popular arts and mass culture represent our environment. The flood of their
products reduces high art to minority status. This situation leads us to
reconsider the privileged status of high art and the role of aesthetics as its
theory, which is my main focus here. I take up three different cultural eras:
early modern times, when the notions of art and aesthetics as a philosophical
discipline were founded; our own day as the time of mass culture; and, lastly,
the popular culture in the Edo period in Japan, the seventeenth to the
mid-nineteenth centuries, which reflected different choices.
early modern Europe, the popular arts were born at the same time as high art.
Art for the use of the people became possible because of the increase in
productivity and wealth. There was a different notion of popular art as art
produced by the people, a notion associated with Herder. Popular art, in this
sense, was claimed to be the true art according to the concept of creativity
from below and the plant model concretizing that concept. Modern aesthetics
adopted the same plant model to insist on individuality as genius, for that was
the only way in the commercialized world to win the right of free creative
activity backed up by the right of intellectual property. Hence, high art was
consecrated thanks to popular art, which in Herder’s sense reserved its own
By mass culture, I mean the aesthetic and
intellectual activities mediated by the systems of mass media or, broadly,
those activities in “the age of mechanical reproduction.” Forms of mass
culture, such as movies, TV, popular songs, comics, video games, fashion,
advertisements, websites, and so on, quantitatively overwhelm high art, and, in
its forms of experience, mass culture obscures the sacred border of art. The
situation is similar to when art and aesthetics were about to be established.
The difference is that art is now firmly recognized as high culture, and the role
of aesthetics is not to claim the right of art but only to justify the
privilege art is already enjoying. A new aesthetics is to be hoped for, one
that looks for a new order in the nebulosity of mass culture.
culture in the Edo period in Japan, including ukiyo-e, haikai and kabuki
theater, offers a counter example to the Western modern period and a sense of
possibility for a new aesthetics. In this period, the people were not only
consumers but also producers of culture. Traditional high culture existed but
popular culture was segregated from it. Creativity, however, was absolutely on
the side of the popular; the three forms of art mentioned above were new
inventions of the people. Literature was not separated from the sciences of
ethics and still fulfilled a critical function. The Ukiyo-e edition was of a conglomerated character: its subjects or
genres were taken from the erotic world, sports, theater and tourism. These
suggest the possibility of a different constellation of cultural fields for a new
Edo period; high art; mass art; mass culture; plant model; popular arts
1. Introduction: Defiance of
I was young, I wondered what was the raison
d’être of art. To this enigmatic question, aesthetics appeared to be
concealing the definitive answer. Why did I need such a metaphysical argument?
The reason was simple and evident. Although art was surrounded by a taboo
prohibiting any doubt about the legitimacy of its value, so that the
“aesthetes” took art as the supreme value beyond any dispute, at the same time
it was exposed to the utilitarian suspicion of being useless. The situation is
still the same but something has changed: the increasingly rapid changes in art
and the increasing attempts at redefining art in the second half of the last
century. The discussion, especially within the framework of analytical
aesthetics, was driven by the avant-garde movements. In order to include a
urinal in the category of artworks, it was necessary to rewrite the concept of
art. This problem was enthusiastically embraced by many philosophers. Now the
same impetus comes from popular arts or mass arts. Their overwhelming presence
as a social fact seems to oblige aesthetics to transform itself. Aesthetics had
been developed as the philosophy of the high arts. If popular arts or mass arts
come to dominate high art, a reform of aesthetics is inevitable.
this article, I will present a grand
récit about the cultural struggle between the elite and the people as it
relates to high art and popular art, from the later eighteenth-century to the
present. This story should lead to the generative grammar of culture. For the
moment, my purpose here is modest, to bring the contemporary chaotic state of
art into relief. The chaos is perceived particularly in the ambiguity between
art and culture. The present form of popular art is mass art, which is,
however, fused with mass culture. This fusion appears to announce a new
category, one different from art. So, after discussing some major subjects of
aesthetics in the contemporary conditions of culture, I shall describe the
popular culture in the Edo period in Japan as an example of hetero-culture
lacking the notion of art and aesthetics as the ideology of art. In a different
cultural space, a different grouping of cultural fields was formed that might
be suggestive. Summing up, I will mainly focus on three cultural times,
historically and typologically compared and related with one another.
we shall have two basic leitmotifs, mass media and the different forms of
cultural engagement: practice and appreciation. In every cultural time noted
above, mass media played the decisive role of creating a new horizon of
culture. As to the form of engagement, it is simple in high culture in that it
is the elite who produces and enjoys art. But in the case of popular culture,
it is crucial to discriminate whether the people produce and consume the
cultural activities or pieces, or simply consume pieces produced by
professionals, and to know, even when they produce it, in what form they do so.
Contemporary creators of culture and art are similar to the anonymous authors
of traditional folksongs because they are producers, but are very different in
the form of their activity.
