Robert R. Clewis on Serena Feloj’s “Estetica del disgusto”

 

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


 

By Robert R. Clewis

Contemporary aesthetics continues to show great interest in negative aesthetic experiences, especially ugliness and disgust, with numerous books and articles recently appearing on both topics. While The Aesthetics of Disgust: Mendelssohn, Kant, and the Limits of Representation is best characterised as a study of the history of (eighteenth-century) philosophy, it is also informed by the contemporary debates in aesthetics and empirical psychology.

It is a stimulating study of how disgust (Ekel) has been developed in the work of Mendelssohn, Kant, and contemporary researchers. Feloj, who recently translated Winfried Menninghaus’s impressive study Ekel (1999), not only investigates the writings of Mendelssohn and Kant, but also examines recent work on disgust by psychologists (Paul Rozin, Jonathan Haidt, Clark McCauley) and phenomenologists (Aurel Kolnai) as well as Martha Nussbaum and Jacques Derrida. The book is divided into equal parts on Mendelssohn (pp. 21–81) and Kant (pp. 83–144), followed by a shorter, third part on contemporary philosophy and empirical research (pp. 145–67). Read more

Reply to Alberto Siani

 

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


 

By Serena Feloj

First of all, I wish to thank Alberto Siani for his generous discussion of my book and his stimulating remarks. His commentary gives me the chance to spell out some theoretical elements accounting for the background of my book on disgust.    

My theoretical take on disgust emerges, in accordance with my methodological premises, from a historical reconstruction of the debate revolving around the topic of disgust and of the ensuing philosophical tools devoted to its understanding. I am especially interested in the idea, familiar to Kantian scholars, that the main task of philosophy is to challenge common sense by means of unusual sounding questions. This can be conspicuously applied to disgust. Usually understood as a very common reaction, which is typical of our everyday life, the family of words revolving around disgust is often abused by language, especially when expressed in English. It is then quite easy to fall into a simplistic reading of disgust in the field of aesthetics. Generally taken as an outright negative category, artists, critics and also philosophers apply it more and more often to the interpretation of works in contemporary art. Clear examples are provided in this respect by the Viennese Actionism’s very controversial performances, but many other cases could be mentioned here.

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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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