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Aesthetics and the Foundation of Interpretation

Stephen Watson

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 45, No. 2. (Winter, 1986), pp. 125-138.

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Wed May 2 23:33:53 2007

Aesthetics and the Foundation of


What is it that art lacks, by which it stands

now in a state of decline? Beauty is without
IN A FAMOUS PROPOSITION which reflected a his- force, "lacking in strength," and more specifi-
tory, a science, a metaphysics, and a perfor- cally with regard to Hegel, lacking "the energy
mative which did not question themselves, of thought," the "tremendous power of the
Hegel in the Preface to the Phenomenology of negative." Beauty lacks reality. It lacks, that is,
Spirit declared: "realization," that which was for Hegel, with a
certain outlook on pragmatics, "the magical
Lacking strength, Beauty hates the Understanding for power that converts (thought) into being." Art
asking of her what it cannot do.' proceeds unaware that truth can be won "only
when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself. "'
It was the axiom for what Martin Heidegger Beauty, in short, lacks a proof; it remains
would still call a century later "the most com- merely fanciful before this need for proof.
prehensive reflection on the nature of art that Before reason's critical tribunal, art, on the
the West possesses-comprehensive because it contrary, will always remain "a priori helpless
stems from metaphysics. Moreover, Heideg- (hilflos)," as Adorno put it, thinking nonethe-
ger himself epilogues his own text, "On the less that it was precisely its virtue . . . .6
Origin of the Work of Art," in turn one of the
most famous in twentieth century aesthetics, by
citing three more propositions from Hegel con- If Hegel's assertion can be seen to culminate
cerning the decline of art: a certain metaphysical position on the work of
art, it arises nonetheless only at a particular
Art no longer counts for us as the highest manner in point within its history. The proof in question
which truth obtains existence for itself. already commits itself to a certain transcenden-
One 'may well hope that art will continue to advance
and perfect itself, but its form has ceased to be the
talism as well as a strict commitment regarding
highest need of the spirit. the demonstrability of the rational. Hegel's
In all these relationships art is and remains for us, on Phenomenology is the enclave to a systematic
the side of its highest vocation, something past." science which barred the possibility of any
epistemic content falling beyond its boundaries.
While Heidegger declared that the "truth" of And it involved a ban which was perhaps
Hegel's propositions on art still remained to be unthinkable prior to the rise of modernism and
decided, he himself in fact at one point, in any a commitment limiting rationality to strict de-
case, seemingly decided against "modern art,'' monstrability and rational proof-rather than,
declaring in a posthumously published inter- for example, a theoria and a telos which ulti-
view in Der Spiegel, that "we are left in the mately came to rest in contemplatio. There is
dark as to how modem art perceives or tries to perhaps no greater symptom of this modernism
perceive what is most proper to art (das and the shattering it portends than Kant's criti-
Eigenste der Kunst)."4 cal ~ y s t e mKant's
.~ third Critique showed meta-
physics in fact in ruins, underwritten by an
STEPHENWATSON is assistant professor of philosophy epistemic commitment to mathesis and its mod-
at University of Notre Dame. em off-spring, the principiae of scientific ide-
O 1986 The Journal of Ae,sthetics and Art Criticism

alization, while at the same time retaining a illusion. Notwithstanding all that the Aussicht
"provocation" before the work of art-an of the aesthetic had opened up, Kant's last word
event which, while sensible and nonconceptual, with regard to it remained determined and
provokes thoughts (denken veranlasst ) into decisive:
reflection, into play, "without however any
determinate (bestimmter) thought, i.e. any con- "The judgement of taste is not cognitive" (D)as
cept being capable of being adequate to it."8 Geschmacksurteil ist kein Erkenntnisurteil. l3
The underdetermination in question and the
inadequation which ensued barred any simple And, all thought based upon Erkenntnistheorie
rules of correspondence for translating the work would thereafter make the same assignation,
of art into thought or words. Unlike logical barring the work of art from its domain and
attributes which simply represent what lies in substituting the investigation of its subjective
the conceptual, "aesthetical attributes," as experience for the work itself.
Kant calls them, "arouse more thought than can
be expressed in a concept determined by
word^."^ They "enliven (belebe) the mind by Hegel's Preface to the Phenomenology with-
opening it out [literally providing an Aus-sicht] out question shares Kant's ban regarding this
to an illimitable field.'"' Rather than a field of excess. It was in fact subtitled, "On Scientific
thought based upon representation, on Dar- Cognition." And if it were true that on other
stellung, on what can be encompassed within matters Hegel saw himself disagree toto caelo
the unity of a concept, and consequently on the with Kant, when it came to art, in fact, Hegel's
homoiosis between concept and object, the Asthetik had at least the same effect, treading
underdetermination here forces thought to have upon similar commitments regarding the ratio-
recourse to imagination. Beyond the simple nal and the ensuing ban concerning the work of
forms of univocal discourse, it enforces, that is, art. What was the Hegelian system, after all, if
a certain ex-stasis upon thought. Rather than not the system of systems, the attempt once and
facilitating a simple substitution between for all to provide the form and content of an
thought and concept, the work of art enforces absolutely presuppositionless system, providing
the deferral of representation within reflection. even the foundation of science with its own
And it involved an event provocative enough immanence?14
that Kant could find no better words for the And yet, one might be tempted equally to
description of its Aussicht than to appeal for its claim that what Hegel seeks to finish off only
characterization to the metaphysical past. The concerns an arche much more ancient, an
third Critique characterizes the encounter with exclusion of the work of art that is active as
the work of art precisely as "purely contem- early, perhaps paradigmatically, in the Platonic
plative" (bloss kontemplative)." text. In the Republic Plato himself already
Still, Kant could say no more. Notwithstand- described the agon between poetry and philos-
ing the metaphysical appeals of his "post- ophy as ancient or archaic." And, while the
Analytic" considerations, he was incapable of Ion, on the other hand, reinstates the poet to an
going beyond an almost nostalgic attribution. elevated position, granting him or her a kind of
The Aussicht could not seemingly be made insight into the divine, it is an inspiration which
rational. In fact, Kant, in the end removed all is totally irrational, an inspiration through
rational overtones from this "contemplation. " which the poet is not in his right mind, "out of
If it remained the case that the experience of the his senses and the mind is no longer in him." ''
work of art is not restricted to a faculty or to And since the poet utters his incantations not by
taste, but is ascribed to the thing, its ascription rules of art, the techne involved is simply
would only be at best subjunctive. The man magical, sophistical, in fact, betraying a con-
who perceives the beautiful "speaks of beauty tent totally exceptional to the rationality of the
as if it were a property of things."12 Conse- polis. If Plato grants the poet an exceptional
quently, Kant would place the experience grace, as the interpretor of the gods, in fact it is
within the dialectical regulation of the als ob only in a way that defuses his or her gift-a gift
and thus, within the sphere of transcendental that stands outside the art of dialectics, beyond
Aesthetics and the Foundation of Interpretation 127

