradictions” (Jameson. It is immune from the vicissitudes of error that otherwise prey upon it.The political efficacy of Lewis’s reinvented sentence. feel. according to articulable rules.The effect acknowledged here is uncomfortably close to an all-too-gestural baring of devices or a Brechtian alienation effect.This is to say that the artwork is denied the status of a language that any translator would need to possess or know. its status as artwork. depends upon the default of what it can make intelligible in its own words. according to Jameson. It suffers from the conceptual liability that. Likewise. and so on) is accessible to cognition only as a product of a conceptual language that subsumes it rather than translates it. both Althusser and Jameson seem to subscribe to Marx’s granting of a cognitive dimension to the aesthetic. strictly as an ex post facto agency. because the cognition immanent to the artwork is not articulable in the artwork.

Jameson gives further evidence of an inherent bias against translatability in his characterization of aesthetic discourse. 6) in Jameson’s elucidation of the formal innovations of Lewis’s style: he sees Lewis’s prose as wrought from the contradiction between formal innovation and thematic reaction. It comes as no surprise that Jameson’s analysis of the “aesthetic” effect in Lewis’s prose resorts to Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s opposition of the molecular (the here and now of sentence construction) and the molar (the mediate forms by which we seek to recontain the molecular) (Jameson. is candidly appropriated as an “aesthetic” (Fables of Aggression. By accepting their mutual exclusivity (nontranslatability). some more scientific diagnostic efficacy. Schizophrenia is. the perfect perverse metaphor for alleging intuition of aesthetic value in this context. Unfortunately. But it is important to observe that Jameson and Deleuze and Guattari procure this therapeutic benefit at a high cost: they indulge an analytical indeterminacy that merely registers the symptoms of ideological interpellation. Fables of Aggression. It renders the reputedly revolutionary and liberational constitutive elements of Lewis’s sentences incommensurable with the fascistic closure of the ideological languages that they otherwise seem to subtend. Jameson’s further appropriation of the analytical model of “libidinal apparatus” from Jean-François Lyotard’s protoaesthetic manifesto Economie libidinale only adds to the problem. 7–8) in order to preempt such criticism. For rational determination would. those symptoms await some more determinate. Fables of Aggression. in its turn. Adopting the therapeutic model of libidinal apparatus in order to locate the agency of ideological critique within the aesthetic/formal devices of Lewis’s narrative. an armature of Deleuze and Guattari’s theorizing the “schizophrenic text” in Anti-Oedipus. In that way he seems to invite an indeterminacy that would stymie the political purposes meant to be served by it. and. Jameson and Deleuze and Guattari can keep the diagnostic power of the aesthetic—mined from the contradictoriness that plays between the levels of the molecular and the molar—safe from the traps of any rationally determinate knowledge. The term libidinal apparatus isolates “an independent narrative function in psychic life” (Jameson. 7 n. The pair of the molecular/molar. 8) that would otherwise be decipherable by depth-psychological transcendence to the “private psyche” (11) of the artist or the allegorical domestication . in Althusser’s therapeutics. of course. succumb to ideological reification.Beautiful Errors 117 versely above cognition and so below the ground of rational suspicion.

mystifying causality.According to Lyotard’s account. by concomitantly dissolving the authorial ego (on the level of the sentence). and the even more depersonalizing metonymic dissemination of metaphoric structures. obviates the condemnation of all of the familiar causes of ideological offense.” It is a decidedly “schizophrenic” symptomatology that would accord with Deleuze and Guattari’s anti-Oedipal diagnosis of self-realization. Lewis the artist displaces Lewis the fascist by making him speak in a language that is ultimately unintelligible (that needs to be translated) with respect to whatever intentionality is otherwise ascribable to that persona: he must “hear blurted out in public speech what even in private was never meant to be more than tacitly understood” (23). In other words. . in effect. Its value is a function of processes of appropriation and reappropriation. . Indeed.All these devices of Lewis’s prose style are adduced merely to buttress the generalization that “[t]here . Curiously. .They work unconsciously in the annals of history and always cast their light retroactively: they figure the incoherence of the libidinal apparatus with respect to the context of value within which it is appropriated. . the devices of Lewis’s prose praised here are ones that invite recognition of differences as reasons for reframing the terms of recognition. Style.118 Aesthetic Reason of artistic practice to a collectively endowed social position. this “behavior” is understood instead as a “quasimaterial .“art can be said to ‘produce’ the ideological as an object for our aesthetic contemplation and our political judgment” (22) by. Confusingly enough then. object which can lead a life of its own and has its own inner logic” (10). when it comes to anatomizing Lewis’s aesthetic production per se we see how reductive is Jameson’s admiration for devices such as hypallage (the superpositioning of metaphoric structures upon realistic acts). By instancing an excess of the meaning ordinarily denoted in the linguistic structures they presuppose. these devices each invite a recontextualization of knowledge through the matrices of error.The stakes of meaning are an anomalous state of affairs. we may take aesthetic pleasure in the figuration of impulses that would ordinarily be judged “ideologically offensive” precisely because the question of taste is displaced from the locus of authorial persona (on the level of thematic representation) into a stylistic effect. Here is an ominous echo of Althusser’s “conclusions without premises. Jameson alleges that the “ugly” sexism purveyed in Lewis’s prose is “so extreme as to be virtually beyond sexism” (20). For example. comes into being a language beyond language” (86). prose descriptions that depopulate the affective realms of experience. an evocation of the normativizing logic of .

as Jameson attests. .Beautiful Errors 119 anomaly theory itself. In Lewis’s shift from what Jameson in Fables of Aggression calls national allegory (the “semantic and structural givens which are logically prior” [94] to Lewis’s text) to libidinal apparatus. translatability. Ironically. We would not have to choose between inarticulable knowledge and instrumental reason.The mathematical sublime subsists specifically upon the excess of apprehension vis-à-vis comprehension. reveals a dynamic of consciousness that is oddly kindred to Kant’s mathematical sublime. as I will demonstrate more elaborately in the following section of this chapter. in the dereification of forms of presentation. the shift from national allegory to libidinal apparatus obviates contextuality. because this effectivity is peremptorily cut off from the informing intentionality of the devices that produce such effect. Perhaps then we might redeem it to the protocols of deliberative agency and see the potential within the aesthetic for an ideology critique that does not have to give up on rational pursuits. But Jameson’s predilection for treating these aesthetic effects strictly in terms of the overcoming of limits (“a language beyond language”) rather than in terms of the transition between frames of reference—the translatability of one framework of value with respect to another—obviates any rational reckoning with limits. If we could contemplate the task of adequation without any presumption of adequacy. But.“the impossible plenitude of a primary language that. and deliberation. as aspects of aesthetic intuition. I am under no circumstances alleging that adequation of a secondary language to a primary language is the proper task of the aesthetic. it is the Kantian sublime that Jameson most strikingly.“has never existed” (86). as error rather than as deracinated effectivity. or.We would not succumb to the ultimately Romantic proposition that the aesthetic consists. in the language beyond language. gestured toward in Althusserian/Jamesonian aesthetics. there might be a less-than-antithetical alternative. we might possess the means to cognize the “beyond” or excess of apprehension. in disarticulating the form of the work of art from knowledge. as Althusser attests. that is. if most unhelpfully. evokes in his efforts to equate aesthetic production and political judgment. Lewis’s language beyond language is an index for the inadequacy of particularized language (apprehension) to any measure of knowledge that could be fully constituted as systematic language (comprehension). between art and science. What Jameson praises in the devices of Lewis’s prose. But.” Jameson avers. there is an unequivocal emphasis on the pure “psychic effectivity” (95) of discursive forms.

unwittingly set up the aesthetic as a refuge from valuation and judgment. Here is the seminal articulation of what remains a strong prejudice in favor of sequestering the artwork from the hurly-burly of practical life. I want to engage his notions of how contesting traditions of rationality can be reconciled within a theory of translatability. I will confine myself to the last three chapters of Whose Justice? Which Rationality? with the understanding that its value for the present discussion will be strictly proportionate to my interest in bridging the ethical and aesthetic. The focus of my attention to MacIntyre’s argument is admittedly narrow. inimical to the political engagements that both Althusser and Jameson believe the aesthetic can inspire. of course.120 Aesthetic Reason As I already suggested. It is now necessary to look for the cognitive means by which we might clear that obstacle from the path of Althusserian and Jamesonian rationales. Most particularly. I propose accommodating an alternative standard of coherence to the enterprise of aesthetic valuation. IV In order to imagine a way of making those engagements more practicable in relation to theorizing the work of art. Moritz posits the nontranslatability of the artwork as its premier virtue: the artwork denotes a perfection that is in essence immune to error because of the inexhaustibility of the interpretation it invites. thus to see the aesthetic as a more purposive site of political engagements.This standard of coherence coheres only too well with the aesthetic perfectionism that I judged earlier to be an impediment to making the aesthetic count as a rational métier for eluding the traps of rational instrumentalism. on the grounds that it secures a haven of coherent understanding. both positions. I would adopt a coherence model that counts as true that which serves within a specifiable context of tradition to correct errors. Coherence here is inextricable from a standard of formal organicity that is. In promoting this model of coherence I am drawing upon the work of Alasdair MacIntyre and his analysis of the problem of communication between alien traditions. They are perversely reminiscent of one of the most orthodox bourgeois aesthetic theories of the late eighteenth century: that found in Karl Philip Moritz’s Schriften zur Ästhetik und Poetik (1785). insisting upon the incommensurability or untranslatability of realms. I will bracket MacIntyre’s wish to defend a reconstruction of Aristotelian ethical practice as a refuge for tradition- .

confronts the possibility that at some future time it will fall into a state of epistemological crisis. to an understanding of what kind of knowledge the aesthetic purveys. .“the claims of some particular rival tradition. For MacIntyre. my emphasis) MacIntyre goes on to explain that the adherents of such a tradition in crisis may well seek refuge by countenancing. because increasingly systematizing. recognizable as such by its own standards of rational justification. It precludes the possibility of an internal contradiction that might destabilize the tradition of the artwork’s canonicity. the language of the alien tradition as a new and second first language” (364). however. . as we have seen in the case of the prototype bourgeois aesthete Karl Philip Moritz.Beautiful Errors 121 based rationality. suggest that the aesthetic entails an interpretive predicament analogous to that faced by MacIntyre’s “typical” ethical agent. Every tradition. in turn. to understand the beliefs and way of life of this other alien tradition. MacIntyre observes that the self-justifying agent of any rational tradition of knowledge typically treats the stability of that tradition as dependent upon a context-transcending universality. I would. learn .This is always assumed. In other contexts. in a new way. We must assume that these contradictions accrue to any rational tradition by virtue of its increasingly dogmatic. . which have themselves been vindicated up to that time as the best to emerge from the history of that particular tradition. So. contexts will inevitably arise within which the implementation of any rational tradition (or world construction that may serve as a rough analogue to the artwork) must succumb to internal contradictions. however. perseverance over time. (Whose Justice? Which Rationality? 364. to be adequate to the task of resolving contradictions that arise within its horizon. and . either merely by doing nothing to remedy the condition of sterility and incoherence into which the enquiry has fallen or by also revealing or creating new problems and revealing new flaws and new limitations. .All attempts to deploy the imaginative and inventive resources which the adherents of the tradition can provide may founder. I admit that the aesthetic is not an apparent object of MacIntyre’s consideration or concern in this enterprise. the justification of the artwork depends on a context-transcending principle of untranslatability. . The relevance of MacIntyre’s discussion here. . such contradictions would remain benign or invisible. is perhaps more . whether it recognizes the fact or not.They would now come .

The prospect of this state of affairs invites MacIntyre’s speculation that the uncoupling of error (contradiction) from learning would make any endogenous resolution of epistemological crisis impossible. the universality of the artwork must be seen to be strictly nontranscendental.122 Aesthetic Reason sharply apparent if we see that the blindness to self-contradiction.” In this respect MacIntyre speaks to the evasions of conflict that I have disapprovingly identified with perfectionist aesthetics. MacIntyre treats such a predicament as unacceptable within the purview of rational agency. a de facto denial of contextuality. as in the case of Jameson/Lewis. otherwise revealed in the epistemological crisis is. On the contrary.The problem is that the nature of error.Alternatively. For MacIntyre this is a representative instance of the rational impasse of incommensurable languages or the untranslatability of traditions of self-justifying knowledge. This would be so along the lines of the . What is worse. The fact is. Concomitantly. external context of knowledge. requires a transformation of the identity of the learning subject caught between them: hence it requires a contextuality driven by the recognition that one tradition is necessarily superior to the other. He thus takes a position consistent with my desire to equate the aesthetic with a deliberative protocol. he insists that conflict between rival traditions is the only arena within which a rational standpoint is achievable. such that the universalist claims on behalf of the artwork are acknowledged to be fundamentally situational. prompted by epistemological crisis. he argues that the communication between alien traditions or languages. once again. Here we can see that error is a touchstone of this learning process by its appeal to an articulable standard of judgment that is not yet articulated.This is the kind of contextuality that I have been suggesting the aesthetic ought to enable/inform if it is to remain coherent with the problematic of error and the cognate epistemological crises of “cognitive tension” and “anomaly. failure to recognize the epistemological crisis would produce a self-understanding that is mutually exclusive of an otherwise essential learning process. because it is cognized within the first context of knowledge on the basis of a contexttranscending reason.This is so even if its autonomy is deemed to be. is effectively incommensurable with any other context of knowledge. dereifying and disruptive of the political systems we equate with autonomy. it would preclude the remedy of appealing to another. It is a predicament that fits with my earlier critique of the communicative boundedness of the artwork when construed within the framework of idealist/perfectionist aesthetics where the meaning of the artwork is only the measure of its autonomy.

within the repertoire of all traditional concepts. Because they can be volitionally “taken.This acquisition of a second language MacIntyre calls a “work of imagination whereby the individual is able to place him or herself imaginatively within the scheme of belief inhabited by those whose allegiance is to [a] rival tradition” (394).Third.Beautiful Errors 123 rationalization of anomalous circumstance that I took as a marker for aesthetic knowledge in the second section of this chapter. In fact. In MacIntyre’s advocacy of the kind of contextuality I describe above. the burden of the second language-in-use is to articulate the inarticulable. the first two requirements must be satisfied in a way that exhibits some “fundamental continuity” of the new tradition and the old. rational steps. It cannot be resolved on that site because the problem is known only in the fact of its inarticulability. Furthermore.” such steps portend a deliberative agency that might demystify “epistemological crisis” rather than fetishize it as a metaphysical limit. MacIntyre stipulates that there are three requirements for the solution to a genuine epistemological crisis. but in determinative. the first requirement is that internal coherence be restored to the tradition of inquiry. Because this mandate for new concepts arises from the recognition that coherence will inevitably break down. must acquire a “second language-inuse” (or second first language) in order to confront the epistemological crisis. Second.The second language-in-use presupposes that the epistemological crisis itself is fundamentally an acknowledgment that there is a problem in the first language-in-use. our rendering the inarticulable articulable will dictate that what we are calling the second language-in-use is by no means translatable back into the problematic or incoherent first language-in-use.This is the case notwithstanding that the second . Correspondingly. It does so not in the paradox-mongering “play” of the poststructuralist sublime (I think of Lyotard here). It is therefore inevitable that MacIntyre’s rational subject. whose rationality he stipulates will depend upon a willingness to “confirm or disconfirm over time” (Whose Justice? Which Rationality? 394) the coherence of his or her traditional viewpoint. insofar as the goal of a “solution” mandates the invention of new concepts. the new coordinates of the systematicity of tradition must produce an explanation of the impediments to coherence that previously stymied systematic inquiry within the coordinates of the old tradition. he sets up a circumstance where the possibility of “passing through epistemological crisis” depends on seeing that one tradition stands in relation to another solely on the basis of its criticizability or susceptibility to the judgment that error is in occurrence.

18 MacIntyre contests the relativist stance by showing that if we count the inaccessible or inarticulable only as a function of the inadequacy of one set of terms to another. It enables speakers who encounter an alien tradition with a different language-in-use to discover that while in some area of greater or lesser importance they cannot comprehend it within the terms of reference set by their own beliefs. and poverty of resources of their own beliefs can be identified.” then the inaccessible or inarticulable succumbs to a kind of translatability. the limitations. Thus having put relativism in abeyance. and their own language-in-use. incoherences. If we take MacIntyre’s point that the condition for positing the inaccessible or inarticulable is “a matter of two stages. in the first of which we acquire a second language-in-use as a second first language.” indicates the extent of his faith in the idea that context entails a volitional practice. we in effect posit untranslatability as a paradox that is absolutely recalcitrant toward rational intervention. MacIntyre is clearly trying to reconcile an antirelativist thesis with a contextualist one. their own history. it provides a standpoint from which once they have acquired its language-in-use as a second first language. MacIntyre counters with the idea that such a belief in the pure inaccessibility or inarticulability of knowledge would founder on the greater paradox that we must already know what is inaccessible or inarticulable in order to have grounds for believing in it as such. As Jürgen Habermas has usefully pointed out. MacIntyre’s corollary defense of contextualism proceeds from his assumption that the best reason to accept the warrant for an understanding of translation as augmented context is as follows. characterized. McIntyre’s very willingness to countenance the practical oxymoron of a “second first language. It is responsive to the sort of temporal exigencies that I earlier argued must be appreciated as an inescapable formal constraint upon the concept of contextuality. and only in the second of which we can learn that we are unable to translate what we are now able to say in our second first language into our first language. and explained in a way not possible from within their own tradition.This is to say that inaccessibility or inarticulability is always de facto already translated into an original (first) language-in-use (Whose Justice? Which Rationality? 387).124 Aesthetic Reason language-in-use would have no currency without its precursor. (387–88) .This is the case only on the condition that a transformation or augmentation of the context of meaningfulness obtains.

Because such a self would be intuitively open to the possibility that hegemonic belief could be put into question.Beautiful Errors 125 This is the feat of passing through epistemological crisis that I was looking for the aesthetic to accomplish earlier. More to the point. Rather.The intellection of these assumptions follows the paradigm of translation precisely insofar as that paradigm comprehends an enhanced repertoire of interpretive skills. I would argue that deliberation. Precisely because the second first language-in-use secures the knowledge of what could not be said in (or is hence not translatable into) the first language-in-use. because I am not concerned with MacIntyre’s need to stake any adjudication among competing traditions upon a hegemonic truth claim. passing through the crisis is arguably an occasion for intuiting error as a duly cognitive relationship to unexamined assumptions. MacIntyre speculates upon what we could easily call the “political” effects of his own thinking. rather than the negation implicit in absolute untranslatability. He invites a privileging of deliberative protocols even above the stability of the traditions those protocols endow: “Only those whose tradition allows for the possibility of its hegemony being put into question can have rational warrant for asserting such a hegemony. the epistemic questions it is capable of asking are likely to be less apocalyptic in their acceptance of the necessity to change those beliefs. In this perspective. error looms neither as an apocalyptic end nor as an all-too-innocent beginning. we might more constructively say that the translatability . In MacIntyre’s account. is already specifically mandated by MacIntyre’s proviso that translation must be understood as a two-stage process. In a statement that strikingly echoes Althusser’s/ Jameson’s aesthetic (but without indulging their problematical predisposition toward decontextualizing conceits of political liberation). the respective user of that second first language comes to the threshold of self-knowledge with a rigorously procedural standard of judgment. the relevance of his argument about translatability here is effectively limited: it makes available a deliberative protocol that can take us beyond the bias against translation and deliberation that remains so forceful in even the most reputedly radical traditions of aesthetic theory cited earlier in this chapter. And only those traditions whose adherents recognize the possibility of untranslatability into their own language-in-use are able to reckon adequately with that possibility” ( Whose Justice? Which Rationality? 388). In this capacity the aesthetic might help us to realize more realistically the counterideological aims of Althusser’s and Jameson’s unduly relativist aesthetic theorizing.

impersonal will. Specifically. but to the choices that challenge its internal coherence. Rather. it is an acknowledgment that the subject is always only a learning subject. As J. By embracing this position we are.This is what time will tell. the subject is not terminally “subjected” to the interpellations of a crudely deterministic. This is by no means a nod to the familiar poststructuralist account of the dissolution of the subject into the depersonalizing stream of ideological discourse. namely. often confused with an essentializing character flaw. whenever this assertion succumbs to the inevitability of its own incoherence.” the right choices will presumably be a function of choosing to give up the contextual bearings that warrant self-assertion. Moreover. . it solicits a context that could not be anticipated. It brings us back to the reckoning with temporality that I initially alleged perfectionist aesthetic theory would not willingly face up to. a transition from one context to another. In this notion of translation as transition. Far from being a function of chance or fate. determined at a volitional distance from the self. And. Instead. hamartia designates a dimension of the character’s activity. the error of incoherence that catalyzes the transition is interestingly coherent with a key term of classical aesthetics: hamartia . if we follow MacIntyre’s stipulation that “only those whose tradition allows for . except by a discipline of self-effacement. what governs here is not a principle of adequacy at all but a principle of adequation whereby the practices of self-understanding subordinate the claims of selfhood to the learning process. the untranslatability that might seem to be latent in any notion of translation that does not submit to a test of adequacy need not be construed invidiously as a capitulation to inadequacy. actually denotes a deliberative (related to phronesis on these grounds) procedure whereby one understands that the immediate context of self-recognition requires supplementation. The coherence of human subjectivity is thus predicated on an imperative of choice-making that is consistent with expectations of rational assent without giving in to the ideological hegemony of rational will. M. in effect. Bremer explains in Hamartia: Tragic Error in the Poetics of .126 Aesthetic Reason latent in the cognitive tensions that inevitably play between the first language-in-use and the second promotes a practice of translation that is unfettered by a test of adequacy. . its hegemony being put into question can have rational warrant for asserting such a hegemony.Accordingly. This term. translating the problematic of translation into a mode of transition from one set of contextual coordinates to another. a purely involuntary quality of character.

then. That is. material to Aristotle’s sense of the superiority of tragedy to comedy.19 If the aesthetic can be contemplated in relation to a learning activity on the model of hamartia. In these respects. it must be linked to the context of knowledge within which the apparent passivity of the tragic hero is translated. without which. the “ignorance” of the character afflicted by hamartia constitutes an “indirect causality” (21–23) through which the peripeteia of plot occurs. after all. anticipating a kind of second first language-in-use: where the impoverishment of resources in the first language is articulated out of a deliberate and strictly voluntary retrospect. Nor would it be an account that idealizes the irony of con- . He perspicuously distinguished hamartia as preferable to the alternative double-plot structure of comedy where the apportionment of a good fate to a good character and a bad fate to a bad character vitiates the tragic hero’s burden of choice by rendering conflict as divergent paths of action for different agents.This learning curve is. Since the disposition toward error here is explicitly linked to peripeteia as causality.Beautiful Errors 127 Aristotle and in Greek Tragedy. in fact. then the hazards of error are plausibly continuous with the cognitive burdens of contingent personhood. 26). For Bremer.The hazards of error prevail upon us to try to make the transitional modality of choice-making subjects (proharisis) suffice for an account of artistic making and aesthetic valuation.At least this is so insofar as it solicits “one or more” particulars of circumstance that would otherwise constitute a blind spot of personal perspective (26–27). into a frame of reference for action.And yet the word “involuntary” is potentially misleading. The sense of error associated with hamartia is proleptic. the intelligibility of the character’s error is correlative with the passage of time through which the character arrives at a reversal of fate: a knowledge of self that entails the reconfiguration of contextual markers within which such a self could meaningfully seek recognition. where hamartia mandates that error or incoherence be handled within the framework of a single fate. so to speak. It would be an account that does not redeem contingency to meaning in an idealist stroke of conceptualization—in the manner of anti-aesthetic rationalists. This obviates the temporal contingencies that otherwise constrain the individually conflicted subject to transitional agency. my characterization of “translation as transition” describes the learning curve of subjectivity that I have been working to map onto the field of the aesthetic in these pages. learning is not conceivably a dynamic aspect of character. the hamartia of the tragic hero “is his involuntary and inevitable ignorance of one or more of the particular circumstances involved” (Hamartia.

Under this arrangement. from which the judging mind is all but excluded.128 Aesthetic Reason tingent experience with which we have so dubiously crowned the fate of tragic heroes. and as we have seen. has conditioned aesthetic judgment upon a rational value independent of the artist’s form-giving agency. to have reified our perception of the world precisely in the manner of the arresting gaze. in its manifest instrumentalism is “seen. where visuality is emblematic both of the fallibility of sense experience and the imperative to fetishize error as a counter for binary logic.” and more recently Nancy’s “patency” or sen- . making fate inexorably fatalistic—in the manner of antirationalist aesthetes. It thereby holds the one accountable to the other. contextualization might then suffice as a preserve for that “work of the imagination” that MacIntyre counts as the access to rival traditions. As the partisans of the anti-aesthetic unceasingly remind us. I would argue that it is the means by which the artwork can give us access to the laborious enterprise of learning. since Plato. It is Plato’s invidious distinction between seeing and thinking.” Baudrillardian “spectacle. Plato’s idea that seeing and thinking are incommensurables persists in the late twentieth-century willingness to equate the aesthetic with sense-determinate experience. where hamartia ceases to be a finite quality. we could plausibly make the world of tragic errors into a habitation for reasonable practices. V My best exemplification of the foregoing claims about how error and choice-making articulate new parameters of the aesthetic presumes upon the most enduring threshold of error attributable to the artist. especially in the guises of Lyotard’s “libidinal apparatus.” so to speak. of human intentions. In this way.To the contrary. contextualization promises to displace the perfectionist test of adequation that. our current motives for maintaining the invidious distinction between seeing (aesthesis) and thinking (logos) are deeply entangled with the postmodern critique of Enlightenment reason. within this ambit of the aesthetic.As long as it remains a fulcrum of choice. as well as the unmaking. Postmodernist critiques of reason. we may impute a more edifying measure of heroism to tragic fate than classical tragedy could purvey: for now it entails knowledge of the making. Indeed. it ceases to be a term of fatalism. In this perspective. Reason. It is inextricable from a potentially open-ended protocol of contextual activity that (open-endedness notwithstanding) subsists on the positing of ends as its threshold of intelligibility.

It might keep the reifying will of rationality in flux. Plato’s opposition of seeing and thinking is still in place. sees only itself and thus promulgates increasingly solipsistic resistance to the social mediations of discursive reason. is astutely cognizant of the liabilities of the dualism that I have just identified as an impediment to aesthetic experience. Just so. in his capacity as a rather unorthodox aesthetic theorist. on behalf of civil freedom. Hegel. however. Such a beneficently deracinated sense is intended to dispel the “gaze” of instrumental reason. By taking a Hegelian cue in order to read the complex surface of Caravaggio’s spectacular vision of vision. in order to combat reason’s tyrannizing effect. Hegel intimates an alternative to the mutual exclusions of seeing and thinking. In his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. produces a society that cannot “see” its other and thus promulgates a rationalist hegemony. I want to suggest that the richest implication of his thinking about aesthetics might be profitably explored elsewhere: in the visual field projected by Caravaggio’s unorthodox religious painting of the Conversion of Saint Paul.20 Thus it might hold the ideologically malign abstractions of the Enlightenment in check. but with an inverse polarity and an opposite trajectory. .” have paradoxically reverted to the senses. where it is specifically the thought of the deity that would be seen. Because Hegel’s own thoughts about religion famously take him beyond the bounds of art. My view of Caravaggio’s aesthetic practice here is intended to anticipate a broadening of the stakes of my argument in the last chapter of this work. By such means we may escape the disabling dualism between classical anti-aesthetic philosophizing and postmodern “body aesthetics” indulged at the expense of purposive mind. on behalf of a counterideological politics. For example. He speculates about how the visibility of the invisible might be sustainable as a medium of thought. I may propose a way of appreciating an unexpected continuity of seeing and thinking. radical visuality in Nancy’s aesthetic of patency deploys itself as an intransitive “presentation of presentation. and very particularly to a radical visuality.There I will engage the presentational field of postmodern painting as a corollary of the linguistic densities in literary art.The Republic’s disparagement of art (epitomized by visuality).Beautiful Errors 129 sible “obviousness. That this postmodernist inversion of the Platonist hierarchy of thinking and seeing might be as unproductive as the metaphysic from which it derives should be apparent in its clear perpetuation of the burdens of Platonist dualism.” a making manifest of that which requires no explanation. the postmodern disparagement of reason (epitomized by the deracinated image).

1600–1601. The Conversion of Saint Paul.Alinari / Art Resource. 1 Caravaggio. New York .130 Aesthetic Reason Image not available Fig.

its techne. Nancy does so by reflecting himself on Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. as a threshold of techne. Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. 376). But Nancy’s insistence on the incommensurability of techne and sublimity (corollary to the incommensurability of seeing and thinking) devolves disappointingly to the belief that “[a]rt disengages the senses from signification” (Muses. Nancy both confirms Hegel’s relevance to the problem at hand and indicates. however. Not coincidentally. Hegel’s own gloss on “sensible visibility” invites an indeterminate relationship between sensible form and an always yet to be apparent Spirit.21 Such difficulties notwithstanding.” Hegel explains that it is not a sign. Nancy powerfully exemplifies the problematic postmodern reprisal of the Platonist dualism that I have already begun to redress through Hegel. Specifically. depends on its functional indeterminacy in relation to what it means to reveal. the warrant to go beyond Hegelian thinking. In both cases indeterminacy threatens to abstract the sensible visibility in a way that alienates it from any compelling account of human making. For Nancy this idea is important because it features a vital tension between the making aspect of art.” which he equates with the threshold of sublimity.“that the determinate being is still a mode of sensible visibility” (Nancy. Nancy addresses Hegel’s observation that the “birth of art” is coincident with the desire to make the deity sensibly apparent “in his determinate being” (Muses. of visibility in particular. and the spiritual excess of the “concept made apparent. seeing and thinking find some ground for reconciliation. Muses. and corresponds to the thought or inner concept” (Hegel. Nancy’s deference to Hegel’s “essential point that the determinate being is still a mode of sensible visibility” intimates that the uni- .To be sure. In effect he concedes that the power of sense.We might imagine that where techne and sublimity come into contact. I do believe that Hegel’s and Nancy’s shared stake in the site of sensible visibility. But here I want to concentrate on the nature of his complicity in postmodern Platonism.“but gives expression at every point that it is produced from within. through what he embraces of Hegel. 48). suggests a way of thinking about seeing that need not compel an impossibly abstract fusion of the horizons of the particular and the universal. 48).Where the intuition of the divine being apparently “corresponds to the concept of the deity. The “essential point” for Hegel is. 22). I will take up a more complete view of Nancy’s radical revision of Enlightenment aesthetics in Chapter 5.Beautiful Errors 131 Nancy’s recent work The Muses offers a particularly economical way into the proposed argument.

every sense is inextricably knowable only in relation to another sense. instantiated on that threshold. I want to contemplate the fusion of the horizons of the particular and the universal. rather than negated.This matches Nancy’s own grasp of the irreducible plurality of sense. non-submission to naturality. According to Nancy.Their mode of articulation with each other would appear to be a negative correlation and consequently an infinite play of otherwise indiscernible differences. key moments in both Hegel’s and Nancy’s thinking about the incommensurability of techne and sublimity that invite us to see (however provisionally) production. it might be fair to say that the plurality in relation . It would be the moribund embodiment of the deity in us. qua particularity. see techne and sublimity respectively as counters for the exteriority of aesthetic form and for the unreachable interiority from which it may be presumed to emanate. In the view I will now sketch out. they invite an endless conversion of one counter of value into its other. by the indeterminacy of the sublime. 98). I prefer to think of the determinate finitude of techne as recontextualized. Choosing is thus made apparent as a viable protocol of seeing. It is glossed in Nancy’s insight that. This is his explanation of the fact that there are several muses instead of one.” always presupposes the “freedom of production” (Nancy. sense particularity would otherwise be our dissolution into mere naturality. Muses. the irreducible plurality of the world is precisely what constrains Hegel’s nonsubmission to naturality. for Hegel. In order to resist this drift toward an all-consuming indeterminacy. For these reasons specifically. of course. explicitly.Thus. There are. Indeed. as a threshold of aesthetic experience. qua determinate human making. in that way.And. But. Furthermore. implicitly. Recognition of the deity would therefore seem to entail a self-consciousness of the formative agency that sense implores us to exercise. I believe that the fullest appreciation of Hegel’s and Nancy’s shared investment in the site of “sensible visibility” demands that we go beyond the limits of their own arguments. In that way we might convert the incipient paradox of their interface into a site for salvaging human making as the threshold of aesthetic knowledge. this protocol would dictate that seeing can be made commensurable to thinking through choosing. 49). Nancy. what Nancy himself characterizes as the “rhythming” of “the visible with the invisible” (Muses. and Hegel. beauty “in the proper sense. as a protocol of deliberation that could be invoked between them. in fact.132 Aesthetic Reason versality of the deity—bodied forth in Nature—might induce us to reconfigure the particularity of the moments in which sense experience constrains our bodies to recognize that Nature.

such that the latter is rendered a problematical plurality. Conversion denotes both the practical techne of articulating (or transforming) one register of value with another. in this case. Such a protocol could vitiate the indeterminacy that irreducible plurality otherwise invites. and the formless sublimity of absolute spiritualization. only sees its way to new modalities of thinking. Articulation. has “the structure of a singular plural” (26): it is additive with respect to a totality whose unity is reconfigured by the addition. in effect. 26). VI Here I would like to make the terms of my argument more concrete by looking at Caravaggio’s Conversion of Saint Paul. Exclusion is of course the choice to be what is not excluded. links art to the concept of articulation (Muses. Articulation here evokes the cognitive addition of one singularity to another. on the threshold of an exclusion. so I will argue that Caravaggio challenges the mutual exclusivity of techne and sublimity—the making visible and the miracle of visionary transport—by making the one task reciprocate with the other.What is added excludes the principle of unity that the addition de facto modifies. Thus articulation (and ars -aesthetics by implication). Just as I have been challenging the mutual exclusivity of seeing and thinking. The transitivity of visionary transport is comprehended in the painting as a transition to another way of seeing: it reciprocally excites the faith that there might indeed be a way of seeing that surpasses thought-full vision.Beautiful Errors 133 to which techne makes itself intelligible. with respect to the excess of plurality. captured in its Latin translation ars. . in both Hegel’s and Nancy’s arguments. But the transcendence of thought.23 We might well imagine that my aim to convert the paradoxical “interface of techne and sublimity into a site for salvaging human making as the threshold of aesthetic knowledge” is made palpable in a painting that graphically displays the double meaning of conversion. entails a recontextualization of the choosing subject: it puts the subject’s self-understanding in the service of a warrant for moving the contextual horizon beyond the subject’s own threshold of self-recognition. It is therefore arguable that the articulation of the self of techne could only gain any self-reflective purchase. as Nancy tells us. potentially mandates a protocol of choice.22 Nancy himself is scrupulous to observe that the primitive meaning of the Greek tekhne.

For the horse. the body of the groom is obscure in two ways that recapitulate the original struggle of the viewer to see the action of the scene as what cannot be seen. is visualized from the vantage of an objectifying planometrical distance that implies. the vision-struck protagonist of the piece is brutally foreshortened and thus paradoxically marginalized in the foreground of the painting. this painter has ample evidence. What is on view falls upon the viewer—as heavily as the horse threatens to fall upon the figure of Saul—as a blockage of what the scene. Furthermore. Indeed we cannot doubt that the occlusion of vision is as much the subject of this painting as what it makes visible. from stamping out the heavenly vision with its earthbound hooves. the man of action. Neither human nor divine vision is facilitated here. as if to confirm the artist’s capacity to adequately comprehend or compass the duality of the visible and the invisible. from no less formidable picture-makers than Michelangelo (1545) and Raphael (tapestry) before him. Eyes closed and sprawled beneath the image of the horse. by its omniscience. In striking contrast. which figuratively blocks our transport to the visionary sublime. however. it takes for granted the power of picturing the invisible. the scene of action. is the fact that the body of the groom itself is no less obscured to us than the passionately anticipated vision of Saul. In Michelangelo’s and Raphael’s precedent-setting compositions. Saul is a personalized and subjective marker for a line of sight that nonetheless is deprived of projection into a plausible visionary space.What we are likely not to see right away. would otherwise portend to make available on the register of the visible. qua conversion. the emphasis falls decisively upon Saul.134 Aesthetic Reason Caravaggio’s painting is a kind of genre piece in its aim to represent the scene of conversion.This conversion is a palpable blow to the viewer’s own spiritual aspirations.As such. however. access to a transcending perspective. the Roman warrior falling/fallen from his horse amid the field of clamorous military spectacle. The Conversion of Saint Paul) can be made into a picture. Presumably the man (a groom?) will prevent the horse from trampling the prostrate Saul. In those earlier works. .24 What is original in Caravaggio’s deceptively passive conversion scene (as Giovanni Pietro Bellori says. that the subject matter of spiritual conversion (specifically. Caravaggio’s composition occludes the action by inserting the blinding presence of Saul’s horse between the viewer and the scene of Saul’s enlightenment. literally obscures another man: standing behind it and gripping the beast’s harness.After all.“[A]ffato senza attione”) is precisely the conversion of the scene (the picture of visionary transport) into a seen (the horse). Furthermore.

in Caravaggio’s painting. the portent of the invisible—orchestrate a drama of choice-making not unlike the choice between sacred and secular posed in the existential prospect of conversion itself. Articulation—the articulation of the visible (the decision to see) and the invisible (the decision not to see)—identified by Nancy with the substance of ars. where what we would otherwise see requires . after all. it brings deliberative volition into the field of vision. As Walter Friedlander points out. The different versions of vision within the painting—the horse. we are presented only with versions of visions. however. By contrast with the sensuous immediacy of retinal vision—that might indeed excite our hopes for the sublime transcendence of thought—choicemaking is unequivocally an artifact of techne. the notion of vision as version is paramount. Conversion is of course typically treated as an involuntary phenomenon. In other words. Just so. In the sublime we seek release from those cognitive limits of seeing. the top of the groom’s body does not correlate with the bottom. But in this case the presence of the horse itself also distracts our eye from something that is there to be seen: the manifest artlessness of the drawn figure of the groom. the obstacle to sublimity—the horse—reveals the labor of techne. only be articulated syntactically.25 The lack of the painter’s craft. divorced from thought. does not succumb to indeterminacy here. is conspicuously disguised by the obtrusive physicality of the horse. and because the con of conversion denotes the articulation of one choice with respect to what has not been chosen. In fact. choice-making—choosing between competing versions of visions—is conspicuously the métier of seeing as thinking. thus embodied by the groom. which already blocks the transcendent view. in lieu of that transcendent vision that would prove the independence of seeing from thinking. right on the threshold of the incommensurability of techne and the sublime. notwithstanding the crudity of execution by which it is denoted. because conversion is so self-consciously a proffering of versions. Here. It can. and so. the figure of the groom. But here. In the history of visually representing conversions of Saint Paul. the groom. is literally the convergence of techne and sublimity because it articulates the concept of transcendence within the fundamentally syntactical constraints of the necessity to see one thing as the choice to exclude another.Beautiful Errors 135 Our view of the groom is blocked by the body of the horse. within Caravaggio’s composition. as a veritable armature of composition. the soldier. the crudity of execution is all the more an admonition against our aspirations to transcend the labor of techne. We might say that conversion.

this “going beyond” is strictly a cognitive mode of deciding or choosing to see in a different way. the viewer is always choosing to see the figure as present. by virtue of what cannot be seen. they will never be consubstantial. There may be no better way to exemplify this activity than by reference to Caravaggio’s compositional dependency on the device of foreshortening. in The Conversion of Saint Paul. after all. because the versions of seeing in the painting subsist explicitly in relation to one another as variables of a syntactical order. In foreshortening. In other words. or the visible and the invisible: the visible form of the figure is evoked out of a dramatization of a visible absence of space. Consubstantiality. We have already noted that the figure of Saul—who in another con-version will become Paul—projects a line of sight through the horse to the groom. form and spirit are articulated with each other here in a way that neither Nancy nor Hegel would countenance: for both techne and sublimity are assimilated to a subtly teleological activity. the device of foreshortening is conspicuously what makes the figure of Saul “fit” into the canvas. . On the contrary. contrary to the “beyond” that beckons in the miracle and in the sublime phenomenon. Although Caravaggio’s Conversion maps itself onto Hegel’s/Nancy’s conception of the birth of art. the foreshortened figure is an epitome of the articulation of form and spirit. In a way. he forces the viewer to construe his own perspective as a site of production. as the desire to make the deity sensible.136 Aesthetic Reason articulation (specifically the mediation of linguistic rules) as the concomitant contextualization of sense. In the Conversion. Caravaggio thus makes mutuality and exclusiveness—what Nancy would agree are the plurality and singularity respectively of articulation—articulate with each other. by letting the viewer see the blinding mechanics of techne. in the guise of representing the scene of sublimity. Because we are caused to see the poor draftsmanship of the groom figure as an effect of recognizing the horse to be an obstacle to transcendent vision. what is occluded in the mechanics of recession. These mechanics are nevertheless quite evident in the truncation of the bodily trunk. Caravaggio contrives a circumstance where. is precisely what our indulgence of the realms of miraculous vision and sublimity would invite us to believe in. we comprehend the act of seeing as a techne in its own right. But. Instead of dramatizing the mutual exclusivity of seeing and thinking. Articulation is thus construable as a recontextualization of the vantage point of seeing that is thereby invested in going beyond what has already been seen. because the visible must be seen conjointly as conversions. physically and conceptually.

Given the choices teased out in this way. when we release him from the burdens of choice.” because I want to secure a more properly human habitus for the powers of judgment.We have little choice but to see ourselves as such. choosing is emphatically a making. .We have too often abdicated those powers to the indeterminacy in which we cloak an all-too-godlike artist. which I believe Caravaggio’s canvas reflects as a compunction of human seeing. the touchstone par excellence of Aristotelian telos.Techne can only be mastered by the viewer’s ongoing attention to technique. the painting becomes the condition of a momentous self-recognition: that we are ourselves preeminently choice-makers.26 I reject the indeterminacy of what I think Nancy risks deifying as “patency.Beautiful Errors 137 In fact their heads line up vertically on the picture plane to remind us that such planarity cannot be penetrated even by the device of foreshortening. He therefore discounts the activity of deliberative judging. An aesthetic theorist such as Nancy sees the stakes of appreciating the incommensurability of techne and sublimity as the bringing to presence of a pure “patency” or “obviousness” of the visible. because our viewing of the choice between form and spirit proffered here is a variable of the contextualization of form and spirit. So foreshortening in this painting reminds us once more that we are bound to choose our perspective on the “action” as a choice between form and spirit.The judgment of Paris remains a controversial site of origin for the aesthetic precisely because it seems to confuse a divine task with a human capacity. But more important. rather than as a making visible. Thus. because the visionary line of sight projected by foreshortening returns the viewer to his or her own devices—in recognition of the bad draftsmanship of the groom and of the planarity that his background presence foregrounds in relation to the head of Saul (the “seer”)—the groom becomes the marker for the irreducibility of techne.We must not forget that choosing has been bound up with the aesthetic since the judgment of Paris. itself an icon of the history of painting.


—Melville. —Aristotle. I now wish to focus more carefully on the exigencies of human choice-making through which subjective agency gains expressive scope in the realms of both action and the aesthetic. More important. in which subjective agency comes most vitally to life. I have already intimated how it demands a protocol of negotiating error. a tragedy of unintended consequences. is circumscribed by the risks of error and the hopes for self realization. not of individuals. we must look further into how the scene of human choice-making. In all the previous episodes of this argument I take it as an Aristotelian given that human action and aesthetic form share their most common ground in the understanding that both are epiphenomenal of productive subjective agency. By focusing on how aesthetic practice specifically is so constrained.“Bartleby the Scrivener” I In this chapter I continue to argue for a necessary complementarity between the responsibilities of human action and the formal densities of aesthetic experience. I have pointed out that this is a strong predicate of Poetics inasmuch as Aristotelian mimesis is stipulated to be an imitation. but of actions. I will continue to show how the exigencies of choice-making compel the reciprocity of these realms. these letters speed to death. Nichomachean Ethics On errands of life. that is. Indeed. I want to demonstrate that the force of aesthetic knowledge must entail .5 Aesthetic Corrigibility: Bartleby and the Character of the Aesthetic For it is clear that the person who acts incontinently does not think it is right before he finds himself in the situation. Subjective agency knows itself within the inescapable narrative constraints of attempting to coordinate intentions with actions such that the slippage between them does not become a threshold of self-annihilation.

fetishizing the aesthetic object at the expense of aesthetic practice. if that enterprise is to succeed. exhibits a most conspicuously aesthetic aspect: it imposes a mandate upon subjectivity to recontextualize those actions according to some more coherent structure of knowledge. it makes sense to avail ourselves of the historical view proffered in the recent work of John Guillory. a prospect for elaborating aesthetic theory in the direction of practical rationality and thus for revitalizing the terms of aesthetic production. might have political consequence—might even change something so grandiosely imagined as the world. those I have already outlined. . We will seek. my interest in promoting the idea of aesthetic corrigibility is also an effort to reinstate the paradigm of production as a fulcrum of aesthetic knowledge/experience. It will thus give us a useful ground for remapping the territory of aesthetic valuation along lines conducive to. understood as a capacity to remediate error. Reciprocally. Hume. once again.Therefore. corrigibility. After all. If we need to see the claims I am asserting as antagonistic toward conventional aesthetic theory. we will see how corrigibility. and just as long ridiculed. Enlightenment rationalists from Dubos and Boileau to Shaftesbury. For any general account of the history of the aesthetic reveals that it was precisely the productive aspect of the artwork that was eclipsed from view by postEnlightenment aesthetic theory. challenge the history of aesthetic theorizing. Hutcheson. and art more generally. Because the relevance of corrigibility to the aesthetic must be viewed therefore as coherent with the productive aspect of art—since agency is registered in the products of willful action—it is important to stipulate that my account of aesthetic corrigibility will be predicated on the dynamic or economic aspect of corrigibility. exhibits a disposition toward change that accords well with the long sustained. but ultimately inadequate to. Guillory’s work thus supplies a premise for countenancing an aesthetic value that plausibly supports social agency.1 Indeed. aesthetic knowledge without production undercuts the ground of any claim for the aesthetic as integral to social agency. For this work specifically foregrounds the issue of productive agency as a variable of aesthetic value. and Kant systematically repressed the productive or economic aspect of the aesthetic. in that disposition toward change. with respect to actions that produce unintended consequences. But it will also set a standard for measuring how far we must think beyond Guillory’s perspective. Here is where my desire to revise the concept of the aesthetic vis-à-vis a world of practical actions must. belief that the aesthetic. rather than on its more abstract value dimension.140 Aesthetic Reason a standard of ethical corrigibility.

