I look back at the history of
modern aesthetics to grasp its current situation and to propose its
possibilities for the future. The early
modern period, during which aesthetics came into being, was a great historical
turning point for civilization. Our
contemporary period shares this character, and it is worthwhile for us to
consult its history in order to reflect on our civilization. Aesthetics began with Baumgarten’s proposal,
which consisted in a triple subject: sensibility,
beauty, and art. His idea was accepted
because it responded to the fundamental problems of the period. Sensibility was the only form of cognition of
value in a re-formed world (Pascal). Art
existed in three forms: official,
social, and solitary and reflective. The
first (San Pietro and Versailles) promoted art to the rank of high culture, and
it was the third form that presented aesthetics as the philosophy of art. But in the early modern period, aesthetics
was first of all the philosophy of beauty because beauty guaranteed the
rationality and order of the new world (Shaftesbury, Malebranche). Modern aesthetics, however, was a philosophy
of art under the general trends of anthropocentrism. The pursuit of originality led to Duchamp’s
Fountain, after which there remains nothing new for art to do. We now confront urgent problems, such as
global warming and conflict between different civilizations, etc., which
suggest the need for changing the way of managing the world. Under this situation, I think aesthetics holds
new and real possibilities for the philosophy of beauty.
autonomy, beauty, civilization, crisis, modernity, our period, three forms of
subject here is a reflection on the possibilities and orientations of
contemporary aesthetics, referring to the early modern situation when this
field was established as a philosophical discipline. As these two periods share the characteristic
of being a great historical turning point for civilization, I believe this
program can be justified.
at this way, aesthetics should show a face rather different from the one we are
used to. Aesthetics is often considered
to be an isolated field in philosophy.
We can quote two reasons for this.
The first concerns the stance of the study of classical texts. Although in later developed countries in
modern culture, such as Japan, historical study is still dominant in
aesthetics, aesthetics in Western countries is inclined to speculation rather
than to such studies. This is something that is not found in other fields of
philosophy. Asking why this is so, we
arrive at a second reason, namely that discussion in aesthetics is almost
exclusively concentrated on the problems of art. Art requires an autonomous status, and that
is regarded as a sign of a civilized state of culture. Therefore, discussions on art should
necessarily be autonomous. Philosophy of
art is willing to enclose itself within its own distinctive area separate from
other cultural ones, such as politics and ethics, and consequently it is
isolated from other fields of philosophy.
wish to talk about a completely different aesthetics. In early modern times when aesthetics was
coming into existence, it was far from being narrow and particular but was charged
with the real and urgent philosophical problem of its time: how to construct a
new world. Modern civilization,
established through such discussions, seems to be ending in our day. The leading idea of “progress,” which consists
in elevating the amenities of life through the exploitation of nature, cannot
continue in that manner any more. The
history of modern aesthetics was coordinated with this cycle of
civilization. As is well known, the end
of art has been proclaimed, just as it has
been said of history and of the modern.
It goes without saying that this does not concern the abolition of art,
but if the being of art changes radically, an aesthetics that developed as a philosophy
of art cannot but transform itself. And
indeed, aren’t there positive reasons that it should change?
this paper I want to consider the role of the aesthetics in terms of the
contemporary situation of global civilization.
The season of the philosophy of art that flourished in the second half
of the twentieth century, an aesthetics based on the paradigm of modern art,
seems to be in an afterglow. The discussion
being exhausted, there are no new problems being raised. As the prosperity of yesterday was triggered
by the avant-garde movement of art, it is unavoidable for aesthetics to lose
its vitality when art loses its way in a dead-end. The movement of civilization has left the
movement of art behind. The history of
aesthetics as a modern discipline coincided with the development of modern
Western civilization. Born with the
establishment of that civilization, shouldn't aesthetics finish its role with
the decline of this form of civilization?
Or does it have a positive role to play in this crisis we are facing, as
it did during an earlier turning point of civilization? This paper will reflect on this problem.
The Concept of Art and the Birth of Aesthetics
German philosopher A. G. Baumgarten published the first volume of his Aesthetica
in 1750. This book, with a coinage of
the Latin word ’aesthetics’ as its title, meaning a science of sensible
cognition, took art and beauty as its main subject. This claim gained important support, so much
so that Baumgarten succeeded in founding a new branch of philosophy. We can say that it was his claim of a new
field rather than his theory itself that brought about its result, a
crystallization of the problem consciousness of many philosophers and critics of
this sense, aesthetics is a product of its time and a modern discipline. This should be underlined. Some people pretend that there are such
classics as the aesthetics of Plato and Aristotle. However, the general tendency of representing
aesthetics as a long tradition since ancient times lacks a sense of its history. What is called ancient or medieval aesthetics
can actually be said to have come after Baumgarten. Previous thoughts on beauty and art became
worthy of attention only with the establishment of aesthetics. When people wished to consider beauty and
art, it was useful and even indispensable to consult the classics; it was
natural to enlarge aesthetics toward the past.
But by uncritically following the schema of continuity, we neglect the
importance of the fact that the birth of aesthetics occurred against a
particular historical background. The
claim of Baumgarten found approval because it was in response to the needs and requirements
of the time. His three motifs--
sensibility, beauty and art, constituted actual problems at that time. We should begin with verifying that.
first element in this background to be examined is the formation of the concept
of art. It is a historical fact,
acknowledged by scholars, that the notion of art that we are accustomed to, designating
literature, music, and the visual arts, took shape in Baumgarten’s lifetime. It is relevant to distinguish the notion of
art from the phenomena of art. All art,
such as painting, sculpture, poetry, and music, produced many masterpieces
since ancient times and even in non-Western regions. But they were not conceived as “art.” The fact that Leonardo claimed the same
status for painting as poetry, because it was a cosa mentale, eloquently tells the situation. Their levels of cultural dignity were regarded
differently. To say that the concept of
art was established in the mid-eighteenth century means that art, especially
the visual arts, had obtained social promotion through the struggle of artists,
including Leonardo. Let us look at the
history of art from this viewpoint. This
does not concern what is generally called art history but a kind of
philosophical history of art that focuses on what art was and traces its
development. Of course, it cannot but be
the end of the fifteenth through the end of the eighteenth or the beginning of
the nineteenth centuries, art lived through three forms. They did not come one after another; they
co-exist even now. But we can
distinguish an earlier form from the later by their birth. The oldest was public or official art,
addressing itself to a large audience.
