Aesthetics Today: Contemporary Approaches to the Aesthetics of Nature and of Arts. Proceedings of the 39th International Wittgenstein Symposium in Kirchberg 9783110540413, 9783110539585

Aesthetics is no longer merely the philosophy of perception and the arts. Nelson Goodman, Arthur Danto and others have c

314 64 5MB

English Pages 485 [486] Year 2017

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Aesthetics Today: Contemporary Approaches to the Aesthetics of Nature and of Arts. Proceedings of the 39th International Wittgenstein Symposium in Kirchberg
 9783110540413, 9783110539585

Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Aesthetics of Nature and Ecoaesthetics
On Natural Resonance
“Be Free as I Am” Schiller’s Aesthetics as a Challenge to the Modern Way of Thinking
‘Atmosphere’ as a Core Concept of Eco-aesthetics
Singing (in Several Voices) in the (Same) Rain. Cultural Symbols and Cognition in the Aesthetics of Weather
Aesthetics and the Theory of Arts
Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Art-Philosophy So Boring and Art-Criticism So Different, So Much More Appealing
On Judging Art
Artist versus Aesthete
What Is the Philosophy of Poetry?
On the Very Idea of Understanding Music
The Limit as Aesthetic Demonstration
Difficulties in Reading Images: Diversity and Internationality in Image Reception
Frame and Framing. On the Parergonal Constitution of Artistic Representation
Focusing the Blind Spot. On the Inventive Use of Signs in Art
Trust in the World. Going to the Movies with Cavell, Wittgenstein, and Some Prior Philosophers
Walton’s “Vivacity” and Cinematic Realism
Anpassungsprobleme. Die Kunst und das Lehramt
Wittgenstein und die Methodik der Kunstwissenschaft – Am Beispiel der Ikonik Max Imdahls
Wittgenstein und Weltdesign
Wittgenstein and the Arts
Zum Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst
Wittgenstein and the Avant-garde
What Makes Brahms Kellerian?
Rechnen und Zeichnen – Klee und Wittgenstein
“Wahlverwandtschaft”: Literary and Philosophical Imagination in Wittgenstein and Sterne
Wittgenstein, Ethics and Aesthetics
Wittgenstein’s Comparison between Philosophy, Aesthetics and Ethics
Absolute and Relative Value in Aesthetics
Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“. Ethische und ästhetische Aspekte der Schriften des philosophischen Nachlasses Ludwig Wittgensteins
Die Ethik des frühen Wittgenstein – Eine Annäherung aus kantischer Perspektive
Ästhetischer Diskurs und ethische Urteile
Wittgenstein’s Performance Philosophy
The Idea of Compositionality
Wittgenstein and Hegel on Bodies, Souls and Works of Art
Index of Authors
Index of Subjects

Citation preview

Aesthetics Today

Publications of the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society New Series

Volume 25

Aesthetics Today

Contemporary Approaches to the Aesthetics of Nature and of Arts. Proceedings of the 39th International Wittgenstein Symposium Edited by Stefan Majetschak and Anja Weiberg

ISBN 978-3-11-053958-5 e-ISBN (PDF) 978-3-11-054041-3 e-ISBN (EPUB) 978-3-11-053961-5 ISSN 2191-8449 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A CIP catalog record for this book has been applied for at the Library of Congress. Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available in the Internet at © 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston Printing: CPI books GmbH, Leck ♾ Printed on acid-free paper Printed in Germany

Preface The volume at hand assembles selected contributions to the 39th International Wittgenstein Symposium organized by the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society and held at Kirchberg am Wechsel, Lower Austria, from August 7th to 13th 2016 on the subject Aesthetics today. Contemporary approaches to the Aesthetics of Nature and of Art. Even today it may come as something of a surprise to some philosophers, especially those with roots in the analytical tradition, that a Wittgenstein Symposium should concern itself principally with systematic and historical questions of aesthetics. What does Wittgenstein, whose early work was dedicated to logic and whose later philosophy to a linguistically based critique of traditional metaphysics, have to do with questions of aesthetics? And to what extent, one might ask from a systematic perspective, is his philosophical thought relevant to what is today known as “aesthetics”? With respect to the historical problem it has to be conceded unreservedly that aesthetic questions in Wittgenstein’s philosophical milieu in Cambridge were not the focus of interest. Although in 1949 he once commented that, besides “conceptual” questions, only “aesthetic questions” could “really grip” (Culture and Value 91e) him, he did not produce long connected chains of remarks about them. Rather, one finds remarks on the subject strewn throughout the writings of his Nachlass. Isolated and suffused with a certain aura, as we encounter them here, some of them persist, however, in being largely opaque, such as the well-known remark “ethics and aesthetics are one” from the Tractatus and the World War One diaries. Perhaps the clearest expression of Wittgenstein’s thoughts on aesthetic questions is to be found in the volume edited in 1966 by Cyril Barrett Lectures & Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. But since they stem from notes taken by his students on lectures given in the summer of 1938, their authenticity is—alas—not verifiable. From this perspective one has to admit that there is no authentic ‘Wittgensteinian aesthetics’ to which the proceedings of this symposium might address themselves. Nevertheless, attempts have been made in several books and essays to reconstruct his implicit aesthetics from his writings. Furthermore, Wittgenstein was inspirational for what is now called the ‘analytical philosophy of art’. But it was not so much his aesthetics lectures of 1938, but more his posthumously published Philosophical Investigations that provided writers such as Paul Ziff, Morris Weitz or Richard Wollheim with the important key concepts. Since their classic texts, Wittgenstein’s Investigations have become a presence, in historical and systematic terms, in the most recent debates on the analytical philosophy of art. And this is also the case where the reception of Wittgenstein’s ideas has not



been as positive as it was with Weitz or Wollheim but where those ideas have been criticized and rejected, for example, by a tradition that ranges from Maurice Mandelbaum to Arthur Danto. Not only the fact that Wittgenstein’s writings appear to contain a sort of implicit but, apparently, reconstructable aesthetics, but also the fact of his continuing influence on analytical theories of art justified making contemporary ‘aesthetics’, in all its dimensions and facets, expressly the subject of a Wittgenstein Symposium. And there is still another argument in favour of this: the fact that aesthetics in past decades, not least because of influential writers such as Nelson Goodman and Arthur Danto, has developed from a peripheral discipline of philosophy to one whose driving force has penetrated substantial areas of theoretical and practical philosophy. It is no longer merely the philosophy of perception and the arts. New problem areas with a global dimension have been opened up with environmental and ecological aesthetics, which extend the field of traditional aesthetics. This volume collects papers on quite different aspects of what aesthetics can be under current conditions, and indeed not merely papers that focus on the thought of Ludwig Wittgenstein. To hold the symposium open to all areas of contemporary aesthetics was the initial intention of the academic organizers. But when it became clear that so many papers, under the general subject Aesthetics Today, were devoted to the philosophy of Wittgenstein, the organizers were surprised and pleased. For this shows that Wittgenstein’s philosophy can still be, also in the present and also in aesthetics, a continuing source of inspiration. We wish to thank Samantha Kennedy and Jasmin Trächtler for supporting the editorial work on this volume. Stefan Majetschak, Anja Weiberg

Table of Contents Preface


Aesthetics of Nature and Ecoaesthetics Angelika Krebs On Natural Resonance


Wolfgang Welsch “Be Free as I Am”. Schiller’s Aesthetics as a Challenge to the Modern Way of Thinking 21 Zhuofei Wang ‘Atmosphere’ as a Core Concept of Eco-aesthetics


Mădălina Diaconu Singing (in Several Voices) in the (Same) Rain. Cultural Symbols and Cognition in the Aesthetics of Weather 51

Aesthetics and the Theory of Arts Karlheinz Lüdeking Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Art-Philosophy So Boring and Art-Criticism So Different, So Much More Appealing? 71 Reinold Schmücker On Judging Art 87 Jerrold Levinson Artist versus Aesthete


Peter Lamarque What Is the Philosophy of Poetry?



Table of Contents

Georg Mohr On the Very Idea of Understanding Music Ruth Ronen The Limit as Aesthetic Demonstration



Jianping Gao Difficulties in Reading Images: Diversity and Internationality in Image 153 Reception Eva Schürmann Frame and Framing. On the Parergonal Constitution of Artistic Representation 165 Astrid Wagner Focusing the Blind Spot. On the Inventive Use of Signs in Art


Josef Früchtl Trust in the World. Going to the Movies with Cavell, Wittgenstein, and Some Prior Philosophers 193 David Wagner Walton’s “Vivacity” and Cinematic Realism


Tanja Wetzel Anpassungsprobleme. Die Kunst und das Lehramt


Jelena Toopeekoff Wittgenstein und die Methodik der Kunstwissenschaft – Am Beispiel der Ikonik Max Imdahls 233 Martin Gessmann Wittgenstein und Weltdesign


Wittgenstein and the Arts Benjamin Kiel Zum Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst


Table of Contents

James Matthew Fielding Wittgenstein and the Avant-garde Joachim Schulte What Makes Brahms Kellerian?




Richard Heinrich Rechnen und Zeichnen – Klee und Wittgenstein


Matthias Kroß “Wahlverwandtschaft”: Literary and Philosophical Imagination in Wittgenstein and Sterne 319

Wittgenstein, Ethics and Aesthetics Oskari Kuusela Wittgenstein’s Comparison between Philosophy, Aesthetics and 333 Ethics Simo Säätelä Absolute and Relative Value in Aesthetics


Peter Keicher Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“. Ethische und ästhetische Aspekte der Schriften des philosophischen Nachlasses Ludwig Wittgensteins 365 Andrea Wilke Die Ethik des frühen Wittgenstein – Eine Annäherung aus kantischer Perspektive 387 Felix Gmür Ästhetischer Diskurs und ethische Urteile


Wittgenstein Beth Savickey Wittgenstein’s Performance Philosophy



Table of Contents

Lars Hertzberg The Idea of Compositionality


Gabriele Tomasi Wittgenstein and Hegel on Bodies, Souls and Works of Art Index of Authors Index of Subjects

467 473


Aesthetics of Nature and Ecoaesthetics

Angelika Krebs

On Natural Resonance Abstract: This paper explores the aesthetic case for landscape conservation. The main claim is that the experience of beautiful landscapes is an essential part of human flourishing; it is not just an enriching option for all of us and, certainly, not merely a subjective preference for some of us. Beautiful landscapes can make us feel at home in the world; this constitutes their great and irreplaceable value. As a first step, I clarify the concept of landscape (section two), which brings me, in section three, to the concept of “Stimmung”. Section four shows how “Stimmung” (in the sense of mood) is infused into landscape (as atmosphere). Section five distinguishes various ways of how we experience landscape atmosphere, preparing the ground for the specifically aesthetic claim in section six: how, when we experience the atmosphere of a landscape aesthetically, we respond to it by resonating or feeling at home.

1 Introduction Before I embark on the stony conceptual road ahead, let me get you into the right mood by presenting a passage from Peter Kurzeck’s autobiographical 2003 novel, Als Gast (“As a guest”). In the passage, the author recounts a walk he took with a friend in the city forest of Frankfurt, which—apart from the highway and its hum in the background—is as empty and quiet “as if the earth has long stopped speaking to us.” Kurzeck’s written and spoken language is like music. It is “deep-acting”. It touches you immediately. This is why it can give us “knowledge by acquaintance” and make us feel the loss of nature. Through the piece of forest now, along its edge. Such a scanty little forest—however one walks, one always walks along the edge. And the forest as if emptied out. Rather as if just erected, you say to yourself. No roots? Without roots, the trees? Professionally put up by professionals. Quality forest. Guaranteed to last. Life-size. And secured with care. Like real. Directly almost like real! And so quiet, as if the earth, every spot of earth, the plants, the stones and every thing, as if all the world has long stopped speaking to us. And we then also to ourselves. Already for a long time. We do not answer! So quiet, but behind the quiet a hum, a growing hum. From all sides. And coming towards us. Or as inside one’s own head. (Kurzeck 2012: 191– 192, my translation)

DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-001


Angelika Krebs

Kurzeck’s walk does not lead through a forest, but only through a piece of forest. A real forest is large and deep; you can enter deep into it. Such an inside does not exist in a piece of forest. A piece of forest is not a forest anymore. Between the trees in the piece of forest, there is nothing left, no undergrowth, no shrubs, no flowers. Even the trees do not look like real trees any more—they look more like fakes, highly praised in the excited language of advertising that culminates in the paradoxical cry: “Directly almost like real!” We are unable to resonate with such trees, with such a piece of forest, with such highly artificial nature. It seems that in a world like this, we also have stopped resonating with and between ourselves. Yet, behind this dead quiet, the cars on the motorway are roaring louder and louder. The machine world seems to be the only thing that still grows as nature used to grow. The machine world threatens us. It intoxicates us.

2 The Concept of Landscape To clarify the concept of landscape, we must first look at the concept of nature. As Aristotle already taught us in his Physics, nature is that part of the world which has not been made by human beings but comes into existence and vanishes by virtue of itself. Artifacts are the opposites of nature in this sense; they are made by human beings. The distinction between nature and artifacts is polar or gradual (like the distinction between light and dark) and not binary or dichotomous (like the distinction between being pregnant and not pregnant); one cannot be a little bit pregnant, but it can be more or less light or dark. There is hardly any untouched nature on earth anymore. Most of what we call nature, the conservation of which we are concerned with, lies, in fact, between the extremes of pure nature and pure artifact. It is a mix of the natural and the artificial in which the natural aspect prevails. In nature, we can distinguish natural organisms and things (like plants and rocks) from larger natural units (like landscapes). Although most landscapes today are cultivated and not wild, they are not necessarily less beautiful; consider, for example, the garden-like English landscape. There is no sharp boundary between landscapes and gardens (or parks), as again England’s landscape gardens show. Gardens are, first, laid out for aesthetic enjoyment and in this respect they fall somewhere between art and nature; second, they usually surround a house and are themselves surrounded by a fence, so that they mediate between the house and the landscape. Landscapes are especially pertinent to the experience of natural resonance. This is because they are relatively free from human ends. Yet one can certainly

On Natural Resonance


also resonate with nature in gardens and parks, as well as with singular organisms and natural things. But let us focus here on landscapes. To understand landscapes as larger natural units is only one of many ways of understanding them. This modest, everyday understanding (2.1), which I opt for here, must be distinguished from two more demanding aesthetic ones (2.2 and 2.3). The reason why I prefer the first understanding will emerge in the next section (3).

2.1 Larger Natural Unit In twelfth-century Old High German, “lantscaf” denoted a larger natural area and its population. In fifteenth-century Netherlands, the term could also refer to a painting of a larger natural unit. Art historians still talk of landscapes in these terms. Today, the boundaries of landscapes are no longer political, as they were in the beginning, and as the German synonym “Gebiet” (from “gebieten” = to rule) makes explicit. As I suggest in the next section on “Stimmung”, for us it is atmosphere that constitutes the unity of landscapes.

2.2 Larger Natural Unit in Aesthetic Contemplation According to this aesthetic understanding, you encounter landscapes only when you attend to what is around you for its own sake. You do not experience landscapes when all you are looking for is recreation or research.

2.3 Larger Natural Unit in Autonomous Aesthetic Contemplation This even more demanding aesthetic understanding is closely associated with Joachim Ritter’s well-known article on landscape aesthetics (cf. Ritter 1974, see also Simmel 2007). For Ritter, the phenomenon of landscape begins with Petrarch’s ascent of Mont Ventoux in 1336, since in this excursion, and its literary reflection, Petrarch attended to nature as such and not only to nature as the book of God. Most contemporary landscape theorists, at least in Germany, follow Ritter (e. g. Seel 1991: 221).


Angelika Krebs

3 The Concept of “Stimmung” This section presents “Stimmung”, or atmosphere, as the unifying principle of landscapes, taking up a proposal that Georg Simmel made in his classic piece on the philosophy of landscape a hundred years ago. The German word “Stimmung” is untranslatable (arguably more untranslatable than “Heimat” where being at home at least comes close). “Stimmung” embraces three phenomena while its English and French counterparts (“mood”, “attunement”, “ambiance”, “humeur” or “atmosphère”) usually embrace only one or two. The three phenomena are harmony, mood, and atmosphere (cf. Wellbery 2003).

3.1 Harmony Being in tune or in harmony is the original sixteenth century meaning of “Stimmung”. Musical instruments were said to be in tune or integrated and ready to be played, and later, in the eighteenth century, the same was said about the faculties of the human soul. Immanuel Kant, in his Critique of Judgement, famously talks about the harmony (“proportionierte Stimmung”) of the faculties of imagination and understanding (“Einbildungskraft und Verstand”) in aesthetic contemplation.

3.2 Mood Moods belong to the sphere of mental human feeling; they are not just bodily feelings such as toothache, nausea or fatigue. In contrast to standard emotions (rage, sorrow or joy), which are directed at something or other in particular, moods (sadness or cheerfulness) have no specific objects, but are rather about life and the world at large. Moods integrate us. The musical metaphor of “Stimmung” as introduced in the last paragraph highlights the holistic character of moods. Moods synthesize what we feel into a more or less harmonious whole. They ensure that we hang together affectively and don’t fall to pieces. Nevertheless, there are times when we do fall to pieces, and in this sense, we are not always in a mood. There are two major kinds of moods: transitory (as in “moody”) and enduring. Unlike the connotation of “mood” in English, which privileges the first kind, “Stimmung” is wider and refers equally to the second kind. The so-called “be-

On Natural Resonance


ständige Lebensstimmungen” are longer lasting and more reliable or world-disclosing than the short-term and capricious “Launen” (see Bollnow 1995; Goldie 2000: chapter seven; and Ratcliffe 2008). Moods can be shared among human beings. Such inter-human or collective affects, be they the result of infection as in mass panic, or of true—that is, sympathetic or dialogical—sharing, are also called collective “atmospheres”. In addition to such inter-human atmospheres, there are also nonhuman atmospheres (which in turn can be shared by us via infection or sympathy, as will be explored later in section 5).

3.3 Atmosphere When nonhuman entities such as landscapes, cities, buildings or rooms are said to have an aura or an atmosphere, they are regarded not only as integrated wholes (as in 3.1) but also as full of feeling, e. g. full of peace or melancholy (as in 3.2). The atmospheres of landscapes change with the weather, the time of day and the season. These transitory atmospheres can be distinguished from the more enduring atmosphere, gestalt or character of landscapes. The character of landscapes depends on their physiognomy, climate and history. Both the enduring and the transitory atmospheres of landscapes are not merely subjective phenomena, even if subjective factors like personal memories and personal moods also play a role in actual landscape experience. Landscape character is the principle of unity behind the first, modest concept of landscape in section 2. As not all experiences of atmospheric larger natural units are aesthetic rather than hedonistic or scientific, the two more demanding, aesthetic concepts of landscape in section 2 do indeed seem too narrow. Where a large natural area loses its character through a natural catastrophe or human destruction, it lacks the unity necessary for being a landscape. It turns into an expressionless heterogeneity, into a non-place or landscape garbage. It does not turn into an ugly “landscape”. Ugly landscapes are the opposites of aesthetically attractive and, in this broad sense, beautiful landscapes. Not every landscape change amounts to landscape destruction though. The change can also be for the good. The Golden Gate Bridge, which spans the Golden Gate Strait between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean, might be an example of the latter. Still, much of what goes on around us does amount to landscape destruction.¹

 For a scientific study that documents landscape destruction look at Ewald/Klaus 2009. For an


Angelika Krebs

4 How Is “Stimmung” Infused into Landscape? Unlike human beings and many (other) animals, landscapes cannot feel anything in the literal sense. They do not have nervous systems. Nevertheless, we attribute moods such as peacefulness and melancholy to landscapes. (To a lesser degree, we also attribute bodily feelings, emotions, thoughts, and actions to landscapes.) The same holds for architectural units, for rooms, buildings, streets, neighborhoods and cities. It seems to hold also for artworks. Paintings, symphonies, poems and theatre plays all have their moods. They express moods (among other things) and do not merely, if they are both representational and expressive, represent them. Artworks and buildings—like landscapes—cannot feel anything in the literal sense. Why then do we attribute moods to them? On what basis? With what right? To repeat the question in Georg Simmel’s terms: “to what extent can the mood of a landscape be located within it, objectively, given that it is a mental state, and can thus reside alone in the emotional reflexes of the beholder and not in the unconscious external objects?” (Simmel 2007: 26 – 27) There are many philosophical responses to this question, including that the question is misconceived. It is advisable to start with this last response before looking at four major explanations of how landscapes “acquire” moods: the projective, the causal, the associative, and the metaphorical models. Phenomenologists such as Martin Heidegger, Otto Friedrich Bollnow, Hermann Schmitz, and Gernot Böhme maintain that asking how “Stimmung” is infused into landscape is the wrong question to ask. “Stimmung” is already out there. When we move in landscapes we enter their “Stimmungen”; the phenomenon of “Stimmung” lies before the divide between subject and world. Here is a quote from Otto Friedrich Bollnow’s classic Das Wesen der Stimmungen from 1941: In “Stimmung”, the world has not yet become an object, as it does afterwards in the later forms of consciousness, especially in knowing; rather, “Stimmungen” still live entirely in the unseparated unity of self and world, with a shared colouring of “Stimmung” pervading both. That is why it is also wrong to assign “Stimmung” solely to the subjective side and to assume that it then, in a sense, rubs off on the world. (Bollnow 1995: 39, my translation)

This might seem a tempting explanation, but can it really apply to adult human beings who experience “Stimmungen”? Can adults not differentiate between artistic exemplification, look at Müller’s set of pictures 1973, or listen to the passages 5 and 8 on the second cd of Peter Kurzeck’s audio book 2007.

On Natural Resonance


themselves and the world when they feel, for example, sad in a cheerful crowd, an amusing theatre play, a homely street, or a bright landscape? It seems they can and do. To be sure, when sad they might find it difficult to be open to, to realize, to attend to, or even to share to some extent the incongruous positive atmosphere around them. As with moods, strong emotions also have this tendency to spill over, to rub off on their surroundings. Their lack of exact fit is a price we have to pay for their immediacy. Throughout our lives, we work on improving this fit through “sentimental education”. Despite this somewhat irrational tendency in our moods and emotions, we can and do distinguish between them and the state of our surroundings. It therefore seems that Otto Friedrich Bollnow has too primitive an idea of “Stimmungen”. What he says about the undivided unity between self and world may hold for babies and for some animals, but it does not seem apposite for adults. Human beings might indeed begin their lives with what Sigmund Freud called the oceanic feeling of being one with the universe, and what Max Scheler and Maurice Merleau-Ponty referred to as identification or pre-communication. However, this primary unity must be distinguished from the differentiated unity that later develops upon its basis and that characterizes adult moods. While babies might just find themselves at home in or at one with the world, adults must open up to the atmosphere around them and make themselves at home. For adults, the issue of how moods permeate landscapes, buildings or artworks and how we respond to them remains a question. The transition from primary unity to adult self-world differentiation is gradual. As the psychiatrist Ulrich Gebhard reports in his 1994 study Kind und Natur (cf. Gebhard 1994), small children perceive both the natural and the artificial world around them according to themselves and their current states. At ages 6 to 7, a child still believes everything to have consciousness. At around the age of 8, this is limited to moving things; at around 11 it applies only to moving things; and finally at age 12 only to animals. Gebhard, in fact, believes that child-like animism never fully leaves us. According to him, adults still “feed off” of these past experiences of unity, and borders that are too rigid are damaging. When we reach old age, we often become like children again. As he sees it, our enlightened scientific worldview manages to conceal the magical with only a flimsy layer. As against Gebhard, I fear that we cannot have it both ways. We cannot both be scientifically literate and realize that landscapes are non-sentient, and yet believe that they are somehow sentient nevertheless. I thus conclude that we have to confront the question of how “Stimmung” is infused into landscape. Let us now turn to four major answers to this question.