For Kant. It is for this reason. that earlier theorists such as Shaftesbury. Christian Neoplatonism. in the eighteenth century. actually gained its cultural ascendancy on the basis of an alleged affinity with economics and technical production (techne). complementary to the eighteenth-century standard of disinterestedness that becomes so notably an obstacle to an account of aesthetic production in Kant’s “Analytic of the Beautiful. of course. The former Platonist sequestration of aesthetics in the affective realms of sensible pleasure or in the moral precepts of Renaissance. It teases out the eighteenth-century analogy between a civic totality and the formal totality of the work of art.This mitigation is. Guillory makes it particularly easy to see how perverse it might seem in the late twentieth century to continue to indulge a view of aesthetics in which . In this regard. it nonetheless gives notoriously short shrift to the work of art as a productive enterprise. Both goals formally mitigate economic thinking. On this basis. points out the paradox that. Guillory is particularly persuasive in his critical view of this theoretical heritage because he is able to show how aesthetics. behind the valorization of the aesthetic as a sensus communis.”2 I have already noted that it is the ideal of sensus communis—the universalist consensus of judgment that binds the social totality.This way. as we have seen. and Hume saw the universality of aesthetic value as precluding deliberation and practical experience. It goes without saying that these are the qualities of contingent experience.3 Guillory.”While Kant’s Critique of Judgment remains the most widely generalized pre-text of “modern” aesthetic theory. Guillory gives a valuable account of the trends of eighteenth century thought that ultimately eclipsed the economic aspect of aesthetic value. and despite indications to the contrary in his “Idea for a Universal History. there abides a tradition of maintaining the aesthetic as a refuge from the conflicts of quotidian experience: the qualities of disproportion and disharmony.” the judgment of taste seems to operate in lieu of productive artistic agency as the underpinning of his “sensus communis.Aesthetic Corrigibility 141 In Cultural Capital. they fostered a literally counterproductive idealization of the work of art: the artwork is posited as a totality whose unifying rule is most firmly grasped as a principle of form. without which there is no practical impetus for productive agency. Hutcheson. rather than as a principle of action amenable to rational deliberation. however. Guillory reminds us that the eighteenthcentury view of the aesthetic is typically identified with the conceptual ends of social consensus and the suppression of difference. had guaranteed its irrelevance to the scientific regimens of truth predominating in the Age of Reason. amenable to sensuous appreciation.This analogy has tantalized aesthetic theorists ever since for its ready assimilation of art to life.

proportion. For my chief concern here is to adduce a view of the aesthetic that is conducive to the practice of corrigibility. it depends upon key aspects of Guillory’s historical narrative. or harmony of the social totality could be represented as analogous to the order.The linchpin of the analogy is the individual agency that is bound to the collective will of the state through commodity production. between the objects of the political world and the art object. . or harmony of a work of art. Unlike the monarchic regime. Cultural Capital. . For this reason I am obliged to give Guillory’s text a schematic gloss. proportion.This continuum translates methodologically into at least the desire for an adequation of forces of production and forces of con- . because my account of aesthetic corrigibility does seek its own reconciliation with moral philosophy. the civil state is manifestly a made thing and thus presupposes an intelligible maker. I will resist the temptation to recapitulate too exhaustingly Guillory’s elegant narrative of the rise of aesthetics in tandem with the rise of political economy/moral philosophy and its subsequent divorce from those worldly pursuits.142 Aesthetic Reason production is split off from valuation. It was the order of the sensible rather than the intelligible” (Guillory. For Guillory the extrapolation to thinking of the state as the site of production and the commodity as the site of consumption was almost inevitable. Chief among these is his recognition that the acceptance of conflict. Guillory credits such thinkers as Hume and Adam Smith with shoring up the foundation of this analogy by positing a “continuum of production/consumption” (308) whereby the agency of the producer is understood to reciprocate with the commodity as a framework for some revisionary self-consciousness. it ceased to be conceived as simply the execution of rationally prescribed principles.“Once the order of society ceased to be legislated from the top. Nevertheless. Rather the order.This was the political circumstance that set the stage for what we might characterize as the aestheticization of civil society in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. as well as the open-ended adequation of differences that instantiate conflict. Guillory’s narrative of modern aesthetics begins with the problem of rerationalizing the unity of a civil society that was no longer rationalized by the institutions of monarchy. 305). . or any object of beauty. is a constitutive feature of aesthetic practice. The transition from the divinely or mysteriously ordained unity of the monarchic state and the ever more self-conscious order produced under the auspices of civic agency induced the presumption of an analogy between the order of the state and the order of human sensibility.

its production was now deemed to be a function of formerly invisible labor costs that were strictly abstract from the subjective needs of consumers. Its explanatory power and cultural value were disjoined from any standard of efficient productivity.This was most directly a consequence of the economist’s realization that the value of the commodity was in reality incommensurable with the labor of its production. the continuum of production and consumption permits the assimilation of the already traditional distinction between the work of art and the commodity— which since Neoplatonist aesthetics had kept the artwork well insulated from secular life—to the commodity per se.A harmonics of production and consumption is figured here insofar as production is seen as a variable of the needs of consuming subjects. Its value was hence decoupled from a calculable source of determinateness.Aesthetic Corrigibility 143 sumption. It consequently became incorrigible with respect to the production of value. however.This adequation takes the form of a principle: the value. from this point on. Guillory goes on to explain that. with the evolution of market economies and ultimately with the maturation of Adam Smith’s own political economy. like the market commodity. Indeed.The duly aesthetic commodity. aesthetic theory could sustain only a metaphoric relation between the production of the artwork and economic production.The scientific premise of aesthetic experience was no longer integral to an intelligible and efficient economic system.4 . the beauty of the commodity is proportionate to the uses it serves in the social order. If the work of art is like the commodity. in the course of the mid-eighteenthcentury capitalist expansion. without which aesthetic theory can make no practical claim upon the field of practical actions. alienated from the forces of value production. This line of thought beneficently preempts the caricatures of decadent aestheticism with a more rationalistic aesthetic pragmatism. the commodity was peremptorily disjoined from production. Where the value of the commodity was proportionate to the uses that mandated production.As the dynamic proportionality that formerly played between production and consumption was disrupted in economic theory. to which it would have been otherwise consigned by beauty theory. that is. so the artwork came to be disarticulated from its identification with the commodity.This is to say. aesthetic perfection is duly commensurable with work and thereby reprieved from the self-trivializing pursuits of imaginative free play. Or to put it more simply. exhibits aesthetic perfection where its social value is coordinate with the social motives and the means of its production. it is manifestly part of the process of production.

too explicitly contradictory of his own earlier judgment against aesthetic theories that were not amenable to the pragmatics of economic production. Nevertheless. productive practice. perpetrated in the decoupling of the notion of the commodity from the notion of the artwork. We see the effects of this transfiguration unmistakably in the amorphous standards of taste that were popularized in the protocols of nineteenth-century aestheticism. metaphysically tinged standard of “perfection. the ideal of the artwork became an increasingly indistinct. he points out. as a site of surplus value and infinite desire. for surplus value altogether. this compromise notion of aesthetic value already has cultural currency under the judgmental auspices of Kantian play. because what is consumed constitutes a need for its re-production. departicularizes the formal articulation of the artwork— is inevitable. Guillory alludes to Marx’s insight that. in turn. Ultimately it devolves to a counter for the indeterminacy of value. ceased to be readily understood as an efficient. Guillory is nonetheless prepared to grant the consequent abstraction of aesthetic value as a historical inevitability. Guillory’s analysis seems unduly self-preempting at this juncture and. Among other things.Thus extrapolating from the economic to the aesthetic.This is what Marx himself already saw in the Grundrisse.” I have already discussed in Chapter 4 how art. It is a compromise that. what is missed in this theoretical stance is any significant bearing the aesthetic might have on the self- . from my point of view. under capitalism. production must ineluctably come to be seen as already consumption.5 While remaining critical of the eclipse of aesthetic production. After all. scrupulously enough. II I want to suggest that no such surrender to a metaphorics of aesthetic value—where aesthetic value is abstractly equated with desire and desire. production itself inevitably becomes a counter for desire. makes a fitting compromise with the facts of political economy and philosophical orthodoxy. as the commodity became increasingly distinct from the artwork. where pleasure prevails as the test of aesthetic authority. judged in terms of perfection.144 Aesthetic Reason Not surprisingly. Guillory is prepared to see how an account of the artwork. above all. acknowledges the unavoidable split of the economic/political values from cultural values without explicitly eliminating the aesthetic from the field of sociological study. He concedes this point on the grounds that.

in order to dispel the abstraction-mongering metaphors entertained in the concept of exchange value. He resolutely insists upon the primacy of production over the commodity. Thus when we speak of corrigibility we might still speak of production literally. But Guillory seems less acutely attuned to the fact that Marx’s formulation “production is immediately consumption” (90) mandates. 321).As Guillory stipulates. My overall ambition here is nonetheless not strikingly divergent from Guillory’s. By contrast with the ill-fated economic metaphors for aesthetic value that litter Guillory’s historical account.A more persuasively literal correlation between the artistic commodity and forces of production survives in this conceptual framework. The biggest advantage of adopting it will be that the ideals of the artwork might once again be made commensurable with work per se. Guillory is well aware of Marx’s compunction to peg the intelligibility of political economy to the terms of production. and before the aestheticizing of the aesthetic that it unwittingly brought about. without itself succumbing to metaphorization. Grundrisse. with a standard of aesthetic production (practice) more than with a standard of aesthetic perfection (metaphor). corrigibility denotes an evaluative process that is arguably coherent with the economic sources of metaphoric aesthetics.7 This is consistent with Marx’s unwillingness to countenance the possibility that production ever succumbs to abject purposelessness (Marx.“Marx resorts to the aesthetic analogy in order to maintain the priority of production” (Cultural Capital. It thereby offers a meaningful alternative to accepting the alienation of aesthetic production from the commodity—hence the alienation of the artwork from an economy of production—as an irreversible phenomenon.This stance is a de facto concession to Walter Pater’s “thick wall of personality” behind which the subjective aesthetic experience remains a solipsistic pursuit. They likewise see the consumer . above all other considerations. as we did before the advent of capitalistic consumerism. Neo-Marxists treat Marx’s intuition of the dialectic of production and consumption as prescient critique of the decadence of late twentieth-century consumer culture. and its malignant consumer-cultural fetishes. Otherwise Marxist critique cannot hold all reality-corrupting abstractions at bay. in what we must take to be the inherently akratic arena of action. an alternative dialectical relation between production and commodity. Corrigibility grasps the aesthetic as integral to the production of the subject. I want to explore the possibility that the concept of corrigibility evokes a better sense of the aesthetic.6 For these reasons.Aesthetic Corrigibility 145 productive exigencies of human subjectivity. 91).

What is at stake under the sign of production in both discourses—the economic and the aesthetic—is access to the determination of value. 321).As Guillory explains: “The ‘object of art’ stands for what is momentarily in excess of present need” (Cultural Capital.The dialectical tension between production and consumption is conflated in this. Generality will subsist with particularity in this view (Guillory. Guillory’s desire to state strongly the limitations inherent in Marxist aesthetics preempts the possibility of thinking more broadly in Marxian terms. Guillory himself points out that. by making the indeterminacy of desire the ultimate means of comprehending the artwork’s relationship to the work of the world—which we must note. for Marx. the relation between production and consumption is vital precisely and exclusively because it is an asymmetrical relation. abstraction and concreteness. In contemporary literary criticism desire has of course become an . Cultural Capital. it thereby shirks. Since it is conditioned by the errors of action. corrigibility entails production as an aspect of knowledge. therefore. but we need not decontextualize or absolutize desire. For Marx. if only because such knowledge is. desire and agency. wish to maintain production as a conceptual armature for aesthetic practice.8 On this pretext he equates the principle of desire with the totality of production.We might speculate. Disappointingly. the commodity/artwork is no doubt a locus of desire.146 Aesthetic Reason culture as a culpable corollary of the “purposiveness without a purpose” by which Kant took the aesthetic out of circulation in the economy of human actions. overly metaphoric conceptualization of their relation. contextual. one with its own contextual imperatives of understanding— Guillory treats it merely as a token of insatiable need. Correspondingly. as Guillory seems to do. that where production reciprocates asymmetrically with consumption there will always be a slippage—the threshold of error and corrigible action— between theory and practice. I would argue that one does not even need to concede with Guillory that the “analogy [between political economy and aesthetics] never amounted to more than an analogy” (325). 321). once again.This is why I have already suggested that corrigibility will serve as a better term than desire if we. by definition. But instead of seeing the disproportion between production and consumption embodied in the work of art as a determinant conflict— namely.This is precisely what Guillory seems to have sacrificed in holding fast to the concept of an absolute desire as the master trope of aesthetic experience. Marx makes conflict and disproportion important counters of artistic value. along with Marx.

Their eagerness to treat the aesthetic as a threshold of infinite desire does two things. licenses the proliferation of alternate sites for assigning aesthetic value. this supplanting of aesthetic judgment with aesthetic desire. Paradoxically. has led to the ultimate aestheticization of experience. It acknowledges the culpable ideological tendentiousness of canonical aesthetic judgments and. it stymies the ethical purposiveness that I have alleged the aesthetic might otherwise serve. in their zeal to equalize the social forces contending within the horizon of aesthetic judgment. But it should be just as clear that stripping the aesthetic of all judgmental protocols. in the process. for my purposes. often lose sight of the resources for determinant value inhering in it. For.This has been especially true where there has been a willingness to blur the line between aesthetic agency and an a priori—either Hutchesonian or Kantian—aesthetic disposition. But my agreement with such opinion does not extend to the fashionable conflation of the forms of attention conditioned by aesthetic objects to the modes of sociological analysis that purport to locate them in the field of social production. wish to ameliorate the disjuncture of aesthetic value from the practical entailments of the commodity. they all wish to reassimilate the artwork to the epistemological tasks of production. It promotes precisely the radical value relativism that Guillory himself deplores and that. Correlatively. at the same time. constitutes a tragic impediment to deliberative agency.Aesthetic Corrigibility 147 increasingly global conceit for comprehending the aesthetic. Guillory himself identifies this disposition with the partisanism of contemporary combatants in the canon debates. along with Guillory. Contemporary critics of the aesthetic have typically made the accusation that aesthetic value strives to transcend the otherwise violently contested values of everyday experience and so stands irresponsibly aloof from the political reality denoted in them. Guillory himself warns that we ought to be extremely wary of those critics of the aesthetic who.They stand in line with historical figures from Baumgarten to Nietzsche to Hegel and Dewey. such critics confuse the discourse of the aesthetic with aesthetic practice. for whom the aesthetic needs to be squared with the demands of practical action. Ultimately. I am of course in agreement with the critics of the aesthetic who. all means of making distinctions—and hence of the resources for choice-making—amounts to a transcendence of practical life in the opposite direction: toward a radical particularity that turns out to be as politically feral as the most Platonic regimens of tasteful wisdom. . who have sought to discredit aesthetic judgment insofar as it appears to carry an exclusionary judgmental force.

seems utterly blind to the ways in which aesthetic objects transfigure the discourses that purport to grasp their significance. In this respect I would argue that Bourdieu’s notion of universalization is itself too “aesthetic” in what I think he must agree is the worst sense. he does not find a clear compromise position between the ills of aesthetic theory and the ills of anti-aesthetic sociological critique. to the history that produced the artwork. hence their commodification. he ultimately calls for a universalization of access to the cultural capital vested by aesthetic judgments. He has still obviated the relevance of the artwork to the project of universalizing the values ascribed to it. It is important to note that Bourdieu gives scrupulous attention to social conditions of production when he articulates the sociological viewpoint per se. Because Bourdieu sees the artwork as almost exclusively epiphenomenal of the critical language that licenses its exclusionary powers.10 Indeed. because Guillory is too much in solidarity with Bourdieu. as attach to . more than the terms of their production. he misses the opportunity to construe the aesthetic disposition in act-based terms that might be more attuned to the “epistemological tasks of production” embodied in the artwork. the “distribution of the aesthetic disposition” seems to matter more to Bourdieu than any analytical recasting of the “aesthetic disposition. in his account of aesthetic universalization. he gives no concrete account of the place of the artwork. in lieu of engaging the objects they describe. in the project of universalizing the conditions of access to the values ascribed to the artwork.148 Aesthetic Reason Notwithstanding Guillory’s underlying empathy with sociological empiricism. at least. But the values he assigns to the artwork. He treats them as if they were mutually exclusive avenues of inquiry.” Specifically. tend to reflect the conditions of their consumption. produced therein. Not surprisingly. his bid for the universalization of standards of value that do not otherwise have democratic distribution within the universe of language users is still too one-sided.11 Bourdieu’s lack of interest in the form of the artwork sacrifices the historical exigencies. Bourdieu’s critique of the aesthetic on grounds that it is a discourse of power. and the agency of the artist. His universalization procedure would therefore seem relatively oblique to the sociological problems it is supposed to ameliorate. Or. Indeed. he unwittingly shows us that Pierre Bourdieu is a case in point. dependent on a protocol of social exclusions.9 Bourdieu’s “sociological” remedy for the tyranny of elitist tastes merely seeks universalization of the access to critical languages. In my view the same liabilities attach to his bid for universalization of access.

which Bourdieu thinks of as a beneficent “corporatism of the universal. III Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” offers an especially rich prospect for testing these hypotheses: it is an exemplary instance of ethical incorrigibility masquerading as aesthetic practice. with respect to the social privilege it seemed to confer. it has the status of a generative principle that remains formally distinct from its concrete determinations in the specific works of art it sanctions. it .The famous benedictory epitaph that Melville’s narrator confers upon Bartleby. the contextualization of human agency conditioned by error. Because this access is posited as an absolute ground of judgment. Better than Bourdieu’s and Guillory’s perspectives. otherwise fostered within the formal constraints of the artwork. however. Because it is not generative for universal truth claims.“Ah Bartleby! Ah. Alternatively. corrigibility does not preclude that deliberative activity that depends on protocols of rational choicemaking in order to imagine a subject fit for the tasks of aesthetic agency. Judgmental agency. Bourdieu’s “corporatism of the universal” simply cannot articulate a context-specific ground of motivation without compromising its claim to universality.This standard of universalization. proffers a relatively learnable universalizing procedure in the place of a certifiably truthful standard of universality. it renders the act of making distinctions. corrigibility. thereby comes under the same epistemological/political threats that loomed for Marx in the economic globalization of consumption. with respect to the purposes of social change. not of efficacy.12 Because it brackets the formal specificity of the artwork. with respect to the formation of the artwork itself. humanity!” has the unmistakable ring of a voice striving for artistic eloquence.Aesthetic Corrigibility 149 Bourdieu’s. rather less important than the commodified social distinction enjoyed by its critical exponents and its consumers. a principle of corrigibility does not risk lapsing into a utopianism that would be as abstract.” invites precisely the problems it would ameliorate. as conventional aesthetic value was corrupt. Even more recognizably. It is out of a wish to ameliorate this paradox that I propose seeing how corrigibility might help us to get at universality without sacrificing Bourdieu’s and Guillory’s concern for the greater social good that might be served by reconceptualizing aesthetic value in relation to its social effects. For that claim is presupposed as a principle of necessity.

the self-conscious aesthetic flourishes of the narrator’s rhetoric throughout the narrative show us the unsightly mirror of his ethical vanity. the narrator’s professional identity as a Wall Street attorney alerts us to the prospect that we will have to invoke lawlike criteria.Thus Melville’s reader must contend with the familiar paradox—decried by critics of the aesthetic—that aesthetic sensibility.150 Aesthetic Reason resonates with the universalist aspirations of the most mainstream aesthetic theories—sampled in part one of this chapter—that make the transcendence of experience the perverse test of aesthetic authenticity. is incompatible with any existential commitments to the world of “real” human beings.” accords well enough with the notion that akratic action—because it coheres with a principle of corrigibility—confirms our faith in aesthetic practice as a medium of rationalistic learning.Aesthetic authenticity presupposes its universality. Melville’s “characterization” of the narrator will reveal itself to be a veritable staging ground for the analysis of akratic action that I have already adduced as an important corollary of aesthetic experience: because akrasia problematizes the fit between intentions and actions it mandates a scruple of human productivity. In “Bartleby the Scrivener. coordinate with the test of disinterestedness. Now we must see if the narrator’s self-styled aesthetic enterprise. perhaps as rigorous as Kant’s own. a labor of creativity.” But he executes this business in precisely the terms that have historically stigmatized the artist figure.” As we know. in retailing Bartleby’s “life. But instead of elevating the narrative above the artless world of quotidian observation. by which we might negatively judge the fit between the narrator’s self-congratulatory moralistic intentions. By contrast.13 In “Bartleby the Scrivener” however. the universal voice was Kant’s famous index for the de facto ethical consensus forged in aesthetic judgment. Accordingly. the narrative engine of Melville’s assiduously ethical novella is the reader’s increasingly burdensome questioning of the authenticity of the narrator’s presumption to speak with the aesthete’s self-acknowledged “universal voice. and his morally dubious actions. instantiates knowledge of the beautiful and thereby unites the “attuned” sensibility with all humankind. Melville establishes his narrator’s aesthetic credentials immediately in “Bartleby. purveyed as artistic truth. so finely and so exclusively attuned to the universals of human nature.” the rhetorical trajectory of the narrator’s benedictory expostulation points in the illustrious direction of just this universalist detachment: intended as it is to confer nobility on the character capable of such a distancing sensibility.The universal voice. whose most caricatured .

he immediately turns the name John Jacob Astor into a labored poetry: it is “a name which. i. of course.e. Voicing the credo “I prefer not to. of contesting wills.Thus challenged by what he calls Bartleby’s “passive resistance. I admit I love to repeat.” 13). the conflict-engendering crux of the narrator’s quandary about Bartleby’s apparent will not to act. for it hath a rounded and orbicular sound to it and rings like unto bullion” (13). Will is. would be an “irreparable loss to literature” (“Bartleby the Scrivener. He is a resolute but curiously dispassionate recluse from the world of actions and his only deeds are the proofs of property ownership.” The narrator’s adequacy to the role of the aesthetic judge is fittingly tailored to every detail of the caricature of aesthetic decadence: he has chosen the “easiest way of life” (“Bartleby. to perpetrate deeds. can only call his humanity into disrepute.The elegant irony of Melville’s conceit is. distanced from the fray of litigation.” the narrator faces a terrible imperative: to judge Bartleby’s own quasi-aesthetic aura of disengagement from the world in such a way that he must compromise . the narrator considers his self-worth to be proportionate to his disciplined disengagement from the worldly struggle with other living wills. the narrator avows that failure to tell Bartleby’s tale in full. So it should come as no surprise if I propose that it is the efficacy of this doubt that is the proper measure of Melville’s own aesthetic accomplishment in “Bartleby the Scrivener. the text we are about to read is proudly tendered as a test of the narrator’s adequacy to the task of producing comparable aesthetic pleasures. as a standard of knowledge that can be known before it is met—a truthfulness that preempts experience—that was called into doubt by the historical alienation of production from consumption. nevertheless.” 14).As if to illustrate the point. Property deeds are as effectively alien from the free will to act. Correspondingly. He furthermore establishes his own voice by invidious comparison with the anaesthetic likes of John Jacob Astor. that the narrator already measures up only too well to a standard of aesthetic adequacy that.” Bartleby seems to defy the order of the workplace by so avowing his disengagement from all professional duties. The life of the legal will.Aesthetic Corrigibility 151 persona the narrator aspires to measure himself against. He practices his vocation on paper. Indeed. in its pompous aloofness from reality. to assume the role of the artist. characterized in turn as “a personage little given to poetic enthusiasm” (14). It is precisely the caricature aesthete’s notion of the aesthetic. after all. as legal wills are from the living agent who puts them into play as legal instruments. Self-aggrandizing from the start. presupposes the death of the willing agent.

For the will of the narrator. that much more skeptically. He resolves to produce an ethically flattering image of himself. faced with Bartleby’s refusal to perform his copyist’s duties.The narrator’s willful passivity unintentionally produces a situation in which a candidly active will seems to be the preferable modus operandi. as supremely tolerant of Bartleby’s allegedly willful behavior by a disciplined exercise of will-lessness. in the narrator’s mind. Such pathos belies his aesthetic mastery of the tale. the narrator clearly intends to will his own salvation in the aesthetically judicious eyes of the divine creator. . And the conflict only intensifies beyond this threshold. . The more the narrator “exercises” tolerance. to humor him in his strange willfulness . which is increasingly subject to paradoxical interpretation. the more imposed upon he feels himself to be. not to mention an end to narrative. my emphasis). which we have seen to be an impediment to ethically purposive aesthetic practice. the narrator’s hypocritical tolerance for Bartleby only seems to increase the ever more irksome freedom of his antagonist’s “willful” presence on the premises of the narrator’s place of business. produces the unintended consequence of revealing the narrator (in the reader’s eyes) to be a pathetic failure of will.We must wonder if the narrator recognizes in Bartleby an enviable realization of the aesthetic ideal of detachment that he himself strives to attain.This is a fact that becomes increasingly hard to ignore as his errors of strategic planning proliferate in proportion to the seemingly unlim- . the ambiguity or split intentionality of the narrator’s will (in the guise of will-lessness) comes to resemble the split between production and consumption. such a fall from aesthetic grace would be tantamount to a loss of moral authority. For example. it calls the reader’s attention. To befriend Bartleby. We are given every reason to believe that. Precisely to the degree that Bartleby’s gnomic credo “I prefer not to” is ambiguously an expression of will. Even more suspiciously. In his own words.152 Aesthetic Reason the disinterestedness that underwrites his own aesthetic pretensions in the telling of the tale. will be no match for the narrator’s own will-lessness.The narrator’s error of judgment thus reveals him to be caught in a predicament of akratic action/knowledge. the narrator sees his passive tolerance of Bartleby’s belligerent presence as a way to “purchase a delicious self approval. Bartleby’s apparent abdication of will. however willful. exercised as a highly theatricalized will-lessness.After all. to the fact that the narrator’s own will depends on an aesthetic will-lessness. while I lay up in my soul what will eventually prove a sweet morsel for my conscience” (23–24.

legally speaking. rather than as a mere blind spot. he is responsible for the roof over Bartleby’s head. This obviates the usual thematic distance that obtrudes between narrator and reader as an artifact of the virtual dimension of “fictional reality” that is.When he resolves to let Bartleby not do as he pleases. to treat narrator and reader alike in characterological terms permits us to see them on a continuum of action. Here I want to argue that akratic knowledge—typified in the instances just cited—is very explicitly keyed to the thematic of corrigibility in “Bartleby.The errors of the narrator tutor the reader’s self-revising awareness of what might constitute best behavior in the narrator’s situation. it devolves to his humiliation before Bartleby. since the difference between them can now be seen to figure the field of akratic action as a site of corrigibility. By contrast.This consciousness marks the difference between the character of Melville’s narrator and the arguably better character of Melville’s reader. for art qua aesthetic truth. Such coherence is specifically the crux of akratic subjectivity: the erroneous action of the akrates is experienced as two discordant moments of intentionality. When he vows to show humility before Bartleby’s eccentricity. He therefore remains incorrigible with respect to that misconception. akrasia becomes an emphatically selfconscious aspect of Melville’s own aesthetic production—both with respect to his deployment of narrative strategies and with respect to the reader’s engagement of them.We will see that in Melville’s fiction. Even the narrator’s attempt to vacate the premises that Bartleby will not decamp from produces a public recognition that. to speak of both the narrator and the reader in terms of character. it reveals Bartleby’s humility. When he treats Bartleby’s preference not to as an intimidation.” I believe we can most deftly capture the thematic unity of this fiction by arguing that Melville’s narrator mistakes the unconsciously akratic behavior that is his own narrative métier. the narrator incurs the displeasure of his other employees. . In other words. for my purposes. narrator and reader are markers for two sites of intentionality that nonetheless cohere in the complementarity of their difference. as a consequence of Bartleby’s will not to. so unassumingly dramatized on the page. otherwise.Aesthetic Corrigibility 153 ited hidden contingencies that come to menace his situation. It is especially important. I take this to be a structuring irony of Melville’s aesthetic in “Bartleby” because it proffers consciousness of akratic knowledge as a kind of discovery procedure. which are yoked in the necessary self-consciousness of one’s failure to act in accordance with a previous sense of best reasons.

if we respect the Aristotelian postulate that character is first and foremost a function of act. We will see in more detail how the narrator’s akratic predicament in “Bartleby” becomes increasingly apparent in the pattern of energetic rationalizations that parodically diminish his authorial agency. adduce the reasons for alleging that we need some notion of corrigibility to understand the specificity of aesthetic value. is nowhere more decisive than in his ability to show how akratic action ought not to be seen as terminally irrational.154 Aesthetic Reason Of course the relationship between reader and text in literary fiction is commonly a site of corrigibility. especially in morally didactic fiction. We need only consider the ironies of William Makepeace Thackeray as they accrue to the reader’s moral detachment from the world. He furthermore elaborates the terms of this linkage in a way that potentially closes the gap between the realms of production and commodity. Melville’s agency. and perhaps more than anything else. within the realms of art. the author is able to exhibit the interdependence of akrasia and corrigibility as a crucial underpinning of the aesthetic project for which the reader consequently bears a correlative responsibility. anymore than without. a ground upon which to predicate a theory of character. In turn. we must look at how Melville exhibits the narrator’s errors in contrast with actions that presuppose a richer protocol of choice-making than . thus reveals itself to be a decisively effectual action. Furthermore. also a stake of aesthetic production on the narrator’s part. quite explicitly.Akrasia is. rationality and irrationality. as an aesthetic maker. after all. intentions and unintended consequences. so factitiously exhibited in the aesthetic artifice of a text such as Vanity Fair. In this frame of reference I believe we locate the efficacy of the aesthetic as a fulcrum of corrigibility and. Melville provides a basis from which to generalize about how the aesthetic project might be linked to the formation of human character. But first. particularly by contrast with his narrator’s aesthetic pretensions. It presents a striking antithesis to that aesthetic disposition that critics such as Bourdieu have faulted as incorrigible with respect to social responsibilities that ought not be shirked. Melville’s own aesthetic practice. In other words. concomitantly. we must accept the postulate that action blurs the line between knowledge and experience. In “Bartleby” the narrator’s akratic action is revealed to be a resource of rationality insofar as the reader is prompted to pierce the narrator’s aesthetic pretensions by producing better reasons for the disposition to act in such troubling circumstances. But because the akratic continuum between narrator and reader in Melville’s text is.

I believe Melville is prompting us to a more practicable understanding of akrasia. It needs to be said here that theorists of akrasia are themselves frequently insensitive to the narrative dynamics of akratic action because they do not.This is a kind of implicit corrigibility: “If the agent is sensitive to something that constitutes a reason for him but he doesn’t see that it does.This anticipates a position that is now gaining currency among philosophers like Alison McIntyre. rationality itself is treated as a resolutely a priori principle. I am suggesting that akrasia may be a resource for rational deliberation or evaluation as much as it seems to menace our . they are two different ways in which the justificatory force of this consideration can be manifested. a simple disposition.What enables the reader’s evasion of the akratic predicament is precisely the narrative sensitivity that the presumption of alternative choices guarantees and that the narrator so painfully lacks. As I already suggested in Chapter 3. In the standard account that asks us to take akrasia as simply irrational or antithetical to rational decision making. In other words. as Alfred Mele recommends. rather. akrasia is more than acting against a principle of best knowledge. On the contrary.”14 Clearly. Or as Robert Dunn in The Possibility of Weakness of Will has more pointedly suggested. a way of granting that best knowledge may be strictly a function of acting.Aesthetic Corrigibility 155 what is available within his limited rational means. and if this consideration is what motivates him to perform the akratic action. It is.As those limited means are exhibited in their fullest impoverishment. whose highly original article “Is Akratic Action Always Irrational?” helped me to introduce the relevance of akrasia in Chapter 3. the knowledge of alternative choices comes more readily within the reader’s own powers of choosing. put akrasia on a continuum with its complementary standard of corrigibility. enkrateia or self-control. akrasia locates “a breach between evaluation and action” (9) that one could presumably close only by deliberative means. then these are not two separate errors canceling each other out. by a procedurally scrupulous revaluation of the relevant contingencies of action. we risk rendering it a useless tool of ethical judgment. for McIntyre. if those factors could be seen in fuller contexts of motivation. McIntyre is shrewdly alert to the fact that agents are frequently unaware of how factors that motivate their sense of best reasons for acting might impel them to rely upon other reasons. She points out that if we ignore the contextualist and narrative pressures impinging upon our desire to explain akrasia. if one takes akrasia primarily as “figuring the gap between intentions and actions as [a mode of] reciprocity” it can be seen as a way to broaden the context within which “justificatory force” can be mustered.

then the reader’s impulse to correct the narrator’s erroneous judgment (that Bartleby is at fault because he is willful) demands that the reader. where we would least expect a lucid response from a character already radically at odds with the principle of lucid response.That Melville sponsors this thinking is initially evidenced in his strong inducement that we see Bartleby differently from how the narrator does: as not simply incorrigible in the willfulness of “I prefer not to. a complementarily novelistic prospect for imagining what might count as better reasons. Knowledge is radically split from action rather than action working against knowledge. In this way it helps us to see that the ethical warrant of the aesthetic—where it is informed by akrasia—is not the familiar grandiose prompt to intuit universal truths. If Bartleby has no will. a place of conspicuously nullified will and so a marker for the seeming default of his self-knowledge.156 Aesthetic Reason ideals of rational instrumentality. . or his extreme weakness of will. But because it is more precisely lack of action that makes his will-to-knowledge so unintelligible. for them. as reasons” (“Akratic Action. and the narrator is an acknowledged akrates. among other things. in his or her turn. Bartleby’s apparent willfulness lands him paradoxically in the Tombs. We are. Bartleby’s personal cognizance is effectively eliminated as a springboard for further interpretation. At this moment we may be tempted to infer Bartleby’s lack of will.After all. assume the deliberative duties of the willful agent.” Unlike the akrates who is defined by acting against best knowledge. In “Bartleby the Scrivener” Melville opens this prospect for us by pursuing the question of Bartleby’s apparent willfulness—does he possess a will or is he the victim of a pitiable fate? Melville undertakes this inquiry in a way that engages the more ethically resilient account of akrasia proposed by McIntyre. that nonetheless could lead her to revise the reasoning that prompted the rationally dubious act (390) in the first place. and mistakenly conclude that abstinence of will is being proffered as the path to knowledge.” After all.And yet. Bartleby here demonstrates knowledge by/in default of action.” 382). here. Corrigibility is. Bartleby delivers his most sobering declaration of positive knowledge in the novel: “I know where I am. McIntyre’s astutely novelistic point is that we should not assume that “agents are fully aware of the considerations that count. She is emphatic that an akratic action will not be irrational if an agent is motivated by some apparently lesser reason. tapping our latent corrigibility. rather.The reader does so by the default of there being any other competent agent in the world of the text. prompted to the more modest enterprise of making ourselves better deliberators.

We would thus be licensed to wash our hands of both of them. In “Bartleby. understood in strictly Platonic terms as a failure to make action accord with an a priori principle of judgment. and in light of the akratic narrator’s diminished capacity for such knowledge.“Weakness of will” is of course one commonplace definition of akrasia. and thus resistant to the purity of a priori principles. we might even be tempted to balance the fault we find in the narrator with a comparable fault in Bartleby. we are deprived of just this privilege of self-certainty. But it is precisely the commonplace definition of akrasia that I have resisted in these pages. when he ties Bartleby’s fate to the dead letter office: “Dead letters! Does it not sound like dead men?” (“Bartleby. If only because the knowledge denoted in this crudely reductive causality narrows the otherwise expansive narrative scope of human experience. we would be well advised to seek an alternative strategy. rather than any privileged context of rational expectation. I believe that we would do better to engage the process of contextualization. precludes the course of action that I am alleging the reader is set upon here. Good deliberation would be an explicitly calculative enterprise sensitive to contextual . It is perhaps because all such judgments. Socrates’ understanding of akrasia as a practical syllogism—x is the correct action where y is the case. It instances a mode of reasoning that is not unlike the discreditable stance adopted by the narrator. precisely insofar as it shirks the burdens of contextuality. thus everywhere that y. by the ultimately seismic unsettling of the ground of the narrator’s judgment. In this way. x is necessarily rational— is inadequate precisely because it precludes any ambiguity about what would count as y. and his or her own notion of Bartleby’s will as weak. 262).” of course. the reader is bound to correct both the narrator’s notion of Bartleby’s will as strong. because it presupposes an a priori and fixed standard of rationality. and emphatically those of Melville’s reader. are revealed to be densely situational. In fact. And adopting it.Aesthetic Corrigibility 157 Where Bartleby is represented as a site of knowledge without intelligibility. weakness of will. in order to arrive at a satisfactory explanation of Bartleby’s character in this fiction. But we must not fall into the trap of thinking that the simple choice between weak and strong will constitutes the basis of knowledge that we seek here. only the reader remains to imagine what might count as better reasons for crediting the intelligibility of Bartleby’s experience. that the Aristotle of the Ethics contradicted the Socrates of the Republic: Aristotle proposes that incontinent reasoning can be remedied by “good deliberation” (euboulia) (Ethics.” 45).

15 Correlatively. assumes that rational choice must be treated as distinct from rational wish. It perhaps even helps us to understand Aristotle’s tendency to confuse the realms of aesthetics and ethics. by contrast.158 Aesthetic Reason variability over time. by demurring the presumed best reasons for acting. are not meritorious because they possess a quality. for Aristotle. It would inhibit the capacity to change one’s mind that is the rational prerequisite of corrigibility and my prime reason for adducing akrasia as a framework within which we might see aesthetic practice as a mode of cognitive corrigibility.Aristotle unexpectedly postulates a “good incontinence” (Ethics. my emphasis). in this context. to unthinkingly adhere in one’s actions to a presupposition of best reasons would be.Thus.16 In the artwork. .“it becomes necessary to inquire with regard to the condition in question. even in the pursuit of universals. one avoids the pitfall of converting an a priori principle into a stubborn compulsion. phronesis. Virtuous acts. .To determine an act to be incontinent with respect to a rational standard of best-reasoned action. merit is embodied as a quality of the object. by chiasmically interweaving the technical terms that bear on choice in the texts of Poetics and Ethics.17 Narratology thus lends some support to my construction of Melville’s narrative art as a crossable bridge between aesthetics and ethics. 229) where. No less significant. but because “the agent acts in a certain state” (my emphasis). In fact Aristotle stipulates that good deliberation. proairesis. 228. peripeteia. . seeming to admonish the artist to assume new ethical burdens beyond the bounds of aesthetic artifice. . proairesis. It is worth noting here that the field of narratology—a quasi-ethical substrate of literary studies—similarly does not countenance narrative intelligibility independent of some protocol of choicemaking. tantamount to mere obstinacy in the face of quotidian mutabilities. For the same reason. Aristotle argues against the notion that incontinence is a feature of character that could be considered independent of the character’s contextual situation. in other words. and hamartia are Aristotelian counters for choice that have roughly equivalent consequence in the forms of tragic drama and the drama of ethical life. in the Ethics Aristotle makes an invidious comparison between art and virtue. It corrects an insensitivity to the contextual particularity of the situation in which one musters reasons for one’s actions. For it is clear that the person who acts incontinently does not think it is right before he finds himself in the situation” (Ethics.This is because he takes choice to be a situational variable of the narrative ordering of events. the agent “chooses” what he or she is doing.

not to mention the ethical imperatives of dramatic emplotment. because the terms of fit between them are mediately indeterminate. choice-making in a narrative dimension orients every particular to a moving horizon of universalization. would seem to be a matter of reconciling a universal with a particular in a situation where.Aesthetic Corrigibility 159 Indeed. it becomes virtually impossible to think of akrasia and enkrateia except as a continuum of experience. What is more. suggesting that this is the situation in which Melville’s reader finds him. it becomes difficult to think of error apart from a scenario of corrigibility. Changing one’s mind then becomes as important a variable of striving for continence or enkrateia as knowing what it is right for the mind to make itself up to do. the narrator’s stated best reasons for any given interpretation of Bartleby’s conduct reprise an obstinately self-justifying rationality that mitigates the ethical purport of rational purpose. In that way the concept of character is made coherent with the problematic of development. For the good deliberator. Consequently. this situation may be seen as the most beneficent complement to the narrator’s bad incontinence. It effectively preempts the situational complexity unfolded in Bartleby’s seemingly obstinate presence on the narrator’s premises. if the person whom we suspect of acting incontinently “does not think [of what is right] before he finds himself in the situation” then the judgment that akrasia is in occurrence might arguably be assimilable to the project of accommodating a progressively capacious scope of contextual knowledge. there is a mandate for scrupulously determining new relations of fitness. then—whether under the banner of aesthetics or ethics—it would seem that acting upon any a priori principle necessarily entails the modification of that principle. In this regard. where the particular case that solicits its application is nonetheless not a perfect fit. or Aristotle’s good incontinence. Likewise.As I have already indicated. of course. for this reason if no other. it is worth remarking that good deliberation. I am.or herself in “Bartleby”: especially in recognizing the continuity of his or her own interpretive task with the “aesthetic interpretations” that are ever more antagonistically promulgated by the narrator. And as I have claimed previously in pointing up continuity between the “character” of the narrator and the “character” of the reader. what so graphically appears to be Bartleby’s obstinacy in the narrator’s blame-casting rhetoric becomes a counter for the not-so-apparent obstinacy that under- . It should go without saying that the mind makes such knowledge a trajectory of adequation rather than a standard of adequacy. Despite his precipitous and compulsive recontextualizing of his own actions toward Bartleby.

is rendered dubious by his meticulous rationalization of the names. the professed disinterestedness of his aesthetic motive now deserves to be exposed as the art forgery it is. IV The best test of the reader’s aesthetic competence is thus met by determining how Bartleby’s own apparently will-less knowledge can be reconciled with a proper—neither akratic nor obstinately egotistical— willfulness.” 15). Nippers. He is only too quick to demonstrate how the names are duly an “expression of their respective persons” (“Bartleby. the aestheticizing smoke screen of the nickname—nicking personhood in the gesture of personification—even more egregiously obscures the narrator’s evasion of a decisive action with respect to Turkey’s and Nippers’s employment. Because the fate of literature. a good incontinence. It is not lost on us that the narrator would otherwise have to accept his duty to fire the incompetence that the nicknames confess. at the beginning of the narrative. In any case. which he somewhat disingenuously asserts were mutually self-conferred: Turkey. as a test of his lawyerly professionalism. . to the reader’s deliberative burden.And because this standard of competence is explicitly linked to changeability of mind. what we might call.” Since his every response to Bartleby is so relentlessly an effort to authenticate the aesthetic merit of his own narration.The narrator’s fallibility on this score is most egregious in his lengthy and self-consciously artful appreciation of the nicknames of his employees. and Ginger Nut. We have already seen that what the narrator alleges would be lost to literature is purveyed.We only need to remember that he quite unselfconsciously proposes that the work we are reading redeems what would otherwise be “an irreparable loss to literature. we are guided onto this path of more beneficent willfulness by the narrator’s bad example. after Aristotle’s prompting.The narrator’s fastidious disclaimer.As usual.160 Aesthetic Reason writes the narrator’s own aesthetic enterprise. so to speak. that he did not impose the names himself. we now have a plausible basis for reformulating what counts as aesthetic competence. as the reader’s own stake in the narrator’s aesthetic competence. thus devolves.Any belief we might want to sustain in the ethical stakes of art depends on it. through the unraveling of the narrator’s aesthetic pretensions. it is conducive to treating corrigibility through akratic knowledge as the means of assessing that competence.

“I made up my mind to let him [Turkey] stay” (16) the narrator avers in the most decisive tone. It is exhibited in the manner that I earlier associated with eighteenth-century trends toward a diremption of aesthetic theory from moral theory and political practice. more consequential. The concomitant threat and challenge to the reader’s sense of this duty is posed most urgently when the narrator links the “success” of his aesthetic practice as an office manager to evidence of the reader’s . afflicted with a “brandy-like disposition” (“Bartleby. and Turkey’s antithetical complement in pallor and physique. not the competent agent. which is to say. Nevertheless. of course.“pursy” demeanor and portly stature. Nippers in the afternoon. the narrator himself might appear as an admonition against what could ensue from the reader’s own failure to assume the duty of distinguishing appearances from facts.Aesthetic Corrigibility 161 Turkey. that the circumstance he contends with is an imperative of action.The beautiful balance beautifully exemplifies the occasion for a dissociation of aesthetic value from practice. in lieu of the efficacious fact. Nippers. Here we recognize the telltale symptom of akratic judgment. so to speak. But in his exhaustive proof of the ways in which Nippers’s eccentricities balance against Turkey’s. It is a duty that. assumes the very productive agency that passively indulged appearances otherwise negate. is fit for work only in the mornings. The “fit” between their names and their natures endows the metaphorical logic by means of which the narrator contends with their complementary periods of unfitness. in the narrator’s mind. what the narrator purveys as the aesthetically pleasing feat of balancing weaknesses against strengths serves him as an overly generous reason to retain the two employees in lieu of the harder.” 16). By conjuring the dubiously “aesthetic” appearance of efficiency in his office. whose name is intended to evoke his florid. He improvises the poetic justice. or productive agency. He is making up his mind—putting on the appearance of decisiveness—in the manner of the stage actor.The dubious “beauty” of the balancing act supplants any understanding. And we can easily intimate how such a productive revaluation of appearances would have the further advantage of remedying the dissociation of value from practice. the narrator reveals how the making up of his mind amounts to a stark evasion of decisionmaking. is fit for work only in the afternoons. of their perfectly complementary schedules:Turkey is put on call in the morning. choice-making that would demand a standard of higher performance from each or require dismissing them both. propped conspicuously in this instance on a weak sense of aesthetic value.

the reader’s competence may be gauged by his or her distance from the narrator: such distance obtrudes whenever the narrator’s fallibility is exposed as a will toward aestheticized value. the narrator produces only the akratic spectacle whereby an image of action is substituted for the relevant act. The narrator then solicits the reader’s identification of the speaker in question. the stakes of this narrative thus come to depend on the reader producing a better artwork . if the reader of “nice perceptions” is to avoid complicity in the narrator’s increasingly dubious personal conduct. In so flattering the reader’s ability to appreciate the “beauty” of this logic. he is almost perversely encouraged to disclaim the aesthetic register of perception altogether. where a value-producing aesthetic will is wanted in its place.This choice is paradigmatic for all of the episodes in Melville’s narrative. by the default of that which the narrator produces for the reader. In a manner of speaking. where the ethical universal that the narrator’s aesthetic idealism aspires to is belied by the narcissistic motive that the narrator’s aestheticism most immediately serves.162 Aesthetic Reason own “nice perceptions” (“Bartleby. It is emblematically a passive consensus. Needless to say.” 22). He subtly posits the aesthetic sense as a bond of universality between himself and the reader. as is always the case where aesthetic judgment is invoked to disguise the substitution of an ornamental value for the active production of value—where value precludes practice. rather than a working protocol of reasoned agreement. in the naturalizing guise of a “proven” aesthetic attunement. Thus is the notorious quandary of Bartleby’s will subtended to a standard of aesthetic value that the reader is compelled to produce. Therefore. In each. art supplants life—the reader’s only recourse to remaining within the looking glass of appearances is an assumption of agency that looks as little like the narrator’s axiological self-deception as possible. by a process of logical deduction that is only too ready to hand: our knowledge of the administrative design of the law office allows us to conclude that only Nippers could exhibit such a fiery humor in the morning hours. The narrator relates an inflammatory remark—tendered before noontime by an employee whose name he withholds—made in response to Bartleby’s first insubordination. So the reader’s suspicions should be aroused when the narrator essays to conduct a “taste” test to authenticate his expert judgment of the reader’s gifts.“nice perceptions” constitute our most clichéd touchstone of the theories of taste and beauty. By increasingly vivid contrast. And. the narrator is presuming upon the reader’s solidarity with his “designing” will.

to discourage us from pursuing it. we are bound to invoke a mode of agency more pragmatically suited to the peculiar circumstances of the case at hand.The reader is admonished to prefer. compared with preferences. rather than worry about the strength of Bartleby’s will. I would suggest that the advisability of that line of interpretation is sufficiently mocked by the narrator’s own fruitless scholarly perusal of “Edwards on the Will. and Priestly on Necessity” (“Bartleby. the earmarks of his self-indulgent aestheticizing of Bartleby’s character. In my defense. caught in the recognition of the narrator’s akratic dilemma. perhaps.or herself by means that resemble. In other words. rather than passively to assume. Indeed. from the moment that the narrator touts Bartleby’s serviceability in “purchas[ing] a delicious self-approval. So. less self-consciously. I believe. With this frame of analysis. must distance him. The first of the narrator’s akratic maneuvers sets the pattern of culpable aestheticism. preoccupied as it is with more abstract speculation upon the state of Bartleby’s will. I of course realize that I am proposing a radical departure from the prevailing critical commentary on Melville’s text. pain and anger.” the reader is alerted to the purely decorative nature of the narrator’s feelings. A quick overview of the narrator’s many akratic maneuvers throughout Melville’s plot cues the reader’s need to improvise such alternative actions.This admonition is clear in the narrator’s own confession that assumptions. We must begin to suspect the personality that such ornamentation is intended to flatter. to retreat into the kind of imaginative speculation that has so manifestly failed the narrator.Aesthetic Corrigibility 163 than the narrator. vanity. to take an active part. Melville solicits the reader’s artfulness as an amelioration of the akratic predicament that earmarks the narrator’s art as a flawed enterprise in the first place. if not a more perfect continence. the perfectibility of Aristotle’s good incontinence. But apparent pity is quickly exposed as a self-serving occasion for more poeticizing.18 For these are the sentiments that flow from the narrator’s ill-fated assumptions about Bartleby’s nature. then. and locutionary rhythms of eloquent homage: . The narrator’s discovery that Bartleby has been inhabiting his premises rather than working on them elicits what he announces is a sense of pity. If the akratic will cannot be remediated by the narrator’s resort to canonical philosophical meditations on free will and necessity. that is. elaborated image. make one vulnerable to overpowering feelings of pity. it makes better sense to imagine that the reader. replete with the telltale artistic embellishments of allusion. melodramatic expostulation.” 37). These touchstones of sentiment are the evidence of the narrator’s own ineffectuality and.

highlights the narcissistic underpinnings of the narrator’s aesthetic goodwill. it is discreditable as nothing more than autoaffection.” 27–28) The most eloquent irony in all this is that at the end of this paean to pity.This building too. for its evasion of the duties of action. those sensitive enough to feel pity as pain are entitled to compensate themselves with a release from the responsibilities of feeling that jettisons all objects of compassion.164 Aesthetic Reason What miserable friendlessness and loneliness are here revealed! His poverty is great.Wall street is deserted as Petra. the better to comprehend the scrivener’s decision to quit writing altogether. and all through Sunday is forlorn. (“Bartleby. the poetry of the narrator’s strong feeling is exposed as the pretext for a brutal disaffection. When Bartleby implores the narrator to “see reason for yourself” (“Bartleby. But because this feeling is aroused exclusively by the narrator’s own aesthetic fabulation of good cause for Bartleby’s otherwise mysterious behavior. how horrible! Think of it. And the reader who can see how every appearance of the narrator’s goodwill toward Bartleby—for example the modulation of pity into poetry—registers as a conversion of thought into feeling will not forget that feeling is precisely the bad faith premise of the noncognitive aesthetic that I have been so suspicious of from the beginning of this discussion: for its compulsive scapegoating of reason.” 29). Of a Sunday. into a solicitation of our empathy with the narrator’s own pain. the narrator concocts a nakedly self-delusional rationalization: too much copying has dimmed his employee’s vision. thereby once more relieving himself of the burden of taking action against Bartleby.” 32). Presumably. A crudely rational deduction takes over. driving him to the conclusion that unrequited pity converts to personal pain and therein constitutes a license for emotional revulsion. and not by Bartleby himself. pity is not seldom pain” (“Bartleby. is conspicuously tendered as a feeling—“I was touched” (32). and every night of every day it is an emptiness. sole spectator of a solitude which has seen all populous—a sort of innocent and transformed Marius brooding among the ruins of Carthage. but his solitude. at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy.The reason that the narrator summons to warrant such a notion.The irony is torqued by the alacrity with which he couches this emotional logic in the terms of his own aesthetic nature:“To a sensitive being. which of week-days hums with industry and life.And here Bartleby makes his home. a further .The “natural” conversion of a highly theatricalized pity for the scrivener.

by surrendering to the role of his brother’s keeper. the reader is once again (and contrary to appearances) given occasion to contemplate the aesthetic attitude as an immoral divestiture of those responsibilities that we bear toward other persons that human interestedness. On the other.Aesthetic Corrigibility 165 ornamentation of the egoism to which the self-mystifications of the noncognitive aesthetic is prone. by the critics of imagination.The narrator concedes. the narrator comes upon Bartleby’s . In the final episode of Melville’s narrative. The crowning irony is that we must consequently contend with the impoverishment of ethical concern that lurks within the narrator’s standard of aesthetic disinterestedness. it is explained.” another familiar counter for strong feeling. by acolytes of the Romantic imagination. The narrator purveys the subtlety of his plan as an instance of superior genius. From the reader’s viewpoint. But it is also a “beautiful thought. but my mission in this world. the more he is “charmed” by the thought. manifests his indisputable disinterestedness (37) with respect to his personal pursuit of worldly pleasures. otherwise entails. my emphasis). to drive Bartleby from the premises.” is shamefully literalized in the narrator’s final abandonment of his patronizingly aestheticized other to the prison-house of physical materiality: a state that is judgmentally echoed in the entombing walls of Bartleby’s final confinement. this pursuit of worldly pleasures has always been the narrator’s most unselfconscious touchstone of aesthetic inauthenticity. other-wise as it is. telltale aestheticization of action is exhibited in the understanding that the charity he would show to Bartleby. Bartleby.”The more he thinks it. is to furnish you with office room” (37. the failure is interpolated into the metaphysical register of an “all-wise Providence. In fact. On the one hand. by now.The narrator’s. When the plan fails miserably to produce its desired rational effect. the conflation is typically explained. Melville glosses this debate by having the narrator characterize his plan to dismiss Bartleby from the premises in terms that almost grotesquely mimic both attitudes toward aesthetic perfection/valuation. Disinterestedness. On his final visit to the Tombs. as a compensation for the unequivocal lack of “good reason” in art.“Others may have loftier parts to enact. the aura of mystery has habitually been conflated with the aesthetic aura by the ego-inspiring theories of genius and sublimity that flesh the intellectual spirit of English and Continental Romanticism. Again feeling releases one from the duties of choice-making and action. the metaphor for metaphysical interests that the narrator entertains as a self-congratulatory “virtuousness. as the intimation of a good sense that is beyond the power of reason.

apparently sleeping in the prison yard. And yet I do not want to place undue emphasis on the trammeled sentiments of Bartleby’s character.We will recall that. In other words. By thus cordoning Bartleby off from the reader’s deliberative agency. Melville’s readers have not infrequently observed that Bartleby is as little a full-blooded character in this narrative as his “I prefer not to” is a forcible illocution.” I believe that the conundrum of the reader’s deliberative skills is most conspicuously figured in the narrator’s elaborate couching of the codex of the dead-letter office in . Although it is leveraged against Bartleby’s “character. and hence aestheticizing appearance. This foreclosure of deliberation.166 Aesthetic Reason corpse. the narrator denies to Bartleby the very solidarity with humanity that his own final aestheticizing benediction so sentimentally implores albeit on his own behalf.19 aestheticizes his behavior in the very manner that I want to hold the narrator accountable for.That Bartleby’s demise must be comprehended through the deceptive semblance. In the absence of such understanding. of sleep alerts the reader to the need of some more artful account of events. purveyed as they are in the guise of aesthetic rationalizations. In fact. if we are to have access to what appearance obscures. they are culpable by inhibiting a deliberative rationality that might mitigate the moral dilemma otherwise so obstinately apparent in Bartleby’s presence on the narrator’s premises. I tend to agree. I therefore want to suggest that this author’s more urgent purpose is to elicit from the reader a finer articulation of the deliberative disposition to which the narrator turns a blind eye. absent some deliberative means greater than those the narrator exhibits. not coincidentally. presents the definitive obstacle to ethical understanding/action. I believe that Melville makes Bartleby serve more strategically as a counter for the question. It makes passive appreciation an excuse for evading the deliberative burdens that any further imperative to action would impose. What is called for at this moment is precisely what is missing from each of the narrator’s other akratic maneuvers. we might consider that the common literary-critical practice of treating Bartleby as an uninterpretable or unreadable case. Bartleby’s case remains the most meretricious ornament of the narrator’s attitude of disinterestedness. in the manner of museum curatorship. typically. Bartleby becomes an exhibit in a glass case to which the narrator holds the key. in the name of aesthetic detachment.What kind of deliberator can the reader be by comparison with the narrator? than as a locus of empathy with the character. his aestheticization of Bartleby seals that character’s fate hermetically— and.