Civilization was changing, and political powers needed tangible signs of
their authentic existence. Examples are the
Basilica of San Pietro in Vatican City in religious art, and the cultural
policy of Louis the XIV in the secular. The
Basilica of San Pietro demonstrates the power at the center of the Catholic church
over the Protestant church, not only by its outer appearance, constituted by
Michelangelo’s dome and the colonnade of Bellini, but also by its interior,
featuring Rafael’s paintings in two rooms and Michelangelo's great paintings
about the Creation in the Sistine Chapel.
the other hand, in the case of Louis XIV, art contributed more
directly to enhancing the King’s prestige. In the middle of the seventeenth century,
France was politically and culturally an underdeveloped country, as is shown by
the fact that it welcomed not only queens but also prime ministers from foreign
countries. The ambitious young king
addressed this weakness on both the military and cultural fronts. At the same time as he successively pursued
conquering wars against surrounding countries, he considered the cultural
politics promoting art in France as indispensable. He wished to be both feared and respected. (It
would be interesting to compare the policy of contemporary countries in this
respect.) Versailles was constructed, on
whose background the tragedies of Racine, comedies of Moliere, and operas of Lully
were presented. On the scene of ballet,
called “ballet de cour,” the King, himself, appeared; he was called “le Roi
Soreil” because he impersonated the Sun (Apollo) in the Ballet de Nuit (1635). In
this ballet, we notice the essence of baroque art in the world of fantasy that is
projected on the figure of the real King to bestow on him a glorious
gleam. Especially remarkable were the generous
pensions offered to European poets, who would produce poems in praise of the
king. It was not the act of a Maecenas; rather
than wanting to assist artists, those with political power needed artistic
beauty. So, as a buttress to political
power, art and artists rose in status.
It was this public art that contributed most to the formation of the
modern concept of art as high culture.
have to acknowledge, however, that such public and large-scale art is rather
different from what we now conceive as art.
The representative forms of art that appeal to a large audience are
drama, opera, and ballet, which no longer have the function of glorifying power
anymore. For such purposes we think of
ceremonies such as military parades and the opening events of the Olympic games,
but few people would acknowledge them as art, and even when admitted among the arts,
they remain marginal. This means that in modern times, the being of
art has radically changed.
second form of post-Renaissance art was social art, such as Rococo art, intended
for the enjoyment of a small audience. The form of space underwent a radical change. The palace at Versailles constituted totally
of public space, and privacy did not exist, even for the king. All activities were ceremonies that served to
sustain the political regime. The Rococo, on the contrary, was a culture of
private rooms, especially those of aristocratic ladies. Conversation became an art and interior
decoration, as its setting, was highly sought after. The basic form of music was background music.
the third and the most important form of art appeared almost at the same time, that
is, solitary and reflexive or meditative art. In relation to the number of people involved,
it may look like a variation of social art, but its essence is radically
different. A good example of the
evolution from the second to the third form of art is provided by Mozart at
Paris. This was a trip in search of a
permanent job. Mozart composed his Concerto for Flute and Harp, the
masterpiece of Rococo music, in the context of Parisian high society. However, his Sonata for Piano in A Minor, composed in the same year (1778), is a
completely different form of music. One
cannot listen to it and pleasantly chat at the same time; it obliges one to
concentrate at a deeper level of the mind.
For that reason, this piece is often related to his painful experience
of losing his mother in this foreign land.
to modern concepts, the main form of art is this third one, a form of art that philosophy
meditated on, and that required aesthetics as the philosophy of art. The modern notion of art, that takes this
solitary and reflexive form as essential, is well expressed in Hegel’s
philosophy. In his system, which regards
world history as the progress of the awakening of the Spirit, art, along with
religion and philosophy, is attributed to the absolute Spirit that constitutes its final stage.
Sensibility and New Value
concept that aesthetics has developed since it became the philosophy of art is
undeniable. But we should not forget
that Baumgarten’s aesthetics had not only art but also sensibility and beauty
as its subjects. These two subjects can
be regarded as more important for a philosophy that answers to the problem
raised by civilization. As we share this
concern with regard to our contemporary situation, we find an essential
interest in these subjects.
us begin with sensibility. Baumgarten’s
idea of aesthetics as the philosophy of sensibility was inspired by Leibniz’
epistemology. Among the various modes of
cognition classified by Leibniz, it is the category of clear and confused cognitions that are empirically identified but
linguistically indeterminable that corresponds to Baumgartenian
aesthetics. Leibniz includes both the
perception of sensible qualities, such as red and sweet, and value judgments on
poetry and painting in this category.
When judging the quality of a painting,
we examine its subject, composition, coloring, and touch, and then evaluate it
synthetically through our feeling. Red,
on the contrary, does not allow such an analysis. So a difference between being synthetic and
elemental, and, therefore, the value of a painting, and a sensible quality,
such as red, seems to be heterogeneous to one another. But it is possible to recognize a synthetic
character in sensible quality; in reference to the famous theory of small
perception, that is, we are unable to discern the sound of every drop of water,
but we perceive their totality as the sound of a wave. Anyway, several analyses are possible and
effectuated by art critics concerning the quality of an art work, but its
beauty is not a synthesis of such analyses but can only be grasped
aesthetically, that is, through feeling, at once. Leibniz applies the concept of
“je-ne-sais-quoi” to this character, derived from Petrarch and widely used in
the seventeenth century, mainly in France. This is the first object and field of Baumgarten’s
understand the originality of the idea of aesthetics, we can compare the “clear
and confused” cognition to the “clear and distinct,” which was considered as
the authentic object of science. It was
just the character Descartes checked at every step of his argument. As mentioned above, according to Leibniz’
definition, it concerns the cognition that we can linguistically analyze and
determine. We know that the Cartesian
method consists in analysis and synthesis.
Baumgarten’s claim of aesthetics implies the intuition that there are
cognitions beyond the reach of analysis and synthesis, and that they are
important. Pascal had stated the
importance of sensible cognition a century before Baumgarten. “We know truth, not only by the reason, but
also by the heart, and it is in this last way that we know first principles;
and reason, which has no part in it, tries in vain to impugn them…The principle
is felt, and propositions are deduced.” This word itself can be understood in terms
of the difference between the axioms of geometry and its theorems or particular
proofs. But I believe that what he
wished to talk about in guise of geometry was the existence of God. The existence of God, having fallen under
skeptical suspicion, cannot be recovered by reasoning, as was tried by
Descartes, but has to be grasped through feeling. Where reasoning is futile, what is required
is existential consent, which is the business of sensibility. This means that sensibility is a matter of
values as existential choice and involvement rather than sensible qualities.
claim of such a form of cognition was a demand raised at the time of the great
change of civilization. The working social
system had become dysfunctional and its discourses were felt to be lies. This was particularly true with the
Christianity that preoccupied Pascal. If
people lose confidence in the authority of the Pope as the representative of
God and his church, they have no other means than to contact God directly, and
to contact God directly is nothing but to feel his presence. The Pascalian thesis of the God-to-be-felt
coincides perfectly with the claim of the Protestants.
(sensible) value was claimed in the secular world too. The fashion of the courtier’s manual at the sixteenth
to seventeenth centuries took place against the background of court society, which
enjoyed stability on the basis of class and birth, but was becoming so fluid that
it became possible for courtiers to gain promotion by their business ability and
personal bewitching power. Castiglione
(1528), the most representative author in this genre, insisted on “sprezzatura,”
that is, a refined behavior that consists in studied naturalness, pretending not
to have the wide and profound culture that was kept hidden.
Such a charm cannot but be felt; it concerns personal value tout court, beyond traditional objective
standards such as class and birth, and we have no other choice than this kind
of personal power of presence and charm. The emphasis laid on culture coincides with
the cultural policy of Louis XIV.
People recognized a universal value in culture that transcends the
historical change of civilization. It is
worth remarking that this secularized, that is, human, value was confined to
aesthetic (sensible) verification.