Angelika Krebs

4.1 Projective Model This model harks back to our childhood, too. It differs from the preceding one in that first, it fully acknowledges the legitimacy of the question and, second, employs another psychological mechanism to account for moods in landscapes: projection instead of complete or partial unity. Richard Wollheim has worked out the projective model in some detail (cf. Wollheim 1993). For him, the mechanism of projection lies at the heart of the phenomenon of expression both in art and landscape. While we find expression in landscapes, in art it is created by the artists. As Wollheim explains, projection is an internal act that we carry out under instinctual guidance, when we are either in a mental state that we value (like love or curiosity) and that we see as under threat, or in a state that we dread (like cruelty or melancholy) and by which we find ourselves threatened. Anxiety alerts us to this situation and projection alters it, bringing us some relief from this anxiety. At the beginning of life, projection occurs in a totally haphazard fashion. Only later does it become more orderly and the parts of the environment upon which features are projected are selected because of their affinity to these feelings. In consequence, these parts of the environment are experienced as of a piece with these feelings. Wollheim understands landscape atmospheres as complex projective properties. We identify them through experiences that we have; in this regard they are like secondary properties, such as colors, which would not exist if no one was there to see them. But projective properties differ from such secondary properties in being not only perceptual but also affective, with the affection directed not merely towards what is in front of one but also towards some older and more dominant object. The experience intimates or reveals a history, sometimes its own, usually only the kind of projective history of how it might have arisen. Simple projection projects an unwelcome psychological property onto another figure with psychology, thereby changing primarily the beliefs about this figure, whereas complex projection projects an unwelcome psychological property onto an environment without psychology, thereby changing primarily our attitude and not our beliefs. Furthermore, the property itself is changed; the peaceful character of the landscape is experienced not as a state of mind that inheres in the landscape irrespective of ourselves, but as continuous with our own peacefulness, as of a piece with it. This is an ingenious proposal. Yet again it seems to be too much driven by childhood needs, and negative ones for that matter, being too concerned with child-like anxiety and its relief to do justice to the differentiated quality of adult moods and their experience of landscape atmospheres.

On Natural Resonance


4.2 Causal Model According to this much more straightforward model, a peaceful landscape only makes us feel peaceful. The landscape is not really peaceful itself. To call it peaceful is a loose manner of speaking, attributing back to it the feeling it has triggered in us. That landscapes have causal effects on us is beyond doubt. Johann Wolfgang Goethe, in his theory of colors for example, explored the psychological effects of colors, such as the soothing impact of the color green. Today, such causal effects are systematically used in light therapy against winter depression.

4.3 Associative Model This is another uncomplicated and popular model. It explains the peacefulness of a landscape by its power to make us think of something peaceful, because we connect it with something or it resembles something (like the face of a Saint Bernhard dog resembles a sad human face). But, again, the landscape is not really peaceful itself. The problem with both models, the causal as well as the associative, is that they fail to capture that the peaceful feeling is intimately related to the landscape. How the landscape looks, sounds or smells is integral to a full description of the feeling. Contrast this with a bottle of wine that makes you cheerful and reminds you of the good old days. To describe your cheerfulness, you do not need to talk about how the wine tastes. The peacefulness is in the landscape, whereas the cheerfulness is not in the wine. Causal effects and associations are too external to account for the “within-ness” or integrality of moods in landscapes.

4.4 Metaphorical Model According to this last model, landscapes can indeed be peaceful in themselves, but not in the literal sense. In recent aesthetics, Nelson Goodman, Jerrold Levinson and Roger Scruton explicated this model for the arts. In music, for example, Roger Scruton distinguishes three levels: the primary and physical level of vibrations in the air; the secondary and phenomenal level of heard sounds, “audibilia” that the deaf person cannot hear; and the tertiary and musical level of tones heard in the sounds. To hear tones in music moving up and down, attracting and repelling each other, striving forward and lingering, crying out and comfort-


Angelika Krebs

ing is to hear sounds through the metaphor of human life, of human movement in space, of human action and feeling. A metaphor is the deliberative application of a term or phrase to something that is known not to exemplify it, e. g. when Monday is called a blue day. By fusing dissimilar things, the thing’s aspect is changed, so that one responds to it in a different way. Hearing music, experiencing its moods, is metaphorical hearing. It is hearing with double intentionality, hearing both sounds and tones by hearing tones in sounds (cf. Scruton 1997). Following on from this understanding, landscape atmospheres can be understood as tertiary aspects like moods in music. Landscape atmospheres are as real as their colors and sounds on the secondary level, which in turn are as real as the light waves and the air vibrations on the primary level. As Roger Scruton puts it: Because we are subjects the world looks back at us with a questioning regard, and we respond by organizing and conceptualizing it in other ways than those endorsed by science. The world as we live it is not the world as science explains it, any more than the smile of the Mona Lisa is a smear of pigments on a canvas. But this lived world is as real as the Mona Lisa’s smile. (Scruton 2012: 128 – 129)

Babies and some animals neither experience atmospheres in this sense, nor do they see landscapes. They can only be said to feel atmospheres in the much simpler sense of primary (more or less porous) unity. Metaphorical experience, seeing x in terms of y, which it is not literally but which fits and reveals something about it, is a high achievement; it requires close attention and imagination. Poets are particularly skilled at this. They find “a magic word” and make “the world sing”—as Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff famously puts it. The metaphorical model bears some similarity to the projective model. Metaphors are also “projective”, but in a much more general sense than the anxietydriven psychoanalytic one employed in the projective model.

5 Some Basic Types of Experience In order to prepare the ground for the specifically aesthetic type of landscape experience, four more basic types should be distinguished: perception (or understanding), empathy (or vicarious/reproduced feeling), sympathy (or fellow feeling) and infection. The contemporary debate on empathy, in which “empathy” can mean any of these different phenomena, still needs to regain the conceptual standard that phenomenology reached at the beginning of the last century, most notably in the writings of Max Scheler and Edith Stein (see Scheler 1954; and Stein 1989; for a summary and elaboration of Scheler’s position, cf. Krebs 2011).

On Natural Resonance


5.1 Perception When we perceive that a landscape is peaceful, we remain affectively more or less neutral. We simply realize that it is peaceful (in the metaphorical sense). It does not require much attention or imagination to recognize the atmospheres of landscapes, as poetry and other creative arts have paved the way for us. We do not need to be aesthetically active ourselves to respond to landscapes, as Joachim Ritter and before him Georg Simmel seem to have thought (cf. 2.3).

5.2 Empathy When we empathize with a peaceful landscape, we move with its atmosphere, enacting it but not sharing it. As the example of cruelty makes it clear, empathy occupies an intermediate position between perception and sympathy. Cruel people are not sympathetic to the suffering of their victims, but they still need empathy in order to fully enjoy their victims’ pain.

5.3 Sympathy When we sympathize with a peaceful landscape, we move with its atmosphere and share it. We resonate emotionally, as we do when we listen to a favorite piece of music. Sympathy is an emotion in the full sense, including bodily feeling, cognitive evaluation and behavior, while empathy is “only” a vivid mode of cognitive understanding; although in certain cases empathy can lead to actual emotions, it does not necessarily do so. Sympathy comes in two variants: participatory sympathy and meta-sympathy. Only the first is relevant for landscapes. In the second, we are sad about the sadness or bad situation of another, but we do not accompany her through her sadness as in the first variant.

5.4 Infection When we are infected by a peaceful landscape, we are swayed by its atmosphere. Infection is causal while perception, empathy and sympathy are intentional; they are directed towards the expressive quality of the landscape. In being directed towards an “other”, they presuppose some distance between self and other.


Angelika Krebs

Infection is not alert to this distance. Infection is relevant for mental health and wellness, but in itself it is not an aesthetic phenomenon.²

6 Aesthetic Resonance This final section spells out how resonating aesthetically with landscape atmospheres can make us feel at home in the world. It distinguishes between stronger and weaker understandings. While beauty, especially functional beauty, allows for feeling perfectly at home, sublimity affords only a partial or ambivalent version. Aesthetic landscape experience involves not only attending to landscapes closely, perceiving their atmosphere (5.1) and empathizing with it (5.2), but also entering it and sharing it (5.3) for its own sake. In stressing the “intrinsicness” of aesthetic experience, as well as the distance that is constituent of sympathy (as it is directed towards an “other”), this understanding is reminiscent of Kant’s aesthetics, even if his aesthetics is much colder than that. As John Dewey, among many others, observes, sympathetic emotions play no role in it: “To define the emotional element of esthetic perception merely as the pleasure taken in the act of contemplation, independent of what is excited by the matter contemplated, results, however, in a thoroughly anemic conception of art.” (Dewey 2005: 264) Instead of aesthetic contemplation, I therefore prefer to speak of aesthetic “resonance”. (I will elaborate on the physical metaphor of resonance below.) Still, in tandem with Kant, it is important to distinguish between aesthetic experience on the one hand, and physiological and psychological (for example, hedonistic) impact or effect, on the other. This fundamental point is also stressed by Ludwig Wittgenstein in his 1938 Lectures on Aesthetics. Wittgenstein argues that aesthetic reactions—like the discomfort one might feel when a door is too low or a musical passage is incoherent, and the appreciation one might feel when a suit is the right length or a poetic image is precise—are “directed”; there is a “why” to aesthetic reactions, not a “cause” to them. Aesthetics is not “a branch of psychology” (LA 1966: 14, 17).

 Many nature activities combine health and wellness with aesthetics. Think of hiking in the mountains or swimming in the sea. In such combined nature activities, nature is not replaceable by a gym. This irreplaceability adds force to the aesthetic argument for nature conservation. Still, the (replaceable) health and wellness effects of nature are of immense importance too. “Feeling at home” in nature is often due to these effects. Nevertheless, it is not this kind of feeling at home in nature that is explored here.

On Natural Resonance


The main thesis of my paper about how aesthetically attractive landscapes can make us feel at home in the world does not concern causal impact or effect. Rather, it concerns the quality of the aesthetic experience itself, which can include, as a by-product, the mood of feeling at home. Like all intrinsic activities, aesthetic sympathetic attention or resonance is accompanied by pleasure. Georg Henrik von Wright calls this kind of pleasure “active pleasure” and contrasts it with, first, “passive pleasure” such as the good taste of an apple, and, second, the “pleasure of satisfaction”, that is, the feeling we have when we get what we want (cf. Wright 1993: 63 – 65). It is an intricate philosophical problem as to whether active pleasure (as an overall feeling, which might also involve some struggle and suffering, such as in the process of artistic creation), is a conceptually necessary and defining element of all that is done for its own sake or whether it is only typical of it. What is clear, however, is that we cannot intentionally induce active pleasure. It arises only when we are absorbed in the activity and forget about our daily worries. It is a by-product of the activity. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has popularized the notion of the self-forgetful drive, which characterizes active pleasure as flow. Csikszentmihalyi presents empirical findings to show how, in some particularly successful cases of actively pleasant intrinsic activities, the subjects become aware of themselves as part of a larger whole. As he sees it, there is nothing esoteric or metaphysical in this: “When a person invests all her psychic energy into an interaction—whether it is with another person, a boat, a mountain, or a piece of music—she in effect becomes part of a system of action greater than what the individual self had been before.” (Csikszentmihalyi 1990: 65) Because of its holistic direction, this feeling of differentiated unity or being at home can be regarded as a mood. In contrast, mere active pleasure or flow seems to be “only” a non-intentional bodily feeling. To sum up, the affective quality of aesthetic experience highlighted so far lies in sympathy and in flow on the one hand plus, in some cases, the feeling of being at home on the other. The physical metaphor of resonance underlines this affective quality. However, the metaphor of resonance might be misleading in at least three ways. First, physical resonance occurs when one object vibrates with another at the same or a similar natural frequency, e. g. when the G- and D-strings of a violin vibrate with a G-major chord on a piano. This is a causal phenomenon, whereas aesthetic resonance is first and foremost intentional sympathy.³

 The metaphor of resonance therefore also fits non-aesthetic human phenomena such as being infected by laughter or crying, which could be called “causal resonances”. Other types of reso-


Angelika Krebs

Second, physical resonance is not only causal but also instantaneous; aesthetic resonance, in contrast, requires a “gymnastics of attention” (to borrow a phrase from Roger Scruton). It takes time and effort; only sometimes, in learnt spontaneity, does it occur instantaneously. We can distinguish the immediate seizure by an aesthetic atmosphere from the discrimination that sets in afterwards, which may or may not validate the first immediate impression. This first impression is directed and is not to be confused with infection. Third, physical resonance tends to be bilateral (and even amplifying: think of the famous example of marching soldiers collapsing a bridge). Not only does the violin resonate with the piano, the piano resonates back with the violin. This has led Hartmut Rosa to conceptualize resonance in general, including aesthetic resonance, as a mutual phenomenon. For him, resonance is not an echo relation, but a response relation; it requires that both parties speak with their own voices. In aesthetic resonance, as he has it, not only do we respond to the world, the world also responds to us (cf. Rosa 2016: 298). This mutual concept of aesthetic resonance, however, slips into metaphysics, as nature does not respond to us in any literal sense. To distinguish Rosa’s concept from mine, his would better be called “rosanence”. What Rosa might have in mind is the Eichendorffian phenomenon of the magic word, which sounds the song that sleeps in all things. Soberly understood, this phenomenon is nothing but our feeling that our metaphors fit the world. We create our metaphors but we cannot create the fit. The fit must happen by itself. If it does, it feels as if the world responds to us and begins to sing.

6.1 Beauty Landscapes are beautiful, in the broad sense, when they invite and reward intrinsic sympathetic attention or resonance. Their appeal, similar to the appeal of everything that is beautiful, is not limited to some of us, but open to all. Aesthetic landscape resonance is not just a subjective preference, as travel guides and art criticism prove. It is a universally accessible form that the desire for beauty can take. The desire for beauty is an anthropological constant. Fulfilling this desire in one way or another is an important part of the good human life. As mornance are “biographical resonance” (when you feel at home in your neighborhood) and “social resonance” (when you are in harmony with certain people, sharing activities, emotions and moods with them). In his book Resonanz (2016), Hartmut Rosa investigates all these types. See also his earlier book Social Acceleration (2013), which views social acceleration as a “resonance killer”.

On Natural Resonance


ality requires respect for the essentials of the good life of all human beings, conserving beauty is a moral obligation. How beautiful landscapes and other beautiful objects or ensembles manage to lure and satisfy us is, of course, the central question of aesthetics. Classical answers stress symmetry, harmony or unity in diversity. Modern answers focus on the experiencing subject. According to the Kantian answer, beautiful objects or ensembles bring our faculties of understanding and imagination into free play. This intellectual Kantian model should at least be complemented by the idea of a “free play of sympathy”. It is not only our cognitive faculties that are attracted and challenged by beauty but also our affective powers. Beauty does not only make us think about many things, it also makes us feel many things. It makes us open up and grow both rationally and emotionally. Do the atmospheric and the beautiful then amount to the same thing (at least for beautiful landscapes and expressive art)? Not necessarily. Something might have a strong positive or negative atmosphere in the sense of an overwhelming impact, infecting us but not inviting us to attend to and sympathize with it for its own sake. Kitsch could be an example of this. We might formulate this point differently: what is merely atmospheric has an atmosphere, while what is beautiful expresses an atmosphere. If we put the point like this we would, however, be employing a weak notion of expression that would allow us to say that beautiful landscapes express atmospheres. We could not limit the notion of expression to artworks that admittedly are expressive in a different and deeper sense than landscapes. Expressive art is a kind of communication. It has a message. It pursues meaning. It articulates, explores and meditates on human concepts in a structure all of its own. Expressiveness in art is an achievement. This does not hold for landscapes. Compared with art, the expressiveness of landscapes is a superficial phenomenon. Still, landscape beauty is special and cannot be replaced by other kinds of beauty. If it were replaceable, nothing much would follow from the aesthetic argument in terms of landscape conservation. One reason why landscape beauty is special is that we experience landscapes synaesthetically and feel them with all our senses, not only with our eyes and ears, which are more capable of aesthetic distance than our noses, tongues and fingers are. We even move around in landscapes. Sensual feeling and, yes, infection is part and parcel of aesthetic landscape experience. We can thus add infection to the affective aspects of aesthetic landscape experience outlined so far, which include sympathy, flow and feeling at home. Infection serves to increase the immersive effect of beautiful landscapes, so that we may feel at home in them, both sensually and aesthetically. Yet, beautiful landscapes are irreplaceable first and foremost because they fulfill our conscious or unconscious longing to be part of, and not alienated from, the


Angelika Krebs

natural world, the world that is just there, that comes into being and vanishes by virtue of itself. Beautiful landscapes heal the rift between subject and nature, both the nature out there and the nature in us. Living in harmony with nature in this sense is more than an enriching option for a good life; it is an essential part of human flourishing. Here is Otto Friedrich Bollnow once more: It is disastrous when humans live in the stony deserts of cities, in rooms that more often than not are fully air-conditioned, and are scarcely affected anymore by the changing seasons. For this reason, it is extremely important that humans experience the rhythms of nature as well as the rhythms that order their own lives, that they feel the pauses and slow down for them, and then respond to the reawakening of life in the spring with all their energy, experiencing it as a radical renewal. But this can only occur in the intense experience of the sprouting green of nature. As Hölderlin writes in his lovely verses, the “holy green” “refreshes” us and transforms us into youths again. (Bollnow 1988: 55, my translation)

Beautiful landscapes teach us how to “dwell on earth”, Bollnow continues, following Martin Heidegger (cf. Heidegger 2013). They give us a sense of place and make us honor it.

6.2 Sublimity There are stronger and weaker forms of feeling at home in nature. So far I have mainly talked about the strongest one, perfect sympathetic coordination, which feels like unity. Often, however, we succeed only partially in our attempt at sympathetically moving with something. Our failure need not be due to ourselves; it could also be due to the landscape. The classical distinction between the beautiful and the sublime is relevant here. For our purposes, it can be reconstructed as follows: Only the beautiful (now in a more limited sense than before and no longer synonymous with “aesthetically attractive”) allows us to be fully taken up in it. The sublime, in its infinite extent and power, entices us to sympathetically move with it, too. The subject enjoys participating in its magnitude and strength. However, the subject also feels painfully reminded of her own insignificance and vulnerability. The sublime confronts us with a tension between a celebration of the landscape and self-negation. Still, insofar as the sublime appeals to us and invites us to partially move with it, neither leaving us cold nor threatening us ex-

On Natural Resonance


istentially, it is possible to talk about feeling at home, in a weaker sense, in sublime nature too (cf. Cochrane 2012).⁴

6.3 Functional Beauty A third understanding of feeling at home in nature opens up when we attend to the landscape that surrounds us not as such, but in relation to ourselves, that is, in its functionality for our own good. In Kantian terminology, the latter kind of experience is directed at the “dependent” beauty of the landscape and not at its “pure” beauty. A landscape that looks as if it affords a good human life is beautiful in the functional sense. It is ugly if it doesn’t. Thus, contrary to “positive aesthetics”, there is a sense in which nature can be ugly (for positive aesthetics see Carlson 2000; and Budd 2002). In functionally beautiful landscapes we feel at home, not only because they have a pleasant physiological and psychological impact on us, but also because they indicate, by the way they look, sound and smell, that they can support human life and provide for its needs. Evolutionary aesthetics, which traces our sense for beauty back to our sense for landscapes with a high survival value for our species, like the savannah, finds a limited justification here (see Dutton 2009).⁵

Bibliography Bollnow, Otto Friedrich (1988): Zwischen Philosophie und Pädagogik. Aachen: O.F. Weitz. Bollnow, Otto Friedrich (1995): Das Wesen der Stimmungen. Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann. Budd, Malcolm (2002): The Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Carlson, Allen (2000): Aesthetics and the Environment. London: Routledge. Cochrane, Tom (2012): “The Emotional Experience of the Sublime”. In: Canadian Journal of Philosophy 42. No. 2, pp. 125 – 148. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990): Flow. New York: Harper & Row. Dewey, John (2005): Art as Experience. London: Perigree. Dutton, Denis (2009): The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

 As the example of the Alps famously shows, only existential threat and sublimity exclude each other.  For an indication of how the aesthetic case for natural conservation is embedded in the large and diverse field of major environmentalist arguments, cf. Krebs 1999; a shorter, German version is: Krebs 1997.


Angelika Krebs

Ewald, Klaus/Klaus, Gregor (2009): Die ausgewechselte Landschaft: Vom Umgang der Schweiz mit ihrer wichtigsten natürlichen Ressource. Bern: Haupt. Gebhard, Ulrich (1994): Kind und Natur. Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag. Goldie, Peter (2000): The Emotions. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Heidegger, Martin (2013): “Building Dwelling Thinking”. In: Martin Heidegger: Poetry, Language, Thought. New York: Harper, pp. 141 – 160. Krebs, Angelika (1997): “Naturethik im Überblick”. In: Angelika Krebs (Ed.): Naturethik: Grundtexte der gegenwärtigen tier- und ökoethischen Diskussion. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, pp. 337 – 379. Krebs, Angelika (1999): Ethics of Nature: A Map. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter. Krebs, Angelika (2011): “The Phenomenology of Shared Feeling”. In: Appraisal 8, pp. 35 – 50. Kurzeck, Peter (2007): Ein Sommer, der bleibt. Berlin: suppose. (audio book) Kurzeck, Peter (2012): Als Gast. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer. Müller, Jörg (1973): Alle Jahre wieder saust der Presslufthammer nieder. Aarau: Sauerländer. Ratcliffe, Matthew (2008): Feelings of Being. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ritter, Joachim (1974): Subjektivität. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Rosa, Hartmut (2013): Social Acceleration. New York: Columbia University Press. Rosa, Hartmut (2016): Resonanz. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Scheler, Max (1954): The Nature of Sympathy. New Haven: Yale University Press. Scruton, Roger (1997): The Aesthetics of Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Scruton, Roger (2012): The Face of God. London: Continuum. Seel, Martin (1991): Eine Ästhetik der Natur. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Simmel, Georg (2007): “The Philosophy of Landscape”. In: Theory, Culture and Society 24. No. 7 – 8, pp. 20 – 29. Stein, Edith (1989): On the Problem of Empathy. Washington: ICS Publications. Wellbery, David (2003): “Stimmung”. In: Karlheinz Barck/Martin Fontius/Dieter Schlenstedt/Burkhart Steinwachs/Friedrich Wolfzettel (Ed.): Ästhetische Grundbegriffe 5. Stuttgart, Weimar: Metzler, pp. 703 – 733. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1966): Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. Cyril Barrett (Ed.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (LA) Wollheim, Richard (1993): “Correspondence, Projective Properties, and Expression in the Arts”. In: Richard Wollheim: The Mind and its Depths. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, pp. 144 – 158. Wright, Georg Henrik von (1993): The Varieties of Goodness. Bristol: Thoemmes Press.