20 The reader. Given our cognizance of the deliberative obstacles posed in the narrator’s rhetorical questions—and because they are an index of the obstinate narcissism of his aesthetic practice— any account of better intentions would be bound to entail a mode of self-questioning that is coherent with Aristotle’s faith in a good incontinence. . for Aristotle. Moreover.” Such abstemiousness is obviously not to be confused with the attitude of disinterestedness. In this context. after all. Dead letters are. the most moribund presentiments of unintended consequence. if only because it now invites us to be abstemious of judging/interpreting Bartleby according to the “principles” of the narrator’s “story of Wall Street. at the most climactic moment of the plot. This will seem especially apt if we recall that good incontinence.” 45). under a standard of aesthetic success that has already been revealed to be only too manipulable as an ethical dodge. stands on a threshold of the incommensurability of particularity . For the question too theatrically presupposes an answer (or the reasons that might guide an answer) that the narrator disingenuously confesses that he himself cannot articulate:“When I think over this rumor [of the dead-letter office] I cannot adequately express the emotions which seize me. to contemplate his professed compassion for Bartleby in terms that evoke the most dispositive knowledge of the liabilities of akratic action. the overdramatized unanswerability of the rhetorical question obliquely infers a deliberative means that might be available to the reader. . I believe that a careful reader cannot ignore the ethical burden imposed by this line of thought. we would become complicit in foreclosing deliberative possibilities by equating aesthetic value with the narrator’s own efficient closure. On the contrary. It clamors for recognition in the irony that all the narrator’s moralizing about dead letters—“on errands of life they speed to death”—causes us. mitigates personal obstinacy by inducing a more expansive horizon of choice-making. . their own unintended evocation of the menace of akrasia prompts us to an account of better intentions with respect to Bartleby’s fate. It is more significantly the potential for an interest in other explanations of Bartleby’s fate. particularly ones that do not so reifyingly serve the self that brings the story to its self-inflating poetic conclusion. dissuaded from crossing the universalizing bridge proffered between Bartleby and humanity in the narrator’s concluding benediction. Dead letters! Does it not sound like dead men? .Aesthetic Corrigibility 167 a rhetorical question. . can any business seem more fitted to heighten [a pallid hopelessness]?” (“Bartleby. Such complicity would confer the legitimacy of the narrator’s ethical course. were we to accept the glib poetic logic of the dead-letter office. .

however. and our responsiveness to that difference respected its built-in narrative constraint—I am thinking of the narrative circumstance in which every inadequate response to a situational conundrum tutors a fuller account of the means of response that will be available in any future encounter. the act of choosing must devolve to an open-ended questioning of the criteria by which we choose. inveterate universalizer that he is. thus presents the very condition of intelligibility that the narrator himself could not abide (sentimental aestheticism likewise does not abide such differences) when it yawned between himself and his ever more artfully rendered protagonist. Rather. In this case indeterminacy would be the leverage of more diverse determinations. But because the choice between these terms is no longer a foregone conclusion. I am not.This would be tantamount to conceding an indeterminacy. upon our refusal of the narrator’s benediction. It is a course of action that we might now usefully characterize as reasonable adaptation to difference. as unproductive as that conjured in the ethos of aesthetic disinterestedness. We are certainly acquainted with the notion that ethical idealism demands a willingness to accept the difference of others as a mandate for selftransformation—one’s own adaptability. Felicitously. as it was for the narrator.168 Aesthetic Reason and universality.“Ah humanity!” The candidly acknowledged epistemological gulf that would open between the reader and Bartleby. the narrator mirrors the indeterminacy of Bartleby’s ambiguous locution with the comparatively bogus indeterminacy of his own scruple of disinterestedness. Contrastingly. in his opportunistic aestheticization of Bartleby. suggesting that by obtruding this distance.21 I believe that the unwitting irony of the narrator’s success in this didactic. I think it is fair to speculate that Melville’s prompting us to accept the difference/distance between ourselves and Bartleby intimates a course of action that ought to have presented itself as the more ethical alternative to the narrator. . aesthetic mirroring of differences is that it introduces the issue of art forgery and the specter of his own culpability on that score. I believe that adaptation would be de facto deliberation where the meaning of Bartleby’s behavior remained belligerently indeterminate.” That is to say. this questioning would be an inducement to contemplate distinctions rather than to mitigate them—as the narrator does by his glib generalization of Bartleby’s fate to the limits of the human condition. we have judged the narrator’s aesthetic attitude to be ethically malign where it was fastidiously designed to match (rather than adapt to) the aesthetic indeterminacy of Bartleby’s “I prefer not to. Melville means to absolutize incommensurability.

which. just as the akratic character makes a better character for himself out of the knowledge of what he did not suspect about himself—or more specifically what he did not know to expect from that grasp of the world in which he aspired to act.” confirms. aesthetic authenticity can be given parity with thinking how the difference of others demands a self-differentiating scruple on our part (because neither harmony nor autonomy will do). I was never socially acquainted with forgers. then the reader’s own ethical responsibilities must issue in the production of “other” stances toward Bartleby that do not disingenuously offer to stand in his place. it will never absolutely comprehend. but as a labor of self-reflection for the ever more tolerant self. by belying it. fallible inquiry concedes. In fact. Such forbearant understanding on the reader’s part would represent a measure of corrigibility. answering the narrator’s suspicion that Bartleby is “a little deranged.The reader who understands the liability of such representation is bound to make better art than the narrator. I have subjected both the aesthetics of disinterestedness and the philosophical conflation of akratic action with pure irrationality to considerable critical scrutiny in this essay. In retrospect. It beneficently contrasts with the way in which the narrator’s representations of Bartleby perpetrate the displacement of his humanity. That is to say. his knowledge of the forger’s art. the standard of aesthetic “authenticity” I have identified as “thinking with a self-differentiating scruple” remarks the logical underpinning of the case so far.Aesthetic Corrigibility 169 Not coincidentally. not as an ontological proposition. If. Forgery is after all the premier métier for belying differences under the delicate ruses of aesthetic harmony and autonomy. adaptation that would purport to do perfect justice to Bartleby’s condition.“No. insofar as they alienate aesthetic production from the world that it purports to represent— what I earlier saw in terms of the dissociation of production and consumption. Such corrigibility in human character depends on something like granting Bartleby’s difference from all other men. I have . and perforce idealized. alternatively.”The narrator’s reply.The content of these other stances is not nearly as important as the disposition to take another stand toward that object. I am more interested here in the reader’s cultivating a disposition toward adaptation than in any specific. the grub-man in the Tombs. such representations might be fairly seen as forgeries of the aesthetic. Harmony and autonomy are the ever more conspicuous stock-in-trade of the narrator’s dubious artifice as he fastidiously knits up the loose threads of his tale.” replies: “I thought that friend of yourn was a gentleman forger.

one that will display the refinement of the artist’s sensibility as an example to all. precisely because it obviates such dualisms and thereby refuses to disjoin choice from choice-making. my reading of Melville’s aesthetic practice (and especially by invidious comparison with Melville’s ironic deflation of the aesthetic practices of his narrator) anticipates a wish to shift the reference of the term aesthetic from the denotative register of the artwork qua object. namely. in my reading of “Bartleby. without losing sight of the artwork as the indispensable fulcrum of any such labor. the reader’s tolerance for self-alienation.That injustice is most glaringly manifest in the rationalizing machinations that succeed (at least from the narrator’s point of view) in turning Bartleby into a reputable artwork.What else can one think of one’s own impatience with the eternally patient Bartleby than that there are other ways of being patient? Thinking with a self-differentiating scruple is always a matter of answering questions one would not have posed oneself. and does not presuppose it. ends with an exhortation to all humanity as if he has earned the entitlement to that audience. It would more suitably reference a métier for coming to terms with the formal and hence actantial constraints that the work of art imposes on knowing. Melville. Bartleby’s status as a work of art depends on the reader’s ability to labor. ever more particularly. thus opening a pathway beyond the inhibition to becoming (rather than merely being ) oneself. This understanding accords with my broader effort to generalize the reference of the aesthetic beyond the comparatively narrow confines of the artwork. by extension. One might ask if the more appropriate response to Bartleby should not entail a query about the narrator’s and. Hence.” invokes an alternate version of the aesthetic that.This appreciation of Melville’s art helps us to see that where we understand that corrigibility is character. who introduces himself as a lone voice in the first pages of Melville’s narrative.The liabilities of that narrowness I hope are apparent in my view of the narrator’s injustice toward Bartleby. In this case. the reason from the passions. shows us once more the necessary continuity of akratic experience with enkratic character. Such a process of becoming participates conceptually in the continuity between production and the commodity. the self depends on what is different from itself as a source of questions about what might suffice as reasons for one’s own best behavior.We cannot fail to notice that the unambitious lawyer.According to the principle of that continuity.170 Aesthetic Reason objected to their metaphysical disjoining of the “chosen” self from that which differs from it: the mind from the body. under . it is perhaps the best exemplar of aesthetic making.

This has been the result of its efforts to reconcile subjectivity with the tragedy of unintended consequences. the corrigibility of the aesthetic character in this regard does not presuppose a standard of correctness. Rather. they make it possible to shore up the invidious distinction between the narrator’s passive aestheticism and the activity-based repertoire of aesthetic practices to which Melville’s reader is so conscientiously recruited. advanced in this chapter. it mandates the adaptability of standards to the reflective needs of subjects: particularly subjects who know they cannot fully anticipate the circumstances within which they can ever give a full account of their best purposes. might be conceived as precisely what makes the enterprise of Enlightenment an ever more viable humanist pursuit. otherwise.Aesthetic Corrigibility 171 the constraint of that character’s inscrutability. without conceding inscrutability to be an essence of character.They make the aesthetic enterprise into a practicable métier of human character—one that outstrips the devices of characterization that are. aesthetic theory has alternately subscribed to and fallen afoul of Enlightenment ideals. What is most conspicuous in Melville’s trumping of the aesthetic ambitions of his own narrator is how the matrices of akratic action have served the necessity of this stance. Most important. I have attempted to show how such tragic knowledge inflects personhood as character. We will see in the following chapter that it is the possibility of giving a credible account of these purposes that most emphatically aligns Melville’s reader with the enterprise of the Enlightenment. even in the face of a crisis ridden modernity that is most bedeviled by the avatars of Enlightenment subjectivity. Now it is appropriate to consider how the postulate of an aesthetic character. Since the eighteenth century. Melville gives us reason to think it might be so. so self-preemptively grounded in the banal repertoire of the narrator’s aestheticism. . By this means.


. Dialectic of Enlightenment Enlightenment is proverbially a movement to trump the inscrutable laws of what affects us as Nature’s chaos with the strict scrutability of human lawfulness.Without even a belated rationality such as that conferred on Oedipus.6 From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics [E]veryone can be happy.1 The tragic circumstance that inspires Enlightenment is commonly figured as a condition of darkness. His defenselessness makes him reliable. In his weakness society recognizes its strength. Once the opposition of the individual to society was its substance. or more accurately on the demos of the Dionysian festival. an exalted affliction. if only he will capitulate fully and sacrifice his claim to happiness. —Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno.”Today tragedy has melted away into the nothingness of that false identity of society and individual. the incurring of unintended consequences. It glorified “the bravery and freedom of emotion before a powerful enemy. whose terror still shows for a moment in the empty semblance of the tragic. For the tragic Greeks. . Hence tragedy is discarded. the condition of belatedness was nonetheless embraced by the Greeks as a serviceable—however imperfect—project of knowledge. the conditions of this darkness were diagnosable in terms of the fallibility of instrumental reasoning: reversal of fortune. and gives him some of it. It would be so in the indistinguishability of human fates. . It glooms in the absence of that insight that might otherwise light a human path through the natural world. the irony of fate. the meaning of experience would be oppressively general. in their submission to the departicularizing anonymity of the unknown. by comparison with Natural or mythic necessity.While reason was conceded to be a belated enterprise. Such generality chokes off the motivation for particular . a dreadful problem.This liquidation of tragedy confirms the abolition of the individual.

as we have seen in earlier chapters. as the scene of suffering in tragic drama so vividly attests.The fate of Oedipus hangs in the balance between these possibilities. Aesthetics.The aesthetic is furthermore an unexpectedly apt collaborator with Enlightenment insofar as it is well attuned to the condition of belatedness that Enlightenment rationality concedes as an inescapable point of departure. I have discussed at length how the aesthetic is. For. in that characterization. Aristotle’s aesthesis. even in the pre-Aristotelian practices of Greek poetry. by its anchorage in the senses. in a repertoire of deliberative practices that presuppose the essentiality of act to knowledge. Under the auspices of this character. it is only on the threshold of aesthetic nature that the enlightened subject can solicit recognition of its freedom from the thrall of unenlightened existence. takes the adequation of particularity to a moving horizon of experience as the staging ground for self-recognition. which Enlightenment ambition (from the fifth-century b. already a vehicle of human choice-making. resides in the skills of adaptation and learning. a prompt for action within a context of competing prospects.2 In this regard the aesthetic proffers itself as an unexpected but fortuitous collaborator with the enterprise of Enlightenment against the specter of tragic fate: without which the selfrecognition of the Enlightenment subject—our particularist antidote to tragic generality—is arguably inconceivable. it is arguable that the cause of agential knowledge. It might be said that the aesthetic lends itself most productively to the project of continuing Enlightenment by grooming a character suitable to the deliberative rigors of the scene of self-recognition—where what one sees depends on a capacity to diversify and develop the practices of seeing. This is a character whose expressive will. aesthetic experience is structurally deferential to what we now might call the deliberative imperative of narrative development.c. a preserve of particularity and so a culturally conspicuous resource for checking this tragic generalization of the meaning of experience.174 Aesthetic Reason agency and forecloses on the historical purpose that tragedy potentially endows upon Enlightenment learning.The aesthetic thus puts the subject on a course of judgment that subordinates truth to the variability of modes of confronting it. and certainly after the theorizing of Locke and Hume. Greeks well into the eighteenth century in Europe) sought to carry successfully against the tragic circumstance of hapless human . Because aesthesis begins with the senses but attains self-realization through a transformation of the givenness of sensuous existence. which David Wiggins has aptly called a mode of “situational appreciation” is.

Or such is the diagnosis delivered in Horkheimer and Adorno’s critical retrospect of Enlightenment that. I will try to make the case that aesthetics might thus render Enlightenment thought a more effective antagonist against the tragic experience which Enlightenment was unwittingly led to recapitulate: especially when it failed to recognize the rigors of tragedy as a resource of the aesthetic. Not surprisingly. by such dubious exaltation. seeks recompense in a rethinking of the aesthetic.4 For Wittgenstein. Ludwig Wittgenstein. As Richard Eldridge avers in Leading a Human Life. and not merely the too readily fetishized ends.3 But seldom is this facile “aestheticization” of Enlightenment diagnosed in terms of a failure of Enlightenment aesthetics itself. cannot hope to succeed without recourse to the aesthetic.What the eighteenth-century Enlightenment tragically accomplished in that feat of compartmentalization was a diremption of mind and body so total that it rendered reason a threshold of self-alienation. In this chapter therefore I am motivated to show how inflecting aesthetics as a deliberative practice may undo the sequestering of the aesthetic from reason. which. potentiated the “tragic fate of Enlightenment thought. mystifies the relation of action to knowledge. or a disposition. Such an idea is of course inimical to the assiduous compartmentalization of the aesthetic implemented by Enlightenment rationalists in the reigning eighteenth-century theories of taste and beauty.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 175 ignorance. gives us the most powerful corroboration of the rightness of subordinating the standards of taste and beauty—which instantiate the man of taste—to the deliberative practice that instantiates the tragic protagonist. such as virtue. not surprisingly. such as reason. this amounts to a shirking of the responsibilities of action in the name of something higher. Wittgenstein himself essays to continue the Enlightenment by questioning our post-Romantic desire to elide practical performance by “subliming explanation” of our actions into a faculty. of Enlightenment thought.Wittgenstein performs a comparable opening up of the sacred temple of Enlightenment idealism onto a field of quotidian practices. by which Enlightenment aesthetics confounded its means with its end and.The Enlightenment theories of taste and beauty had the paradoxical effect of certifying aesthetics as a proper discipline of knowledge only so long as it had almost no range of practical application in the world of rational choices. for my purposes the least aesthetic of theorists.Wittgenstein’s relevance to the task of revising Enlightenment .And indeed much has been made of the paradoxically “tragic fate of Enlightenment thought” along these lines.”This revision of aesthetic value thus proposes to realign the aesthetic with the philosophical means. in that way.

is apparent in the way the terms of his critique—the subliming of explanations—echo the jargon of conventional aesthetic theory and intimate its reform. and the psychic distance theory of Bullough. so my advancement of a cognitive aesthetic proposes some meaningful habitation of the gap between affective states and the world of their implementation. not to mention the formalism of the American New Critics. therefore. is as much an antagonist of tragic experience as tragic experience is the nemesis of Enlightenment— notwithstanding that the aesthetic may indicate a different way of using . all in all a scrupulous deliberator. G. and so reciprocating with the means of productive agency (without reifying the agent).This practice continues under the sanctions of latter-day aesthetic theorists who take their cue from the category of sublimity per se: the aesthetic attitude school of Monroe Beardsley. Such subliming of reasons has been the standard operating procedure for high Enlightenment aesthetics. A Wittgensteinian appreciation of the way in which principles can only be known in the performance of practices. Rather. Only such an initiative holds out a reasonable hope for reintegrating the aesthetic with the life of practices out of which the inner life of subjective expressivity is continuously produced.The point of view I am adopting here depends upon seeing that the aesthetic. Such a subject continuously produced. I am not proposing a full-scale Wittgensteinian reading of the aesthetic. I appeal to the subject of Wittgensteinian inquiry as an indication that the revision of aesthetics in relation to yet unfulfilled Enlightenment goals is powerfully coherent with otherwise seemingly nonaesthetic. Collingwood. Let me be clear.176 Aesthetic Reason aesthetics. the emotivistic theories of Suzanne Langer and R. philosophical efforts to reconcile reasons with experience.We have likewise seen that she is the prototype of the tragic protagonist. learning by error. dovetails well with my effort to turn the aesthetic away from the noncognitive sanctification of immanent values cut off from the very productive practices that give them issue. however. conceived as a preeminently productive practice. Just as Wittgenstein proposes the interdependence of concepts and conceptual performances. And it is here that the affinity of aesthetics with Enlightenment thought is most urgently marked by the Enlightenment’s address to tragedy. in order to put it more in sync with the goals of Enlightenment. has already been characterized as fundamentally choice-making: adaptive.The subject of Wittgensteinian inquiry merely intimates the philosophical merit of my efforts to imagine an aesthetic subject that would be a suitable match for the tragic experience that philosophy so “heroically” contends with.

it heralds the return of the unknown in the guise of a “knowing” subjectivity divorced from active life. For Horkheimer and Adorno the liability of this abstraction is most apparent in our recognition of how it is anathema to the Greek beginnings of Enlightenment played out in tragic drama. the complexity of the world in lived. especially—it shows us how much the aesthetic is implicated in a struggle for subjective self-realization that cannot devolve to indeterminate principles such as those of high Enlightenment reason. It is most egregiously so in the way that the rationalist goal of perfect transparency marginalizes the irony of action. In short. makes the mistake of seeking the complete transparency of Nature as the only adequate countermeasure.This produces the hegemony of experientially indeterminate abstract principle and invites the diremption of theory and practice. And yet.This is the case precisely because the tragic protagonist is so inescapably caught up in the necessity to choose his or her fate in a determinate context of insufficient knowledge. conventional aesthetic theory founders repeatedly on a comparable ideal of formal perfection: too often the ideal of formal perfection tends to mitigate any account of the practical knowledge that would enable its attainment. Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece. directed against the metaphysical drift of Enlightenment rationalism. I Jean-Pierre Vernant and Pierre Vidal-Naquet’s important reconfiguration of Greek thought and literature. that is. rather than in an indeterminate context of perfect knowledge. I warrant that it would be a way that is consistent with a Wittgensteinian pragmatism. as opposed to principled. provides a compelling framework for examining what I am character- .”5 It is a warrant for activity. aesthetic theory is the best index of how far removed we are from its own origins in the tragic arena. tragic experience poses the menace of the unknown to Enlightenment mind. In that respect. as Horkheimer and Adorno point out.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 177 reason toward Enlightenment ends. Horkheimer and Adorno contend that we must return to that arena if we are to become honest brokers of our fate. by addressing the menace of the unknown through the systematizing rigors of epistemological universalism. It is the warrant for a mentality that “aims at liberating men from fear and establishing their sovereignty. the Enlightenment. Paradigmatically. Greek tragedy is certainly a crucible for the struggle of mind against the unknown. experience. But in its specifically poetic function—in the structural dynamics of emplotment. Indeed. In any case.

For the tragic protagonist has provenance in a political selfconsciousness. to transform the world through the power of one’s mind and speech. produced the increasingly brutish tragedy of twentieth-century political history. by the tyrants (Vernant and VidalNaquet.c. Myth and Tragedy. in a form that features this two-sided protagonist. relatively new to fifth-century b. to be the quintessential turranospharmakos. Athens. But he is concomitantly the object of a civic hostility that will not countenance any individual’s pretending to embody the group by going outside its regulative bounds. He is the agent of a free will that escapes all bounds of civic law. for Horkheimer and Adorno.”7 And yet the tyrant became a figure to be ritually purged (pharmakos). formed as he or she is in the rigors of reversal and recognition. is “a model of human rationality and theorizing [with] the capacity to move beyond accepted boundaries and opinions in order to image what was previously unimaginable. severed from the bonds of birth and history.6 The turranos. in his sections of Myth and Tragedy. The relevant artifice here is the unequivocally productive and defiantly speculative will that Vernant and Vidal-Naquet identify with the tragic protagonist. This scapegoating was literally theatricalized in public rituals of ostracism in the century before Sophocles. that assiduously blurs the lines between these realms. a prototype hero who reigns under the authority of his actions. occurs coincidentally when .Tragedy is invented in the seventh and sixth centuries b. sees the tragic protagonist most paradigmatically as a counter for the realms of art and politics. 185).Vernant and Vidal-Naquet implicitly show how the aesthetic artifice of tragedy serves our desire to fend off tragic experience in a way that can be construed as carrying on the Enlightenment under a different protocol of reason. Oedipus. By the same token. He is a problematic combination. Vernant points out that the moment of tragedy’s invention. Vernant takes the quintessential tragic protagonist. Vernant.178 Aesthetic Reason izing as the struggle of the aesthetic against indeterminate and metaphysically fixed principles: principles that would otherwise put aesthesis in league with the eighteenth-century Enlightenment idealism of reason. Almost anticipating the argument I am advancing here. c.“those early representatives of civic community.Thus we need not revert to the incommensurability of sense and reason that. not his blood.8 Those rites expressed popular suspicion of any individualism that claimed a sanction beyond the articulable and hence shareable rule of civic conduct.” whose power and position was understood to be a function of individual abilities rather than heredity or constitutional inheritance.

has its precedent in a civic circumstance that is conducive to the behaviors by which that protagonist is so stigmatized.10 Vernant wants us to see that this contradiction is a hallmark of Greek enlightenment generally. It would be best to take the tragic mode as a framework for human enterprise wherein law can be thought more expressively in relation to the most unpredictable needs of the law- . Greek law thus becomes a site for problematic knowing. whose actions outstrip the predictability of the law. It thus gives stronger motive to my sense that our proper redress to Enlightenment law. along familiar Nietzschean lines. that the eighteenthcentury Enlightenment’s striving toward an ideal of the absolute transparency of law represents precisely the opposite case: it dictates an obeisance to the idea of universal law. It is worth reminding ourselves. by comparison. in its pursuit of overweening mastery.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 179 the Greek law itself lacks a consensus about the proper conduct of individual agency. Vernant gives us a picture of early tragedy as arising from a context of understanding in which something like akrasia assumes priority over enkrateia (continence). and specifically fosters the deliberative burden with which individual agency. as instrumentally prior to any conceivable action. Even more to the point. fostered within the polis as a crux of both aesthetic and political life. as Horkheimer and Adorno elaborate it. or what I earlier called indeterminate principle of reason. marks a time before the continent subject is imagined as an autonomous ideal. In other words.9 In this moment the members of the demos must alternately trust that the law comes either from above or from within. and are therefore condemnable. He thus encourages our thinking. On this account. must contend.The Greek moment. The Dionysian festival. this modality of akrasia. and according to the same rules that operated in popular assemblies thus became an arena for programmatically doubting the nature and provenance of law. that continence is more a response to incontinence than a principle that incontinence betrays. the figure of the tragic protagonist.That is. caught in such a contradiction. the ideal of absolute law too readily serves the paranoid compulsion to address human behavior suspiciously—as fundamentally incontinent (akratic) with respect to the law. without confidence that actions conducted under one assumption will not be thwarted by the other. in this context. might involve a return to Greek tragedy. the archon. arguably an artifact of legal culture organized under the authority of the chief Athenian magistrate. militates against any notion of a law or rule that could be deemed to be independent of the practices in which the fallibility of the rule-follower is instantiated.

under a law of reason that unjustifiably presupposes a standard of perfect enkrateia.That charac- . in which the uncertainty of Greek law in the polis seems to render akrasia prior to enkrateia as a condition of human lawfulness. In previous chapters of this work. I want to speculate that these aesthetic practices follow naturally from tragic artifice. all of this reminds us that tragedy in Greek society is spectacle for thought (object) before it is dianoia (thinking subject) or even before it is poetics. since the definitive circumstance of the tragic protagonist is one in which the meaning of character. that is. By such means I might explain better why I am alleging that the tragic protagonist is complementary to the aesthetic character. learning. Because the orthodox versions of rational law in the eighteenth century brook no akratic performance.11 Inasmuch as they want us to see the paranoia motivating the “liquidation of tragedy” as a falling away from the practical culture of Greek tragic knowledge.180 Aesthetic Reason abiding citizen. Creon’s. Oedipus’s character. will ultimately be a function of which context of argument—Tiresias’s. In this view the aesthetic crux of the tragic protagonist is precisely his or her mandatory deliberation about what is the most relevant context of knowledge in which to act. they are arguably incommensurable with the human drama to which Vernant believes tragedy responds. qua ethos. from Horkheimer and Adorno’s point of view. Indeed. Horkheimer and Adorno invite a provocative hypothesis: that the real ills of modern Enlightenment stem from our perpetuating the mutual exclusiveness of enkrateia and akrasia. I have asserted a counterintuitive continuity between akrasia and enkrateia that belies our rationalistic pride in unproblematic continence and correlatively inspires confidence in aesthetic practice. This is very like the circumstance. gives way to yet ungovernable circumstance itself. this insight might have forestalled the Enlightenment’s “liquidation of tragedy” ( Dialectic of Enlightenment. It is expressly a deliberation that does not presuppose a character to whom the action could be unequivocally attributed as a personal quality. the messenger’s—he assimilates to the question of who he is. 155)—aptly characterized in Dialectic of Enlightenment as a paranoid reaction to the bogeyman of akratic action.Tragedy renders deliberative circumstance effectively prior to the character who deliberates. and deliberation. whose image I have limned in my account of the skills of adaptation. under law. already discussed. Indeed. ungoverned by a law that has authority independent of his actions (and the errors proliferated in them). Here I prefer to focus on how the circumstance of the protagonist in tragedy epitomizes the continuity of akrasia and enkrateia.

had become so closely linked that the play could be fairly characterized as the civil body transforming itself into a theater (185–86). 243). knowledge of the mythic ideal comes to be mitigated by unpredictable determinants of plot. Now as the action unfolds and through the interplay of dialogue. the demos implicitly solicits that reciprocating recognition with otherness that the self-rationalizing spectatorship of the theater conscientiously tutors. not as realities to be pinned down and defined in their essential qualities. what used to be praised as an an ideal.The hero becomes the subject of a debate and interrogation. that through his person. tragedy inheres in its discontinuity with mythic tradition. the touchstone of excellence. episodic plot action in tragedy trumps the qualitative register of character. Mythic time is supplemented with narrative time. implicates the fifth-century spectator. Correspondingly. in the era before that character was put on stage. Myth and Tragedy. Now this character has become a problem. whose exploits in literature would have been deemed real.and fifth-century efforts to foreground the fictionality of a dramatic protagonist (Vidal and Vidal-Naquet. and the demos that sponsors the play. By comparison.c. human beings and human action are seen. From the point of view of tragedy. where lawlike knowledge did preempt experience. In sixth-century b. tragedy. but as problems that defy resolution. such mitigation is most powerfully effected in the sixth. it is a skill that the “real” individual in the “real” social group subtly loses touch with in his or her . For Vernant the dawning of this problem reflects the degree to which the audience. the citizen of democratic Athens. is brought into question before the public.c. According to Vernant. In doing so.Vernant and other classical scholars make the point that the real novelty of fifth-century b.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 181 ter is so deliberately a deferred proposition in tragic drama is indeed confirmed in Aristotle’s late but enduring formulation of plot in Poetics: there the quantitative register of complex. Likewise this innovation may be read as a break with an established concept of character. in the manner of the philosophers of the succeeding century. (242) The simple fact that the actor’s presence in the theater is taken as “a sign of an absence in the day-to-day reality of the public” (187) presumably makes the individual members of the public mindful of their own need to look beyond themselves for recognition of what they might hope to be.

both in the figuration of the tragic protagonist as well as in the tragic protagonist’s mirroring of the demos. can be made into a knowledge that bears on the deliberative challenges—action in the world—of spectatorship. 197). experienced and understood as such. that is to say as a human production stemming from pure artifice” (Vernant and VidalNaquet. rather than finding one’s character in one’s daimon or fate. Rather. We may consider how the aesthetic might be viewed more generally as a crux of human action in all contests between practice and principle. This reasoning begins to make more concrete sense of what I alluded to in Chapter 5 as the prospect for seeing the aesthetic as a “practical metier of character. My point here. I am suggesting that a psychological need occasioned by the realization of “the individual Greek in the audience who discovers himself to be a problem in and through the presentation of the tragic drama” (186) can perhaps find its satisfaction on a signal condition: that his mode of self-presentation becomes a practice of adaptation to other modes.” It furthermore underscores Vernant’s conclusion that “[t]ragedy thus opened up a new space in Greek culture.This is an alternative to conceding the caricature of the audience stuck in the narcissistic privileges of passive subjectivism—the historical the cul de sac of character identification. Where this choice is not a strict imperative of identity. Such a métier for reconciling politics with art is a matter of making qua producing character. precisely because it denotes a situation where one does not have to choose between being an actor or a spectator. for diversifying the standards of self-recognition through which they know their places to be in doubt. a subject or a citizen. or by extension. Because this simple shifting of the ground of theatrical convention from myth to society denotes an insecurity about self-recognition. by the citizens of the demos. as Vernant represents it. whereby the theatergoer crosses into the role of citizenship and vice versa. as the modes of myth would otherwise instruct. an analogy between art and politics. however.182 Aesthetic Reason increasingly automatic conformity to group behaviors. the effective subordination of character to life-circumstance is a “living” threshold of political identity. the space of the imaginary. the scope of human activity is potentially broadened. Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece. is not simply to tease out an analogy between the audience and the demos. it might even be construed as a defensive bid. In other words. it gives occasion for us to think afresh. In Vernant’s account. Because this challenge to passivity—which the member of the demos takes on as a civic duty—is now linked to aesthesis. I want to imagine what might be gained by thinking about how one’s place in the audience of tragic drama. .

instead of aiming at health in a general and abstract manner. the choices made by a character/agent in the interests of good health do not aim at good health in an “abstract manner” because [t]he last judgment.The deliberation by which the protagonist turns him. Indeed. The act of taking a deliberative decision. in the persistent adequation of one’s “particular situation” to another. effectively brings health within his grasp. even if the ends of action were deemed to be coefficient with character. my emphasis). 58). It is this distinctly unmodern idea of agency that appeals to me as a way of rescuing the modern enlightenment agent from the tragedy of self-alienated reason. From this moment on the wish. Indeed. With this exposition. It concentrates on the last condition that. but in the “chain of judgments by which reason reaches the conclusion that certain practical means can or cannot lead to the imposed end” (Vernant and Vidal-Naquet. it presents it as not only possible on the same grounds as all the others but furthermore as immediately realizable. 58. is thus more a question of actively inhabiting competing contexts of choice-making than of transcending them in a globalizing principle. which I take as rough counters for the roles of actor and spectator.And intuiting the availability of the means is the practice of judgment par excellence. includes within its desire for the end the concrete conditions by which it can be realized. it is the means available to the deliberator. it saw choice as something that did not emanate from character or carry one to a predetermined realization of character (49–59). For in the “chain of judgments” that determine choice. according to whose logic all relevant choices would be foregone conclusions. that count.The deliberation that makes the hero a hero depends. (Myth and Tragedy. Vernant explains. so dourly lamented by Horkheimer and . what Aristotle called proairesis. in a way. Vernant wants to make it perfectly clear that Greek culture had no corollary to our modern notion of will. For example.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 183 There is precedent for this ambition in the canons of Greek political thought about how deliberative practices instantiate character in action. more than the ends. concerns the last means in the chain. made at the end of the deliberation. For agency is something that exists fundamentally within the act of choice-making itself. deliberation consists not in the application of a principle or end. in the particular situation in which the subject finds himself. Myth and Tragedy.or herself self into an agent does not presuppose a standard of fitness between a practice and a principle. on the evacuation of character conceived as a first or a final principle.

Indeed. 124). in the end. 56). with respect to a reversal of meaning. in Greek society.We are dupes of those modes of undialectical and uncritical character-identification that. it makes eminently more sense to see characterological enkrateia dialectically. rather than to see it nominalistically. Such reasoning occasions a circumstance that is more conducive to elaborating the terms of deliberative necessity than to imposing a deliberative necessity in the manner of an indwelling Platonic character. hekon and akon speak for a continuity of practical desire and self-revision. In such circumstances as these. More obviously.” . Myth and Tragedy. tragedy cannot serve the deliberative needs of the Enlightenment subject. For it returns us to the framework of tragedy as an aesthetic form where our respect for the constraints of character have consequence for the refiguration of character. namely. It obtains in the requirement that the choice be immediately acted upon. volitionally) and akon (what is willed in spite of one’s spontaneous desire) (Vernant and Vidal-Naquet.Without it. extending the range of applicability of dispositions to meaningful frames of action. any such consideration of deliberation as bearing on a refiguration of character must take into account the necessary conjoining of two key terms that are the actantial underpinnings of Aristotelian proairesis: hekon (what is willed spontaneously. Like the Kantian-Hegelian terms Willkür and Wille. In Horkheimer and Adorno’s judgment. Dialectic of Enlightenment. follows from our abdication of the cognitive tensions of dialectic. our post-Enlightenment debasement of tragedy. and blurs the boundaries of deliberative will by treating contradiction as a defining feature of active mind—functions as the inner mechanism of tragic drama. It is furthermore relevant to note that. which Vernant equates with the “development of subjective responsibility” (69). purge individuality in the name of “the individual. this hybridization of concepts of the will shows how willful choice-making inheres in a structural ambiguity not unlike the ambiguity structuring the arena of Greek law. many critics favorable to this view agree with Horkheimer and Adorno that dialectic—because it vitiates a Platonic notion of character. out of which the tragic protagonist arises as a problematic character. not coincidentally characterized as “the impoverishment of aesthetic matter” (Horkheimer and Adorno.184 Aesthetic Reason Adorno. Thus change bears upon the decision as a literally extenuating circumstance.The conjoining of hekon and akon restricts decision making to a register of subjective changeability. without which any full appreciation of the decision maker as a self-expressive entity is unimaginable.

figured as activity and passivity respectively. Unfortunately. xvi). 152).From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 185 Horkheimer and Adorno entertain the invidious contrast of a “good” versus a “bad” Enlightenment on this basis. presumes a stake in subjectivity that defers self-knowledge. is an assimilation of the individual to the group so absolute that any contradiction that might otherwise have been a lever for critical reflection is obliterated.The mass audience is unenlightened because. by undermining the praxis of politics itself. Dialectic of Enlightenment. But his enthusiasm for dialectic as a bridge between art and politics leads him too quickly to imagine that the remedy for undialectical Enlightenment is simply a full reflection of . by countenancing openness to action. invigorate debate or to elucidate distinctions that make judgment possible” (192). Rocco is justly inspired by the fact that the authors of Dialectic of Enlightenment construe Greek tragedy as a “model of critical political education” ( Tragedy and Enlightenment. too many sympathetic analyses of Horkheimer and Adorno.” like the stance of the subject instantiated in proairesis.The unconflicted intelligibility of the world thus comes to be equated with a forfeiture of understanding. unlike Greek tragedy. Rocco’s included. “aims not to encourage moral reflection. “Hopeless resistance. the culture industry. What results. as Christopher Rocco explains in Tragedy and Enlightenment. It is a bid to “prepare the way for a positive notion of Enlightenment which will release it from entanglement in blind domination” (Dialectic of Enlightenment. they equate dialectical self-consciousness with a broadened capacity for moral reflection. Horkheimer and Adorno’s critique of post-Enlightenment culture puts the emphasis not on character but on audience: the arena of spectatorship that we have seen the Greek notion of agency devolve to. In the interests of something like the elaboration of deliberative necessity. in the fullest understanding of tragic form.What Horkheimer and Adorno have in mind here is an invidious comparison between the Greek demos and the mass audience of modern consumer culture.The relevant tragedy here is that the mass audience of post-Enlightenment culture does not know itself as produced spectator. in lieu of Greek tragic knowledge. in light of the play’s “making” the member of the audience/demos into a problem. This is specifically interpreted as a default on the Greek understanding that the significance of tragedy “lay in a hopeless resistance to mythic destiny” (Horkheimer and Adorno. unwittingly perpetuate the failure of Enlightenment culture anatomized in Frankfurt School critiques. We have seen that the Greek tragic audience possesses knowledge of its being produced by the play. 197). Accordingly.

the imperatives of the commodity system” (196). a recognizable reflex of poststructuralist attitudes toward the metaphysical foundations of the totalizing subject. if only we would attend to the aesthetic aspects of tragedy. Because (among other reasons) it vitiates rather than develops the subject/protagonist as a category that can sustain self-transformative understanding. Nancy’s return to the aesthetic by way of the critique of absolutizing reason represents a new consensus of aesthetic theorists—including Deleuze.186 Aesthetic Reason contradictions (178). . . He imagines that a mere acknowledgment of differences. By implication. and Lyotard—for whom the fate of Enlightenment mind . Paradoxically the acknowledgement of the produced nature of mind ends up making what is commonly construed as the “production paradigm of Enlightenment subjectivity”12 a scapegoat of the very critique it mobilized. might be (re)appropriated in order to resist . these formal deliberative incentives of Greek tragedy entail a knowledge of subject-production as a productive means in its own right. . But Rocco’s endorsement of thought reflecting “on its own contradictions” looks too simplistically forward to a “proliferation of possible sites and spaces where cultural meanings . such that character is still staked in a productive agency: albeit one that eschews any deliberation upon truthful necessity. Derrida. . in favor of what I have characterized as “the elaboration of deliberative necessity. this solution to the ills of Enlightenment precludes all that I have sought to engage by invoking the complexities of Greek proairesis. These complexities signal how tragedy produces a dialectical subordination of character to circumstance. JeanLuc Nancy’s “aesthetic of fragmentation” is such a gambit. will free knowledge from the self-imprisonment of rational success. as if the productive will leads inexorably to a reified agency. The irony is that French poststructuralism in particular has recently recast its critique of the subject as an attempt to reunite art and politics: the very union that I am claiming is already operative in tragic form.” Contrary to Rocco. Rocco holds the production of meaning culpable for the ideologically produced subject. We can see the political paucity of Rocco’s investment in the proliferations of meanings when we understand that it is meant to be an antidote to the Enlightenment investment in the production of meaning. otherwise too efficiently rationalized away. II Rocco’s stance is. of course.

This. In The Sense of the World. the return to sense. In Nancy’s account. Enlightenment Principle (meaning) opposes itself to the world of the senses (materiality). however. and warrants extended treatment here because he makes the link between Enlightenment and tragedy a touchstone of his rethinking the aesthetic. it is therefore perceived to warrant rational persecution.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 187 remains the motivating context of thought. Like all brute Nature. it is structured as sense and reciprocally sense is structured as world” (Sense of the World. driven by rational principle against the vicissitudes of experience. to get past the scene of suffering. was Reason’s original motive for scapegoating the aesthetic sense—aesthesis per se. Nancy urges us to see that the “world isn’t merely the correlative of sense. For mind. It is doomed to fail in inverse proportion to its attempts to marginalize sense (aesthesis). He sees tragedy as a touchstone for suffering that flows from a failure of the “sense” of Reason. We are implored not to be seduced by that Enlightenment conflation of sense with tragic fate that fetishizes suffering. marked in aesthesis. the failure of the Rational Sense. For Nancy. which alienated Enlightenment rationality ironically perpetuates. He proffers his argument as an attempt to avoid a “new tragedy” (150). by obsessively returning us to its own point of departure.13 Nancy takes the pre-Romantic. rational Sense then seeks to colonize the world by producing an ideal meaningfulness. gives way to a paranoid consciousness of the world as merely the “brute sense” of physical suffering. 8).That conflation only recapitulates the very polarization of sense and reason.As I anticipated in Chapter 4. Nancy is particularly relevant to this discussion. Nancy sees the genealogy of this suffering in a formulation that is not so different from that of Horkheimer and Adorno: Reason’s revenge against the frailties of sense always devolves to a sadistic mastery of all that does not “conform to the rule of computation and utility” (Dialectic of Enlightenment. But Nancy’s invocation of tragedy is not melodramatic. . In this analysis Nancy wants us to comprehend our “suffering” of sense in a new way. 6). In order to escape this tragedy of culture. He thus provides a framework for further examining the prospects of the aesthetic as a way of continuing Enlightenment in the face of tragic prospects.“without any kind of dolorousness whatsoever” (151). Under the authority of Enlightenment Principle. that is. as we know. namely. Enlightenment diremption of art and politics as the strongest motive for resorting to the aesthetic in the context of failed Enlightenment ideals. portends an end to our “suffering” the unity of experience that is imposed upon us in our rationalistic forgetfulness of the multiplicity of sense experience.

might well serve our pursuit of Enlightenment goals: at least where the responsiveness of Reason to contingent experience is at stake. Unfortunately.Their diagnosis of modernity. in the guise of Greek tragedy. as the impoverishment of the aesthetic. especially where the relevant tragedy is “the sacrifice of the senses” to the god of truth. a prospect that threat- . inheres in tragedy as a fulcrum of deliberative agency. and in light of his intuition that the critique of the Enlightenment world of Sense will lead to a “praxis of the sense of the world” (Sense of the World. I think Nancy’s own commitment to recognizing the multiplicity of the senses implicates him in this recognitional aspect. Because this reciprocity obliges us to accept a fragmentation of experience that nullifies recognition. of course. and a reprise of the tragic sublimation of sense—the eclipse of aesthetics—I believe Nancy misses the prospect for a more practical relation between sense and world. My discussion of Nancy therefore is intended to clarify why I think deliberation based on dramatic reversal. 9): an aesthesis that does not get co-opted by conceptual understanding. This is particularly so in light of Nancy’s insistence on the reciprocity of sense and world. I have been arguing. which is the structural pivot of tragic form. But Nancy’s usefulness for my argument is most urgent to the degree that his “praxis of the sense of the world” perpetrates its own undoing—owing to what I would call an inadequate appreciation of the very conceptual complexity of Greek tragedy that Vernant purveys. might be a better remedy for the diremption of thought and feeling than Nancy’s own posit of a nondialectical reciprocity of sense and world. recompensing just such an oversight would seem to have been one reason for Horkheimer and Adorno’s nostalgia for the Greek world. in his worry that even to acknowledge the reciprocity of sense and world would risk a reversion to rational dialectic. But I am bound to dispute his wish to ameliorate tragic experience by eschewing tragedy altogether. in fact.This move is blind to the important formal-recognitional aspect of tragedy. stems specifically from our modern will to liquidate tragedy rather than to reinhabit its forms.This. It is tantamount to Rocco’s licensing of unlimited contradiction as an antidote to tyrannical rationality. Nancy’s fragmentation is. I am. in agreement with Nancy’s wish to put the aesthetic in the cause of ameliorating tragic experience.188 Aesthetic Reason Nancy’s assessment of what we have lost by disparaging the aesthetic as a corrupting handmaiden to Reason—as that sense of the world that too much needs to be made Sense of—strengthens my belief that the aesthetic. Indeed. I see it as antithetical to the prospect for inhabiting tragic form.