episteme, an art capable of saying anything and it did not trespass its limit.
defending nothing. Still, Kant searched for a bridge, if for no
The specific target of Hegel's condemnation, other reason, as he stated in the Introduction to
nonetheless, is Friederich Schelling, a voice the third Critique, than the domain to which he
which for the most part remains silent, over- had granted privilege "demanded" it: "The
shadowed within the history (and perhaps the concept of freedom is meant to actualize
metaphysics) of aesthetics. Still, if it is true, as (wirklich machen) in the world of sense the
Heidegger claimed, that Hegel presents the purpose proposed by its laws. "'I "There must
apotheosis of metaphysics and its work of art, then," Kant hypothesized,
its most comprehensive reflection, a speculative
optics which claimed "(p)ure self-recognition be a ground of the unity of the supersensible, which lies
in absolute otherness,"" then Schelling, how- at the basis of nature . . . .(A)nd the concept of this
ever briefly as will be seen, presents its utter ground, although it does not attain either theoretically
provocation, an Augenblick which itself re- or practically to a knowledge (Erkenntnisse) of the
same and hence has no peculiar realm (kein
mains irrecu~erable." And. this remains true eigentumlichen Gebier), nevertheless makes possible
even for theX~eideggerean text itself perhaps. the transition from one mode of thought according to
While Heidegger was quick to place Schelling's the principles of the one to that according to the
later philosophy within the Geschick of meta- principles of the other.12
physics and to decree the latter's claim that Will
is primordial being, the bell-wether of the Hegel denied that such a paradox concerning
nineteenth century, he remained remarkably this ground lurked for science. He was in fact
silent on schelling7s aesthetics-both in rela- absolutely convinced that Kant had implicitly
tion to the history of metaphysics as well as its solved his own problem, artificially setting up
overcoming (Uberwindung) . limits and then surreptitiously surpassing them
In a letter to his then friend Hegel, written in in discovering the Absolute. The solution was
1795, Schelling wrote: already posed in the problem. The fact that the
concept of freedom is meant to actualize the
(P)hilosophy is not yet at an end. Kant provided the purpose its law proposes in the world of the
results. The premises are still missing.19 sensible, in the strictest of Kantian senses that it
proposes to realize its purpose, meant that the
Nonetheless, if there were a certain agreement proof of its reality would be precisely in making
regarding what was to be concluded, the nature aufgehoben the opposition-and in recognizing
of the premises and the meaning of their impli- only itself in absolute otherness.23
cation would in the end bring about an ultimate The problem of the work of art, the problem
agon between the two philosophers concerning with "beauty," its weakness, as Hegel put it, is
the beautiful, and more generally, the relation precisely its inability to transform itself before
between Anschauung and Erkennen. In fact reality, precisely the helplessness by which it
Kant had bequeathed his progeny the problem remains bound to a "foreign" content. In fact,
of what he calls in the third Critique an "im- the work of art has no laws and no concepts to
measurable gulf" (unubersehbare Kluft)" be- realize. And, were it in fact to recognize itself
tween the sensible and the intelligible, one in its other, were strict correspondence to arise
which had generated philosophical antinomies before its object, it would precisely no longer be
in the attempt to account for the origins of art, but simple representation, i.e., Darstell-
experience, the relation between freedom and ung. In the strict sense of the word there are no
necessity, and hence the nature of morality and signs in art. Art merely occasions or pro-
metaphysics in general. The rift between the vokes-rather than translates-the language of
litigants of these antinomies was in fact immea- thought into an expressive stratum: it figures,
surable, incommensurable, and consequently "symbolizes," rather than actualizes thought, if
undecidable on theoretical grounds. The deci- that too did not presuppose a concept to be
sion was made then to allow each its own figured, both of which the work of art lacks.
domain, granting the realm of the practical a And, that is for Hegel precisely its weakness. It
certain priority in rational recherche, so long as is anything but coincidental, as shall become

evident, that Schelling's last letter to Hegel tive factor) must be annulled precisely in order
(November, 1807) containing a terse reply to that the act may thereby appear as free" (220).
the Phenomenology's Preface, would have mis- Schelling thus bars the voluntarist solution
givings about Hegel's misuse of his notion of which would in Michel Foucault's term result in
Idea, in particular invoking with regard to it a a certain "theologization" of man in the nine-
false opposition between "concept" and teenth century." The abolition of the other here
int~ition.'~ remains, Schelling claims, in an argument an-
ticipating Marx's critique of Hegel, one in
IV. which the requisite identity was such that "the
Schelling's own System of Transcendental intelligence was conscious only for inner intui-
Idealism (1800), nonetheless, coheres at first tion, but for outer remained unconscious"
glance with the Erkenntnislehre that Kant be- (218). But, equally that means that the unity
queathed. It was a transcendental system, a cannot be simply demonstrated in thought
science of knowledgez5 which claimed a certain alone. "It is utterly impossible for anything
closure-a definitive completeness and deter- objective to be brought forth with con-
minateness, to invoke the Kantian predicates. sciousness" (219). From the standpoint of the
And yet the opening sentence of the Foreward theoretical, "man is forever a broken frag-
testified equally that it would be "a system ment" (216). Hence it would be necessary to
which completely alters and even overthrows surpass the reflective ground of transcendental
the whole view of things prevailing" (I), one philosophy. Schelling in this regard in fact
which would in fact, from the prevailing stand- agreed with Kant; the ground of the unity
point, provide "monstrous consequences" de- between subject and object remains inaccessible
spite what he called "the rigorous demonstra- to thought alone. The finite Rucksfrage cannot
tion of its principles." No less a figure than provide its own origins. Subjectivity cannot
Schiller would concur: in the final chapter of the itself be the agency of objectivity. Rather, if the
work, he declared, Schelling's conclusions con- unity between the subject and the object is to
cerning the status of the work of art destroyed appear, it must appear in the object. Qua
transcendental philosophy and its commitment appearance, then:
regarding a reflective ground.26
The outcome of the treatise attempted a An intuition must therefore be exhibitable in the intel-
demonstration of the unity of the elements of ligence itself, whereby in one and the same appearance
knowledge, a monstre concerning the unity of the self is at once conscious and unconscious for itself,
and it is by means of such an intuition that we first bring
the subjective and the objective, consciousness forth the intelligence, as it were, entirely out of itself
and nature-a proof of how, as Schelling put it, (217-218).
"the purely presentative" and "what can be
presented" (3,consciousness and the uncon- The product of such a bringing-forth, such a
sciousness, can find unity. Moreover, in so poiesis, will share, therefore, both the charac-
doing, the unity of the theoretical and the teristics of the products of freedom (in that it
practical would be established, the unity of appears before consciousness as its own) and
consciousness's prescription of the laws gov- the products of nature, which are unconsciously
erning its own actions as well as the laws brought about--every organism, Schelling
governing phenomena. That is, such a unity claims, is a "monogram" of the identity in
would provide a legitimation for the domain question but not as self-recognized. It remains
which had been opened up by the third Critique one whose identity lies beyond it, that is
and yet could not be raised to the level of dirempted before the gaze of an external judge-
knowledge. ment, i.e., reflection. The exhibition of this
The 1800 System, however, bars Hegel's unity would then be precisely the underlying
solution for speculative metaphysics. Rather ground, the absolute for the two moments in
than providing a demonstration of the unity of question:
subject and object, practical reason abolishes
the object. "In the free act the identity of the This unknown, however, whereby the objective and
two activities (objective factor and the subjec- conscious activities are here brought into unexpected
Aesthetics and the Foundation of Interpretation 129