2. Vocabulary: popular and mass; art and culture
A. Popular and mass. As preparation, we
have to define two pairs of basically synonymous words. First, ‘popular’ and
‘mass.’ Both words mean “concerning many people” but differ in connotation.
Popular art, in contrast to high art, refers to the people, that is, the ruled
masses. Therefore, ‘popular’ is a political concept describing a social class.
Linguistically, the word ‘people’ began to be used, with a stress on the sense
of ruled masses, under the influence of the popular revolution and the trend toward
democracy. This was roughly at the same time as the formation of the notion of
From this, we gather that this coincidence reflected the political implication
of art and aesthetics.
contrast, ‘mass’ underlines the number, and mass art and mass culture are
considered in relation to mass media. Therefore, it was science and technology
that stimulated the development of mass art. The first mass media were brought
about by the Gutenberg revolution, then, in what Benjamin called the “age of
technological reproducibility,” it became remarkably important. What Benjamin
had in mind was photography and image reproduction, though phono-reproduction
also became available at this time.,
These are media based on physical processes but the ultimate mass media was a
matter of electronic form: the telegraph, the telephone, radio, television, and
the Internet using the digital technology of the computer. The importance of
mass art and mass culture today is based upon this technology.
In the digital world, image and sound are dissolved into the same signs. It is
purely semiotic and lacks the thickness of flesh. Digital mass art is radically
different from the popular, in that while popular art has the scent of sweat
and the feeling of body temperature, mass art and mass culture are somehow
Art and culture. These two terms are often used indifferently. ‘Culture’
covers all human activities around art. The fact that the 20th
International Congress of Aesthetics chose mass culture as its general theme
reflects the changing situation.
The frontier between art and similar activities has become faint. Their
affinity can be verified in the history of the concept of culture. This word
was once used only in the sense of cultivating the land.
But at the same period as the formation of the concept of art, it began to be
applied figuratively to mental phenomena. This meaning is emphasized in the
German word Kultur, which signifies
My subject is the impact that popular arts, transmitted through mass media,
have on aesthetics. Culture, in connection with my subject, refers to diverse
peripheral phenomena encroaching the concept of art, such as comics, fashion,
advertisements, sport, video games, tourism, theme parks, and so on, which
might well be called popular arts or even arts.
3. Creation from below and the plant model
we should ask how and why high art was canonized in the early modern period.
According to the commonsensical understanding of the history of aesthetics, the
modern notion of art was established by its distinction from craft.
As such, it was only a modern version of the traditional discrimination of high
and low, that is, liberal and mechanical arts. Of course, there was something
new in the concept of art. The category of mental work was now applied not just
to philosophy and sciences but to work produced by hand. A new grouping was
made among producing activities, art as being more mental and craft as being
differentiation of art from craft is a distinction in Bourdieu’s sense. Crafts
had existed, even in highly developed forms. Such craft works as those
exhibited in the Green Vault of Dresden (illustration 1) and Meissen porcelains
belonged to high society and must have literally been high art at that time,
though they later came to be treated differently, as craft, because of the
modern concept of art.,
Ill.1 Johann Melchior Dinglinger, the Grand Mogul Aureng-Zeb, (1701-1708).
This concept of art necessarily included the differentiation of high from
popular arts, for we have to talk in terms of the popular rather than of craft
in connection with literature and music. Craft is, so to speak, the popular
plastic art. How, then, did aesthetics establish this distinction? The key is
found in what I call the plant model, in the theory of creation from below, and
individualism as the general trend in the modern world.
to Peter Burke, European popular culture was discovered by Herder and the
Brothers Grimm between the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the
nineteenth centuries, at the point when popular culture began to decline.
Before then, high and low cultures coexisted and communicated with one another;
noble men participated in regional popular festivals. In the early modern era,
they retired from popular culture for, having lost their military function,
they needed a new sign of their high status, which they found in elegance and
Why, then, were Herder and the Brothers Grimm interested in popular culture?
Burke points to two factors, the rise of nationalism and the notion that
creativity comes from below, that is, from the people.
two factors are closely connected in Herder. His nationalism, being cultural
rather than political, is only an expression of his conviction that creativity
cannot but be rooted in race, in the national soil, and in tradition.
His early essays on Ossian and Shakespeare were published, along with
Goethe’s “German Architecture,” all monumental works of the Strum und Drang
movement, in the same book issued in 1773.
These texts reveal the same spirit. Both authors shared the sense of discomfort
vis-à-vis the classical poetics coming from France. These angry young men were
convinced that this scholarly poetics could not produce any deep impression on
the minds of an audience. This dissent was supported by a heterodox belief that
poetry was the mother tongue of humankind.
