Aesthetics and Subjectivity From Kant to Nietzsche by Andrew Bowie

By Andrew Bowie

New, thoroughly revised and re-written version. deals an in depth, yet asccesible account of the important German philosophical culture of puzzling over artwork and the self. appears to be like at fresh ancient examine and modern arguments in philosophy and thought within the humanities, following the trail of German philosophy from Kant, through Fichte and Hölderlin, the early Romantics, Schelling, Hegel, Schleiermacher, to Nietzsche.

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This consciousness must already exist in some way if it is to be aware of the series of intuitions which constitute its appearance as object to itself as its own intuitions. Kant acknowledges this problem, but does nothing to solve it: I am conscious of myself in general in the synthesis of the multiplicity of representations, therefore in the synthetic original unity of apperception, not as I appear to myself, neither as I am in myself, but only to the extent that I am. This representation is thinking, not intuition.

Although we now derive no pleasure from the synthesising activity of the understanding: ‘in its time there must have been some, and only because the most common experience would not be possible without it did it gradually mix with simple cognition and was no longer particularly noticed any more’ (CJ B p. XL, A p. XXXVIII). The activity of cognition therefore has a history in which it is motivated by pleasure, and pleasure is not something within the cognitive control of the subject. It is not surprising, then, as we shall see in a moment, that the pleasure occasioned by the aesthetic object derives precisely from its allowing our cognitive faculties to play in a manner that does not entail determination by concepts, thus suggesting that the ground of cognition is an activity which, like play, can take place for its own sake.

From Schelling and the early Romantics, to Marx, Nietzsche, Weber, Heidegger, and beyond this will be a central issue both in aesthetic theory and in theories of modernity – the tendency of certain aspects of ecological movements towards mythical ways of thinking is, for example, not fortuitous. The key issue here is the nature of the imagination. For Kant, as we saw, aesthetic judgements rely upon the fact that the object is received in the subject in terms of ‘feeling’ and in terms of a harmonious play of understanding and imagination.

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