harmony, is none other than that absolute which con- concept of genius" (222), it is in accord with
tains the common ground of the preestablished har- Kant's notion of intellectus archetypus: 31 Ge-
mony between the conscious and the unconscious.
Hence, if this absolute is reflected from out of the
nius derives from neither of the two stems by
product, it will appear to the intelligence as something which it is composed but rather "presides over
lying above the latter, and which, in contrast to both" in the generation of the Absolute. It
freedom, brings an element of the unintended to that involved then a phenomenon which, like Kant's
which was begun with consciousness and intention moral law, was in itself absolutely compelling,
(221 -222).
fixed of itself alone, fur sich selbst fesw, as the
The product, reflecting the absolute from within latter put it." For Schelling, the work of art is
itself, would arise precisely in completing the a phenomenon which is equally fully "con-
"meting-out" intimated in the Introduction to vincing," the predicates having changed from
Kant's first Critique: the moral to the epistemic sphere:

There are two stems of human knowledge, namely (E)very absolute concurrence of the two antithetical
sensibility and understanding, which perhaps spring activities is utterly unaccountable (nichr weiter
from a common but to us unknown root.'R erklarbar), being simply a phenomenon which al-
though incomprehensible (unhegreijlich) yet cannot be
denied; and art. therefore, is the one everlasting reve-
The common root here, the faculty of synthesis, lation (Offenbarung) which yields that concurrence and
the generation of transcendental idea^,'^ would the marvel (Wunder) which had it existed but once
be similarly referred to by Hegel as "the faculty only, would necessarily have convinced us of the
of speculation."30 Its product, the work of art, absolute reality of that supreme event (223).
Schelling claimed, "radiates back" (wider-
strahlt [222]) the inner unity of the two stems, It marked an event involving thought's most
accomplishing what no simple inner intuition extreme ex-stasis, invoking a recognition that
can provide and thus elevating thought (Kant's must occur beyond concepts, the failure of the
Erleben), "appearing to the intelligence as concept's grasp, unbegreiflich, a provocation
something lying above the latter": the unity of which discloses its essence in a singular event,
consciousness and unconscious, freedom and a universal-singular deferring the universality
necessity, the inner and the outer, the principles of the concept. It was the production, the
of theoretical and practical reason. poiesis of a Wunder before which intelligence
It is precisely this "exhibited" identity, would "feel itself surprised and blessed"
which no willing could provide, that is the (iiberracht und begliickt [221]).
"miracle" (Wunder) of the work of art, as And yet, as such it traced the destruction of
Schelling calls it. And the analysis of the artist, transcendentalism. If the work of art is a reve-
he believes, itself confirms what the work of art lation, it is so precisely by what transcends any
reveals. The testimony of artists, he claims, is and all transcendental categories, precisely be-
that they are involuntarily driven to create their cause of its nonimmanence and withdrawal
works, satisfying an irresistible urge, in a man- before the concept and transcendental represen-
ner that "free activity becomes involuntary"- tation. On the contrary, it was, Schelling
proceeding, then, from a contradiction, "one claimed, the presentation of what remained
which strikes a t the ultimate in him, the root of unpresentable within the transcendental text,
his whole being" (222). Equally, as it strikes at delivering consciousness over to its uncon-
his relation to the ultimate; so too, it ends "in scious and "set[ing] all the forces of the mind in
the feeling of an infinite harmony" (223), a motion in order to resolve a contradiction which
harmony that is involuntarily produced in ac- threatens our whole intellectual existence"
cord with "things which he does not fully (226). Rather, art delivered reflection over to a
understand and whose meaning is infinite." It provocation which was the revelation of all that
involves, Schelling states in a fundamental escaped transcendentalism, overcoming the
repetition of Plato, a power which separates metaphysical agon which had stood at its ori-
him from all other men, an intuition or inspira- gin. This was for Schelling the significance of
tion which reveals the absolute. And when Art
the work of art's ~ e b e r - r a ~ c h u n ~ . ' ~no
Schelling discusses what he calls the "obscure longer then could be seen as the madness of the

gods, an excess before thought which could be So far as particularly concerns the relation of art to
defused within the philosopher's text. It was science, the two are so utterly opposed in tendency,
that if science were ever to have discharged its whole
now in fact, Schelling claimed, its culmination, task, as art has always discharged it, they would both
a Faktum der Vernunft which was the sine qua have to coincide and merge into one-which is proof of
non of knowledge itself: art alone succeeds in directions that they are radically opposed (227).
achieving absolute objectivity and "universal
validity (Giiltigkeit [232]). " An inversion of the As has become evident, then, having claimed
metaphysician's understanding of the relation that the "poetic gift . . . constitutes the primor-
between the philosopher and the poet thus dial intuition" (230), Schelling decisively de-
ensues: motes the text of the philosopher.
Philosophy as philosophy can never become generally
For though science at its highest level has one and the
current. The one field to which absolute objectivity is
same business as art, this business, owing to the
granted is art. Take away objectivity from art, one
manner of effecting it, is an endless one for science, so
might say, and it ceases to be what it is, and becomes
that one may say that art constitutes the ideal of
philosophy; grant objectivity to philosophy, and it
science, and where art is, science has yet to attain to
ceases to be philosophy and becomes art (233). (227).35

The philosopher presents in subjective intuition

what the artist reveals objectively, not simply a
seeing, or a sign, or an intuition of the identity The text's position was inevitably, arche-
between the subjective and the objective, a typically perhaps, the inverse of Platonism.
symbol but as their symballein, their concur- And, perhaps Schelling knew it. If it remained
rknce. The work of art then is precisely a the masterpiece of his philosophy, it culminated
symbol, but now a symbolon that is concrete, a in a position which its author would begin to
"bringing-together," a Zusammenbringen as abandon almost as hastily as he adjoined it to
he would say in the Philosophie der ~ u n s t , the
~ ~book as the concluding chapter. It was after
treading more literally on its etymological past, all, to turn Nietzschean, "image mad" or at
one which, far from being the poverty of the least "thought-mad," proceeding, "not merely
subjective, is precisely its ground of identity, its by logical i n f e r e n ~ e , "but
~ ~ "with the immedi-
concretization. Hence, the work of art's infinite ate certainty of int~ition,"~'as the latter began
repose is the overcoming of the infinite "wa- The Birth of Tragedy, that book which was
vering between finite and infinite," an "un- intentionally anti-Platonist, transforming all
changing identity which can never attain to texts into shining images.
consciousness" and which is precisely in its And, within two years the problem of meta-
enlivening and uplifting "a dark unknown force physical extravagance, the problem of the text's
which supplies the element of completeness or anti-Platonist, had apparently struck home.
objectivity to the piecework of freedom," and Schelling, in any case, had backed-off the
as such carrying the appearance of "calm and position. In On University Studies he first
silent grandeur" (225). attempted to defuse the conflict claiming that
Far from being the poverty of thought as history had itself overcome the dichotomy be-
Kant (and Hegel after him) claimed, the symbol tween philosophy, the discourse of truth, and
is its fulfillment. And far from being the mark poetry, the discourse of exstasis. Christian re-
ligion, he claimed, has created its own poetry
of its incompleteness, the symbol is the surpass-
ing of all that remains subjective within the and art and "thereby it has become possible to
sign, within representation. And, far from be- formulate a complete objective theory of art."38
ing its overcoming, the philosopher's text, the Plato unfortunately, Schelling states, was un-
text of representation, finds its destiny (222) in aware of a critical difference in poetry and its
what could never attain to thought within the works. "Christian poetry . . . expresses the
sign. Schelling's 1800 System then culminates infinite as unmistakably as ancient poetry ex-
precisely in handing science over to art, setting pressed the finite."39 Plato's mistake then was
up an opposition which no theory can over- not in elevating the text of philosophy against
poetry, but in not anticipating the evolution and
Aesthetics and the Foundation of Interpretation 131

