The German Aesthetic Tradition

The German Aesthetic Tradition

Kai Hammermeister

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 0521785545

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This is the only available systematic critical overview of German aesthetics from 1750 to the present. The book begins with the work of Baumgarten and covers all the major writers on German aesthetics that follow: Kant, Schiller, Schelling, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Gadamer and Adorno. It offers a clear and non-technical exposition of ideas, placing these in a wider philosophical context where necessary. Interest in this book extends far beyond the discipline of philosophy to those of literary studies, fine art and music.

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at the same time claimed an importance for the aesthetic judgment that is on a par with those of a cognitive and moral nature. Kant, however, does not understand an aesthetic judgment to refer exclusively to art. In fact, for him most aesthetic judgments are not about art, but nature. They are about beauty in natural objects, as well as about our experience of the sublime. The Critique of Judgment was written not as a theory of art and beauty but as an exploration of that faculty that is meant to

man’s mental and physical well-being.13 It still needs to be explained why the aesthetic judgment can make any claim to universality, because the pleasure of the agreeable certainly cannot. We have seen, however, that the agreeable is tied up with the interest of the subject in its existence, whereas the beautiful had been defined as that which pleases without satisfying any concrete antecedent desire of the subject. Kant claims that I can expect everyone else to agree with my aesthetic judgment

discipline of aesthetics. Yet it was by no means the first time that a philosopher envisioned art to be used for pedagogical purposes. Plato repeatedly emphasized the role that art should play in the education of the youth, as, for example, when he writes in The Republic: We must seek out such artists as have the talent to pursue the beautiful and the graceful in their work, in order that our young men shall benefit from living, as it were, in a healthy place, whence something from these beautiful

aesthetic truth (Aesthetica, §423). Baumgarten elaborates on how he understands aesthetic truth by situating it between falsehood and the certainty we achieve through correct employment of our rational faculties. Aesthetic truth for Baumgarten seems to come rather close to the rhetorical conception of truth, namely, probability. In the rhetorical tradition, an argument was true if it was convincing, 10 Part I. The Age of Paradigms probable, or more likely to be true than other contenders for

Empfindungen (Rhapsody, or addenda ¨ die Hauptgrunds¨atze der sch¨onen to the letters on sensations, 1761), Uber K¨unste und Wissenschaften (On the main principles of the beaux arts ¨ das Erhabene und Na¨ıve in den sch¨onen and liberal arts, 1757), and Uber Wissenschaften (On the sublime and na¨ıve in the liberal arts, 1758). Most relevant might be the first essay in which Mendelssohn develops his basic ideas, which he later elaborates and modifies only slightly. Baumgarten, Mendelssohn 15 The

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