According to J.J. Rousseau, Diderot, and Vico, the further we go back in
history, the truer poetry we will find, that is, poetry not distorted by
This is the poetry of unlearned people. Such was the origin of Herder’s deep
and strong interest in popular poetry and folk songs.
is created from below. This vision was grasped with the plant metaphor. For Herder,
his first and last question was, “What is the soil like? How has it been
prepared? What has been sown in it? What should it be able to produce?”
Therefore of Shakespeare, Herder says, “from the soil of the age a different
Goethe also grasped the Cathedral of Strasbourg, which he considered as typical
German architecture, with an image of a huge tree.
The plant model is the new version of the so-called organic theory. Not only
Aristotle but also Alberti, in the fifteenth century, adopted the animal model.
It was natural for them to take an animal’s skeleton as a model when they
reflected on the structure of a work. The plant model originates from a
different problem of accounting for the work. It is a metaphor focusing on the
generative power, or the creative in art and culture. Creativity is a natural
power, generated from the soil, and it aims at height. Through the plant
metaphor, Herder and Goethe wished to talk about a new creative principle
different from the idea of imitation based upon the scholarly knowledge. This
creative power was found by Herder in popular culture. But this aesthetics
based on the popular creativity did not become the standard in modernity. Why?
songs are characterized by the anonymity of their authors and by their oral
transmission. Boileau, the champion of classical poetics, described vaudeville,
a kind of folk song, as: [Vaudeville] “by singing goes /From mouth to mouth,
and as it marches grows.”
He emphasizes how many people transform popular poetry through their faulty
memory, and how they become co-producers of the work as a result of their
individual tastes. There is no author with a proper name. Modern art demolished
this tradition with the spirit of individualism. Individualism seems to have
been almost essential to modernity. In addition, individualism in art was
emphasized by the cultural policy of the religious and laic powers. We know no
artist of so strong a character before Michelangelo. Although he was difficult
as a person, “Julius II, Leo X, Clement VII, Paul III, Paul IV, all supreme
pontiffs, wished to have him nearby at all times.”
Backed up by such a strong need of the Vatican, he could develop a tough
dispute with Julius II, who made him paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel,
such as abandoning the job because of anger against the impolite dealing of a
servant of the Pope, refusing to allow him to look at the work in progress, or
responding to him that the work will be finished “when it satisfies me in its
than one century later, Rembrandt struggled with the patronage system in a new
way. In the most advanced capitalist country, he wished to find a possibility
of developing his artistic ideas in the commercial market. He even speculated
in paintings himself in order to raise their prices.
Art was transforming from labor to commodity, and artists were facing the need
to get income through the market, even in order to realize their creative
such a situation, a new type of popular art was born, the art not by the people
but for the people. Along with the increase of wealth, the rate of literacy
among the people increased, so much so that there appeared a reading population
so large as to fit with the size the print machine needed, hence the birth of
popular literature. The new intellectual class who were its readers resembles
the consumers of popular arts today, in their width and number. The typical
case is found in the literature promoted by print technology. According to
Martha Woodmansee, in the second half of the eighteenth century, the
distinction between pure literature and popular novels for entertainment was
established more clearly in Germany than in France and England.
Vis-à-vis the growth of the number of literate people who desired to read, on
the one hand, many “sons of the middle classes” lacking the “vocational
opportunity […] in absolutist Germany” looked for the way of life in writing,
so that it was known even in London that there were “seven thousand living
authors in Germany.”
This literary proletariat worked naturally in popular literature. Heinrich von
Kleist collided with such a situation in a lending library in Würzburg, where
he did not find authors such as Goethe, Schiller, or Weiland but only old
fashioned romances, or sentimental novels, and gothic novels.
is evident that the authors of pure literature found it difficult to get
financial independence, as we see from the failure of Lessing and Schiller.
On the other hand, G. A. Bürger, poet of the ballad, continued the cult of
popularity since Herder. However, while Herder focused on the popular culture
handed down from ancient times, Bürger insisted and was proud of the popularity
of his newly composed ballads.
Notwithstanding the difficulty of life lived in pure literature, Schiller
criticized Bürger. Schiller remarked that, since it was no longer the age of
Homer, there was a great gap between the elite and the common public, and that
it is important for poetry not to be on the side of the people but to idealize,
to gain an “absolute immanent value.”,
We know the historical result. It was the latter that came to dominate the
modern world. When he claims that “Orlando Furioso, the Faerie Queene, Fingal
and Temora, and the Iliad and the Odyssey were nothing but ballads, romances,
and folk songs to the people, to whom they were originally sung,” Bürger must
have believed he was allying himself to the aesthetics of folk song asserted by
We witness here the crash of the aesthetics of popular culture and that of the
ideal and autonomous. In what sense, then, did this aesthetics of autonomy that
won correspond to the new situation?
to Woodmansee, this aesthetics of autonomy played a decisive role in assuring
the economic right to authors who needed financial independence. The problem
was that the profit of the book trade was not returned to the authors because
of the lack of the notion of copyright. In support of authors, one contribution
came from Fichte, who demonstrated that literary works are intellectual
properties of the author because they are produced by their inward forms
Another effective argument was the theory of creativity from below in the plant
model, the main inspiration for which came from E. Young’s Conjectures on Original Composition (1759). With its new conception
of originality, this book exercised a stronger influence in Germany than in
Indeed, it implied the same concept of intellectual property as Fichte’s.