perfection of poetry itself. Nonetheless, such a problemi del B r ~ n o " ~ ~ - a nthere

d was a sense
reflection presupposed a theoretical position in which Schelling never returned from it.
from which objective poiesis could be adjudi-
cated. That is, it presupposed an objective and VI.
reflective theoretical-critical standpoint. It pre- What was it that caused the inversion within
supposed the priority of the representation over Schelling's position and its ensuing setting into
its content, the privilege of theory. And it is just decline of art? Schelling scholars, as Tilliette
this ancient privilege which is reinvoked in has noted, have argued variously here, for the
Schelling's Kehre. Retaining for art the privi- most part without conclusive results.44 There
lege of the real, he nonetheless grants to phi- are reasons enough perhaps why it could have
losophy identity and ideality. Still attempting to been abandoned. One thing is certain, however.
retain his earlier formulation, he grants the ideal The position, Schelling's monstre, was from
now to philosophy: the outset untenable. Whether or not he saw it
that way, whether or not he moved on to
Art although entirely absolute. although the real and the problems of greater interest to him, the waver-
ideal are perfectly united in it, is to philosophy what the ing of the writings initially following the 1800
real is to the ideal. In philosophy the opposition
between the two is ultimately resolved in pure identity;
System recoil from its ex-stasis.
nonetheless philosophy is ideal in relation to art. The In a sense Hegel had been right about
two meet at the summit, and because both are absolute, Schelling's position in the end. The claim
each can be the archetype of the other. That is why concerning "the ecstasy of thought in which
philosophy enables us to gain the deepest insights into knowledge is the immediate knowledge of the
art. . . .'"
absolute"" remained incom~atiblewith Schel-
ling's demonstration, the fact that, as Hegel
The identity then falls to the philosopher who is saw too, "Schelling often uses Spinoza's form
no longer overtaken by the revelation of the of procedure, and sets up axioms."46 AS if this
work of art but finds his identity instead con- Faktum der Vernunft could be axiomatically
firmed. Subjective "reflection" is not a reflec- "mediated," when it was precisely the revela-
tion, a limit. The artist remains unconscious in tion of an incommensurable, "an oracle to
relation to the work of art, i.e., the identity of which we have to give way," as Hegel de-
his product remains external, "reflected out- scribed it.47 The work of art, in the strict sense
side" it in the philosopher's text. unhegreijlich, has no judgement behind it, no
proposition to manifest, no premises, and
(P)hilosophy, for all its inner identity with art, remains
always and necessarily science-ideal-while art re-
strictly speaking, no entailment. In the strict
mains always and necessarily art-i.e., real.41 sense, the sense, that is, in which both Hegel
and Kant agreed about art, "the proving of
Thus, the notion of art as the ideal and inner anything is thus abandoned. ""' Schelling's reve-
identity of consciousness has been left behind. lation stood beyond all strict proof, heuristic
The artist will no longer provide "the eternal with regard to its truth, beyond, then, all strict
organ and document of philosophy" (231) be- demonstrability. Hence Schelling's Wissen der
fore which the conceptual grasp of conscious- Wissen had no firm grounds on which to stand.
ness would always appear as inadequate, sim- The work of art could not solve the problem of
ply subjective. Rather, the destiny of this Wissenschaftslehre. The aesthetic act could not
identity is now to be found precisely in the provide "the unity of the true and the good,"49
judgement of the text of philosophy. The Bruno that had been sought as early as 1796. What was
in fact barred the artist from access to the revealed instead, as has been seen, was some-
absolute. thing quite different, a "phenomenon" that was
"utterly unaccountable, being a phenomenon
(S)ince the creative artist does not recognize the divine which although incomprehensible, yet could
he will necessarily look like one who defiles the not be denied" (233). And Schelling himself
mysteries, not their initiate and devotee.42 never perhaps quite came to grips with it.
In the "Philosophical Letters on Dogmatism
It was in a sense just what Pareyson called "I and Criticism" written five years before the

1800 System, he had likewise said that the work conceptual adequacy, from objective certainty,
of art opened up "a quiet abandonment to the from the hope of ever overcoming the
Immeasurable (Unermessliche)."" And yet it "contradiction" between the finite and the
was not without the recognition of a certain infinite that confronts the imagination, what
contingency and its risk. Incommensurable with seems miraculous perhaps is that Schelling still
any final concept or description, if it was not a believed that recourse to "science," to concep-
phenomenon which could escape the possibility tual adequacy, to objective certainty, could be
of what later phenomenologists would call had. What he had claimed instead of the phe-
phanomenologische Streit. And Hegel saw it nomenon was that "the unexpected concur-
too: ". . . if this appears false (falsch erscheint) rence" (228) beyond all grounds showed that
to you nothing further can be said. . . ."'I The the "contradiction," or better the incommensu-
proof in question would then fail, committed as rability between the finite and the infinite, was
it was from the outset to a strict conception of "one that is not worth the trouble of resolving"
demonstrability, its exstasis before the require- (226). That is, the phenomenon was undeniable
ments of this episteme, would inevitably derive and yet not strictly demonstrable, not amenable
by a certain hubris. Its claim succumbed in fact to a demonstration which would, to speak
to a certain "dogmatism," as he said in the Platonically, come through the agon of refuta-
earlier writing, a text which provoked perhaps tion un~cathed.~' It was the recognition that, as
an ironical return upon its author: Husserl would say of the logic of the phenome-
nological in general, "adequacy and apodic-
(D)ogmatism, if consistent, is bent not upon contest but ticity of evidence need not go hand in hand. "56
surrender, not upon enforced but voluntary annihila-
tion, upon quiet abandonment of oneself to the absolute And if the evidence were "clear," without ever
object. Any thought of resistance and of contentious being capable of being made "distinct"
self-assertion that has found its way into dogmatism simpliciter, this did not entail that it could not
comes from a system better than dogmatism. However, undergo further "clarification," articulation, or
in consistent dogmatism, that surrender has a purely
aesthetic side (eine reinasthetische S e i ~ e ) . ~ '
revision. What was entailed was only that no
definite, final, univocal, or strict judgement-
Still, in the 1795 text Schelling had in a sense no determinate reflection, in the Kantian
seen both the limitations as well as the accom- sense--could be provided for it.
plishments of such a position. Here "there The wavering Schelling recognized concern-
seemed to be no danger that criticism would ing products of imagination undermined his
demonstrate more than the indemonstrability of claims with respect to them. It opened up,
your system"s3-which is not to say either the consequently, a certain equivocation in the
falsity or the contradictory character of its classical dictum, "de gustibus non est disput-
assertion. And, if Schelling's 1795 text quite andum," one which remained unthought in
rightly did not openly affirm such an aesthetic Schelling. De facto, dispute does in fact occur
"dogmatism," he was aware in any case that with respect to works of art. Decidability does
the problem of the position's indemonstrability not. Adequacy, univocal "distinctness, " is
would neither simply bar the event's "clarity," never reached. Perfect adequacy would require,
its "provocation," nor its status as a factum, the Cartesians had declared, an intuition. Kant
one, that was, to speak Husserlian, "rationality agreed, but denied finite intellects such presen-
motivated," and one whose authentic status or tation, which is why he declared the exposition
"legitimacy," consequently, could not be de- of concepts was at best probable. But the work
nied.54 And that seemed sufficient for the evi- of art's Aus-sicht must be seen to open up
dence in question. another kind of disputandum, one which steps
beyond a modernist's account of rationality
VII. dependent upon strict demonstrability and un-
The wonder perhaps is how Schelling ever equivocal decidability.
thought otherwise, how he came to hold that the Schelling could in a sense be unconcerned
phenomenon in question evoked a proof which that the critical-objectivist program would con-
was in the strict sense decisive. Having discon- demn the experience in question to inde-
nected this "revelation" from science, from monstrability just because he realized some-
Aesthetics and the Foundation of Interpretation 133

