NUMBER 1 • 2006 • 1 – 12
Thinking between disciplines: an aesthetics of knowledge1
Translated by Jon Roffe
What should be understood by the invocation of an ‘aesthetics of knowledge’? It is clearly not a matter of saying that the forms of knowledge must take on an aesthetic dimension. The expression presupposes that such a dimension does not have to be added as a supplementary ornament, that it is there in every sense as an immanent given of knowledge. It remains to be seen what this implies. The thesis that I would like to present is simple: to speak of an aesthetic dimension of knowledge is to speak of a dimension of ignorance which divides the idea and the practise of knowledge themselves.
This proposition evidently implies a presupposition concerning the meaning of
‘aesthetics’. The thesis is the following: aesthetics is not the theory of the beautiful or of art; nor is it the theory of sensibility. Aesthetics is an historically determined concept which designates a specific regime of visibility and intelligibility of art, which is inscribed in a reconfiguration of the categories of sensible experience and its interpretation. It is the new type of experience that Kant systematised in the Critique of
Judgement. For Kant, aesthetic experience implies a certain disconnection from the habitual conditions of sensible experience. This is what he summarises as a double negation. The object of aesthetic apprehension is characterised as that which is neither an object of knowledge nor an object of desire. Aesthetic appreciation of a form is without concept. An artist does not give form to a given matter according to a function of knowledge [savoir].
The reasons of the beautiful are thus separate from those of art. They are also separate, though, from the reasons which render an object desirable or offensive. Now, this double
THINKING BETWEEN DISCIPLIINES
negation is not only defined by the new conditions