Young’s concept of originality, founded on the vegetable nature and the
principle of growth, emphasizing the general trend of individualism, inspired
the above-mentioned plant model theory of creation and, according to
Woodmansee, the claim of copyright by Fichte.
This concept of originality crystalized into the aesthetics of autonomy.
believe we have now reached a clear understanding of the relation between the
modern aesthetics of autonomy and the theory of popular art. We may summarize
it as follows. When popular cultural forms, such as festival, song, and poetry,
were losing their creative power, Herder, the Brothers Grimm, and Goethe paid
attention to them. They frankly sympathized with such popular culture, in
contrast to the uneasiness they felt towards French classicism. They believed
in the creative power coming not from the head but from the soil. In fact,
thanks to the increase in population and in general wealth and literacy, the
period of the people was approaching. So a new popular culture was born,
culture not by but for the people. The change was evident in literature. The
circulating library became established as a business, and popular literature
was born. At the same time, there were artists and authors who looked for
economic independence and preferred the market principle to traditional
patronage. Insisting on the high spirituality of their works vis-à-vis popular
novels, these authors used the plant model of creativity promoted by Yong’s
idea of originality to establish a new concept of intellectual property, thus
creating a new form of livelihood dependent on the copyright fee. In this way,
modern aesthetics came into being through the consecration of the autonomous
and creative high art discriminated from popular culture for entertainment.
4. Claims for the popular arts
of the landmarks in the history of aesthetics is the appearance, between the
end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, of claims
for the legitimacy of popular art. This argument was famously made by Tolstoy (What Is Art?, 1897), and we can also
think of W. Morris (“The Art of the People,” 1879) and Roman Rolland (The People's Theatre, 1903). They shared
the socialist viewpoint, the basic spirit of which is expressed by Morris, when
he wrote of “an art made by the people, and for the people, as a happiness to
the maker and the user.”
The target of his criticism was art for its own sake, meaning art for the
elites and authentic high art. In contrast to Morris’ claim, O. Wilde and W.
Pater would assert that art for the elite is the only real art. In order to
overcome the impasse created by this dispute, we need to appeal to a social
philosophy or at least take a critical viewpoint on the orthodox aesthetics.
the social reality demanded the viewpoint of the people. Ortega y Gasset points
out that, between 1800 and 1914, the European population grew abruptly from 180
million to 460 million.
It was not the elite but the people who expanded. It was the progress of the
industrial revolution that supported and, in a sense, demanded this large
population. Capitalism pursuing profit created wretched living conditions for
the people. Taking a critical view of
this reality, Ruskin and Morris insisted on the pleasure of work and idealized
the medieval society. From a more realistic viewpoint, Ebenezer Howard
developed the garden cities movement, aimed at solving the bad living
conditions of the people in London. Ortega’s Revolt of the Masses was published in 1930, and in it he described,
in a sensational way, the crisis of the European culture. We perceive in it the
conviction that culture is aristocratic in nature, preserved by the small
intellectual elite. Now the European population is over 600 million, 30 percent
more than in 1914. Does this mean that culture has deteriorated?
the face of this upsurge of the problem of the people, orthodox or academic
aesthetics did not seem to react seriously. The main reason is clear. These
authors did not insist on art by the people but for the people by professional
artists. That was high art.
5. Today’s aesthetics of popular/mass art
technology has opened a new horizon of art activity for a large public. We
need, then, a new aesthetics different from the modern one, in order to accept
and approve the popular art based on the creativity peculiar to the people. For
example, Dewey presented such a standpoint, far before the arrival of the
digital communication system, by recognizing an exemplar beauty in “the
fire-machine rushing by” (Art as
In fact, his original conviction was that we should take popular art as the
proper object of our art experience. “The arts, says he, which today have most
vitality for the average person are things he does not take to be arts: for
instance, the movie, jazz music, the comic strip, and, too frequently,
newspaper accounts of love-nests, murders, and exploits of bandits.”
Naturally, such a claim, though arising in his pragmatist system of philosophy,
was as heterodox as aesthetics.
Dewey’s line of thought, Richard Shusterman, the neo-pragmatist, claimed the
right of the popular art, in discussing music, especially.
He insisted that there was a strong opposition against popular art and
mentioned its arguments, most of which came from the axiology of the
As I mentioned already, without a philosophical examination of this axiology,
the dispute between the opposite sides would remain endless. Shusterman,
himself, evaluates popular art positively for the reason that it enlarges the
field of aesthetic experience.
the position of popular art, side by side with high art, Noël Carroll asserts
that popular art, especially mass art, is the most important form in our time.
