Art and Value: Towards a New Rationalist Aesthetics

Posted in Uncategorized on January 7, 2016 by deontologistics

It’s been too long since I’ve written something substantial here on deontologistics, and I’ve promised myself I’m going to try and remedy that this year. However, for now you’re going to have to be satisfied with an advertisement for my next course with the New Centre for Research and Practice. I’ve been threatening to run a course on aesthetics since I started working with them, and the time has finally come. However, unlike my past few seminars, this will be a full 8 weeks, and will involve a more focused reading and discussion of some important texts in art theory and the history of aesthetics. I’ll quote the course outline here for those who are interested, but full details are available over at the NCRP website:

What is art? Contemporary art is haunted by this question, sometimes obsessed by and sometimes outright hostile to it, but never truly free from it. This constant tension is sublimated by those philosophies of art that developed during the transition from modern to contemporary art, which resolve the conflicts between traditional aesthetics and contemporary practices by dissolving them, indexing art to its institutional reality and the historical context of the artworld. That this dissolution is no solution is apparent in the continued strife between aesthetics and philosophy of art, which fluctuate between superposed identity and resolute distinctness, as much as the constitutive crisis of self-identity that determines contemporary art as such. Nevertheless, if we aim to provide a genuine solution, we must remain sensitive to the historical process of self-definition driving the institutional evolution of art. We must trace the various moments of its self-imposed split from craft: as propaganda, decoration, or entertainment; examine the gradual reinforcement then sudden collapse of the barriers between mediums: the dialectic of concrete figure and abstract form in painting and sculpture, the subsequent rise of performance and installation, and the eventual emergence of the exhibition as its own medium; and explore its tumultuous relationship with literature, music, drama, cinema, and other institutionalised practices that covet the title of arts.

But we must go deeper still if we wish to free contemporary art from this question. The only way to define art that accounts for its continuity with and distinctness from other ‘aesthetic’ domains and practices is to transmute the question: what is the value of art? Since the end of the 20th century, there has been a concerted effort to rehabilitate the aesthetic dimension of art, beginning with the question of sensation, engaging with the status of pleasure, and ultimately returning to the classical concern with beauty. However, this development essentially ignores the issue from which classical aesthetics emerged, namely, the status of beauty as a value comparable to (and for some, identical to) truth and goodness. It was the slow reduction of beauty to a specific sensible quality in the aesthetic tradition that enabled the artistic rejection of beauty in the first place, catalysing the crisis of definition that has lead us here. The rehabilitation of the ‘aesthetic value’ of this quality thus invites the deeper question of what such value consists in, and, if it extends beyond the domain of art, what is peculiar about the form it takes in that domain? These questions demand that we return to the philosophical roots of aesthetics, and determine whether there is a place for a more expansive concept of beauty qua value: encompassing perfection, sublimity, and fascination as well as harmony and simple prettiness, and sufficient to articulate the relations between natural wonders, crafts, arts, and ‘art’ simpliciter.

The goal of this seminar is thus to answer one question – ‘What is art?’ – by addressing more foundational questions about the nature of value. This strategy is thoroughly rationalist in spirit, but our pursuit of it will be equally rationalist in practice: it will involve exploring rationalist themes in the aesthetic tradition from Plato to Hegel, and leveraging ideas about reason, freedom, and normativity from contemporary rationalist thought. However, it remains a research seminar. The relevant questions must be broken down further, and what would constitute adequate answers remains to be seen.

Philosophy as System: An Introduction to German Idealism

Posted in Uncategorized on September 30, 2015 by deontologistics

Hello again. Myself and Ben Woodard will be teaching another online course for the New Centre for Research and Practice titled ‘Philosophy as System: An Introduction to German Idealism’ beginning on October 27th. I’ll be taking the lead teaching Kant and Hegel, and Ben will be taking the lead teaching Fichte and Schelling, and I’m looking forward to it immensely. The blurb for the course is as follows:

German Idealism has been slandered as that school of thought which ‘ran through the door that Kant only wished to peak through’ thereby appearing as a crude return to dogmatic or pre-critical metaphysics. However, the speculativeambition of the German Idealists was far from opposed to Kant’s critical restraint, but rather, their characteristic systematic impulse was derived as much from Kant’s methodological concerns as his transcendental idealism. The aim of the present course is thus to thoroughly demolish this stubborn caricature of German Idealism. Beginning with the architectonic of Kant’s system, we will show how he and his successors created new forms of systematic philosophy which risked accusations of subjective idealism in order to grasp not only the fundamental structures of thought, but how thinking itself alters, and is embedded in, the world. In addition to providing a historical overview of four major thinkers (Kant, Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling) and contextualizing their philosophical contributions, we will aim to connect concepts drawn from their work to contemporary philosophical and extra-philosophical concerns.

