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At the Boundary of Philosophy and Art

Status: planned

Synopsis: Philosophy is bounded by two very different but equally important forms of cultural endeavor: science and art. The boundary of philosophy and science is discussed in the author’s previous books; that of philosophy and art is to be treated here. This work argues, positively, that art stands to philosophy in much the same way science does, as a rich source of knowledge about reality, upon which philosophy is called to reflect. Whereas science provides philosophy with knowledge of objective reality (Nature), art provides it with knowledge of subjective reality (the human spirit). Philosophy, esteeming both kinds of endeavor, acts as a kind of mediator between them, accepting neither as pre-eminent. In a more critical vein, this work argues that while art, like philosophy, aims to express the truth, and while it fulfils this purpose in a more accessible way than philosophy, yet it does so less adequately, because it lacks the objectivity and systematic character that philosophy gains from its relationship with science, and because it remains in its approach inescapably wedded to appearances and the sensuous; whereas philosophy, being conceptual, is able to grasp (non-sensuous) reality in a way that is more suitable to it. This work also argues that philosophy and art, being distinct forms of inquiry with their own methods, can easily lose their way when attempts are made to combine or synthesize the materials and procedures of one with those of the other. In arguing for these points the present work defends something like the aesthetic standpoint of Hegel in a modern context, that is, without presupposing the idealist metaphysic which constituted the original foundation of Hegel’s aesthetic. Rather, it is the author’s own materialist metaphysic which here provides the basis for an Hegelian-styled account of the relationship between philosophy and art. The main departure from Hegel comes from the fact that the author’s metaphysic is not teleological: it does not conceive reality as purposive—as progressing, dialectically or otherwise, towards some final, optimal state; in particular, it does not conceive aesthetic consciousness to be a mere (declining or superseded) stage of a process whose true end is philosophical consciousness. On the other hand, the author’s account agrees with Hegel’s in concluding that “conceptual” art and “pictorial” philosophy are decadent forms, and as such symptomatic of cultural decline more generally.

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