To complicate things. For him art is “another kind of doing” (Sense of the World. Yet while his case for reciprocity is a valiant effort to dissolve the ideological polarities of sense and reason. art and politics are more mutually supporting propositions. Likewise he alienates himself from the original deliberative space in the Greek demos. Because Nancy effectively forecloses recognition in promoting unceasing reciprocity. nihilism and myth. We can see the full dimension of his problem where he strives to distinguish this activity from either idealist or subjectivist creation: he demurs to call art either poiesis or praxis.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 189 ens his own political utopianism. while Nancy is suspicious of conceding that the aesthetic has anything to do with making art. For Nancy rightly sees the diremption of thought and feeling as perpetuating the mutual exclusivity of art and politics. be decidedly corrosive to political identity. By so preempting any place for the aesthetic. in that way. he risks rendering art as an inactive and intransitive knowledge that would. Nancy’s “idea” of art seems inexorably linked to a principle of transitivity that courts some reckoning with productivity qua product or poiesis . But by exercising this preference. as a proper poiesis. he likewise promotes a praxis that would be all techne and no product. 134). we can see how he is bound to ignore the relation of the artwork to the creation of a deliberative space. therefore. It invites the twin absolutisms of the nihilism of sensuous particularity on the one hand. In this respect. by reversing them. If the license Nancy gives to the unceasing reciprocity of sense and world really expresses a preference for praxis over poiesis. It might now be useful. which figures for me as a fulcrum of aesthetic production. He therefore consistently appeals to the register of activity to authenticate the authority of sense experience. giving priority to the agent over the work. and hence relatively inactive. to the detriment of both art and politics. he is ultimately fostering a reversal without end. and the terminal abstraction of rational myth on the other. he nevertheless does not want to give up art’s relation to activity.Yet his ability to elucidate this doing only musters a negative. Nancy’s preference for praxis is no doubt based on his well tutored post-Enlightenment suspicion that production qua product is always subject reifying. insofar as he equates all making with making Sense at the expense of sense. he also inhibits any understanding of form as bearing on formative agency. as a work of art. agency dubiously characterized in terms of the suspension of the . to state this problem more directly in terms by which I have already characterized the form of the tragic protagonist in relation to the political formation of the demos. In that relation.


Aesthetic Reason

“enchainment of signification” (134).This familiar recourse to an “other” of signification weakens the claim that “another kind of doing” can do something better than poiesis or praxis, because it eludes any standard by which it could be known to be done. Things get worse at this point. Nancy, like Gadamer before him, exemplifies the suspension of the enchainment of signification by reference to the Greek artifact of the symbolon: the shard of a clay emblem of hospitality.14 It is broken upon the departure of friends who anticipate a future reunion to be formalized by joining the shards into a whole. For Nancy the symbolon, a token of the aesthetic,“has its truth in being divided” (Sense of the World, 136).What Nancy ignores in valorizing this fragmentation is that such doings, if the culture of the symbolon can sustain any analogy to action, are specifically done by virtue of an activity of recognition.Without an act of recognition brokenness itself is unrecognizable as such. Certainly the dividedness Gadamer glosses, by allusion to this symbolic practice of the ancient world, was, in that world, a pretext for community. Nevertheless, because the symbolon served as a threshold of self-recognition, as well as recognition of another, we ought not to take dividedness as an end in itself. However much recognition of dividedness, from Nancy’s viewpoint, is a necessary step in checking the impulse to identify the part with a metaphysical whole, or (extrapolating to the political arena) however much it is a necessary step to checking the Enlightenment coercion of the individual to identify with the already constituted group, we ought to resist the temptation to privilege dividedness over identity in such absolute terms. I do understand that, by way of the symbolon, Nancy means for us to see Enlightenment aesthetics as the failure of sensibility to actualize a nonrational sense that might resist the conceptual identifications otherwise inhibiting individual experience. This failure of sensibility to properly sense perception is pegged by Nancy as a tactical error of Enlightenment mind: induced by its too precipitous flight from Nature’s necessity. But, unlike Nancy, I prefer to treat this as an eminently corrigible rather than a fatal error of Enlightenment thinking.We can then imagine how the fragmentation that aesthesis forces reason to submit to need not be equated with such a radical suspension of “the enchainment of signification.” It might give way to the test of recognition that sensibility foists upon rational sense, when fragmentation remains a counter of cognition. More important, we could then imagine what such a test makes possible: the ensuing drama of learning. In this view the community ordained by the symbolon—when the symbolon is a

From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics


token for the fragmentation of reason by sense—is assimilable to the role of the spectator who understands him- or herself to be a produced and hence a self-producing entity.That is to say, if one recognizes the fact of one’s being produced, one appropriates, in that recognition, the terms of productive agency by which one’s self-perpetuation can be understood as a purposive social enterprise. Nancy would instead give us the more limited proposition of the agent who exists at the expense of the spectator. Indeed, the way in which the form of tragedy can be seen to produce the spectator as a self-producing agent prompts us to see how the aesthetic dimension of the demos that it serves—where the spectator perceives him- or herself to have “become a problem”—induces the subjective labor of integrating fragments of experience without simply sublating parts to an organic whole. Nancy, in substantial agreement with the critics of Enlightenment such as Horkheimer and Adorno, fears that this sublation is inevitable under the production paradigm of Enlightenment truth. I agree with Nancy that truth “today . . . is no longer a matter of interpreting the world but of transforming it” ( Sense of the World, 8). But the transformation he has in mind is extraformal, that is, a transformation that “affects the agent not the work” (9). It therefore indulges belief in the possibility of self-transformation as something that can happen without a practically reflective register for the self. Not surprisingly, for Nancy, the critique of the Enlightenment world, made possible by aesthetic means, looks toward the “end of the world” as a specular register of human activity.The end of the world is coming in the end of that concept of the world as existing “in relation to some other (that is, another world or an author of the world)” (8). When, Nancy says, there is no longer an essential relation between the world and another world or author, we must accept the proposition that “the world no longer has a sense, but it is sense” (8).This sense is meant to bring about a kind of suffering that is no longer tragic, because it no longer entails the sacrifices of the senses. But precisely because this sense cannot make sense, nor need not (that would be a compulsion of the production paradigm), it cannot be recognized as such. As we saw in Nancy’s seemingly contradictory swing between a bid for transitivity and a refusal of the agential resources of the production paradigm, his own grasp of the difficulty of his position is apparent in his assertion that the world that “is sense” is nonetheless dependent on “being toward another” (7).The new sense of the world that is sense does indeed seem to need some test by which it can be sensed otherwise.


Aesthetic Reason

Nancy seems doomed to produce such a contradiction between the sense that meets standards of recognition and one that is free of that constraint, because he is so bent upon disentangling poiesis from praxis. For he is too wedded to the understanding that poiesis subtends the oppressive telos of production. The possibility of praxis without poiesis is, for Nancy, a bid to salvage agency without telos. As I have already suggested, this might be a compelling position, in the face of ruthlessly instrumentalized Enlightenment teleologies, if the account of tragedy that I have unfolded here did not so clearly allow for an alternative point of view. Within that purview poiesis cannot be opposed to praxis.The production paradigm (poiesis, the work) does not preclude the self-transformative knowledge, or self-productive knowledge that Nancy otherwise seems committed to in the terms of “some Enlightenment” (8), albeit a “truly post-Romantic” one. Furthermore, I believe that the fairness of my posing this alternative here, as well as all the possibilities mapped within it, are conceded by Nancy himself when his pursuit of a praxis without poiesis prompts the question, “Could it be that one has to surmount (?) the distinction [between praxis and poiesis] and to manage a poiepraxis or praxipoetic thought?” (100). For me, the problem with raising the question in a form that privileges a simple reversibility of praxis and poiesis—in poiepraxis or praxipoiesis—is that Nancy seems bound to leave it as a rhetorical question. I would rather give the question its due. I would suggest that the question only really counts in the context of an answer such as that which the tragic protagonist gives in the ensuing action of plot, that is, in the moment when an agent accommodates new information to his or her sense of purposiveness in action. Nancy’s alternative idea that art, by demurring the presentation of an essence, becomes necessarily the “presentation of presentation” (Sense of the World, 138) is, in fact, not theatrical enough for my purposes. It does not accommodate an understanding of the way in which the constitution of the audience in Greek tragedy obviates a choice between being a spectator or an actor, while not dispensing altogether with these markers of identity, or giving up on the notion of a positional subjectivity inherent to them. Nancy’s distance from this knowledge is most appreciable when he explicitly calls for a “politics without denouement . . . without a theatrical model, or a theater that would be neither tragic nor comic” (111). But his seizing on denouement as the crux of the theatrical model misses the crucial aesthetic feature of tragedy that, I imagine, could be appreciated alike by Vernant and Horkheimer and Adorno: where we do not need to see an epistemological barrier between spec-

From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics


tator and actor (and yet respect their difference), we understand the difference between them as a field of choices that grows incrementally complex.We need to think of the shifting boundaries of identification between actor and spectator as a set of calculable ratios of what is known and what is deemed knowable. It prompts something like what rationalist game-theorists might call a motive for preference ordering. It makes a contrast with the terminal reordering of value that we equate with plot denouement, where divergent perspectives are reducible according to a fixed denominator of knowledge.The motive for preference ordering alternatively denotes a rational imperative to see divergent perspectives as integral to an augmented axiological calculus. In other words, by invoking preference order, I do not wish to imagine a specific hierarchy of values so much as a narrative of valuation, whereby one’s sense of what one wants is self-consciously tutored in the experience of error or failure to achieve one’s aims. Spectator and actor are one. In this circumstance, what is preferred depends on interaction with alternative contexts of expectation.This is what we presuppose in the fact of human intersubjectivity and what the theater figures in the very fact of performance. Despite important differences of intent between the rationalistic enterprise of ranking preferences in game theory and in tragic drama, both pursuits spring from the same motivational ground: the reciprocating knowledge of differently informed minds.The knowledge imperative of preference ordering, like the transitivity between spectatorship and agency in tragedy, sustains preference as a marker for subjective positionality. By means of this analogy between the plight of the tragic protagonist-in-demos and the rational agent, therefore, I want to see if we can escape what Nancy sees as the Enlightenment trap wherein transformative agency is transumed into interpretation. But by the same token, I want to elude Nancy’s own trap of valorizing transformation to the exclusion of any intelligible prospect for production.This approach to the concept of transformation makes it unworkable: literally incompatible with a program of human labor.As we have seen epitomized in the eighteenth-century theories of taste and beauty, and in the tenets of the aesthetic attitude schools, without an account of the productive labors inherent in aesthetic valuation, the category of the aesthetic is too easily “spiritualized” or subsumed to a glib aestheticism.We will not lose sight of the fact that aestheticism, in this respect, is a proposition that naively figures spectatorship as an autonomous role. In other words, I do think that we might surmount the distinction between praxis and poiesis that Nancy’s aestheticopolitical theory laud-


Aesthetic Reason

ably anticipates. But we may not do so, as Nancy imagines, by a praxis that he too tellingly valorizes as the nonpositional “absolutization of [their] relativization” (Sense of the World, xvi).This “absolutization” produces only the nonpositional and therefore highly untheatrical spectacle of one thing turning into another (xxvi). It invokes only the most pathos-laden sense of production as just another nod to terminal incommensurability (114). It reprises a perverse aestheticism in lieu of a potentially normative aesthetic valuation. It should be clear by now that I believe that tragedy tells us more convincingly that what connects praxis and poiesis is its own nonabsolutizing development of the idea of production. Because the tragic keeps productive agency in tension with spectatorship, it might be best understood, once again, by affiliation with the pragmatist Wittgensteinian point that standards (poiesis) and practices (praxis) are necessarily developed together.15 Indeed, this pragmatist insight comes with the admonition that conceiving them apart precludes that possibility of development altogether. Certainly Vernant’s respect for the deliberative register of the tragic hero is inconceivable along these lines. It is development, after all, that tragic emplotment presupposes as its most ineluctable condition of intelligibility. With these observations I mean of course to challenge once again the axiological drift of Enlightenment aesthetics, whereby the concept of genius—and the creation of its corollary, the formally perfect beautiful object—promulgates norms, which, by default of enough representational self-consciousness, seem to set the artwork free of the necessity of practice.We have seen that this produces a standard of taste that is as alienated from productive life as most standards of pure reason are alienated from the variables of pragmatic activity. I do not doubt that Nancy was right to thwart this state of affairs. But the alternative is not, as he seems to believe, to vitiate standards altogether, by abdicating any test of recognition that would keep standards and practices in play.The Wittgensteinian proposition urges us toward a better course: to realize that because standards are what practices produce, understanding how to make perfect, so to speak—according to any standard of artifactual making, aesthetic or otherwise—will require practices that alter our expectation of what any single practice can conceivably make perfect. It will raise the question of what standards might become applicable for future practices. Otherwise, the notion of making itself becomes incoherent with or irrelevant to conceptions of agency. The premise of this familiar pragmatism is already operative in tragedy, viewed as the spectacle of human need that drives tragic

From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics


emplotment and constitutes a threshold of human self-recognition. But, under the auspices of the Wittgensteinian precept, we must also consider the proviso that need, like most human facts, is inconceivable without choices. Needs are real on the basis of how we recognize them, which is to say, how we create them on the basis of appreciating the interdependence of standards and practices.16 This version of reality, which Hilary Putnam inflects as “internal or pragmatic realism,” is specifically linked to reanimating the relationality of the agent position and the spectator position (Many Faces of Realism, 77).The agent position and the spectator position, as Nancy showed us, are unduly alienated from one another by the praxis-poiesis distinction. But unlike Nancy, who shuns making because he cannot see it as a complex of standards and practices, Putnam (following Wittgenstein and Nelson Goodman) has presented an idea of making that entails knowledge of the conditions under which the standard inherent in a specific “making” practice can be superseded by a new practice (78). In this regard, what we might now call poetic is already practical in the mandate it imposes for recognizing what needs are not satisfied, such that a new practice is necessitated. We cannot ignore the fact that fulfilling this mandate is, in large part, the spectator’s role with respect to the protagonistic agent of Greek tragic drama. Here we are reminded once more that tragic artifice implicitly figures spectatorship as an aspect of agential learning.17 Just as tragedy gives us a model for surmounting the praxis-poiesis distinction—by making us see how recognition (standards) and creation (practices) are complementary imperatives of our reality, namely, by making agent and spectator coherent—I now want to suggest that any aesthetic project, modeled on the practice of tragic poets, has epistemological repercussions coherent with Putnam’s realism and its address to the dichotomous ways of Enlightenment reason. By pointing up the affinity between the choice-making imperatives of the tragic protagonist and the standards and practices of Putnam’s realist disposition, we can see how such an aesthetic project might honestly purport to ameliorate certain Enlightenment dilemmas by producing a new narrative of valuation: understanding that all meaningful production is a working out of preferences, and that the imperative to do this amounts to a learning experience that sustains the agent’s fluency with spectatorship. Such a project aims at precisely the universality that art has long been touted to be a refuge for. But it does so in a way that is more conducive to the spontaneity of life that universality usually threatens to

It may therefore be the best reason to imagine art practice as a service to Enlightenment philosophy. . as Wiggins explains it.”18 That Wiggins characterizes the difference between these two positions in terms that indulges a “scene of suffering” as a beneficent site of deliberative agency. Wiggins asserts an older position maintained by Aristotle. must be laid at the doorstep of Kantian aesthetics. Wiggins puts at stake the possibility of a reason that— because it does not subordinate itself to explanation or. self-sacrificing pain of Horkheimer and Adorno’s enlightenment Odysseus. especially in the most naturalizing orthodoxies of artistic form. to so spare itself “the torment of thinking. however secure in its maxims.The scene of suffering. And this is precisely the universalism that. against this account. . it is important to see how. he says. We have come to a point where we can now imagine the aesthetic doing the work of the universalizer. to the “sense of the world”—suffers a pain that is productive.196 Aesthetic Reason denature.Therefore. in Horkheimer and Adorno’s view.This is comparable to the way in which the conventional notion of character ethos—thwarted in tragic plot—assumes the meaning of an action before the character embarks on the fulfillment of an action. In this way it does not inevitably devolve—as it does in the paradox of Enlightenment perfection—to the frustration of art practice. and that he equates thinking with torment and understanding. It is now appropriate to note that Wiggins’s characterization of aesthesis was specifically a response to the standard universalist proposition: that ideals of human existence must be approached through a deliberative protocol—where a rule can be presupposed for any attempt to realize a goal. For these Frankfurt aestheticopolitical critics of the Enlightenment. but in a way that forces a recontextualization of the universalist gambit itself. the Kantian postulate of a maxim that would be fully adequate to a contingent practice—and could be summoned independently of the conflicts to which it would be adequate— fully motivates the Enlightenment flight from tragedy where conflict is an insuperable fact of life and artifice. arises specifically in the Aristotelian knowledge that “in aisthesis .” This is to say that . At the beginning of this chapter I cited David Wiggins’s idea of the aesthetic as a “situational appreciation. Aristotle. simply does not permit rational agency. feeling and understanding that can actually be involved in reasoned deliberation. It is not the egregiously counterproductive. In the role of the Aristotelian deliberator.” as a way of thinking about the aesthetic as a field for deliberative action. reaffirms my linking of the aesthetic to tragedy as a way of carrying forward Enlightenment ideals. explanations give out. in Nancy’s terms.

what Aristotle provides—namely. . in turn. a “stage” for carrying on. Hence. which articulates the reciprocal relations of an agent’s concerns and his perception of how things objectively are in the world. is a maximizing of considerations rather than a maxim by which our worldly considerations are already valued.What is more to the point.There is an implicit understanding here that the ideal practical deliberator brings to bear on any situation the greatest number of pertinent concerns and understandings commensurate with the context of deliberation. Athens.The aesthetic is now profitably seen as instantiating a public space where an agent’s maximizing of considerations—based. however. Truth. This of course recapitulates the experience of the tragic protagonist as an artifact of the political arena in fifth-century b. he could be invoking the public scene of the Dionysian festival. not on a presumptive rational practicality. therefore. 237) What Wiggins’s deliberative universalizer and the protagonist-in-demos hold most conspicuously in common. in the exercise of civic duties. . There we understood the political arena to be.Aristotle demurs from the rationalist’s temptation to deliver a maxim.This disposition privileges the widest repertoire of adaptations to any circumstance of human inquiry. is that Wiggins’s construal of this practical universalizer requires a “public scene” in which “moral agents are at once actors and spectators. These thoughts prompt a generalization that draws together several threads of my discussion so far. Instead. Deliberative universalizing. as Wiggins explains. and in which the ways actors act informs the way they see things and the way they see things regulates the way they act” (82).From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 197 thinking becomes more laborious than truthful. both by way of opportunity and by way of limitation. is their openness to a reciprocity of relations with the world.c. (Needs. but on the . when Wiggins evokes the “public scene” of his deliberative universalizer. a conceptual framework which we can apply to particular cases. which produces my sense of the aesthetic subject as just such a deliberator. the knowledge of reversal produced in the realm of the theatrical event. and specifies that it is like the “events comprising a public rite” (82). and a schema of description which relates the complex ideal the agent tries in the process of living his life to make real to the form that the world impresses. by this account. upon that ideal. Values. Indeed. Aristotle gives us a framework that bears a striking resemblance to the productive vicissitudes of the tragic protagonist in demos: .

training to accommodate error and translation. that character formation does not presuppose the choices of practical agency. Such practice produces a beneficent blurring of the line between art and life. our inquiry will have to direct itself to works that expressly challenge the privilege conventionally given to spectatorial character over fictional character. seeks “to circumscribe practical rationality by enumerating in advance its bases or its grounds” (378). differentiated course of time in which we pursue them. tragedy dis- . So it would seem that a specifically more rational alternative would be one that makes incommensurability itself an occasion—I have been arguing that tragic drama is already such an occasion—for refiguring character. as Wiggins typifies it. confers. Faith in character as an essential ethos. coming to us as they do over the necessarily episodic. rather than a melodramatic site of witness to the sacrifice of character. is the inescapable realization that our reasons for counting bases or grounds as our own. hence. with respect to the contexts of the character’s choosing to act like himself. in this respect. which no tragedy of fate can possibly obfuscate. if what is crucial to this enterprise is the dovetailing of a learning subject with an aesthetic subject. training the imagination to go visiting. Such pursuits constitute our perpetually short-sighted effort to secure faith in the possibility for an ultimate self-recognition.We need to learn what to look for if we are to fully exploit the opportunity that I am alleging aesthesis. is complicit with the mistaken assumption of Enlightenment idealism that. Character’s tragic nemesis. a practice that obviates the question of the immanence or transcendence of art.198 Aesthetic Reason reciprocity of actor and spectator—are put in the service of an ideal of practical deliberation. in this capacity.This “space” encompasses everything that has been at issue in my speculative view of the aesthetic as a vehicle for making us better deliberators and. I am especially interested in literary works that represent this instantiation of a public deliberative space as a mode of engagement with tragedy that. nonetheless. Vernant avers. a standard of enkrateia. It now remains to think more practically about works of art.That faith is a dream of commensurability—one that obviates deliberative necessity altogether. It is compatible with my earlier focus on protocols of training: training in reciprocal recognition. as belonging to our character. embraced by Wiggins.These are all perspectival frames wherein attempts to understand the nature of the aesthetic subject dovetail with the account of a subjective learning. mitigates the inhuman determinism of tragic fate. Such was the mythic arena that. are incommensurable with our nature. My reasoning here is consistent with the Aristotelian idea. Furthermore.

At this point we might therefore hazard a broader claim to be developed in the following section: that art is fundamentally about character development. IV One might well imagine at this point that the only literary form that could help us to think more practically about works of art that represent such an instantiation of a public deliberative space—giving art the ethical bearing noted above—would need to be the work of a high modernist Greek: only such an unlikely centaur would know how the engagement of tragedy entails an escape from the conception of character as an essential ethos or a standard of perfect continence. Values. would be procedurally compatible with what I referred to earlier as a circumstance that gives cause for “elaborating the terms of deliberative necessity. with the proviso that it is the character of the actor-spectator that is pivotal. Truth.”Their common identity as practical deliberators under this presumption gives aesthetic work its ethical bearing and its most beneficent Enlightenment purpose. in my account. this prospect for elaborating the terms of deliberative necessity arose out of an attempt to think about dialectic. to make incommensurability itself an occasion for reconfiguring character. Needs.” It is antithetical to the deliberative exigency that is otherwise imposed upon personhood as a blanket judgment in the Platonic paradigm of character: the standard of perfect enkrateia or continence. dialectic displaces our identification with character— where necessity is a mythic rather than deliberative imperative of both art and politics—into a spectatorial arena. Understood by Horkheimer and Adorno as the inner mechanism of tragic drama. In the spectatorial arena our acknowledgment of the reciprocity of actor and spectator makes politics concede its ineluctable relationality to art and makes character accede to development without a predetermined end. It should .Aesthetic character.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 199 placed with the more deliberative arena of the civic agon. Not coincidentally.The alternative. already assimilates Wiggins’s conviction that “moral agents are at once actors and spectators. 369). by its extrapolation from tragedy.We should understand this in the way that our abiding Aristotelian assumption—that the threshold of character is choice-making—dictates a standard of knowledge that will “never be exhaustively transposed into any finite set of objectives that admit of finite specification” (Wiggins.

I want to see represented in the Joycean text a Greek-tragic-born aesthetic that exploits the resources of tragedy for the sake of an Enlightenment that does not precipitate its own tragic reversal. whose thematics mark a confluence of Greek and European thought. And yet the Joycean novel. it confirms the degree to which the aesthetic—true to the form of tragedy—compels knowledge out of krisis: whether it is knowledge of character per se or of any characterization of the aesthetic as a character-like principle that obtains outside the deliberative arena of human conflict. I have alleged that this distinctly unsentimental reconciliation is proffered from Sophocles to Horkheimer and Adorno. by seeing in Joyce’s text how an authoritative aesthetic practice overthrows an authoritative aesthetic norm. my choice of illustrative text seems counterintuitive. we may be able to renew our faith in the necessity for theorizing the aesthetic in the closest proximity to artistic practice. I am therefore bound to show how Joyce’s aesthetic form permits us to read against the grain of the aesthetic pretensions ascribed to it. In the . Joyce’s well known principle of impersonality—stepfathered by Stephen Dedalus in dubious impersonation of two putative fathers of the aesthetic. since. in the resistance it presupposes. Only then might we see how Joyce promotes an understanding of the aesthetic as clearing the much touted deliberative space in which the fate of human character might be seen to be productively at stake. I take this constraint of circuitous argument to be a salutary challenge. What is worse. has become an icon of aesthetic autonomy. most closely to tragedy and to the Enlightenment-furthering prospect for reconciling tragedy with human productivity. Aristotle and Aquinas—seems to indulge precisely the Enlightenment prejudice of autonomous will that courts the cultural tragedy of the Culture Industry. any attempt to see what family resemblances obtain between Greek tragic aesthesis and Joycean artifice will require the dismemberment of that “god of creation” through which the Joycean aesthetic has fleshed out the most patriarchal principle of modernist formalism. In other words. vested in a shamelessly uncritical notion of the “character” of the author. Moreover. above all others in the canon of literary modernism. Accordingly.There are few major literary oeuvres that so plausibly situate themselves in the nexus of the tragic and the aesthetic. For obvious reasons.200 Aesthetic Reason be no surprise then if I look to James Joyce. in its aesthetic complication. rather than ornamentally enshrined. I choose a work by Joyce that I think conforms. with the purport of giving a broad account of Enlightenment modernity. and whose artifice cultivates the notion of the aesthetic as an overriding motive for art.

Oedipus startlingly survives his personal identity. Oedipus:The gods will not care where I go. not mine. . we might pay special attention to the fact that the tragic fate of the protagonist of “The Dead” is orchestrated as a slippage between character and spectatorship that is figured as tragic death. if only in the activity of the deliberator. incommensurability of actions in time explodes the unity of characterological identity. Oedipus: Let me go away from here. what is typically missing in readings of Oedipus the King that focus on the fate of character. Creon:That is the gods’ decision. We need only consider the ambiguous closure of Sophocles’ play: Oedipus: I shall go—on this condition. In Oedipus the King. is the armature of emplotment. Creon:What condition? I am listening. In “The Dead” it becomes ever more starkly apparent that a death of character. or set conditions that refigure both the terms of recognition and the trajectories of life that such recognition might reflect.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 201 structure of “The Dead. is a full appreciation of the degree to which character in Sophocles’ play is conceded to be a process. rather than the resources for action harbored within character. Oedipus:Then—you consent? Creon: It has nothing to do with my consent. I have suggested that this easy movement is conferred in the deliberative arena of the Greek protagonist-in-demos. Indeed. through an array of superficially multifarious protagonistic avatars. the continuity of character emerging. Indeed. He persists on stage in his ability to compel choice-making.” hints at how his aesthetic project overlaps with a view of aesthetic character predicated on the possibility of movement across the barrier between character and spectator.” Joyce enacts the displacement of character to a spectatorial arena in terms that are coherent with the Sophoclean burden of Oedipus: coming to knowledge through vicissitudes of selfreconfiguration. in the organization of the Dubliners stories. taken as an ensemble. broadening from private to public. we see a “progression from childhood to maturity. is the only viable “becoming” of personhood. Joyce’s own pronouncement that. in character. whose suffering is describable as a death of expectations for a previously imagined self. Oedipus:That you will send me away. Creon:Then you shall have your wish. in the multiple protagonists of Dubliners. but sustains the project of ethos as a practical exigency of living. Therefore.

mutually irreducible demands” is. (lines 1510–22) When Creon answers Oedipus. however. it focuses a reading of human tragedy as a métier for proactively accommodating the deliberative predicament in which tragic character might otherwise have to submit to a ritual of sacrifice. 377). Values. It is conspicuously a protocol that is operative across the threshold of actor and spectator. our recognition of the complexity of this challenge permits us to salvage some beneficent resonance from Joyce’s . “Living with” denotes precisely the problematic conjunction of character and experience that is Gabriel Conroy’s nemesis in “The Dead.” Not insignificantly. with proper training—such as I am alleging art avails us of—we can reach (that is. I have held that no ideal of character based on a standard of continence can give insight to such development.We “learn” how.”Thus we can learn to live with them.202 Aesthetic Reason Creon: Go then—but leave the children Oedipus: No! Do not take them away from me! Creon: Do not presume that you are still in power. Wiggins reflects that when writers who have historically dwelt on the tragic or morally impossible in this respect have resisted capitulating to it. what accrues to the reader who seriously contends with the rhetorical complexities of Gabriel Conroy’s fate in “The Dead. I want to show that when this process is revealed to be at work on Gabriel Conroy.“Your power has not survived you. powerlessness and power. Incommensurability is. Your power has not survived you. such learning holds out the prospect for a kind of life after death. where competing values make “autonomous. Truth. mutually irreducible demands upon us” (Needs. the survival of Oedipus’s character in a protocol that negotiates the incommensurables.This is especially clear if we follow Wiggins’s acknowledgment that all the real dilemmas of human life are defined by incommensurability. Likewise.The prospect for such learning to live with “autonomous.The performative contradiction of Creon’s denial makes for the undeniability of Oedipus’s power. the protagonist in Joyce’s story. by his manifest complicity in the deliberative process.” he unwittingly confirms.” At the same time. of course. in this case. an exigency of all plot conflict. produce) accommodations between “autonomous mutually irreducible demands. they have realized that “normal life” ineluctably ensues.We might better appreciate the degree to which such an apparently antidramatic construal of Joyce’s story is nonetheless rich with the prospects for character development. I believe.

Gabriel’s unsuitability to the task is most starkly apparent in his aspiration—everywhere in the narrative—to become a monument to character rather than an agent of character. mutually irreducible demands upon us” cannot be accommodated to one another.What is worse. after all. there is no recourse of communicability with what is so incommensurable to his desire. taken as an embodiment of continent principle. The good deliberator succeeds by accepting an Aristotelian compromise: the best the agent can do in the process of living a life.“Living with” is an idea of living that is anathema to Gabriel Conroy’s most intimate sense of the value of life. artist. Truth. nephew. patriot. For it requires an accommodation of the apparent incommensurables of personality and family. most portentously. one that warrants invidious comparison with Wiggins’s good deliberator. outside the social theater in which Gabriel must perform his most precarious roles: husband. preening before the window in rehearsal for the dinner table speech by which he hopes to deliver himself of the most flattering self-image. is inescapably doomed. Wiggins’s original paraphrase of Aristotelian aesthesis. It is an aspiration that is ironically projected in the narrator’s persistent observation of Gabriel’s likeness to the Wellington Monument. and. The snow-covered monument is seen by Joyce’s reader to be as stiffly postured beyond the glass of the Misses Morkans’ window.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 203 title. Values.The monument stands immutably in the park. Gabriel Conroy is unable to “live with” others in very much the same way that the Greek tragic protagonist cannot live in a world where the “autonomous. history and experience. in order to realize an ideal of self-worth.” “Situational appreciation” was. Otherwise. His personal existence is placed at risk on the very grounds . art and politics. 237). and my point of departure for contemplating the relevance of a theory of practical deliberative reason to aesthetic value. Gabriel’s character. we are obliged to let it melodramatically echo the tragic fatalism to which I would suggest his character. is menaced by tragic fate in the most classical sense. as Gabriel himself seems to be. Needs. is to “articulate the reciprocal relations of an agent’s concerns and his perception of how things objectively are in the world” (Wiggins. The frosty glass to which Gabriel is repeatedly drawn is increasingly a mirror into which Gabriel looks to discover himself perfectly unrecognizable to his best intentions. in respect of his own unwillingness to accept the Aristotelian compromise. In Gabriel’s character this predicament is marked as a personal failure of deliberative resourcefulness. This is a straightforward concession to the deliberative imperative of “situational appreciation.

. like the one Wiggins urges upon his normative rationalist antagonist. 369).This is so for the demos of the Dionysian festival— bearing witness to Oedipus’s fate—even if the promise of life for the audience must extend beyond the limits of character. after all. the reader’s character is beneficently true to the caricature of the boundary crossing turranos-pharmakos. unintended consequence. Here it might make sense to speak of the reading experience itself as a “scene of suffering.We might imagine that better appreciation would require an understanding. The vulnerability of Gabriel’s belief.204 Aesthetic Reason upon which I established my first understanding of what forces tragedy marshals against Enlightenment desire: reversal of fortune.We have already seen how tragedy impels an understanding of character that self-consciously crosses the boundary between actor and spectator: Oedipus outstrips his audience’s understanding of his character just as he outstrips the terms of his character in claiming to know it better than anyone else. I want to suggest. Values. It is a disposition to see how the accommodation of incommensurables depends more on the adaptability of concerns that lead us to invoke specific incommensurable values and commitments than on any attempt to change the values and commitments themselves.Those values and commitments are. Given this disposition. discontented as the rationalist is with having to trade off explanations for situations. anchored more immutably in the circumstances of our acting. irony of fate.” In this crucible of knowledge. a circumstance that would otherwise be fatefully accepted as a principle of rational cause—even one as seemingly terminal in its foreclosure upon a life of choice-making as the revelation of Oedipus’s crime—might reveal itself to be the matrix of an irreducibly practical knowledge: where choice-making ensues as an ineluctable fact of even the most unpromising fate (Wiggins. however. Gabriel Conroy’s lack of aptitude for “situational appreciation” as a métier of human identity—subscribing as he does to a more Platonic faith in a principle of continence—declares itself most frankly in his unresponsiveness to the manifold exigencies of choice-making that frame his actions. Truth. whom Oedipus both epitomizes and exemplifies. Now we must see how Joyce’s deployment of character induces a comparable activity of mind. prompts us to see how these are all versions of a fate that might prove to be less fatal if they were exploited as situations to be better appreciated. that Joyce.This unresponsiveness is indicated by his willingness to believe that human choice-making is a prerogative of imaginative will. unencumbered by the self-refiguring pressures of proairesis that burden the Greek protagonists. after Wiggins. Needs.

follows the trajectory of Wiggins’s new universalizability. Wiggins’s new universalizer does not make judgments out of will—rational or irrational.” Joyce perpetrates his character’s subjection to publicity tests by orchestrating ironic reversals that proliferate throughout the narrative. into a painting that. the tragedy of Joyce’s character will begin to appear to be a pretext for theorizing an aesthetic agency that will not submit to objectification in the work of art.As was the case in Melville’s “Bartleby. For. to the aesthetic practice of the author and the recognition of the reader. Gretta. where incommensurable facts are adjudicated by appeal to a yet unarticulated standard of knowledge. in the way that it rebukes his character’s unresponsiveness to the pressures of situational appreciation. the conversion of his wife. the universalizer may then appear to be an even more relevant figure than I have already alleged.We need only remember the propitious conjoining of hekon and akon in the discipline of proairesis to understand what is at issue. . In other words. He subjects them to publicity tests. Even more to the point. Gabriel’s is precisely the aesthetic stance that Joyce’s own narrative will disabuse us of in the tragic spectacle it makes of his character: the unraveling of Gabriel’s aesthetic gambits will be seen as coincident with the demise of his character.These artifacts of Gabriel’s artful mind. Insofar as each of these aesthetic initiatives will be understood as sites for reversal of fortune. On this familiar threshold of the displacement of character by spectator (author/reader). Rather. we shall see how ironic reversal thus registers as a site of comparison for incommensurable values. for comprehending artistic practice as something like the instantiation of a deliberative arena. as I noted earlier. are correlatively sites for choice-making that all presuppose an autonomous subject position. inasmuch as they are markers of aspiring agency.“if he were a painter. it will subsist as a relation to the work of art. by the default of the characteraesthete.” would be titled Distant Music. The mandate for universalizability in “The Dead” accrues.” we will see here that the aesthetic development of the work obtains as a modification of the aesthetic precepts of the character. Joyce’s narrative. This is conspicuously opposed to the reciprocal positionality of actors and spectators denoted in proairesis. his recycling of the phrase as “thought tormented age” for the after-dinner speech. is portended in the fact that its touchstones are exclusively topoi of artistic form/expression: there is the critical refuge of Gabriel’s reviewership at the Daily Express. In “The Dead. the self-defining characterization of Browning’s poetry as “thought tormented music”.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 205 however.

It furthermore reflects the practical scruple of Wiggins’s universalizer.20 It is the task for which Flaubert designed his Dictionnaire des idées recues. for example. and what we might now call the “deliberative heroics” of reading. in the character-surpassing rhetoric of Bouvard et Pécuchet. it is worth noting how Gabriel epitomizes what Dieter Henrich has called “the individual who lives under the self-image of autonomy. which can only be served by recognizing how our expectations of rationality must reconcile themselves to a plurality of ends. this is the case if we want rationality to be more than a closed system of belief.206 Aesthetic Reason It is worth noting that. we will see how Joyce’s ironic reversals are not just nullifications of judgment. surpasses the knowledge availed by the ordinary universal artwork. Culture of Redemption. epitomized. the ordinary universal artwork effectively sublimes the exigency of choosing. 135). at least. every complication of choices that requires a more elaborate claim of necessity in the course of this narrative brings them closer to the choice-making heroics by which the tragic protagonist redeems him. Because the relevant action in this case has to do with the belief formation of the individual readers.or herself from brute fatalism. I cannot imagine a better prompt for thinking of tragedy (along with Horkheimer and Adorno) as a means of enlightenment that does not succumb to Enlightenment’s temptation to purge tragedy. in its presumptive immortality. when rendered so laborious a discipline of choice-making.”21 This is a philosophical stance that Henrich traces to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s willful confusion of freedom . That is to say. The “work” of art. cannot be disentangled from the reader’s appreciation of a necessity to always judge again the judgment of received wisdom.The reader thereby comes to keener appreciation of a precept that Leo Bersani credits to Flaubertian aesthetics as an indispensable corollary to the concept of the novel: the universalizing aspect of art has to do not with the metaphysical aura of the work of art as a refuge for “immortal” truth. 19 Bersani attests that such work. greater and greater contextual freedom accrues to the reader in recognition of how the validity of his or her judgments bows to the exigencies of applying those judgments. For. Or. but with the fact that “art is a mode of being produced by a certain type of human work” (Bersani. By this reckoning. in Joyce’s text.They come closer to the feat of “elaborating terms of deliberative necessity” that has been of such salient interest in these pages because it offers a prospect for making judgment more integral to action. ironic reversals of character fate have a distinctly Flaubertian ricochet. In order to draw the contrast between the distinctly unheroic character of Gabriel Conroy’s personal aesthetic.

As Gabriel himself puts it in disclaiming the possibility of doing justice to beauty.”The phrase “thought tormented music” reprises the equally tortured dualism of reason and art that we have seen Enlightenment mind contending with in the pursuit of its cherished universal truths. Such abstraction is indeed what confers the metaphysical aura of art in place of the political experience that deliberation might otherwise confer.This forbearance is the earmark of an aestheticism that rings most hollow in the pretentiously wrought phrase that Gabriel flourishes—in a review of Robert Browning’s poetry—as disingenuous evidence of his own artistic ability:“thought tormented music.” Such a compromise constitutes the ethically culpable form of that abstraction from act to which any demurring of choice typically capitulates.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 207 with natural beauty.What is most immediately emblematic of this fact is the reader’s recognition that Gabriel’s encomium is an unwitting parody of the “judgment of Paris. the lack of any necessity to make distinctions in Nature is mistaken for the ontological truth of perception. is nowhere more clearly established than in his encomium to the “three Graces of Dublin. tragically founders upon an unwillingness to make choices.” Here an aesthetic gambit. It antagonistically evokes the deliberative necessity that typically obtains for judgment only in the absence of the kind of universalizing maxim that aesthetic beauty is commonly thought to supply. For in invoking the paradigm of choice. preferring to . namely. Ironically. his lack of spectatorial distance. The tragedy of Gabriel’s aesthetic. we will retrospectively understand. Here the torment of thought or reason is stood in invidious contrast with the indivisible pleasure of art. My contention here will be that Gabriel’s own aesthetic stance carries the seeds of this dilemma.” itself the anecdotal beginning of aesthetic theory.” 204). In this perspective.“The Dead. It has the undesirable effect of severing the connection between aesthetic experience and structures of cognition. it is the same deliberative necessity that Wiggins asserts the rationalist philosopher strives to avert when he or she rejects aesthesis or situational appreciation.The task would be an invidious one and one beyond my poor powers” (Joyce. placed in the service of a social ideal. Gabriel is nevertheless demurring choice: “I will not attempt to choose between them. I might say more generally that Gabriel’s problem as a character is that. in this regard. He is trading in the very aesthetic attitudes that. have conspired to assure his selfdelusion. unlike Paris. he would ask us to accept the “will for the deed. he simply will not deliberate. Gabriel uses the occasion of celebrating the hospitality of his three hostesses to flatter his own good taste.

208 Aesthetic Reason believe that all rational decisions can be made by taking refuge from experience in the logical order of the maxim. Indeed. it reminds us that without an accounting of such differences. not the least of which.or herself over a course of successive moments in time. in this case.That Gabriel himself takes such refuge in formulating his critical maxim about Browning’s poetry implicates him in the sins of aestheticism and rational universalism alike.The revelation of Gabriel’s authorship licensed Miss Ivors to deliver Gabriel’s comeuppance when he shied away from admitting the public identity—man of letters—that . It opens the door to the kind of reversal of meaning/fate that Gabriel’s totemic aestheticism gives rise to here in the instance of its repetition. is the incommensurable of generational experience that divides Gabriel from his aunts. earlier in the story. Without one’s own account of the differences that beset one’s experience as seeming incommensurables. For Gabriel’s act of recycling the “artful” phrase “thought tormented music” does denote the occasion of the difference it belies. When the phrase is so self-righteously recycled by Gabriel to characterize the age in which the “three Graces” are denied their aesthetic due by an impoverished public sensibility or taste. one risks becoming the victim of others’ cognition that difference is the case. which is to say differently. the nugget of paradox contained within the phrase—that thought is its own victim—guarantees the judgmentally indecisive abstraction of the phrase from any context of practical meaning or application. but in a way that subverts rather than realizes his identity. the evocation of this phrase by his colleague Molly Ivors betrayed the secret of Gabriel’s reviewing for the Daily Express. Gabriel’s discounting of the differences that his recycling/repetition of the artful phrase makes obvious links his aesthetic acumen to a fault of character. it becomes a pretext for our thinking how much the aesthetic pleasures. an English publication. come at the cost of accounting for the differences by which the iteration is made possible. used.The phrase thus becomes an aesthetical truism that obviates any distinction between its pure meaning and the contexts of its practical application And yet when the phrase is subsequently instrumentalized in the context of Gabriel’s dinner table speech—“Ours is a thought tormented age”—we have cause ourselves to deliberate critically on the hypocrisy embedded in it: that a truth that purports to transcend its contexts of usage can be so opportunistically. More important.The reader will not forget how. no character—let alone phrase-maker—can make a claim to be meaningfully him. purveyed here.

By eschewing the requirement that character formation accommodates incommensurable demands—without which any deliberative scruple will not come to bear—Gabriel inhibits the reciprocity of actor and spectator that otherwise gives deliberative scruple its social trajectory in Greek tragedy. in the laudable manner of the tragic protagonist-in-demos. so that some more general way of ranking the differences they instantiate imposes itself upon the situation and. Joyce wishes us to see how the kind of aestheticism that Gabriel would indulge in here invites character reversal: without the recompense of any cognitive means by which such a reversal could be made coherent with character development. instead of taking the tragic protagonist’s initiative to be both an agent and a spectator. The risks attendant on this stoicism are.This is so to the degree that Gabriel’s artfulness delivers him from the responsibilities of the tragedy of his split nature. The crowning irony of all this is that the phrase “thought tormented music” mimics the very torment that Gabriel suffers. Joyce’s art puts the reader under the deliberative compunction that his character shirks and thereby coaxes from the reader a more sophisticated aesthesis than Gabriel’s aspiring aestheticism can possibly comprehend. Gabriel preempts himself in a . It is this fate that now I want to suggest Joyce spares his reader. He thus succumbs to indecisiveness about being an agent or a spectator. his artfulness denies him the reflective resourcefulness to see his split-ness as such. in that way. pulled as he is in his Christmas dinner speech-making between the sobering reason of social tradition and the intoxicating music of his lyrical autonomy.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 209 the review was privately intended to confer. But never is one articulated with the other. only to collide catastrophically with the reflective surface of things. Joyce admonishes us that there is no escape into art from this torment. Another way of putting this would be to say that Gabriel does not suffer the problem he has become to himself. all too apparent in the leitmotif of the glass pane through which Gabriel yearns to pass outside himself. Gabriel’s personal tragedy is in fact signaled in the manifest lack of fitness of the mutually exclusive roles of actor and spectator within some more capacious context of role-playing. He does not “suffer” these contradictions as incommensurables.The irony is that he could not acknowledge publicity. Instead. In effect. coerces his character to change. By so hoisting Gabriel on his own petard. because the only identity that would be recognizable from a byline in an English publication would perpetrate a confusion of aesthetic and political purposes. Gabriel’s entire performance as a character alternates between the roles of actor and spectator. as I have anticipated.

without which Gabriel’s own aesthetic impotence would amount to mere anticlimactic pathos. Here Gabriel’s voyeurism/narcissism is revealed to be intrinsic to the most intimate structure of his personal identity. in specifically aesthetic terms. There the bounds of what can be known are rendered integrable to the process by which all boundaries are surpassed. is imposed by Gabriel’s spontaneous transfiguration of the image of his wife into a painting.“The Dead. As we shall see in what follows. in such a way as to highlight an impending choice between aesthetic modes. a schism that goes unacknowledged in Gabriel’s grasp of the “scene. He presents himself as the fellow of Gaelic brotherhood. all the complexities of Joyce’s own aesthetic design are prismatically scintillating. she is lost in a reverie of what will prove for Gabriel to be the most “thought tormented music” of all. to which Gabriel is portentously insensible. the robust mate of Gretta’s passionate nature or the sterile “penny boy” to a set of maiden aunts.” But most important. The scene of suffering that will finally reveal Gabriel’s problem in terms that might put his tragedy in the service of Enlightenment idealism—the very idealism which.” 210). Because he merely alternates between these roles.This most glaringly aestheticized vision induces Gabriel’s spectacular blindness to Gretta’s experience. Gabriel’s view of his wife recapitulates the succession of windows through which we have seen him struggle toward his own image. the artist hero of his age or the slavish admirer of the previous age. In the aftermath of the dinner speech. “If he were a painter he would paint her in that attitude” (Joyce. for Horkheimer and Adorno. In this instant of Gretta’s own aesthetic appreciation. he eludes the cognitive dissonance without which their potential for tragic revelation—and the Enlightenment knowledge of reversal—is nil. Gabriel catches his wife in a contemplative stance. the urgency of our making sense of this moment. First. Joyce’s irony. or the defiler of tradition-bound historical fate.Thus does Joyce prompt the choice between incommensurable aesthetic practices. was betrayed by the Culture Industry’s evasions of tragedy—waits for the final episode of Joyce’s story. It hints at the necessity for a subjective mobility toward which we know him to be constitutionally indisposed. the perceptual reality of the moment is riven by incommensurable registers of the audible and the visual. poised alone on the staircase. by reframing Gabriel’s aesthetic judgments with a proliferation of competing judgmental . Silently attuned to a song echoing from an upper room.210 Aesthetic Reason succession of mutual exclusions.There are several things to contemplate at once. Second. so brightly illuminated by Joyce’s artful construction of the ending of the story.