thing else was in question-an event which ence of knowledge, was rather thought's utter
remained rational, if still in the strict sense provocation. It would always involve a hetero-
undecidable. It was the realization that the geneity which thought attempted but failed to
criteria of decidability or of "resolution" did subsume, to grasp. The interpretandurn of ne-
not overcome the nature of the evidence, did not cessity then left as many questions unanswered
bring reasoning to an end with respect to it, if it as those for which it provided evidence. And if
limited its "expoundability" to the it remained the case that it was to be granted a
"equivocal." The disputandurn in question rationality and a justification which escaped the
was, rather, a matter regarding an inter- commitments of modernism and strict demon-
pretandurn. And, the work of art's Aus-sicht is strability, that is, if a "logic" of interpretation
the opening of, the necessity of, and what with respect to it must be vindicated, it is true as
Heidegger would call the "strictness" of,57 well that it invoked a margin which interpreta-
interpretation, an A ~ s - l e g u n g .Schelling
~~ at tion must respect, and in this regard a funda-
least in one sense had concurred, introducing mental ~ n i n t e l l i g i b i l i t ~ . ~ ~
the theoretical problem of interpretation at the And, Hegel, as has become evident, could
heart of the 1800 System, enframing a problem only deny it. As he claimed in the greater Logic
that would haunt the legacy of German Idealism regarding reflective judgement, "What is thus
thereafter: found only comes to be through being left
behind."63 Positing and presupposing at the
S o it is with every true work of art, in that every one of same time, the Aus-legung of reflective judg-
them is susceptible of infinite interpretation (Ausle- ment gets lost in a play of indeterminacy, again
gung) as though it contained an infinity of purposes a "relation to ~ t h e r n e s s , "which ~ ~ could not
(Absichren), while yet one is never able to say whether contain its own ground and could not be strictly
this infinity has lain within the artist himself, or resides
only in the work of art (225, translation altered).59 grounded. It could not on its own, therefore,
access the Idea. And this was precisely the
problem of the content it deciphered. The Sym-
VIII. bolic Idea of art remains "undetermined," an
But equally the opening in question was one abstract universal; arbitrary, estranged, "nei-
which classical "hermeneutics" had always ther completed, nor to be c ~ m p l e t e d . " ~ ~
overlooked, an opening where incommensura- In this final denunciation Hegel may well
bility, undecidability, and the conflict of inter- have finished off a long history that would
pretation were strictly speaking insurmount- subsume the work of art beneath an Idea,
able, subject to a fundamental contingency. The providing, thereby, both its determination and
interpretandurn here invokes the failure of con- adjudication, the destiny of the articulation of
ceptual commensurability, its opening out onto beauty (kalon),of what is most radiant (ekphan-
an other, an Aus-ein-under-setzung6"which was estaton) and its grace (charis), within the text of
in the strict sense (but only in the strict sense) philosophy. If it can indeed be claimed that
incomprehensible. Interpretation always under- Hegel is in this regard the determination of its
determined the object. Not only was it the case most, or perhaps last, metaphysical moment,
that "to understand is to understand differ- Schelling's "Idea," on the contrary, however
e n t l ~ , " ~ but
l the interpretandurn was itself briefly, and for the most part unthought, was its
differentiated, withdrawing from the grasp of overdetermination+ertainly its spur, by a se-
the concept, opening out onto what, as mantic density that always exceeded
Schelling put it, remained "unexpected," the determination.
sundering of subsumption, an experience in
which thought is "subjected" instead to what IX .
escapes it. Artistically it was the encounter with In one of those apocalyptic texts which de-
the sublime, a surpassing which was an ~ b e r - fines the genre of his e'criture, Walter Benjamin
raschung from which no concept could find the stated, "(T)he aesthetic of the painter, the poet,
requisite resolution of Schelling's conclusion. en etat de surprise, of art as the reaction of one
The work of art, the interpretandurn, far from surprised, is enmeshed in a number of perni-
providing the requisite homogeneity for a sci- cious romantic prejudice^."^^ What remains