Wolfgang Welsch

“Be Free as I Am” Schiller’s Aesthetics as a Challenge to the Modern Way of Thinking Abstract: This paper evaluates Schiller’s idea of beauty as “freedom in appearance,” as brought forward in his Kallias or On Beauty (1793), against the backdrop of modern thinking that based itself on a fundamental split between nature and freedom, world and man. Schiller’s claim that natural beauty results from freedom in nature bridges this gap. His suggestion is confirmed by modern science. Schiller’s view will be recommended and defended as a way of escaping modern bigotry and to articulate the commonality between humans and other entities.

1 Introductory Considerations 1.1 An Implicit Suggestion of Aesthetics in the Modern Era: World-Connectedness, Not Unworldliness of Man In the first half of the 1770s, Kant wrote a very interesting phrase: “Beautiful things indicate that man fits into the world.” (Refl.Log.: 1820a)¹ If this statement is true, then aesthetics, as exploring beautiful things, has a chance to gain firstrate importance for modern thought. Aesthetics, then, has the potential to treat and even overcome the fundamental error on which the modern and still contemporary way of thinking is based, namely the assumption that there exists an unbridgeable gap between humans and the world—a gap stemming from the fact that world and man belong to completely different orders: res extensa on the part of the world, and res cogitans on the part of the human.² This was the fundamental novelty that developed with early modern thought: that the world is in no way tinted by spirit but radically spiritless and determined only by extension, matter, and purely mechanical laws—while humans were still considered to be characterized by rationality and thinking.  “Die Schöne Dinge zeigen an, dass der Mensch in die Welt passe” (Kant Refl.Log.: 1820a). According to Adickes, this reflection dates from 1771– 72 or, perhaps, from 1773 – 75.  A first version of this paper is to be found in: Welsch 2014. A German version is to be found in: Welsch 2016: 49 – 62. DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-002


Wolfgang Welsch

This led to the allegedly fundamental gap between humans and the world, the notorious human-world dualism so typical for modern thought. In the face of an intrinsically spiritless world, the human, as an intrinsically spiritual being, could only be an unworldly being.³ Due to this putative heterogeneity between humans and the world, humans were supposed to only be able to refer to a world according to their imagination and in no way to recognize the real world. The human relationship to the world became constructivist on principle, not realistic; just think of Kant’s theoretical philosophy. Since then, modern thought pursues a fundamental subjectivism— no matter whether it has a transcendental or historicist or social face. In its standard agenda, modern philosophy acts out its subjectivist birthmark from the time of Kant through to contemporary analytic philosophy. The subterranean agenda of modern philosophy, however, consisted in correcting and overcoming this dualism and in developing, instead of a dichotomy between humans and the world, a new grasp of the worldliness of humans. But for a long time all attempts to achieve this were doomed to failure. Perhaps the transition succeeds only in our day (cf. Welsch 2012c). Aesthetics, an apparently random discipline of philosophy, operates—if the Kantian statement quoted at the beginning is true—in its own way on the extremely important task of demonstrating that humans fit into the world. This is what I want to make clear in the following sections by taking a fresh look at Schiller’s aesthetic considerations.

1.2 The Task of Aesthetics according to Kant and How Kant Failed to Fulfill It Because of His Subjectivist Attitude But let us, for the moment, consider Kant one more time. As I said, pre-critical Kant had, in the first half of the 1770s, understood beauty as a phenomenon that, in contrast to the standard view of duality, provides evidence of our congruence with the world. The critical Kant, however, began to elaborate the logic of dualism. In his Critique of Pure Reason (1781), he showed that the physical world represents a strictly lawful nexus of appearances following the principles of the pure understanding. In his Critique of Practical Reason (1788), he then explained how, for humans as moral beings, not this physical order but the very different order of freedom is crucial. From this arose the big question of how these two

 I have explained this in great detail in Welsch 2012c. An abbreviated version is to be found in Welsch 2012b.

Schiller’s Aesthetics as a Challenge to the Modern Way of Thinking


orders can go together, and how, in particular, acts of freedom can be executed in a deterministic world. In this problem the dualism of modern thought appears in concise form. Kant tried to provide a solution in his Critique of Judgment (1790) and in this sense designated this third critique as “mediating the connection of the two parts of philosophy to a whole.” (CJ: 15) The phenomenon of beauty, on the one hand, and that of the organic, on the other hand, should make possible “a transition […] from the domain of the concepts of nature to the domain of the concept of freedom” (CJ: 19) and thus testify that we are entitled to assume a congruence between our rational expectations and the structure of the world. In this way, we should be assured that we humans are not, as the standard assumption of modern thought stated, fundamental strangers to the world, but, as Kant had written twenty years earlier, readily “fit into the world.” However, the way that Kant spelled out this role of the beautiful was unfortunate. He emphasized the subjectivity of the judgment of taste far too much. Stressing subjectivity is generally the flaw of his philosophical conceptions, especially of his theory of knowledge, where all claims to objectivity are reduced to the fulfillment of subjective demands. Correspondingly, the aesthetic joy of beauty should also result solely from the fulfillment of our general cognitive intention, which is to achieve a harmony of imagination and understanding.⁴ But arguing in this way, Kant obviously lost the trait which, according to his earlier thinking, should be decisive for beauty, that is, the experience of a congruence with the world. Beauty when construed in merely subjectivist terms only allows for experiencing the congruence of powers of the subject, not for experiencing a congruence of the subject with the world. What Kant generally lacks, in epistemology as in aesthetics, is a look at the reverse side, at the descent of our cognitive patterns. Where did we get them from? Why are they the way they are?⁵ The answer is not difficult. These patterns developed in the course of evolution in conjunction with the world. Therefore,  “[…] the way of presenting [which occurs] in a judgment of taste is to have subjective universal communicability without presupposing a determinate concept; hence this subjective universal communicability can be nothing but [that of] the mental state in which we are when imagination and understanding are in free play (insofar as they harmonize with each other as required for cognition in general). For we are conscious that this subjective relation suitable for cognition in general must hold just as much for everyone, and hence be just as universally communicable, as any determinate cognition, since cognition always rests on that relation as its subjective condition. Now this merely subjective (aesthetic) judging of the object, or of the presentation by which it is given, precedes the pleasure in the object and is the basis of this pleasure, [a pleasure] in the harmony of the cognitive powers.” (CJ: B 29, § 9)  Cf. on Kant’s extremely hesitant approach to these questions: Welsch 2012c: 667– 70.


Wolfgang Welsch

the world is already inscribed in them. Consequently, there exists a fit between these patterns and the structure of the world, and this is the very reason why our categories match reality and why beauty, being equally based on such patterns, lets us experience that we “fit into the world.” Not being aware of this wordly foundation of our basic patterns, critical Kant was unable to present the beautiful as a phenomenon that demonstrates that we fit into the world. Therefore, the Critique of Judgment, in its execution, did not achieve what it was intended to do: exhibit the correspondence of human and world. As I have said, subjectivism is the general crux of Kantian philosophy. His successors, however, have initially seen subjectivism mainly as an achievement and not as a problem and have even increased that perspective, especially Fichte and the early Romantics. Only a few opposed this tendency and considered subjectivism, at most, half the truth. Paradigmatically so did Hegel. He scolded the subjective idealism initiated by Kant as a “flat,” “silly,” even “philistine” idealism (W8: 123; W17: 445; W20: 385). Hegel’s whole effort was to get beyond this “bad idealism of modern times.” (W18: 405; cf. 440) Goethe, too, lamented in his later years: “My whole time departed from me, for it was completely engaged in a subjective direction, whereas I, with my objective quest, was at a disadvantage and stood completely alone.” (MA 19: 101)

2 Schiller: Beauty and Freedom Let us now turn to Schiller. He, too, shared the discomfort with Kantian subjectivism. He insisted, on the contrary, on beauty’s objectivity. What is particularly interesting is the way how Schiller tried to demonstrate this objectivity. He did so by connecting beauty to freedom. Beauty, according to Schiller’s famous formula, is “freedom in appearance.” If this formula holds water, then one can say in advance that the problem of the Critique of Judgment dissolves, for a nature that produces beauty already contains traits of freedom. Hence the realization of human freedom amidst nature is no problem at all; rather, freedom represents a continuous factor between the world and the human. Let us now see in detail how Schiller makes this plausible. I am referring to letters he wrote to his friend Gottfried Körner in 1793, letters which he gave the title Callias or on Beauty. ⁶ In my opinion, these letters are of utmost importance,

 For the English translation of Schiller’s text, I have, where possible (and with occasional cor-

Schiller’s Aesthetics as a Challenge to the Modern Way of Thinking


much more than the far more famous Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man published in 1795.⁷

2.1 Regularity, Freedom and Beauty In these letters, Schiller first states that we experience those natural things as beautiful whose formation is based on a rule. When regarding a leaf, for example, we get the impression that the manifold parts of the leaf could achieve their artful arrangement only by following a rule. (SW 5: February 23, 1793) If this orderliness were to disappear, we would no longer judge the leaf as beautiful. So the experience of beauty is based on the impression of regularity. Second, the rule must not be imposed on the object from the outside but stem from the object itself, it must be a rule, “which ‘the object’ has imposed on itself.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793) One has to have the impression that the rule and the corresponding formation have “flown freely from the thing itself.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793) The object must, in other words, appear as self-regulated, as free.⁸ If both conditions are fulfilled, that is, if we perceive the object as following a rule imposed by itself, then we experience it as beautiful. Therefore, the experience of beauty registers freedom. Beauty is an indicator of freedom.⁹ This is

rections), used KL; otherwise it is my own translation. Credits refer to the following German edition of the text: SW 5: 394– 433.  Unfortunately, the Callias Letters were published only in 1847. This is why the common view of Schiller’s aesthetics is far more shaped by the Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man published already in 1795 by Schiller himself in his journal Die Horen. Originally, Schiller had written these letters, too, in 1793. But they were destroyed by fire, and when Schiller rewrote them in 1795 he made considerable alterations. The dominance of these letters over the Callias Letters in the reception of Schiller’s aesthetics is extremely regrettable. While the Callias Letters were indeed pioneering, Schiller went, during his rewriting of the Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, more and more astray (for example with his plea for a “war against matter” (23nd Letter)) and ended with the completely dissatisfying result that “the state of beautiful appearance does indeed exist in every fine-tuned soul as a requirement”, but that in reality is to be found at most “in some exquisite circles” (27th Letter).  The impression that the formation of the object follows a self-imposed rule leads “quite necessarily to the idea of internal determination, i. e. freedom.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793) The object “compels” us to “be attentive to its property of not being determined from the outside.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793)  “[…] the objective trait that enables things to appear as free is precisely what, when present, provides them with beauty and, when absent, destroys their beauty.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793)


Wolfgang Welsch

why Schiller can define beauty famously as “freedom in appearance.”¹⁰ This formula does not have a restrictive meaning. Schiller does not want to say (in the wake of Kant) that, in the case of beauty, freedom occurs only in the improper form of a phenomenon (whereas, in its essence, freedom is something intelligible) but he wants to express that freedom is actually appearing, is coming to the fore, manifesting itself, is becoming evident. Beauty is real experience of freedom via perception.¹¹

2.2 Objectivity It is important for Schiller that his explanation of the perception of beauty as freedom guarantees, contrary to Kant, the objectivity of beauty. The objectivity is grounded on the fact that the regularity, which is the testimony of freedom and simultaneously the reason of beauty, is an objective trait of the object itself, belonging to it regardless of whether we perceive it or not.¹² Hence it is subjectindependent, a truly objective trait.

2.3 Freedom Everywhere: “In the Aesthetic World Each Natural Being Is a Free Citizen” Schiller, then, makes two moves. First, he unmasks the experience of beauty as an experience of freedom. We call those objects beautiful that demonstrate freedom. Second, he transfers the character of freedom from the human sphere into the natural world; he sees it occur already there. The experience of beauty leads us beyond anthropic strettos; freedom is by no means just a human trait but already a natural phenomenon. Schiller develops a general ontology of free-

 “So Beauty is nothing other than freedom in appearance.” (SW 5: February 8, 1793) “The reason of beauty is everywhere freedom in appearance.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793)  By the way, for Schiller (as for Kant), it is first of all natural beauty that matters, not the beauty of art. The latter one “demands its very own chapter.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793)  Schiller emphasizes that “this nature and this heautonomy are objective qualities of the objects to which I ascribe them; because they remain theirs, even if the representing subject is completely subtracted. The difference between two beings of nature, of which the one is total shape and shows a perfect domination of the living force about the mass, while the other one has been subjugated by its mass, remains, even after complete suspension of the judging subject.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793)

Schiller’s Aesthetics as a Challenge to the Modern Way of Thinking


dom comprising not only the sphere of human action but also the realm of things, of natural, as well as, cultural entities. To quote a longer passage: Beauty, or rather taste, regards all things as ends in themselves and by no means tolerates that one serves the other as means, or bears the yoke. In the aesthetical world, every natural being is a free citizen, who has equal rights with the most noble, and may not even be compelled for the sake of the whole, but rather must absolutely consent to everything. (SW 5: February 23, 1793)¹³

So Schiller suggests an extension of freedom. He expands its occurrence beyond human morality to nature and artifacts. Aesthetically, one will discover freedom everywhere: The “taste”—to repeat this phrase—will consider “all [my emphasis] things as ends in themselves.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793) The whole of nature is a realm of freedom. And here comes the decisive remark: “Every beautiful creature of nature ‘is’ a happy citizen who calls out to me: Be free like I am.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793) So freedom is already a natural phenomenon before being a human property. Accordingly, each natural being is to be recognized and to be respected as a “free citizen.” The difference between human and nature is not the difference between freedom and unfreedom, rather both possess freedom. Everything is, strictly speaking, an instance of freedom. That freedom is not a human privilege but already a natural fact, is what the aesthetic experience discovers and strongly recommends us to take into account. But there is more. The utterly unusual (and, if I am not mistaken, always overlooked or ignored) trait of Schiller’s aesthetics in the Callias Letters is that Schiller regards the existing natural beauty due to its character of freedom even as a model for us humans. We humans—this is the idea of the Callias Letters—ought to become in the future as free as the natural things already are. The primordial source of freedom is not the human world, but nature. In nature  Schiller continues: “In the aesthetical world, which is entirely different from the most perfect Platonic republic, even the jacket, which I carry on my body, demands respect from me for its freedom, and desires from me, like an ashamed servant, that I let no one notice that it serves me. For that reason, however, it also promises me, reciprocally, to employ its freedom so modestly that mine suffers nothing thereby; and when both keep their word, so will the whole world say that I be beautifully dressed. If the jacket strains, on the other hand, then do we both, the coat and I, lose our freedom. For this reason do all quite tight and quite loose kinds of clothing have equally little beauty; for not considering, that both limit the freedom of movements, so the body in tight clothing shows its figure only at the expense of the clothes, and with loose clothing the coat conceals the figure of the body, in that it blows itself up with its own figure and diminishes its master to its mere bearer.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793)


Wolfgang Welsch

many things are already free. We humans, however, have yet to become free beings. And we can learn this from nature. Nature invites us outright to become free. Nature is a permanent appeal for freedom directed towards us. To quote Schiller’s phrase again: “Every beautiful creature of nature outside of me ‘is’ a happy citizen who calls out to me: Be free like I am.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793) This view of Schiller is extremely unusual. Not only because it confers freedom already to nature, but because it considers the natural freedom even as a model and as an appeal for the development of human freedom. Freedom stems not from man, but from nature. Nature—not a philosopher, not a politician or a fantasist—urges us to become free!

2.4 Aesthetic Illusion or Actual Freedom? In order to conclude this exposition of Schiller’s aesthetics, I want to address two closely related questions. What does the philosophy of freedom developed in the Callias Letters look like compared to the later Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man? And does Schiller really take freedom to be an objective property of natural things (or at least of the beautiful things in nature), or does he just want us to regard them as figures of freedom, although in reality they are not?¹⁴ Is the “kingdom of taste” (SW 5: February 23, 1793) sketched in the Callias Letters in the end just a realm of illusion, as is the case with the “aesthetic state” (Aesth.Ed.: 27th Letter) proclaimed in the Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man? The difference between the two conceptions is substantial. In the Callias Letters, Schiller does not restrict himself, as he will do in the Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, to the human world, and much less to “only a few select circles,” (Aesth.Ed.: 27th Letter) but he addresses freedom precisely insofar as it reaches beyond the human realm. And, most importantly, he understands and recommends freedom not merely as appearance or as a regulative idea or the like. He does not mean that one should just regard natural things as forms of freedom, though in fact they are not. Instead, he is convinced that every beautiful natural object is an instance of freedom.

 Though, in the wake of Kant, Schiller says, “that no thing in the sensual world really possesses freedom, but only apparently does so”, (SW 5: February 23, 1793) he nevertheless pleads for the objectivity of beauty, and his argument runs as follows: “[…] how can one look for an objective reason for this idea in the phenomena? This objective reason would have to consist in a quality of the phenomena that absolutely compels us to bring forth the idea of freedom in us and to refer it to the object.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793) So Schiller is looking for a path towards the objectivity of beauty unimpaired by Kantian objections.

Schiller’s Aesthetics as a Challenge to the Modern Way of Thinking


3 Assessment of Schiller’s Conception Let us now turn to an assessment of Schiller’s position. Is it tenable?

3.1 “Freedom” The first question concerns Schiller’s understanding of freedom. He sees freedom in place wherever the shape of a natural object is caused by a self-imposed rule. The leaf was a case in point. But is Schiller’s view accurate that in the case of natural beauty the self-activity of the object is indeed decisive for its shape? It would surely be an exaggeration to say that the shape results exclusively from such internal activity; it goes without saying that external factors—such as environmental conditions—also play a role. But the decisive point is that there exists an interaction in which the shape drive of the object itself also has its part. A beautifully grown tree has certainly also been lucky: he got enough nutrients from the soil, he was not forced by permanent winds into an inclined position, and the other trees granted him enough distance and light to grow. But these conditions alone have not made him, but his own drive for developing, as it is inscribed into his nature (or, in more contemporary terminology: into his genome) has made him in cooperation with the environmental conditions. A beautifully grown tree is also a product of its own activity. One might want to object: As the self-formation of the tree is governed by the genome, the tree is in turn subject to a dictate—only this time not an outer but an inner dictate, the dictate of the species, which is effective in the tree in the form of the genome. So the formation of the tree is not the result of an individual creative will, but of a dictation of the species—and insofar no genuine self-activity is in the game. But firstly: the genome of a species has developed in lengthy evolutionary processes, and these processes included moments of freedom. Rules that today are genetically anchored are nevertheless self-engendered rules: the species has developed them in tune with external conditions. In this respect, the genome is also a sediment of freedom. And secondly: in the individuals of the species, the common genome is brought to bear in different ways. Gene expression, again, includes moments of freedom. Two trees may have the same genome, but in their individual growing different things arise—so Schiller is quite right when attributing freedom to organic beings.¹⁵  Similarly, already Aristotle had emphasized in his exposition of nature that natural things


Wolfgang Welsch

3.2 Is Everything Natural Beautiful? But this leads directly to another problem. Schiller’s view of freedom can be applied to all organic beings, but we experience not all, but only some of them as beautiful. If our sense of beauty were, as Schiller suggests, generally caused by the perception of self-formation, then we would have to experience every organic entity as beautiful. But we don’t. The best answer to this objection is, it seems to me, the following. Schiller envisages a type of beauty (and increasingly this one alone) that is essentially an indicator of freedom. All that matters to him is to discover traits of freedom, and wherever he recognizes them he speaks of beauty. This is why he would, for example, consider a huge wave as beautiful while other people might regard it as terrifying. One could rate this as one-sidedness or even idiosyncrasy, but let us also keep in mind that the concept and the sense of beauty are not fixed per se, but are culturally and historically variable—as Wittgenstein often pointed out.¹⁶ Schiller, living in the epoch of freedom and initially enthusiastic about the French Revolution,¹⁷ simply seeks freedom everywhere and makes “beauty” the optical search machine and a code phenomenon of freedom. Hence he must, in order to be consistent, indeed regard any organic shape, as it shows traits of self-formation, as beautiful.¹⁸ This is certainly a very special way of assessing beauty but also one that is well understandable. For example, many biologists regard creatures as beautiful that common man rather discounts as ugly. While the common man refers to the appearance, the biologist, by virtue of his special knowledge, refers to the ingenuous structures and mechanisms which make this creature indeed a marvel.¹⁹ So something can, in the perspective of self-formation, be beautiful while in a bourgeois perspective it is not.

(even inorganic, not just organic things) follow intrinsic principles and are not simply governed by external pressures. Cf. on this: Welsch 2012d: 141–143.  To quote just two typical example sentences: “To describe a set of aesthetic rules fully means really to describe the culture of a period.” (LA 1966: I.25) “An entirely different game is played in different ages.” (LA 1966: I.25)  In 1792, the French National Assembly even granted Schiller the honorary citizenship.  Similarly, his aesthetic account of artifacts is governed by the perspective of freedom. A jacket is, as we saw, aesthetically right, when it both possesses and grants freedom.  Cf. already Aristotle’s remark that “even in beings which hardly please our senses the nature that has produced them gives inconceivable joys if only one is able to trace the causes and thus to perceive them as a student of nature.” ( I 4, 645 a 7– 10) “One ought not to childishly balk at the consideration of less estimated animals. Because marvels are implied in all natural things.” ( I 4, 645 a 14–17)

Schiller’s Aesthetics as a Challenge to the Modern Way of Thinking


3.3 Self-Organization—Freedom in Nature Is Schiller’s proposal to see elements of freedom everywhere in nature and, therefore, to regard and treat each natural being as a free citizen, over the top? Modern science largely proves Schiller right. It points out that on many levels nature exhibits traits of freedom. This is well-known at the micro level: the quantum world is not deterministic but displays spontaneity. The same applies at the macro level. Self-reference and self-organization, the fundamental forms of freedom occurring in the physical world, are the most basic principles according to which nature brings forth its structures of order, from galaxies via organisms to social formations. Thus freedom is a fundamental and universal principle of nature, of cosmic as well as biotic and cultural evolution.²⁰ Schiller was utterly right in stating that freedom is at work already in nature. Furthermore, Schiller’s thesis that natural freedom finds its expression in beauty is supported by contemporary science. Scientists have found out that prominent types of beauty are based on the fact that the entities in question have achieved their shape through processes of self-organization (cf. Welsch 2012a: 292 – 330). This is the case, for example, with growth patterns following the “golden angle” (i. e. the application of the golden section to a circle). Examples are the scales of pine cones or the seeds of sunflowers, but also the arrangement of the eye-spots of the peacock’s fan or the structure of seashells (Cramer 1989: 195 – 202; Cramer/Kaempfer 1992: 264– 283). In such cases, our sense of beauty responds to self-similarity that results from feedback processes and thus is a detector of self-organization. So Schiller’s theory is confirmed by contemporary science; beauty is in many cases a result of self-organization.²¹

 Consider also that evolution is on principle not deterministic but a process that implies freedom. It finds or generates its way via manifold differentiations and modes of self-reference. Ultimately, even the laws of nature as we know them today might be not of universal validity but results of the evolution of our cosmos (cf. Welsch 2012c: 855 – 857).  Here is a passage where Schiller makes clear that seemingly purely aesthetic categories make proper sense only as categories of natural pattern formation: “Convenience, order, proportion, perfection—qualities in which one believed to have found the beauty for so long—have absolutely nothing to do with it. Where, however, order, proportion, etc. belong to the nature of a thing, as in the case of anything organic, there they are eo ipso invulnerable, not for their own sake, but because they are inseparable from the nature of the thing. A gross violation of proportion is ugly, but not because perception of proportion is beautiful. Absolutely not, but because it is a violation of nature that indicates heteronomy.” (SW 5: February 23, 1793)


Wolfgang Welsch

In summary, Schiller is not only right in stating that freedom is at work already in nature²² but equally justified in his claim that aesthetic sense can serve as a guidepost to this fact.