If you’re interested, more information about the course and how to register can be found here.

Inhuman Symposium

Posted in Uncategorized on August 13, 2015 by deontologistics

I recently gave a talk at the Inhuman Symposium at the Fridericianum in Kassel, titled ‘The Reformatting of Homo Sapiens‘. The video of the event has just been released, so I’m sharing it here for those who are interested. The paper itself is slightly truncated, and really needs a further section discussing desire, and outlining a positive conception of agency, selfhood, and value on that basis. However, such are the perils of time limits.

Here is my talk:

And here is the panel discussion, in which I have quite a lively back and forth with Rosi Braidotti:

I highly recommend watching the other talks, which are also available here.

Reintroduction to Metaphysics II: Method and Practice

Posted in Uncategorized on February 20, 2015 by deontologistics

New Year’s greetings to everyone. Sorry there hasn’t been much up here in a while. For those of you who don’t know, I’m teaching an online course for the New Centre for Research and Practice titled ‘Reintroduction to Metaphysics’. The first half of the module, ‘The Speculative Return’, which dealt with the history of metaphysics, its 20th century decline, and its return to popularity within the Continental tradition, took place last year. The second half, ‘Method and Practice’, which will attempt to say something positive about the methodology of metaphysics and tackle a few specific metaphysical topics, is starting next week, and there’s still time to sign up to take it or audit it if you’re interested. For those who are curious, the syllabus is available here.

In Lighter News: EmanciNav

Posted in Uncategorized on October 15, 2014 by deontologistics

For those of you who may not be aware, myself and Armen Avanessian organised a Summer school on ‘Emancipation as Navigation‘ at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in July. This involved seminars given by Reza Negarestani, Armen, myself, Anke Hennig, James Trafford, Deneb Kozikoski, Nick Srnicek, Lucca Fraser, Benedict Singleton, Helen Hester, and Ray Brassier, and a bunch of fantastic participants.

Some of these participants (most notably Benjamin Tippin) have now set up a blog to host the available audio of the event, and have started with the audio of my seminars. Unfortunately, not everyone wants their seminars made publicly available, but given some more audio magic (courtesy of Lendl Barcelos) there should be more audio made available soon, and maybe even some thoughts from the other participants.

A Response to Jon Cogburn

Posted in Uncategorized on October 14, 2014 by deontologistics

Jon Cogburn recently received a review copy of my forthcoming book on Graham Harman’s Object-Oriented Philosophy, the preface for which is already available online (here).  On Friday, he decided to pre-empt his review by commenting on this “crapulent” preface, and the correspondingly “obnoxious” postscript written by Ray Brassier (here). The comments are most definitely negative, and have been further reinforced by Graham Harman (here). Daniel Sacilotto has already contested these comments (here), as have a number of people (most importantly my editor, Robin Mackay) on the comments thread (here), but I feel compelled to say something in response myself, if only because of the way Jon’s post positions me. Continue reading

OOP Book Launch and NCRP Course Syllabus

Posted in Uncategorized on October 2, 2014 by deontologistics

Hello again. Just popping in to provide some follow ups to the most recent news:-

1. For those of you anywhere near the North East of England, or willing to travel, there is going to be a launch party for my upcoming book with Urbanomic (‘Object-Oriented Philosophy: The Noumenon’s New Clothes’) at the BALTIC in Gateshead on the 7th of November. There will be a discussion with me about the book that should be streamed via Google hangouts and open to contributions from twitter and G+ for those people who can’t make it. More details can be found here.

2. For those of you interested in taking or auditing my course with the New Centre for Research and Practice (‘Reintroduction to Metaphysics’), the syllabus for the first half has just gone online over on the facebook page. It contains all the readings along with the dates and titles of the four sessions.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 216 other followers