Beauty of the World—Response to Hobbes
great turning point of early modern times might have been seen as a good sign
for most people in a small society, such as the court of Urbino, to which
Castiglione belonged. But for the world
as a whole it was literally a crisis, shaking the very principles of
civilization and causing a deep anxiety.
Beauty was an answer to this critical situation. Let us turn first to the philosophy of
Hobbes, who grasped this anxiety. The
basis of his political philosophy is human equality in the natural state. It is remarkable that instead of setting out
from the political systems that existed, he was willing to make a fresh start
and reflect upon human society without any presupposition. We find in this attitude something similar to
the standpoint of aesthetics we have sketched above. Both can be considered philosophical attempts
to design a future at a great turning point in history.
Hobbes deduced from that primitive equality of people is expressed by his
famous thesis, “Bellum omnium contra omnes.”
This notion struck a chord with his contemporaries. The reason for this perpetual struggle is
that the competition, distrust, and pride found in human behavior cause
conflict. This is not a historical
description but a general theory showing the fundamental tendency of human
beings to fall into a perpetual struggle.
Against this possibility, Hobbes proposed the view that human beings
agree to collaborate one with another out of horror, and form a society by
means of a contract. Called the theory of social contract, this
occupies an important position in the history of political theory, so that, as
taken over by Locke and J.-J. Rousseau, it has come to constitute the basis of
modern social philosophy. In arguing for
a contract, Hobbes believed that a strong power was indispensable for overcoming
the struggle. From the standpoint of
theory or logic, this can be regarded as an inconsistency or a paradox and
judged as immature, compared with Locke and Rousseau. But it is more realistic to consider it as
the result of Hobbes’ strong sense of menace that struggle posed for society. In fact, he lived through a time of civil war
at the beginning of the first civil revolution.
“Bellum omnium contra omnes” was not a theoretical hypothesis but a real
possibility after the trembling and collapse of the old regime. What is reflected by this thesis is the
anxiety of a people who were obliged by a crisis to invent afresh a new
civilization. The urgent necessity was
to overcome this anxiety, and modernity started with this solution.
believe that the philosophy of beauty was a response to the Hobbesian crisis, but
before explaining why, I wish to mention another response. While the social philosophy mentioned above tried
to present a solution in a straightforward way, optimism appeared for the
possibility of overcoming the crisis through new social activities, that is, a
philosophy of commerce or economic activity.
In 1734, Voltaire reported on a new institution in London, the stock
market, and mentioned that it was a “peaceful and free assembly” where “the
Jews, the Mahometans, and the Christians transact together as tho’ they profess’d
the same religion.” Such philosophical speculation on economical
activities was crystallized into theory in the Wealth of Nations (1776) by Adam Smith. Relating this economic theory to his Moral Sentiments (1759), we find that it
was an answer to the Hobbesian crisis.
One of the key concepts of this period was “interest,” which underlay
the Hobbesian struggle. Smith believed that when individuals pursued
their interests, an “invisible hand” harmonized their activities with the
interests of the total society. Economic activity became a leading power in
modern society, so much so that it encroached even on art and exercised a
menacing influence on civilization.
philosophy of beauty appeared in this critical context. I have in mind the views of Shaftesbury. Wishing to controvert Hobbes’ pessimistic
human view, he presented the beauty of the world as evidence of its
rationality, and then, by an analogy with such beauty, argued that man is
virtuous by nature. His argument contains two steps. The first step also concerns the desire of
self-preservation, which Hobbes considered the basic motive of struggle. Shaftesbury replaced this with the concept of
self-love that, in relation to interest, played a crucial role in the
secularization of the world view.
Self-love, which had been negated in the Christian context on behalf of
the love of God, became accepted from the naturalistic viewpoint and led to
opening the way to the mundane and hedonistic culture represented by the rococo.
and Rousseau’s arguments defending self-love are well known. What is distinctive in Shaftesbury’s theory is
that he aims to justify it from the viewpoint of the total economy of the
world. Sexual desire, a type of
self-love, is indispensable for the conservation of species. The economic organization of the world can thus
be verified by the organic system of plants and animals, but that is not
all. Taking note of what we would nowadays
call the food chain, Shaftesbury affirmed the fundamental goodness of the world
by indicating that what is good for one can be bad for another. And so he relativized the good or evil of
particular beings, insisting on the rationality of the totality. This argument is of the same type as Leibniz’
argument was not finished with that; he had to prove that the world is not only
economical and rational but also good. Hence,
the second step. The point here is that
the economy of the world is perceived as beauty. The perception of beauty is important because
its judgment is not influenced by any personal prejudice or arbitrariness; that
is, it is disinterested. Disinterestedness,
which would become the core factor of aesthetics after Kant, here means being
exempted from personal interest. Shaftesbury
claimed that the same is true with human behavior. This connects with his “moral sense,” which
testifies to our instinct for virtue.
Men do not necessarily struggle with one another to further their
selfish desires. It is in our nature to
perform virtuous acts despite such desires.
Even if the ancient order collapses, human society will continue. Such was the opinion of Shaftesbury, for whom
beauty was an essential element. Here we
find the philosophical meaning that beauty had in the early modern era.
such a perspective, Malebranche’s theory of creation shows an unexpected aspect. Here beauty is philosophically important,
too. The puzzling problem of why evil
exists in a world created by God was resolved on the basis of Leibnizian
optimism. But the Christian philosophy of
Malebranche faced a problem even more puzzling and fundamental: why a perfect
being, lacking nothing, should create a world at all. Apparently, this concerns only the Christian
doctrine, but in the ideological context of that time, it could be a most acute
problem, and his answer to this question reveals the actuality it had. Vis-à-vis
this difficulty of discovering a motive without motive, Malebranche referred to
the work of an architect.
Unlike the medieval God as architect, his
architect was not a technician measuring with a ruler and a compass but one blessed
with a modern sense of existence, demanding a meaning in his own work. He constructs because he finds the incentive
in his pride in the beauty of his work. He
does not act for any purpose. To adopt a
modern expression, it is a gratuitous act.
Divine Creation is the same. It
is necessary that God loves himself.
Because of this essence, God creates the beautiful world and takes this
beauty for his glory. The goodness or
value of the world is proven by its beauty, and the art work was based on that model.
Autonomy of Art and Its Aesthetics
have thus sketched the foundations of aesthetics, the new discipline taking
sensibility, beauty, and art as its distinctive subjects. We have done this in view of finding a key to
the philosophical problems our times impose, because these periods share the
situation of being in a crisis of civilization.
