Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I think, therefore I am confused

I spent the better part of yesterday alternating between Kant's Critique of Judgement and several essays (by current writers) that explore, among other things, the aesthetics of anti-aesthetics. In fact, what occupied much of my time was an essay by that name: The Aesthetics of Anti-Aesthetics, written by David Myers of Loyola University.

Here's an extended quote:

... as a recursive function, this anti-principal is self-similar and must exist both inside and in opposition to the boundaries of its own determination. That is, the anti-function may operate with or without any formal argument other than itself.

These two basic characteristics – self-similarity and formal independence – make the anti principle paradoxical, and, for good or ill, incapable of conventional normative evaluation. Indeed, when looked at from within some normative context (i. e., from within some pre-existing structure yet to be ravaged), the anti appears little more than dysfunctional: random, chaotic, and incorrigible.

Yet so does play appear.

Hmmm. I like the idea of play. This morning my wife came home from an exasperating meeting and said, "I think, therefore I don't know." I immediately seized on her statement and replied, "I think, therefore I am confused." We both laughed, each in our own pertinent (frustrated) manner. Or maybe we laughed not out of frustration but because we felt like laughing, particularly over something that was playfully destructive.

And the moral of the story is ...

... I don't know anymore. Now that Kant has helped me identify the phenomena of human judgement as it operates in and between the two separate realms of "understanding" (nature) and "reason" (freedom), I neither understand judgement nor use it in a reasonable manner. For instance, this blog post: is there any point at all?

Probably not. But here's a final quote to chew on, from Marcel Duchamp:

This Neo-Dada, which they call New Realism, Pop Art, Assemblage, etc., is an easy way out, and lives on what Dada did. When I discovered the ready-mades I sought to discourage aesthetics. In Neo-Dada they have taken my readymades and found aesthetic beauty in them, I threw the bottle-rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty.

Understanding why Duchamp sought to discourage aesthetics, and why he presumably thought artists like Andy Warhol or Yves Klein had missed the point, doesn't really help me at this stage. Not that it’s difficult to understand – especially within the context of visual arts, the artworld, and a capitalist economy that distorts and subsumes existing notions of value – but I seem to have lost my way in this study of aesthetics. In fact, I don’t even know why I went down this path.

Incidentally, Kant's Critique of Judgement is a real page turner. [I can't wait to find out how it turns out.]


  1. That qoute from Duchamp is fantastic. "I threw the bottle-rack and the urinal in their faces...and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty." Good find. Your spinning mind must be a hell of a hamster-wheel to try and follow.

  2. It's a spinning wheel alright, but there's more than a couple of screws loose. Still, I'm delighted to have someone commenting here. Thanks!