3.4 Schiller’s Conception of Aesthetics Surpasses the Modern, Dualistic Way of Thinking Let me finally return to my initial deliberations. Aesthetics, I said, is capable of curing the basic error of the modern way of thinking: the strict opposition of humans and the world, resulting from an allegedly fundamental ontological disparity of the two. In the meantime, we have seen how Schiller’s aesthetics do provide a resolution. It overcomes modern dualism by showing that nature is not simply deterministic but includes phenomena of freedom, and thus is not categorically opposed to the realm of freedom but open to it.²³ Schiller outlines, from an aesthetic point of view, a monism of freedom instead of the modern dualism. If the world already bears dimensions of freedom, then man must not confront the world as a stranger but, as Schiller says, as an inhabitant or citizen of the world welcoming and respecting the natural things as equal inhabitants and citizens, and even listening to their appeal “Be free like I am.” So the opposition of man and world is overcome, and we humans can move forward in alliance with our natural fellow-beings.

 From the Romantic period to the contemporary philosopher John McDowell, it was assumed that, after the early and late modern mechanistic degradation of nature, we need a “re-enchantment of nature.” Only then can spirit and nature be reunified. This re-enchantment was expected from religion, philosophy, literature, and new mythologies. But it failed to appear. Hence people currently still complain that this desideratum is unfulfilled and that we are stuck in the ageold plight. But those who talk like that must have missed the insights of recent science. Only this can explain such an unawareness that this “re-enchantment” has long since occurred, just not by the instances one had banked on but, of all things, by the instance from which one had not expected anything good and which, therefore, one ignored: contemporary science. This one gave us, in fact, a wonderful equivalent of “re-enchantment,” namely a scientific view of nature offering everything one can wish for in order to get beyond the old mechanism and dualism. In this essay, I have tried to show how Schiller’s aesthetic conception provided good means for that.  If Kant had understood nature this way, he could have saved his third critique.

Schiller’s Aesthetics as a Challenge to the Modern Way of Thinking


Bibliography Aristotle: De partibus animalium. ( Cramer, Friedrich (1989): Chaos und Ordnung: Die komplexe Struktur des Lebendigen. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. Cramer, Friedrich/Kaempfer, Wolfgang (1992): Die Natur der Schönheit: Zur Dynamik der schönen Formen. Frankfurt am Main: Insel. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang (1986): “Johann Peter Eckermann, Gespräche mit Goethe in den letzten Jahren seines Lebens”. Heinz Schlaffer (Ed.). In: Sämtliche Werke nach Epochen seines Schaffens. Vol. 19. Münchner Ausgabe. Karl Richter et al. (Ed.) Munich: Hanser. (MA) Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1986): “Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse I (1830)”. In: Werke. Vol. 8. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. (W8) Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1986): “Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion II (Vorlesungen 1821 – 1831)”. In: Werke. Vol. 17. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. (W17) Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1986): “Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie I (Vorlesungen 1816 – 1832)”. In: Werke. Vol. 18. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. (W18) Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1986): “Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie III (Vorlesungen 1816 – 1832)”. In: Werke. Vol. 20. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. (W20) Kant, Immanuel (1987): Critique of Judgment. [1790] Werner S. Pluhar (Transl.). Indianapolis: Hackett. (CJ) Kant, Immanuel (1914): “Reflexionen zur Logik”. In: Kants gesammelte Schriften. Akademie-Ausgabe. Vol. XVI. Königlich Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Ed.). Berlin: Reimer. (Refl.Log.) Schiller, Friedrich (61980): “Kallias oder Über die Schönheit. Briefe an Gottfried Körner”. [1847] In: Sämtliche Werke. Vol. 5. Gerhard Fricke/Herbert G. Göpfert (Eds.). Munich: Hanser, pp. 394 – 433. (SW) Schiller, Friedrich (1992): “Kallias, or on the Beautiful”. Selection by William F. Wertz (Transl.). In: Fidelio I. No. 4, pp. 53 – 56. (KL) Schiller, Friedrich (1994): On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters. [1795] Reginald Snell (Transl.). Bristol: Thoemmes. (Aesth.Ed.) Welsch, Wolfgang (2012a): “Zur universalen Schätzung des Schönen”. In: Wolfgang Welsch (Ed.): Blickwechsel – Neue Wege der Ästhetik. Stuttgart: Reclam, pp. 292 – 330. Welsch, Wolfgang (2012b): Mensch und Welt – Eine evolutionäre Perspektive der Philosophie. Munich: Beck. Welsch, Wolfgang (2012c): Homo mundanus – Jenseits der anthropischen Denkform der Moderne. Weilerswist: Velbrück Wissenschaft. Welsch, Wolfgang (2012d): Der Philosoph. Die Gedankenwelt des Aristoteles. Munich: Fink. Welsch, Wolfgang (2014): “Schiller revisited: ‛Beauty is Freedom in Appearance’ – Aesthetics as a Challenge to the Modern Way of Thinking”. In: Contemporary Aesthetics 12. http:// (accessed 11/30/2016). Welsch, Wolfgang (2016): “‘Schönheit ist Freiheit in der Erscheinung’ – Schillers Ästhetik als Herausforderung der modernen Denkweise”. In: Wolfgang Welsch: Ästhetische Welterfahrung – Zeitgenössische Kunst zwischen Natur und Kultur. Munich: Fink, pp. 49 – 62. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1966): Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief. Cyril Barrett (Ed.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (LA)

Zhuofei Wang

‘Atmosphere’ as a Core Concept of Eco-aesthetics Abstract: As a contemporary form of aesthetics of nature, Eco-aesthetics originates from the Chinese environment-ethical debate and is dedicated to an aesthetic revision of the split between humans and nature in the process of modernization. Starting from the criticism that the current eco-aesthetic research is usually limited to a taste evaluation of natural beauty and that many studies pay little attention to practically reconstructing a new harmony between humans and nature under contemporary conditions, the article focuses on the following issue: a) To what extent can the approach of Eco-aesthetics be theoretically reformulated so that the perspective of traditional aesthetics of judgment, predominantly fixed on the experience and reflection of natural beauty, can be avoided? b) How can this reformulation contribute to recultivating and renaturing an environment in a widely urbanized world? Here the concept of “atmosphere” which has been primarily developed by contemporary German philosophers emphasizes the interaction between bodily perception and the qualities of the surrounding environment are of particular significance for solving these issues. It is demonstrated that in atmospheric experiences the body embeds man, together with his multifarious ways of perception and sense experiences, into nature so that man and nature are interrelated with each other and merged into a unified whole. The eco-aesthetic meaning here transcends the framework of the beauty of nature and is characterized by an infinite range of perceptual possibilities towards the integration of the human situation and the environmental conditions. At the same time, the investigation of the conditions and forms of atmospheric creation will contribute to further extending the eco-aesthetic vision to the practical area. And it is not least this practical dimension that distinguishes the Eco-aesthetics from traditional aesthetic approaches to nature.

As a new sub-discipline of aesthetics of nature, Eco-aesthetics is essentially a fundamental aesthetic reflection on the traditional determining factors of the human-nature relationship and has a moral-practical significance innately associated with respect for nature. Unlike the anthropocentrically oriented modern philosophical conception which understands man as the measure of all things and the centre of the world, Eco-aesthetics concentrates on the embedding and reintegration of man into nature and is concerned primarily with the DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-003


Zhuofei Wang

human corporal and sensual experience in a nature that, given present conditions, is at least denatured and cultivated, often destroyed and scarcely habitable any longer. The eco-aesthetic issue was introduced by Chinese aestheticians in the 1990s and has become increasingly one of the focuses of current Chinese aesthetics. At the same time, it has aroused great attention among aestheticians from various cultural circles in view of the fact that the overexploitation of nature and the destruction of the natural basis of life have caused many regional or worldwide environmental problems and ecological dangers so that an aesthetic revision of the modern alienation from nature in the industrialization process is considered necessary and significant. Looking back at the research approaches of Eco-aesthetics so far, it can be maintained that they often reduce the perspective to an aesthetic assessment of natural beauty, and so fall back on the point of view of traditional aesthetics of judgment. Furthermore, many studies stay on a metaphysical level and thus contribute little to recultivating and renaturing an environment in a modern, urbanized and industrialized society. In order to develop appropriate eco-aesthetic research, in the context of the contemporary environmental ethics discussion, it is important to ask more pointedly than before: To what extent can the approach of Eco-aesthetics be theoretically re-formulated so that the perspective of traditional aesthetics of judgment, predominantly fixed on the experience and reflection of natural beauty, can be avoided? How can this reformulation contribute to practically reconstructing a new harmony between humans and nature under contemporary environmental conditions? In this regard, the concept of “atmosphere” (Atmosphäre) developed by contemporary German philosophers is of decisive importance for solving these issues, although its scope has not yet been expanded to the eco-aesthetic field. In the following, I try to demonstrate how this concept plays a significant role in solving the above-mentioned problems. The first step is to give an overview of its development and then clarify three representative research approaches.

1 The term “atmosphere” stems from the Greek word “atmosphaira” which consists of two parts—“atmos” (vapour, steam) and “sphaira” (globe, ball, celestial sphere) (Schultz 1996: 454). Initially this word was used at the physio-meteorological level and referred to “gaseous mass emanating from celestial bodies and surrounding them” (Schultz 1996: 454). Later it designated “the air layer around a planet, the gases enveloping a planet or a star, and especially the aerial enve-

‘Atmosphere’ as a Core Concept of Eco-aesthetics


lope of the earth” (Schultz 1996: 454). Since the middle of the 18th century, the meaning of atmosphere went beyond the physio-meteorological scope to describe the smell from someone or something (Schultz 1996: 454). In the second half of the twentieth century, the scope of atmosphere was extended even further to indicate an object’s sphere of influence (Hauskeller 2014: 50). Due to vague structures as well as conceptual ambiguities, the issue of atmosphere mostly did not receive sufficient attention among social scientists and humanists. The book “Taste and Atmosphere” of the German psychiatrist Hubert Tellenbach is recognized as the first systematic research on atmosphere in the field of social sciences. Starting from the phenomenological perspective, Tellenbach investigates the oral senses, represented by taste and smell, in order to treat psychopathological diseases more effectively. In his opinion, smell and taste are the basis for developing our “trust in the world” (Weltvertrauen). Pleasant taste and smell can give us the feeling of being part of the world. On the contrary, unpleasant taste and smell may cause the feeling of being isolated from the rest of the world. According to Tellenbach, oral sensual perception is essentially a kind of cognitive process which aims at revealing the essence of the world (Hauskeller 2014: 50). For example, through smell and taste, an infant can grasp motherhood and thus develop an intimate mother-child relationship. Tellenbach defines the meaning obtained from sensual experience, especially from oral perception, as the atmospheric (das Atmosphärische) which is not only connected with present experience, but also with memories and thereby displays a certain continuity. He wrote: “In almost every sensual experience, there is something inexpressible that we can call the atmosphere. Although it goes beyond the real fact, we still have the feeling of being immersed into it.” (Tellenbach 1968: 47) In his view, the life world is composed of various atmospheric spaces. An atmospheric attunement is crucial for developing harmonious interpersonal relationship. Otherwise, people may face the risk of suffering mental illness. The pioneering position of Tellenbach’s theory is mainly characterized by the tentative exploration of the following aspects: a) Atmosphere is fundamental for developing the communication between man and his surroundings; b) Atmosphere cannot be objectified. On the contrary, it exists exclusively in bodily perception; c) Atmosphere is inexpressible. Therefore, an atmospheric communication is essentially non-verbal. In the 1960s, Hermann Schmitz began with the development of the New Phenomenology. In contrast to the traditional phenomenology not paying enough attention to the preconscious perceptual process, the New Phenomenology considers this field as the basic layer of the self-experience and the experience of the world and lays special emphasis on the realm of emotions. Over the past dec-


Zhuofei Wang

ades, Schmitz has been dedicating himself to integrating the exploration of atmosphere into his philosophical considerations of emotions. One starting point is the criticism of the traditional internalization of emotions. In the Homeric age, emotions were experienced as the powers of the gods, namely as something external to humans (Böhme 2013a: 30). In the fifth century BC, the project “introjection of emotions” came into play for the purpose of promoting human independence and autonomy (Hauskeller 2014: 51). Since then, emotions have been understood as private psychological states. Contrary to this traditional conception, emotions in Schmitz’s theory transcend the subjective boundary and are defined as spatially outpouring atmospheres (Schmitz 2009: 79), which are characterized by the following points: a) Emotions are atmospheres which can be objectively perceived, without necessarily being internalized—the experiencer can adopt a corresponding attitude towards them, i. e. whether he integrates himself into them or distances himself from them (Hauskeller 1995: 24); b) as atmospheric ambiances, emotions manifest themselves as corporeally poignant forces, for example, the sober and elegant atmosphere of a cathedral or the enthusiastic atmosphere during a football match may spatially envelope those present and exert an emotional effect on them. Although in Schmitz’s theory subjective correlation is considered as a necessary precondition for the development of atmospheric emotions, the focus is laid on the objective quality. According to Schmitz, the origin of emotions lies in the outside world. Correspondingly, atmospheres in his context manifest themselves as free-floating phenomena showing a high degree of independence (Böhme 2013a: 30 f.). However, Schmitz ignores the fact that the so-called objectively existing emotions are also the results of the sensual experience from the external surroundings. The way of their existence depends on how experiencers perceive them. Due to this problem, Schmitz’s project of the de-subjectification of emotions has long been controversial. As Michael Hauskeller pointed out: “What is overlooked here [in Schmitz’s theory] is the being mode of perception which can be regarded as an intermediate status connecting subject and world. And this intermediate status is precisely the genuine location of emotions and their atmospheres.” (Hauskeller 1995: 31) Gernot Böhme’s studies are recognized as the most influential contribution to the integration of atmosphere into aesthetics. Starting from a critique of the traditional ecological research which is carried out in a purely scientific way and neglects the human dimension, Böhme tries to introduce the aesthetic perspective into the ecology and develop an ecologically oriented aesthetics of nature aiming to rehabilitate the aesthetic discipline. In connection with Schmitz’s phenomenological research, he establishes atmosphere as a central concept and

‘Atmosphere’ as a Core Concept of Eco-aesthetics


even calls his studies an aesthetics of atmospheres (Ästhetik der Atmosphären). It should be noted that Böhme never gave a single definition of atmosphere. On the contrary, his analysis covers different dimensions of this phenomenon which are summarized as follows: Atmosphere is an indefinitely diffused, emotionally poignant power whose ontological status is vague and inexpressible, for example, it is difficult to find the location of the acoustic atmosphere and confirm its boundary. In contrast to this unclear ontological state, a rich vocabulary primarily made up of adjectives has been developed to describe atmospheric characteristics, such as breath-taking, depressing, uplifting, fascinating, melancholic. Atmosphere is a tuned space. In the European tradition, there are basically two concepts of space: metric space and topological space. The first type of space is also described as Euclidean or geometric space, which is characterized by geometry, proportion, shape and size. The second type of space concerns a topological spatial place which focuses on surroundings, neighbourhoods and positional relationships. Following the second spatial type, the atmospheric space concentrates on the interrelationship between the human bodily state and the material constitution of the environment. One special feature is that atmospheric space radiates a prevailing, emotionally effective tone which affects and even modifies our moods. Atmosphere is a reality constructed by both the perceiving subject and the perceived object. In contrast to Schmitz, who considers atmosphere as a floating, largely independent phenomenon, Böhme holds the opinion that atmosphere is neither a purely subjective state, nor an objective thing, but essentially an intersection point between a perceived object and a perceiving subject. On the one hand, the formation of atmosphere cannot be independent of the influence of the object-pole. In fact, atmosphere always contains certain features of the external things which can be objectively identified. On the other, atmosphere is not a pure thing (Ding), but appears at the moment of being perceived by the subject. For example, if we say that the wall is white, it does not mean that the whiteness is a purely objective property of the wall, but concerns a reality co-created by our perception, namely a reality whose existence can only be confirmed through our own sensibility. According to Böhme, atmospheres are ubiquitous phenomena which exert far-reaching influence on our lives. Starting from this point, he dedicates himself to develop a knowledge of the relation between the objective properties (everyday objects, artworks, elements of nature) and the atmospheres they radiate (Böhme 2013a: 35). Special emphasis is placed on the atmospheric reception and production in various situations. Böhme’s research provides decisive inspiration for the investigation that follows.


Zhuofei Wang

2 Based on the above-mentioned viewpoints, especially on the ideas of Böhme, I try to give a definition of atmosphere: As the primarily perceived object, atmosphere refers to a pre-reflective sphere in which the human situation and external conditions are corporeally brought together and are pervaded by a specific emotional quality. In this connection, particular attention should be given to the following aspects: Atmosphere is the first object that is perceived. In other words, what is primarily given or experienced, is not thing-in-itself, but atmosphere. The experience of atmosphere is connected with an immediate, pre-reflective level. Although atmosphere exerts direct effect on the field of sensory perception, it usually unconsciously guides and even modifies our feelings. In this sense, the perception of atmosphere does not belong to a single sensory domain, but to an area of holistic, pre-differentiated experience which is usually characterized by synaesthetic effects. Arising from the interaction of different senses, synaesthesia makes possible the experience of a particular object in an intermodal way, such as warm red, cool blue, bright orange and fresh green. Moreover, as the primarily perceived object, atmosphere provides the basis for further modes of perception such as for the categorizing perception which aims at identifying and differentiating the individual elements of the objective world (Haubl 1998: 74). Starting from this point, further levels like objects, materials, forms, contours, colors etc. can be analytically distinguished (Böhme 2013a: 48). As sensuous reality, atmosphere can only be corporeally experienced. In this aspect, the role of the lived body (Leib) moves to the foreground. As the primary object of New Phenomenology, the lived body differentiates itself from another term “physical body” (Körper) which is often regarded as the object of natural sciences. Various parts of the physical body (eyes, ears, mouth, nose, tongue …) have fixed positions, constant distances between each other and distinct sensory functions (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch …) (Schmitz 2009: 76). Other than the stable sensual schema of the physical body, the structure of the lived body is variable. It frees itself from the domination of the principles of position and distance, and is able to simultaneously coordinate different sensuous elements. We can experience this corporeal structure instantaneously, but it is difficult for us to tell its exact location. As the access to atmosphere, the lived body contributes to a situation where on the one hand the meaning of atmosphere is conveyed in a sensually ascertainable, holistic manner, and on the other the atmospheric manifestation is variable, unpredictable and uncontrollable. Here, two further points should be noted: a) Although the existence of atmosphere is

‘Atmosphere’ as a Core Concept of Eco-aesthetics


based on individual corporeal experience, it may have the same meaning for several perceivers in the same situation because of the quasi-objective qualities of atmosphere, as well as the common biophysiological, sociocultural and psychological structures of perceivers. In this case, atmosphere is communicable. b) It is also possible that due to the disparities of the subjective factors (personal disposition, individual experience, educational level, etc.), different perceivers do not experience the same atmosphere, that is to say, the atmospheric effect may vary with the subjective conditions. Despite the diversity of atmospheric phenomena under different circumstances, a particular atmosphere radiates a single emotional quality pervading the whole space. Correspondingly, we always use a single adjective to describe its character such as a cheerful landscape, a depressed market or a comfortable hotel. John Dewey defines this single quality as “pervasive quality”. In his opinion, a situation consisting of various factors usually has a quality which merges different factors into a coherent whole and thus provides the situation a single property (Dewey 1931: 93). Furthermore, this single quality is not constant and unchangeable, but finds itself in a dynamic process composed of different phases—emergence, strengthening, weakening, disappearance.