However, this early modern aesthetics is very different from the modern
aesthetics established in the early nineteenth century and continuing still. The aesthetics discussed above concerned the
position or role of beauty and art in the world, and not a theory analyzing
their phenomena. In order for a philosophical
field to establish itself as a new discipline, it needs to prove its meaning in
the whole world. Once approved, however,
the field becomes autonomous and needs theories about the concrete phenomena it
covers. What concerns us here is such a
transformation of aesthetics. Modern
aesthetics is the philosophy of art, with the model of art taken from the third
form of art in the history of art described above, solitary and meditative art. We are deeply permeated by the notion that
such art is the true art. As a result,
we are now reluctant to take the opening ceremonies of the Olympic games and
military parades as art, even though they can be regarded as public arts
appealing to a large audience that indeed were the most important “arts” at the
formative period of the concept of art described above.
modern aesthetics and the reflective arts established, with beauty as their
object, the position of beauty has essentially changed. Indeed, the concept of beauty as the essence
of art is largely accepted as a cliché,
so much so that a museum of junk art or urinals is called a “temple of beauty.” But it is obvious that beauty is now out of
date in the philosophy of art. In fact,
such a change began at the very moment modern aesthetics was founded. As the index of this change, we can cite the
birth of the author. A half century ago,
people enthusiastically discussed the death of the author. Apart from the curious fact that at that time
the author still seemed to be alive, people talked as though the author had
existed in a very distant past. “The author,”
however, is a notion that came into being between the end of the eighteenth and
the beginning of the nineteenth centuries. Of course there had existed those who
produced works of literature. But the
practice of focusing the appreciative experience of art work on the existence
and the thoughts or world view of the author, and taking the work as his or her
creation, is modern. We can trace this
change of viewpoint to the criticism of Shakespeare.
classical view of the ideal of artistic beauty consists, as Pascal claimed of eloquence,
in the art beyond art. We find in Shakespeare, by Samuel Johnson (1765), a
beautiful expression that can be regarded as the final radiance of the old
aesthetics. Referring to Voltaire, who
opposed Shakespeare to Addison, Johnson wrote that Addison speaks the language
of a poet, Shakespeare that of human beings.
In other words, while we think of the author in the works of Addison, in
Shakespeare we confront dramatic persons full of character, so that we forget
the presence of the author. The genius
of a poet consists in the power of creating such realities and of making us
forget the author. Forty years later,
Schiller reconsidered this fact not as the difference of creative power but of
types of work. What he calls “naïve” is the literature of
Shakespeare the genius, where the author is hidden behind the work. “Sentimental” literature, on the contrary,
is the type where the mind and thoughts of the author come into account. As Schiller, himself, confessed, he had
firmly learned the attitude of looking for the author in a literary work and,
reflecting with him or her, sentimental literature is the modern type. As the work of art beyond the author
transcends individuality and is characterized by self-sufficiency (ens per se), its value is shown by its beauty
as the mark of its perfection. On the
contrary, sentimental literature of the modern type is the literature of ideas. The sign of its value is not beauty anymore
but consists in the individual spirit of the author and his thought. It is evident that this coincides with the
solitary work of art.
is obvious that modern aesthetics based on such a thought is essentially
different from that of Baumgarten.
People of the eighteenth century, including Leibniz and Baumgarten,
believed that the essence of art consists in beauty that is aesthetically perceived. But now the mark of value slides from beauty
to depth and originality, and the spiritual or intellectual value transcends
the realm of sensibility. Art acknowledged
as high culture becomes an autonomous activity, and we find its modern history
driven by the pursuit of novelty, as the expression of the individuality of the
artist. Such an autonomous art,
insisting on originality, culminates in Duchamp’s Fountain, which reveals the paradox of art as an autonomous
institution. We find in the origin of
this work a critique or an irony of the autonomous position. Duchamp wished to imply a radical question by
exhibiting the urinal so that, if an exhibition space or museum makes the
exhibited object an art work, then why not this one? Without being displayed at the exhibition of
the New York Independents, Fountain
is now considered the most important artwork of the twentieth century. It criticized the autonomous institution of
art, yet was acknowledged as art because of that institution. It illustrates even now the narrow path into
which art and the philosophy of art have been led. Why art took the course in this direction
concerns not only art and aesthetics but the orientation of the modern
civilization in general.
Homo-centrism of Modern Aesthetics
beautiful art of the past was based on the principle of imitation of nature and
referred to nature and human history.
But art became more and more interested in referring to itself. That is the “autonomization,” which was
accomplished in the early twentieth century.
I would like to check some steps leading up to this. In the first place, we find the fact of the decline
of nature. The Western world, being
originally founded on the basis of urban culture, had little genuine interest
in nature. However, with the development
of tourism in the eighteenth century, people progressively opened their eyes to
the beauty of nature, leading to an aesthetics of the sublime. In Shaftesbury’s theory mentioned above, the
beauty in question must be of nature.
Diderot became a philosopher through a deep reading of Shaftesbury. Gifted with artistic talent, he had a
profound interest in art. In his Salons, we perceive that the paintings
he regarded as masterpieces were those that give us the experience of
forgetting that they were paintings and letting us enter into the painted world.
Painting was a device of quasi-real
experience in which a communion with people is realized. The aesthetics of Kant, in his Critique of Judgment, is essentially an aesthetics
of nature. But with Hegelian aesthetics
as the index, it is evident that modern aesthetics concentrated into one of
artistic beauty, neglecting natural beauty.
Nowadays, no one in the Western world understands aesthetics to mean anything
different from the philosophy of art.
With the shift of subject from natural beauty to the artistic, the focus
of aesthetics moved from substance to image.
Imagination, that is, dreaming the absent, was discussed throughout the nineteenth
century. Its original position can be
perceived in the notion of avant-garde (a military metaphor), which stemmed
from the circle of Saint-Simon, who believed in the leadership of artists in
the creation of a new world. Of course, such a casting was “fantastic”:
“autonomization” is not consistent with the ability to effect social reform.
aesthetics of the nineteenth century, which emphasized image and imagination,
embodies modern homo-centrism. We can
verify this particularly in the aesthetics of the sublime. The sublime is what exceeds the human pale,
in both forms that Kant distinguished: “dynamic”
and “mathematical.” In his famous phrase,
“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and reverence,
the more often and the more steadily one reflects on them: the starry heavens
above me and the moral law within me,”
the heavens are typically sublime. However,
when theorizing about it in the Critique
of Judgment, Kant finds greatness in the human spirit. In fact, he asserts that it is not nature but
rather the power of reason comprehending indefinite magnitude or power that is
Shaftesbury, Kant conceived a profound reverence for cosmic beauty empirically. Philosophically, however, he directed this
reverence to the subject. Therefore, the
world view he expressed was very different from Shaftesbury’s. The sublime, in fact, was originally
artistic. The notion derives from the
rhetoric of Pseudo-Longinus, and Boileau, who transmitted it to the modern
world, conceived of it as a linguistic phenomenon. Edmund Burke, who understood it in
philosophical terms and claimed that the sublime was familiar to poetry, found in
the comparison of poetry and painting a parallel in the relation of the sublime
and beauty. In spite of all these, we should not forget
that Pseudo-Longinus associated it to an art beyond art. That is to say, from its origin the sublime
was an effect transcending linguistic determinations. We have another, more important fact: Burke showed in his description of the sublime
a rich sensibility about raw and wild nature, which constituted the core of his
theory of the sublime. Founding the sublime on human reason, Kant even
impressed the seal of homo-centrism onto the aesthetics of the sublime.
revival of the notion of the sublime around the end of the twentieth century
surprised us. We, or at least I, had
believed that modern Western civilization had lost any sense of the infinite,
and that, consequently, the sublime had been lost as an aesthetic
category. Let us consider the case of Adorno,
who clearly followed Kant in his conception of the sublime. Adorno believed that with the collapse of
formal beauty, the only traditional aesthetic category left was the sublime,
though the sensible sublime is almost ridiculous. The modern non-sensible sublime is the
self-negating movement imprinted deeply in art, distinguishing it from craft. We can call it sublime because the sublime,
as defined by Kant, consists in the mind’s resistance to overwhelming power. It is a phenomenon representing the Adornian
I wonder whether we can call “sublime” a sublime that is neither perceived nor
felt, or at least ask whether such a sublime is an aesthetic category. Indeed, Adorno and his followers might “feel”
the sublime in the avant-garde, but only on the basis of a highly culture-specific
association of ideas. Such a
culture-burdened phenomenon reminds me of Jean Giraudoux, who wrote, “I’ve
enough of Asian women: the more they undress, there appears the dress of the
naked more decorating than any dress” (The
Trojan War Will Never Take Place).