(A Philosophy of Mass Art, 1998). He
understands mass art as the art produced by the technology of mass production.
Carroll asserts that the basic axis of twentieth-century art is found between
the avant-garde and mass art, which are defined, respectively, by a mutual
to Carroll: “[…]popular (mass) art, statistically, is probably the art that
most of our elite consume most frequently, while, at the same time, the largest
portion of our elite are likely to be suspicious of contemporary high art.”
In early modern times, on the contrary, the ruling class was much closer to
high art. The enlightened despots, such as Friedrich the Great and the
Catherine II of Russia, were sincerely interested in contemporary art, and, a
little bit later, Beethoven had patrons such as Archduke Rudolf and Marquis
Lichnowsky. Nowadays there seems to be much fewer people who are interested in
the contemporary avant-garde art.
wonder if avant-garde is still alive. Indeed, new high art is being produced,
which does not necessarily mean that these new pieces are avant-garde.
Now we are in the post-avant-garde era. Watching this new situation, I would
like to pick up three major problems of contemporary aesthetics.
Ken-ichi SasakiPublished on September 28, 2017.
the knowledge of specialists’ papers on the historical semantics of the word
‘people,’ I limit myself to present the little things I know just in order to
explain the ground of my understanding. When I say “with the stress on the
sense of ruled masses,” I contrast it to another basic meaning of ‘nation.’
This duality of meaning of ‘people’ comes from the Latin ‘populus.’ According to the Latin-French
Dictionary of Félix Gaffiot (3rd ed. Hachette, 2008), its first
meaning corresponds roughly to “the nation” (inhabitants of a country or a
city), and the second, to the people as opposed to the Senates (and the plebs).
OALD, a concise dictionary of English
today, keeps these basic meanings: ‘the people’ means the citizens of a
country, especially when considered in relation to “those who govern them,” and
the word also means “the members of a
particular nations, community, or ethnic group.” In the French dictionary, le Petit Robert (1973), the first
meaning of ‘peuple’ is “the nation,” and the second is “the people” as a
collectivity living under the same laws. For this second sense, most quotes are
taken from Rousseau, Mirabeau, and democrats. The author adds to this the
second sense, as its derivative, the people as opposed to the upper class. As
Voltaire said, “I understand by people the masses [la populace] who have
nothing but their arms to live by.” In this sense, the people is identical with
the proletariat. In fact, in eighteenth-century France, the people (le peuple) was the social class under
the bourgeois, the financiers, mechanists, manufacturers and shopkeepers, that
was constituted by wageworkers (Michio Shibata, The French Revolution [in Japanese], (Iwanami, Tokyo, 2007), pp.55 et sqq, 101). It is remarkable that
Samuel Johnson quotes, in his famous Dictionary (1755), after the meaning of
‘the nation,’ that of ‘the vulgar’ even before that of ‘the commonality.’ In
modern times, when the bourgeois became the elite, especially in culture, the
vulgar seems to constitute the main body of the people. See also P. Burk, op.cit.(note 11), p. 367, where, talking
about the “withdrawal of the upper classes” (p.366) from the popular culture
between 1500 and 1800, he mentions: “…the change of meaning of the term
‘people,’ which was used less often than before to mean ‘everyone,’ or
‘respectable people,’ and more often to mean ‘the common people.’”
Benjamin called ”art-as-photography,” in contrast to “photography-as-art,” in
his earlier essay, “Little History of Photography” (1931), became the subject
of “The Work of Art in the Age of Technological Reproducibility” (1936).
Edison invented his cylinder phonograph about 1877, then the German inventor
Emil Berliner produced a new system using flat disc in 1885-87. And, we should
not forget the French poet and inventor Charles Cros, who got the idea of
recording of sound almost simultaneously with Edison. His idea is believed to
have inspired Berliner, the disc system. While Edison’s cylinder aimed at
recording and reproducing a sound, especially the human voice, Berliner’s
system made possible a mass-production of discs as a commodity.
 After the
Gutenberg revolution, a new revolution was brought about by electricity in the
twentieth century. While print technology was based on the visual, the logic of
which penetrated and dominated the whole area of culture, McLuhan believed that
the new mass media were essentially acoustic or tactile, involving the whole
bodily sense. Cf. Marshall McLuhan, The
Gutenberg Galaxy: the Making of Topographic Man, 1962; Understanding Media: the
Extensions of Man, 1964, (The MIT Press, 2001). In spite of all his
stimulating intuitions and arguments, his theory did not grasp the crucial
effect of digital technology; indeed, he was writing before the true advent of
digital technology. The main problem consists in that he wished to consider the
difference between the print and the electric in terms of different senses.
original version of this article was delivered as an invited speech at the 20th
International Congress of Aesthetics, under the general theme of “Aesthetics
and Mass Culture,” at Seoul National University, Korea, July 24-29, 2016. I
note here my sincere gratitude to its organizing committee for this invitation.