3 At the beginning of the article, it was pointed out that the current eco-aesthetic research continues to espouse an obsolete idea of “natural beauty” and ultimately remains within the confines of conventional theories of aesthetic judgment. Moreover, little attention has been paid to the reestablishment of the harmony between man and nature in a widely cultivated, humanized world. With the introduction of the concept of atmosphere, I try to scrutinize these issues through two aspects. Firstly, the concept of atmosphere provides eco-aesthetic research with multidimensional approaches towards the human-nature relationship. As previously described, the prerequisite for experiencing atmosphere is the full-body immersion into the environment, or the corporal integration into the whole situation. In this sense, man is primarily not an extra-worldly, rational being, but an inner-worldly corporeal being. As the intersection between the self-experience and the experience of the surroundings the body—primarily the lived body—forms an immediate, sensual connection between man and his environment, which basically determines the state of Being-in-the-world. So in atmospheric experiences, the outer world meets us sensually. The natural scenes which we experience, such as seasons, day and night, sunshine, wind, rain,


Zhuofei Wang

thunder or lightning, are not purely objective reality, but atmospheric phenomena which can only be grasped through a co-present body-being. In this respect, there is a connection with the Aristotelian theory of perception. According to Aristotle, a natural being is first and foremost a perceptible being (Böhme 1992: 127). What we recognize in this sense is not the nature in itself, but the nature for us. Therefore, in atmospheric experiences, the body embeds man, together with his multifarious ways of perception and sense experiences, into nature so that man and nature are interrelated with each other and merged into a unified whole. The eco-aesthetic meaning here is first of all characterized by the integration between the human body state and the environmental conditions. Correspondingly, the aesthetic results are not necessarily beautiful. Instead, an infinite range of perceptual possibilities, such as cheerful, inspiring, serious, melancholic, oppressive, awesome will enter into the field of Eco-aesthetics. In this regard, it is meaningless to use a particular aesthetic model, which is oriented towards an ideal of beauty, to frame the various sensual experiences in nature. Rather, the concept of atmosphere opens up multi-sensory access to natural phenomena and thus provides an alternative approach for the current research method. Particularly emphasized here is the affective dimension. The concept “affective involvement” (affektive Betroffenheit) has become a hot topic in relation to the aesthetic research of atmosphere. Affective involvement concerns an emotional state which is simultaneously linked with the experience of the existence of space and substance and of the awareness of the presence of our own body. If the perception is always connected with the feeling of a particular environment, this is largely characterized by an emotional association with this environment. For example, weather changes usually exert impact on the rhythm and the preservation of our life. In the process of observing weather phenomena, the emotional factors can be integrated into the observing behaviours as well. Therefore, in describing the weather conditions, we often use expressions which also show our corresponding emotional states, such as brilliant sunshine, gentle wind and bitter cold. Moreover, we can even perceive our emotional fluctuations resulting from weather changes. In this regard, a specific correlation between emotions and meteorological phenomena develops. Twilight (Dämmerung) is a good example of the multi-sensory experience in the field of the meteorological phenomena. Usually twilight is regarded as a purely optical phenomenon which shows the shift from sunny day to dark night or vice versa. But that is not enough: In the interplay of daylight and darkness, the twilight also becomes atmospheric. This can be explained by two factors. On the one hand, twilight is a spatial phenomenon. With the sunset, twilight slowly spreads across the whole land. Böhme wrote: “It [twilight] there-

‘Atmosphere’ as a Core Concept of Eco-aesthetics


by changes the appearance manner of the things and blurs the spatial distances and contours. And it dissolves things’ objective character: they become schemes” (Böhme 2013b: 58). Finally, twilight covers everything with its mantle and overshadows everything else. This makes it possible for experiencing subjects to immerse themselves into it. On the other hand—and this is vital—the experience of this meteorological process takes place in the corporeal sensation. The dissolution of objectivity in twilight leads to a visual vagueness, namely with the light evanescence and the darkness spreading, human vision gradually loses its dominating position. The role of the other senses, especially of hearing and smelling, is in contrast strengthened (Böhme 2013b: 59). In this respect, a non-visual dimension, or more exactly a dimension connected with a multi-sensuality, is revealed. From a phenomenological point of view, Schmitz described the twilight’s organoleptic properties: “The atmosphere of the day is emphasized through four typical scales in accordance with warmth, brightness, loudness and speed. Correspondingly, the atmosphere of the twilight is cool, pale, silent and tranquil. The following night is cold, dark, peaceful and quiet” (Schmitz 1967: 154 ff.). The thermal, optical, acoustic and kinetic characters mentioned here should not be considered as single physical qualities. Rather, they focus a synaesthetic effect arising from the mutual substitutability of different individual sensual qualities or, in other words, from a de-differentiation of the senses (Böhme 2013b: 59). In this regard, it could be argued that the emphasis on the affective character of the natural experience may represent a retrograde step back to the conventional paradigm of the subject-centred natural aesthetics. However, the concept of atmosphere presupposes the interplay of the corporeal presence and the properties of the surroundings. This results in an inseparable two-sidedness: What we perceive actually concerns “the corporeal dispositions in relation to our environment” (Böhme 1989: 34). The distance between subject and object which is required for a subjective contemplation is thus eliminated. Here, two further points should be noted: a) With the introduction of the concept of atmosphere, Eco-aesthetics can effectively transform the aesthetic approach based on the thing-ontology (Ding-Ontologie). The thing-ontology has dominated the European philosophy since ancient Greek times (Böhme 2001: 55). On this basis, “the actual being” (Böhme 2001: 55) was defined as “a thing, a substance or something between the substances” (Böhme 2001: 55). The differences between things are characterized by various objective qualities such as size, shape, weight, temperature, texture, colour, etc. For instance, Kant’s aesthetics was dedicated to the study of the forms of things. In his studies, he often used the examples of flowers, insects and birds essentially belonging to the collection of things (Böhme 2001: 69). The domination of the thing-ontology led to a situation in which little attention


Zhuofei Wang

was paid to the interaction between feelings and environmental factors. Currently, there are still some aestheticians trying to integrate scientific knowledge into the analysis of the aesthetic experience of nature and concentrating on the objective qualities of natural objects. Such research ignores the fact that the socalled purely objective world is an abstract entity which contains countless spatiotemporal possibilities for its manifestation. Actually, our relationship with the environment in a certain place and at a particular time primarily exists in a sensually perceptible way, and this existence is essentially atmospheric. Correspondingly, the emphasis of the eco-aesthetic study should be laid upon the immediate sensual experience of an object in the here and now. Take a rainbow as an example. From the perspective of the natural sciences, the rainbow is undoubtedly a material object whose information is passively absorbed by human organs. However, this point of view neglects the interaction between the objective qualities and the subjective conditions. In order to appropriately perceive the rainbow, there should be a corresponding relationship between the angle of the sun-drop-observer and of the drop-observer-antisolar point. In this case, the manifestation of the rainbow cannot be independent of the position of the observer. Furthermore, the same rainbow may manifest itself differently for several adjacent observers due to their biophysical, psychological and spiritual disparities. b) The introduction of the concept of atmosphere into Eco-aesthetics can convincingly argue the methodological distinction of this field from natural science oriented eco-disciplines. Since the 19th century, ecology is mainly regarded as a sub-discipline of biology in connection with the interrelationships between organisms, as well as between organisms and their environmental factors. Such studies primarily concentrate on the factual existence of natural objects which obey their own natural laws and can be investigated by means of quantitative and/or experimental methods. Although this approach to nature undeniably has its own cognitive value, it nevertheless appears to be inadequate when it is the matter of (re‐)creating a balanced relationship between man and nature. On the contrary, the concept of atmosphere places the human’s sensory link with his surroundings in the foreground of eco-aesthetic research. The focus of attention is thus on comprehending and reflecting man’s environment primarily as something which must be experienced sensually. In this respect, the following issue moves into the foreground: In what sort of environment are we located? How do we sensually confirm our situation in this environment? Starting from this point, the focus of Eco-aesthetics is on the “corporal and sensual experience felt by a person who is situated, lives, works and moves in a particular bit of nature” (Böhme 1989: 12). In this sense, environmental problems mean that the dangerous changes in nature caused by human intervention will strike back

‘Atmosphere’ as a Core Concept of Eco-aesthetics


at us, with the result that the relationship between nature and ourselves is sensually disturbed. Obviously, a shift to these issues would contribute more effectively to developing an ecological awareness. Secondly, the producibility of atmosphere contributes to the practical relevance of Eco-aesthetics. Eco-aesthetics arises from reflecting on contemporary environmental problems. This indicates that a practical dimension should also be included in its considerations. At this point, the concept of atmosphere is of special significance as well, because atmosphere is not only perceptible, but also producible. Correspondingly, the research in this respect is not only theoretical, but also practical. With regard to the atmospheric creation, three aspects are to be underlined: 1. The objective influence on the production of the atmosphere: The quasiobjective quality of atmospheric phenomena makes it possible that atmospheres can be produced with the help of a wide range of media (light, colour, sound, culture-related signs, etc.). Using such media, we produce atmospheres influencing or modifying our awareness of the environment. For example, a warm atmosphere is not necessarily associated with high temperature, but can also be the result of the interaction of gentle light, emotional music, intoxicating scent and luminous colour. Another example is James Turrell’s installation work which aims at producing light-toned spaces. In his “Wedgeworks”, the projected light creates the illusion of walls or barriers. Through the light scattering and the corresponding effect on the whole surroundings, these works fundamentally change what is seen in this place and at this time. In seemingly realistic forms, these virtual objects convey the impression that they really exist. Moreover, there are always mutual interactions between environmental qualities themselves, so the impact of a certain quality on the senses should be considered in conjunction with the whole context. For instance, in a colour series, the aesthetic effect of the main colour depends on its interplay with the transitional colours. 2. The interaction between perception and capacity for action: The existence of atmosphere presupposes the corporeal presence. The corresponding perception is not necessarily passive, but can lead to a specific action, regardless whether or not this action is conscious. For example, at the time of celebrations, we cannot help but cheer. When we watch thrilling football matches, we are so excited that we stand up and applaud spontaneously. Thibaud stresses that perception and action are inseparably intertwined. In fact, it is difficult to judge which one has the priority (Thibaud 2003: 289). Once we understand the correlation between the perception and the rhythm and style of human action, we can efficiently deal with different atmospheric phenomena and hence become critical participators.


Zhuofei Wang

3. The role of the socio-cultural framework in reinforcing an atmospheric effect: The relationship between atmosphere, perception and action is not solely limited to the individual sphere. Instead, it is often influenced by social, cultural and conventional conditions. Here is an example: Naturalness is the leitmotif throughout the classical Chinese art of garden. Starting from this point, the natural characters of the components should be retained as far as possible. If the perceiver is not familiar with this background, it will be difficult for him to appropriately react and be fully immersed into this natural atmosphere. Instead, he might get an opposite impression: The design style of the Chinese gardens appears to be irregular, disorderly and confusing. So we can see that the sensory impressions can be intensified by a specific historical and cultural framework. The actions of the perceivers, in the same socio-cultural context, can correspond to each other and eventually form a common style. In this sense, Thibaud points out that each atmosphere is related to a certain action style which can be found in all perceivers under the same conditions (Thibaud 2003: 291). Nowadays, untouched nature has been constantly reduced, whereas urbanized environment is increasingly extended. In this context, the strategies of the atmospheric staging are widely used in various social fields (design, advertising, media, architecture, cosmetics, etc.) aiming at producing magic atmospheres mostly oriented towards commercial purposes, such as a relaxed atmosphere in shopping centres, a homely atmosphere in hotels, a romantic atmosphere in restaurants, etc. These atmospheres are deliberately designed through technically generated media like lighting, acoustics and movements. Usually, we are exposed to them under subliminal conditions and thus are falling into manipulation. How can an ecologically oriented aesthetic conception affect such an urbanized world? In this regard, I would propose that particular attention should be paid to the development of a quasi-natural atmosphere. Contrary to the deliberately designed atmosphere, which concentrates on displaying artificial factors, the quasi-natural atmosphere aims at revealing the natural properties of things and thus cultivating our awareness of naturalness. In addition to urban spatial planning, transport system and functional division, there are also natural elements such as sounds, odors, heat and cold, light and shadow, the changeover from day to night, summer to winter, rainy season to dry season whose qualities can only be corporeally experienced. Therefore, when selecting materials and design procedures, it is important to consider the role these elements play in the creation of an atmosphere and the emotions aroused by their composition. In this sense, the decisive question is: How do these elements affect the feelings of the inhabitants who are located in them? Anyway, a city is primarily built for human life. For this reason, the urban planning should be oriented towards

‘Atmosphere’ as a Core Concept of Eco-aesthetics


the issue: In what kind of environment do we live and in what way do we experience it? Such experience does not concern what is perceived by a stranger or a tourist, but concerns what is experienced daily by the local inhabitants. According to Bautz, the quasi-natural atmosphere has long existed as “unintentionally or subconsciously produced side effects” (Bautz 2007: 117) which have been only recently recognized. And the revealing of this non-intentionality in an over-designed society means a new task of the eco-aesthetic exploration. Usually we don’t pay enough attention to the naturalness of the urban world and are not fully aware of how our senses should appropriately react to the natural qualities of a specific environment. This neglect can be considered as the loss of the ecological consciousness in the urban context. At this point, the art-related intervention is of significant importance for awakening this awareness, because this enables us to recognize that living in and with nature (water, air, sun, earth, etc.) is the basis for human existence. Here, I’d like to use the giant installation work “Cloud Cities” of the contemporary Argentinean artist Tomás Saraceno to describe the production of the quasi-natural atmosphere. Its crucial inspirations come from a spider web, a soap bubble, neutral networks or cloud formations. Against the background of the ecological problems in a modernized world, such as the reduction in biodiversity, environmental pollution and diminishing resources, it tries to display a potential relationship between man, nature and society. The term “cloud” is a metaphor not only for the territory and border of the contemporary urbanized society, but also for the exploration of the sustainable environmental development which goes beyond the border of the earth and extends to the outer space. This balloon-like art project is held by black rope nets, suspended in the air and divided into different spheres. “Some spheres harbor plants, some are grouped together into Weaire–Phelan structures, and others stand alone, big enough for the visitor to enter” (Pinto 2011). The polarity of the light, airborne bubbles, and the dark rope nets create a visual tension between utopia and anti-utopia. Besides the knowledge of the physics, architecture, engineering and aeronautics, the artist also uses the principle of self-similarity to point out the fact that the same geometric patterns exist at all levels of the universe. For many people, a city is above all an optical space. In their opinion, seeing serves as the central type of access to the urban world. In this respect, Böhme criticizes that seeing is a sense that forms differences and creates distances (Böhme 2013b: 110). On the contrary, the work of Saraceno stresses that the aesthetic significance of a city lies not in seeing, but in corporeal engagement. Along with the accessible environment, viewers can personally experience the sculptural modules which resemble floating gardens. “Upon entering the upper layer of these wobbly domes, the visitors—gripped by awe—suddenly real-


Zhuofei Wang

ize how precarious the construction is, and become aware of the impact their every movement has upon the structure and, in consequence, upon every other visitor” (Pinto 2011). In this sense, a successful urban design refers not only to the external appearance, but also to how it sensuously affects people living in this space. Saraceno’s work demonstrates the interactive relationship between humans and their environment. Essentially, the life cycles are interconnected and interdependent. From this point of view, various internal and external factors such as the interaction of natural and artificial elements, and the perceptual structures as well as the expectations, are to be considered.

4 Conclusion Now we recognize that beauty is only one of the numerous atmospheres resulting from the interaction between environmental properties and bodily perceptions. Correspondingly, the beautiful atmosphere is one of the various research objects of Eco-aesthetics. However, in traditional aesthetic studies, little attention has been paid to the significance of atmosphere. In fact, at different times, in different places, a thing may manifest itself differently. This manifestation is connected with the wholeness of what is being experienced at this moment, at this location. A decisive factor is not what we perceive, but how we perceive something. In this sense, atmospheric phenomena form the foundation of our life experience. It is impossible to free ourselves from their powers, because “even the loss of atmosphere is still an atmosphere” (Böhme 2013b: 29). So the complexity of atmospheres and the corresponding perceptual access deserve a systematic and comprehensive investigation. Special attention should be given to the atmospheric forms which were either overlooked or underestimated within the classical framework. At the same time, the investigation of the possibilities and conditions of atmospheric creation will contribute to further extending the eco-aesthetic vision to the practical area. In this regard, it is important for an eco-aesthetic conceptual design to also consider artistic and related practices, such as urban planning, architecture, landscape planning and biotechnology. Using these forms as an example, the theoretical insights can be tested and further perspectives of the sensual relationship with the environment and nature can be developed.

‘Atmosphere’ as a Core Concept of Eco-aesthetics


Bibliography Bautz, Timmo (2007): “Stimmig/unstimmig: Was unterscheidet Atmosphären?” In: Rainer Goetz (Ed.): Atmosphäre(n): Interdisziplinäre Annäherung an einen unscharfen Begriff. Munich: Kopaed, pp. 111 – 121. Böhme, Gernot (1989): Für eine ökologische Naturästhetik. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Böhme, Gernot (1992): Natürliche Natur. Über Natur im Zeitalter ihrer technischen Reproduzierbarkeit. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Böhme, Gernot (2001): Aisthetik: Vorlesungen über Ästhetik als allgemeine Wahrnehmungslehre. Munich: Wilhelm Fink. Böhme, Gernot (2013a): Atmosphäre: Essays zur neuen Ästhetik. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Böhme, Gernot (2013b): Architektur und Atmosphäre. Munich: Wilhelm Fink. Dewey, John (1931): Philosophy and Civilization. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Haubl, Rolf (1998): “Mit Sinn und Verstand. Einführung in die Umweltästhetik”. In: Armin Günther/Rolf Haubl/Peter Meyer/Martin Stengel/Kerstin Wüstner (Ed.): Sozialwissenschaftliche Ökologie. Eine Einführung. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, pp. 61 – 134. Hauskeller, Michael (1995): Atmosphären erleben: Philosophische Untersuchungen zur Sinneswahrnehmung. Berlin: Akademie. Hauskeller, Michael (2014): “Begriff und Wahrnehmung von Atmosphären”. In: Jürgen Weidinger (Ed.): Atmosphären Entwerfen. Berlin: Universitätsverlag der TU Berlin, pp. 47 – 61. Pinto, Ana Teixeira (2011): “Tomás Saraceno: Cloud Cities”, 2011/09/24/tomas-saraceno-cloud-cities.html (accessed 08/01/2016). Schmitz, Hermann (1967): System der Philosophie. Vol. III.1. Bonn: Bouvier. Schmitz, Hermann (2009): Kurze Einführung in die Neue Phänomenologie. Freiburg, München: Karl Alber. Schulz, Hans (1996): Deutsches Fremdwörterbuch. Bd. 2. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter. Tellenbach, Hubert (1968): Geschmack und Atmosphäre. Salzburg: Otto Müller. Thibaud, Jean-Paul (2003): “Die sinnliche Umwelt von Städten. Zum Verständnis urbaner Atmosphären”. In: Michael Hauskeller (Ed.): Die Kunst der Wahrnehmung. Beiträge zu einer Philosophie der sinnlichen Erkenntnis. Kusterdingen: Die Graue Edition, pp. 280 – 297.

Mădălina Diaconu

Singing (in Several Voices) in the (Same) Rain. Cultural Symbols and Cognition in the Aesthetics of Weather Abstract: Weather phenomena have largely been subject to a persistent “oblivion” in modern aesthetics so far, and the few authors who recently pondered the possibility of a “celestial aesthetics,” be it in the frame of the North-American environmental aesthetics or of the phenomenology of atmosphere, face specific difficulties in extending the aesthetic theory to physical atmospheres. One of these problems concerns the relationship between emotional and cognitive factors in the experience of atmospheric conditions. This paper focuses on the influence of cognition on the perception and aesthetic appreciation of atmospheric events, in particular on the shift of relevance from mythical imagination to science communication—specifically, on the example of rain. Examples taken from global, contemporary popular culture reflect the latent tension between the mostly positive signification of rain in the traditional agrarian cultures, where rain was regarded as a divine gift and a symbol of fertility, and the spreading fear of acid rain in the age of industrial pollution.

Compared to climate ethics and environmental history, or the traditional controversy between climatic-geographical and sociocultural determinism, the interest of aesthetics in weather is mostly recent and is still confined to few papers on the “celestial”, “meteorological” or “aerial aesthetics” signed by Arnold Berleant, Holmes Rolston III and David Macauley, or to “aerographic” descriptions by geographers (Diaconu 2015). The scarcity of literature on weather is downright surprising in the phenomenological aesthetics of atmospheres, understood as emotional qualities of spaces that are intersubjectively experienced and can be partly deliberately shaped by art practitioners. Groundbreaking for this theory was Gernot Böhme, who overtly took over this concept from Hermann Schmitz’ New Phenomenology, combined it with influences stemming from Goethe and the Romantic philosophy of nature, and introduced an entire system of new aesthetic categories (Böhme 2001). Typical for the phenomenological aesthetics of the atmosphere is the emphasis on its contrast to the concept of atmosphere in the natural sciences; the lived atmospheres refer to integral entities that

DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-004


Mădălina Diaconu

can hardly be analyzed and located either in the subject, or in the object, or in their in-between, but are nevertheless evident, powerful and effective. In spite of the assumption about the universality of the atmospheric, given that one is always atmospherically involved (Griffero 2014), the mentioning of weather phenomena in the aesthetics of atmosphere is still sporadic. “Primary” atmospheres are still left to natural scientists alone, and attempts to connect physical and aesthetic atmospheres are, rather, exceptions. This surprising rarity of physical atmospheres in the phenomenology of atmosphere may to some extent be traced back to the fact that Gernot Böhme’s and Gregor Schiemann’s project to develop a phenomenology of nature, in cooperation with natural sciences (1997), was abandoned. A few years later, in 2003, Böhme himself had to conclude in his own sketch of a phenomenology of the weather that “Die Phänomenologie des Wetters ist bis heute ein Desiderat” (Böhme 2011: 163)—this conclusion has lost none of its actuality, the reasons are still to be found. An example of weather conditions serves to approach an adequate answer to this more general question. “Rainy” is not only one of the basic “characters” of the weather mentioned by Böhme, but also a particular strong “atmospheric” weather phenomenon, which explains its prominent role in literature compared to other weather descriptions. However, every attempt to outline what might be called the aesthetics of the rain has to challenge from the beginning the physiological effects of meteorosensitivity that impede the aesthetic distancing to the experienced atmospheric situation. Also, rain is certainly experienced in a different way in the case of a direct, multisensory exposure to it in comparison to its mere audiovisual experience indoors. Both aspects suppress the Kantian interesseloses Wohlgefallen by affecting the subject in various detrimental ways. In addition to this, Gernot Böhme’s expectation that a phenomenological aesthetics would describe weather as a total impression that has to be bodily experienced, as well as his emphasis on atmospheres as mainly an issue of emotional attunement and occasionally as an affective dissonance between the atmosphere encountered “outside” and one’s own mood, would have to be supplemented and amended by acknowledging the relevance of cognitive factors to this experience. The following considerations focus on the broader cultural embeddedness of the aesthetic experience of weather, on the example of rain, before returning to the more general issue of the interconnectedness between knowledge and the aesthetic appreciation of the atmospheric conditions in our times. Rain and rainfall as aesthetic objects are culturally inflected natural phenomena; therefore the same physical parameters of atmosphere in its scientific meaning are able to unleash various subjective experiences or atmospheres in terms of moodscapes. The imagery of the rain can be followed along four ages: premodern, modern, post-modern, and ecological. These have both a his-

Cultural Symbols and Cognition in the Aesthetics of Weather


torical and a typological dimension, which means that the vital dimension of rain in the premodern age, its perceptive qualities in the modern and postmodern age, and the ethical nexus in the ecological age correspond to more general attitudes and interests that predominated in a certain historical age, yet were not simply successive and replaced by the following form, but continue to coexist nowadays and still influence, to various degrees, depending on the context and on the art form, the large public.

1 Rain Bringing Deities and Rituals: Cosmic Fertility The strong dependency on nature explains why the premodern imagery of rain was primarily inflected by religion and superstitions, the aesthetic attitude being largely based upon vital interests that made rainfalls alternately desirable or threatening. The immediate experience of rain can only be reconstructed on the basis of artistic representations of deities who reigned over rain, of magical incantations or rain storm spells, as well as dances and other rituals for calling the rain. Rainmakers enjoyed a high reputation and some of these rites still survive with the Berbers; nevertheless, rain was in the first place a prerogative of the gods, the evidence for their unimaginable and uncontrollable power, and for the communication of sky and earth in form of a fluid and dynamic pattern, that was not only visible and audible, but also graspable. Beyond any cultural differences regarding their names, requisites or legends, all gods of rain—Tefnet in Egypt, Zeus for the Greeks, Indra and Varuna for the Hindus, The Dragon Kings in China or Viracocha, and Tlaloc for the Incas and, respectively, the Aztecs, or the God of the Rain in Guinea—expressed their “humeur divine” (Morel 2004: 730) by bringing or taking rain away from people, animals and fields. As a consequence, rain attained in the agrarian societies the signification of a gift that is given to creatures or withheld from them. Later on, the attempt to rationalize weather events led to moral explanations for droughts or floods as punishment for the humans’ sins and the biblical deluge was assigned the meaning of a symbolic purification. In a transcultural perspective, rain is linked to the symbolism of water and largely related to earthly fertility in general. In the 4th century, Ephrem the Syrian compared Maria with a “thirsty ground that was sprinkled with life-giving dew and rain,” while the life of Jesus has strong analogies with the circuit of the water in nature: he came like a river flowing from above, sprouted from Maria like a plant, fell again from the cross like a ripe fruit and rose again to the sky (Efrem Sirul 2010: 233 sq.; my transl, M.D.).