The ornament decorating the naked body is nothing but ideas. The autonomy of art and artistic “beauty,”
which founds modern Western aesthetics, is constituted by such a network of
ideas, and can never mean that a pure aesthetic appearance is exempted from
social constraint. Because of such a
concentration on ideas, avant-garde represents modern art.
have a reservation. Adorno said that the
sensible sublime is ridiculous. We
understand this. It is ridiculous
because in it we perceive a gesture of human conceit. What is ridiculous is not the artistic
expression of the sublime but the self-cognition of human beings and their
satisfaction with the culture they have produced. How, then, is it possible for the Adornian
sublime to escape being ridiculous? The
spirit of enlightenment that consists in a radical self-criticism proves that
modern Western civilization is worthy of respect. But as soon as he calls it “sublime,” doesn’t
he betray its spirit? As a philosopher,
Adorno is exceptional in the history of aesthetics for his insistence on
natural beauty, which had been completely neglected. The paradox here is all the more deep-rooted;
it is the paradox of modern civilization.
The modern was rose-colored when Descartes looked forward to it from a
distance, claiming that by developing his philosophy, man could become “the
owner and master of nature.” Modern
civilization, continuously endeavoring to conquer nature, is now threatening
the existence of human beings. Modern
aesthetics is not alien to this paradox.
7. Art as Discourse
avant-garde sublime is represented by Duchamp’s Fountain. For a long time,
being an artifact was the most fundamental precondition of being an art work. The Fountain
almost totally lacks this condition, as Duchamp intended; instead of making an
artifact, he wished to execute an ideological act on the subject of art. Duchamp, the Dadaist, focused his criticism
on the self-evident presupposition of art and art’s integration into the system
of high culture. The artistic system is
constituted by educational organizations, such as academies, the exhibitions
recognizing art works, and the museums sanctifying them, and an authoritative
standing is acknowledged in the professionals working in these institutions. The judgment on whether an object is art, and
what artistic value is to be attributed to it, is put in the hands of these
professionals; an amateur’s opposition has no meaning because art has already been
us compare this situation with that of early modern times when the concept of
art was forming. It was the laic powers
that played the decisive role in bestowing the status of high culture to art. The difference between this state of art and
that at the beginning of the twentieth century is evident, and the whole
history of modern art is included in this gap.
Duchamp targeted this situation of art.
Compared with the Saint-Simonian ideal of the avant-garde aiming at
social reform, Duchamp’s act was limited to art; its reach was even shorter
than the philosophical avant-garde of such as Adorno. But its impact on the concept of art, and its
influence on art afterwards, were immense.
I quote an art work that looks like a parody of Duchamp. On the one hand, we have a figure made by a
Japanese artist; it is an artwork. On
the other hand, we also have a figure taking the shape of the same model as the
former, but fabricated by a toy company; this is a toy. Naturally, while the latter is cheap, the
former is very expensive. At the level
of substance, there seems to be nothing that differentiates them. The Fountain
as substance is nothing but a urinal among others that are sold by any plumber;
it is neither finely executed nor particularly beautiful. Every standard of value expected from
traditional art works does not apply to it.
It naturally raises an objection or protest as to whether it is
art. With disregard to its emotional
element, this criticism can be reduced to a philosophical question: What is
art? This question, raised again and
again in the second half of the twentieth century, was thrust upon us by the
historical reality of art. Indeed, it is
a difficult question, since we can find no common point between the Medici
Venus and the Fountain. Seemingly the most probable is to appeal to
but what among acknowledged art works resembles the Fountain? Nothing. It is no longer possible to define art by its
this subject, the solution proposed by Arthur Danto on the subject of Andy
Warhol’s Brillo Box is well known. Indeed, this art object is physiognomically
indiscernible from the real container used by the Brillo Company. Danto found a real philosophical problem
there. Quoting the Cartesian doubt as to
whether the figure on the street of which a hat and a black coat are seen from
the window of the upper floor is a man or a robot, or the ethical difference
Kant made between the authentic moral act and the one that just looks like one,
he claimed that it was a philosophical task to distinguish those that cannot be
distinguished based on their appearance.
The conclusion he deduced from that was that art is what the art world
acknowledges, on the basis of its proper history, as art. This definition is apparently empty and
evidently tautological; it reflects the structure of a tautological world.
autonomous world is essentially tautological.
This is not only the structure of art, but also of our contemporary,
highly information-oriented society itself.
It may be what Baudrillard caught with his notion of “simulation.” Our society is constituted by a system of
signs, having no reference to substances, and not based upon them. Paper money is not convertible any more, and
its value is founded solely on credit and expectation. The price of commodities does not represent
their value in use, and salaries no longer reflect the value of the
productivity of labor. The point made by
Baudrillard that an indefinite claim for wages could then be possible is
suggestive in reference to the price of art works. Baudrillard mentions Pop Art in connection
with simulation, and, indeed, Warhol’s Brillo Boxes and Lichtenstein’s
enlarged cartoons are signs of signs. While
the original cartoon costs only a few dollars per copy, a painting or even a print
of Lichtenstein is incomparably expensive.
This value is not based upon the substantial quality of the work, such
as that supported by the original spirituality and the exceptional technique brought
to it, like in the case of a Dürer or a Rembrandt. Rather, it derives from the special commodity
of having the selling point of being art. When I talk about contemporary art work, I
mention its price several times, for that, even if not the only one, is at
least one of the most important elements since Duchamp. And to repeat, the categorization into art is
performed by a tautological discourse.
is evident that such art is not to be aesthetically experienced. Its essence consists in crystallizing the
mode of being of contemporary society. In
that sense, we can acknowledge that its interest is philosophical. This means that it incites philosophical
speculation, but not that it is philosophical by itself. Watching Pop Art being welcomed as
avant-garde, Duchamp vehemently criticized it in a letter to his old friend
Hans Richter. The strong critical spirit of the Dadaist
Duchamp was indeed not found in Pop Art.
It is “philosophical” not because it embodies a critical vision of
society but because it exemplifies the best social structure of our day. Being itself a part of the mechanism of
society, such art becomes a kind of fashion, and naturally loses any critical
power. It is beyond question that art works
could be produced without interruption, authorized by the art world, just like
the Federal Bank of America continues to print unconvertible dollar notes. Only
it would be an art different from the one based on the idea of spirituality
the well-known discussion of the end of art.
