The Beautiful, the Sublime, and the Grotesque: The Subjective Turn in Aesthetics from the Enlightenment to the Present

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9781443819633: The Beautiful, the Sublime, and the Grotesque: The Subjective Turn in Aesthetics from the Enlightenment to the Present
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The eighteenth century Enlightenment represents a turn toward experience, that is, toward the experiencing subject. Still, the Enlightenment involves an aspiration toward objective truth in the ideals of the newly emerging sciences and in the experiments in democracy that were beginning to transform the political landscape of Europe and America. Immanuel Kant's towering philosophical achievement in his critical works helps to reformulate a meaning of objectivity that is congenial to the climate of inquiry and freedom in that remarkable century, a meaning that is unburdened of the metaphysical commitments of many of his predecessors. Kant's revolution in philosophical thought gives us an objectivity that is crucially related to epistemic conditions rooted in subjectivity, a correlation between subjectivity and objectivity that carries over as well into his critical treatises concerned with ethics and aesthetics. This book of essays explores the tension between subjectivity and objectivity as it develops in the Enlightenment in Winkelmann, Hume, and Kant. The focus here is upon aesthetic theories concerning the beautiful, the sublime, and the grotesque. The question by two of our authors as to whether aesthetic enjoyment of the blues is morally justified underscores an interest in these essays in the connection between aesthetics and ethics. This concern of the relation of aesthetics to judgments in cognition and in morality underlies an area of peculiar interest to Kant, and therefore to many of these essays. Finally our authors examine a turn toward the subjective in the Postmodern world of art and aesthetic theory, a turn that represents a relaxation of the original Enlightenment tension between subjectivity and objectivity. It also represents perhaps a grotesque turn toward the extreme of subjectivity in the realm of Postmodern theory, an extreme toward which at least one of our authors casts a critical eye.

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About the Author:

Michael J. Matthis received his doctorate in philosophy from Fordham University and is an Associate Professor of philosophy at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. His teaching interests are active and varied, and his published writings center upon the ethics of Soren Kierkegaard, and on issues involving relations between philosophy and the arts.

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"In the Beautiful, the Sublime and the Grotesque: The Subjective Turn in Aesthetics from the Enlightenment to the present, Matthis has collected a variety of contemporary critical responses to this paradox of Enlightened subjectivity. The range of interest is both provocative and entertaining-from the ideas of Hume and Kant to the theories of Poe, the blues, art museums, Bob Jones University, and the millieu of post modernist artists and writers. The lately formed Cambridge Scholars Publishing Company has shown its commitment to scholarly excellence in encouraging and sposoring the work that went into the making of this volume. The Beautiful, the Sublime and the Grotesque is for the most part a clearly written and cohesive study of the lasting consequences of the enlightenment's attempt to break with both faith classicism. It is book for libraries, for scholars, for students at every level." Lloyd Daigrepont in Review of Texas Books, Volume XXV, Issues 3 and 4; Fall 2010.

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