Paul Kottman on Alberto Siani’s “Morte dell’arte, libertà del soggetto”

 

ALBERTO SIANI | Morte dell’arte, libertà del soggetto: Attualità di Hegel | ETS 2017


 

By Paul A. Kottman

Alberto Siani’s Morte dell’arte, libertà del soggetto comprises seven interesting, diverse essays around themes in Hegel studies that have gained particular prominence over the past thirty years or so—stemming largely from North American discussions around the problem of ‘modernity’, crystallised in Robert Pippin’s classic books Hegel’s Idealism (1989) and Modernism as Philosophical Problem (1991) and anticipated in works like Stanley Rosen’s Hermeneutics as Politics (Rosen 1987). Rosen’s book was probably the first to show how ‘post-modernity’, which regarded itself as an attack on the Enlightenment, only made sense within a treatment of Enlightenment thinking; and Pippin extended this critique of post-modernity with his influential readings of various defences of ‘modernity’ (Blumenberg, Arendt, Löwith, Rorty) as a kind of agon with Hegel, above all.

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Alberto Siani on Serena Feloj’s “Estetica del disgusto”

 

SERENA FELOJ | Estetica del disgusto. Mendelssohn, Kant e i limiti della rappresentazione | Carocci 2017


 

By Alberto L. Siani

“Beautiful things” may be “difficult”, as Socrates reminds us in Plato’s Hippias Major (304e7–9), but Serena Feloj’s Estetica del disgusto. Mendelssohn, Kant e i limiti della rappresentazione (‘Aesthetics of Disgust. Mendelssohn, Kant, and the Limits of Representation’) shows that ugly, or more precisely disgusting, things are not necessarily easier. Customary uncertainties on the philosophical status of beauty beset disgust too. Is disgust universal or subject-relative? What is its relation to knowledge and morality? Is it an immediate fact of nature or the result of education and culture? Does it have limits, and if so, which ones? Besides, disgust has troubles of its own. Is it something negative or positive? Is it something that can even be represented at all? There is, however, an important difference between beauty and disgust (or other forms of ugliness).

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Robert Louden on Richard Eldridge’s “Images of History”

 

RICHARD ELDRIDGE | Images of History: Kant, Benjamin, Freedom, and the Human Subject | Oxford University Press 2016


 

By Robert Louden

A book focusing on “Kant, Benjamin, and the images of history they develop” (p. xi) is likely to raise a few eyebrows—especially when the author tries to convince his readers that these two authors offer “deeply complementary” (p. 33) views of history, that they “share an overall sense of meaningful life” (p. 40), and that there exist “overwhelming similarities in both their overall conceptions of philosophy as historical critique and their figurations of how critique might be carried out” (p. 42). For Benjamin, we are told, has a strong “suspicion of claims to progress” (p. 107), and on his view history “displays no tendency toward progress” (p. 138).  Rather, history is primarily a story of “decline” and “disintegration” (p. 151). In place of Enlightenment progressivist views of history Benjamin advocates a “‘mystical conception of history’” (p. 138) that aims at “‘the orgiastic disclosure […] of all the secret sources of tradition’” (p. 105) in order to bring about “‘a historical apocatastasis’” (p. 103)—a restitution, restoration, and reestablishment of an earlier condition. Kant would have to regard much of this as Schwärmerei—enthusiasm, but in Locke’s Enlightenment sense of a dangerous attitude “freed from all reason and check of reflection”; one “rising from the conceits of a warmed or overweening brain” (Locke 1975, IV.xix.7).

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Alison Ross on Richard Eldridge’s “Images of History”

 

RICHARD ELDRIDGE | Images of History: Kant, Benjamin, Freedom, and the Human Subject | Oxford University Press 2016


 

“Historical understanding is conjectural, imaginative, and projective as much as it is archival and systematic.”

Images of History, p. 148

By Alison Ross

At the beginning of Richard Eldridge’s Images of History, he presents the difference between history as a “mere chronicle of the incidental” and “writing […] political and social history” so that “related causes and outcomes” are identified in relation to ideals (p. 3). There is a difficulty in arriving at retrospective certainty about the causes and meanings of one’s actions (p. 1), but the analogy to historical “causes and outcomes” gives this difficulty a distinctive shape, which Eldridge parses as “modern problems of orientation” (p. 17; emphasis added).

An individual may not know from introspective examination whether they responded to someone’s distress from selfless concern, or whether they were polishing their self-conception as a moral paragon. How they characterise their behaviour does not resolve this issue satisfactorily, if one is interested in (Kantian) questions of moral intention.

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