It is important to recognize that the current state of art is the result
of its historical development. Moreover,
now art seems to be deeply implicated in the cultural phenomena of politics,
economics, morality, and the like, so that its problems can only be discussed
on the total horizon of civilization.
Viewing the horizon fully, we notice that the modern idea of the conquest
of nature has caused the serious result of global warming. We should reflect whether a similar decadence
is ongoing in the spirit. I mentioned
above Baudrillard’s point that a claim of indefinite wages could be
proposed. The bubble economy made us
shallow. Now the direction is inverted,
albeit the real conditions remain the same.
What is happening, at least in Japan, is the indefinite reduction of
wages. Under the rule of dynamics aiming
solely at the reproduction of the social system, a bipolarization between the frivolous
rich and poor people is ongoing, producing decay of morals.
8. The Philosophy of Beauty as Contemporary
now needs philosophy above all. Without
doubt, globalization has brought about an economic situation based on the law
of the jungle; what the philosophers of enlightenment would have called
barbarism. This wave of change, while
producing such excellent results as political liberation and the sharing of
information, has also spread a global disease: the uncritical adoption of economic
centrism. We are being tamed to accept
the notion that financial value is the only value; that freedom of economic
venture, requiring the autonomous reproduction of the system, is the only
freedom. As a result, we cannot
effectively cope with the problem of global warming, which is threatening the
very ground of our existence, or with the problem of moral decadence. Everyone endowed with the power of judgment
understands that it is an urgent problem.
Although acknowledging this fact, we can devise no efficient
measures. This modern system is indeed our
Leviathan. Though our age resembles the
early modern period in being a crisis of civilization, the nature of the crisis
is very different. At the time of
Hobbes, the problem consisted in philosophically knowing the rationality of the
world and the grounds of morality. That
was the problem preoccupied by Hobbes, himself, Shaftesbury, Smith, and other
philosophers. As mentioned above, beauty
played an important role in that knowing.
However, the monster that is our contemporary social system is immune to
the moral good will of individuals. We
require a philosophy to analyze the monster, and to discover what form of
civilization is really desirable.
aesthetics contribute anything to this philosophical task? I believe that beauty and the philosophy of
beauty have a real place. What we learned
from early modern aesthetics is that when basic values become suspect, or even
invalid, aesthetic judgment is the only path towards the establishment of new
values. Malebranche looked for the
perfection of the world in its beauty, and we find in Genesis a similar
notion. Having created the world during
six days, at the rest time he took at the seventh day, God appreciates his
creation: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very
good.” The goodness that is perceived is
nothing but beauty.
the viewpoint of aesthetics, this phrase means two things. In the first place, God being the Almighty,
the goodness of his creation must be evident beforehand. Despite that, he verified the quality of
Creation. This fact expresses the
aesthetic nature of beauty, such as Kant tried to grasp with the notion of
reflective judgment. Beauty cannot be
determined a priori with concepts; it
needs always to be verified a posteriori. In other words, beauty is not made but
given. Human beings make the best effort
to make their work beautiful, appealing to all experiences and having a good
command of the power of intuition. Its
beauty, however, cannot but be found in the work, as it was in the case of
God. One might say that the case is the
same with the invention of a machine.
Indeed, verification is indispensable.
But its purpose is just to ascertain there were no errors in its design
and making, and its result is known in advance.
The beauty of a work, on the contrary, is not discovered until it is
given. Beauty is always a gift, which
surprises the author. Reflecting on that
profoundly, we can be cured of arrogance through beauty. As beauty is a grace or gift, and its sole
value exceeds human power, we can expect it to play a role in overcoming modern
homo-centrism. The experience of beauty
has an actual importance in the world we are living in, and beautiful art might
regain its right of being. We should
acknowledge not only its appreciative but also its executive experience in
order to realize that beauty is a gift.
A philosophy of beauty should be active to emphasize this
cognition. This is the difference from
the pedagogical effect of beauty proclaimed by Schiller in the early modern
let us return to the phrase of the Genesis. It must arouse a naïve question: why the
Creator, the most perfect being, had to verify the goodness of his creation in
its beauty? To reflect on this problem,
it is indispensable to know that beauty is the only means to recognize, without
any precondition, the goodness of the world.
Since we are not taking into account any orthodox theology, I may
probably dare to consider that the concept of goodness or value was born only
with the beauty of the world, and, at the same time, the Creator became the
best being possible. At the moment of
Creation, he was just the Creator, that is, the being of power. Creating the beautiful world, God as the power
became a good being as well.
Presupposing a priori such a
quality as essence is a common way of metaphysics… Of course, this understanding, based upon the
human pale, is meaningless for the Jewish and Christian theologies, which have
thousands of years of history.
the goodness of the world in its beauty” was the claim of the early modern
aesthetics. With conditions of
civilization being reduced to tabla rasa,
people had to construct a new good world from zero. Philosophers believed that under such a
situation, they had no other means than beauty to recognize the goodness of the
new world. If our time is one of
renovation, equivalent to the early modern times, the goodness of our new world
should be recognized by beauty. As mere
human beings, we have to adjust the plan according to the beauty of the
result. Of course, it is important is to
create a beautiful world to live in, rather than a beautiful work for
this viewpoint, an exemplary meaning should be accorded to the beauty of the cityscape. Since the contemporary crisis of civilization
comes from the depletion of the natural resources, global warming, and the
conflicts between the different cultures, our first task should be found in
constructing one good world with people’s cooperation. The contemporary situation is fundamentally
different from that of the modern era, which insisted on the creativity of the individual
genius, so as to rival God. Concerning
the cityscape, the modern example is found in the so-called Cartesian city,
which shows a unified form based on an individual design. Our city design, on the contrary, cannot but
be based on a form that is gradually formed through tastes and choices by many
anonymous people and constantly rewritten by new inhabitants. Therefore, it is indispensable that in the
perpetual process of forming, people learn to avoid pretending one’s taste, and
to accord the priority to the beauty of wholeness in accordance with
others. Cityscape is the school of the
spirit of cooperation. It is because of
that, that we can claim for it the meaning of the microcosm of the contemporary
civilization, and that the shift from art to cityscape should take place.
the beauty of the cityscape from this point of view, we find a new aspect of
beauty in contemporary culture, for we encounter superficial beauty, which has
no path to the goodness of the substance, as Shaftesbury believed. The use of paint is a good example. The old cities, fabricated with marble,
bricks, or wood, gained their beauty from these substances. Hence, the cityscape offered a material
unity, because, according to the geographical conditions, all buildings were
constructed in wood in a city in the region rich in woods, or in marble in a
district blessed with these resources. The
distribution of materials having become highly convenient, this material
restriction has long disappeared. People
can use the materials they like and construct buildings in their favorite
style. Paint gives it the last
finish. Those who like gold color build
their houses in gold, and who adore pink, a pink house. In other times, materials such as gold foil
and lapis lazuli were so expensive that the exterior decorated with them were
exceptional, like the Kinkaku-ji temple in Kyoto. Now colors are cheap, so we have free use of the
full spectrum of colors. As a result,
towns show the aspect of clamor with different and strong self-assertion. This sight is an epitome of the contemporary
society. In such a cityscape, the spirit of
harmonizing one’s own voice to the surroundings is all the more precious.
must be people who pretend that the spectacle of an overturned toy box is
beautiful. The relativity of taste,
which troubled aestheticians of early modern times, becomes tangible, this time
not as a merely epistemological problem, but as that of actual social
forming. “Taste” is liking, and it is
impossible to unify people’s diverse likings.