He asked himself what is a woman standing on the stairs in the shadow. Her blue felt hat would show off the bronze of her hair against the darkness and the dark panels of her skirt would show off the light ones. Enlightenment mind otherwise find its resources for deliberative agency by contending with differences that outflank the unifying structure of character. . we can say that it is the role of the active universalizer. Rather. is congruent with the principle of continent character and the abstract principle-mongering of the maxim. Truth. in Gabriel’s fastidious mind’s eye. a symbol of. to use the terms by which Wiggins himself characterizes the practical role of the universalizer.As this protocol envisages for Wiggins a “public scene .There was grace and mystery in her attitude as if she were a symbol of something.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 211 parameters. we are not surprised that it produces. trying to catch the air that the voice was singing and gazing up at his wife. an “artwork” that succumbs to the comparatively hermetic ethos of symbolism. listening to distant music. If we continue to trust this universalizability as a site for culturing deliberative agency. . we should see the reader’s role as “straightening out” and extending an existing “corpus of judgments” or matrix of judgments. Because the character cannot exercise that scruple himself. sets the stage for a deliberative scruple.“if he were a painter”: He stood in the gloom of the hall. 82). by its one-sided valuation of experience.“The Dead. already cast in such a suspicious light by the rhetorical workings of Joyce’s narrative.We are not meant to see the reader’s judgment as transcending the character that was its occasion. in which moral agents are at once actors and spectators” (Needs. (Joyce. Values.” 209–10) The most conspicuous fact about Gabriel’s spectatorship here is that the spectacle he purveys is a clumsy disguise for his will toward autonomy. It is no coincidence that I have previously linked both continent character and maxim to the preemption of Enlightenment mind. Because this spectacle denotes an agency denied the publicity of spectatorship. In the . rather than the metaphysical universality of authorial control purveyed in naive aestheticism. it is an incentive for the “character” of the reader to develop in the direction of Wiggins’s new universalizability. so we must recognize it to be an expressly aesthetic project that eloquently shows up the limitations of Gabriel’s own compositional skills. that bears most dramatically on Joyce’s theater of ironies. Symbolism. Distant Music he would call the picture if he were a painter. If he were a painter he would paint her in that attitude. according to which the intelligibility of the character was first available.

the transition is effected in such a way that Joyce’s reader passes. it is worth contemplating how this putting out of phase is a rough corollary for the artistic dispositions denoted in the terms genius and connoisseurship. conducive as they are to a dualism of theory and practice. is pretending merely to see them rather than to produce them. Thus we might say that the death march that Gabriel commences from this moment on in the story is perversely spurred by the inactivity of his indecisive spectatorship. What is more. succumbs: when he fatalistically resigns himself to the self-abjecting recognition that his wife loved another. Indeed. and quite conspicuously at the expense of her sentient presence—a “difference” he would otherwise be challenged to interact with—Gabriel thus puts the roles of actor and spectator out of phase with one another. this outflanking strictly determined the tragic predicament as an arena of productive knowledge. Gabriel’s view of his wife is emblematic of just such a confusion. these two terms.As these terms tend to preempt thinking of art production and appreciation together. In other words. which sustain the discursive life of art.” who here determines the world of his wife’s possibilities. the differences between them. so key to the concept of turranospharmakos. do so too often at the expense of any coherent view of art as a practice. they invite an unthinking substitution of one activity for the other. In effect. of having been chosen. only by transition to another viewpoint is one aware that the viewpoint from which one looks at his choices is itself a product of choice-making. as worthy itself. on the mortal “passing” to which Gabriel. . In the gesture of symbolizing his wife’s inner life. the pretext of their incommensurability. Furthermore. that is effected for the reader by the devices of ironic reversal orchestrating the finale of Joyce’s drama. It is this transition.212 Aesthetic Reason Greek tradition. So handicapped. I believe that they lurk within Gabriel’s motivation as coordinates for mapping the drama of character onto the field of aesthetic valuation. because of the aesthetic pretensions inherent in that act. he does not understand how the validity of his own spectatorial situation depends on a transition to a standpoint from which it might be assessed. is not available as a ground for further determination of relations of fitness. a production in its own right. and to the most beneficent Enlightenment consequences of tragedy. As a result they become mutually obscuring and excluding enterprises. character is elided as an arena of activity. Because the gap between actor and spectator is foreclosed upon in this pretense. so to speak. His spectatorship is strictly ornamental—one might even say symbolic of spectatorship—precisely to the degree that the “artist. on the last page of the story.

of course. Michael Furey’s gesture toward the glass makes a sharp.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 213 We best can anticipate the workings of this transitional mind if we acknowledge Joyce’s controlling conceit: years before. in the final episode of the story. when Michael Furey was courting Gretta. reverie before the image of his wife on the stairs. Gabriel’s actions will thus be assimilated to a field of spectatorship from which he is excluded. by a focus upon what he wants to see. because the differences between what he would see and what he does not see go unengaged. the pane of glass was no mere window of spectatorship. figuratively speaking. that young man had stood before the window. he knows. through which we have seen Gabriel yearning to pass. it is precisely the evocation of a windowlike . and for which the window is only too woefully symbolic. in the succession of leitmotif panes that reflect his tormented introspection throughout the story. by his reluctance to accept the Aristotelian lesson that works of art give us “situations. It solicited response. Horkheimer and Adorno might diagnose the problem as the “blind” transparency of the “view” through which Gabriel wants to sustain his agency. So in the last pages of “The Dead” we witness Gabriel’s longing to physically possess the portrait he has “painted” of his wife. For Michael Furey. his desire throws into relief what it does not include. By Gabriel’s reluctance to choose the “situation” of his life over what symbolizes it. Joyce figures the density of the “situation” that wants appreciation here—what for Wiggins counts as an elemental access to aesthesis— by using the conceit of the window to open the distance between actor and spectator without which. Inasmuch as Gabriel’s solicitation of his wife’s affection amounts to a demand that she reflect his desires.This marks Gabriel’s “situation” as tragic in the “bad enlightenment” sense. Spectatorship will thus dramatize the choice of what Gabriel cannot choose. the one could not meaningfully articulate with the other.” not explanations—“in aesthesis explanations give out”—Gabriel. which is to say not sufficiently spectatorial.The gravel Michael Furey tossed against the glass shattered that barrier between the audible and the visual that holds Gabriel in thrall at the bottom of the stairs. contrast with the narcissistic silence enshrining Gabriel in his purely specular. if not shattering.As I noted early in this chapter. places himself repeatedly—figuratively as well as literally—before a window of spectatorship. in the manner of his doomed portraiture of Gretta. behind which we see he is doomed to recede from the possibility of action. But his ever more lustful approaches to her image are refracted by ironic perspective—where reflection formerly held sway—in such a way that the reader’s own spectatorship is figured to be a more plausible site of agency.

His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling” (Joyce. is not the simple ironic reversal of fate so clearly on display here. In this way instrumental reason tragically missed the complexity of the world that tragic knowledge ordains by countenancing the opacity of contingent relations. he is obliged to see himself as nothing: “Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. But the more urgent irony is that the “generous tears” that . a “grated window. .” in which he cherishes a remembered intimacy early in his marriage. Michael Furey. Gabriel’s increasingly desperate attempts to mate with his wife’s image take him through a succession of impenetrable looking glasses in which the image of his desire is painfully reversed: a “heliotrope envelope. And so it is fitting that the figure of the window. when Gabriel must finally look though Michael Furey’s eyes. shows us instead his inability to communicate through it. the very specter of doom that haunts the reversals of Greek tragedy. . shows us instead the hothouse insularity of his love. however. Other forms were near. There is a more complex proposition latent in the obvious fact that Gabriel’s will to see things transparently. .214 Aesthetic Reason transparency of mind for which Horkheimer and Adorno faulted Enlightenment reason. In other words.” 223). until. no doubt. produces the self as nothing. the transparently fragile glass “I” of Gabriel’s self-ideal. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. carried to the extreme of this self-abjecting gaze. For this undoing is nothing less than the revelation that what Gabriel sees through denotes the necessity of another vantage of seeing. shows us instead her distraction. becomes the medium through which Joyce’s reader is invited to “view” each successive moment when Gabriel’s expressive self is undone.“The Dead. the glass of a “swinging mirror.What is notable. standing at Gretta’s window so many years before.” in which he sees his wife beginning to undress as a portent of his fulfilled desire.” through which Gabriel recollects a love letter. .With each successive frame in this montage of windows Joyce builds the scene of reversal that culminates in the recognition of Gabriel’s nemesis. Thus does the reader’s eye open onto the arena of the protagonist-in-demos.This spectacle is. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. . . at least as that arena is intimated in the alternations of the “eye” and the “I” that get played out here. and its consequent marginalizing of the irony of action. each instance of this building is a focusing of the reader’s gaze upon what Gabriel does not see.

The tears are tokens of a false generosity. to Michael Furey. It is the very same transparency of mind that obtained in the blind spectatorship. . He watched sleepily the flakes. Gabriel is presuming upon the transparency of the other. By abjecting himself so fatalistically in the emotional transparency of those tears.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 215 signify this nothing (especially in their thickening to virtual lenses) magnify our consciousness of the bad-faith refuge Gabriel is taking here. . I want to say that Joyce bids for something like a “good” Enlightenment in the final paragraph of the story. in their analysis of modernity’s liquidation of tragedy. one is one with it all. It is an evasion of the deliberative burdens that the gesture of grief otherwise essays to dignify. this time between the reader and the reader’s final “view” of the story. The “semblance of the tragic” shines in Gabriel’s tears with the glow of a false enlightenment. tragedy has melted away into the nothingness of that false identity of society and individual. standing in Gabriel’s place. just as Gabriel stands in Michael Furey’s place. It had begun to snow again.They consequently give a false appearance of Gabriel’s choosing his fate. . softly falling into the mutinous Shannon waves. . upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. farther westward. only to recognize defeat . Joyce interposes the familiar window conceit.The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. as if the journey westward were indeed a volitional transport. whose terror still shows for a moment in the empty semblance of the tragic” (Dialectic of Enlightenment. At the moment of Gabriel’s dawning fatalism. Here a concatenation of verbal effects impose an inescapable deliberative protocol as the condition of viewing. on the . the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. falling obliquely against the lamplight. where one has “become aware of one’s own nothingness. silver and dark.Yes. from which every deliberative scruple was excluded in all his previous episodes of transparent viewing. Horkheimer and Adorno provide an apt coda. Joyce orchestrates a rhetorical density that precludes spectatorship as an autonomous vantage point. too. This most explicit instantiation of the reader as the viewer. by thus appearing to give himself so selflessly to Gretta. In contrast to the “bad” Enlightenment epitomized by such transparency. and. is nonetheless actively distinguished from Gabriel’s viewpoint. It was falling. . It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones. 153–54). It was falling softly upon the bog of Allen.

falling. that matters in Joyce’s bodying forth the reading mind that. descriptively speaking.216 Aesthetic Reason spears of the little gate.” harmonized with the s consonances and their declension to f consonances. just as deliberation is seen to offer an alternative to tragic characterization. by their split-ness. The sounds are consequently an impediment to universalizing spectatorship. presuppose deliberative purposiveness.What is more. Aptly. like the descent of their last end. As I indicated earlier. the stakes of the distinction between them remain to be worked out as a contingency of reading. in the purely spectatorial manner of Platonizing aesthetics.The choice-making imperative of Joyce’s story gains further significance perhaps by the suggestion that. so . the prose here opens a view of the street that offers to universalize Gabriel’s perspective. understanding obtains here as the reciprocity between two registers—of sight and sound—which. but not with the eyes. demurs to any moribund identification with Gabriel’s mortal soul.” has the effect of prompting a choice: first between seeing and hearing but then more urgently between apparent similarity and difference. by its own accelerated activity here. This is obviously not choice-making on the order of the momentous moral deliberation that can sometimes be so thoughtlessly thematized in novels. not the content of choice-making. Rather. It is a subtle evocation of the public space of the demos. The disturbingly proximate music of “falling . it gains its significance by its mere derivation from a tragedy of character: precipitated by this character’s nondeliberative stance toward personal fate. Although. the taps on the windowpane.” upon which Gabriel is said to embark. become a cue for seeing.” first “softly falling” then “falling softly.Thus must the reader set out on that conspicuously nonallegorical journey between knowing and not knowing.As was the case in our coming to effectively aesthetic terms with Gabriel’s Distant Music. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow faintly falling through the universe and faintly falling. on the barren thorns. reprising the sound of gravel on Gretta’s window. where activity takes precedence over identity. from “softly” to “faintly. . it is the activity of choosing.This final paragraph of the story thus orchestrates a refrain of sounds that make the “journey westward. For the reader must sift the sounds that obtrude in the descriptive language as an insuperably immediate burden of linguistic opacity—reading qua act of reading. upon all the living and the dead. into a curious scene of choosing. the passage simultaneously invites the reader to oscillate between the spectator role and the actor role. .

Joyce’s artifice serves my purpose to prescribe a cognitive aesthetic as antidote to the morbidly tragic pathos of noncognitive aestheticism.That the reversal asks us to contemplate an affinity of reading with tragedy is no liability here. the expanse of the universe “all over Ireland” and thus succumbs to the role of the spectator. In stark contrast with the allegorical “west” toward which Gabriel hearkens. and thus assumes the role of the agent.That is to say. originally possible.The reader.From Tragedy to Deliberative Heroics 217 it proffers an alternative to the tragedy of fate menacing any reader who would be caught up in the dumb spectacle of character identification. something of a consequence that is both beyond the scope of Gabriel’s knowledge and yet rigorously dependent on it. In other words. In this capacity. the continuity between Sophoclean tragedy and “The Dead” is manifest in Joyce’s figuration of the deliberative agent as a principle of continence that does not presuppose character but rather develops it. In this way. in this instance. is obliged to contend with choices of what to attend to. because it is the plausible site of a tragedy that need not be fatalistically tragic for the agents who contend within its bounds. what would have been nothingness in a reader’s acceptance of Gabriel’s self-indulgent demise—however piously he suffers it—incurs. the protocol of choosing also constitutes something like a role-reversal of reader and character. Just such a prospect is held open by Horkheimer and Adorno’s intuition that the beneficently tragic individual is enlightened by what can ensue from thought as an articulation of “the negative truth .This consequence persists as an imperative of cognitive activity that Joyce will not permit us to read out of the story. instead. sees uninterruptedly. Indeed.22 I have anticipated that my exemplar text joins the larger argument of this work on the ground of a public deliberative space.The reversal occurs in such a way that we might peg the reversibility of roles as the thing that makes reading. in the absence of reversal. a demos. the universalizing view of character would have eclipsed the very register of particularity that sustains the active mind that Gabriel nonetheless resigns to the reader.The character.” On the contrary. as much as it is a context-determined one. unlike Gabriel’s “journey westward.” the tragedy augured by the devices of Joyce’s prose is not an “empty semblance of the tragic. the circumstance of needing to choose literalizes the experience of reading as a contextproducing enterprise. urged as he or she is to sort semantic differences from the same sounds. and not coincidentally. in the matrices of Joyce’s prose. the conventional spectator. the conventional agent. spectatorially. we may not abstract our reading selves from the circumstance of needing to choose. because.

In development. We may now imagine this realm of alternatives.What is imagined here. In this way we may think about it as the glow of an enlightenment that is arguably brighter than the light by which we otherwise flatter the profile of an unduly rationalized pessimism. 131). Just so. We will not forget that Vernant “characterizes” the Greek concept of the agent by which we distinguish the Homeric from the tragic (Aristotelian) individual as “the development of subjective responsibility” (Vernant and Vidal-Naquet. that is. might be passionately remarried to the worldly interestedness of the rational agent whom aestheticism so precipitously divorced. the pleasure that has long epitomized the aesthetic. is a subjective reawakening to the constraints of a nonfatalistic tragedy. and what I believe is implicit in Horkheimer and Adorno’s own distinctly nonpsychological ideal of Enlightenment character. we might recognize the nonfatalistic tragic hero of a plausible enlightenment that dawns in the aesthetic practices of Joyce’s reader. in the discourse of beauty theory and in the theories of taste. As the key innovation of tragedy. 69). Enlightenment ensues from an acceptance of the “fluctuating relation with nature” (61) rather than the clever rationalist evasions of Natural necessity with which we have historically confused it.218 Aesthetic Reason of suffering” (Dialectic of Enlightenment.This is stridently antithetical to the aesthetically pleasing “freedom from thought” by which the Culture Industry desensitizes social agents to the deprivation of their individuality (144). to be the real problem of and promise of tragedy. therefore. this concept of the agent as development displaces the modern idea of will—too psychological to accommodate the distinction between “an action carried out of one’s own volition and one performed despite oneself” (69). Myth and Tragedy. Such a view dovetails with a crucial premise of my argument that I think takes Horkheimer and Adorno’s rhetoric beyond mere condemnation of the Culture Industry: the pleasure of tragic pain is the knowledge of alternatives that development articulates. .This reader is distinctively a creature of the world of alternatives that development subsists upon. of choice-making.

Indeed “recognition and indictment” are means by which transformations of the context of human agency are fundamentally imaginable. it contains more truth than does everyday reality. 9–10). Marcuse affirms the “cognitive function” of the artwork as a “vehicle of recognition and indictment” (Aesthetic Dimension.7 Living in Aesthetic Community: Art and the Bonds of Productive Agency [T]he world of a work of art is “unreal” in the ordinary sense of this word: it is a fictitious reality. are allied with my motives for promoting a cognitive aesthetic. but because it is more as well as qualitatively “other” than the established reality. Consistent with my emphasis on rational choice-making as a constitutive aspect of aesthetic knowledge. Since the transformation of human contexts for action is what gives choice-making its significance. which make necessity into choice. Recognition of the world as alienating individuality entails the individual’s estrangement from the world. Contrary to his stated purpose. —Marcuse. The Aesthetic Dimension I Herbert Marcuse’s notion that our most urgent need of the aesthetic is the corrective it brings to mystifications of human choice. as illusion (Schein). Marcuse inspires confidence in our speculation that the aesthetic has ethical-political consequences precisely to the degree that it is inextricable from transformative activity. Unfortunately. and his pursuit of the freedoms to be won in that correction. the best Marcuse can do to elucidate the pragmatic means of such transformation is to foster the conceit of the artwork as a woefully reactive “otherness” vis-à-vis an otherwise intractable “real. . For the latter is mystified in its institutions and relationships. But it is “unreal” not because it is less. and alienation into self realization.This is an indictment by which one chooses otherwise.As fictitious world.” In this way he means to stigmatize the world so efficiently instrumentalized in the schemes of rational rule.

An important clue about the source of Marcuse’s contradiction. My purpose in this chapter will be to point up the conspicuousness of the contradiction in Marcuse’s aesthetic theory. In observing this affinity of Marcuse’s aesthetic with the anti-aesthetic initiatives taken by contemporary critical theory. for me. not by a positive choice. is his inability to see that the term production. this has the effect of positing a community that is bound. begs to be negated by art. In a curious way. return to the aesthetic. then. and quite ironically. nevertheless also denotes an aspect of the artistic agency without which the cognitive function of art that he .Anti-aestheticism deems those rules to be darkly complicitous with the instrumentalizing rule of Enlightenment reason. Marcuse’s aesthetic negation comes perilously. is effectively a bracketing of the very self that would know itself in terms of the métier of transformative self-development that.220 Aesthetic Reason however. in all likelihood. the cognitive function of art. while it is certainly a counter for the mystifying powers of Enlightenment reason. I believe that this proposition could be tenable precisely to the degree that we recognize how any further aesthetic theorizing intended to resolve Marcuse’s contradiction would. art can only be art in its banishment of the recognition of what is art. albeit grudging (from their point of view). for Marcuse. But simultaneously he fears art’s complicity with the instrumentalized cognitive function of Enlightenment mind that negates art as an irrational affectivity and. we can perhaps see the motive for a perverse thesis. is integral to aesthetic practice. close to the stance of contemporary partisans of the anti-aesthetic. I now want to suggest that our sorting of this contradiction might be precisely the thing to help us see how the emancipatory goals of the anti-aesthetic could be best served by a. Despite his ardent defense of the aesthetic. since Marcuse pegs art’s autonomy to its contradiction of the world’s representation of itself in all its givenness. therefore. Whatever Marcuse means by championing artistic cognition in this context. he seems to equate the effect of the artwork on the subject more with estrangement than development (72). In the domain of the anti-aesthetic. On the one hand. weaken the motive for distinguishing the aesthetic from the anti-aesthetic in the first place. he favors a cognitive function for art. We have seen how the anti-aesthetic theorists propose an emancipatory sociopolitical solidarity based upon a noncognitive bracketing of what they would call the rules of art. is certainly at odds with the cognitive bearing of that practical “everyday reality” in which he wants to make use of art for the purposes of beneficent social change. and hence about what recourse we have to it. but by negation. In fact.

to be vigorously resisted. Marcuse’s polemic in The Aesthetic Dimension asserts that the potency of art is its “separation from the process of material production.While Marcuse charges the aesthetic to demystify the social “necessity” that masquerades as personal choice. and training in reciprocal recognition as the argumentative touchstones for a cognitivist aesthetic. recognition itself would come to be tantamount to negation. Quite to the contrary. a feeling of freedom. His admonition against it comes in the spirit of those post-Enlightenment critics who instruct us to eschew the abstract transformation of material Nature (material production) by which Enlightenment ideology dignifies human enterprise.” thus enabling it “to demystify the reality of the process. the narrowness of his concept of production becomes apparent. What is missing from this account is the knowledge that the materiality of the “process of material production” is itself belied by the contextuality of the producing agent. Such a recognition must exist in a relation of reciprocity with a specifiable other. In other words. for which he can nonetheless supply no cogent cognitive agency. the narrowness of the concept of production is most obviously problematic as an impediment to the task of epistemological demystification.”When he further asserts this role of the artwork as the access to a desublimated realm of “rebellious subjectivity” (7). as Marcuse seems to suggest. It cannot be. for that reason. rather than an exigency of.1 In Marcuse’s case. if we want to free ourselves from the depressing instrumentalism of that rational dominion.The problem reveals itself along lines I have already discussed with respect to Guillory’s and Bourdieu’s transposition of production into a sociological basis for.Living in Aesthetic Community 221 defends would certainly remain an impotent heuristic of his aesthetic theory. this plea for abstinence is simply too literal minded. choice. practical subjectivity. From my point of view. This knowledge calls for other methodological means such as I have already appealed to in previous chapters: marshaling the concepts of translatability. an “emancipation of sensibility” (9).Without reciprocity.All are strategies for revising contextual selfunderstanding out of the circumstance of error whereby self-recognition is stymied by otherness—either internal incoherence or external conflict. This is especially true if we realize that the “reality of the process” that would be debunked is inseparable from the duty of recognizing that it is indeed illusory. deliberation. Marcuse relies too heavily on the idea that the “process of material production” is always self-reifying and. he himself loses sight of the necessity to choose a context in which mystification can be recognized to be the case. these strategies are based on grant- . merely an index of otherness.As I ventured in Chapter 1.

Terry Eagleton. I would argue that Marcuse’s effective splitting of the “process of material production” from the “desublimated” feeling of freedom aroused by the artwork risks the very ontologizing of feeling of which Nietzsche warned in Human. almost inescapably. has claimed this mutual exclusion to be.222 Aesthetic Reason ing that the subjects formed in relation to aesthetic experience “would be obliged to see themselves produced in the idea of the reconciliation [with otherness] they seek” and hence as inherently self-transformative. in The Ideology of the Aesthetic. By equating transformability with the Romantic spontaneity of feeling—which they claim the rational purposiveness of production threatens to inhibit—they in turn inhibit efficient communication between intellectual and emotional faculties. precisely because it seems to weaken the agency of choice-making.2 For Eagleton. when human subjects are linked to each other in their very flesh. Neither can it be so easily appropriated as a pretext for maintaining the rift between intellect and emotion that both Marcuse and the partisans of the anti-aesthetic deepen. Implicitly. the fate of the aesthetic in postmodern culture. the specter of this fate is likewise a motive for an anti-aesthetic activism that subverts the autonomizing rules of art and frees us to a habitation of the sensuous world that valorizes sentiment: “Only when governing imperatives have been dissolved into spontaneous reflex. Indeed. All Too Human. strikes me as too precipitously a flight from the conflicted situatedness of the tragic subject that warrants cognitive initiative.” and anchored in feeling. Production thus need not be a preemption of the transformability of the subject. as he seems to be in my epigraph. he would have to see how false is the choice posed by critics such as Eagleton. Although Marcuse clearly intends the opposite. It is worth noting that twelve years after Marcuse.3 My point is that if Marcuse is really opposed to the mystifications of choice that art can ameliorate. In that aptly anti-aesthetic aesthetic polemic. Eagleton’s endorsement of a community based on feeling elides the productive agency of those who would otherwise make up that community out of their habitation of the very split between and mind and body that Eagleton himself declines to engage as a source of relevant knowledge. Marcuse . he seems to buy into the logic of mutually exclusive choices between feeling and rational instrumentation of the “feeling body.” which would invite a mysterious spiritualization of the artwork. Nietzsche admonished against the corruption of aesthetics that occurs when it becomes a substitute for religion.The recognizably Kantian ambition inherent in the goal of “corporate existence. can a truly corporate existence be fashioned” (24). as the partisans of the anti-aesthetic descry it.

My own account contends that tragedy teaches us a different lesson: production does not inevitably invite the utopianism implicit in the mutual exclusion of feeling and thought. is therefore intrinsically about self-transformation. Marcuse’s move amounts to ranking the sublimely inarticulate moment of catharsis over the more articulated temporality inherent in Aristotle’s postulate of the interdependence of recognition and reversal. on a view of tragedy that. The work of art so justified is merely indexical of difference rather than substantively responsive to what it differs from. in Marcuse’s view. in this context choice becomes a standard of production itself.These observations now provide a staging ground for contrasting tragedy. a register of affect or feeling more than cognition. the artwork remains a substantially utopian enterprise. in previous chapters of this work I have been at great pains to show the coordinate efficacy of recognition and reversal (peripeteia). I believe. in the course of his argument.Living in Aesthetic Community 223 might then see the merits of the notion. as a form of knowledge where recognition is earned in the vicissitudes of choice-making. It thus elides productivity as an element of its intelligibility: “Tragedy is always and everywhere” (Aesthetic Dimension.The hallmark of Marcuse’s confusion here is his predisposition to privilege catharsis. productive agency is embedded in the very protocols of choice-making that the twin levers of recognition and reversal compel. corollary with the métiers of translatability. advanced in these pages. seems to confuse tragic form with mythic tragic fate. it is tantamount to a deferral of human agency. Marcuse’s inability to come to terms with production without falling afoul of the thought-feeling dichotomy can be blamed. Because the work of art. I believe that this is why. that only a rationalistic reengagement of the form of tragedy can meaningfully restore choice to the subject who is faced with the conflicting claims of thought and feeling.This is because. only serves to negate the present modes of instrumental reason. 56). . reciprocal recognition. deliberation. which makes tragedy into a staging ground of choice instead of a site of overwhelming pathos. and so on that assiduously debunk the myth of the mutual exclusivity of feeling and reason.Tragedy can serve this end by promoting a deliberative protocol. in tragedy.This is to say that tragedy. as the premier aesthetic effect and even purpose of tragedy. for Marcuse. with some examples of artworks endorsed by contemporary anti-aesthetic theorists. Quite to the contrary. because it is based on a version of subjectivity that is very deeply rooted in the problem of contextual reconciliation. As we shall see. in effect producing an “other” reason that remains contextually free or detached from the necessity of a specific context of recognition.

Where recognition is a given it is not produced. Brenkman laudably suggests that “adaptation” would better serve Marcuse’s purpose of rescuing the “aesthetic experience of bourgeois culture from the bourgeois idea of culture” (Brenkman. belies the political efficacy of the anti-aesthetic. It is worth noting that the “critical” effect that Brenkman identifies with the disclosure of otherness presupposes.This. problematically presuppose recognition as a given of interpellated ideological identity. 106)—presumably because adaptation. John Brenkman has commented that Marcuse’s faith in aesthetics as a didactic disclosure of otherness presents an impediment to productive recognition similar to that which I’ve identified with the anti-aesthetic. in the manner of catharsis. where social change more than social identity is the priority of critical understanding. but to elaborate what I consider to be the epistemological pitfalls of anti-aesthetic theorizing vis-à-vis the prospects for artistic production. how it produces . by acknowledging the reciprocity that plays between producer and consumer. I want to suggest that these works. it becomes a self-inhibiting limit of Marcuse’s account of the political beneficence of the aesthetic.They thus preclude staking human subjectivity in the kinds of action that tragedy makes imperative for rational subjects. such versions of anti-aestheticism have the perverse effect of aestheticizing subjectivity.224 Aesthetic Reason I do not mean to invoke a criterion by which to make invidious judgments between good art and bad art. Culture and Domination. not coincidentally. My point will be that the artworks promoted by anti-aesthetic theorists. This “critical” modality thus turns out to be idealizing of subjectivity in a way that contradicts the aims of Marcuse’s own politics. My concern in these pages is to show how the aesthetic inflects subjectivity as learning through choice-making. In other words. by eliding the complexities of productive agency. mitigates the commodification of cultural objects. works that are touted to be more political than anything orthodox aesthetic theory can produce or explain. are distinctly anti-tragic. Brenkman concludes that because the baring of this contradiction simply puts the artwork at a critical distance from alienating forms of bourgeois culture. In Marcuse specifically this break is occasioned by the artwork’s exhibition of a Lukacsian contradiction between the wholeness of the aesthetic object and the dividedness of the social realm in which it is valued. 106). a break with time and development. Brenkman characterizes this stance as self preemptively “critical” in contrast to what he sees as the prospect for a more “adaptive” stance of the artwork toward the world of otherness (Culture and Domination. Along these lines. that is.

choice. and which we saw tutored in the compositional forms of Caravaggio. We will see that the critical negation animating anti-aestheticism is reflected in aesthetic practices that too simplistically dramatize the contingency of our recognition of traditional aesthetic forms.Adaptivity in this instance gives us a view of the proper work of the aesthetic in terms of adequacy. a mainstay of Romantic theories of the aesthetic.Living in Aesthetic Community 225 subjects “obliged to see themselves produced in the idea of the reconciliation they seek. I must show that the aesthetic works associated with adaptation might be characterized. It eschews that standard of expressive inadequacy that has been valorized by anti-aesthetic theorists as the only proper critical stance toward the expressive pieties of artistic tradition. with subjective modalities promulgated by self-consciously critical artworks. My version of aesthetic subjectivity furthermore instantiates a scruple of adaptation that is counteridealizing in its making reconciliation responsive to the choosing imperatives of productive agents. which arises from the plot exigencies of tragedy.”This prospect is posed as an alternative to what I might characterize—after Brenkman—as the “critical” modality that animates anti-aesthetic theorizing. inexpressibility constitutes a refuge from the inevitable conflicts of subjective agency. The Romantic preoccupation with the impossibility of expression vis-à-vis an eternal human essence is something that the aesthetic practitioners who were discussed in previous chapters of this work unanimously thwart. For these reasons. and Joyce. we will see how knowledge accrued merely in defeating the categorical regulations of literary formalism lacks resources to redirect traditions of learning about forms. associated with a predominantly critical function visà-vis artistic tradition.These are all markers for my advancement of a cognitive aesthetic on the basis of contextually determined self-recognition. I hope this comparison will reveal that what is lost in the evasion of tragedy might be a good index of what can be gained through art. patronized by post modernist anti-aestheticism. Melville. Ironically enough. this goal of inexpressibility is typically equated with sublimity. I now propose to compare the “adaptive” aesthetic subject. they are interested in adequating . are formally and rhetorically boundary-erasing enterprises.The success of this claim will depend on my showing how the nontragic anti-aesthetic artworks. and training in reciprocal recognition.4 Accordingly. Within this purview. Alternatively. as boundary-negotiating under the deliberative imperative of tragedy. Beckett. by contrast. It is no coincidence that such counteridealism is an effect that I have argued is integral to the deliberative protocols of translatability.

boundary-negotiating contextualism.Within the framework of this new “aesthetic attitude. contemplative solipsism elicited by the autonomous aesthetic form. the result of our contrasting aesthetic and anti-aesthetic stances might be the revelation of a deeper continuity between them. I can think of no more apt custodian of the political motives of the anti-aesthetic. inasmuch as adaptivity is a reciprocal subjectivity. this is to say that it entails an irreducibly cognitive negotiation of boundaries.” I believe. this “sense” of community is strictly cognitive: by virtue of its deliberative. I might generalize that the tragic adaptive modality of the aesthetic improvises a contextual pragmatics that would serve well to check the more metaphysical drift of the anti-tragic. This is so if only because the self in tragic error can only reconstitute its agency in the choice of a new standard of self-recognition. critical modality of the anti-aesthetic. Once again. In my reading aesthetic subjectivity out of the form of tragedy. and as I suggested in formulating a perverse thesis for this discussion at the outset. the “good” it represents is de facto the good of community. II My linking the ways of pragmatic contextualism to tragedy is meant to remind us that the boundedness of experience is precisely what motivates the deliberative recourse of subjects to comparative contexts. apolitical.We need not fear that it will be glibly unmasked as merely a pretext for the asocial. In other words. I have tried to appreciate how the imperative for self-justification. Such an exigency entails solicitation of other contexts of knowing.226 Aesthetic Reason human production to changing circumstances of human recognition. especially in the instance of peripetic reversal—a paradigmatic case of comparative context—implicates the subject in the interests of a communitarian identity. For this reason. I have invidiously contrasted this version of aesthetic community with the noncognitive aesthetic community based . Furthermore the interests represented by such a pragmatic contextualism would seem to presuppose a subject astutely poised for action in a world of practical choices. But unlike the sensus communis typically envisaged by the boundary-erasing anti-aesthetic ethos.After all. without of course ever indulging faith in any standard of perfect adequacy.Thus it is indebted only to the needs of the subjectivity it instantiates. we can speak less circumspectly about aesthetic production as a social good.

I will contend that the postmodern partisans of the anti-aesthetic mistakenly posit the remedy for tragic error in some bridging of the gap between the realms of the sensible and the supersensible. in many ways. On the contrary.Living in Aesthetic Community 227 on a Kantian disinterestedness—an ultimate condition of unboundedness—because I believe that such a model of community lacks a convincing point of entry for aesthetic agency.” thus erasing the boundary between art and nonart. Walter Benjamin’s negative. I will therefore proceed by adducing specific examples of artworks executed under anti-aesthetic assumptions that nonetheless specifically default upon the political avowals behind those assumptions. with its erasure of all rules.This speaks loudly for an interest in erasing boundaries. assume that aesthetic value is only legitimated in the transcendence of frames of reference that typically . and practically benefits the self as learning subject. dependent on the knowledge of hitherto unseen alternatives. It both precludes any dualism that requires bridging in the first place.And yet if we are to put this fact in useful perspective it must be noted that. and his intimation that such artistic practice could be a form of beneficent politics. Benjamin’s valorization of Dada. there is always a warrant to recontextualize. 224). I have already suggested how the anti-tragic métier aspired to in the boundary-erasing gestures of postmodernism is coherent with the postmodern enthusiasm for sublimity. or. In the most extremely polemical cases partisans of the anti-aesthetic equate such unboundedness with winning democratic freedoms and guaranteeing civic equality.5 I want to suggest. Sublimity stands as one of the most strategic topoi for bridging the gap between the sensible and supersensible realms in postmodern critical theory. In this context I want to speculate upon the failure of anti-aesthetic artworks to achieve credible political ends. a form of practicing art as politics (Illuminations. his banishment of the “aura. however. where there is an error of judgment about which context of meaning obtains for the protagonist’s best self-understanding. I have identified this warrant to contextualize with “the pleasure of tragic pain” in order to keep in mind that this entails a process of nonteleological subjective development. Now I want to explore the compatibility of this goal of discovering motives for alternative action with the self-described political aims of the anti-aesthetic. antiproduction aesthetic sets the pattern for this postmodern gambit and curiously inspires its bias against the aesthetic. as he says. that this too glib account of tragic error inhibits the partisans of the anti-aesthetic from seeing how the gap between the sensible and supersensible might serve as a lever of adaptive process.

and theme-based methods of interpretation” (Aesthetic Contract. when Sussman generalizes the features of the anti-aesthetic epitomized by the Trauerspiel. a deep affective ambivalence. psychological.Trauerspiel. More significant. Not only does the boundary erasure implicit in its staunch anti-Aristotelianism muddle moral choices in the presentation of character. The resulting melancholy evokes.Trauerspiel is a form of tragedy that is at odds with the deliberation-promoting mindset of Greek tragedy. it correlatively tends to mitigate the choice-making capacity of its audience. . the most generally defining feature of Trauerspiel for Benjamin is its wholesale violation of Aristotelian unities (103). not least in its mitigating of the motive for comparative valuations of context. the basis for a cultural and aesthetic monstrosity that achieves the certification of major cultural creations that violate.6 Benjamin’s thinking is even more relevant to my interests here. historical. Interestingly. As we have seen before. Not surprisingly. By contrast with the act-oriented Greek form of tragic knowledge. 191). In other words. juxtaposition of categorically discontinuous entities. Benjamin pointedly acknowledges Trauerspiel’s affinity with the sublime and— by its catachrestic and desubjectivizing proliferation of associational vectors of knowledge—its connection with tragic experience. since his source for this argument is his reading of Trauerspiel.228 Aesthetic Reason instantiate bourgeois subjectivity. there are two liabilities of Benjamin’s valorization of the German tragic theater. in their very nature.“The Artist as Producer” (1934). This accords with the motif of boundary erasure. he organizes his list of traits in concordance with postmodern art practices that I have already linked to the patronage of antiaesthetic theorizing: historical discontinuity. a species of German baroque art. Benjamin avers that “[t]he allegorical character of the figures [characters] is betrayed in the infrequency and the hesitancy with which the plot refers to their particular morality” ( Origin of German Tragic Drama.7 Henry Sussman has recently observed that the form of German tragic theater seems to interest Benjamin mostly for the way in which it becomes “the site of an anti-aesthetic. on the part of the reader. the wisdom offered by pre-existing metaphysical. freedom from logical procedure (106). German tragic drama makes contemplative melancholy (a de facto inhibitor of deliberative mind) its object. all this indeterminacy seems to stymie productive agency.8 From my point of view. is quintessentially a site for erased boundaries.While Benjamin seems to be overtly invested in the idea of the artist as a producer—asserting nothing less than the need to bring the artwork closer to the “work” of the proletarian “producer”— the essay in which he voices this belief. 102).

Living in Aesthetic Community 229 problematically predicates the idea of artistic making on Brecht’s term. The open-endedness of the transformative act. to be more precise. and Joyce. seems intended more to “alienate the productive apparatus from the ruling class” (229) than to sustain contextual reciprocity between the productive apparatus and any specifiable productive agency that would be caught in its meshes. In this way Benjamin eliminates scope for comparative contexts as a resource of pragmatic action. never resolves into a production qua product. Not coincidentally. Bourdieu asseverates. the basis for comparative context is comparably eliminated in the effective transcendence of the subject. denoted in Umfunzionierung. Pierre Bourdieu.This means that the artwork. Melville. And yet it is the sublime transcendence of the subject that the partisans of the anti-aesthetic insist is the only means of drawing attention to the repressed content of cultural production. in what may be his most vehement anti-aesthetic discourse. Umfunzionierung (functional transformation) (“Artist As Producer.This term mandates that the artist-producer inexhaustibly transform the forms of expression through which he or she asserts productive agency. Or. this was the mode of subjectivity judged to be at stake in my accounts of Beckett. and of sublimity collectively mount an attack on the relevance of the idea of development in art. The Rules of Art.9 One might be tempted to infer that this aspect of the sublime is ethically akin to the “redemptive” destruction of the Greek tragic hero and thus to reconcile the differences between German tragic theater and Greek tragedy. Of course. Literary form. Benjamin’s enthusiastic endorsements of the Trauerspiel. veils knowledge of any real . characterizes this repression—in which he says the literary author and reader are complicit—as a “denegation” of that reality that literature presents as form. Benjamin seems to be advancing a concept of production without development. in effect.Their political ambitions rest upon this undertaking.As was true in the instance of Marcuse’s adamant suspicion of production. In the Kantian mathematical sublime. But I have been arguing precisely the contrary point in my preoccupation with the relation of the category of the aesthetic to Greek tragedy.” 228). of Brecht. in the Romantic theories of the sublime. for example.The deliberative efficacy of character was seen to be supplanted by the deliberative authority of the reader in a way that furthered the act of reading qua act. comparative measure succumbs to indeterminate measure and hence objectless fascination. The destruction of the tragic hero is mitigated in Greek texts by the fact that the audience takes up the burden of the development of knowledge that is lost to the hero’s experience.

a creature of comparative contexts. operative in the conceptual project of sublimity. the recourse to negation. Bourdieu thus makes it absolutely clear that the content of cultural production can only be known by a parsimonious via negativa (Rules of Art. It seems to invite the very melancholic and stoic spectatorship that goes too merrily along with the purge of subjective interests. so for Bourdieu.And yet in this negation there is revealed to be precious little resource for the kind of development of subjective agency that would make the term producer transitive for a culture where production might be a significant enterprise. Or. despite the most pragmatic sociological pretensions attached to it. thwarts the tragic prospect in which we might anticipate the subject’s development as a maker of choices. In other words. As for Marcuse and Benjamin. But we still need to ask ourselves if it is worth continuing to worry this paradoxical knowledge should it mitigate our motives for considering production as relevant to understanding any practical mode of subjectivity. Literary form is the site of the illusion of the artist’s mastery of an—albeit fictive—object world. from this anti-aesthetic point of view. Without it—so I have been maintaining—any notion of production would be lacking a complete grasp of the world of productive forces. we have already seen how this negative subjectivity. In that capacity the sub- .What is specific would already be implicated in the comparison of one context with another and the personal self-interestedness such comparison cultivates. potentially at the expense of other points of view. 32). what reasons have we for fetishizing this paradox if it only cultures the kind of strictly negative subjectivity that we originally saw to be so undermining of the political impetus of Marcuse’s aesthetic theory? Furthermore. Both self-delusions are oblivious to the social forces of cultural production that initially made the formal artifact necessary. So conceived. it is a site of the reader’s narcissistic identification with the sui generis powers of genius. of course. I do think the worries that drive such partisans of the anti-aesthetic as Bourdieu to indulge this “sublime” paradox of a producer without prospects for production are historically legitimate. the only subject worth countenancing as a producer would seem to be one that has no stake in producing anything specific. is the interest in recognition that drives and destroys the hero of Greek tragedy. Concomitantly. production thwarts that active development of the context of worldly circumstance without which tragedy is unrecognizable as a normative form of experience or as an aesthetic object.The most conspicuous self-interest at stake here.230 Aesthetic Reason content of cultural production. seems to seek something like the autonomy of sublimity.

It would mitigate all claims of political efficacy that postmodern theory seeks to derive from what I think is its decidedly Pyrrhic victory over the aesthetic. and Joyce. He alleges that the work of art obtains as a province of ideological complicity insofar as we identify the properly aesthetic dimension with the presentational field embodied by the artwork.Living in Aesthetic Community 231 ject is a quintessential deliberator. In effect. production stages occasions for acknowledging comparative contexts. Alternatively. In this way. It is interesting to note that a thinker as resistant as Bourdieu is to the notion that art bears on development nonetheless does not escape the realization that choice-making implicates even the ideology critic in the distinctions that obtain as a condition for reading a literary text qua text. Bourdieu makes the aesthetic dimension of the work depend on the distinctions that obtain in seeing it against the backdrop of the culture of its production. Melville. He ironically follows a method that we might identify with the high modernist aesthetic of “close reading. Bourdieu is only reasserting the familiar and seemingly intractable dualism of feeling and rationality in his theorizing of the aesthetic.Within this horizon of experience. Bourdieu discovers this in the midst of his most concerted dismissal of the aesthetic as inviting a subjective self-recognition that plays naively into the hands of instrumentalized identity. Bourdieu disqualifies the work of art as a site of cognition unto itself. which sees the work of art as a product of decodable cultural decisions/distinctions. Bourdieu is more interested in a “critical” decoding of the reasons for the currency of the presentational form of the artwork as they might be representable in a sociological account of its conditions of production.Thus. Now I must demonstrate that when we lose rapport with this understanding we risk the loss of the artwork altogether as a site of subjective development. in a curious way.” Bourdieu’s .The artwork is thereby consigned to a redundant aestheticism.” In “A Theory of Reading in Practice.This is to the exclusion of the distinctions that might obtain as an imperative for engaging the presentational field itself vis-à-vis the “productive” mind of the audience. he privileges the cognitive prowess inherent in sociological analysis. By my own account of the work of Beckett. Paradoxically. Caravaggio. the artwork can only allegorize the dynamism of social forces. And yet he reveals the weakness of the proposition himself in one of the most methodologically uncharacteristic representations of his position. a reader’s self-recognition can be solicited in a way that prompts self-consciousness about protocols of choice-making and thus augments the repertoire of choices available to deliberative consciousness.

arguably indistinguishable from aesthetic practice.232 Aesthetic Reason account of William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily. in stark contrast with the most celebrated principles of Gustave Flaubert’s aesthetic practice. This occurs in much the way that Althusser’s concept of interpellated identity accounts for the “ideological” conversion of illusory subjective agency into actual and fatal subjective passivity. without which no meaningful development could ensue. instantiating deliberative consciousness on a threshold of error. Here the kinds of self-deceptions I have previously associated with akrasia or rational incontinence present the stakes of subjective development to be a plausible crux of narrative art and so a significant lever of aesthetic judgment.” his analysis reveals itself to be implicated in a familiar notion: self-recognition of the reader entails a protocol of choices. for Bourdieu.” It . Bourdieu endorses Flaubert’s aesthetic as “[t]he double refusal of opposed positions in different social spaces and of the corresponding taking of positions which is at the foundation of an objectifying distance with respect to the social world” ( Rules of Art. Along these lines. Habitus denotes the social conditionings according to which subjects are instantiated as mere instrumentalized actors rather than free agents of their actions.What makes this notable is that elsewhere in The Rules of Art Flaubert stands as the cardinal exemplar of Bourdieu’s aesthetic theorizing and his modeling of novelistic practice.What is more—as was laudably the case with Marcuse—the stakes of the aesthetic are here indistinguishable from the stake we have in overcoming the self-mystifications of human subjectivity. is its signature subordination of the reader’s agency to authorial agency: it is specifically the authorial negation of subjective dispositions that Bourdieu himself calls habitus.” Bourdieu calls it “a negative manifestation” (31) coincident with the withdrawal of the author from the text.10 It should not be lost on us that the “revolutionary” animus behind Bourdieu’s anti-aestheticism here promises to supplant the political passivity of aestheticism with political action towards freedom. It is worth pointing out that Bourdieu’s analysis of Faulkner begins by implicating the reader’s agency.The virtue of Flaubertian style. Faulkner’s narrative about a small town in which the actions of the title character provoke increasingly erroneous speculation seems especially apt. 29). The author aims for what Roland Barthes called “generalized asyndeton. So the political beneficence of Flaubert’s aesthetic is clearly its anti-aesthetic deferral to a de facto sociological praxis. No doubt Bourdieu’s reading of Faulkner sets out to persuade us of this American author’s usefulness in further exemplifying the “double refusal.

and presumably a revolutionary politics. But the uncharacteristic subtlety of Bourdieu’s literary analysis leads fortuitously in quite another direction. 326).Thus. his inclination to view “A Rose for Emily” in terms of the reader’s self-mystification about his or her best reasons for choosing evidence of what is really going on in the plot leads him to a de facto rethinking of his stance toward aesthetic form.Living in Aesthetic Community 233 licenses the sociologist to reassert the conviction that a “pure” aesthetic is indistinguishable from pure negation. Rules of Art. so lucidly put on display in Faulkner’s story. as in detective novels. Rather. otherwise intelligible as the “untemporalized” subject positions of habitus. For here he acknowledges how the presentational form of the story itself is indistinguishable from temporalizing agency. Faulkner’s plot is not a case where the solution of the mystery does not change when one reflects upon the false clues that one entertained along the way. only to discredit them. After all. the reader of “A Rose For Emily” becomes implicated in a reflection upon the terms of the “self-deception into which he has been led” (Bourdieu. What distinguishes this defeat of readerly presupposition from the banality of mere crime solving. in reconstructing the chronology of events. Bourdieu asserts that the artistic integrity of Faulkner’s narrative is most notably coherent with a sociological acuity. in its manipulation of plot chronology.As Bourdieu puts it: “Agents temporalize themselves in the very act by which they transcend the immediate present towards the future implicated in the past of which their habitus is the product. Faulkner shuffles the chronology in order to enlist the reader’s presuppositions about what might happen. is that the reader does not discover a set of misleading clues about an unchanging set of facts. correcting his or her mistakes. they produce time in the practical anticipation of a still-to-come [a-venir]” (328). his account of Faulkner seems to make the reader’s self-understanding depend upon a set of conscious plot choices that would be inversely proportionate to unconscious decisions. rooted as such agency is in an exigency of “self-deception” ( Rules of Art. Here Bourdieu acknowledges the relevance of the idea that a transfiguration of subjective agency is intrinsic to aesthetic form. Thus I believe that Bourdieu—though he certainly does not mean to—invites us to see how the temporalizing of the act of reading. Contrary to Bourdieu’s more characteristic bid to trivialize the aesthetic object qua object. 326). the reader is reconstituting his or her own temporal agency (327).These subject positions are represented in . might be understood as a way of rendering the reader “other” than the mere creature of habitus.