Mădălina Diaconu

What is rain for nature (including the human nature), is grace for the spirit; the Book of Isaiah says that when “the Spirit from on high is poured upon us, […] the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest” (Isa 32:15), and for the Quran rain means God’s benediction: “And We send down from the sky rain chartered with blessing, and We produce therewith gardens and grain for harvests.” (Al-Qur’an 50:9) All three are religions of the agrarian life and emerged in geographical vicinity and, respectively, in the immediate neighborhood of the desert (Macho 1994: 588). The physical rain and the symbolic rain of grace inseminate and purify, by erasing past sins; both are divine gifts humans respond to with their tears, as “raindrops” of gratefulness and repentance. This deep cultural and religious symbolism cannot be eluded if one wants to understand the contemporary Arabs’ fascination with rain, including the paradoxical phenomenon of “bad” weather tourism: “Arabes s’exposent à la pluie comme à une benediction divine, relevant directement de la miséricorde (rahma, autre nom de la pluie d’Allah)” (Chebel 1995: 341). The debate between environmental and cultural determinism has a long tradition since Antiquity (Boia 2005), and although most historians currently subscribe to the interaction between human societies and the natural environment, the idea of a possible influence of climate on mentality and culture still appeared appealing to philosophers of the past century. Watsuji Tetsuro’s interest in Fūdo can be dated back to 1927, when he was reading Sein und Zeit, and his monograph on the relation between climate and culture, published eight years later, is opened by the statement that fūdo-sei, i. e. climatic aspects, belong to the structure of the human Dasein (Tetsuro 1997: 3). His rough typology of mentalities, according to three climates—of monsoon, of the desert and of the meadows —is obviously oversimplifying, but not exempt of any interest. Let us take the Indian culture as the prototypical product of the monsoon climate (Tetsuro 1997: 22– 27). Humidity becomes a benediction of nature in this part of the world, because it makes the lushest vegetation grow in hot regions; and even when dampness becomes unbearable, it is practically impossible to protect oneself from it or, in general terms, to defend oneself against nature. Consequently, the relation of the human to the world is marked by a lack of historical consciousness, emotional richness, and impressibility—culminating in the rainy season—, but also by compliance, passivity and resignation, in contrast to the desert dweller’s struggle against the elements. Even in cases of rainfall excess, the adversity of nature still has the positive meaning of a life surplus. At a time in which two thirds of the Indian population was working in agriculture, receiving the monsoon rain was essential for the survival and wealth of the country (fig. 1). Several decades later, in spite of India’s economic boom, rain songs are still never-failing from its popular culture. Film critics associate rain scenes with fer-

Cultural Symbols and Cognition in the Aesthetics of Weather


Fig. 1: Sheltering from the Rain (ca. 1775 – 1800), paint on paper, Walters Art Museum, © Public Domain

tility and rebirth, and recall the analogy between the anticipation of the monsoon rain and the anticipation of one’s lover in the Indian classical music (Ganti 2013: 93). The standard rain sequences in Bollywood films evoke passion, are highly erotic without showing (much) nakedness, and the lavishness of costumes and decors, not to mention their chromatic intensity, appear to imitate the profusion of life forms called into being by the rain. Without having an explicit religious dimension in the plot, such film scenes are reminiscent of the symbolism of abundance and purification, and their exuberance clearly contrasts with the monotony of modern Western rain.


Mădălina Diaconu

2 Rainy Moods: the Psychology of the Spleen Rainfall can be dripping, flowing or pouring, can be light or heavy, sudden or never ending, and accordingly various are its atmospheres. Nevertheless, the modern imagery focused on the boredom and sadness caused by the rain, and its cosmic symbolism receded to a flat psychological meaning; while Islam thought of rainfall as angels’ tears (Chebel 1995: 340), only disappointed lovers still compare raindrops with tears. The unprecedented liberation from nature ranges from the regulation of water circulation by building dams and irrigation systems, to the simulation of rainfall in greenhouses or of snow for tourists. Therefore, the same rain that makes vegetation grow and thus feeds animals and humans began to signify to city dwellers no more than a boring hindrance of possible outdoor activities. All sort of artifacts—umbrellas, raincoats, gumboots and roofs—protect our body from the touch of rain, and the ideal bodily commerce with the rain is an audiovisual one from a secure indoor position. If aesthetics deals with what is “pleasant” and “nice”, what the subject enjoys in the aesthetic experience of the rain is precisely her own autonomy, like in the common sayings: “It is pleasant to look on the rain when one stands dry” or “Nice day if it don’t rain” (Kingsbury et al. 1996: 287). Symptomatic for the subject’s withdraw from the natural multisensory exposure and for the symbolic power of (only) looking is the flâneur. City passages and galleries provide with their glass roofs shelters against precipitations and gusts, but also against the increasing traffic that obstructed the pleasure of urban strolling, emphasizes Benjamin by quoting sources from the 19th century (Benjamin 1982: 83 – 86). “Regengüsse schikanirten mich, deren einen ich in einer Passage verpaßte” (apud Benjamin 1982: 92), wrote a German actor and singer in 1840 in a letter sent from Paris. Bordered by luxury stores or “Tempel des Warenkapitals” (Benjamin 1982: 86), the passages link the economy of merchandise with the weather, but in contrast to the agrarian societies, they do this in a negative way, similar to a Regen-schirm, by protecting the social life from the elemental, and transferring people into artificial environments and climates (on urban climatic heterotopia see Diaconu 2016). Physical separation from the natural weather does not yet spare psychological affection. The strong “premodern” feelings of happiness and despair are now replaced by spleen; we enter the age of confuse Stimmungen and of aesthetic atmospheres in Böhme’s sense, like in the following example by Jules Laforgue: “Tout m’ennuie aujourd’hui. J’écarte mon rideau. / En haut ciel gris rayé d’une éternelle pluie, / en bas la rue où dans une brume de suie / Des ombres vont, glissant parmi les flaques d’eau” (Laforgue 1979: 248). The meteorological back-

Cultural Symbols and Cognition in the Aesthetics of Weather


ground is essential also for Verlaine’s “poétique de la grisaille” (Gomot 2012), in which mostly bad rainy, windy, or foggy weather paints everything in shades of grey. On such murky days (“jour trouble”) visions become blurred, and one can only listen to the “bruit doux de la pluie”; the rain in the city spreads melancholy and endorses nihilism: “Il pleure dans mon cœur / Comme il pleut sur la ville; / Quelle est cette langueur / Qui pénètre mon cœur?” (Verlaine 1989: 82). Alliterations and repetitions produce a similar monotony to that of the sound of the rain tapping against the window; not only images are blurred and hazy in this monochromy of grey, but also tears and raindrops become phonetically almost indistinguishable (“pleure”, “pleut”). There are only shadows and nuances that count in this “état atmosphérique” (Gomot 2012: 270), and if occasionally the sky turns blue, the intensity of the light becomes unbearably strident and almost threatening. Rain induces melancholy, and melancholy feels at ease only with rain. Spleen is the reverse of modern voluntarism and none of them complies with nature in a positive way. As for the direct experience of rain, walking through it oscillates between struggling—like in Mariah Carey’s song Through the rain, where rain symbolizes obstacles one has to overcome all alone—and dancing, like Gene Kelly does. Physical rain does indeed pose difficulties for the smooth functioning of modern societies and disturbs personal and collective timetables. However, if one does not get upset by this disorder and accepts to play by the own rules of the rain, weather can make one reflect on how fragile the victory of civilization over the elements is and recall the bodily constitution, that is, “l’humilité de son humaine condition”. Moreover, the simple change of attitude can transform the rain experience into an enjoyable break-out from routine, like a “parenthèse dans les bonnes manières” that removes social masks (Le Breton 2000: 142 sq.). The regime of the rain enables us to make fugitive acquaintances and form casual alliances with strangers, or rain even acts as a Cupid, the umbrella being a basic requisite of urban romances. Finally, on a heavy rain, the everyday rather mechanical rhythm of walking turns into a dance; rain is the children’s old playmate, whereas adults make efforts to spring over puddles and defend themselves from being splashed by cars. This involuntary choreography was converted by Gene Kelly into a memorable art scene in the light romantic comedy Singin’ in the Rain (1952). The song itself had already been performed in 1929 in The Hollywood Music Box Revue; however, Gene Kelly’s dance to the song intensifies even more the dissonance between the weather conditions and the character’s mood, that is, between the objective and the subjective atmosphere. As a matter of fact, even if the film’s protagonist is in love, he does not sing and dance in the rainstorm like in Bollywood, which means in cosmic harmony, rejoicing love and the love of


Mădălina Diaconu

the sky for the earth. Quite the reverse, the American performs strictly personal happiness, joyfully splashing around and using his umbrella successively as a flâneur’s cane, a guitar and a dance partner, in spite of the physical rain. This attitude is incomprehensible to common sense: passers-by cross the scene fleeing from the rain and the policeman who breaks up the scene suspects that the young man must have gone out of his mind. The lyrics reinforce this interpretation of the dissonance between the weather and the protagonist’s “glorious feeling”: “I’m laughing at clouds / So dark, up above, / The sun’s in my heart / And I’m ready for love”. Rain and sun are interpreted in a mere psychological key to urban modern culture; what rain leaves behind is no more harvest, wealth or a large family, but tedium, spleen or, at its worst, depression, in a word, meteoropathy, unless this is neutralized by the higher force of love. But not even in this case do the individuals succeed to completely disconnect themselves from nature.

3 Rain Rooms: Simulating Autonomy from Nature To embrace the rain, springing over puddles or splashing into them are natural movements. Contemporary art seeks challenges in other respects, and transforms rain into the agent that makes the invisible visible or simulates a rain in which one cannot get wet. Whereas rain commonly blurs or wipes out images, the “rainworks” produced by Peregrine Church since 2014 in Seattle or Olympia (Washington) are a form of street art containing graphic patterns or (positive) messages that show up only under the effect of water. In this so-called rain activated art weather becomes the medium that enables a phenomenon to show itself, the very agent of a letting-be. Other works, like Stacee Kalmanovsky’s Rain, reproduce rain droplets, with the aid of fishing lines and plastic beads, in established art locations, with more or less poetical effects; although visitors are invited to move through the installation and set the droplets into motion, in order to reinforce the analogy of rain, the rain experience is here practically confined to vision. But most challenging for contemporary artists seems to be the simulation of weather events indoors, in the footsteps of Olafur Eliasson’s artificial sun from the Tate Gallery (Weather project, 2003). However, unlike other meteorological phenomena, rain seems rather easy to reproduce, let us think only of the shooting of the aforementioned film scenes. That is why Random International came up with the ingenious idea of the immersive environment called Rain Room (MoMa 2012 and 2013, YUZ Museum Shanghai 2015, LACMA 2015/ 2016), in which it pours everywhere, yet people do not get wet, due to 3D motion sensor cameras that detect bodies and turn off the falling water (fig. 2).

Cultural Symbols and Cognition in the Aesthetics of Weather


Fig. 2: Random International, Rain Room (2012), © Random International

One of the co-founders of the art collective, Hannes Koch, commented: It took around 4 years to develop the technical framework that allows the installation to make you believe it’s effortless and easy and, indeed, actual rain. In truth, what happens in Rain Room is far from real rain, it’s a minimalist/formalistic simulation that only through sheer mass gives people the impression that they’re looking at rain (and mainly, because that’s what they want to believe I think). (Koch, e-mail to the author, 14.11. 2016)

With the aid of digital technology the modern ideal of autonomy becomes real, that is to be in nature, but as a natural exception, to tame and control nature and thus become invulnerable, yet not without, but including one’s own corporality. As a matter of fact, such rain-works do not abolish the reversibility or reciprocity of touch: the audience can touch and be touched by Kalmanovsky’s Rain, but this is no rainwater; it can interact with real rain in the Rain Room, but precisely by chasing it away, since interacting means here making it stop. In the first case, you are in the rain, but the rain is not real, in the second one, you remain always close to the rain, even when you are surrounded by it, but you can never be in it; you are there—see it, listen to it, maybe even smell its dampness—without being fully there; the window from behind which Verlaine and Laforgue were contemplating the rain surrounds you, you have even become yourself a window, but a moving one. It is the simplicity of the idea that makes Rain Room so extraordi-


Mădălina Diaconu

nary, because the visitors suppress through (kinetic) interaction another (haptic) interaction and thus perform non-interaction. The choreography of the downpour “encourages people to become performers on an unexpected stage and create an intimate atmosphere of contemplation” (Rain Room 1). And this atmosphere does not exclude reflection, quite on the contrary, the detail that movements should not be too quick in order to avoid getting wet enhances the meditative dimension of the installation. Because the unusual setting opens a field of experimentation, within the limits of the space occupied by the body, Rain Room was used for interventions by dance performances of an “atmospheric” music; according to the choreographer Wayne McGregor, “the rain itself makes you dance” (Rain Room 2) (fig. 3). The paradoxical interactive non-interaction creates a magical field prone to meditation and bodily reflection; though artificially produced, its rain is archetypal, and the experience of the public, universal. Other contemporary art installations, on the contrary, endorse critical environmental thinking.

Fig. 3: Random International, Rain Room (2012), © Random International

Cultural Symbols and Cognition in the Aesthetics of Weather


4 Acid Rain: Environmental Concern and Responsibility Bright Ugochukwu Eke, a Nigerian artist who had a skin infection due to the acid rain whilst working in a polluted area, links the premodern symbolism of water as universal life source with current environmental issues. His installation, Acid Rain (2006), consists of numerous small plastic bags in the shape of teardrops containing a blackish industrial chemical similar to acid rain; suspended, these bags have the effect of a floating and menacing poisoned cloud (fig. 4). And in Shield (2005/06) Eke shaped from thousands of used and discarded plastic water sachets raincoats and umbrellas to protect from the toxic effects of acid rain. Water is the natural medium of birth and the industrial medium of death; the former requisites of convenience have become necessary shields against selfdestruction through industrial pollution.

Fig. 4: Bright Ugochukwu Eke, Acid Rain (2006), courtesy of the artist

The phenomenon of acid rain—that is, rain water that contains sulfuric and nitric acid—has been known since Antiquity, but was for a long time confined to


Mădălina Diaconu

local harmful effects until the cases of acid rainfall became frequent in Europe beginning in the end of the 1950s and producing great damage, such as the forest decline in Scandinavia, in the 1970s. Below pH 5.1, the rainwater damages metals and deteriorates buildings of marble and limestone, including heritage architecture. In the same country in which Bollywood movies perpetuate the positive association of rain with fertility, the “stone-cancer” that corrodes the Taj Mahal was put down to acid rain, and migratory birds come in fewer numbers to the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary since the lake water has turned acidic. The acidification of water affects the aquatic life, lakes become fishless, and the eggshells of birds living on insects from such lakes is thinner than usual. Also the fertility of the soil that may turn acidic is reduced or even lost, foliage is damaged, trees and vegetation are weakened, the vegetable crop drops down, etc. Eventually the acid in the air may harm lungs, and the acid in the water is suspected to mobilize toxic metals that damage the digestive and nervous systems, including types of dementia (Maugh 1984, Kaushik/Kaushik 2010). Because of the wind, the acid rain causes damages on broad areas, regardless of national borders; air and water pollution have turned into a global environmental concern. This concern seems to be shared by pop musicians of all genres since the 1980s; in their lyrics the traditional association of rain with unhappy, individual romances competes with the acid rain as only one symptom of the environmental crisis in general. For example, in 1984, the British rock singer Robert Calvert deplored the IT and surveillance systems, genetic technology, as well as environmental pollution (“An acid rain is falling hard”; Calvert, Acid Rain). Lenny Kravitz correlates environmental pollution, including acid rain, with “the fear that rains inside” and condemns our “ignorance” that oblige the future generations to “a lifetime spent in abstinence” (Kravitz 1989, Fear). In comparison to premodern age, environmental fear slightly shifted its object from natural phenomena to the effects of pollution and is accompanied by a bad conscience. The Sisters of Mercy dream gloomily of a “Black Planet” on which we “run around in the radiation / Run around in the acid rain” (Black Planet, 1985). Electric Wizard accuses, in Mourning Prayer (1994), politicians for the “poison clouds in the sky, / Acid rain in my eyes”. The evil of contemporary society—ceaseless wars, severe droughts, water pollution and acid rain (“The wells are gone dry and the water is bad and the air is acid rain”)—reminds Johnny Cash of apocalyptic prophecies; no relief is in sight, “the worst is still to come” (Goin’ by the Book, 1990). A pseudo-religious vision had Jethro Tull singing “the heavens break / And all the world go down to sleep / And rocks on mossy banks / Drip acid rain from craggy steeps / Saw fiery angels kiss the dawn […]” (And Further On, 1980). Others, rather surprisingly, revive Greek mythology when they suffer a

Cultural Symbols and Cognition in the Aesthetics of Weather


love deception: “Atlas shrugged here on planet claire / With his lead umbrella for the acid rain / He put the earth down and stuck out his thumb / And he hitched a ride out on the freeway of the plains” (Spin Doctors, Freeway of the Plains, 1991). Last, but not least, songwriters like Ziggy Marley appear to endorse the myth of the Gea, the “beautiful Mother Nature” whose “tears are falling like acid rain”, but who is still “hoping her children will love her again” as “before they polluted her sacred land” (Beautiful Mother Nature, 1995). The subject of most of these lyrics is no more the individual, but the planet as a system of complex interactions, and this change of perspective replaces the personal idiosyncrasies with global problems related to the survival of species and the well-being of entire generations.

5 Atmosphere and Cognition In the age of ecological consciousness, rain and water as economic resources cannot be completely dissociated from political and moral issues. Even if some contemporary artists and musicians feel seduced by the worldviews of natural religions or are tempted to personify Nature or Mother Earth, which brings them somehow close to deep ecology, their environmental perception and attitude, let alone their Grundstimmung of fear, are yet indebted to science communication through media. No matter how “atmospheric” or moody weather phenomena may be, knowledge has again become essential for the aesthetic experience as it was before modernity, even though the sources of trusted or generally shared knowledge changed. Aesthetic ingenuity in weather issues has become impossible and to some extent even irresponsible. In this respect, it is necessary to bring a corrective to the phenomenological theory of atmospheres that—roughly speaking, without going into the controversial issue about the subjective or objective character of atmospheres—considers rain as the correlate of a specific subjective mood. In our example, rainfall in general is a particularly strong “atmospheric” event that tends to prompt contemplation and create a pleasant feeling of intimacy. On the contrary, the spreading of acid rain urges critical reflection, which would require the phenomenological aesthetics of atmospheres to give up the alleged immediate character of aesthetic experience and integrate cognitive elements. Knowing that rain is acid compromises any presupposed “pure” aesthetic enjoyment of it and contaminates the aesthetic experience with the concern about further environmental damages and the fear of the consequences pollution may have for humans and other living beings. The pleasure of contemplation can be diminished, if not even suddenly spoiled, by additional information; the slightest doubt that a beautiful,


Mădălina Diaconu

natural phenomenon may be linked to environmental harm suffices to change the tonality of an emotional atmosphere and negatively affects one’s experience. (This does, of course, not exclude the possibility of a contrary metamorphosis, when scientific knowledge may help us discover the beauty of what common sense regards as ordinary or even ugly, such us the average weather conditions and, respectively, the “bad weather”.) Given its strong romantic tenet, Gernot Böhme’s version of the aesthetics of atmosphere would probably provide a too narrow basis for such a reconsideration. On the contrary, Tonino Griffero’s outline of an “atmospherology” points out that the very perception of atmospheres “could very well change sign and colour for various reasons” (Griffero 2014: 136), such as the minor modification of the space, additional knowledge, a previous personal experience, the more general spatial context of the experienced environment, a variation of the perceptive distance, and even a change in the subject’s physiological conditions. As for the additional knowledge, this means that already small pieces of information may re-tonalize the felt atmosphere, for example when the growing doubts of the subordinates gradually turn the charismatic atmosphere of their leader into an atmosphere of inadequacy if not even worthlessness, or when the discovery of the fictional or even manipulative character of the proposed atmosphere reflexively cancels its effect, at least in part (Griffero 2014: 136),

as when the knowledge that a beautiful sunset is caused by aerosols is enough to suffocate our admiration for it. In a similar way, Eugene Hargrove denied that the appreciation of natural beauty would be reducible to the immediate “sensory awareness of the moment”, since it is […] also filtered through an understanding and appreciation of the creative forces that produced that moment in nature’s history. Just as we want an art object to be original, the actual result of the artistic process, we want the beauty of nature to be authentic, the result of natural processes only. (Hargrove 1989: 195)

To conclude, the atmospheric perception is “at least partly cognitively penetrable and not totally deterministic” (Griffero 2014: 137). If cognition does not represent a necessary condition for the experience of atmospheres in the meaning of emotional spaces, it still has enough power (as a sufficient condition) to inhibit or block spontaneous emotional reactions to presumed natural beauty. For example, it suffices to imagine that the rain that pours over the euphoric Bollywood couple or Gene Kelly would be not only natural, but also acid—this simple thought, as absurd as it may sound, would completely change the signification of these scenes: all of a sudden, their love would

Cultural Symbols and Cognition in the Aesthetics of Weather


appear as stigmatized by finitude and tragedy, be it that the actors/lovers would know that the rain is acid (and expose themselves to it in a sort of suicidal gesture) or would be victims of ignorance. Can you, moreover, imagine Verlaine continuing to complain about his ennui if he knew that the rain over Paris would be acid, or even that somewhere else in the world living creatures would be exposed to such a rain? And if he did so, wouldn’t we condemn him as a narrow-minded egocentric? No matter if it is the fear of a potential threatening weather phenomenon in one’s immediate vicinity, or the concern for the well-being of remote and unknown people, that inhibits the “natural” attunement to felt atmospheres, the aesthetic experience is nevertheless shaped by cognitive aspects and their moral implications. If atmospheres waft in an in-between subject and object, then rainy moods are expected to change not only because of an even slight change of the “object” rain, but also when the same perceptual aspects are seen in a different light as a result of additional abstract information. Put in other words, the natural perception of atmospheres is “filtered through the ideas and evaluations of the perceiver” (Griffero 2014: 137), as well as through the subject’s earlier experience. As a consequence, Bright Ugochukwu Eke presumably experiences even the most “natural” rain differently than a naïve subject who would downplay the danger of acid rain. The emphasis of knowledge and in particular of the natural sciences in the aesthetic experience of weather legitimates and encourages critical distancing and self-censorship of spontaneous aesthetic reactions. The integration of cognitive aspects in the phenomenological aesthetics of atmosphere would also open the way for a dialogue with other theories of environmental aesthetics, in particular with those cognitive approaches that acknowledge the importance of cultural traditions, local narratives, folklore and mythology of nature (Yuriko Saito) as complementary with the knowledge of natural history (Allen Carlson, Holmes Rolston III, Glenn Parsons) and require an adequate aesthetic appreciation of nature. The previous examples taken from the distinct ages of rain demonstrated that the experience of a natural weather phenomenon is modelled by imagination, and the latter is again shaped by cultural factors, such as religious worldviews, metaphysical insights about the meaning of life or the human condition, and scientific explanations. The question for the aesthetic theory—to be followed in the future—is how the exemplary analysis of aesthetic experience in the phenomenological theory of atmospheres can coalesce with cognitivist views. “The challenge of climate change is not only global and abstract, but also local and intimate”, emphasized the moral philosopher Dale Jamieson (2005: 239); put it differently, climate change cannot be reduced to a mere intellectual problem to be solved, but engages multifariously with our experience. From this perspective, the primacy of perception and affec-


Mădălina Diaconu

tivity in the phenomenological aesthetics of atmosphere could contribute to correct simplistic cognitive models in the communication of climate change, and an aesthetic theory of weather events, which is necessarily based upon immediate experience, might turn out to be relevant for science communication, too.

