Aesthetics as a Form of Ethics
Arts movements arise and fail for the same reason: there is no neutral set of ideals.
Aesthetics: do you know this or do you believe this?
When looking at literature, should we just look at what people write, or should we also look at what (we think) they believe?
An aesthetic stance cannot be proven.
The unexamined art is not art.
Art must ask questions first, stated or implied. If there is no question there can be no engagement toward conclusion. Once you know what it is, you will better understand how to behave with it.
Must the empirical follow from the reasoned? The reasoned from the empirical? A reciprocal economy? Or need they not cohabitate? (Is there an outside implied in aesthetics?)
Because aesthetics is posited as a perfection, it exists outside of the work at hand. The work then, as empirical evidence, will never attain it. The work is excluded from it, and must be.
Outside of aesthetic groups, people participate with aesthetics. What categories go unannounced from these personal encounters?
Aesthetics can only function as something to which one can aspire or deny. It is not a description.
Group aesthetics is as much a corrupting force as a utopian force. It functions in a reductive way for any who espouse it too strongly.
There are no benign aesthetics.
The desire for group aesthetics is a combination of the desire to establish friendship bonds and a marketing strategy.
Aesthetics participates with living-in-the-world. It has an empirical foundation. This means that aesthetics can affect that experience as well as being affected by that experience. Art doesn’t change but still it changes = how many Hamlets have there been by now?
Is it important to articulate a personal aesthetics? A personal aesthetics will be a desire. The work then can legitimately be called “experimental” as it attempts to reach the aesthetic desire.
Aesthetics can become a duty, and one can lose sight of its constructed nature.
Aesthetics falls between doing what comes naturally and resisting what comes naturally.
Aesthetics is irrational.
Aesthetics is a useful generalization.
One cannot prove aesthetic positions.
Aesthetic positions are psychological, not logical.
Aesthetic positions are bound between IS and OUGHT.
Aesthetics is no more than people expressing their feelings.
Is there a form of aesthetic knowledge? If so, where does it come from? Is there a way of talking about it that doesn’t posit another world?
Aesthetics is a recommendation or an order (in several senses of the word).
An aesthetics, because it is in language, is never severely unconventional.
Is aesthetics nature or nurture? Can one choose to be something else? To me it would seem so, but I’ve seen others bristle at this. If we are free to choose a different aesthetic position at any given time, does this debase aesthetic positions? Are we saying they are equal in some way?
Do different aesthetic positions carry different values? The answer to that would have to be yes, at least implicitly. But if so, should we then attempt to force others to adhere to those we endorse? Who decides?
No freedom to choose is ever total. How free to choose are we then?
What does it mean to say “I produce art the way I want to” when one has long learned from others and studied art?
As aesthetics is a subjective, emotional utterance, and not knowledge itself, it can’t be verified outside of a subjective rightness one feels between it and one’s experience of something else: prior art, culture, politics, religious belief, etcetera. There are no guarantees, therefore, that aesthetics will produce anything useful, or that what is produced will in any way continue to feel subjectively right.
Art objects are ideological artifacts.
Art objects suppress other (possible) art objects.
Aesthetics is a layer over one’s artistic inclinations, accentuating them, clarifying them, focusing them, deforming them, obscuring them. It is difficult or impossible to know which.
Most artists are relatively unaware of their inclinations, and most aesthetics are rationalizations of larger personal desires.
Thinking of aesthetics as reasoned can lead to untenable and reductive certainties.
Are artists to become consumers between aesthetic products?
The fact that mainstream aesthetics goes untheorized is a sign of its hegemony. It considers itself natural, embedded, fixed, common-sensical. It manufactures consent, the air we all must breathe. It pretends to be outside of questions.
Once the foundations of aesthetic positions are shown not to exist as such, how then to continue, as all aesthetics must have a foundation? Again, the idea of the Necessary Fiction arises.
Does the distrust of large-scale truths have to manifest as ironic detachment? The answer to that would seem to me to be “no.” One can behave “as if” as a way to circumvent the belief in the objectivity of an aesthetic position. What if one were to foreground the subjectivity of one’s aesthetic position instead? Subjectivity, known as such, need not be an ironic stance.
“All aesthetic positions are on the table” can also be coercive as the bewilderment of stances can become a kind of white noise over which the mainstream will continue to float, seemingly rational and true.
Still, no matter what age, interesting art continues to be made. Isn’t that something.
Without grand narratives, can one have great art?
Can ambivalence achieve grandeur?
Has aesthetics become hopelessly privatized?
Without a grand narrative, there is freedom to pursue whatever one wants, but with the uncertainty as to what is worth pursuing. Will this make us more or less tolerant of the competing aesthetics of others?
Do we, as individual artists, need group aesthetics?
Aesthetics pretends to be work centered (the art object), when really it mostly functions as a friendship economy. What if we were to posit an aesthetics, then, directly toward the behavior of artists as a community, and not about the work they produced? An aesthetics of sympathy and communal endeavor, not of what the art, specifically, should look like or address? How long would that last? Minutes? A week?
Because there is no stable base to work from, artists can now spin the wheel of fortune once, or as many times as they wish, to create art or to construct an aesthetics. Like the imaginative power of surrealism, but want the personal weight of confessionalism? Fine, do both at the same time. Want to be Wallace Stevens but also William Carlos Williams? There you go. Want to be a language poet? You’re a language poet.
But what about the need for mutual agreements? We make them, even as we know they have no real foundation.
We will never discover an aesthetic truth.
Aesthetics is perhaps a branch of politics and not a metaphysics after all.
I typed “meatphysics” above and almost left it.
Is it futile to invent elaborate abstract systems and then impose them where they don’t really fit? Is it futile not to?
Aesthetics is essentialist in nature. What then might a pragmatic aesthetics look like?
And then what of the needs of the art objects themselves? Is that too silly or abstract to consider? because we are not outside of the art but are immersed in it, perhaps this isn’t as odd a thing to think about as it first appears.
Can art objects suffer?
What would a good person do?