Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Poetry and Contingency"

From and essay by Michael Palmer:

"Kant thought he was honoring art when among the predicates of beauty he emphasized and gave prominence to those which established the honor of knowledge: impersonality and universality. This is not the place to inquire whether this was essentially a mistake; all I wish to underline is that Kant, like all philosophers, instead of envisaging the aesthetic problem from the point of view of the artist (the creator), considered art and the beautiful purely from that of the “spectator,” and unconsciously introduced the “spectator” into the concept “beautiful.” It would not have been so bad if this “spectator” had at least been sufficiently familiar to the philosophers of beauty - namely as a great personal fact and experience, as an abundance of vivid authentic experiences, desires, surprises, and delights in the realm of the beautiful! But I fear that the reverse has always been the case; and so they have offered us, from the beginning, definitions in which, as in Kant’s famous definition of the beautiful, a lack of any refined first-hand experience reposes in the shape of a fat worm of error. “That is beautiful,” said Kant, “which gives us pleasure without interest.” Without interest! Compare with this definition one framed by a genuine “spectator” and artist - Stendhal, who once called the beautiful une promesse de bonheur. At any rate he rejected and repudiated the one point about the aesthetic condition which Kant had stressed: le d√©sinteressement. Who is right, Kant or Stendhal?"

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