"pernicious" about Schelling's own romanti- certain respect for what escapes and a certain
cism was the belief and the "proof" it con- respect for the failure of the critical project to
structed that the ~ber-rasehung in question account for it. And it is perhaps just in this
could be overcome, that the work solved, in- respect, as Adorno put it, that "(o)n and
deed concluded ratiocination. It was a belief through the trajectory of rationality, mankind
which, once having recognized the limits of the becomes aware through art of what rationality
concept, reinstituted still a metaphysics of the has erased from memory."71 Equally, it should
work of art (perhaps metaphysics as such), be noted, Adorno saw it too; "the artist has to
seeing it once more simply as "the sensuous be surprised by what he creates," though he
manifestation of the good,"67 a parousia pre- linked it to the experimentation of art of the
senting now the Uridentitat of subject and 1 9 3 0 ~Nonetheless,
.~~ it was for him (not with-
object. It was the certainty that this claim itself out a certain repetition of Schelling's metaphys-
would not be overtaken by an insurmountable ics) the expression of a more fundamental fact
undecidability. And, as such, it involved, as about works of art: "They seek to translate the
has been seen, a claim by which Hegel, memory of shudder (Schauer), incornrnensura-
"insiduously perhaps, is close by," as Michel ble as it was in prehistorical times, into such
Foucault put it, when "truly to escape Hegel terms as can be understood by man."73
involves an exact appreciation of the price we
have to pay to detach ourselves from him."68
Schelling still believed, that is, that the agon of Still, if the "incommensurability" of the
interpretation could be undone-if nothing else work of art remains insurpassable, and if in the
in the claim that his own recit concerning the strict sense, as has been seen, art remains,
work of art provided the literal sign, the meta- consequently, undecidable and thus, "help-
recit for all that had been claimed to be strictly less," the question of art's decline, the charge
indemonstrable, the incommensurable that of the modem's nihilism, or its altern, the call
withdrew from any subjective grasp. What was for a return to classical origins, can receive no
pernicious then in Schelling's account was pre- simple endorsement. Not because both answers
cisely the claim to have demonstrated that the fall before the limits of a critique underwritten
proof regarding the incommensurable was not by healthy skepticism. Rather, on the contrary,
itself overtaken and held within that other both answers in fact depend precisely upon
incommensurability on which he depended- critique, depend upon simple rules of corre-
inter alia in preserving the withdrawal of the spondence and access to the keys for decipher-
aesthetic from the concept of what he called ing a code which does not exist. They must, that
"criticism." And in this it involved a profound is, have already decided.
forgetfulness-that this incommensurable/in- Schelling, in fact too, in a sense had decided,
commensurabilitv was as well the site of an already committing himself to a certain
undecidability, one about which Jacques "melancholy" enshrouding works of art, con-
Derrida has written, perhaps himself still too vinced that the true time of art's flourishing,
paralyzed by it, that "(t)he philosopher, the when its power was capable of informing a
chronicler, the theoretician in general, and at mythos that would provide a unity for cultural
the limit everyone in writing is . . . taken by practices, was complete. Now, on the contrary,
surprise. "69 he claimed, "there is a breach (Trennung)
Still, that such a sur-prise would not destroy seemingly beyond repair" (232). Even after the
ratiocination is as obvious as that it could not ecstatic proof of the 1800 System, it marked a
complete it. With regard to works of art, as has final breach and failure within the text of art's
become evident, it is, on the contrary, precisely elevation. It was, after all, a text which re-
what invokes the necessity of ratiocination by a mained a Wissenschaft claiming to adequately
sort of wonder that is as archaic and as perhaps and objectively render the work of art's incom-
unanswerable as metaphysics itself.70 But it mensurability into concepts. And, this melan-
forces the recognition, as well, that the work of choly, too, perhaps marked the blinking recog-
art will never be fully adequated, will need, nition that art could not decide what could not
consequently, to enforce upon the concept a be decided on other grounds. No more than
Aesthetics and the Foundation of Interpretation 135

theory could decide the work of art's provoca- which would always verge on simply turning
tion, could the latter decide, could it conclude eclectic, of dissolving itself in the illusion which
theory. No Konsequenz-asthetik could itself be mistook the undecidable for the merely relative,
grounded. And it meant as well that the work of disarming the force of art's voice, its summons, or
art would not remain in any unaltered sense, at An-rede, as Hegel blinkingly put it,77and perhaps
least, intelligible by means of the classical thereby its truth. It involved, as has been seen, a
concept of the beautiful. Its truth could neither truth for which modernism has alwavs had a
be simply subsumed nor subsume. dearth of concepts, faced with the thrkat of an
In fact three years before the 1800 System exstasis which was as ancient as the question of
Friedrich von Schlegel had already written, the truth of art, and the question of art's sacred
"The principle of contemporary art is not the past.
beautiful, but the characteristic (Charakteris- Schelling, too, fully in line with its over-
tische), the interesting, and, the philoso- determination, still appealed to this past for
phica1."74 It was in a sense the decline, but interpretation. As has been seen, the evidence
certainly the logical entailment outlined by the which the work of art manifests is one before
failure of Schelling's monstre regarding the which thought finds itself iiberrascht und
strict objectivity of the work of art: "take away begliickt; blessed. The work of art never was a
objectivity from art and it ceases to be what it simple "fact," notwithstanding Schelling's
is, and becomes philosophy" (223). But it commitments concerning what he called from
perhaps marked, equally, a failure within the the outset of the System its Evidenz (1). It is
concept of the beautiful itself. There is a sense rather, an Offenbarung, a revelation, a category
in which the concept of the beautiful perhaps for which modernism had no resources.
remained too ideo-logical, too assured, and to Heidegger was perhaps not far removed from
this extent, too metaphysical to simply capture this site in tracing the phainomenon of
the work of art. And, if a test of a theory's value phenomen-ology (and ultimately the aesthetic)
is its predictive capacity, Schlegel's account back to the problem of das Offenbare, "that
gains explanatory force. The concept of the which shows itself, the self-showing, the re-
beautiful in fact increasingly disappeared from vealed (das was sich zeight, das Sichzeigende,
accounts of art, finding no univocal and ready das Offenbare)."78 It is a site to which Julia
application in the art of this century. If it Kristeva, too, closer perhaps to Benjamin, has
remained true that those writing in the wake of had recent recourse:
its archive have provided still the best path for
grasping the trace of an archaic lineage within Revelatio translates Apocalypsis, uncovering, the un-
the art of a Klee, a Chagall, a Schonberg, a veiling of a truth, the vision of an impossible future, the
Mies, a Rothko, or an Andre, their protocols annunciation of an explosion; thus a gnosis; knowledge
(connaissance) but also a relation of intimation. Nei-
have found no easy intelligibility in the mod- ther becoming philosophical (alerheia) nor wisdom
ernist challenges of a Becket, a Bacon, a Cage, (sophia), the revelation is the intimate irruption of a
a Warhol, or a Beuys, for whom the propre of representation which places me at risk. . . . 7 9
art has been directly placed in question, spurred
by a moment over which the beautiful seem- If Schelling himself would later demure from
ingly could no longer hold sway. It involved a the path of this trope, in fact invoking the term's
moment in which, rather, as Adorno perhaps fully literal sense in composing a Philosophie
rightly put it, the radiance had become black,75 der Offenbarungso and reconstituting its predi-
and its artists, like Nietzsche's tortured Apollin- cates strictly in the domain of the theological,
ian martyrs aware of disillusion remained ter- his 1800Augenblick struggled by means of it to
ror-stricken, horrified by all that idealization articulate the work of art's Anrede. It was an
had apparently excluded.76 Anrede whose evidence, one which "could not
The difference between these figures, these be denied," nonetheless could neither comply
two topoi, their dissonance, to reinvoke Adorno's with strict proof, a provocation then which
musicological trope, is the mise en abi*me of the occurred without recourse to simple refutation,
modern itself, an indecision which bequeaths a opening instead upon another evidence which
certain tension to its heirs, a tension, moreover, distanced itself from the critical tribunal, sum-

moning the latter's respect precisely in its 1807, p. 80-81.