Bibliography Benjamin, Walter (1983): Das Passagen-Werk. Erster Band. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Böhme, Gernot (2001): Aisthetik. Vorlesungen über Ästhetik als allgemeine Wahrnehmungslehre. Munich: Fink. Böhme, Gernot (2011): “Das Wetter und die Gefühle. Für eine Phänomenologie des Wetters”. In: Kerstin Andermann/Undine Eberlein (Eds.): Gefühle als Atmosphären: Neue Phänomenologie und philosophische Emotionstheorie. Berlin: Akademie, pp. 153 – 173. Böhme, Gernot/Schiemann, Gregor (Eds.) (1997): Phänomenologie der Natur. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Boia, Lucian (2005): The Weather in the Imagination. London: Reaktion Books. Chebel, Malek (1995): Dictionnaire des symboles musulmans. Rites, mystique et civilisation. Paris: Albin Michel. Diaconu, Mădălina (2015): “Longing for the Clouds – Does Beautiful Weather Have to Be Fine?” In: Contemporary Aesthetics 13, pages/article.php?articleID=719 (accessed 07/19/2016). Diaconu, Mădălina (2016): “De caelo urbis. Zur Bedeutung von Klima und Wetter für das Stadtleben”. In: Forum Stadt 4, pp. 243 – 257. Efrem, Sirul (2010): Imnele Păresimilor, Azimelor, Răstignirii și Învierii. Sibiu: Deisis. Ganti, Tejaswini (22013): A Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema. New York, London: Routledge. Gomot, Guillaume (2012): “Comme il pleut sur la ville: Verlaine et la poétique de la grisaille”. In: Karin Becker (Ed.): La pluie et le beau temps dans la littérature française. Discours scientifiques et transformations littéraires, du Moyen Âge à l’époque moderne. Paris: Hermann, pp. 257 – 270. Griffero, Tonino (2014): Atmospheres: Aesthetics of Emotional Spaces. Farnham: Ashgate. Hargrove, Eugene (1989): Foundations of Environmental Ethics. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Jamieson, Dale (2005): “Adaptation, mitigation, and justice”. In: Walter Sinnott-Armstrong/Richard B. Howarth (Eds.): Perspectives on Climate Change: Science, Economics, Politics, Ethics. Amsterdam: Elsevier JAI, pp. 221 – 253. Kaushik, Anubha/Kaushik, C.P. (2010): Basics of Environment and Ecology. New Delhi: New Age International Ltd. Kingsbury, Stewart A./Kingsbury, Mildred E./Mieder, Wolfgang (1996): Weather Wisdom. Proverbs, Superstitions, and Signs. New York: Peter Lang. Laforgue, Jules (1979): Les Complaintes. Paris: Gallimard. Le Breton, David (2000): Eloge de la marche. Paris: Métailié. Macho, Thomas (1994): “Neue Askese? Zur Frage nach der Aktualität des Verzichts”. In: Merkur. Deutsche Zeitschrift für europäisches Denken 48. No. 544. Iss. 7, Juli, pp. 583 – 593.

Cultural Symbols and Cognition in the Aesthetics of Weather

Maugh, Thomas H. (1984): “Acid rain’s effects on people assessed”. In: Science 226. Iss. 4681. DOI 10.1126/science.6505698. Morel, Corinne (2004): Dictionnaire des symboles, mythes et croyances. Paris: Éds. de l’Archipel. Rain Room 1. (accessed 07/18/2016). Rain Room 2. (accessed 07/18/2016). Tetsuro, Watsuji (1997): Fūdo – Wind und Erde. Der Zusammenhang von Klima und Kultur. Darmstadt: Primus. Verlaine, Paul (1989): Œuvres poétiques completes. Paris: Gallimard.


Aesthetics and the Theory of Arts

Karlheinz Lüdeking

Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Art-Philosophy So Boring and Art-Criticism So Different, So Much More Appealing? Abstract: This paper has two aims. First, it tries to justify the claim (already presupposed by the title) that today’s art-philosophy is boring because it has nothing useful to say about the problem of distinguishing artworks from other things. For more than sixty years we have witnessed that only two strategies have been used to cope with that problem: 1) the traditional attempt to give a definition of the concept of art and 2) the comparatively new endeavor to show how the concept can be applied without fixed criteria. Both strategies have constantly failed. Therefore, the second purpose of the paper is to outline a third possibility to determine the members of the class of artworks. It no longer presupposes that this can only be attained as a result of mental acts. It rather considers the constitution of the class of artworks as an outcome of a social process that involves countless individual acts of inclusion and exclusion.

The title of this paper is, obviously, a bit provocative and the claim it entails can certainly not count on widespread consent, particularly among philosophers specializing in the philosophy of art. Most of them, I guess, will assure us that today’s art-philosophy—the branch they themselves actually work in—is not at all boring, but very appealing. Actually, I would even admit that my verdict, in its generality, is a bit overstated because I cannot rule out the possibility that contemporary art-philosophy might have produced interesting results that I am not aware of. Therefore, I would—at least in this context—not at all mind to limit the scope of my thesis. I will stick to it, however, all the more stubbornly when it comes to the fundamental problem of all philosophy of art: the problem of distinguishing artworks from other things. Today’s art-philosophy has proved to be unable to contribute something new and useful to the solution of this problem, and therefore it may, at least in this respect, rightly be called boring. A boring theory mostly consists of statements that are completely predictable or of arguments that are already well known, even though they might parade in the guise of some up-to-date vocabulary. In my opinion, this is actually the case with all the different proposals put forward during the last sixty years concerning the problem of distinguishing artworks from other things. And the reason why philosophy has never convincingly solved DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-005


Karlheinz Lüdeking

this problem is simply that philosophy is not competent for its solution. Today’s art-philosophy—that is the thesis of this paper—is not in a position to decide whether something is a work of art or not. It can only clarify the conditions of the possibility of such decisions, and if it aims for more, it will exceed the limits of its competence so that, consequently, it becomes irrelevant and boring. And this is precisely what we can observe today. Today’s art-philosophy is still dealing with a problem it is not qualified to deal with. It has not yet realized that it is not philosophy’s business to draw a distinction between artworks and other things. Concerning the task of drawing this distinction, there are basically two different theoretical approaches that dominate today, and neither of them is particularly appealing. On the one hand there those who, like Arthur Danto, still feel obliged to devise an essentialist definition of art, in spite of the fact that no such definition has ever been generally accepted. All of them (Danto’s included) have been criticized, rejected and condemned by other thinkers, and with good reasons. Again and again it turned out that all attempts to establish necessary and sufficient conditions for calling something a work of art failed because they delimited the class of artworks in a way that did not comply with the actual classification at a given time. Whatever criteria were proposed, they all proved to be either too permissive or too restrictive; either they included objects not generally classified as artworks or they excluded commonly acknowledged works of art. In this situation there are only three possibilities to cope with the problem, and each of them leads into a dead-end. Initially, the only adequate reaction seems to be to admit that the criteria proposed have turned out to be incorrect and, consequently, to withdraw one’s definition. In order to avoid such a shameful move, it might, however, be tempting to re-define one’s criteria to make them less clear-cut and thus more capable to cover problematic or borderline cases. But such an effort can only lead to the inconvenience that the criteria will, in the end, become so elastic and so vague that it is no longer possible to decide where to apply them and where not to. Finally, there is the possibility of ruthlessly applying one’s own criteria regardless of the classifications of others. This implies, as already indicated, that certain objects commonly accepted as artworks will be expelled and objects that others would not count as artworks will be included. Such a definition, evidently, is no more than a private guideline or, at best, a narrow-minded prescription of how others should use the concept of art as well. It is, in any case, no faithful description of the way we actually use this concept. Confronted with those (and several other) insufficiencies of essentialist definitions, a considerable number of philosophers turned to the idea that the con-

Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Art-Philosophy So Boring


cept of art cannot be defined at all. In their opinion, a definition of art is either not necessary because we are able to use the concept, although we cannot state the rules that govern its use, or a definition is rejected and declared detrimental since it, allegedly, prevents the creation of radically new works of art. Very soon, however, it became clear that these anti-definitional theories were also unable to explain how the concept of art is actually used. The antagonism between these two camps—those who stick to the traditional endeavors to determine necessary and sufficient conditions for the use of the concept of art, and those who believe that the concept can just as well be used without rigid criteria—has dominated art-philosophy since the 1950s. And since then we are caught in an impasse. The good news is (quite predictably) that there is a way out of this impasse and that (again quite predictably) it is Ludwig Wittgenstein who can show us how to proceed. So, let us look for a clue in his Philosophical Investigations, posthumously published in 1953. In paragraph 182, Wittgenstein discusses a few situations in which we are unsure about the criteria for using such seemingly simple expressions like “to fit,” “to be able” and “to understand.” This leads him to the following conclusion: “The game with these words, their employment in the linguistic intercourse that is carried on by their means, is more involved—the role of these words in our language other—than we are tempted to think.” In an appendix to the paragraph, that insight is, finally, transformed into the following methodological advice: “This role is what we need to understand in order to resolve philosophical paradoxes. And hence definitions usually fail to resolve them; and so, a fortiori does the assertion that a word is ‘indefinable’.”¹ Today’s art-philosophy, unfortunately, never took this recommendation as seriously as it deserves, and because of that we are now doomed to watch the endless end-game of contemporary art-philosophy staged in the form of a depressing farce, a paralyzing combat between two parties in the grip of a constellation of complementary double-binded compulsions. On the one side, there are those who still scrupulously elaborate their definitions of art, although they are tacitly aware that these will be of no use at all. On the other side, there are those who ceaselessly declare definitions of art to be “impossible” although everyone knows that they are constantly created anew. Contemporary art-philosophy, thus,

 PI 1953, 182: This passage was used as the final quote and at the same time as the last sentence of my introduction to analytic philosophy of art. It was not only meant to pay homage to the philosopher who was my greatest inspiration in these matters, but also as a hint at the direction in which further research seemed to be necessary. See Lüdeking 1988: 210 and 207 of the second, expanded edition 1998. A short sketch of thoughts concerning closely related problems—also written in English—is to be found in Lüdeking 2010: 100 – 111.


Karlheinz Lüdeking

either keeps searching for useless definitions or denounces such efforts without offering something better. And this spectacle is not appealing, but almost a bit appalling, because over the years it should have dawned on everyone that “define or not define” can no longer be the question. As a first step to abandon the dreadful circulus vitiosus, we must drop the presupposition that the concept of art must have a pre-established “intrinsic meaning” waiting to be discovered, like a Platonic “idea.” According to Wittgenstein we should not focus on the meaning, but on the use of a concept. We have to observe how people in their daily routine use expressions like “art,” “artwork” or “work of art,” we have to clarify the role those expressions play in “the game with these words,” we have to see how they are employed in our “linguistic intercourse.” Following this advice, we will soon notice that people who are professionally concerned with artworks actually use words like “artwork” rather seldom, at least not as often as we might expect. Museum-directors, for example, do not choose the items for their next exhibition by declaring “This is a work of art, and that is also a work of art,” instead they say “Okay” or “That doesn’t fit” or “That’s boring,” and these expressions, we have to realize, are in most cases not meant to describe states of affairs. They are rather used to determine what is right and what is wrong. Their context is that of practical decision, not of theoretical cognition. When, in this context, something is declared to be an artwork, the ascription of the word “artwork” usually does not have the purpose to state a given fact, but to produce a new fact. Calling something a work of art quite often has the power of a “speech-act”—a verbal utterance strong enough to generate a new state of affairs. Calling something a work of art can make it a work of art. The power involved in such cases does not, of course, reside in the words being uttered, nor in the practice of uttering them, nor in the person who utters them. The amazing capacity to alter the world by pronouncing certain words need not be traced back to sorcery, witchcraft or magic. It is made possible by something utterly factual and even empirically measurable, and that is the potency of an institution. The efficiency of speech-acts always depends on the fact that they are part of a social system that regulates the behavior of all those involved. Seen in this perspective, distinguishing artworks from other things is no longer a question of recognizing things for what they are (as with natural kinds, say: larks in contrast to nightingales). It rather turns out to be a question of transfiguring things by conferring them a special status. In this case, an artwork is not an artwork because of its inherent properties, it is an artwork because a certain prestigious status has been bestowed upon it—just as a professor is a professor because he has gone through the institutional procedure

Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Art-Philosophy So Boring


required to reach this position, whereas his personal qualifications (intelligence, not being boring etc.) are only pre-conditions. Before we continue with this—so to speak, structural—analysis it is advisable to supplement it with a short—historical—survey showing that the range of things eligible for receiving the status of an artwork has drastically changed and extremely expanded during the last two-hundred years. At the beginning of the French Revolution it was still quite easy to recognize artworks for what they were. Compared with today, the class of artworks was a small, isolated and self-sufficient set consisting mostly of paintings on wood or canvas, marble sculptures, drawings on colored paper, and not very much else. Then, in the early twentieth century, a vast variety of new things were admitted, which would not have been considered possible candidates before: paintings, for example, with strange compositions lacking any resemblance to something in the real world, sculptures tinkered from the cheapest materials or genuine junk, even ordinary household-goods available at department-stores. Today, finally, the situation has become so extreme that nothing at all seems to be left in the real world that might not, under suitable conditions, become a member of the art-world. That means that everything whatsoever is already a potential work of art. Nothing is per se excluded. Accordingly, in a museum of contemporary art we must always expect the unexpected. We will be exposed to all sorts of delightful or painful or awkward (or boring) experiences that, one or two decades ago, no one would have dared to impose on the audience. We might be confronted with living animals, or people who want us to sing a song, or discuss the consequences of climate change; we might be urged to find our way through dark and narrow spaces; we might be blinded by bright light; we might hear screaming voices or sounds recorded in the desert; we might be tormented by disgusting smells or exhilarated by computer-generated films showing things no one has ever seen before; and at some point we will very likely arrive in a room without having the faintest idea whether there is an artwork within those four white-washed walls and where it might be. It is just this: the enormous proliferation of occasions for unusual experiences and the manifold possibilities to indulge in an adventurous pastime that makes today’s art-museums so different and so appealing for ever-increasing numbers of visitors. Having, by this little survey, entered the terrain of concrete facts, it seems convenient for me to add a bit more real world material to my hitherto rather abstract reasoning. First, I remind the reader of the conference from which the present paper originated. It was the thirty-ninth International Wittgenstein Symposium that took place from August 7 till August 13, 2016, in the small Austrian town of Kirchberg am Wechsel. Its topic was Aesthetics Today. Contem-


Karlheinz Lüdeking

porary Approaches to the Aesthetics of Nature and of Art. For reasons that will soon become apparent, I want to relate this event with another one of another order: an exhibition that was shown exactly sixty years earlier, from August 9 till September 9, 1956, at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London under the title This is Tomorrow. The British artist Richard Hamilton designed a poster for this exhibition that also served as its catalogue’s cover. For this purpose, he created a tiny collage (measuring no more than 26 by 25 centimeters) with the title Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? The collage was based on an advertisement for linoleum published in the June 1955 issue of the American Ladies‘ Home Journal, showing an empty (and quite boring) suburban livingroom. Hamilton then glued on small pictures of modern household items (vac-

Fig. 1: Courtesy of the picture archive of the Berlin University of Arts.

Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Art-Philosophy So Boring


uum-cleaner, TV-set, tape-recorder), a huge can of cooked ham, a blown-up cover of a pulp-fiction book, the heraldic emblem of the Ford car company, and—not to forget—photographs of two persons who might live here: a man, an almost naked body-builder sporting a huge red lollipop, and a woman, also nearly naked, a striptease dancer with an ultra–modern hair-drying device on her head. Outside the window we see an old-fashioned movie theatre, announcing a film from 1927. The ceiling is replaced by the surface of some planet, presumably that of the earth, and the carpet has turned into a flickering pattern of black and white dots that we know from television, when it is tuned to a dead channel.

Fig. 2: Courtesy of the picture archive of the Berlin University of Arts.


Karlheinz Lüdeking

Hamilton, thus, illustrates a combat of old and new, and thereby stages a genuine case of a Querelle des anciens et des modernes. In its highly condensed form, the collage testifies to the irreversible dissolution of the traditional selfcontained dwelling place; the home that was a castle, secured by impervious walls, encapsulating an inner refugium, sealing it off from the rest of the world and, due to its deep hostility to any intrusion, supporting inbreeding and inertia. Today’s homes, by contrast, have opened themselves to all sorts of external forces. Under the impact of mass-production and consumer-culture, of entertainment, fashion and advertising, all boundaries have collapsed so that lots of new objects have found their way into the interior where they are now appropriately cherished and idolized because they make today’s homes so different, so appealing. Obviously, the development of the domestic sphere shows some striking similarities to that of the art-world. Two-hundred years ago it had also been a rather exclusive, rigid and inflexible domain governed by ecclesiastical ideals and aristocratic interests, and meanwhile it has, just as well, come under the spell of popular culture. It is no secret that contemporary art takes its inspiration from all sorts of trends emerging from mass-culture as well as sub-culture, that it eagerly assimilates the latest technical achievements, and that it exploits everything new and capricious, no matter if it has originated in philosophy or philately, cosmology or cosmetics. The parallel development of the domestic and the artistic, however, is not just a fascinating spectacle as such, it also suggests an interesting analogy with respect to the way in which new items are incorporated. If we were to explain how all of the novel objects got into Hamilton’s living-room, we would surely refer to their peculiar merits in every single case. If, in addition, we were forbidden to use other philosophical methods than those that have been characterized above, we would be left with the following two options. We could either cling to the dubious strategy of looking for common properties (a “persistent capacity for the amelioration of consumer-satisfaction” or a specific “household-goodness” or something else of this order) in order to find necessary and sufficient conditions that must be satisfied by the new—as well as the old—members. Or we could claim that every choice of a new item had been based on the use of flexible criteria that can arbitrarily be modified from case to case. None of these explanations, however, will be able to show how the selection of household-goods actually takes place. The main difficulty is that we may acquire as much knowledge as we want about the things that have already become integral parts of Hamilton’s modern residence, and nevertheless have nothing to go on when we decide about new candidates. Would it not be good to have aromatic candles? And what about a

Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Art-Philosophy So Boring


device for serving tap-beer? Such questions cannot be answered by referring to “essential features” shared by all household-goods whatsoever. And they can neither be answered by the well-meaning but utterly futile advice to abstain from rigidly fixed criteria. The vacuum-cleaner, for instance, was once chosen because of its long hose (twice as long as the average), but that criterion became obsolete when robot-cleaners were introduced that have no hose at all. Even in earlier times a long hose would not necessarily have been considered desirable because some potential customers (like those living in micro-apartments) certainly had no need for it. Problems are aggravated when we turn to completely new or different gadgets. Even the best reasons for choosing a particular vacuum-cleaner do not apply to tape-recorders or canned food. Finally, even somebody who, for example, buys lots of vacuum-cleaners for a huge hospital and therefore knows everything about them, cannot always stick to the same criteria, because consumer-goods are modified all the time and, accordingly, have to be compared and re-assessed continually. It is not necessary to pursue these considerations any further since it has probably got clear enough that the methods of today’s art-philosophy begin to look weird or even absurd if they are transferred into a different sphere. Our experimental transfer into the domain of interior decoration has, in any case, already led to the valuable insight: better to drop our initial question “What is a work of art?” in favor of another one that seems to be easier to answer. It goes like this: “How are new objects admitted into the class of artworks?” And if we ask this question mutatis mutandis about Hamilton’s living-room, we realize that one aspect of the matter has so far been completely ignored. We did not yet take into account that decisions to add new items or to throw old ones out cannot be made by anyone whosoever. Very few people are authorized to do that: the owner of the apartment, for instance, or the lodger. Mentioning this aspect might indicate an attempt to take an easy way out and it seems to be lazy and irresponsible to declare that the task of selecting new household-goods—or artworks, for that matter—is simply not one’s business. It will certainly appear a bit strange if a person was asked to name criteria for modern-living-room-equipment and refused an answer, maintaining that others are in charge of that. It will soon become clear that we better put such suspicions and allegations aside for the moment, and instead have a short look at an interesting type of persons who have a license to decide about access to a highly exclusive terrain: the doormen of fancy night-clubs. Several years ago a club in Berlin was elected the most exuberant in the whole world and it is therefore not surprising that, even today, we find lots of inquiries in the internet asking for advice how to get into that notorious temple of lust. In one respect the answer is easy: “You have to wait in line for an hour


Karlheinz Lüdeking

Fig. 3: Courtesy of the picture archive of the Berlin University of Arts.

until you reach the entrance. There you will see an awe-inspiring bouncer with lots of piercings and tattoos. He will check your looks and your behavior. Then he will either open the door and let you in or—and this is much more probable— he will mumble ‘no’. And that’s it. Do not try to argue, please.” Although this is a perfectly correct description of the procedure, it does not, unfortunately, provide the information needed to get in. Such information would tell us how to dress (“preferably black”), what to do (“act naturally”) and perhaps also what to avoid (“no loud laughter”). The reliability of such recommendations depends on the quality of the empirical research that they rely on. It is indispensable to chronicle a large number of the doorman’s decisions before it becomes possible to hazard a guess about his future decisions. Nevertheless, even if every such guess would, up to now, have been correct, we can still not expect the next one to be correct, too. To our great surprise the doorman might—because of a headache or out of pure whim—let someone enter who is dressed like an anchorman of a news-channel. Within the present line of thought, however, it is not so much prognostic probability that matters but the fact that even the most improbable and deviant decisions of the doorman

Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Art-Philosophy So Boring


Fig. 4: Courtesy of the picture archive of the Berlin University of Arts.

would be just as valid as his others. Doormen’s decisions are always final, they can neither be disputed nor do they require justification. If we were not used to it, we would probably be amazed to see that night-clubs dare to delegate the crucial task of selecting the guests to a single person and to give him an unconditional license to decide. Such a despotic regime can, once again, only be warranted by an institution that—like every institution—would immediately collapse if its rules are no longer followed by a majority of those who are involved. But, as we know, the arrangements of night-clubs are actually acknowledged by party-people all over the world—even though that entails being completely at the mercy of the doormen. At this point, an interesting insight can be obtained by going back once more to the thirty-ninth International Wittgenstein Symposium that was already mentioned. In light of what has been said before, it is clear that the organizers of this event were faced with basically the same sort of problem as that of popular night-clubs. In both cases enormous crowds of highly sophisticated persons are willing to join the event and therefore many prospective participants must be sorted out. And again the well-known question arises: how can we get in?