But when the conflict between tastes is revealed, and arouses a dispute,
we should be led to look into the sense of moral or value backing each
taste. This exists even in superficial
beauty. Albeit this is one of the most
important problems for the philosophy of beauty, it has remained
unnoticed. This fact now attracts our
attention in relation to our experience.
For example, great landslips of icebergs and snow valleys are reported
as evidence of global warming, and their photos and videos published. Watching such a phenomenon on the spot, we
must aesthetically feel the sublime.
With the cognition, however, that it concerns not a purely natural
phenomenon but a crisis produced by human beings, it should stop being
sublime. We can even say that we must not
feel the sublime in it. Through
television we experienced the thrill of watching the tracks of missiles against
the night sky. As a feeling, we cannot but
find it beautiful. But this beauty
claims that we consider what is on its backside.
have thus arrived at the contemporary situation of beauty, full of
contradictions. On the one hand, beauty
remains the sign of value, just like in the cases of the Genesis, Malebranche, Shaftesbury and Kant. And at the period of radical change of
civilization, it should always be the only measure of the new value. On the other hand, however, when it is
produced by human beings, beauty has a backside, which denies the power of such
aesthetic evidence. The contradiction
here is nothing but the tension belonging to the contemporary civilization,
which should be the starting point from which a philosophy of beauty should
develop to the actual axiology.
Sasaki has published books in English and Japanese as well as many papers in English, French and Japanese. Some of his work in English includes Aesthetics on Non-Western Principles, Version 0.5 (Jan van Eyck Akademie, Maastricht, 1998) and papers in Contemporary Aesthetics and other international journals.
Published August 18, 2011
 This paper is the longer version of the conference paper
which I delivered at a plenary session of the 22nd World Congress of
Philosophy, held in the Seoul National University, July 30 - 5 August
2008. The general theme of the congress
being “Rethinking Philosophy,” I was asked to speak on “Rethinking
Aesthetics.” The conference paper, a
shorter version of this present one, was published in the Proceedings of the Congress in DVD format.
 It is doubtless that Baumgarten played the role of
catalyst by crystallizing the critical mind in the state of fermentation. The close relationship of his thought to the
Zeitgeist is seen in his definition of beauty as “the perfection of sensuous
(aesthetic) perception” (not “the sensuous perception of the perfection,” which
he, himself, had adopted in his earlier works).
He meant by that the pleasure of vivid sensuous perception, which
harmonized with the basic tone of his contemporary aesthetics. Cf. my book in
Japanese, Study of the 18th
Century Aesthetics, especially in France: From Watteau to Mozart, Tokyo
(1999), or my paper, “L’Esthétique de l'intérêt," JTLA, vol.10 (the
University of Tokyo, 1986), 29-50. The
style of his doctrine, however, is based on rhetoric and old-fashioned, so much
so that it gives the impression of being isolated and strange among other
aesthetics and theories of art at that time.
 On the history of
the art concept, cf. Paul O. Kristeller, “The Modern System of the Arts,” Journal of the History of Ideas, vols.
XII and XIII (1951).
 When I read it a half century ago, Alain’s notion of
military parade as a form of art appeared to me outlandish. Système des beaux-arts (1920) in Les Arts et les Dieux (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Gallimard, 1958),
Liv. 2, De la Danse et de la parure,
Chap.1 “Des Danses guerrières.” But now at a time when the concept of art is changing, I
understand his keen insight. Only in the
fact that he grasps the parade as a form of dance, we notice the frame of
 The salon, the place par
excellence of rococo culture, must go back to the Italian Renaissance (in the
pleasure of conversation depicted in Boccaccio’s Decameron (1353) and reflected in the form of philosophical
dialogue, which was widely produced in this period). But it was only at the time of the rococo
that the salon dominated the culture (cf.
Ph. Minguet, Esthétique du rococo,
Vrin, 1966, p. 202 ff.), and the rococo style was peculiar to the period of the
regency just after the death of Louis XIV. It was mainly caused by the breakthrough from
the oppressive atmosphere in the court, but the participation of the
bourgeoisie, who were gaining power, also determined the tone of the new
 Minguet, paying attention to this change of space, claims
that the rococo architecture is that of “interior” and that “sociability” and
conversation were central in the culture (ibid.,
p. 201 ff.). In his Court Society (trans. E. Jephcott, Blackwell, 1983), Norbert Elias
presents a detailed analysis of space, especially in the seventeenth century. There was not “anything that could be called
an appartement privé” (p. 138) in
Versailles, and even bedrooms were ”the theater of a peculiar ritual” (p. 82).
“[T]he front court” was important as representing “the dignity and rank” (p.
81; also see Chapter 3, “The structure of dwellings as an indicator of social
 The birth of solitary art seems to go back to the end of
the sixteenth or the beginning of the seventeenth century. In the case of painting, the still life represents
this genre, and the representative artist is Rembrandt, whose portraits,
including his self-portraits, give the impression of deep reflection. In music, the oldest pieces of instrumental
solos were for the lute, for which books of music scores were published from
the beginning of the sixteenth century.
However, it was the effect of the development of the individualistic
tendency in philosophy and the discourse of aesthetics that reflective art
gained the power to rival public and official art, and became decisively
 Leibniz, Discours de
métaphysique, §24. Albeit the
successful making of a poem or a painting is taken as example, the author does
not mention the basic sensible qualities.
These are pointed out in the short paper written two years earlier
entitled “Meditationes de Cognitione, Veritate et Ideis” (Die Philosophischen Schriften von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, ed.
C.I Gerrhardt, vol.4, Berlin, 1880 [G. Olms reprint, 1965], pp. 422-423), where
the explication of the artistic quality is also more detailed.
 The original expression “le je-ne-sais-quoi,” appears in
both texts mentioned in the preceding note.
This notion was widespread, especially in the French form, to explain
the outstanding artistic quality and beauty.
 Pascal, Pensées,
No. 214, edition by Lafuma (§No. 282 in the edition by Brunschvicg), transl. M.
Turnell (New York: Harper &
 Castiglione (represented in the dialogue by the Count
Ludvico Canossa) points out an important factor of courtier grazià, which should be displayed by
avoiding affettazione (affectation),
and rephrases this as una certa
sprezzatura (“a certain nonchalance”).
Castiglione, The Book of the
Courtier, transl. G. Bull, (Penguin Books, 1967), pp. 65-68. If we translate grazià as “grace” or “gracefulness,” its aesthetic character
becomes more striking.
 Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan,
Book 1, Chs. 13-14. The phrase “man is a
wolf,” well known as Hobbes’ words, is not found in Leviathan, but in the dedication of De Civis (1642), and he borrowed this phrase “homo homini lupus”
from Plautus, Asinaria, Act II sc. 4.