 See the
first edition of the Dictionnaire de
l’Académie Françoise (1694), where the article ‘culture’ is grouped under
that of ‘cultiver’ as the basic word. In Latin, the figurative use of ‘cultura’
is noticed, which, however, seems to be more metaphorical expression than a
meaning of the word (“cultura animi philosophia est.” Cicero. Tusc, 2.13).
u. seelische Bildung, verfeinerte Lebensweise, Lebensart.” (Gerhard Wahrig, Deutsches Wörterbuch, Bertelsmann
 About the
history of the formation of the modern concept of art, Paul Kristeller’s
article, “The Modern Systems of Art” (Journal
of the History of Ideas, Part 1, vol. XII ; Part II vol. XIII
), is still the basic study. Although the author mentions only twice the
separation of art from craft (I, p. 514, II, p. 44), the notion that art became
art through its distinction from crafts is basic, for the main argument of the
article is dedicated to the discussion of paragone, or the affinity of painting
to poetry. Craft cannot indeed be compared with poetry, in any sense.
 The Green
Vault is a part of Dresden castle used as a museum. Its collection dates from
1723, including master pieces in jewelry art (gold smith) by Johann Melchior
Dinglinger (1664-1731), such as “The Birthday of the Great Moghul Aureng-Zeb.”
It was the same King Augustus II the Strong who created the collection and
inaugurated the Meissen porcelain for the purpose of industrial wealth and
cultural prestige. The story of the alchemist Johan Friedrich Böttger
(1682-1719), who was invited and confined in the castle, is well known.
German word Kunstgewerbe (‘gewerbe’ means producing professions)
seems to represent a peculiarity of German culture. Though people construe it
as design, they are very different. Unlike ‘design,’ Kunstgewerbe refers to the traditional craft as high art. As has a
similar tradition in Japan, and most probably in China and Korea, most modern
aestheticians from Japan have shown a sympathy with such a craftsmanship.
Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe
(1978) Ashgate, 2008, pp. 23-4. His essential notion is the following: “The
ideas behind the term ‘folksong’ are expressed with force in Herder’s prize
essay of 1778, on the influence of poetry on the morals of peoples in ancient
and modern times. His main point was that poetry had once possessed an
effectiveness (lebendigen Würkung)
which is now lost. …Herder went to suggest true poetry belongs to a particular
way of life, which would later be described as the ‘Organic Community’ … The
implication of his essay seems to be that in the post-Renaissance world, only
folksong retains the moral effectiveness of early poetry because it circulates
orally, is recited to music, and performs practical functions … The association
of poetry with the people received even more emphasis in the work of the Grimm
brothers. In an essay on the Nibelungenlied,
Jakob Grimm pointed out that the author of the poem is unknown, ‘as is usual
with all national poems and must be the case, because they belong to the whole
people.’ Their authorship was communal: ‘the people creates’ (Das Volk dichtet). In a famous epigram,
he wrote that ‘every epic must write itself’ (Jedes Epos muss sich selbst dichten).”
 Ibid., p. 369. (The author talks about
in p. 368 the need of education for the clergy.) As he points out, we can place
B. Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier (1528),
along with many other books written on this subject, in such a situation. It
is, besides, remarkable that in the Edo period in Japan, the warrior class was
thrown into the similar situation in the new age of peace. As we shall see
later, they looked for the new sign of distinction, not so much elegance but in
knowledge or science.
 Ibid., p. 94: “Jonathan Swift described
‘Opinions like Fashions’ as ‘always descending from those of Quality to the
middle Sort, and thence to the Vulgar, where at length they are dropt and
vanish’ (“An Argument against Abolishing Christianity in England”). The
discoverers of popular culture, such as Herder and the Grimms, reversed this
view, believing that creativity came from below, from the people.”
 P. Burke
exempts Herder from this nationalistic tendency (ibid., p. 34).
 The title
of the volume of collected papers is Vom
Deutscher Art und Kunst (Of German
Character and Art), which was indeed the manifesto of the Strum und Drang movement.
phrase is of Hamann: “Poetry is the mother-tongue of the human race; even as
garden is older than the ploughed field, painting than script; as song is more
ancient than declamation; parable older than reasoning; barter than trade.” Aesthetica in nuce, A Rhapsody in
Cabbalistic Prose, 1762, in: J. M. Bernstein, ed., Classic and Romantic German Aesthetics (Cambridge University Press,
2003), p. 2. This notion was familiar to Herder, who sincerely respected Hamann
as a master.
they shared many thoughts, the influential relation between Condillace,
Diderot, and Rousseau is delicate and very often difficult to decide. According
to the dates of their respective writings, if we take the “Art of Writing,” in Cours d’études, as the major work on
this topic of Condillac, Diderot is the oldest, and Rousseau follows, then last
comes Condillac. But since the ground of their argument is found in the
sensualist epistemology of Condillac, I present the outline of his thought
first. His epistemology is based on the dualism of nature and art. Nature
represents the simultaneity peculiar to senses and symbolized in painting,
while art the succession peculiar to spirit/mind and symbolized in language.