So we might think of Faulkner’s narrative. Caravaggio. and Joyce.This allows for the possibility that there are cognitive stakes vested within. I have already admitted that this reasoning goes against Bourdieu’s invidious desire to sequester the presentational field of the artwork as a noncognitive counterpart to the more responsible cognitive judgment of the sociologist.” Such artfulness may even invite “the pleasure of tragic pain” that I established earlier as a premise for appreciating the accomplishments of Beckett.” denotes a manipulation of the artwork by the cognitive interests of its cultural promoters (critics) and commercializers. and we might even say self-preemptively.234 Aesthetic Reason the story by what Bourdieu calls a practice of “‘naively’ novelistic reading” widely indulged by Faulkner’s characters (325). as well as without. resolves into a cautionary tale about the epistemological inhibitions fostered by habitus. as Bourdieu describes it. of habitus) as relevant to our sorting of aesthetic values from the values of social practice. In those instances such pleasure subsists on openness to hitherto unacknowledged alternatives for the construction of knowledgeable perspectives. That Bourdieu nonetheless clings to this bias is evident at the end of his Faulkner essay (329). Melville. as oddly compatible with my claim that production in the artwork amounts to “staging occasions for comparative contexts.There his analysis of the reader’s temporalization in “A Rose for Emily” abruptly. 327) depends on our adeptness at reflecting on our temporal experience. Such thinking preempts the presupposition of any dichotomy between action (the realm of lived experience) and the narration of action (the realm of represented experience. characterized in terms of elitist “distinction. he locates a cognitive condition of self-knowledge that is not dissociable from the presentational métier of narrative form. Instead of seeing how Faulkner’s aesthetic practice—by inculcating the demystification of subjective . the text. at least as it is worked out by Faulkner. Without being able to privilege this dichotomy. Inasmuch as Bourdieu seems to recognize how much of our sense of ourselves as “acting agents” (Rules of Art.This offers a pretext for my insisting that the expressive register of the artwork is inextricable from a cognitive account of who we are to constitute such a ground of expressivity in the first place. the aesthetic judgment per se. But now it is conceivably an aspect of the artwork qua presentational field. In most of Bourdieu’s work. Bourdieu would lack a strong enough warrant for arguing that sociology needs to serve as a rational or cognitive remedy for the affective delusions promulgated from the aesthetic realm.

Such suppleness. Instead. The even richer irony is that Faulkner’s aesthetic practice makes the recognitional imperatives precipitated on the threshold of error a performative register of reading. or at least potentially. and the revelations it arouses with the second reading. has been the sine qua non of tragic adaptivity. It cannot comprehend the transition from one contextual order to another as an integrative feature of agency. It is worth observing that the temporalizing of the reading agent. which Bourdieu enthusiastically sanctions here. In other words.The production of Faulkner’s text is presented as a frame for reflective activity that is apparently not bound within the limits of the culturally produced reflections of the human subjectivity coerced by habitus. Bourdieu fixates on the inescapability of habitus because he can only see Faulkner’s aesthetic practice in terms of the negation of frameworks of expectation. implicates his thinking in the two paradigms of cognition that have previously been instrumental to my argument for a cognitive aesthetic. the retroactive illumination that the knowledge of the ending (acquired at the end of the first reading) casts on the text.Living in Aesthetic Community 235 agency—constitutes an imperative to engage comparative contexts.” combining “the impressions of the first naive reading. it opens up the activity of production itself to a freer repertoire of agency. he sees it exclusively in the mode of Flaubertian irony. Specifically for . Bourdieu’s analysis of Faulkner bears striking resemblance to Willard Humphreys’s anomaly theory. 325). after all. which locates agency in the “cognitive tensions” imposed by temporalized subjectivity. and especially on the presuppositions of a naively ‘novelistic’ reading” (Rules of Art. It likewise recalls Alasdair MacIntyre’s more elaborate account of the ethics inherent in the “occasion” of cognitive tension: the circumstance of epistemological crisis. the concept of habitus proves too unsupple in its comprehension of human subjective agency. and what I have argued are its enabling notions: akrasia and translation. Bourdieu sees it as merely a touchstone for the inescapability of a contextually single-minded habitus. Because Faulkner’s text so eloquently exhibits this suppleness—and in a way that even prompts Bourdieu to dub it a “reflecting” story—it shows the relative impoverishment of the scope of reflection entailed by habitus. As we have seen to be the case with Althusser’s concept of interpellation. It therefore lends itself to our thinking critically about the analytic inhibitions that are built into the concept of habitus itself. Bourdieu himself attests that Faulkner’s text is written in the fashion of an experimental text that requires a “divided reading.

In their pragmatics of transition. formal originality has its own temporalizing imperative: formal innovation brings “a theory of the world into contact with a state of affairs that has yet to be accounted for. MacIntyre shows us that. MacIntyre’s emphasis on the threshold of change. as a premise of value. in the context of my cognitive aesthetic. cognitive tension. Bourdieu’s “second reading” ignores precisely what is at issue for MacIntyre in his desire to strive for the commensuration. in which case there is no point in addressing the differences between languages as anything but a realm of hapless contingency. any contextualization entailed in the accommodation of the “a-venir” is compulsively negative. On the contrary. Bourdieu’s account of first and second readings might seem to echo MacIntyre’s focus on first and second languages as a way of grounding agency in the exigencies of change. at least in Faulkner’s case. because it rejects “the metaphysical representation of time as a reality in itself.This makes possible the “translatability” of the human agent across the threshold of contextual change. a modality of the work of art that he values. is not . I have suggested. 328). I therefore proposed in Chapter 5 that the artwork. gives rational structure to the revision of contextual knowledge. What I am saying is that it would be preferable to see the transitions between the shifting temporal horizons of Faulkner’s text in terms of what I referred to in Chapter 4 as cognitive tensions that arise from the artwork by dint of any such exhibition of formal originality. which. the former cannot be used in a new context. however fleeting.236 Aesthetic Reason MacIntyre. exemplified in the conflict of languages seeking to “explain” a putatively common existence. because Bourdieu’s “second reading” is always conditioned by the past. of a first language in use with a second first language. For this reason Bourdieu cannot take the next step in thinking about temporalizing agency. It is thus fair to say that Bourdieu is ultimately interested more in the incommensurability of temporal horizons that expose the contradictions within habitus than Humphreys and MacIntyre were. they revealed a deeper interest in recognition. licenses the transition from a first language in use to a second first language.”This hope for the commensurability of contextual frames in aesthetic practice may even harmonize with Bourdieu’s notion of the “a-venir” (Rules of Art. As I postulated then. cannot be accommodated by the concept of habitus. exterior and anterior to practice” (328). without the latter.The difference would be that what is to come. even as the second supercedes the first. makes contradiction correlative with adaptation/development. But there is considerable dissonance in their respective applications. understood in MacIntyre’s terms.

it will show how Haacke’s quite laudable critical agenda as an artist is deeply invested in context and contextual framing as a ground of critical reasoning. III If my objections to Bourdieu are to serve the larger argumentative purpose of this chapter we must now see how they dovetail with my assertion that only an understanding of what is lost in the evasion of tragedy can show us what stands to be gained through art. First.This text might be fairly characterized as a “dialogue” on the inherent “tragedy” of a culture where the ability of artists to orchestrate value debates that might issue in significant cultural production—as opposed to merely reproducing institutional values—is hampered by the ideological co-option of value. I have pegged the stakes of tragic knowledge to an invidious comparison between the agential resources of the “adaptive” aesthetic subject. bent as they are upon thwarting tragic knowledge. the limits imposed upon human actions in the exigencies of tragic experience. It is the chief warrant for maintaining the premise of their mutual intelligibility. and the “critical” subjectivity purveyed out of anti-aesthetic practices. such methodological means might otherwise actualize.Living in Aesthetic Community 237 simply a proof of the irrationality of what we already comprehend as habitus. but not capitulating to. It now remains to be seen if such a comparison of art practices does indeed strengthen the claim that the adequacy of the aesthetic inheres in its usefulness for comprehending. arising from the plot exigencies of tragedy. I have been asserting. This. I will show that this is chiefly because Haacke’s artistic practice makes boundary erasure (promoting categorical confusions). It makes practicable our desire to keep faith with the rationality of our relation to contingent experience. deliberative modalities of subjectivity that. in a work titled Free Exchange. It thus lacks rapport with the choice-making. For this task there is no better segue than Pierre Bourdieu’s own recent collaboration with the German-born (resident of the United States) visual artist Hans Haacke. A view of Free Exchange will therefore serve several purposes of the argument I have been advancing here. after all. But just as clearly it will show how Haacke’s grasp of contextual rationality ultimately lacks a métier for engaging the full complexities of comparative context. rather than . Instead it is a métier of comprehension. is the gist of tragedy as an aesthetic modality.

This contextualizing of Haacke’s practice. my referencing of Free Exchange will illustrate how the adaptivity conditioned by comparative context—as opposed to critical negation—is a more efficient exploitation of the contextual knowledge that governs when our ability to act purposively is our highest priority. But I commit to it as a métier for deepening reflection upon the question of how it is a resource for the kinds of agency that partisans of the aesthetic and the anti-aesthetic both agree ought to meet a test of adequacy: adequacy with respect to the sociopolitical pressures that human subjects contend with in the prospect of sharing a common world. against the hegemonic odds of an art culture that sustains its authority by the disembodiment of contextual judgments. and Joyce. In Free Exchange.238 Aesthetic Reason boundary negotiation (promoting categorical revisions). and Bourdieu’s theory.“extracts the work from all contexts. I am not proposing to epitomize types or schools of aesthetic practice. Free Exchange. or even aesthetic art and anti-aesthetic art.That would be to indulge what Bourdieu would rightly condemn as the ideological bad faith of making distinctions between good and bad art. or locus of.The “museum effect. Bourdieu is quick to note the relevance of context to the critical intelligence upon which his own judgment of Haacke’s anti-aesthetic value depends. I want to make it clear once again that in using Haacke. demanding the ‘pure’ gaze” (Bourdieu and Haacke. Melville. 92). and Kruger to set up a comparison between aesthetic and anti-aesthetic practices. I will then be in a position to more fully state a contrast with the boundarynegotiating resources cultivated in the aesthetic practices of Caravaggio. the crucial stake of engaging contexts of action in which we are compelled to own up to our subjectivity. I am unquestionably committed to the aesthetic. will help me to round off my discussion of boundary erasure as a lever of critique and as a touchstone for. In this way. Even more important. Indeed. postmodern sublimity. Haacke typifies the post-Enlightenment ethical imperatives of the anti-aesthetic. Haacke’s accomplishment. is to have made the context of the . without abandoning the field of postmodern art’s honest and urgent contestation with ideology. Bourdieu’s praise for the specificity of context in Haacke’s work dovetails with his attack on positive aesthetic valuation.” which Bourdieu avers is virtually auratic in high-culture canons of aesthetic value. Beckett. Subsequently I will also take up the work of Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger. I will conclude with a view of the work of the contemporary German painter Gerhard Richter as a way of generalizing the practical virtues of a cognitive aesthetic. Sherman.

the symbolic qualities of the context are often my most essential materials. and Berlin are different from the museum public. I often work deliberately for a specific context. as do the architectural peculiarities of the space. In a curious way. Haacke concedes the necessity to navigate between the formalist prejudice that says the objects constituting the history of art are produced in a social vacuum. This de facto closing of the circuit between production and reception (recognition) smacks ironically of the autonomizing ideals that eventuated the very political isolation of the artwork for which Bourdieu sees Haacke as the remedy.The social and political character of the exhibition locale plays a role. A work made for a specific site cannot be moved and exhibited elsewhere” (90–91). .The people who came upon my installations in the public places of Graz.Another way of seeing the weakness of Haacke’s position here is to observe that he frames his negative motives too simplistically within the mutually exclusive choices of something like a Greenbergian formalism (which he alludes to as his own straw man) and the “real world” constituted as a determinative context of value. I want to suggest. and the kind of journalistic fidelity to sociopolitical determinants that would make the artist complicit with what he seeks to criticize. In considering the dilemma of the contemporary artist who seeks to bridge the art world with the world of the ordinary citizen. this compositional logic devolves to something like the circumstance in which the success of the artwork is correlative with its producing its own reception. however. In fact. the negative imperative that I earlier identified as Haacke’s modus operandi could be seen to follow from this sense that context is so strictly deterministic for subject positions. Munich. if one has a more complex appreciation of form as formative agency. . is that one need not accept what he calls the “separatism” (89) of choosing between the forms of aesthetic detachment or the forms of social ideology.What Haacke misses. We can best understand Haacke’s vulnerability to this irony by following his rearticulation of Bourdieu’s insight about how the artist’s sense of context determines the reception of his installations: “The context in which the public encounters my works also plays an important role. . Indeed.Living in Aesthetic Community 239 artwork’s reception indistinguishable from the artwork’s production. A relevant example of how Haacke’s sense of context risks inhibiting his sense of agency is found in his 1990 work Freedom Is Now Simply Going to Be Sponsored—Out of Petty Cash. a work intended . What is most notable here is Haacke’s conceptual investment in physical site as a relatively fixed and finite context of recognition.

” 1990. New York / VG Bild-Kunst.240 Aesthetic Reason Image not available Fig. © 2003 Artists Rights Society (ARS).“Freedom Is Now Simply Going to Be SponsoredOut of Petty Cash. 2 Hans Haacke. Bonn .

for Haacke. but as an appropriable object of material socioeconomic-political powers. 97). It entailed replacing the searchlights with a rotating Mercedes Benz star—the company logo—thus mirroring the Mercedes star mounted on the roof of the nearby Europa Center in the most fashionable shopping district of West Berlin. Free Exchange.” Popularly it was known as “the death strip. As an advertising icon. is reversed by Haacke’s installation. the line of sight of the watchtower. Haacke adorns the opposite sides of his watchtower with these quotations in bronze lettering. In other words. how boundary crossing in his visual rhetoric tends toward boundary erasure. not as a formal artifact. Flanked by two unscalable walls and electrified fencing.Living in Aesthetic Community 241 for the Finiteness of Freedom group exhibition in Berlin. so to speak. Haacke’s installation was a strident reversal of the “discoveries” illuminated from those towers. Shakespeare’s “The readiness is all” (which Haacke translates into German as Bereit sein ist Alles) and Goethe’s “Art will always remain art” (Kunst bleibt Kunst ) became captions for cars. Haacke himself refers to the effect as a “scrambling” of our “categories of classification” (Bourdieu and Haacke. Daimler-Benz appropriated the classics of Western literature. Haacke intimates.The area was surveilled by watch towers mounted with powerful searchlights. the Daimler-Benz star is a contextual marker. thus underscoring the durability of art. equating cultural capital with the consumer currency of Daimler-Benz’s product. in its own right. So. depends on our knowing that Daimler’s most recognized advertising campaign in recent years traded in self-conscious display/deployment of a comparable set of contextual markers. a luxurious residence for official guests of the German Democratic Republic. Daimler’s appropriations denote the appropriateness of one’s recognition that the product suits the buyer. Similarly. the trajectory of surveillance. In an ad campaign waged in the New York Times.” the scene of numerous fatal escape attempts during the cold war. Freedom Is Now Simply Going to Be Sponsored—Out of Petty Cash works to make the context of totalitarian confinement indistinguishable from the context of capital expansion and to confer this knowledge in a way that eludes either the . But the ironic richness of the image. Haacke refitted the windows of the tower with glass to mimic those of the Palasthotel in East Berlin. it was officially labeled the “border of peace. The work occupied the strip of land that formerly marked the border between East and West Berlin. a recognitional boundary. Emphasizing his own wish to step outside what he calls “the art context” (97) in this work. Wishing to put this comprehension on display for his own audience. in effect. by this account.

Free Exchange. whether the instrumentalizing ideology is political or commercial. precisely insofar as it invites us to see the practices of the artist as indistinguishable from the practices of the merchandiser. This . namely. In a trumping irony. the museum. that such tactics. I want to suggest. Both Haacke and Bourdieu invite the presumption that such an unboundedness makes possible a “free exchange” between subjects. come perilously close to cultivating something like the “pure gaze” that Bourdieu himself indicted as the premier aesthetic inhibition of cognitive agency. would produce precisely the aesthetic sphere instantiated by Haacke’s art practices. In a compounding irony. Haacke’s work would then risk an unwitting reprise of formalism: the form of Haacke’s artwork threatens to eclipse its vaunted political content once we realize that what makes Daimler’s formal iconography appropriable in the first place is the medium of appropriation itself. In the absence of a more positioned subjectivity to ground it. deployed to the arguable advantage of a consuming subject who is thereby pleasurably disembodied in the alembic of capital exchange. Because Haacke appears to be wedded to the binary logic of art-world versus real-world contextualism (formalism versus ideological determinism). I admit that from Haacke’s perspective. Haacke’s motives are thrown into clearest relief by his own referencing of these strategies to the legendary boundary-erasing gesture of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain. which Daimler can deploy no less deftly than can the artist. which he observes also worked insofar as it “aimed at a specific context” (Bourdieu and Haacke.242 Aesthetic Reason representation of or the instantiation of a positional subjectivity. it is easy to appreciate his willingness to think that boundary erasure might foster a subjectivity that can plausibly resist the seductions of contextual reification. We will not fail to observe that the museum. It is the most formidable obstacle to the kind of critical initiative that would otherwise be charged to break the gaze. appropriation exhibits an unboundedness that Daimler has already. if they are accurately represented by Haacke’s Berlin installation. however. we cannot fail to notice that.This liability of Haacke’s theorizing is nowhere more apparent than in our realization that—from a not-so-oblique perspective—Daimler Benz’s advertising has already achieved what Haacke strives for. too successfully. rendered unbounded. 96). the métier of appropriation takes center stage as a decentering imperative of understanding. wherein the freedom that obtains is not beholding to any specific subjectivity. in the instance of Haacke’s installation. I am putting undue emphasis on the place of the subject vis-à-vis the form of the artwork.

He must fear that these ensue from locating the cognitive function of the artwork in the matrices of its formal density— that is. that Haacke’s emphasis on the site specificity of the work is orchestrated to defetishize the epistemic situation of the viewing subject. presuppose qualities of subjective response and attunement to the world that only the specificity of formal densities can occasion. Altieri strikes me as the theorist who has most astutely observed the gap between postmodern art and the agencies it would mobilize to political effect. In other words. Altieri attributes this gap in large part to the lack of rapport exhibited by oppositional theories/ rhetorics with respect to the complexities that the presentational . Inasmuch as that engagement demands a condition of relative unboundedness. its presentational dimension as contrasted with its site specificity.This strikes me as an unwittingly self-preemptive gesture on Haacke’s part. it must accordingly be posited as a realm that remains external to any specific site of subjective reflection. precisely on account of their efficient purge of perceived formalist biases. The boundary-erasing gestures of what I think it is not too paradoxical to call Haacke’s “anti-aesthetic/aesthetic practice” are certainly meant to minimize the formal armature of the putative aesthetic object as a threshold of cognitive engagements. Quite simply. it is nevertheless because I want to think about how to keep faith with the indispensability of the subject to the political purposes that Haacke himself is staked in. therefore. It makes the presentational field increasingly marginal to or abstract from the situation of the audience’s engagement. however. I need to point out that Haacke’s practices disable the subject in the very capacities the artist himself most wants to exercise. It could be said. is that Haacke’s work attacks aesthetic value in Bourdieuian terms. For he is staked in these no less tenaciously than he is staked in his skepticism toward aesthetic form. the resources of critical mind that both Haacke and Bourdieu are allied to mobilize. I want to take a more general critical perspective with respect to the postmodern oppositional discourses that Haacke and Bourdieu champion. For this purpose I want to enlist the work of Charles Altieri. In pursuing this point. in installation art and sociological practice respectively.Another way of saying this.Living in Aesthetic Community 243 goes against Haacke’s clear wish to elude the risk of producing reified subjective positions. of course. For this reason the artist’s demurring of the presentational field as a site for such subjective engagements seems a particularly perverse scruple. If I seem to discount Haacke’s commitment to boundary erasure as a way of preempting the viewing subject’s—ideologically predisposed—dependence on the “aesthetic” densities of presentational form.

” and “The Four Discourses of Postmodernism. 225). and so ultimately unbridgeable. in a striking footnote to the same essay. binary of the aesthetic and the political (230). if such enactments are to be believed as viable instantiations of personal agency.” Altieri notes that in contemporary debates the framing opposition between “aesthetic concerns and the political work of intervening in the field of representations” ( Postmodernisms Now. Altieri has demurred a direct response to the question of what would constitute an adequate political art (Postmodernisms Now.”“On the Sublime of Self-Disgust.Altieri begins to imagine for us an aesthetic that might be fully adequate to the critical imperatives of postmodernity—where the legitimacy of the artwork is increasingly judged according to its efficacy in resisting forms of cultural oppression. I will pay closest attention to three essays in Altieri’s collection Postmodernisms Now: “The Powers and Limits of Oppositional Postmodernism. Nevertheless. and public-private.This no doubt entails knowing that knowledge of the oppressed can only be accessed through a representational repertoire that is otherwise blamed for their oppression. In his disputation with politicizers of the aesthetic and the oppositional modes of postmodern art.” Not the least of Altieri’s accomplishments here is raising a cogent suspicion that oppositional aesthetics—Hal Foster and Victor Burgin are the representative cases here— paradoxically cannot handle the intricacies of strong works of art. I think his recent work provides a rich framework for beginning the task on our own. Altieri surmises that instead of thinking that art’s primary role is a critique of representations that instantiate oppression. Out of his intimations of what would suffice as a good account of political art I believe we can begin to speculate about the conditions for a cognitive aesthetic agency that makes concentrating on the inner workings of the artwork relevant for our most constructive interests in imagining ennobling civic works. Earlier.244 Aesthetic Reason dimension of the artwork can muster as an occasion for human responsiveness. such as we have seen Marcuse fall afoul of. become pretexts for the ultimate. By eliding the complexities of the presentational dimension of the artwork. 230) tends to organize our thinking along oversimplifying binary lines. The binaries of self-other. thinkers such as Haacke and Bourdieu risk losing the very stage upon which the enactment of political conversions must be performed. It seems to me that the resonance between these moments in Altieri’s essay estab- . In “The Powers and Limits of Oppositional Postmodernism. perhaps we should think of it as a métier for the “development of certain kinds of knowledge about the oppressed” (224).

The reigning postmodern sublime is. In this perspective. unencumbered as they are with the presentational burdens of formal composition/aesthetic production. Self-disgust is Altieri’s homeopathy for the disease of narcissistic self-effacement that is promoted by so much postmodern aesthetic cant that embraces the sublime. aesthetic theory makes a curious concession to the Platonist disenfranchisement of art: that the only reality that counts lies outside the domain of art. As Altieri is quick to point out. I want to get deeper into these issues through Altieri’s revisionary engagement of the Romantic sublime. The “sublime of self-disgust” is Altieri’s countermeasure against postmodern culture critics who deploy the sublime as a site of oppositional otherness: one that self deceivingly or self preemptively advocates transcendence of the realm of appearance. 270). the work of art becomes aestheticized in the worst sense. He then reminds us that Kantian art. of course. is precisely what sociological critics such as Pierre Bourdieu are only too happy to encourage. postulated here as a sublime of self-disgust. of course. Altieri sketches the representative Lyotardian and Nancyian appropriations of sublimity as a refusal of the presentational field. has impact for us precisely because it “brings the negatives of the sublime back into complex ‘aesthetic ideas’” (Postmodernisms Now. such thinking inadvertently justifies sacrificing the aesthetic to the methods of scientific inquiry. Such principles would sustain experiential continuity between the aesthetic and the political. because both are rendered dependent on presentational particularity. an allegorical pretext for soliciting expertise from competing disciplines of knowledge. It becomes purely gestural.This. by contrast. If the purpose of art is conceived simply as critique of representations and the presentational modalities that sustain them. Altieri rightly insists that aesthetics has a claim on us expressly in this presentational realm—without which we cannot hope to bring ourselves into accord with our best motives for wanting to appear to one another in the light of just actions. as an antidote to that popular scapegoat of postmodern politics: the Enlightenment ego.Living in Aesthetic Community 245 lishes a basis for appreciating his stake in aesthetic principles that bear on how the intricacy of the artwork relates to the purposiveness of subjective development. understood in its antipresentational modality. this is precisely what the oppositional artists and their postmodern critical patrons risk being blinded to by their extreme suspicions of the subject. Among other liabilities. Although Altieri might quarrel with my emphasis on the cognitive. I believe that he sees what I would be looking for in my own advancement of a cognitive aesthetic. Altieri’s con- .

In this noble raiment we indulge the hypocritical gesture of renouncing the limitedness of what we can claim for ourselves as rationally overmastering egos in favor of the unlimitedness of the place of the other. by contrast. and its grossly departicularized identification with otherness. after all. Altieri’s sublime of self-disgust. Otherwise the alienation of the self precipitated by our Enlightenment reasons for being is likely to become—in the hands of postmodern political critics of Enlightenment—a motive for negating altogether those particularities upon which aesthetic form subsists as an experiential register. Grandiose humility purports to reconfigure our relations with others by scrupulous askesis of the grandiosity of our self-interest (264). by its very generality. Altieri strongly suggests that this “taking possession” has to be coupled with the complexities of aesthetic formal presentation. in the most self-congratulatory way. by oppositional postmodernists. we enjoy. to which we would too willingly “sacrifice” ourselves. is its undue dependency on negative knowing. What is wrong with this version of the postmodern sublime. is for us to attune ourselves to works of art that “can produce awareness of the conditions of desire that make design significant and that allow inventions to become modes of taking possession of what otherwise could only remain alien or unknown” (253–54). In the process however. Altieri’s stated ambition. He objects to the way such rhetorics . Altieri reserves his most severe critique for what amount to contemporary caricatures of the sublime as a grandiose humility toward otherness. Altieri in effect privileges the self’s otherness to itself above those rhetorics of otherness that are pitched as virtually infinite openness to experience.246 Aesthetic Reason strual of Kant as using “aesthetical ideas. a recouping of our self-interest in the name of a more selfless expansion of the powers of mind (260). promises a release from the pressures of ideologically determined existence.” in a sense to make the sublime presentational. By such means. as Altieri assesses it. it unwittingly trivializes the stakes of our recognition of ideological existence by attenuating the determinateness of that existence. Not surprisingly. as an identification with Otherness. allows for the possibility that the real powers of the sublime only get tapped when it holds us specifically accountable—and in some rationalistic terms—to the very affects and commitments by which the postmodern renunciation of the self was originally made possible and thus convertible into a selfless sublime (259). is crucial to his finding a site for aesthetic activity: one that is conducive to freeing subjects from the self-preemptive social roles that indenture them to Enlightenment standards of self-recognition.This identification. Altieri reminds us how this negation is purveyed.

261). and Robert Coover who see to it.Living in Aesthetic Community 247 construe humility as an abdication of those states of mind to which we could otherwise be held practically or phronetically (264) responsible. In this way sublime negativity is brought to bear on empirical attitudes that we formerly identified with—at the cost of significant critical self-awareness—in order to produce a critical selfawareness that need not resort to self-annihilation. 260). as Altieri says. rather than indulging the hubristic negativity. in a way that does not abandon the work or the workings of understanding. that “the sublime retains substantial negative force. there is no abdication of our responsibility for bearing identifications that we might nonetheless also see good reason to reject.What is even more important. is Altieri’s capacity for appreciating. that such negativity. Sublimity comes to define capacities of mind that we can inhabit rather than capacities of mind that exile us from the self-representations through which we otherwise come to know our actions as inadequate. from my point of view. never inviting translation into any mode of self-assertion recoverable within a practical account of psychological powers” (261).“to reformulate our specific uses of the old tools (and that in turn supplements [our] concern to undo those grandiose versions of humility that blind us to those resources that we might in fact be able to manipulate and reorient)” (265). epitomized for Altieri by Borges. Instead it drives us. Our reformulation of the uses of “old tools” intimates a practice of cultivating the adaptivity. But we do not need to follow the postmodern sublimicists who say that the limitation counts as a reason to negate the self altogether. of post-Enlightenment subjectivity. Altieri points out that the advantage to be gained by rejecting such conclusions is that the sublime is then mediated by self-reflection. Postmodernisms Now.The sublime of selfdisgust resigns us to a laborious recognition of the limits of empirical understanding. however. Altieri points out. For these authors. and Coover. The recovery of an adaptive agency stands out here as a prospect for showing how works of art. Beckett and Coover. Jorge Luis Borges. in the formality of their compositions. we need to see more clearly how “all our predications about empirical experiences seem limited or problematic” (Postmodernisms Now. in these roles. Borges. can play what he calls “significant corrective and projective social roles” (Altieri. precipitates more positive determinations in the hands of Beckett. contaminated as they might be by . Altieri identifies this sublime with authors such as Beckett. a political aptitude of the aesthetic that is not bound to abdicate its own expressive means. which in the hands of too many postmodern sublimicists exhausts itself in irony. In Altieri’s view.

For these reasons. in which it is instantiated. Looking at the work of such a high-profile anti-aesthetic artist as Haacke.248 Aesthetic Reason subjective commitments to Enlightenment values. Altieri wants us to imagine “an art that can take responsibility for its own purposiveness. this is a glimpse of what Kant nobly pursued in the interests of a depersonalized reason. Altieri’s “sublime of self-disgust” proposes an acceptance of the “figures we recuperate through the negative moments the sublime fosters” (259–60) that nonetheless enjoins us from any narcissistic identification with those figures. and for which the aesthetic served as a kind of subreptitious register of experience. as the prime justification of artistic expression. I will argue that a protocol of adaptability is preferable to the baldly negative and transgressive ideals of artists who espouse the critique of that ego and the purification of the presentational field. I would prefer to defend it by considering Altieri’s accounts of postmodern oppositional artistic practices in the visual arts—particularly in the work of Hans Haacke. Beckett. Interestingly. I will not rehearse Altieri’s persuasive readings of Borges. Specifically. its own capacity to shape a significant particularity” (239). Beckett. For Altieri. and Coover with “the cold capacity to accept in bleak playfulness what is most disturbing in the blindness to which our egos cannot but succumb” (259). as my previous discussion of Haacke made clear. In other words. Altieri equates the knowledge availed in the aesthetic practices of Borges. I think Altieri finds his best staging ground for the . Instead. In effect. Altieri gives us a view of how what I am calling a protocol of adaptability might better serve the acceptance of what is disturbing in our egotistic blindness. and Coover in order to defend this claim. and Coover) in order to adapt more idealistically the expressive resources that are funded by their identifications with the world around them. Here the linkage between an art that can “take responsibility” and the “shaping of particularity” intimates a rearticulation of subjective agency as métier. I would put the emphasis on how this capacity for acceptance is proportionate to the ways in which it instantiates adaptability as an accommodation of the self-critical imperatives that can be mined from egoistic blindnesses. in the arena of visual art the presentational stakes of aesthetic value are particularly vexed. this aptitude proffers an experience that readers can reckon with (by engaging forms like those deployed by Beckett. Correspondingly. Borges. For. which must ultimately be self-defeating.Altieri faults these artists for not fully appreciating how this critique ought to entail “a transformation of typical aspects of agency” (239)—rather than indulge a drift toward pure negation.

Hal Foster. equates the indulgence of the presentational field. 239). in challenging the postmodernist’s bid to politicize art by means of an unduly self-serving negation of the self. And yet Altieri seems to want to recuperate this complicity to art’s capacity for shaping “significant particularity. And yet we will not forget that it is precisely this presentational aspect of the work that has come under attack by postmodernists whose stake in negation dictates preferences for an art that eschews the presentational field. with betrayals of free subjectivity.There are of course good reasons for critics such as Foster to be suspicious that the presentational assertions of the old-fashioned political artworks. which Altieri credits Kant with making essential to the aesthetic (267). not their mere transcendence.The kind of social power that this thinking would confer on works of art implies an adaptive agency. Foster infers that the presentational field invites the preemption of a more authentic subjectivity. in the sense that any modification of investments must entail a negotiation of boundaries and limits. artworks that depend too much on formal complexity. How do we imagine an aesthetic more adequate to the critical imperatives of postmodernity? when he confronts theorists and artists who make the test of artistic value its debunking of art’s complicity with the ideology of the Enlightenment subject. indulged something like a fetishistic nostalgia for .This complicity—commonly identified by oppositional postmodernism with the seductions of sensuous/formal presentation—is a crux of anti-aestheticism. That authenticity is otherwise repressed in the ideologically interpellated identities so deceptively purveyed to us on the presentational register by the “media” of official culture.Altieri’s deeply appreciative but ultimately “critical” readings of the work of Kruger and Haacke are exemplary for the insight they yield about how negotiable boundaries—rather than transcendable boundaries—are important for understanding that the qualities featured in the presentational field of the artwork are crucial to the task of modifying investments.” Admittedly. But I believe that he signals its relevance in the tenor of his forceful declaration that art has a politics “to the degree that it carries certain qualities or makes comprehensible and authoritative certain attributes that propose modifying the investments that its audience makes in its own social relationships” (Postmodernisms Now.Living in Aesthetic Community 249 question. establishes the relevant boundaries within which the work of art exhibits its possibilities for modifying the investments of its audience. Altieri does not use the term adaptability. for example. The register of presentational appearance. which strove to represent a specific political ideal in sensuous terms.

Altieri suggests. 233).250 Aesthetic Reason the image (Altieri. may be our only realistic basis for faith in art as a vehicle of political change. how artists such as Barbara Kruger and Han Haacke are imbued with Foster’s suspicion by their common practice of making presentational assertions into an unduly “gestural” site for negation rather than identification. however. then. Only in these terms are investments a plausible feature of the kind of agency whose transformability. which frankly manipulative artistic styles otherwise hide or disguise. In this case. it is recognition of a political identity unmoored from the choice-inducing densities by which formal embodiment otherwise holds us to a discipline of practical knowledge. Foster worries with good reason that any attempt within the presentational field to represent our investment in political ideals hearkens toward a universalistic mentality that cannot resist ideological interpellation. the ground of particularity is the place where one’s investments are modifiable.Altieri. Altieri invites us to see.The cultural self-recognition of the viewer is thus rendered too abstractly as a given rather than as a consequence of engagement with the work. the practices of these artists derealize the ground of particularity upon which “individual purposive differences” (240) count as the crucial register of experience.“[A]rt as resistance is necessarily bound to an art world that can recognize it as political gesture. Such recognition comes at the high cost of any credible field of practical. In effect. he is ultimately suspicious that both Kruger’s and Haacke’s audiences do not really need the art to have the politics they purvey (252). Haacke displays the Alcoa aluminum company’s complicity with apartheid through . While Altieri is appreciative of Kruger’s use of the tensions between the verbal and the visual to “depsychologize the I.” and Haacke’s deftness at using the artwork to reveal social affiliations. so that the art will be haunted by the possibility that it is nothing more than gesture” (234).After all. wants us to see that radical skepticism toward the presentational register—so often implied in the stance of resistance to ideological representations—risks the just-as-damaging paradoxical effect of making the artwork depend on the abstract expectations of an art world in which the artist’s intentions purchase recognition. action. It is with this understanding that Altieri proceeds to show us how Haacke’s attempt to expose the political horrors of South African apartheid fails to engage the level of subjective experience animating our sense of the political precisely insofar as it is cut off from the wellspring of subjective choice-making. because they are compellingly one’s own. not to say political. Postmodernisms Now. In Voici Alcan (1983). As Altieri concludes.

.They mitigate the particularity of the identity that is meant to be resisted in the presentational field of the artwork.’ [Haacke] tells them. however erroneously.Altieri shrewdly leads us to think about how art practices that eschew identification with representable ideals paradoxically result in an idealization of the gesture of resistance itself. 226).Altieri cogently observes that it is far more likely that “art can affect policy in South Africa only by modifying sensibilities .Altieri would like us to consider that when the presentational field is engaged by artists and critics—for example.Living in Aesthetic Community 251 the ironic imposition of an aluminum window frame. Kruger thin out or oversimplify by displacing the viewer’s faculty for the discrimination of qualities to a purely ideational field. Such artists as Bartlett. as instantiated in representable ideals.‘so I will show you how advertisement can fully realize the role of windows’” (Altieri. in . which the art work addresses through its overtly rhetorical aperture. namely the reality of Alcoa’s South African subsidiary supporting apartheid” (226). by making fully compelling the qualities of subjective life that are denied under apartheid” (252). as we shall see in the following section. Postmodernisms Now. blending “the frame provided by advertising technique with the literal image of an Alcoa aluminum window in order to concentrate on leading us finally to see what lies on the other side of that window. Altieri persuades us that by denying access to modalities of subjective particularity—which Foster might likewise dismiss as irremediably interpellated identity—Haacke and Kruger’s art practices inhibit real subjective needs that can only know themselves. Along these lines. Altieri understands the revenge motif that is implicit in this visual rhetoric: “‘You advertise windows.The problem Altieri wants us to see here is that the principles of political resistance that are meant to be at work in this composition are already too transparently clear on the moral level. he believes.Alternatively.The operative assumption here seems to be that subjects can only change their identity on the basis of their embodiment in representable ideals. the artist Jennifer Bartlett—who countenance that particularity as a métier for the “transformation of typical features of agency” (239). .They depend upon the representability of the ideals in order to reject them.The fact is the political institutions of apartheid themselves have succeeded as well as they have precisely by making morality abstract from subjective particularity. Such subjective qualities would give density to the presentational field which Haacke and. let us see the necessity of entertaining an identification with representable/representational ideals. it can become a more productive arena for political resistance. and without which there is no real ground for resistance.

for Altieri. Resistance on this level is bound to entail a transformation of “typical features of agency. Unfortunately.” because on this level we inhabit boundaries of identification as a necessary condition of knowing what our identificatory gestures cannot avail. It is on the level of the dullness of life and sensibility that we are unarguably rooted in the representational. Altieri sees Haacke’s art as too cynical precisely because it gives its audience no other “theater of self-consciousness” than one in which subjective moral differentiations remain on an impossible level of generality. For him it is a version of recognizing our dependency on the orders that we critique.Above all else it is this occasion that artists such as Haacke admirably strive to promote. In response to the idealizing oversimplification of the presentational field that is—however unwittingly—perpetrated by Haacke.” In this domain.252 Aesthetic Reason order to render resistance less ideal.This generality preempts the cultivation of purposive differences (240) by which subjects know how to assess the commitments that bind them to the occasion for moral choice-making. Haacke’s practice invites an only too complacent and selfrighteous identification with the stance of moral rectitude. art plays a role in what I characterized earlier as the adaptivity of the subject. In doing so they make the artwork more real to us as a site for contestatory subjectivity. In the process he loses rapport with the constitutive ground of “nuanced and flexible psyches” from which such identifications arise and that. It is that the “crucial act of resistance [responds] to the dullness of life and sensibility basic to most forms of tyranny—from the Left or from the Right and from the inside as well as the outside” (239). remain the more compelling “domain. So it comes as no surprise that.This seems to be proposed as an alternative to the public domain in which those psyches know their suffering too definitively as mere alienation—an unduly self-congratulatory alienation at that. Altieri reminds us of a fundamental fact of artistic purposiveness with respect to the task of political resistance. This is a context within which subjectivity is held to a standard of particularity that suits Altieri’s (240) conviction about the need for humbling political art to the realization that its proper domain must be the place where it can forge “nuanced and flexible psyches” (253). in the final analysis. It is this recognition that buttresses what I take to be Altieri’s most compelling aesthetic prescription: “Art has to develop ways of showing how agency and responsibility are realized most fully in processes of responsiveness and . Altieri refers to it as the project of “adapting ourselves to the sources of those comforts unromantically but profoundly shaping what we can live in as intimate space” (253).

It thus posits a plausible access to an augmented deliberative capacity. He points out that insofar as this “embodiment” entails the subject’s intuiting itself as a unity in the course of temporal change. the anti-aesthetic aesthetic partisans whom Altieri critiques do not present themselves (as Haacke certainly does not) in the rhetoric of negation and radical skepticism. if only implicitly.Altieri convincingly warns us that we might otherwise only ever know them in the depersonalized righteousness of our political alienation. . In that capacity we are helpless to change anything that would convincingly count as art or politics. But I have also insisted that there are other versions of embodiment. But I want to show that this negative stance is ineluctable. as a logical pretext for comparative context. can serve the purposes of aesthetic and anti-aesthetic theorists alike. given the oppositional postmodernists’ predilection for a mode of irony that precludes comparative context. Crowther usefully develops this implication. I have acknowledged that oppositionalists/anti-aesthetic partisans do not want to accommodate comparative context because they are so suspicious of the “ready-made” embodiments of human subjectivity by which such comparisons would be authorized.” which I have said that subject trades in.Those ideologically interpellated social roles court the political oppressions of reason. I have said that comparative context is mandated whenever we grant embodiment of the subject as a relevant condition for knowing it.Living in Aesthetic Community 253 attunement.To be fair. IV I now want to use Altieri’s account of the self-inhibiting practices of postmodern oppositionalism as a pretext for imagining how the adaptive subject and the deliberative métier of “pleasurable tragic pain.11 What makes this path of inquiry even more decisive for my argument is the fact that MerleauPonty deploys the notion of embodiment. It makes the threshold of significance those human powers that are never easily subsumed to the universalizing trajectory of power. in Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology. and a resource for attunement between human mind and world. The embodiment of the subject that is operative for Altieri in the presentational mode of the artwork is usefully compared at this point to Paul Crowther’s complementary efforts to locate a ground of human responsiveness. I cannot think of a better premise from which to argue for the political efficacy of the artwork. not in subordinating the self to categorical imperatives or according to duty” (289).

Crowther accordingly avers that sustaining aesthetic experience under the condition of embodiment demands something like a protocol of development. a condition of the intelligibility of these embodiments. It is epiphenomenal of Merleau-Ponty’s more generalized sense of the reciprocity of mind and world. but also to new sets of relations in terms of which works are situated” (208). in particular embodiments of subjective existence. to “our capacity for productive imagination” (24).Therefore. which Crowther understands on the order of figure-ground relations. Crowther presupposes that the continuity of embodied subjectivity across contextual boundaries carries with it the . comparative context becomes an indispensable tool of self-understanding. he says. and serves as a site for instantiating them. that the body can only hold its physical place in existential space if it can “mobilize the resources of its past experience in a lucid way” (Critical Aesthetics. It entails “opening ourselves not only to new works. real or representational. for Crowther. possesses meaning “by virtue of its reciprocal relation with a broader field of items and relations. But Crowther moves Merleau-Ponty’s assumption into a more rationalist perspective.” an unduly reflexive.Accordingly. Rather it is a qualitative transformation of them” (201). This imperative is likewise the predicate for my own sense of investment in aesthetic knowledge where what is to be known entails the burden of activity. modality of boundary erasure and a counterpoint to the imperative for boundary negotiation that I think Crowther anticipates. when such a subject expresses itself—in language or by the creation of artifacts—what is expressed can bear the imprint of this stylization. He offers what he dubs a “principle of reciprocity” to undergird this idealistic prospect.“the possibility of creativity exists” (201).”This reciprocity. these negations prompt art practices that can amount to little more than “empty eclecticism. meaning. 200). and subjectivity. an item of experience.254 Aesthetic Reason self-transfigurative agency must be a means of self-realization or selfstylization.This proposition launches Crowther’s own critical initiative against poststructuralist skepticism when it is expressed as negation of presence. He explains that we know a thing according to our implicatedness in new contexts of experience—intuitable as they expressly are—in relation to what is iterated. means nothing less than accepting the proposition that as long as art is produced by such embodied subjects. Crowther makes the iterability of form. which is to say not reflective. This is not simply a quantitative ‘mix’ of existing idioms and techniques.The reason is. What presents itself as new is assimilated to its unity: “Hence. is equivalent. Crowther elaborates. This understanding. In Crowther’s mind.

and so promotes an anti-tragic ethos. we can perhaps now better see the justice of my argument to this point. In both cases the imperative to recognize the self-alienat- . In fact.” as persona.When comparative context is obviated.And since such embodiment compels comparative context.Whereas in normal perception we tend not to notice reciprocal relations.Where there is no reciprocity between competing contexts of knowledge. while passionately resistant to aesthetic formalism. such as comparative context affords. contrary to the example of Greek peripeteia.This traces the arc of a learning curve that I see as roughly conducive to Altieri’s call for “nuanced and flexible psyches. It invites an unexpected regression to formalist grounds of value. nonetheless makes recognition too much a given of its circumstance. “the perception of a problematic space makes them manifest. Concession to such irony is tantamount to taking an antideliberative stance.” Although Altieri and Crowther are different in important ways. and so precludes any augmenting of the context of recognition. it risks reverting to the very Greenbergian formalism that the anti-aesthetic ironists of the postmodern art world want to displace. Indeed. Altieri’s suspicion of irony as a self-sufficient critical mode concurs with Crowther’s scruple against the notion that subjectivity can be meaningfully instantiated as a proliferation of differences through irony. Crowther asserts. quite incompatible with the irreducible formal embodiment of the artwork itself. It typifies an art practice that. the bearer of ironic knowledge evades tragic reckoning with what his or her knowledgeable perspective differs from. Sherman makes “type.Living in Aesthetic Community 255 responsibility for reconciling one context with another.This work might therefore help to illustrate how a recognition unearned in the tragic vicissitudes of error is comparatively inarticulate in the circumstances of human learning.12 He rejects this proposition on the grounds that it promotes a depersonalized disembodiment of value. he equates the rationalistic burdens of embodied subjectivity with the warrant for comparative context that arises in cases of anomalous perception. the work of Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger offers further exemplification of the problem.To describe such a space is to find an appropriate reciprocal relation or set of such relations around which it is organized” (24). where choice and continuity must inhere as formative elements of subjectivity. As anticipated. recognition becomes too patly a given of the interpretive circumstance. Kruger makes “typography”—the material form of linguistic communication—the armature of her culture critique. the métier of her negation of the consumerist stances to which we are recruited by the culture.

as it does in Marcuse’s: How does the self come to terms of knowledge that sustain its self-questioning across the threshold of otherness? Or to put it in Crowther’s perspective. if it is to be sustained as an effectual practice rather than merely venerated as an emblem of metaphysical freedom. a familiar topos of sublimity. Self-knowledge. mistaking alienation as the only. access to self-realization. albeit delusional. but one that has not served art or aesthetic theory particularly well. by blurring the line between personal and public identity formation. and so on are uniformly preempted by the forms of communicative competence that solicit our pseudoactive participation in cultural life. visual and verbal fluency. after all. and Sherman. Kruger and Sherman evoke the mode of autonomy that Marcuse himself identified with self-mystifications that only art can remedy: mistaking necessity for choice. how does the self keep faith with the unitary principle of embodiment—the self’s de facto motive—while accommodating the artwork’s justifiable suspicion of the ways in which aesthetic formalism collaborates with the oppressive forms of subjectivity it is otherwise inspired to challenge? In other words. by blurring the line between art and advertising. meaning. which is arguably equivalent to the “autonomy” of the classic modernist artwork. they cannot afford to shirk their investment (albeit unselfconscious) in forms of rational accountability. is what is most explicitly and laudably pursued in the boldest gestures of Sherman’s and Kruger’s boundary-erasing visual rhetoric.We shall see how these practices unintentionally promote a nonpresentational.This is. Let me suggest that . virtual contextlessness. But the suspicions of the self that animate their questioning are so virulent that they risk concluding that self-annihilation would be the only acceptable answer. So here I am asserting that Sherman and Kruger follow a similarly troubled course.256 Aesthetic Reason ing elements of cultural identity is coordinate with the artist’s recognition that value. Kruger. and subjectobject relations (addresser-addressee of media context). In Marcuse’s analysis it became an unwitting impediment to self-knowledge. I want to assert that inasmuch as artists such as Sherman and Kruger are self-consciously invested in subject critique. Of course. we saw how Marcuse’s own critical erasure of the boundary between self and other vitiated the very productive agency upon which choice depends. both perform a boundary erasure that obliterates the imperative for comparative context. of course. In that case we are left to contend with the paradox of freedom as mutually exclusive of knowledge. By their gestures of radical boundary erasure. Nevertheless. The question remains in the work of Sherman and Kruger.