 Voltaire, Letters
Concerning English Nation, Letter VI, “On the Presbyterians,” edited by
Nicolas Cronk, (Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 30; see Letter X, “On Trade,”
 Adam Smith, An
Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. E. Cannan (Methuen,
vol.1, 1950 (1st ed. 1904)), p. 421.
Just after this famous phrase he says: “By pursuing his own interest he
frequently promotes that of the society.…”
Concerning “interests,” a sketch of its conceptual history is given in
my French paper on the aesthetics of interest (see note 2 above).
 Shaftesbury, An
Inquiry Concerning Virtue, or Merit, (1699/1711), in his collective works, Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions,
 As to the history of the concept of “self love” (in French l’amour propre, and later l’amour de soi-même, in a distinguished
sense), see my above-mentioned book on the history of aesthetics in the
eighteenth century, esp. Ch. 1, note 19.
When I wrote this book I was not familiar with Pope’s Essay on Man.
 Malebranche, Entretiens sur la Métaphysique et sur la Religion, the 9th
Colloquy, Section 4 (Vrin, 1976), pp. 202-203.
 Cf. my Japanese book on the Study of 18th Century Aesthetics (see note 2, above),
Chap. 7, “Birth of the Author.”
 Pascal, Pensées,
No. 513, edition by Lafuma (No.4 in the edition by Brunschvicg).
 Schiller, Naïve and
Sentimental Poetry (1795-6).
 “Marcel Duchamp's Fountain
came top of a poll of 500 art experts in the run-up to this year's Turner Prize
which takes place on Monday” (BBC News on December 1, 2004). Cf.
 Olindes Rodrigues, “L’Artiste, le
savant et l’industriel. Dialogues,” in Œuvres de Saint-Simon & d’Enfant,
vol. XXXIX (Aalen Otto Xeller, 1964. Reprint of the Complete Works, 1865-78), pp.199-258.
 Immanuel Kant, Critique
of Practical Reason, Conclusion, transl. Mary Gregor (Cambridge University Press,
 “For what is sublime, in the proper meaning of the term,
cannot be contained in any sensible form but concerns only ideas of reason….”
Kant, Critique of Judgment, §23,
transl. W. S. Pluhar (Hackett, 1987), p.99.
 In the Preface to his French translation of Treatise on the Sublime (1674), Boileau
insists that by the sublime (Pseudo)Longinus did not mean the so-called sublime
style but “that extraordinary and that marvelous which strikes in discourse,
and which makes that a work enraptures, charms and brings into ecstasy.” Œuvres Complètes, ed. F. Escal (Gallimard, Bibliothèque
de la Pléiade, 1966), p. 338). The author lets it go without saying that it concerns an
effect of linguistic expression. We know
this by the fact that Boileau shows how the sublime is lost when the “Let there
be light: and there was light.” is transcribed into the sublime style. Besides, he added paragraphs twice in later
editions, including as the last example “qu’il mourût” of Corneille (Horace) to give it the status of an adage.
 Edmund Burke, A
Philosophical Enquiry into [the Origin of Our Ideas of] the Sublime and
Beautiful, section II-4, “Of the difference between Clearness and Obscurity
with regard to the passions” (Routledge, 2008 (1st ed. 1958)), esp.
pp. 61-64, which is the part added in the edition of 1759.
 Pseudo-Longinus, the author, does not explicitly determine
so. At the beginning, explaining his
intention of analyzing concrete phenomena, which was lacking in the treatise by
Cecilius, he claims that naturally there is “an art of sublimity.” But for the sublimity consisting in the
effect of “ecstasy,” the concerned art must be an art beyond art. Cf.
Longinus, On the Sublime, transl. W.
H. Fyfe, (Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library, 1965) (1st
ed. 1927), p. 125.
 In Burke, while beauty is inclined to “some social
character” (op.cit., p. 42), the
sublime is caused by such deficiencies as “Vacuity, Darkness, Solitude and
Silence” (p. 70), and its effect is found especially in nature, although he may
have read that, in poems, it is difficult to sympathize with the poetical
descriptions of nature without a sense of nature. We can acknowledge his sensibility of nature
in the description of “Vastness, Infinity, Light, Sound and Loudness,
Intermitting, the Cries of Animals,” etc. (Book II).
 Th. Adorno, Aesthetic
Theory, “Theory of the Artwork,” translated by R. Hullot-Kentor (University
of Minnesota Press, 1997), pp. 196 ff.
About the conceptual moment of the sublime as lying latent in the whole
aesthetics of Adorno, cf. Wolfgang Welsch, Aesthetic
Thinking (Ästhetisches Denken), (Reclam,
 The difficulty of keeping conceptual unity by appealing to
this concept was made during the 1950s by several authors, among whom the following
two are well known: P. Ziff, “The Task of Defining a Work of Art,” Philosophical Review, 62 (1953); and M.
Weitz, “The Role of Theory in Aesthetics,” Journal
of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 15 (1956).
 A. Danto, “The Artworld,” Journal of Philosophy, LXI, 1964.
 J. Baudrillard, Symbolic
Exchange and Death, transl. I. H. Grant (Sage Publications, 1993), p. 19
(production and wages), p. 20 (an unlimited and maximal wage demand), pp. 21-23
(money and its non-convertibility and speculation), pp. 55-57 (reproduction
technology), pp. 71-74 (hyperrealism and pop art), p. 75 (death of art because
of the reality that has become artifice, and art as reproduction). A definition of ’simulation’ not being given,
the following phrase expresses its meaning well: “Today the whole system is
swamped by indeterminacy, and every reality is absorbed by the hyperreality of
the code and simulation” (p. 2).
 “This Neo-Dada, which they call New Realism, Pop Art,
Assemblage, etc., is an easy way out, and lives on what Dada did. When I discovered ready-made, I thought to
discourage aesthetics. In Neo-Dada they
have taken my ready-made and found aesthetic beauty in them. I threw the bottle-rack and the urinal into
their faces as an challenge and now they admire for their aesthetic
beauty.” (M. Duchamp to Hans Richter,
Nov. 10, 1962, in H. Richer, Dada: Art
and Anti-art (Thames and Hudson, 1970)(1st ed. c. 1965), pp.
 Genesis, I:31. In fact, in the Septuagina used the word ’kalos,’ which we are accustomed to translate
 About this situation, we have to consider Welsch’s notion
of “Anästhetik” (op.cit., Chap.
1). Facing the excess of sensible
stimuli in our days, we take a defensive stance of “unaesthetic.” In this respect, the old accumulative type of
culture should be criticized (Welsch mentions R. Rorty’s claim that “a
poeticized culture would be one which would not insist we find the real wall
behind the painted ones.…” [Contingency,
Irony and Solidarity, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 53; the German
translation quoted by Welsch, Frankfort a. M, 1989, says “eine ästhetisierte
Kultur” for “a poeticized culture” (is this exact?), and criticizes it as still
being the accumulative type). His
unaesthetic aesthetics has basic categories, which however do not seem to give
perspective to the future. In spite of
his accurate insight into contemporary culture, it looks like he is still standing in the
critical spirit of the avant-garde originating with Adorno. The current situation of civilization seems
to be more relevant.