25 F. W.J. Schelling, System of Transcendental Ideal-
withdrawal. In so doing it forced a rewriting of
ism (1800), trans. Peter Heath (University Press of Vir-
what it is to commit the work of art, the ginia, 1978). p. I. All subsequent references to this text will
interpretandurn to a text, invoking an extension be parenthesized in the text.
(Erweiterung), to engage a Kantian trope, 26 See Friedrich Schiller's response to a conversation

which forced interpretation beyond all strict with Schelling questioning what he calls the Idealist's
"Bewusstlosen." detailed in a letter to Goethe, 27 March,
foundations-extending, thereby, the reach of 1801, Schillers Brief (Konigstein, 1983). p. 400-1.
the rational-in placing it at risk.81 27 See Michel Foucault, "Foucault repond a Sartre,"
La Quinzaine Literaire 46 (March 1-15, 1968). p. 20. For
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Phenomenology of further discussion of the issue, see my "Kant and Foucault:
Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford University Press, 1977), On the Ends of Man," Tijdschrifi Voor Filosofie, Maart,
p. 19. 1985.
Martin Heidegger, "The Origin of the Work of Art," 2"mmanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans.
in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter Norman Kemp Smith (New York, 1973). p. 61 (A151B 29).
(New York, 1971). p. 79. 29 Ibid., p. 112 (A78lB103).
Quoted in Heidegger, p. 80. See G.W.F. Hegel, 30 G.W.F. Hegel, Faith and Knowledge, trans. Walter
Aesthetics, Volume I, trans. T. M. Knox (Oxford University Cerf and H. S. Hanis (State University of New York Press,
Press, 1975), pp. 9-1 1. 1977), p. 80.
Martin Heidegger, "Only a God Can Save Us: Der As Adorno has noted then (p. 244), the notion of
Spiegel's Interview with Martin Heidegger," trans. John P. genius in this regard is the intellectus archtypus of Geman
Caputo and Maria P. Alter, Philosophy Today 20, no. 4 Idealism.
(1976). 283. 32 See Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason,
Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, p. 19. trans. Lewis White Beck (New York, 1956), p. 58. The
See Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. C. notion of an aesthetische Imperativ, it may be noted, had
Lenhardt (London, 1984), p. 175. been discussed by Friederich von Schlegel, without concern
See Hans-Georg Gadamer,"Historical Transforma- for its philosophical status, three years previously in his
tions of Reason," in Rationality Today, ed. Theodore F. Uber das Studium der Grieschischen Poesie. See Kritishe
Geraets (Univ. of Ottawa Pres, 1979). Friedrich-Schlegel-Ausgabe, Bd. 1 (Munchen, 1979). p.
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement, trans. J. H. 214.
Bernard (New York, 1968), p. 157, translation altered. 33 Among Schelling's commentators Dieter Jahnig has
Ibid., p. 158. prhaps best seen the importance of the concept of
l o Ibid. Uberraschung in discussing the problem of certainty and
" Ibid., p. 43. transcendence in Schelling's deduction of art. Nonetheless,
l 2 Ibid., p. 47. Jahnig's discussion remains limited to its status as a feeling
l 3 Ibid., p. 133. under the rubric of "the empirical character of this
l 4 Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, p. 16. condition" and is excluded from the discussion of what he
Plato's Republic (607b) trans. G.M. A. Grube (In- calls the problem of the condition's "metaphysical
dianapolis, 1974), p. 251. significance," as well as from the problem of the sacred
I h Plato, (534b) Ion, trans. Benjamin Jowett (Oxford predicates which Schelling invokes in its explanation. See
University Press, 1892), p. 288. Schelling: Die Kunst in der Philosophie, Bd. 2, Die
l 7 Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, p. 14. Wahrheitsfunktion der Kunst, (Pfullingen, 1969). p. 38f.
l 8 The term "Augenblick" is used by Schelling to 34 See F.W.J. Schelling, Philosophie der Kunst
describe the work of art's revelation of "reinen Sein" in the (1802-02), Schellings Werke, Bd. 111, p. 393.
1807 lecture, "Uber das verhaltnis der bilden Knuste zu der 35 As Jean-Francois Marquet has stated, "Schelling's
Nature," in F.W.J. Schelling, Schellings Werke, Bd. 111, 'Wo die Kunst sei, sol1 die Wissenschaji erst hinkommen'
ed. Schroter (Munich, 1927). p. 403. Granted this elevation obviously has certain anticipatory Freudian overtones." See
of the work of art, Walter Biemel's claim should perhaps be "Schelling et Le Destin de L' Art" in Actualiti de Schelling,
taken seriously: "Schelling's philosophy of art is the first ed. G. Planty-Bonjour (Paris, 1979), p. 77.
unprecedented philosophical acknowledgement of the sig- 36 Friederich Nietzsche "The Birth of Tragedy," in
nificance of art." See his "Philosophy and Art," trans. Basic Writings of Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufman (New
Parvis Emad, Man and World 12 (1979), 269. York, 1968), p. 19.
l 9 Friedrich Schelling, Letter to G.W.F. Hegel, Janu- 37 Ibid. p. 33.
ary 5, 1795, in Hegel: The Letters, trans. Clark Butler and 38 F.W.J. Schelling, On University Studies (1802).
Christiane Seiler (Indiana University Press, 1984). p. 29. trans. E . S. Morgan (Ohio University Press, 1966). p. 146.
20 Kant, Critique of Judgement, p. 12. 39 Ibid.
21 Ibid. Ibid., p. 147.
22 Ibid. 4' Ibid., p. 148.
23 Compare Schelling's similar characterization and 42 F.W.J. Schelling, Bruno or On the Natural and the

criticism of Hegel in his Philosophie der Offenbarung, Divine Principle of Things, trans. Michel G. Vater (State
Schellings Werke, Bd. 6, p. 87 ff. University of New York Press, 1984), p. 132.
24 Schelling, Letter to G.W.F. Hegel, November 2, 43 Luigi Pareyson, L'estetica di Schelling (Torino,
Aesthetics and the Foundation of Interpretation 137