“You Are Not Yourself.” 1982. 3 Barbara Kruger. Courtesy Mary Boone Gallery .Living in Aesthetic Community 257 Image not available Fig.

opens upon no further avenue of insight. Kruger’s impetus to convey that the subject “is not” rings similarly hollow. We could say that what we see is too reductively what we get in this composition. for Crowther. with whom no self can ever be fully correlative. It shatters the gaze while focusing the composition.The prompt to self-divestiture in Kruger’s piece is perhaps most clear in the mirroring of fracture as a trait of language—represented here as an assemblage of cut-out words in Letraset. the “truth” of this wisdom. for example. But in this way it actually precludes the kind of reciprocity that. But I think it is deliberate in a way that is not entirely witting. As a result. First. such artists as Kruger and Sherman risk making rational accountability incoherent with the responsibilities we assume in seeking it. or that if we “get the point” about shattered subjectivity. and thus gains no depth from being contemplated. by the lack of comparison. our comprehension merely recognizes what seeing makes possible. the self that “is not” here exhibits a quasi-Parmenidesian countenance. by making the presentational register hinge on a recognition that is too ironically informed. Compositionally. But more important. which are collaged over the black-andwhite photo of a fractured mirror image. by virtue of its indeterminacy. After all. otherness is rendered meaningless.28–29) doubts that one cannot speak of what is not. embodiment stands always in a reciprocal relation with the variability . I would go further to suggest that where reciprocity is the issue the embodying form of the artwork de facto instantiates errors of perception as a deliberative burden. Kruger’s deployment of the perversely interpellating admonition “You are not yourself” in the work that bears the phrase as its title (1982). have their emphatic punctuation in what appears to be an intact bullet hole. and thereby eliding the subjective grounds of self-understanding with the critique of those grounds.258 Aesthetic Reason those forms of accountability are nothing less than the philosophical counterpart to the presentational power presupposed in or mobilized by the aesthetic. so to speak. Of course the hollowness appears to be deliberate. If Plato’s Athenian Stranger in the Sophist (2. the hollowness of subjectivity here is indexed to a recognition that the irony of the shattered mirror reflects only too holistically. The words. See. Kruger wants to empty the subject of all but the most echoic resonance of being.This wisdom is hollow in a double sense. Unfortunately.Yet she does so in a way that seems too literally empty. would obtain as a compositional stricture when subjective embodiment is the relevant compositional ground. Not to be one’s self in this circumstance is too much a given of seeing that one sees perforce through the eyes of another.

Its compositional field lacks the kind of density that was exhibited in the earlier discussions of Melville. where perceptual densities can be made the occasion of their rational intelligibility. would suffice to carry the deliberative burdens that aesthetic embodiment imposes.Absent that threshold.Living in Aesthetic Community 259 of its contexts of understanding. Beckett. Beckett. is what embodiment intrinsically portends. because it is all too infinitely generalizable. Joyce. in the compositional perspective of this work. we are already well outside the context of reflective experience afforded by the mirror—inasmuch as the mirror is shattered or debunked—our “reading” is deflected from any preoccupation with the division between one reflection and another. In a sense. Joyce. by virtue of its rhetorical transparency. And indeed. Kruger’s oversimplification of the presentational field produces the antithesis of that deliberative exigency that I am alleging to be a threshold of cognitive aesthetics. In other words. of course. I have been saying all along that the category of the aesthetic might constructively bear these burdens if the purely self-presentational purposiveness. which we otherwise equate with decadent aestheticism. Kruger’s inhibition of comparative contextualizing is most evident in the ways in which the verbal and the visual are rendered overly concordant registers of value in such works as You Are Not Yourself. In contrast to the practices of Melville. that we understand such density in those works to be a correlate of reading mind. it fails to make recognition depend on contexts of knowledge outside its own field of reference.This relationality. the compositional field improvised in Kruger’s piece does not incite contextualization so much as it purveys recognition of an already formed idea. Because. not exclusively a formal decorum. Kruger’s piece. and Caravaggio. Only a presentational field determined in recognition of the possibilities of error. Crowther claims. . in those works. It thus fails to entertain error as a significant variable of viewing. Such “tragic” perspective could only be attained if Kruger’s investment in the image entailed a relation to presentational powers not already realized within it. and hence no subjective imperative to choose. That is the “place” of embodiment per se. there is little scope for tragic slippage between one context and another. and Caravaggio. does not stage occasions for comparative contextualizing. because the nullification of subjectivity is the only term of intelligibility in this piece. with the proviso. Notwithstanding the urgency of that idea—warning us against the delusional perspective inherent in all merely self-serving formative agency—it here constitutes a context of understanding that is all too one-sided. the stakes of formal innovation entailed a subjectivity born of the deliberative rigors of reading.

. . These works orchestrate a curious spectacle wherein there is the disappearance of the boundary between the face of the represented subject (the artist in this case) and the recognitional value that its typological “look” is meant to solicit from the viewer. They likewise necessitate a protocol of boundary negotiation as a precondition of recognizing such boundedness to be the métier of the subjective agency it instantiates. Sherman’s compositions figure a mirror for self-recognition that necessitates a critical self-effacement. Such “incoherencies. self and society all but collapse. the presentational field—in accordance with Kruger—situates us with respect to a boundary erasure where. inside and outside. Like Kruger’s. Because Crowther insists that embodiment is not self-presentational so much as self-transformational.Whether we are talking about Sherman’s movie stills or her historical portraits. only one contextual counter of recognition obtains. We might speculate that what would make Kruger’s challenge to subjectivity more decisive would be a compositional form wherein the subject’s recognition of coherent perspective obtains as an adaptation of viewpoint to the incoherencies that otherwise locate its attentions. the counters of self-identification proffered in this work are bereft of any meaningful range of comparative reference. In other words.” of course. his investment in the presentational field on this account does seem to mandate that we engage presentation as I have proposed: as a relation between the presentational field and those presentational powers that are not already realized within it.260 Aesthetic Reason can be reconfigured for a different register of subjectivity. . . in effect. presuppose the irreducibility of contextual boundedness as the crucial register of subjectivity. the typological warrant for the viewer’s attention lacks sufficient accountability to what it does not already comprehend. Sherman seems to expose her own self but in fact exposes the type of the exposed self” (Recodings. Hal Foster tersely sums up the artist’s objective: “Oppositions of original and copy. We can see a bit more clearly what is missing compositionally by noting a salient point of resemblance between Kruger’s and Sherman’s works. Here a comparison may serve to tutor comparative context where it is most lacking in artistic practice. 67). so unconducive to learning. in that way. This is what makes recognition in Sherman’s work so problematic with respect to any prospect for deliberative subjectivity and.They thus obviate distinctions between viewer and viewed in the manner of a negative identification. Because we are meant to take the particulars of the image too typically as the token of interpellated identity.

as a more secure habitation of subjective reality. and tragic recognition are the human resources upon which I have asserted that aesthetic value subsists if it is to remain credible as a counter of knowledge that has social and political relevance. Sherman’s “portraits” miss the view of this knowledge in their ironic totalizing of the subjective viewpoint. comparative context. Indeed. I warrant that this is the cognitive function most relevant to aesthetic idealism. the default of comparative context.Living in Aesthetic Community 261 The phenomenon is best epitomized by Sherman’s “history” portraits that derive their register of historical particularity from mannerly imitation of historical painting. as plausible choice. by photomimesis. In works such as Untitled #206. So the illusionism that confuses photography with the medium that it once threatened to displace. drapery.Adaptation is an exigency of incomplete knowledge. critical disembodiment of the subject here threatens to become an obstacle to adaptive practice. the relatively forgiving irony that in a photograph we are confronting the history of subjective illusionism in painting is trumped. as a disembodiment of that patriarchal eye. Only under the auspices of these knowledge conditions might art enlighten us about what individual agents do not know in soliciting recognition of what they want to be known as.They miss it by their sublimation . We have already seen that what ensues in the absence of a motive for adaptation is the rational amelioration of error. I have alleged this practice to be the necessary complement to Marcuse’s ascription of a plausible cognitive function to the aesthetic. blamed as it is for the selfoppressing metaphysical ills of post-Enlightenment subjectivity. In effect. becomes an admonition to vacate subjectivity as an unsuitable habitat for reality.While the mise-en-scène is dense with historical-cultural particularity—costume. Sherman’s work presents such an obstacle to adaptation precisely in the way it obviates the necessity of the viewer to reconcile perspectives. without this motive for adaptation. For the register of ironic judgment entails recognition of the rather less forgiving reality of the author’s face. After all. It looms ominously in the place where the historical subject should be. Error. subjectivity tends to epitomize the very discarnated point of view that we typically identify with the reifying authority of the rationalist ego. and the evasion of tragic recognition.This cognitive function would furthermore be conducive to Marcuse’s idealism about art as a demystification of vaunted necessity. apple—they are all too transparently props of the debunking allusion to painterly illusion. the sensuous plenitude of a world ordained by patriarchal viewing practices is thus reincarnated. But just as I have argued is the case in instances of the postmodern sublime.

“Untitled #206.” 1989. Courtesy the Artist and Metro Pictures Gallery . 4 Cindy Sherman.262 Aesthetic Reason Image not available Fig.

Kruger. Superficially. Richter’s images exemplify my reasons for thinking of the presentational field as a scene of boundary negotiation that. Kruger’s. I have characterized production as that which shows us our implicatedness in what we do not know about the commitments that prompt our solicitation of recognition. Now. in order to turn the discussion more conclusively toward the promised view of a cognitive aesthetic that is fully responsive to these terms of subjective constraint. and contextualism hold us to. and Sherman not because they simply epitomize postmodernist oppositionalism. his subjective critique remains engaged with its object at the level of the determination of presentational powers. Thus Richter honors a determination of subjectivity in relation to what . And they are perfectly right to read consumerism as a structural weakness to which political agency is “naturally” heir.To the extent that it mitigates subjective production. and thereby conceding the stakes of a socially and politically useful aesthetic. the adequacy of the subject to its desires.These are exactly the terms of knowledge that error. Let me repeat. For just these reasons. that I take the examples of Haacke.As a result. Kruger. but because they equate anti-aestheticism with antisubjectivism. But I want to attend to the way in which Richter. political interests of such artists as Kruger and Sherman. Thus they present an occasion for putting pressure on the question of whether or not aesthetic value can be reconciled with subjectivity in a way that favors the extra-aesthetic. and Sherman’s purposes of oppositional culture-critique as these purposes bear on the consumer habits of subjectivity. if such theorizing is to elude the commodificational traps laid by fetishistic aestheticism. Both of these artist’s métiers commit them to thwarting the subject’s susceptibility to the habits of consumerism. tragedy. I would like to contrast the artistic practices of Haacke. unlike the others. I offer this as a beneficent alternative to making the givenness of recognition a reason for abandoning the responsibilities of choice-making.Living in Aesthetic Community 263 of the representational field into an overly abstract idea of the preferability of otherness to guilt-ridden selfhood. maintains a stake in subjective embodiment. in turn. Richter seems to keep faith with Haacke’s. however. it threatens to denature the human altogether. however idealistically. I have been insistent that production (with its links to recognition and tragedy) is a sine qua non of theorizing the aesthetic. and toward which I have attempted to orient the theory of the aesthetic. figures choice as a pretext for recognition. and Sherman with those of Gerhard Richter. It therefore presupposes an engagement with objects that does not postulate.

it occasions precisely the contextual slippage according to which any adjudication of error is originally possible. “The uncomprehensible” is “unconsumable. Moreover. an elaboration of the modalities of recognition in which subjectivity knows its limits.” therefore essential. By this means I will deploy a view of Richter’s work that unapologetically props my own sense of things: that appreciating the fit between aesthetic cognition and adaptive subjectivity might give us a way to imagine aesthetic community that is concordant with Marcuse’s political ideals. for my purposes. In this regard. animated as it is by vigorous resistance both to the mental habits of consumption and to the dubious political identity that such habits cultivate.13 What is most significant here. we shall see that this view holds faith with the political spirit of the anti-aesthetic school. I will take only one aspect of Richter’s remarkably heterogeneous project as visual artist.” Richter does not want to be a painter of the sublime. its conditions of possibility: To paint is to create an analogy with the imperceptible and the uncomprehensible. Creating such uncomprehensibility prohibits one from doing any old foolishness. which takes form in this way and becomes accessible. Richter himself is unambiguous about his resistance to the idea of a community in which his work would have significance on the basis of a consumerist recognition. It is nonetheless an aspect that I believe reveals Richter’s own aesthetic scruple to be more on the side of adaptation than on the side of negative critique. is Richter’s conviction that the “unconsumability” of the “uncomprehensible” is not simply reducible to the proposition that the “uncomprehensible” equates with what “exceeds our understanding. For if Richter says that understanding can inspire analogy to what exceeds its powers. It also presents an analogy with all that fundamentally exceeds our understanding. and hence sustains it as a viable choice-making enterprise. which is to say. as well as instantiating the obstacle to comprehension that inspires analogy. Instead. his commentary here holds out the possibility of understanding how an accommodation of error might best capture the sense-making strategies inspired by his images. nonetheless. because foolishness is always comprehensible. set out at the beginning of this chapter. For the purposes of my discussion. but which understanding allows us to deduce.264 Aesthetic Reason it does not know. But he is careful to remind us that the artist’s every defamiliarizing refusal of recognition is. I want to narrow my discussion further to a consid- .

They thus occasion deliberative doubt about correct standards of viewing.Within this frame of reference. we do not miss the fact that the technology of the camera is a paradigmatic embodiment of the rationalizing rule of Enlightenment. It will not be lost on an ironically turned mind that the co-option of the natural object by human techne (in this case mechanical technology) entailed by this logic invites the very inhibition of comparative context that I identified with ironic negation and the anti-aesthetic purge of subjectivity carried out in the photo-techne of Kruger and Sherman. Its allusiveness to error is complicated by an illusionism that haunts the history of painting generally and. to varying and at times imperceptible degrees. the photo-blur is. Nude on a Staircase (1966). the viewer who approaches the picture plane of the photo-blur paintings. an allusion to error. as if to adjust the focal length of the viewpoint. Photography promoted the hypothesis that painting’s true representational powers are only adequately tested by comparison with more efficient representational techne (methods). very specifically. As I have already conceded. on the most superficial account of the presentational field in Richter’s work. But it will better dramatize the stakes of what I have already said about understanding the artist’s investment in the presentational field as a realization of presentational powers—one that only embodiment can occasion and only deliberative mind can compass. which exerts its own allusive pull on the viewer of the painting. which the photorealist métier of Richter’s photo-blur paintings alludes to most forcefully.And yet the highest degree of technorational resolution in Richter’s photorealist works is conferred on the “irrational” blur. was historically the device that challenged the epistemic grounds of painting. the historical moment of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase. But first it must be said that.This allusiveness is manifest in a wide range of canvases (landscapes and portraits) produced since the 1960s that deliberately blur vision. The camera. this choice slights the full range of Richter’s work. as a group. as if method preceded matter axiomatically. Concomitantly. the fidelity of the painted image to the real object is debunked by the manifestly higher resolution of the photoimage.Living in Aesthetic Community 265 eration of Richter’s photo-blur paintings. Indeed. discovers a heightening resolution . Richter’s photo-blur paintings address an assumption about painting as a genre (as well as its place in the age of mechanical reproduction) that Duchamp himself was responding to. It epitomizes the Enlightenment precept that abstract rule determines reality independent of contingent matter. In a moment I will try to epitomize the conceptual underpinnings of this practice by a close reading of Richter’s Ema.After all.

“Ema.266 Aesthetic Reason Image not available Fig. Köln (photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln) . Nude on a Staircase. Museum Ludwig. 5 Gerhard Richter.” 1966.

Living in Aesthetic Community 267 in the brushstrokes of the blur as an inverse proportion of what would otherwise be the blurring distance.The blur unequivocally marks the encroachment of time on the idealized space of the camera’s rationality: shutter speed is surpassed by the haptic pace of physical action. in that respect. Kruger.This happens in a way that gives unique density to the presentational field. when the blur is rendered with perfect sharpness. and Sherman is proffered in Richter’s compositions. One’s knowledge is a function of one’s relation to the choices construable under . But in the painting. the haptic or irrational register of the blur—because it simply nullifies the image—releases us from the mandates of the optical rationale that otherwise govern the presentational field.That is. with respect to just that aspect of photographic process that marks its susceptibility to error. In the photograph. albeit corrigible. The hand holding the camera trembles in its uncertainty that the rules that inform the intention to photograph. becomes the salient object of attention here. Furthermore. one needs to see the sharpness of what blurs as well as the blurred picture. are compatible in the action of pushing the shutter release. So something quite different from what is purveyed by Haacke. which historically testified to painting’s more fallible relation to the object. we might observe that this slippage in Richter’s work is nothing less than a plausibly adequate representation of temporality. epitomizes nothing less than a paradigmatic slippage between contextual fields and hence a compelling pretext for comparative context. the optical rationale is made curiously coherent with the haptic—perforce irrational—register of chance. In other words. which obtrudes the focal plane as an armature of composition. I want to suggest that it instances embodiment as choice. with reference to the critique of rationalized subjectivity. the techne of the camera. in the guise of the nemesis of rational truth. and the rules that animate the mechanism of the camera. is a quintessential modality of error. Looking at a range of paintings executed in this blur modality.Temporality belies the rational controls of photographic technology and. Of course the blur’s affinity with categorical. Or to put it in terms more analytically appropriate to the question about what social uses the aesthetic lends itself to. error is marked most conspicuously by its correlation with the fallibility of the human hand. For we must consider that the blur in the painting—unlike the blur in the photograph—persists as a correlation of focal point with human movement in space. For the blur. we can say that Richter has used a photorealist technique to reproduce that which reveals photography to be subject to the very weaknesses formerly ascribed to painting by photography.

up or down stairs.268 Aesthetic Reason that constraint. For Duchamp’s mode of abstracting the figure into a montage effect could easily be read as a refusal to let the nude appear. it also impels our less secure recognition of the necessity for a reciprocal motion.As I have anticipated. In other words. Although perspective tells us we can claim this space as a secure viewing point. after all. We stand in a strange relation to the mimetic enterprise here. the error of relying on perception where embodiment is in doubt—as it must be whenever spatial representation seeks to accommodate temporality. where the “adequacy” of Richter’s rendering of the human is usefully problematized by allusion to Duchamp’s famous nude. so to speak.The nakedness of human contingency is thus embraced rather than modestly “covered up. And the qualities of this relation come most clearly into focus when we realize that the pathos of the photo-blur paintings has so much to do with the fact that the human—the prime locus of mimeticism and what is typically eclipsed by the overexposing.The viewer must move in some compensatory correlation with the blurred and thus moving figure to find an adequate focal point. It is as if the artist wishes to preempt the recognition of the inadequacy of “appearance” to the frame of temporality in which the nude could be expected to arrive to descend the stairs. in Richter’s composition the fully embodied exposure of frontal. independent of any preformulable intention to visualize according to abstractable rules of imaging. Richter makes the Duchamp “re-appear” in such a way that its appearance owes nothing to the inert temporality that governs in the relation of image to object. It is not so distinct from . this is especially dramatic in the canvas titled Ema: Nude on a Staircase. where the question of adequacy could be mistaken for a simple matter: a one-step resolution of focus. That recognition is. the only efficient mode of address to the blur that could promise rapport with a shifting focal plane. Instead. In other words.To the contrary. appearance here is a more explicit marker of the viewer’s necessary adaptation to the persistent variability of what embodiment renders visible. It remains a presentational counter of what is imaged as an instance of imagining.” but in a way that has nothing to do with the nakedness of the nude itself. female nudity is subtly blurred by the figure’s precarious descent into a vertiginous space.Thus the blur in the painting remains an irreducible presentational counter of what the image is an image of. unambiguous light of late twentieth-century photorealist technique—is represented most explicitly here in the fallibility of techne. Duchamp’s abstraction seems intended to preempt the fallibility.

rather than by determining any ultimate comprehension of the object. the subtly out-of-focus figure. Here. in anticipated revelation of the nude body. each by itself. Its presentational field is too readily an image of something. by comparison with the popular thesis that “real” painting aspires to the transparency of the photographed object. The figure inhabits a spatial context that is knowable only by the adjustments it compels us to intuit. Nude on a Staircase the transformative element. for it portends no transcendence to a final term of fitness or of lack of fitness between the image and what it re-presents. in Ema. Along these lines.Living in Aesthetic Community 269 the formal or compositional challenges of the staircase. as Richter himself says. Specifically. Finitude is a value here. Richter says.”14 Painting would seem to be too wedded to transcendence in the following sense. we could say that Richter’s practice reveals how such painting potentially . he is committed to making the uncomprehensible more “accessible” rather than subliming it. the conventional photorealist seduction to complete perceptual candor. Embodiment quite literally determines comparative context here. possesses the expressive means afforded by painting and photography in Richter’s photo-blur paintings. 201). in much the way that Crowther explained: when a subject expresses itself under the conditions of embodiment. which the frontality of the figure’s nudity makes even more conspicuously a matter of step-by-step negotiations. In Richter’s composition. Specifically. I would argue that what is at stake in the access to the uncomprehensible here is a humanity importantly distinct from what is cultured by conventional representational practices in the service of reference or sublimity. marks a boundary between what is knowable and what is unknowable in a way that mandates negotiation. but in a way that more richly determines the scope of our reflection upon powers of comprehension. the revelation of which would entail the sublimation of the presentational powers that enabled its appearance. For both these options countenance the uncomprehensible as inaccessible to the modalities of its representation. namely. Richter seems to want a different rapport with the image than what merely allows the painter to achieve either of the equally deceptive lucidities of reference or sublimity. neither painting nor photography. its assimilation of disparate moments to a unity of experience is not just a “mix of existing idioms” but “a qualitative transformation of them” ( Language of TwentiethCentury Art. becomes an inducement to resolve focus without a single set of parameters. Indeed.“I have painted photos precisely in order not to have anything to do with painting.

On the contrary. as if the proper focal length of viewing were coterminous with the extensibility of perception.This is alternative to intuiting terms of connection that purport to subsume subjectivity. I want to suggest that Richter’s photoblur paintings conjure a frame of reference in which we must construe Aristotle to mean that it is the mimetic impulse that warrants representation more than what can be represented by it. One standard of adequation disguises the potential for adequation to other standards. the mimetic impulse defines human nature. I think it is more accurate to say that Richter’s blur instances a techne where the boundedness of practice is made commensurable with knowledge of what exceeds its boundary.We must remember that Aristotle. more important. In that case meaning would be arrived at by some inverse measure of what is negated. in Poetics. we might see that it warrants a sense of respect for the improvisational bearings of selfhood that we can be attuned with only through accepting that one’s human work in the world gets done most responsibly in .270 Aesthetic Reason dishonors the human. as if the blur were merely a reference to the standard of photographic image resolution. It is a phenomenon that is calculable only by comparative assessment of what is missing from each extension. It is a capacity that Aristotle intimates might be countenanced as an end in itself: “The instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood. For the imitation of the blur—not to mention Richter’s practice of painting brushstrokes qua subject matter—in a sense renders the image a place where mimeticism takes priority over mimesis.”15 Indeed. In chapter 4 of Poetics. The slightly fuzzy figure on the stairs gives a push to the viewer’s necessary descent from one contextual register to another.This orientation chimes with the way in which the photo-blur paintings energetically thwart the idea that they are paintings about the reappropriation of painting from photography. independent of the full potentiality of mimeticism. For it puts the image too much in the service of representing the object.The accessibility to the uncomprehensible that Richter thus endows upon his viewer must in turn be taken up by the viewer as a mandate to countenance an engagement with the field of particulars that makes seeing the relations between them a deepening of the sense of how subjectivity underlies their connectedness.The blur alludes to what otherwise hides mimeticism in a standard of mimetic adequacy. inasmuch as lucidity in Richter’s work is a choice between salient particulars. This intuition is keyed to Richter’s making the focus of the brushstrokes in the blur an inescapably deliberative counter for the viewer’s attentiveness. and thereby warrants another choice of contextual parameters. honors mimesis as a kind of human essence. Or.

the qualities of attention these paintings solicit correlate with a sense of the viewer’s infringement upon a preexisting context such . I feature the morally weighted term responsibility not because the determination of meaning in Richter’s work is finalized in the figure or the portraited face. Richter’s photo-blur paintings do not make lack of focus an issue in and of itself. and the Real.The artist begins by subordinating his brushwork to the “guiding outline” of a projected photo-image. Richter’s compositions offer a set of determinations with respect to what resists determination. where the line is starkly a rationalist imperative of form. Focus is not missing here. he subordinates the resolved focus of the camera’s/projector’s optical register to the haptic forces of brushwork.The actual mechanical process of the photo-blur painting is an instructive analogue here. On the contrary. As Jean-Pierre Vernant attested. Indeed. or the landscape.” 65). Then. one sees much more than in a sharp image” (65).The image evolves from a complicated procedure that might be described as a reciprocating reversal of contextual boundaries. Painting.Living in Aesthetic Community 271 recognition of the duties that embodiment imposes on us: the duty to know ourselves in relation to what is beyond us not as irrationality but as rational adaptability. Far from capitulating to indeterminacy. it makes more sense to say that lack of focus is effectively a métier for focusing beyond a single line of sight. by overpainting. where rationalizing principle is consequently inseparable from seemingly irrational practice. tragic subjectivity must contend with a paradoxical continuity between modes of continence and incontinence. Jean-Philippe Antoine rightly concludes that the burden of Richter’s achievement is carried by the viewer who must “decide what is indeterminate in the painting” (“Photography. but because in each instance the determinateness of the viewing subject is enhanced by the shifting protocols of attentiveness to which the viewer is recruited. It is a way of contending with the limitedness of experience as a rational bridge to the realm of indeterminacy. Just so. Rather. Thus it might be fair to say that Richter has engaged tragic knowledge in the very nonfatalistic modality I elaborated out of my reading of Vernant and Vidal-Naquet’s Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece: a mode of “development of subjective responsibility” (69). we can intuit the effect of such aesthetic practice as a corollary of the burdens imposed upon tragic subjectivity. Between “deciding” indeterminacy and the indecision of indeterminacy lie the stakes of the question.What is the efficacy of the artwork with respect to human activity? Coupled with Richter’s own pronouncement that “I never found anything missing in a blurry painting.

what is at issue is a prospect for human self-realization that is only opened by a disposition of consciousness to accept the contextual incompleteness of human action. after all.”16 My ambition was to move the discussion of the aesthetic toward reflection upon an aspect of mind that we are all staked in. This disposition thus constitutes a laboratory within which human subjectivity can develop its resources for reflecting upon the limitedness of context-bound experience.Alternatively. one that in turn resolves its meaningfulness in terms of a recontextualizing agency. Unlike philosophers of . in this case—like focal length—can only be established by a decontextualizing movement. From the beginning of this project I have alleged that. I have invoked the concept of incontinence or akrasia as a quasi-technique for attending to the boundary between rationality and irrationality.” such that “the activity of adequation serves the adequacy of the aesthetic. V At this moment of surprisingly rich reconciliation with blurred perspective. In that way new boundaries can be drawn to suit the expressive needs of a consciousness transfigured by reflecting on its limits. my use of the term akrasia is an unconventional one. it is important to step back from Richter’s images and their exemplifications.272 Aesthetic Reason that its boundedness becomes the salient variable of viewing something else.Admittedly. For this boundary appears in the tragic slippage between our intentional best judgments and the conflict-engendering evaluative frames that are imposed upon us by the unforeseeable course of practical actions. I have remarked upon the entanglement of this ambition with the very fallible presumption of perfect continence in subjective agency.“the standard of adequacy is assimilated to the exigency of act. which in no way vitiates our investment in the subjective embodiments that perspective can rationalize for us. In either case. At key points in this argument. the tragic protagonist denotes a practical agency that might shed light on aesthetic theory if we can see how that agency is itself already informed by the complexities that are operative in aesthetic practice and aesthetic form. According to my approach.Viewpoint. in the purview of a cognitive aesthetic. It is time to see how they relocate my original focal point for this discussion of the aesthetic as a cognitive enterprise. Perfect continence. is the anti-mask of the tragic protagonist. according to our inescapable human complicity with the circumstance of the tragic protagonist.

g. respecting “new considerations” for rationalizing familiar contexts of experience. and so on sustains an overriding interest in the subject who seeks to pass the self-deceiving constraints within which his or her choices are circumscribed. Quite to the contrary. this is the intuition that if an agent is motivated in the “akratic act” by a “new consideration.”What is presupposed in all these attitudes is a subject whose threshold of self-realization is the recognition of the lack of complete knowledge about what would count as the best justification for the actions (practical and interpretive) in which he or she might be instantiated.”17 that is. then akrasia might be seen as an occasion for deliberative reasoning. that is. my reliance on the analytical topoi of translatability. akratic act). followed the lead of neo-Aristotelians such as Alison McIntyre who challenge the proposition that akratic action is always irrational. Accordingly. I have been more interested in what the incidence of akrasia can tell us about the conditions for maximizing deliberative and contextualizing agency than in using the account of an act against putative best reasoning to mount an inquisition against irrational intentions.As we saw in Chapter 3. for this reason. My willingness to share Hannah Arendt’s faith in the continuity between aesthetical and political experience likewise derives from her commitment to those elements of the Greek polis that anchor the political protagonist in an arena of self-revising accommodation toward “otherness. my interest in the artwork as a framework for reflections in which the enterprise of finding new reasons. one that would have prompted a strategic revision of the original reasoning that led to the presumed practical conclusion (e. I have.Living in Aesthetic Community 273 action. It would denote a possibility for self-realization that is otherwise preempted by orthodox standards of continent judgment. has had a sociopolitical trajectory. imaginative visiting.. Nor should it be confused with Marx’s overly facile reconciling of the known with the unknown by assuming that the universality of the particular is everything that is lacking in the particular.18 This kind of thinking puts the task of human self-realization on a historical trajectory of generalization that vitiates (for analytical purposes) the contextual circumstance of any particular subject who claims selfknowledge by choosing the terms of contextual self-recognition. I started with the proposition that such choices are inevitably circumscribed by what Raymond Geuss characterized as a fundamental incommensurability between the tasks of seeking perfect knowledge and setting conditions for perfect knowledge. My most general con- . reciprocal recognition. My stance here ought not to be confused with a mere deference to otherness.

while judgment remains a theoretical pursuit. we might say that what motivates the subject here—artist and interpreter alike—is a trust in continence. My purpose here has been to give aesthetic theorists and artists an alternative to thinking of the aesthetic as an ornamental accessory to continent subjectivity.The aesthetic subject. the artwork is conceived of here as the cognitive counterpart to a subject who. the aesthetic would be subsumed to rational norms rather than offering to become a participant in forging the contexts within which such norms have their rationalizing force.The bonds of community are forged in the deliberative exigency of choice-making.274 Aesthetic Reason clusion is that the suffering of the “tragic protagonist” figured in this circumstance is what aesthetic value most properly caters to. . But this trust in continence is not to be confused with faith in the realization of continent intent. in this regard. within a tragic historical record of widespread incontinent behavior. This communitarian disposition. resembles the agent forming an intention—as distinct from the agent making a cognitive judgment. insofar as the ideal of continence is a desire to maximize the available reasons for self-understanding that can be occasioned by the artwork. is not determined by a Kantian-style disinterestedness that self-preemptively disembodies agency. Forming an intention is activity oriented. reconcile itself with the productive mandate of artistic enterprise.The artwork in its presentational particulars—at least where presentational values are made to count by virtue of the artist’s formal choices—is thus seen to be a relevant scene of suffering. consequently. In that case. ever more crucially warrants the aesthetic as a métier of human culture. it is duly embodied by the requirement that this agent’s interests get expressed only in the context of a recognition that the expression of those interests must help to form.And yet the presentational field of the artwork never relieves the subject of the burden of aspiring to them. Only in these terms can the artwork have a meaningful role to play in the historical development of a culture that might. Rather. in this capacity. Only in the latter circumstance is the artwork guaranteed a place in a culture that is distinguishable from the historic “placements” that subjectivity has endured in its struggle for self-determination. it entails choice-making about what is significant in a circumstance that concedes the impossibility of ascertaining perfect conditions for knowledge. Rather. For. however. I am suggesting that we should see how the idealistic drive for continence is a universal circumstance of subjectivity that. Because such recognition is occasioned by cognitive engagement with a distinctive presentational métier/capacity. In other words. by accepting his or her complicity in error. is predisposed toward community.

See Caygill on Herder. Discerning the Subject. express little tolerance for the aesthetic). 3. Foucault.” 4. 11. 180–81. This work is divided into two parts: “Concerning Beauty.” in Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Hannah Arendt gives a persuasive gloss on Kant’s attempts to reconcile the apparently divergent trajectories of action and duty.” See Ross. Here I make reference to a broad range of recent literary theory that advocates what Raymond Williams has called a “militant particularism. See McCarthy’s judicious assessment. and Sinfield. 12. See Foucault. Here Habermas lays blame at the door of the “older Hegel.“An Aesthetics of Existence. Nevertheless. In the present chapter I do not offer proper scope for an appreciation of these works in the particularities of their argumentation. 43–46. Her appeal to a communicative imperative is compatible. 2. Reflections on Poetry. . Harmony. Eagleton’s analysis yields little prospect for aesthetic theory as a resource of subjective agency. Order. 68–70. in her posthumous Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy.” who opened the way to technological overspecialization of the lifeworld. 7. Universal Abandon. did not survive to resolve the question. with my own sense of the community-building imperative of choice-making put forward in this chapter. Smith. Eagleton’s book The Ideology of the Aesthetic remains an influential text for critics who seek a way out of the social decadence of beauty theory and the nineteenth-century aestheticisms founded upon transcendental universals. which bears on this context of analysis. titled “Towards a ‘Vulgar’ Critique of ‘Pure’ Critiques.” his 1984 interview with Alessandro Fontana. 5. as I will show. Hutcheson refuted Locke’s claim that beauty is a complex idea built up out of percepts. Design” and “Concerning Moral Good and Evil. 1973). Faultlines. See Baumgarten. His comments in this interview represent an admittedly embryonic stage of thinking on this question. See Chapter 2 for further discussion. See Habermas. 8. 10. 9. it must be admitted.Notes Chapter 1 1. 6. in Art of Judgment. for the first formal exposition of this idealism. “The Production Paradigm. The problematics of this dualism are strikingly analogous to the dualism between politics and morality that troubles Kant’s Groundwork for a Metaphysic of Morals. I believe.” See Peter Kivy’s edition of the former (published by Martinus Nijhoff. of course. My points of reference here are Habermas’s The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity and Putnam’s The Many Faces of Realism (two works that. in Ideals and Illusions. See Bourdieu’s postscript to his Distinction.

23. See especially the chapter “Illusion and Experience. afterword to Michel Foucault. and the Bounds of Art.’ but has none of the ‘there is no truth to be found . and for the goals implicit in it. metaphorically it means an impulse which in English is burdened with psychological connotations” (Recognition. Nelson Goodman’s extensive exposition of the cognitive dimensions of the aesthetic are of course a vital context for this assertion. . 25. 24.” 148–60. freedom in the one to whom it is directed” (Williams. we certainly cannot prevent him . See Williams.This. Recognition. it evokes Foucault’s reflective turn back to the subject when he realizes the necessary reciprocity of genealogy and archeology. . See especially Adorno’s lengthy discussion of second reflection.’” For a considered judgment of Putnam’s stance within the historical scope of the aesthetic that I am assessing here. 22. . . 59). It is telling with respect to this point that in Aesthetic Theory. deny it or ignore it. and mediates the consciousness of. 67). This is Williams’s translation from passages in the Naturrecht where Fichte undertakes the transition from Anstoss to Aufforderung. 19. . In Wissenschaftslehre. 56–59. in large part. 67. See The Many Faces of Realism. Putnam’s point. . . If this [the above] meaning be not accepted. He indicates that the summons is an occasion for decision insofar as “the self can accede to the summons. is another inference of the choice-making imperative driving second reflection. . true is just a name for what a bunch of people can agree on implications of relativism. Recognition. 257. . See Dreyfus and Rabinow.The genealogical appropriation of a system of power relations entails an excavation of the constraints of its systematicity of power. Adorno. .Adorno makes a similar point about the dynamic relation of the familiar and the new in any theoretically charged explication of the artwork. . Adorno both resurrects the conceptual relevance of Dilthey’s verstehen and insists upon making new sense of it. that the concept of ground ought to be explained in some other way. 487–92. however. 21. 18. 14. in Self-Consciousness and Self-Determination. Here one must look at the discussion of the affinity of aesthetic and ethical criteria of existence assumed by Foucault in Care of the Self. Hegel’s famous commentary on the transient and fugitive dimension of art is relevant here. Fichte stipulates the point in a way that resonates through everything else he writes regarding self-determination specifically: “There can be no objection at all to the proposition here established. See especially Bernstein. the possibility of philosophy in our sense would accordingly have to be denied” (8). Aesthetics. See Tugendthat’s postulate that all relations of self to the self are inherently propositional. 15. . Modernity. 26. 27. Should someone say . 20. see also McCormick. for me. is to distinguish relativism from relativity: “Conceptual relativity sounds like ‘relativism. 17. . See especially the criteria of “repleteness” offered as part of Goodman’s symptomatology of the aesthetic in Languages of Art and in Of Mind and Other Matters. or an encounter with an initiative from elsewhere. 16. See the introduction to Lectures in Aesthetics. not as an obscure inwardness of experience. 46. Interestingly.276 Notes 13. but as a “many-sidedness” open to analysis in terms of its predicative variability. Williams has given the most astute account I know of this aspect of Fichte’s argument. Here I am following Williams’s note on the translation of this term: “The term Anstoss means literally a push. The summons of the other presupposes the capacity for.This is so insofar as appropriation yields to the internal contradictions of its own self-justificatory logic.These self-justifications are inevitable in the slippage between past and present. in Aesthetic Theory. 17–21 for the full exposition of this term.

Unruly Practices. 7. Fraser. Lectures. see Benhabib and Dallmyar. For a more optimistic reading of Schiller. Howard Caygill makes this characterization in his account of Herder’s Origin of Language (1771). This instantiates the public realm as she defines it in The Human Condition. 160). See Arendt. It cannot compass the range of competing institutional and religious forces that would count as a fully adequate historicism. particularly in the last pages of the Lectures. Shaftesbury. Thinking Art. Ideology of the Aesthetic. Herder expands upon Alexander Baumgarten’s theory of the relation of perception to human action in the seminal Enlightenment aesthetic treatises . 4. like Arendt’s and Chytry’s. Postmodern Condition. 88–91. Communicative Ethics Controversy.e. 1–22. of everyone else’s way of presenting [something]. 73–84.Notes 277 28. Outside Literature. Here the authoritative precedents are set by Boileau. particularly as related to the possibility of translating an appreciation of natural beauty into intersubjective relations. i. In this context it is worth pointing out that the Athenian polis (particularly in light of Aristotelian politics) is a crucial touchstone of Arendt’s reading of Kant. 2. sensus communis carries a burden of action that Kant eschews. Aesthetic State. It is a conspicuous resource of argument where the political trajectory she imputes to Kant’s thinking about judgment exceeds any textual warrant. 6. especially in the third critique. For the range of this “political aesthetic. see Lyotard. 8. and Eagleton. in our thought. in our thought. of everyone else’s way of presenting [something]. See The New Politicians of Fifth-Century Athens. The Aesthetic State. candidly instrumental. This standard of disinterestedness and the protocol of political friendship in Athens will bear comparison with the notion of aesthetic disinterestedness that underwrites Arendt’s linkage of aesthetic and political judgment.” which I believe too reductively confuses cognition with instrumentalism/political domination..” 141). W. Chapter 2 1.“Interpretive Essay. Our point of departure here must be Kant’s own formulation in no. a power to judge that in reflecting takes account (a priori). Anti-Aesthetic. See also Beiner’s quotation from unpublished lectures that correlates Arendt’s attempts to equate political action with deliberative judgment (Beiner. we shall see in what follows that for Arendt’s purposes. Arendt herself is quite candid about the liberties she takes with the Kantian text. Here I ought to acknowledge that my view of the Greek institutions that are so suggestive for theorizing a cognitive aesthetic is.This antagonism arises in art-critical circles where the pretext of political ends inspires a reprise of the very dualism of sentiment and reason that ironically launched the aesthetic as a creditable political enterprise in the eighteenth century. 33. See especially Foster. However. See the full text of “Modernity: An Incomplete Project” and The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Here I am thinking of the increasing animus against the category of the aesthetic. 5. 3. See Chytry. For the more general dissemination of this stance among communitarian universalists. xxxix–xl. in order as it were to compare our own judgment with human reason in general and thus escape the illusion that arises from the ease of mistaking subjective and private conditions for objective ones” (Critique of Judgment. 10. see Chytry. Bennett. 9. 31. Robert Connor suggests how the commitment to this social class indexed the “disinterestedness” of civic leadership. and Benjamin and Osborne. 40 of the third critique: “[W]e must [here] take sensus communis to mean the idea of a sense shared [by all of us]. and Hutcheson.

167. 77. For a consideration of the attendant “right to visit. Aesthetic State. See Gadamer. and Baron. See Herder. that is. Persuasion in Greek Tragedy. 19. v. “Interpretive Essay.. 29. 11. See Kant. 121. Paul Ricoeur points up a “quasihomonymy” between éthos (character) and ethos (habit.. Ibid.” 127). root’ of sensibility and understanding” (Lectures. xi. xlvii. 15. Hamann’s Aesthetica in nuce (1765). See Oneself as Another. 26. especially 34–35. 27. Critique of Judgment. Kantianism gives rise to in the incommensurability of dignity and progress. 81). part 1. William Scott Ferguson gives the broad historical sweep of this development in Hellenistic Athens. G. 17. 13. Aesthetic State. 20. 25. 32. 84–85). 209. 16. Chytry. From Petrarch to Leonardo Bruni. 213. Garin. 28. Perpetual Peace. 17. Ethics. Persuasion in Greek Tragedy. Italian Humanisms..” she seems to indicate a will to overcome the clash of judgment and action that otherwise inhibits the political thrust of her reckoning with Kantian judgment. see Lectures. We are fighting not to save our lives but for human dignity” (Beiner. 177–78. For Arendt’s contextualization of infinite progress and dignity.Where Arendt valorizes such instances of human action. 33. Aesthetic State. 18–19. Beiner quotes the Warsaw Ghetto resistance: “Not one of us will leave here alive. custom) that chimes with my suggestion that there are good reasons to read Aristotelian phronesis as encompassing both praxis and poetics. 30. Ronald Beiner cites Arendt’s identification with historical moments of futile rebellion. 118. Italian Humanism. Kant. we have a kind of ‘intuition’ of something that is never present) and by this he [Kant] suggests that imagination is actually the common root of the other cognitive faculties. 24. 58–63. 118. and Baron. especially 29–43. For a useful assessment of the degree to which Sturm und Drang insisted upon the nondiscursive nature of aesthetics.e. the image seems to be most relevant to Arendt’s concerns here insofar as it denotes what is not there: “(i. Essay on the Origin of Language. see Beiser.We will see how Hegelian recognition and his correlative theory of forgiveness might be construed as a methodological remedy for the cultural/historical “melancholy” that. 119.Arendt herself confesses. particularly in J. 12. see Holmes. Chytry. Fate of Reason. 171–75. bk. Indeed. See book 5 of Ethics for the exposition that bears most directly on this aspect of my argument. 14. 227. From Petrarch to Leonardo Bruni. For a full account. 18. See Caygill. Art of Judgment. 6. such as the Warsaw Ghetto–moments when dignity and progress intersect. particularly where she adduces them as instances of “exemplary validity. There is more evidence that Arendt’s apparent defection from the vita activa is hedged with doubt. xlii–xliii.278 Notes Aesthetica (1711) and Reflections on Poetry (1735). Florentine Enlightenment . 22. 31. See Chytry. Garin provides a valuable context for comprehending this term in his discussion of how the contemplative drag of Platonism constrained the work of Landino (Garin. See Bruni. but to us unknown.” see Kant. Critique of Judgment. Truth and Method. Beiner . Humanism of Leonardo Bruni. 34. “Imagination” is composed of notes from a seminar on Kant’s third critique that Arendt delivered at the New School for Social Research in the fall of 1970. Buxton. Buxton. 23. 119. it is the ‘common. 21. Ibid.

