Macquarie University
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In the making: globally refiguring critique through a transformative aesthetics

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posted on 2023-01-31, 00:39 authored by Brigid Martin

Many areas of philosophy have yet to fully digest the impact of emerging inter-cultural and crosscultural dialogues. While fields such as political philosophy are coming to terms with how decolonial thought poses fundamental challenges to the way philosophy is practiced, aesthetics - particularly in its more theoretical and general guises - is only beginning to explore the consequences of philosophies of art and sensibility beyond the European tradition. In the spirit of what philosophers such as Brian Schroeder (2017) have called "transcontinental philosophy," and using resources from Indian, Japanese, and European philosophical traditions, this dissertation pursues a critical and dialectical approach to cross-cultural philosophical aesthetics. I have two primary goals: one methodological, and one substantive. The methodological goal is to explore how critical aesthetics is impacted at the most fundamental levels by decolonial and cross-cultural interventions. Cross-cultural philosophy poses problems and introduces innovations for the critical paradigm that are not merely extrinsic, complementary, or corrective, but have systematic consequences. The substantive goal is to explore how and to what extent aesthetic experience - particularly encounters with works of art - can be transformative in a strong sense. Using Nishida Kitarō's critical engagement with transcendentalism and Buddhist philosophy to orient my interpretation, I argue that aesthetic experience in general is a composition of expression and affect, and that artistic experience in particular involves a complex synthesis of perception and production. This means that means works of art can potentially transform our affective and expressive relations to the world, ourselves, and history, at both the individual and collective level. Consequently, art bears a unique therapeutic, ethical, and political significance. I begin with a close reading of how Immanuel Kant understands the role of the "aesthetic" within the critical project, and the significance of expression and affect in defining this role. From this point, I use conceptual interventions from Abhinavagupta to demonstrate the ways in which critical aesthetics can be broken open and structurally rethought. Following this I provide a reading of Nishida's philosophical aesthetics centred on his concepts of "active intuition" and "historically formative activity." Through the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty I then explore how art is involved in the "institution" of perceptual perspective. Finally, through the work of Gilles Deleuze I will explore how art communicates "aesthetic Ideas" of the world and draws us into the ongoing invention of a new "sensus communis." To conclude, I offer some speculative thoughts as to the normative implications of this critical approach to transformative aesthetics.


Table of Contents

Introduction: Transformative Aesthetics: Transpositional Critique and the Critique of Aesthetic Consciousness -- Chapter 1: Methods, Problems, and Possibilities of Critical Aesthetics: From Kant to Abhinavagupta -- Chapter 2: Modern European Approaches to Transcendentalism and Aesthetics: Expression and Sensibility in Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze -- Chapter 3: The Methods and Concepts of the Kyōto School: Nishida's Pursuit of a Poetic and Expressive Logic of Self-Awareness -- Chapter 4: Self-Awareness and Worldly Sensibility: Nishida's Critical Philosophy of Creativity -- Chapter 5: Art and the Pulse of History: Merleau-Ponty's Critical Model of Aesthetic Contingency and Historical Space -- Chapter 6: The Power and the Passion: Deleuze's Critical Model of Aesthetic Composition and the Art of Ideas -- Conclusion: Transformation and Its Consequences

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD

Department, Centre or School

Department of Philosophy

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Robert Sinnerbrink


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