1964), p. 29. tion in Interpretative Practices," The University of Dayton

44 The literature here and the vanous explanatory Review: Collected Papers from the University of Dayton's
options are surveyed and adjudicated by Xavier Tilliette in l lth Annual Philosophy Colloquium on Hermeneutics 17,
a presentation to the French translation of Schelling's no. 1. (Summer, 1984).
writings on art, Textes Esthetiques, trans. Alain Pernet, 59 And yet the viewing of art as an inexhaustible
1978). p. xxxvi ff. interprerandum, as has been seen, is not the only, nor the
45 Hegel, Lectures on The Histofy of Philosophy, p. final sense of Schelling's construal. In fact there is a sense
527. in which as well there can be no interpretation of the work
46 Ibid., p. 526. of art. Art can only present a sign for the infinite and not its
47 Ibid. Kant's Faktum of pure reason too, it should be symbol; one whose content remains fixed and determinate.
recalled, was one in which "the moral law is given, as an In fact Schelling at one point, invoking the metaphysics of
apodictically certain fact" whose reality "can be proved exemplification, claims that there can be only one work of
through no deduction." See my "Kant on Autonomy, the art:
Ends of Humanity, and the Possibility of Morality," (T)here is properly speaking but one absolute work of
forthcoming in Kantstudien. art, which may indeed exist in altogether different
48 Ibid., p. 525. exemplars (Exemplaren), yet it is still only one, even
49 F.W.J. Schelling, "Das altes Systemprogramm des though it should not exist in its most original form
deutschen Idealismus," translated in Norbert Guterman, (Ursprunglichten Gestalt) (23 1, translation altered).
"Introduction" to On University Studies, p. xii. It should
be noted that while Guterman claims Schelling as the author See Martin Heidegger, Schelling's Treatise On the
of this document, this remains a disputed issue. What Essence of Human Freedom, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Ohio
remains true, in any case, is that the passage cited here is, University Press, 1985). p. 189. See also my "Reading
certainly, at least not inconsistent with Schelling's writings Heidegger, " Research in Phenomenology 15 ( 1985).
during this period. " See Gadamer. p. 264.
"Philosophical Letters on Dogmatism and Criti- AS Adorno asserted then: "Heterogeneity is inherent
cism," p. 157. in works of art" (132). Consequently, understood classi-
Hegel, Lectures on The History of Philosophy, p. cally, "(a)esthetics cannot hope to grasp works of art, if it
525. treats them as hermeneutic objects. What at present needs to
5 2 "Philosophical Letters on Dogmatism and Criti- be grasped is their unintelligibility)" (173). Adorno, still,
cism," p. 157. operates here within an archaic view of interpretation and
'' Ibid., 162. Verstehen as a reproduction of an original meaning, as
54 See for example, Edmund Husserl, Ideas Pertaining "reenactment" or "reproduction" (177). He must affirm
to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological too that the work of art, precisely because of its enigmatic
Philosophy, First Rook, trans. F. Kersten (The Hague, equality eluding simple Verstehen, still renders interpreta-
1982), p. 106-07. tion necessary: "Every single one opens itself to interpre-
55 See Plato, The Republic ( 5 3 4 ~ )p.
. 185. tive reason because its enigmatic quality is a deficiency, a
56 Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, trans. condition of want" (186). Nonetheless, the interpretation
Dorion Cairnus (The Hague, 1970) p. 22. called forth must remain a respect for what escapes the
57 See Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking? concept. "Achieving an adequate interpretive understand-
trans. J. Glenn Gray (New York, 1968) p. 71. ing of a work of art means demystifying certain enigmatic
58 The argument presented here then rejoins dimensions without trying to shed light on its constitutive
Gadamer's claim that an adequate account of the foundation enigma" (177).
of hermeneutics must confront the history of aesthetics. See h3 Hegel, Science of logic, op. cit. 402.
Hans-George Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. Garrett Ibid., p. 408.
Barden and John Cumming (New York, 1975), p. 39ff; p. 65 Hegel, Aesthetics, Volume I, op. cit., p. 300.
433ff. Nonetheless, while Gadamer rightly emphasizes the " See Walter Benjamin, "Surrealism: The Last Snap-
role of the aesthetic here and acknowledges that what is shot of the European Intelligentsia" in Reflections, tr.
involved is a phenomenon in which "what is clear is not Edmund Jephcott (New York, 1979), p. 189. For Benjamin
proved and not absolutely certain, but it asserts itself by himself this aesthetics suffered from a certain inconsis-
reason of its own merits" (441-2), it may be necessary to tency. It was in the end "undialectical," refusing to extend
depart from his account to the extent that it presents a the mystery it ascribes to art equally to the 'everyday
conception of truth which remains perhaps recalcitrant with world.' For related discussion of these matters see
regard to the problem of incommensurability, remaining Benjamin's doctoral dissertation, Der Regriff der
still "speculative," as Kant put it in the first Critique, Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik (19 19) (Suhrkamp:
"hostile to heterogeneity" (A655lB683). While Gadamer Frankfurt-am-Main, 1973).
rightly recognizes, for example, the importance of 67 See Plato, The Republic 508b.
Schelling's discussion of the aesthetic as symbolic (equally 68 See Michel Foucault's discussion of a similar issue
emphasizing its sacred past), the problem of the "im- in "The Discourse on Language" in The Archaeology of
measurable" and the underdetermination of interpretation Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (New York,
remains unthought (p. 69f.) and hence his dialogical theory 1972), p. 235.
of interpretation always remains in close proximity to the h9 Jacques Demda, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri
metaphysics of Hegel's objective spirit. See my "Between Chakravorty Spivak (Johns Hopkins University Press,
Truth and Method: Gadamer and the Problem of Justifica- 1976). p. 160. Gadamer, too, recognizes the event of this

surprise as fundamental to the hermeneutic experience, See for example G. J. DeVries, A Commentary on the
again without confronting its ultimate philosophical impli- Phaedrus of Plato (Amsterdam, 1969), p. 154.
cations. See his "Aesthetics and Hermeneutics" in Philo- 74 See Friedrich von Schlegel, Uber das Studium der
sophical Hermeneutics, trans. David E . Linge (University griechischen Poesie (1797) quoted and commented upon by
of California Press, 1976), p. 101: Wladyslaw Tatarkiewicz, A History of Six Ideas (The
But [the communicative intent] that holds for all Hague, 1980), p. 151.
75 Adorno, p. 75.
speaking is valid in an eminent way for the experience
76 Nietzsche, p. 42.
of art. It is more than an anticipation of meaning. It is
77 Cf. Hegel, Aesthetics Vol. I, p. 71:
what I would like to call surprise at the meaning of what
is said. (T)he work of art . . . is essentially a question, an
address to the responsive breast, a call (Anrede) to the
70 cf. Aristotle's claim that all enquiry proceeds out of mind and the spirit. "
wonder (Thaumazein). Metaphysics, Book A, trans.
Hippocrates G. Apostle (Indiana University Press, 1969), 78 See Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John
p. 16 (983b). Macquanie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper &
7 1 Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, p. 99. Row, 1962), p. 5 1 (translation altered).
72 Ibid., p. 55. Xavier Tilliette quite rightly contrasts 79 Julie Kristeva, "Evknement et Rkvklation," L'lnfini
the ultimate serenity and harmony of Schelling's final 5 (Winter, 1984). 3-4.
account of art and the beautiful with Breton's "Beauty will See F.W.J. Schelling, Philosophie der Offenbarung,
be convulsive or it will not be at all." See the latter's What op. cit.
is Surrealism? (London, 1936) and Tilliette's presentation " Compare Schelling's own indications of such an
to Schelling's Textes Esthetiques, p. xxviii. Nonetheless, to extension in the Philosophical Letters on Dogmatism and
the extent that the work of art accomplishes its serenity only Criticism, op. cit., p. 159, considered there in relation to
by a struggle with the Unbegrieflich by which it is an practical reason:
opening out onto a higher domain, a sur-reality, the
principle of the latter is perhaps already nascent. Thus your theoretical reason would become a quite
73 Ibid., p. 118-19. Cp. Plato's description of the different reason; with the help of practical reason it
experience of shudder (Ephrixe) before the beautiful in would be broadened (erweitert) so as to admit a new
Phaedrus 251a, a shudder which commentators have linked field alongside the old.
to the sacred past of Greek mystery cults and the daimonic.