See Buxton. this is the case if we stay within the perspectives of judgment.“Evil and Forgiveness. 50. See Ricoeur. 192–93). “Thinking and Moral Considerations. See Just Gaming and The Differend: Phrases in Dispute . 32–33. explaining that “[tragic judgment] continually confronts a reality it can never fully master but with which it must nonetheless reconcile itself. 40. perforce. on the model of this dialectic between conscience and self-consciousness. 51.” see Kant. This intersection is marked most conspicuously in prostitution and a consequent blurring of the lines between persuasive reason and physical disposition. 41. 45. Here I am extrapolating a principle of reversibility from Arendt’s notion of the hopefulness inherent to historical storytelling. 38.” 388–89. 44. 54. See Hegel. Again see Beiner. 29. 43. Ibid. 35. See Oneself as Another. 55. Paul Ricoeur offers a rich meditation on the notion of solicitude as access to the lack without which self-reflection would seem to be a tautological proposition (Oneself as Another. Arendt keys the meaning of action etymologically to the Greek archein. 46.This hopefulness obtains insofar as every ending of a story is. see Arendt’s own excursus on the role of the historian as an extrapolation from Nietzsche’s “eternal return. my emphasis).” 79). Buxton. 49. a new beginning. 40. chapter 20. For the basis of what ensues vis-à-vis the aestheticopolitical implications of the “general standpoint. 242. Persuasion in Greek Tragedy.“Interpretive Essay. “to begin. sec.Williams offers a corroboration of the bases of Arendt’s thinking along these lines. 59. Persuasion in Greek Tragedy.. in Recognition. Ibid.” in which she sees the realization of thinking as bound to judgment. .. 209. 667–79. Robert R. Recognition. Ibid. The affinity of this stance with Jean-François Lyotard’s recent exposition of the differend bears scrutiny.” 154. and why the burden of judgment is conferred wholly upon the judging spectator” (“Interpretive Essay.This helps us also to see why the image of the spectator is so vital.Notes 279 says that these notes supply “an indispensable piece in the puzzle if we hope to reconstruct the full contours of Arendt’s theory of judging” (“Interpretive Essay. 36. Whereas. for Ricoeur it threatens to merely confirm tragic knowledge as a phenomenon divorced from action. 242.” 143). Beiner. See Williams.. 210.“Understanding and Politics. Beiner provides useful commentary on this point.” 137. See The Persistence of Modernity.” in Phenomenology of Mind. to lead” (Human Condition.“Interpretive Essay. See also my discussion in Chapter 1 for an amplification of the notion of training as aesthetic practice. solicitude warrants a redefinition of tragedy. 56. See Arendt. For Arendt. 209. Oneself as Another. The figure of Peitho is linked to eroticism where the public and private realms intersect. The particular relevance of Ricoeur’s characterization of tragedy obtains in his notion that tragedy constitutes the warrant for a stance of solicitude. 39. Robert R. 47.” in Thinking. 52. Williams supplies a useful correlation of Hegelian forgiveness with Arendt’s faith in an intersubjective plurality underlying the moral code. 42. in my argument. 37. 53. See Arendt. Arendt finds in Kant a unique expression of this tragic quality associated with judgment. Critique of Judgment. 177. 161. 48. For a corroboration of this nod to a more materialist pragmatism.

who aptly points up its provenance in the context of seventeenthcentury French theater. See Amelie O. 10.” See The New Science. 12. 19.Althusser does not subscribe to any mutual exclusivity of art and politics. Akrasia. Rorty’s discussion of the ramifications of maintaining a distinction between akrasia and self-deception. Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy. Bremer explains that akrasia differs from hamartia for Aristotle in its being triggered by passionate affect. where making and creating are always modalities of choosing. My point would be that this confusion severs rationality from rational agency in a way that is tantamount to the elision of choice in orthodox (nonreciprocal) theories of tragic recognition. 40–45). See Aristotle’s Poetics. that which is to do with consciousness (fact. a notion of the aesthetic as demurring affective states. such that we put the former on the side of actions and the latter on the side of beliefs (“Self-Deception. This is on the assumption that social norms are already rationalized. AntiAesthetic. since it is only in this capacity that coscienza comes to terms with scienza in order to salvage a broader sense of its significance. 8. There is interesting precedent for this in a tradition divergent from Kant: Viconian history. 9. that which has to do with il vero. depends upon some protocol of choice. Peter Bürger. Relevance of the Beautiful. 3. 72. 31. 1. 5. Painter of the Abstract. Arendt’s final work. provides a complete overview of the assimilation of this term to the discussion of Western tragedy. See The Decline of Modernism. and Irrationality”). Irrationality. 193. Hamartia. Again see Rorty’s commentary on the differences between self-deception and akratic action. 6. Arendt cites Sophocles as the source of our understanding that. . sec. M. in “Self-Deception. 6–9. Homo Aestheticus. Vico’s distinction between coscienza. Human Condition.Akrasia. 11.. to one degree or another. 14. even of the universals of scienza. His work is therefore a convincing measure of the distortions of expressive mind and social reality that such exclusivities can wreak. broadening the reference of scienza. 2. This is what links it to Platonist attacks on the affective weakness of will induced by the aesthetic. custom) and scienza. 13. As he says: “Philosophy contemplates reason. whence comes consciousness of the certain. 4. 2. Althusser’s most focused remarks in this regard can be found in “A Letter on Art” and “Cremonini.” both in Lenin and Philosophy. See Gadamer. 130. we are all blind to our own daimon and in that respect constitutionally at odds with the enterprise of eudaimonia. in vol. See Mele. Choosing is the first thing we do. See Sophocles. event. See Arendt. is all that makes the latter term serviceable in the title of Vico’s work. For an overview of the arguments that bolster this distinction. See Bremer.280 Notes Chapter 3 1. Coscienza.The essays by Said and Jameson included in this anthology make the strongest cases. whence comes knowledge of the true. explains how the doctrine classique deliberately confuses social norms with aesthetic rules. see Foster. Luc Ferry provides a useful view of Dubos’s role in the debates devolving from Boileau’s aesthetic (Ferry. My couching this distinction in the terms of Vorstellung and Darstellung ironically has its most serious precedent in Althusserian aesthetics. and Irrationality.” 15. is the site of this argument. 192–93. according to what we make or do. Ibid. 7. J. Bremer. I believe that Arendt’s thinking accords with the Viconian premise that we can only have knowledge. 60–61. For this reason it serves as a useful ground upon which to resurrect a cognitive aesthetic. philology observes that of which human choice is author. in Hamartia.

This discussion is carried on in several different schools of thought ranging from Elster’s rational choice theory to Alistair MacIntyre’s neo-Aristotelianism. See Arendt’s own discussion in Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy along with Benhabib’s conclusion to Benhabib and Dallmyar. In this case erroneous action is the corollary of unknowledgeable action. See Kant. in “Tragedy in/and/of Hegel. 128. and Elster. This roughly follows the model of a Kantian reflective judgment but without the metaphysical superstructure. and Maeve Cooke (Langauge and Reason: A Study of Habermas’ Pragmatics). Both Seyla Benhabib and Nancy Fraser have picked up on Arendt’s concern for making this Kantian ideal realizable within the framework of political agency. See McIntyre. especially the metafictionist turn. 20. 76–79. Alison McIntyre usefully points up the ways in which continence can be strikingly antithetical to the deliberative ideal of Aristotelian phronesis.This conflation is commonly taken for granted in popular notions of the beautiful object. Contextualist. See also my Baumgartinian appreciation of the aesthetic as a determinative phenomenon in The Subject as Action. . 23. 121–26. 17). 17. Here I make reference to the familiar collusion between antifoundationalist philosophy and postmodern aesthetics. See Benhabib and Dallmyar. Reflections on Poetry. Maeve Cooke’s protocol of “rational accountability” offers a useful corollary. All these establish the pretext for the claims I am asserting on behalf of the aesthetic in this chapter. My reference point here is Kant. Communicative Ethics Controversy. ed. See Eliot Jurist’s Hegelian appreciation of this intrinsic wisdom of tragic drama. 26. In reflective judgment the accord of imagination and understanding cannot be achieved but by the understanding giving itself a rule that cannot be abstracted from the imaginative presentation that prompts it. 31. Bremer makes the point that peripeteia is quite explicitly a reversal of human intentions. 18. hamartia.” 97. 24. and inflexibility they are “merely traits of character and not virtues.Notes 281 16. 30. Communitarianism. When we equate continence with obstinacy. Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. Norm. 25. 21. For further ramifications of this assumption as it bears on rational choice-making within a technical philosophical framework. 22. sec. introduction to The Multiple Self. Again see McIntyre. to a variety of prudentialist accounts of human action. See “Realizing the Post-Conventional Subject.“Is Akratic Action Always Irrational?” 399. 19.“Is Akratic Action Always Irrational?” 391. Critique of Judgment. not a mere counterpart of objectifying fate (Hamartia. The Communicative Ethics Controversy. and Fraser.“Is Akratic Actional Always Irrational?”. See Baumgarten. and Prudential” in Universalism Vs. see Mele. Kant of course brackets perfectionism in the “Analytic of the Beautiful. and Utopia). whether right or wrong” (“Is Akratic Action Always Irrational?” 396). David Rasmussen). 27.” But he does so only with respect to a rule that is independent of form. by Alessandro Ferrara (“Universalisms: Procedural. because they could lead an agent to perservere with any decision. Chapter 4 1. Unruly Practices. and political apathia. 29. McIntyre. Here I am invoking perfection to denote a purely intuitive conflation of rule and form. She is interested in making human self-realization compatible with the moral aims of autonomy by stipulating dialogical terms for self-realizing postconventional subjects. 22. persistence. Seyla Benhabib (Critique. Irrationality.” I take Simon Goldhills’s Reading Greek Tragedy as my point of reference for the classical scholarship on this point (86). 28.

.” in Aesthetic Ideology. 222. 8. we ought to treat it as always working upon already recognized moral principles: “Universalization is no longer a method or any part of the method for the initial generation of moral ideas and principles.” and on the other. Cultural Capital. in “Universalizability. see Guillory. For a full view of these issues. the autonomy of the aesthetic judgment is bound to the indeterminacy of value. any valorization of aesthetic categories at the expense of intellectual rigor or political action. as Kant did.“Defense of Poetry” as excerpted in Hazard Adams’s critical anthology Critical Theory Since Plato. For the fullest exposition of these views. Rather. 14. 65).Adam Smith’s Treatise on Moral Sentiment and Shaftesbury’s Characteristics exemplify the degree to which eighteenth-century theories of the aesthetic were invested in this ethos. .” De Man alleges that “these thinkers preclude. and Bourdieu. For Kant. 1–2.Truth. David Wiggins.“What Is Enlightenment?” 11.“Hegel on the Sublime. argues that we ought to avoid thinking. See Ferry. All Too Human in this way: “Art in a secular age provides. see Chapters 2 and 3 in this volume. these figures cannot transcend the critique of aestheticism they mount in a way that accommodates more philosophically hard-headed reckonings with aesthesis. Impartiality. Truths. In other words. 13. “A Letter on Art. 7. is bidden onto the scene not in the role of an explorer or first map-maker but in the role of a surveyor visiting a scene already discovered and directly known” (78–79). on the one hand designating modernity as “contemporaneity. 5. Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Art. See Plato. 10. . in Art of Judgment. Jameson) as a set of exemplary “aesthetic thinkers. Julian Young summarizes Nietzsche’s case in Human. David Kolb usefully distinguishes modernity from traditional culture in the terms of the epistemological inflection given by the Latin modern. . see Humphreys. For a detailed consideration of the reasons why we might want to predicate scientific explanation on anomalies rather than deductive-nomological models. 12. self-reflexive totality” (Aesthetic Ideology. See also Paisley Livingston’s discussions of the potential impact of anomaly theories on practices of literary interpretation. Homo Aestheticus. Values. 9. as it were.” in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. It works on what is already fully moralized. See Sidney.This has long been the obstacle to socializing the Kantian aesthetic or contemplating its prospects for social changes that would otherwise be consistent with the amelioration of social ills. See de Man. See Kant. 228–30. of course. See Paul de Man’s precedent for linking Benjamin and Althusser (and by extension.282 Notes 2. [T]he univeralizer .” 4. in Literary Knowledge. for example. See Althusser.” I am of course arguing that. . universalization verges upon deliberative process and presupposes the protocols of deliberation that foster dialogue and community. Rules of Art. or any claim for the autonomy of aesthetic experience as a self-enclosed. 3. 197. 6.The difference between my grouping of these figures and de Man’s is his belief that they are precisely not susceptible to the cognitive corruptions of “aestheticism. stipulating the sense that we live at a distance from the classic. despite their best intentions.” in Needs. Both thinkers view the aesthetic as a potential check against the moral fragmentation of society threatened in the displacement of monarchic government by market economies. For what it offers is religious feeling without cognitive responsibility” (Young. meaning “in this time.” Subsequent English usage bifurcates. of universalization as a generative process.“Ion. 38–101. Anomalies and Scientific Theories. 158. a catacomb in which the religious habit of mind can continue to exist. . 140–41). See Critique of Pure Modernity. See Howard Caygill’s extensive survey of this history of the reciprocity between theories of taste and the practices of civil society. 139.

especially 23. Michael Sprinker. . Justification and Application. Nancy promotes the idea that visuality. 26. where there can be for me several different things that are defined as good. . I am writing about the Conversion of Saint Paul commissioned on 24 September 1600 by Monsignor Tiberio Cerasi for his chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo.’ science in the form of knowledge (in the strict sense. 366.The writer’s thought does not control his language from without. Hamartia. Furthermore. the writer is himself a kind of new idiom construction himself’” (quoted in Derrida’s The Gift of Death ). it is worth noting that the foreshortening in the composition is potentiated by the placement of the painting. 16. Caravaggio is acknowledged to have painted two Conversions . has been an object of controversy with respect to both attribution and dating. Althusser’s theory of ideology is a decontextualizing of error insofar as it renders contradictions purely symptomatic 17. See Bremer. In the concluding chapter of The Muses. “The real difference between art and science lies in the specific form in which they give us the same object in quite different ways: art in the form of ‘seeing’ and ‘perceiving’ or ‘feeling. . . and becomes free from the particularity. being a default of the limitedness of human action. Grundrisse . 26. See Nancy. 24. rather communication arouses these meanings in the mind through enticement and a kind of oblique action. This makes a useful contrast with the Balbi Odescalchi Conversion where the “vision” is visualized in the figure of a solicitous angel and a mediating figure of Christ. See Damisch. Chapter 5 1. in this perspective. 223). The narrowness of the chapel makes the obliquity of the view as untranscendable as the horse itself. in Imaginary Relations. See Marx. in the Balbi Odescalchi Collection. He observes that in the Theodicy choice. It is hung on the right wall of the chapel. 23. where Habermas usefully places MacIntyre’s arguments in the context of Rorty. 25. . Derrida provides a useful historical and conceptual perspective on the inexorably aesthetic nature of error. the visible or the sensible itself in multiple slivers [èclats] which refer to nothing” (94). 2. has a balanced discussion of the genealogical links between Marx and Althusser on this point. so that there is the possibility of choice. Here I must note that Nancy is more interested in the being of the excluded plurality as an aspect of phenomenological becoming. is in that regard a source of pleasure that distinguishes man from God. In Kant’s version of the judgment of taste proper. Putnam. See Habermas. See Caravaggio Studies.. It is an index of human expressivity that Merleau-Ponty confirms for Derrida in saying: “‘Communication in literature is not the simple appeal on the part of the writer to meanings which would be part of an a priori of the mind. Davidson. and Rawls.” see “Idea for a Universal History.” in On History.Notes 283 15. approaches “a proliferation of views [vues]. Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. . 20. 21. Choice guarantees that “real subjectivity posits differences essentially in its determination . .“The Theme of Choosing. putting the viewer at an oblique angle to the picture plane. by concepts)” (ibid. 15. 18. See Hegel. 18–19. God does not know the anguish of the choice between possibilities. 19. A second Conversion. For Kant’s famous account of the “unsocial sociability of men. . The Muses.” in Judgment of Paris.” 22. where it still hangs. I am more interested in the denser determinateness of the excluded agency. See especially 95–105. [Only then] does the subject rise above particular purpose .

See note 10 in the present chapter and Rules of Art.e. by the suspension of discursive and analytic activities.“Corporatism of the Universal. See Kant. Bourdieu all too simplistically conflates the artwork with the Kantian prejudices against function and consequence. Bourdieu’s preoccupation with the “distribution of the aesthetic disposition” seems to preclude any analytical or discursive engagement with the formal qualities of the artwork that determine or produce whatever social consequences might be attributable to it. 299. See Bourdieu. 14. He asserts that. 8. This would. even as it obtains strictly on the analogical register of the aesthetic. corrigibility entertains a vital reciprocity between agency and contingent standards of evaluation that perfection does not. 13. Critique of Judgment. This has specific relevance in the context of Guillory’s ultimate view of the eighteenth-century alienation of the artwork from the commodity. however. 6.” 103. among others) that the “aesthetic attitude” or “aesthetic disposition” is “characterized by the concentration of attention (it ‘frames apart’ the perceived object from its environment). It would seem to authorize a context for the justification of artworks in which their value must be presupposed. predetermined value dimension such as perfection: it is a counter for an intrinsic predisposition to goodness. to denote the dependency of human value on human action or self-production. 9. 91). 12. I am simply suggesting that Bourdieu has unnecessarily circumscribed the field of definition for the aesthetic in order to denounce it as a field of reference for assessing human values.That is to say. as a productive aspect of human anthropology. since it cannot be rationally determined. See the conclusion to Pater. In line with the previous note. 3. He is too quick to accept the notion (fostered by Harold Osborne. Cultural Capital. 5. See Hannah Arendt’s extrapolation of Kantian judgment to the political sphere. might seem the aptest of all metaphors for an aesthetic value cut off from its means of production. But unlike perfection it is also a term that can be generalized beyond the context of moral goodness in the abstract. See McIntyre. 7. rather than on reified self. “Is Akratic Action Always Irrational?” See also my discussion .284 Notes however. i. 285–86 and 299.. corrigibility is a term that can denote a static.“[t]he immediate unity in which production coincides with consumption and consumption with production leaves their immediate duality intact” (Guillory. make it impossible to predicate aesthetic value upon a justificatory process that is perforce contextual. but a specific object which must be consumed in a specific manner” (92). 288). Having explained generally how production creates consumption. I should emphasize my belief that Guillory’s reading of the introduction to Grundrisse understates Marx’s stipulation. See Bourdieu’s scathing assessment of the illusionary premise that aesthetic value is predicated on an essence that gives primacy to form over function (Rules of Art. Marx goes on to note in the Grundrisse that “the object [of consumption] is not an object in general. Indeed.” See Rules of Art. corrigible in the sense that such value is not predetermined. In other words. As I have already suggested. I have tried to test the limits of this enterprise in Chapter 2. 4. lacks any specific agency. Indeed. whether in consumptive production or productive consumption. the social conflict that art seems to engage. corrigibility. 11. in this context. 10. he stipulates that production gives consumption its specificity. The result of this understatement is to lose track of the materialist trajectory of Marx’s thinking. One cannot overstate Marx’s insistence on the reciprocity of relations that play between production and consumption and how this reciprocity sustains the concreteness of the terms. Bourdieu’s sociological critique seems to fall into precisely the “aesthetic attitude” he himself already descried in the work of Harold Osborne. Studies in the History of Renaissance. in Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy.

where Melville deploys some variant of the term assumption. 17. See Sealts. See Miller. See Ethics. Chapter 6 1. 6. my emphasis). 127).Within those constraints. because the degree of fit between the rule and the object is not predetermined. Wittgenstein. 104.The ethical concerns addressed in this work focus upon clients about whom it is revealed. Melville’s Reading. 242–90. one involving a proviso. and Professional Duties of Attorneys and Solicitors). See Rocco. Can we not find there the secret of a hypothetical reference to some indecipherable providence or prudence?” (75. 3. See Rocco. See Rocco’s agreement with Vernant on this point (Rocco. Tragedy and Enlightenment. Values. that they were not properly served by counsel. 18. Narratology. His close attention to Bartleby’s preference “not to” yields a meditation on indeterminacy that complements my point nicely: “I would prefer not to looks like an incomplete sentence.” 43. 34–67. 2. See particularly Bal. see especially his chapter 9 (“Inner Experience. In The Gift of Death. Intentionality. 15.“the decision lies with our perception” (Ethics. 21. 4. 379). Needs. See Horkheimer and Adorno. Myth and Tragedy. Social.Wiggins’s sense of the aesthetic as a case of “situational appreciation” here derives from Aristotle’s use of the term perception . in accordance with the devices of peripeteia and hamartia. Derrida has a brief but evocative discussion of Bartleby.Notes 285 of McIntyre’s approach to the issue of phronetic action. it announces a temporary or provisional reserve. Leading a Human Life. Ethics of Reading. 1126 b10. the Exhaustion of Temptation. in Chapter 3 of the present volume. In Poetics character is presented as a threshold of changeability that. though not in a way that makes it impossible to inquire for the relevant difference between it and other situations calling forth similar or dissimilar decisions” (Wiggins. with its subtitle. Remembrance. one’s sense of how well a rule fits its object reflects the degree to which we exercise judgment in “confrontation with some actually given particular situation—a situation described very specifically. Gratitude— #243–308”).As his title. only after their demise. For a resourceful account of what alternatives present themselves in relation to the subject’s reliance on rule-following and practical norms of self recognition. See Eldridge. 40–41. for its focus on the affinity of Greek culture with that of eighteenth-century Europe. published in the year before “Bartleby” was written. 97. See “Bartleby. my emphasis).Aristotle stipulates that where the rule is not presupposed for the judgment. It is worth considering in this regard that Melville’s library featured a text by Samuel Warren (The Moral. Vernant and Vidal-Naquet. It is precisely the prudential or deliberative reserves of indeterminacy that I am alleging could be tapped in the imperatives of adaptation. 5. Its indeterminacy creates a tension: it opens onto a sort of reserve of incompleteness. 171. Eldridge links the habit of “subliming” explanation to the conceptual weaknesses of Romantic theories of the self. Wiggins takes his cue here from Aristotle’s notion that standards of reasonableness in philosophy are dependent on the constraints of practical knowledge. 3. Dialectic of Enlightenment. 19. 246–47 for a sense of how Aristotle’s (by contrast with Plato’s) view of akrasia bears on character in a way that complements his Poetics: where character is subordinated to action. entails contextual protocols of knowledge. Truth. and Romanticism. Tragedy and Enlightenment. suggests. Tragedy and Enlightenment. See Ethics. . 20. 16.

particular labor by which being is produced. 16. Many Faces of Realism. .” 15. 326. It is worth noting that Vernant makes an invidious comparison between action depicted in Aeschylus and Sophocles with Euripides’ focus on the pathetic mode.“Free Particulars. 185 11. see especially chapter 1. Consequently. and the Bounds of Art. . Ibid. Elsewhere it is clear that his sense of the deliberative agent does entail a relation to spectatorship.e. I reject this argument on the same basis that I finally invoked in my assessment of Nancy’s fragmentary aesthetic. 9. Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece. 135.” in The Ideology of the Aesthetic. See Vernant and Vidal-Naquet. Bersani subscribes to Nancy’s motto for the “negative” status of art: art is a “representation of representation. Truth. See Habermas’s stigmatizing of this formula in The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. .“Relevance of the Beautiful. at least insofar as “taking the agent point of view . See Gadamer. Needs. See Sense of the World. The counter of incontinent action in Dialectic of Enlightenment is the individual whose identity will be countenanced only if it is generalizeable beyond any circumstance of action that is plausibly his or her own. 41. 78–80. 13. . What is individual is no more than the generality’s power to stamp the accidental detail so firmly that it is accepted as such” (154). comes at the cost of meaningful scope for responsible action. 10. 17. 79. i. Arlene W. in Modernity. de Romilly that the shift of emphasis to a human life in which the frame of reference is simply character. His appeal to what Raymond Williams had called “the structure of feeling” as the basis of an aesthetic community that might rebuild civil society from . leads to a fallibilism. Putnam stipulates his preference for the place of the agent over the spectator. 21. Aesthetics. For the basis of this generalization. 2. . Bersani’s case depends more on the premise that the “work” of art. Ibid.“[i]n the culture industry the individual is an illusion not merely because of the standardization of the means of production. He is tolerated only so long as his complete identification with the generality is unquestioned. 25–26. See Putnam. 3. 8. Said essays to remediate the exile of feeling from theories of artistic form. 133–34. Ibid.. a pluralism and a version of realism that includes some objectivity. though his concern at this moment is only with the relative merits of each viewpoint vis-à-vis the fixity of the relevant worldview.. Here it is worth considering a similar initiative taken by Edward Said in his Musical Elaborations .” 20.286 Notes 7. See Chapter 5 for my discussion of Guillory’s and Bourdieu’s drift toward universalizing abstraction. In that way it constitutes a defensive maneuver against ideology. In effect. Chapter 7 1. 19. Saxonhous quoted in Rocco. Vernant agrees with J. 83–84. in direct contradiction of their stated intentions to restore sociopolitical bite to an otherwise decadent aestheticism. Values. See Wiggins. Tragedy and Enlightenment. 18. The Culture of Redemption. has consequence in the world only insofar as it negates meaning. 237. 22. Unfortunately. unconflicted by an external determining force (which he identifies with the order of the gods). Ibid. 69.. 14. See Aesthetic Judgment.” See McCormick’s useful discussion of this point... See Bersani. 12.

. no. This point is referenced to Benjamin’s discussion in Origin of the German Tragic Drama. Ducasse. 108–9. 1 (1995). 110. . For an elaboration of how a strategy to redirect traditions of learning about form might suffice as an artistic métier. 3). For exemplification of these enthusiasms. 17.“Is Akratic Action Always Irrational?” 389.They invite abstract universalizing precisely where particularizing agency would seem the most relevant resource of creative will. preeminently Zizek. See Crowther’s riposte to Altieri in the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 53.” in Critique of Judgment. Painting. . “There Is No There: Gerhard Richter at the Carré d’Art in Nimes. are elements of an ongoing argument: “The central thesis of these works is that what is fundamental in our cognitive relation to the world is our inherence in it as embodied beings. 230–31. See Birgit Pelser. especially 195. See Sussman. and the Real. Aesthetic Contracts. But in support of this emotion-based aesthetic.“Difficulty of Art. 16. and Butler. Collingwood. or as a ground of aesthetic valuation. 6. Crowther’s books.” 40–41. Critical Aesthetics and Postmodernism. most recently.“Photography. Altieri is critical of Crowther’s account of the historical agent. see Crowther. Psychic Life of Power. Oddly enough. 15. 13. The Arabic song cycles. 229. Consequences of Enlightenment. 146. 8. 60–61. My point here is that Benjamin’s aesthetic agency constitutes no more than a corollary rupturing of the frame. Benjamin generates considerable enthusiasm for Dadaism’s use of picture frames to enclose the detritus of quotidian life. 11. The Language of Twentieth-Century Art.The effect is to negate the way in which the frame “ruptures time” and so falsifies its production.” in Richter. Specifically. .” 63. R. See Chapter 1. 18. is a bid for an aesthetic theory that eludes the traps of hegemonic taste. put the expressive self in radical doubt.Notes 287 the ground up. rather than from the top down. See “The Author as Producer.This review is incorporated by Crowther into the conclusion to his recent Language of Twentieth-Century Art. in and out of the artwork. 14.” in Illuminations. Anthony Cascardi usefully considers the extrapolation of the Marxist precept by Lacanians. Said’s recourse to the example of Arabic song cycles reveals the cost of abdicating cognitive structures. which work on a principle of virtually infinite self-elaboration. 7. Antoine. McIntyre. Critical Aesthetics. “Poetics. G.Altieri raised his objections in a review of Crowther’s earlier work. 10. this example presents an impasse of theorizing that bears striking resemblance to that which afflicted Curt J. Art and Embodiment . Bourdieu’s fullest account of habitus appears in Outline of a Theory of Practice. 100 Pictures. see Cascardi. and. all of whom solicited emotional grounds for aesthetic universals. 5. 12.“On Estimating the Magnitude of Natural Things . See Kant. 78–87.” 50. See Cascardi. 4. 9. and Suzanne Langer. How the world is structured and how we negotiate it through the unified operations of all the senses are reciprocally correlated” (Language of Twentieth-Century Art.


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31 on “reconciliation.” 34–37 on “second reflection. 57–59 on “representative thinking. 73–74. 179–80. 188. 175. 5. 182. 127 on incontinent action. 163. 286 n. 119. 39. 23.” 52–55 Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy. 247–48. 43. 59. 232. 278 n. 41. 182. 234. 19. 174. 224–26. Darstellung). 72. 94 anomaly theory. 6. 1 aestheticism (versus aesthetics/aesthesis). 33 The Human Condition. 276 nn. 220. 167 . 213 and reason. akrates (the akratic agent). 206. 232.” 56. 203 Aristotelian catharsis. 120. 235 anti-aesthetic (ideology of).. 163. 167. 7. 192 Aesthetic Theory. 199. 46–60. 22 culture industry. 60–65. 171. perfectionism. 51. 106. 15. 3 akon (will in spite of desire). 279 n. 10–14. adaptive agency. 205 akrasia. 238. 200 archon. 280 n. 144. 277 n. 271 appearance (Vorstellung. 50. 186–88. 31 The Life of the Mind. 177–85. 11 Negative Dialectics. 279 n. 52–57. 36 “Understanding and Politics.” 34–39 aesthesis. 187. 67. 150. 34 on Kantian “schema. 71–75. 14. 112. 66. 174. 179 Arendt. 235. 125. 11 on “imagination. Aristotelian theories of art. 103–7. 217–18. 14. 5. 252. 190 aesthetic attitude. 232. 41–44. 50.” 43. 209. 21. 5. 122.” 279 n. 47. 1 on “enlarged thought. 195. anti-aestheticism.” 113–14. 264. 24. 74–75. 165. 168–69. 49. 28–38. 277 n. nn.”“enlarged mentality. 157–60. 268 Aquinas. 83 on distinction between tragedy and comedy. Louis. 288 n. 198. 282 n. 171.” 31–35 on “tremor (Erschutterung). 114–15 Lenin and Philosophy. 230. 39. 17. 16. 82. 277 n. 43. 243–55 on “On the Sublime of Self-Disgust. 112–16. 273. 26. 10 Althusser. 143. 41–69. 115. 98–102. 126. 154. 59. 166. 79–89. Hannah. 200. 158. 198. 5. 273 Adorno. 47. 84 analogy. 1 “A Letter on Art. 261. 119. 196. 278. 44.Theodor W. 100. 65. 117. 35.Index adaptation. 29. 171. 283 nn. 184. 238. 145. 280 n. 16 Altieri. 248–49 Antoine. 193–94. 144. 128. Jean-Philippe. 235 on ideology.Thomas. 34 Dialectic of Enlightenment. 196. 174. akratic action. St. 169. 152. 71–72. 109–11. the. 110. 63. 43. 3. 279 n. 15. 89 on “exemplary validity. 213–15. 191. 222–28. 271. 12 anagnorisis. 158–61. 127. 263 aesthetic state. 69. 118. 166. Charles. 232. 63.” 51–55. 85. 66 agonia.” 46–47 Thinking. 59. 280 n. 62. 79. 43 Aristotle. 120. 80–81.” 244–48 review of Crowther. 168. 272–73 distinguished from hamartia. 1. 275 n. 226 aesthetic perfection. 76.

beauty theory. 106–7 Index on the “a-venir. 183–86. 76–79. 103. 137. 126–27. 259 Conversion of Saint Paul. 101. 19. 98. 231. 17 Poetics. 275 n. 3 communitarianism. 9. (Michelangelo Merisi). 6. 236 Balzac. 77 Borges.. 176. Robert. Samuel. 82. Ill Said. 122. 176 beauty. Nicolas. 285 nn. 3 Free Exchange (with Hans Haacke). 15. 181. Jean. 57–60. 143. 24.. 216–17. 88–89. 277 n. 10. agency. 22. 36–37. 126. 227–30. 27–29. M. Judith. 4. Joseph. 42. 2. 77–78. 134 Benhabib. 222. 19. 176 Bürger. 165. 250.15. 105–6. 176. 226–27. 19 Brenkman. 1–2. 41–42. 21. 89. 48. avant-gardism. 35. Jennifer. 4. 234.” 236 Distinction. 16. Bertolt. 82. 25. 69. 274 and learning. 63 Bohours. antagonist of Peitho). 221. 280 n. 219. 280 n. 83. 244 Butler. 206. 237–39. 73. 50. 281 n. Noël. 49. 8. 75–76. 287 n. 245 . 155. Seyla. 159. 29. 5 Castiglione. 140. 234. 36. Howard. 57. 12–17. 231. 5 Buxton. 30. 286 nn. Victor. 132–33. Baldassare. 126. 19. 6–63. 135. 275 n. 97. 287 n. 238. 39–40. 15 on proairesis. 23 Carrol. J. 23–24 Cascardi. 110–15. 226 Comte. 278 nn. Leonardo. 6. 133–37. 61. 89. 283 n. 47. M. 116. Roland. 84. 14–18 Bernstein. J. 6 “The Artist as Producer. 25 Connor. 86–102 and parsimonious syntax. 99. Giovanni Pietro. 281 n. 287 n. 270.” 228 Bennett. 23. 23 Collingwood. 194–95 and reversal. 206. 267. 279 nn. 285 n. 7 Bourdieu. 77 Baudrillard. 148. 20. 282 n. 278 n. 237–44 on “corporatism of the universal. 238. W. 23. 48. 278 nn. 174. 79. 11 Brecht. 39 Bellori.Tony. 24 Auschwitz. Walter. 114 Baron. 90–94. 147. Hans. 223 Nichomachean Ethics. 78. 15 ars. 19. 22 Barthes. Robert. 175 Beckett. 167–70. 50 choice-making. 278 nn. 229 Bremer. 39. 204. 73. Jorge Luis. 24 Bullough. Clive. 28 on “confused clarity. 247–48. 9. Pierre. 2. 30 avant-garde. 24. 251 Baumgarten. 224–25 Bruni. 56–57. 201. poiesis. Anthony J. 13. John. 263–64. 247–48 Bouleau. 28. 3. 45. 278 n. Charles. G.. 15. 101. 24–25. Edward. 287 n. 41. 67. Dominique. Peter. Aristotelian theories of art (continued) on interdependence of reversal and recognition. 282 n. 13. 31. the beautiful. 281 nn. 223 catharsis. 45. 132. 280 n. 278 n.. 276 n. 12 Bell. 8 Chytry. 25. 10–12. 112. 280 nn. 6 Burgin. 149. 37. 5. 11. 232 Bartlett.” 95 scientia cognitionis sensitivae. 259 Ill Seen.. 69. 223 Caygill. 277 n. 41. 12. 12. 147.. 139. 21 Coover. 5. 284–85 n. 247–48 contextuality.298 Aristotle. Matthew. 224–25 in relation to need. A. 78–79. R. 101 Beiner. 17. 275 n. 253–60. 281 and Fred Dallmayr. 148–49. 45–48 Caravaggio. G. 241–42 and comparative context. 204–5 Arnold. 10. Alexander Gottlieb. 31. 40. Frederick C. 231. 47. 86. 42. 6. 14 Batteaux. 20. 283 n. 20 bia (passion/violence. reading. Honoré. 50–52. Ronald. Maeve. 277 n. Leo. 281 nn. 157–58. 211. 44 Beiser. contextualizing. 128 Beardsley. R. 103. 5. Monroe. 183–84. 279 nn.” 149 The Rules of Art. 82. 111. 269 and pragmatic contextualism. Auguste. 129. 3 Cooke. 25 Benjamin. 139. 229–37. 16 Bersani. 277 nn.

220 Dewey. 273–74 eristics.” 185 desire.Index and recontextualizing agency. 10. 258. 13 Dubos (the Abbe). 244–48 enkrateia (continent character). 33. 141. Richard. 253. 11 Faulkner. 19 Ferry. 278 n. 150. 74. 122. 26 embodiment. 25. 47–48. 101. 35–39 Science of Knowledge (Wissenschaftslehre). 92. 188. 184. 265. 274 and learning (corrigibility). 108. 206 Dictionnaire des Idées Recues.” 123–25 euboulia [good deliberation]. 182 Damisch. 26 on genealogy/archeology. 287 n. 139. 76. 28. 260. 7 Ducasse. 145. 43. 286 n. 26. 4 Elster. 26–29 Discipline and Punish. Gustave. 15. eudaimonian. 157–58 as a mode of adaptation. 277 n. 97–101. 28–29. 28. Hubert. 287–88 n. 26 Daspre. 25. 6 Dreyfus. Wilhelm. 132. 90 Deleuze. 80–82. 193 Garin. 11 The Ideology of the Aesthetic. 88–105. 35–39. 217 versus “mass audience. Hubert. 206 Flaubertian irony. 207. 284 n. 136–37 forgery. 115. 232 Bouvard et Pécuchet. 117. 193. 231–36 Ferguson. Jacques. 182. 37. 6. 170. 15 The Care of the Self. 3 doctrine classique. 191. 272 versus relativism. 66 Friedlaender. 282 n. 123–28 corrigibility. 380 n. 280 n. 49–50 foreshortening. 46–48. William. 5 game-theorists. 235 Florentine Renaissance. 175. Hans Georg. 168–69 Foster. 179–80. 113 Derrida. 4 on “principle of reciprocity. 107. 98–99. 191. 120–21. 4. 276 n. William Scott. 129. 8. 27 on Aufforderung (“summons”)Anerkennung (recognition). 29. 11 response to Altieri. 221. 173. 75–76. 108–12. Hal. 1 Foucault. 26 on Anstoss (blockage).Terry. 76–77. 264–65. 198–99. 23. 13 demos. 159. 105–6. 171. 200. 179. 119. 113. 80. Alessandro. Walter. 280 n. 6 daimon. 82. 103. 276 n. 114–16. 149–50. 6 Fichte. 253–55 299 Enlightenment. 108–9. enkratic action. 283–84 n. 118. 51. 80. 12 Culture Industry. 18. 280 n. Curt J. 23 Freud. 3 Duchamp. 73. 149. 159. 2. the (also enlightenment). 185 Fraser. 140. 275 n. 25–29. 281 n. 62 error. Luc. 135 Gadamer. 280 n. 84–89. 180 Dilthey. 180. André. 47 eudaimonia. Michel. Paul. 278 n.. 155 Eagleton. 249–50. John. Jon. 281 n. 78. 92.” 254–55. 204. Paul. 128–29. 190. 186–87. 35–38 Flaubert. 10–11. 276 n. Johann Gottlieb. 7. 222. 165–68. 186 deliberation. 155. 287 n. 107. 276 nn. 97. Eugenio. 19 Ferrara. 269. 25 . 287 n. 196–201. 173. 153–59. 13. 119. 265 and activity. 274 and demystifying “epistemological crisis. 160. 122–28. 24. Nancy. 86. 280 n. 140. 276 n. 255 ethics and aesthetics. 281 nn. 8 Eldridge. 277 n. 177 postmodern critique of. 275 n. 282 n. 21 Deixis. 137. 242. 5 critical theory. 16. 19. 276 n. 1 The Gift of Death. 169–71. 175 on “subliming” explanation. 147 dianoia. 268 Dunn. 120. 229. 77. 94–95. 141. 216. 155–56. 283 n. 42. 168. 174. 116. 108. Robert. 288 n. 278 n. 18–19. 135–36. 19 Frankfurt School. 259. 221. Gilles. 106. 189. 182–83. Marcel. 218 Dada. 78. 39–40. 158–59 ethos. 56. 2. 244. 118. 285 n. 203 de Man. 253–60. 277 n. 227. 50–52. Sigmund. 218 versus estrangement. 186. 22 disinterestedness. 73. 146–47 development. 139–40. 107. 176. 34–36. 202–3. 66–67 Crowther.

40. 284 n. 128. 8. 275 nn. J. 6. Suzanne. 282 n. 34–35. 149.. 48 . 264 on cognitive function of art. 146 “What is Enlightenment?. 31–34. 283 n. 38. 281 n.” 109 Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. 277 n. 20–22. 15. 91 Ionian League. 140–49. 11. 283 n. 2.” 282 n. 2. 237–43. 239–42 Voici Alcan. 249. 9 Kruger. 77. 2. 32–33. 27. 261 Marx. 267 “You Are Not Yourself. 62. 10 Kolb. 28–29. 256. 54–55 ideology. John. 277 n. 1 Critique of Judgment. 80–81. 39.”. 230. Paisley.” 282 n. 107. 27 Kames. 206. 111. 278 n. 278 n. Jean-François. 15. 119. Karl. 224. 12 Hegel.Thomas.” 258–60 Langer.” 284 n. 253. 22 Horkheimer. 278 n. 232–37 hamartia. 108. 78. Herbert. 11. 141.Thomas. 3. 49 Lectures in Aesthetics. 33. Fredric. Jürgen. 249. 140. 68. 17 Geschmack. 120.300 Index Jameson. 286 n. 238. 112. 69. 120–26 Marcuse. 30 Hume. 71. 144–46. 187. Nelson. 281 n. 287 n. 64–66.” 64 on “forgiveness. 9. 8 Haacke. 15 Geuss. 220–21. 250. 231. 27 Goodman. 278 n. 20–24. 195–96. 126–28 Hamman. 42–44. 57–58 Hobbes. 46. 205 Henrich. 2. F. 22. 16. 18 Lyotard. 43. Hans. 66–69. intersubjective mind. Alasdair.” 201–18 judgment. 14 Greenberg. 42. 255 Guattari. 87. 239. 17. 109. 280 n.” 117–19 Joyce. Willard. 18 habitus (in Bourdieu). 140. 29. 81.. 235–36. David. 245. 2 on the mathematical sublime. 97.”“purposiveness without a purpose. 263. David. 229. 32. 87. 188. 43–44. 213–15. 273 Goldhills. 118 Guillory. 263. 192 Dialectic of Enlightenment.” 63–66. 38. 77–78. G. 199. 9 McCormick. Immanuel. 7 McCarthy. 281 n.” 144. 217–18. 3 Lewis. 275 n. 176. 275 n. 29–30. 21. 259 “The Dead. 275 n. 111. 13. 115–19 on “libindinal apparatus. 8. 278–79 nn. 15. 282 n. George. 282 n. 18 on “finality of form. 27. 36. 2 and “aesthetical ideas. 52. 281 n. W. 16. 141. 147 on “the beautiful soul” and “conscience. 284 n. 65. 24. 125. 112. 35–36. 281 n. 6.Thomas. 1 on Deleuze and Guattari 117 Fables of Aggression. Peter J. 248. 108 Holmes. 15. 118 hypotyposis. 206–7 Herder. 20 “Idea for a Universal History. 238. Raymond. 136. 112. 102. 244. Georg. 279 nn. 122 Livingston.. G. 5. 278 nn. James. 219–24. 276 n. 200. 11 history. 277 n. 15. 113. 195. Francis. Johann Gottfried. 229 “Perpetual Peace. 7 Longinus. 191. 286 n. 235–36. 108. 20. 111. 175. 11 Huhn. 41. 16. 52 MacIntyre.” 245–46 on the “Analytic of the Beautiful. 250. 231. 21 hekon (volitional will). 7 hypallage. 222. 59–60. 273 Grundrisse. 255. 117. 45–46. 145. Simon. 37. 78. Clement. 20. 42–43. 30 on “play. John. 107 Lukács. 250–52 Habermas. 18. 174. 11 Hutcheson. 50–61. 234. 107 Kant. 117–18. 282 n. 112. 88. 9 Whose Justice? Which Rationality?. 122. 48. 33. 142. ideology critique. 124. Dieter. 1. 150. Felix. 174 Humphreys. 267 Freedom is Now Simply Going to be Sponsored—Out of Petty Cash. 16. 12. 221 Cultural Capital. 113. 28. Eliot. Lord. 196. 282 n. 279 n. 116. 184. judgment power. 120 Jurist. 246 intersubjectivity. 20–22. 115–19. 11 Locke. historical self-consciousness. 276 n. 38. 129–32. 17. and Greenbergian formalism. 20 Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion. Wyndham. 283 n. 140. Max. 141. Barbara.177–85. 265. 67 Essay on the Origin of Language. 118.

44. 220–22 of meaning. 103–4. 214 production (production paradigm). 128. 103. peripity. 184. 41. 234. J. 60. 120. agency (vis-à-vis the artwork). 131–33. 22–23. 196. 129. 62 Protagoras. 188. Herman. 284 n. poststructuralist era. 39–40. Hilary. 48. 201. 231. 264 Renaissance. 63. Harold. 129 Sophist. 43–50 Richter. 263 and the artistic producer. 127 phronesis. 72. 66 postmodern aesthetics. 40. 258 301 on “weakness of will. 134 Miller. 238. 6 . 227–30 and the cognitive function of art. 72–73. 185–86. 107. 33–34 nomos (rule of law-tradition). normativity. 263 poststructuralism. 234. 48. 278 n. 71. 27. Karl Philip. 45. 75. 96 norms. 46. 189–91. 105. 6. 30 Mele. 33. 178–80.” 265. 259 “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street. 46. 71. 263 “Ema. 149–71 Merleau-Ponty. 20. 67. 82–83. 187–90 recognition. 193. 101–2 Republic. 85. 222. Christopher. 141 Nietzsche. 284 n. 29–31.” 137 on the plurality of sense. 91. Jean-Luc. 23 need and desire. 13 Osborne. 41. 155. 26. Renaissance humanism. 141. 27. 46. 231. 281 n. 197. 286 n. All Too Human. 57. 6 Peacock. 273. 71. 201. 189–91. 47 Pelser Birgit. 84.Thomas Love. 285 n.” 157 poiesis versus praxis. 41. 107. 48. Friedrich. 66. narratology. 2. 79. 155–56. 22 on “patency. 38 Oedipus the King (Sophocles). 174. Nude on a Staircase. 128. 235. 82. 19 mimesis and mimeticism. 19 The Muses. Pico della. 243–53. 74 Putnam. 145. 95. culture. 176 Neoplatonism. 28. 39 on solicitude. 35. 175–78 and game theory/preference ordering. 128–29 Gorgias. 191–92. 89. 187–94 narrative. 61 Rabinow. Alfred. 29–31 New Critics (the American). 83. 42 Rocco.” 30. 92. 19–20. 56. recognitional imperative. 13 peripeteia. 186. 224. 93. 26. 3 distinction between seeing and thinking. 285 n. 284 n. 282 n. 182. 282 n. Hillis. 41 post-Enlightenment. 3. 181–82. as it relates to narrative. 279 n. 195 and recognition. 3. 209. 255. Maurice. 147. 84. 42. 275 n. 121 Nancy. 288 n. 1 Michelangelo. 286 n. 15 Melville. 89. n. 276 n. 68. 11. Walter. 60–68. 13 Raphael. 158–59 narrative time versus mythic time. 281 nn. 63–64. 1. 88.” 6. 281. Paul. 9 Pater. 26–27. 193 and sense (in Nancy). 286 n. 35. 50. 275 n. 126 Plato. 75–86.” 86–87. 268–69 Ricoeur. 270 Mirandola. 34–39. 223–26 “prospective pathos. 12 Peitho (goddess of persuasion). 24. 223. 38. 110. 74. 283 nn. 47. 94 public sphere. 18. 75. 39–40. 49. 132. 181–82 naturalistic fallacy. 19. 179 Human. 279 n. Alison. 15 Moritz. 19. 186 presentational powers. 132–33 Sense of the World. 201–2. 193–95 polis. 250. 22. 80. 102. Paul. 185–86. 227–28 postmodernism and oppositionalism. 173–74. (the). (the). 79. 61–63. presentational field of the artwork. 135. 140–69. 273 political action. 244–74 protagonist-in-demos. 135–36. 63. 45. 4 non-identity. 53–56. 238. 17 on “internal (or pragmatic) realism. 179. 134 reason. 5. 58. 195 Pythagorian maxim. 52.Index McIntyre. 253–54. 245. 279 n. 49. Gerhard. 18. 47. 204.

Andrew. 211 Symbolon. 196–99. 222. 53 Wittgenstein.. self-revising rationality. Jean-Jacques. Pierre. n. 2 “Universalizability. 175–77. Albrecht. 226. 202–7. 285 n. 25. 213.” 282 n. 280 n. 4 Rousseau. symbolism. 11.. 39. 22–23. 34–35. 104 Solon. 22 Vico. 286 n. 140. 119. 260. 55 Wiggins. 154 Thetes. Anthony (Lord). 238. Giambattista. 194–95.” 261–63 Sidney. 14 Ross.302 Romanticism. 174. 175. 267 “Untitled #206. (the). Claude Henri de. 60–62. 265. 286–87 n. 39 Sealts. 2. 72–79. Romantic art. 22. 20 self-justification. 66 Voltaire. 107. 276 n. 30 Young. 5–7. 55–60. 43–48. 165. 204. 178. 275 n. 269 as an obstacle to choice-making. 122 self-revising subjectivity. David. 255–58. William Makepeace. Julian. Adam. Impartiality. 42 tragedy. 287 n. 15. 27. 12 Williams. 106. 107–8. 7 Singer. Arlene W. 141. Alan. 225. 280. Friedrich. 69. 106 Saxonhous. 66. 228 . Ludwig. 282 n. 206 Index symbol. 31. 6 on varieties of action in Aeschylus. 27. 31. Merton M. 7 Schein (appearance). 4 Williams. 186. 194 Wolff. 49. Sir Philip. 17 subjective agency. 50. 271. 94 self-transformation. 223 Sensus Communis. tragic knowledge. 65. 4 Said. 29. 187–95. 107 Sussman. 223. 256. 270 Thackeray. 281 n. 9 Schiller. 192. 190–91 Tasten. 5 Shaftesbury. 271 and the deliberative agent.” 126–27 Trauerspiel (compared with Greek tragedy). 229. 1 on emotional grounds for the aesthetic.Truth. 111. 2 on “Je ne sais quoi. 49. Amélie O. 47. 42 Surrealism. 135–37 Sulla. 177–84. 89–90. Michael. 285–86 n. 211. 236 “translation as transition. 60–66. 282 n. translatability. 174–81. 131. 228 Tugendthat. 275 n. 101–2. Richard. Paul. 50. 52. (subliming).” 107 Sherman. 92–95. 43. 69. 50 on distinction between scienza and coscienza. 142–43 Smith. 107–8 Wolin. (the). 40. 114 Sprinker. 20–22. 38–39. 16. 135. 218. 84. 64.. 31–32. 15. 141.. Sophocles. 76 Warren. Raymond 12. 227. 15. 280 n. 230. Robert R. 3 Saint-Simon. 106. 279 nn. 277 n. 102. 225 Rorty. Henry. 238. 227–28. 245 and techne (tekhne). Tastenden. 281 n. 111. sublimity. 265–68. 68. 261 Romantic sublime. Alexander. Jean-Pierre. 103. 264. 16 sublime. 3. 165. 280 n. 188. 206 postmodern sublime. 75. 29 Sittlichkeit. 110–28. 23 Turranos. 198–99. 4 Socrates. 15. 285 n. Greek tragedy. 42 Solzhenitsyn. 88 Smith. and Vidal-Naquet. 131–33. 212 Vernant. Euripides. Ernst. Edward. Cindy. 20. 283 n. 286 n. 189. 3. 68. 191–92. 178 Turranos-pharmakos. Samuel. 4 visual image (in tension with verbal sign). 282 n. 275 n. 20 Wellmer. 91–93. 106. 217 translation. Christian. 77. 17 techne. 215–16 Vita Activa-Vita Contemplativa. 45.

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