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Force:A Fundamental Concept of Aesthetic Anthropology

A Fundamental Concept of Aesthetic Anthropology

Christoph Menke

Publication Year: 2012

This book reconceives modern aesthetics by reconstructing its genesis in the 18th century, between Baumgarten's Aesthetics and Kant's Critique of Judgment. Force demonstrates that aesthetics, and hence modern philosophy, began twice. On the one hand, Baumgarten's Aesthetics is organized around the new concept of the "subject": as a totality of faculties; an agent defined by capabilities; one who is able. Yet an aesthetics in the Baumgartian manner, as the theory of the sensible faculties of the subject, at once faces a different aesthetics: the aesthetics of force. The latter conceives the aesthetic not as sensible cognition but as a play of expression--propelled by a force that, rather than being exercised like a faculty, does not recognize or represent anything because it is obscure and unconscious: the force of what in humanity is distinct from the subject. The aesthetics of force is thus a thinking of the nature of man: of aesthetic nature as distinct from the culture acquired by practice. It founds an anthropology of difference: between force and faculty, human and subject.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-6


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Why aesthetics? the answer seems obvious: aesthetics exists — and is, in fact, necessary — because the aesthetic exists. It exists because there are objects — such as music, art, architecture, design, fashion, ballet, athletic competition — which we designate as sublime or...

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1. Sensibility: The Indeterminacy of the Imagination

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pp. 1-12

The history of aesthetic s begins with an act of repudiation: a repudiation of the notion that there can be a theory about or a positive knowledge of the beautiful. Aesthetics begins with Descartes’s doubt about its possibility. He writes to Marin Mersenne:...

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2. Praxis: The Practice of the Subject

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pp. 13-29

Je ne sais quoi — “I know not what” — was the answer rationalist philosophy gave to the question of what is going on in the domain of the senses. The subject, imagining ideas of a sensory nature, knows not what these are, and philosophy cannot know where such ideation comes...

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3. Play: The Operation of Force

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pp. 31-47

Critics since meier have praised Baumgarten as the “inventor” of aesthetics, who elaborated into a comprehensive theory Leibniz’s program of thinking unconscious sensibility as another “activity” propelled by an “internal principle.” Baumgarten chooses the concept of “sensible...

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4. Aestheticization: The Transformation of Praxis

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pp. 49-66

Man’s nature is aesthetic , because man’s nature, the ground of his soul, consists in the play of obscure forces. This is the fundamental tenet of Herder’s aesthetic anthropology. How does Herder know this? Obscure forces are essentially unconscious — which is why they...

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5. Aesthetics: Philosophy’s Contention

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pp. 67-80

The first paragraph of Baumgarten’s Aesthetics frames the task of conceiving Descartes’s domain of “sensibility” in positive terms — as the domain of both a par ticular and a legitimate form of cognition, cognitio sensitiva. “Aesthetics,” Baumgarten writes, “(theory of the liberal...

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6. Ethics: The Freedom of Self-Creation

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pp. 81-98

What constitutes the “ethical- political import” of the aesthetic?1 How does one solve “the problem” of finding the culture that is “appropriate to our music”2 and that would fit our aesthetic praxis and theory of art? In other words, how must a culture be constituted to be...


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pp. 99-111

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250424
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823249725
Print-ISBN-10: 0823249727

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Text