Thinking is already an art, that is, it needs to develop onto temporal line
ideas forming a simultaneous unity. Along the progress of history, art has
become finer and finer. But the ideal is to recover the natural. This is the
meaning of what Condillac calls the principle of the greatest relationships (la plus grande liaison) of ideas.
Diderot’s Letters on the Deaf and Dumb
(1751) is a curious book that gives the impression of being divided into two
different parts, respectively discussing language and art. In my sense, as to
the motive of writing, it was a critique on the works on language and art by
Charles Batteux, and, as to its subject, it concerns the difference and
relation between the dynamic state of spirit/mind and its expression.
thought announced his later philosophy of history based on the climate theory.
Herder’s philosophy of history is also a philosophy of popular culture. Being
an empiricist, he considered that virtual faculty can only be formed as reason
by and through the continuous mingling with the environment in daily life. He
insisted the natural conditions of environment that climate was, because he was
in the line of tradition from Dubos and Montesquieu. This trend will meet the
evolution theory and is a forerunner of pragmatism. We shall find pragmatism in
the root of the contemporary theory of popular arts.
Gottfried Herder, Selected Writings on
Aesthetics, ed. and transl. by Gregory Moore (Princeton University Press,
2006), pp. 27-8.
 The image
of the Cathedral of Strasburg as a huge tree is repeated in this essay. For
example: “Genius […] inspired Erwin von Steinbach, saying: diversify the
immense wall, raise it toward heaven so that it soars like a towering,
widespreading tree of God. With its thousands of branches and millions of twigs
and as many leaves as sand by the sea, it shall proclaim to the land the glory
of the Lord, its master.” (“On German Architecture” , in: Goethe’s Collected Works, vol.3, Essays
on Art and Literature, p. 5.)
Poetics, Ch. 8 (1451a30-35: total
unity based on the interdependence of parts), Ch.7 (1450b34-1451a6: reference
to animal). L.B. Alberti, On the Art of
Building in Ten Books, transl. by J. Rykwert, N. Leach, R. Tavernor (The
MIT Press, 1988), pp. 23-24 (Book 1, Ch.9), p. 81 (Book 3, Ch.12), p. 301, 302
(Book 9, Ch.5). When he claims that a story must have a body like an animal
(Plato, Phaedrus, 264c2), Socrates is
also thinking of the art of composition.
Boileau, The Art of Poetry, II-182-3
(French original 1674), translated by William Soame, 1680. This remark on the
nature of folk song is all the more noteworthy as Boileau’s Art of Poetry was considered the code of
the classical poetics. We have to recognize in it Boileau the satirist.
Vasari, The Lives of the Artists,
transl. by J.C. Bondanella and P. Bondanella, Oxford University Press, (11991),
2008, p. 472. The cultural policy of the powers, Louis XIV, among others, was a
crucial moment for art to be canonized as high culture.
 Ibid., pp. 435-6, 441, 450. This pride
anticipates already that of Beethoven, as is well known through the famous
episode of his attitude vis-à-vis people of the Court in contrast with that of
Goethe and, besides, Michelangelo shows several characteristics of the modern
artists, such as stressing original ideas (pp. 477, 478), the strong will to
surpass himself (p. 462), and love of solitude (pp. 472-3).
Alpers, Rembrandt’s Enterprise―the Studio
and the Market (University of Chicago Press, 1985). As to the contrast
between the patronage and the market system, pp. 91 ff. et seq. His challenge against the market (refuse of the evaluation
of works according to the amount of labor), pp. 98-100; claim for the copyright
of prints, p. 101; emphasis on the “aura of individuality,” p. 102; his own
investment on paintings, pp. 103 ff.et
 As to the
situation in France, Stendhal remarked there existed two kinds of novels, one
for handmaids and the other for the upper class. The former is in a small size
of duodecimo, the latter in a larger size of octavo, and they were published by
different houses (P. Georges Castex,
Stendhal, le rouge et le noir, Garnier, 1873, p. 710). This small book for
the handmaiden is the new popular novel. In England, its fashion began in the
second half of the eighteenth century, and the books were distributed
especially through circulating libraries. Judging from the large number of
readers, popular novels must have been a commodity more profitable than the
works of pure literature.
Woodmansee, The Author, Art, and the
Market: Reading the History of Aesthetics (Columbia University Press,
1994), pp. 24-25. More precisely, the number of writers there is counted as
about 3,000 in 1771, 5,200 in 1784, 7,000 in 1791, and 10,650 in 1800 (ibid., p. 155 [note 28]). So the rumor
in London was not exaggerated.
 Ibid., pp. 27-28. The source of this
information is a letter of Kleist in 1800 addressed to his fiancé.
hard struggle is described briefly in Woodmansee, ibid., p. 41.
believed that popularity is the seal of the perfection of the poetry. Cf. ibid., p. 62. This idea of Bürger is
taken from the Preface of his collected Poems
 Such a
fine sense of the change of the time testifies to the modernity of Schiller,
who became nominated Professor of history in Jena (1789).
op.cit., pp. 72-78. Schiller’s review
was published anonymously under the title, “On Bürger’s Poems,” in Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (1791).
 Ibid., p. 62. The quote is from the
Preface of his Poems.
 Ibid., pp. 51-2. Fichte’s short text is
entitled “Proof of the Illegality of Reprinting: A Rationale and a Parable.”
What he calls here “reprinting” (Büchernachdruck) is, in fact, pirate edition,
which was widespread in Germany because it contributed to economical gain in
different countries. (Germany was unified only in 1871). Fichte does not use
the notion of inward form but says only “form,” which, being peculiar to the
spirit of the author, refers precisely to the inward form. Fichte’s originality
consists in emphasizing the personal peculiarity of this form, which served as
the ground of his claim of property. “Each individual has, says he, his own
thought processes, his own way of forming concepts and connecting them,” quoted
from Woodmansee, p. 51. This is what he calls ‘form.’ As to the history of this
concept, especially in the context of the theory of artistic creation, see,
Tanehisa Otabe, “Die Idee der ‘innerer Form’ und ihre Transformation,” Prolegomena, VIII-1, 2009, pp. 5-21.
op.cit., p. 39. German’s sympathy to
Young’s idea was so strong and deep that there appeared two German translations
within two years of its original publication.
emphasizes the contribution to this trend of a short essay by K. Ph. Moritz
published in 1785 (ibid., pp.11-22).
Indeed, Moritz defined art in terms of the “self-sufficiency (in sich selbst
vollendetes),” in opposition to Batteux’ conception of imitation.
 “The Art of the People” was a conference
delivered before Birmingham Society of Art and School of Design in 1879.
William Morris, The Art of the People
(Ralph Fletcher Seymour, 1902), pp. 35-6.
 Ortega y
Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses
(London, G.Allen & Unwin, 1951,) p. 36. The data he presents was taken from
the economist Werner Sombert.
was an excellent designer and artist. The case of Tolstoy is clearer. He
believed in the value of art as the tool of rich communication with feeling.
The feelings to be communicated by art must not be those of the leisured class,
such as spleen, vanity, and sexual desire, but really human feelings, so that
Tolstoy’s art is charged with an educational function. This condition cannot be
cleared but by professional artists. As to the popular theater promoted by R.
Rolland, the current TNP is its realization; its actual representations are
high art of high quality. In short, art made by the laic people is out of the
Dewey. Art as Experience, (A Wide
View/Perigee Book, 1980), p. 5.
 In my
younger days, having been educated in the modern European aesthetics, Dewey’s
view appeared almost strange.
grasped the essence of rock music with the concept of ‘funky’ and gave a
technical and sociological analysis of hip-hop music (Richard Shusterman, Pragmatist Aesthetics, Living Beauty,
Rethinking Art, Blackwell, 1992), Chapters 7 and 8.
 Ibid., especially pp. 177-200, where the
author refutes six negative arguments the traditional aesthetics addressed to
the popular art.
Carroll, A Philosophy of Mass Art
(Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1998), p. 184. Carroll counts TV, movies, popular
music, best-selling blockbuster novels, photography, video games, comic strips,
websites, and so on, as mass arts (pp. 172-3). Among these are acknowledged
forms, such as movies. Others, such as video games and websites, might be
better classified as culture. In this obscure border between art and culture,
we recognize Dewey’s idea spreading.
 Ibid., pp. 179, 231, 242. But they don’t
seem to be perfectly symmetrical. Since Carroll opposes (pp. 236 et seq.) the sociologist John Fiske’s
remark that popular culture is always counter-culture (Understanding of Popular Culture, 1989), it seems that for Carroll,
mass art constituting the standard, the avant-garde can only stand by negating
mass art and, in this way, the avant-garde is dependent on mass culture.
 Ibid., p. 179. He mentions, as examples,
the elder George Bush, who loves country music, and Bill Clinton, who likes
remarks that the lovers of high art today are socially peculiar and marginal
people (ibid., p. 181). During the
past twenty years, since the publication Carroll’s book, the situation seems to
have still advanced.
 At the
occasion of the International Congress of Aesthetics 2016 held in Seoul
(cf. note 5), we were invited to an
excursion to Gallery White Block in Heyri Art Valley. I noticed there is no
avant-garde piece among the contemporary works exhibited there. Avant-garde seems to have finished with the