Karlheinz Lüdeking

Due to its noble distinction, the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society does not enact the unavoidable selection as a spectacle right at the entrance door and instead uses a less humiliating modus operandi. You write an application and send a proposal for a paper, then you wait for a decision. At this stage, though, you are also completely at the mercy of the gate-keepers, two persons who are allowed to decide on their own and whose verdict is just as final as that of Berlin’s most celebrated doorman. The answer that has just been given to the question of how to get into the Wittgenstein Symposium was again, as in the case of the night-club, a purely formal description of the process. It did not contain any reference to “substantial” criteria (“no papers on Deleuze”). This time, however, nobody complains. Neither does anyone call for a definition of the genuine Wittgensteinian mode of philosophy, nobody demands criteria to be named (because otherwise it would be impossible to know what an adequate contribution must be like), and there is not even the ever-present person to remind us that definitions are obsolete and fixed criteria are no longer useful today. This is proof that, contrary to all expectations, art-philosophers might—under circumstances still to be investigated—be ready to delegate decisions about art-philosophical matters to other art-philosophers and even to comply with the results. Any attempt to explain this will presumably have to refer to the fact that the Kirchberg conferences actually have the atmosphere of a club where kindred souls can meet. (And this, by the way, is the quality that makes them so different, so appealing.) Having emphasized this, we can continue to elaborate the analogy of the artworld and the night-club. In order to avoid misunderstanding, it seems advisable, first of all, to assign the functions that can be seen as equivalent. It is obvious that the persons lining up outside the club are in a similar position as objects waiting to be incorporated into the class of artworks. Accordingly, the lucky night-clubbers who are already inside correlate to the objects that have already managed to establish themselves as artworks. Between the two groups there is a barrier that separates them. So the task to accomplish is simply to cross the barrier and move from the ordinary world outside to the artificial heaven inside. Getting into the fake man-made heaven, it must be noted in passing, might turn out to be more difficult than getting into the original one, where the old Saint Peter does the door deciding on the basis of criteria that have even been put down on paper, so that everyone can calculate their chances of being admitted. The prospects of an object getting into the pseudo-celestial world of art are much more unstable. In any case, the most interesting aspect of the analogy of night-club and artworld remains to be explored. It becomes apparent when we try to characterize the different functions of art-philosopher and art-critic. There will be no protest,

Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Art-Philosophy So Boring


I guess, if we come to the observation that the philosopher prefers to operate inside the gated terrain. He wants to study the peculiarities of those things that have entered the exclusive precinct opened up by the doorman. An art-philosopher usually takes the limits of the class of artworks, as he encounters and perceives them, for granted. He feels that it cannot be his aim to change the composition of that class, relegating some things and welcoming others, because that would mean to interfere with the job of the doorman. His aim is rather to study that class of things as he actually found it. And this is really the only thing to do in order to avoid beginning with willful interventions right from the start. That, however, means that his observations can only refer to a set of objects (accepted as artworks) that was not assembled and composed by him, but by someone else, the doorman. The philosopher, thus, can only pursue his exploration on a database provided by the set of objects that has already been determined by decisions of others. Therefore, all of his findings bear a strong mark of the time and his definitions can only consolidate and petrify the status quo. The art-critic, by contrast, always has a tendency to question the judgments adduced as justifications for appointing new works of art. He always keeps asking whether the reasons for admitting something into the class of artworks are really good reasons, and whether certain elements really deserve to enter and why others should be brushed off. The art-critic, therefore, finds it boring to stay inside, where all the controversial and interesting issues are already settled, he prefers to operate outside, where the fundamental issues are still at stake. His favored position is near to the check-point and near to the doorman, with whom he communicates on the same level. In contrast to the philosopher, who does not like to get involved and prefers to remain in the position of a distanced observer, the art-critic is happy to participate in dispute and quarrel. That is also true of the artists because they are, as artists, always already critics as well, since they cannot avoid to be the first to judge their own work. Art-philosophers, we can thus conclude, are primarily interested in the specific qualities of objects that have already acquired the status of an artwork. Artcritics (and artists themselves), by contrast, are primarily interested in the procedure by which a given object can acquire the status in the first place. As we have already seen, however, philosophers who have developed their theories of art will inevitably realize that the art-world is a territory of infinitely many different opinions and of permanent dispute. Usually, in intellectual combat-zones like this, philosophers feel obliged to take the role of the beneficial attendant. The fact that they like to present themselves as “specialists for general matters” indicates that they still cling to the pretension, inherited from theology, that they have the right and the duty to comment on each and every problem


Karlheinz Lüdeking

whatsoever. That privilege, though, has been abolished long ago and there is actually no reason why philosophers should be better equipped to decide about art than other people. They are, in any case, not especially qualified for this task simply by being philosophers—which is in itself already difficult to determine (if we take into account that it is certainly no sufficient criterion to hold a Ph.D. in philosophy). The process leading to a decision about art and non-art does not rest on the use of certain criteria that have to be disclosed by philosophy. It is rather a process that emerges from an interaction of countless participants who have—in different degrees—proved to be experts on art. It involves so many individual contributions that their combined activities, seen from afar, mingle into a blurred and continuously changing phenomenon similar to a flock of birds or a swarm of mosquitos moving in the air. Considering the complexity of such a process, it seems useless to dissect it to the level of the single elements involved. It would, therefore, be more reasonable to rely on the efficiency of the procedure to engender results that can, at least for a certain time-span, generally be approved. It is not necessary for each and every individual to determine on their own what art is, because it is not only unavoidable but also quite reasonable to delegate the decision to society as a whole. If we like it or not, we cannot decide about art all by ourselves, because such a decision is always a result of a complex collective procedure, in which our own vote does not count very much. Distinguishing artworks from other things, thus, should no longer be understood as a mental act equally performed by every one who uses the concept of art, where every single case of this use is governed by the same rules. More convincing is the view that it is a social process that involves lots of participants using different criteria that either enforce or neutralize each other in a highly complex interaction that resembles the mechanisms of economic exchange, as well as that of political decision-making. And even if it proves to be impossible to understand or reconstruct this procedure in all of its details, we can at least rely on the fact that this does not rule out the possibility of effectively distinguishing artworks from other things. That art-philosophy has its share in this procedure can no longer simply be presupposed. It would be strange if art-philosophy had not, if only subconsciously, realized this by itself. It should in any case become aware of it, because every attempt to ignore or repress this insight will only make its theoretical contributions even more boring than they already are today. This conclusion will not elicit much enthusiasm. Those who are directly concerned, today’s art-philosophers, will not find it appealing. But it should not be forgotten that philosophy—even art-philosophy—will certainly not loose its significance completely. In order to see what kinds of problems still call for philo-

Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Art-Philosophy So Boring


sophical reflection we must only remember that, although it has turned out that it is not philosophy’s business to draw a distinction between artworks and other things, it doubtlessly is philosophy’s business to demonstrate that (and why) it is not philosophy’s business to draw a distinction between artworks and other things.

Bibliography Lüdeking, Karlheinz (1988): Analytische Philosophie der Kunst. Frankfurt: Athenäum. [Second, expanded edition 1998. Munich: Wilhelm Fink.] Lüdeking, Karlheinz (2010): “The Limits of Conceptual Analysis in Aesthetics”. In: The Nordic Journal of Aesthetics No. 39, pp. 100 – 111. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953): Philosophical Investigations/Philosophische Untersuchungen. G. E.M. Anscombe/Rush Rhees (Eds.). G. E.M. Anscombe (Transl.). Oxford: Blackwell. (PI)

Reinold Schmücker

On Judging Art Abstract: What is it to judge art? I will argue that this does not equate to judging artworks aesthetically. To judge an artwork rather means to identify functions it does, or could, fulfill and to relate them to one’s own hierarchy of functions that artefacts can fulfill. I will therefore defend a functionalist approach to judging art and also stress its consequences for a theory of art criticism and the value of art.

When we ask whether one poem is more accomplished than another, whether one symphony is more outstanding than a different one, or whether one work of architecture is more impressive than another, we ask about the value of artworks—about their quality. Such questions are commonly called questions of aesthetic evaluation. However, this designation is misleading. Of course, an evaluation of the aesthetic qualities of a work will influence a general value judgement of the type: this artwork deserves our appreciation more than that artwork. But it would be a mistake to think that evaluating art is limited to evaluating its aesthetic quality. The fact alone that no empirical properties can be identified from which it could be derived whether an artwork is accomplished (or a failure) makes this assumption implausible.¹ The debate about aesthetic judgements has shown this.² The attempt to reduce value judgements to descriptions of empirical facts is bound to fail, because any value predicate contains an “aspect of positive or negative recommendation” (Piecha 2002: 190; my translation)—which is missing in the description of empirical facts.³ When we justify our verdict about the

 In fact, as a consequence of the modern Western concept of art, the category of mistakes, or failures, has almost entirely disappeared from the philosophy of art. This reflects a strange fact: given this concept of art, an artist is only capable of making mistakes, or of failures, if she takes them to be mistakes or failures, because it is her privilege to decide whether the work is flawless or not (Schmücker 2009: 7– 8).  See, e. g., Bittner/Pfaff 1977 and esp. Bittner 1977.  The supervenience theory of the beautiful—as defended by, for instance, Nick Zangwill (1995) —is unconvincing. It assumes that the beauty of an artwork is a “verdictive” aesthetic property that is determined by “substantial” aesthetic properties which, again, supervene on non-aesthetic properties. Zangwill’s attempt to conceptualize the value of an artwork as derived from its non-aesthetic properties raises more problems than it is able to solve (see Steinbrenner 1999). Zangwill does not spell out “what the relevant properties are on which beauty supervenes” and cannot account for the possibility “that a new property destroys the beauty of an DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-006


Reinold Schmücker

value of a certain artwork, we usually refer to the work’s empirical properties. For instance, we point out its proportions, colour derivations, anaphoras, rhymes, grammatical curiosities, etc. However, no specific value of the work follows from these properties.⁴ Someone could completely agree with our description of these properties, but still have a different opinion about the work’s value (see Piecha 2002: 237). Only against the background of our shared beliefs about the relevance of these empirical properties does the reference to them take on the character of an argument that might convince someone that our judgement is correct.⁵ The fact that we report our value judgements about artworks to others and try to justify them, and that we do this in a way that assumes we have common beliefs about the relevance of an artefact’s properties, suggests that there are more or less far-reaching intersubjective consensuses—even if there are no objective criteria that would allow for identifying the value of an artwork. It is these consensuses that we refer to and that we give up, or maintain, when we evaluate an artwork. However, what do these consensuses refer to? And what do our individual judgements about the value of an artwork refer to? If we want to answer this question we have to keep in mind what was said before: there are no empirical properties that, individually or taken together, would make up a specific value of an artwork. Whether a property determines, or contributes to, the value of an artwork rather depends on whether that property determines, or contributes to, the artwork fulfilling a certain function.⁶ The reference to the empirical properties of a work can only justify a judgement about its value with respect to the functions that the work fulfills or could fulfill due to these properties. The properties and constellations of properties that we can identify in an artwork do not possess any value as mere properties, but only become relevant and meaningful with respect to the functions that they enable the work to fulfill. So the question: “why art?”, and particularly the question: “why this specific artwork?” is not at all misguided or superfluous. It is, in fact, the central condi-

object, regardless of the fact that the object still possesses the required properties” (Steinbrenner 1999: 318 – 319).  Kleimann correctly stresses this point 2002: 293 – 296.  A value judgment about art can only “logically follow” from the work’s empirical properties against the background of “taste-sociological hypotheses” that function as rating categories; see Strube 1981: 147, 143.  For more on the concept of functions of art see Stecker 1997: 31; Schmücker 2001: 20 ff.

On Judging Art


tion for the possibility of evaluating art that artworks can and do fulfill functions.⁷ The fact that we can evaluate an artwork with respect to its aesthetic quality is due to the fact that it has an aesthetic function, that is, the function of evoking an aesthetic experience. I take an aesthetic experience to be a focus on a certain perceptible object with the aim of becoming aware of the peculiarity of that object. In order to acknowledge that artworks have an aesthetic function, however, it is not necessary to agree with this definition. Even someone who thinks my definition of an aesthetic experience is wrong or insufficient will admit that any artwork can evoke an aesthetic experience. However, aesthetic experience is not specific to art. Other objects of sensual perception can also offer an aesthetic experience, for example nature. Specific to  My claim that the assumption that art has no function is “nothing but a façon de parler, a purposeful terminological exaggeration” (Schmücker 2001: 20) has since been defended by many other aestheticians, too. Jerrold Levinson recently asserted that “regarded soberly, the claim that art is useless is hyperbolic” (Levinson 2014: 102). Levinson carefully distinguishes between the “intrinsic value” of music and its “instrumental value”, between its “artistic value” and its “non-artistic values” and between the “artistic value of music” and its “aesthetic value”. Further important distinctions differentiate between the value of music “for an individual” and its value “for a group or community”, between the value for someone as a listener, performer, or composer, and “the value of music or the practice of music as a whole, and the value of individual […] pieces or occasions of music” (Levinson 2014: 102– 103). Analogous distinctions could of course be made for all of the arts. My account, however, differs from Levinson’s even though we agree that there is a broad diversity of ways in which art can be considered to be purposive. Levinson makes an additional distinction between four different “manners of musical value”: “i. Music might be valuable as one among many other things conducive to some desirable end. ii. Music might be particularly conducive to a desirable end, despite there being a number of other things conducive to that end as well. iii. Music might be valuable as distinctively conducive to some desirable end, unlike almost anything else. iv. Music might be valuable as uniquely conducive to some desirable end, unlike anything else at all.” This distinction might be useful for analyzing the value of music as such, if one, as Levinson does, assumes that “the more values of music we can identify that are valuable in ways (ii) – (iv) of being valuable, the better position we will be in to justify the judgment that a world without music would be a vastly regrettable thing” (Levinson 2014: 105). In my opinion, this optimistic expectation ignores the fact that values and ends cannot plausibly be considered as values and ends as such, independent of their relation to someone who holds them. Reflections about the practice of judging art should not be expected to result in a justification of the claim that a world with art is better than a world without art. Instead, they might help us understand the process of judging art and why people’s judgments about art often differ. It is my aim in this paper to show that this requires us to give up the idea that the key to understanding what people do when they judge art is a certain art-specific purpose. It is rather functions that are not exclusive to art that can provide us with a better understanding of judgments about art. In this respect, my account is closer to that of Nicholas Wolterstorff (2015) than to Levinson’s.


Reinold Schmücker

art is only the function to evoke an aesthetic experience that can, and wants to, lead to an understanding that will never positively succeed. This function, which we might call the art-specific or art-aesthetic function, is only possessed by artworks and distinguishes aesthetic art from any other objects of aesthetic experience. If evaluating art were only concerned with the aesthetic quality of works of art, the question of what makes art good could be answered in a very abstract, but concise way: good artworks have those properties that enable them to fulfill the aesthetic—and, primarily, art-aesthetic—function particularly well. Of course, we would have to analyze what exactly this means for the individual arts. Most likely, we would then arrive at a theory that shows that, in the various forms of traditional and modern art, a number of the works’ properties and constellations of properties trigger a “game of references” (Sonderegger 2000: 151 et passim; my translation) between the signifiers, which keeps directing our interest towards the object’s peculiarity and, at the same time, makes us try to understand the object. There is no doubt that such a theory is extremely important—but it does not help us understand what we are doing when we evaluate art. It is not as if artworks are only able to fulfill the aesthetic and art-aesthetic function. Since they can also fulfill other functions, we can, in most cases, also evaluate them in other respects—and, in fact, this is what we are regularly doing. For instance, we evaluate artworks with respect to how good they are at fulfilling certain art-intrinsic functions, such as continuing, furthering or reflecting the topics and problems, methods and forms that, so to say, make up the inside of the cultural and social institution we are used to calling the artworld (Danto 1964). Or we evaluate artworks with respect to how nicely they decorate the room, to what degree they express emotions and experiences, or whether they evoke certain moods in us. We measure how well they motivate us towards a certain behavior or enable us to reflect on our everyday life from a certain distance. We evaluate how good an artwork is at illustrating or documenting something, or if it can provide us with knowledge. We can even evaluate it with respect to specific political, religious, or similar ideological functions—or with respect to its suitability for treating diseases or forming a stable ego identity. Even the function of indicating someone’s social status can be a criterion for evaluation, just like certain cultic or economical functions.⁸ Evaluating art is not necessarily limited to aesthetically evaluating artefacts. A theory of evaluating art that reduces it to aesthetic judgements is therefore not adequate. When we evaluate art, we usually know about the fact that it is pos-

 The broad diversity of functions of art is shown in figure 1 in Schmücker 2001: 28.

On Judging Art


sible for art to serve all of these (and, of course, many other) functions. Our judgement about the value of an artwork therefore always comprises our judgements about which of these functions are important (and to what degree). In principle, evaluating art is not different from evaluating, for example, coffee machines. For instance, not all coffee machines can keep the coffee warm or can automatically descale themselves. Not all coffee machines allow for observing the brewing process. Whether we prefer a coffee machine that possesses one or several of these functions depends on how important this function is for us, and how good a machine fulfils said function. Even if the thought might sound strange: evaluating art is a similar process. Of course, we would not accept an artefact as an artwork that does not fulfill the art-aesthetic function. We would also not let a device pass as a coffee machine that does not allow for brewing or percolating aromatic coffee. Which one of two artworks seems more accomplished to us does, however, not only depend on which one is art-aesthetically more functional, that is, which one provides us with more to “contemplate”— to use Kant’s formula as a very general and preliminary description of the artaesthetic functionality of artworks. Any general value judgement about an artwork will rather reflect the hierarchy of art functions that seems appropriate to the evaluator against the background of her understanding of the world and herself. Aesthetes—accurately portrayed by Jerrold Levinson (2017)—value the art-aesthetic functionality very highly; deeply religious people probably value the religious function of art most; art historians appreciate certain art-intrinsic functions. This is why what one viewer considers to be a failure can count as exemplary work for someone else—without the two of them having to disagree about the aesthetic quality of the respective work. And just as our understanding of the world and ourselves can change over the course of time, of course our judgement about the value of a certain artwork can change—and not only because we might perceive new details that cause a change in our judgement about the art-aesthetic functionality of a work. Our judgement about the quality of one and the same artwork can also change in the course of a lifetime, because our hierarchisation of functions can, in principle, always change. This is why I might now think that a work that I once considered eminent is, in fact, not particularly worthy of our attention and appreciation. Someone who used to enthusiastically read Hermann Hesse’s novels as a teenager has probably had this experience. The different standards of what counts as great art in each epoch or culture can also be due to diverging hierarchisations of functions. For instance: in the Middle Ages, ancient Greek and Roman sculptures were much less appreciated outside of Italy than in later times. During the Renaissance, they were regarded as the ideal of plastic art. This can be explained by the fact that the art of that


Reinold Schmücker

time gained the function of being a medium of human self-understanding. The paintings of the pre-Raphaelites are certainly less appreciated today than they were in the 19th century, because the mimetic and religious functions of art are currently not as much in demand as in Victorian times. The fact that we always evaluate artworks against the background of our own beliefs about the relative importance of various functions of art shows that evaluating art contains a democratic aspect: which one of two artworks is better can only be said in a trans-subjective sense with reference to the views of a broad majority; that is, to more or less far-reaching consensuses that we refer to, and that we either give up or maintain when making a judgement about the value of an artwork. Since these consensuses also concern the ranking of functions of art, my approach to evaluating art indicates what the social significance of art is: art always gives us a reason to argue about the ranking of its functions. The corresponding debates concern—among other things—the question of how we want to live and how to structure the society in which we live. Any society that allows for different lifestyles and whose order is not based on unquestionable traditions has to keep looking for an answer to this question. Of course, art is not the only occasion for this search (and art is also significant for us in other respects, for example as a form of cognition⁹). However, the dispute about the value of artworks provides us with the opportunity to indirectly discuss the right forms of living and of society—on a terrain where normative differences can be discussed without any direct consequences and the solution of ethical and political conflicts can, so to say, be tested experimentally. An aesthetics of art that considers the question of the value of individual artworks as obsolete therefore ignores the social significance of art. It draws the wrong conclusion from the end of the dominance of rule-governed poetics, aesthetics and normative-metaphysical philosophy of art. Achieving a minimal consensus about the right forms of living and of society becomes even more important if the normative consensus of a society erodes. The dispute about the value of artworks is therefore—as Josef Früchtl has pointed out—indispensable, especially for pluralistic societies that are heterogeneous in their normative beliefs: The increasing further differentiation, structural pluralization and individualization of Western societies does not allow for a consensual answer to the question of how to live one’s life. Consequently, the aesthetic values and the criteria of criticism also become pluralized. The question of whether one can argue about taste now becomes socially relevant. And the answer has to be that one can, and must, argue about it to the same extent as one can, and must, argue about the related forms of life. (Früchtl 2001: 181; my translation)

 See, e. g., Steinbrenner 1996, Scholz 2001, Jäger/Meggle 2005.

On Judging Art


When evaluating art is reduced to the mere act of buying or proudly presenting a work, a dispute of this type is not being risked, but avoided. This might seem tempting to someone who thinks that the pluralization of forms of life has come so far that we should, in principle, give up all hope of convincing others of our value judgements. However, this shrinking of art criticism does not abolish the need—due to the limited financial resources of a society—to make decisions about which artwork should be bought for a museum, which artist should receive an award, or who should be allowed to enroll at an art school. And at least in democratic societies, classificatory judgements that are due to the finiteness of financial resources have to be as convincing as possible, because otherwise, the distribution of resources that is suggested by these judgements will not be sufficiently widely accepted. Evaluations of art without any justification will prove to be insufficient where limited financial resources require classificatory judgements that are more convincing than merely arbitrary judgements.¹⁰

Bibliography Bittner, Rüdiger (1977): “Ein Abschnitt sprachanalytischer Ästhetik”. In: Rüdiger Bittner/Peter Pfaff (Eds.): Das ästhetische Urteil. Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, pp. 251 – 279. Bittner, Rüdiger/Pfaff, Peter (Eds.) (1977): Das ästhetische Urteil. Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch. Danto, Arthur C. (1964): “The Artworld”. In: The Journal of Philosophy 61, pp. 571 – 584. Früchtl, Josef (2001): “Der Schein der Wahrheit. Adorno, die Oper und das Bürgertum”. In: Josef Früchtl/Jörg Zimmermann (Eds.): Ästhetik der Inszenierung. Dimensionen eines künstlerischen, kulturellen und gesellschaftlichen Phänomens. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, pp. 164 – 182. Jäger, Christoph/Meggle, Georg (Eds.) (2005): Kunst und Erkenntnis. Paderborn: Mentis. Kleimann, Bernd (2002): Das ästhetische Weltverhältnis. Eine Untersuchung zu den grundlegenden Dimensionen des Ästhetischen. Munich: Fink. Levinson, Jerrold (2014): “Values of Music”. In: Victor A. Ginsburgh/David Throsby (Eds.): Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture. Oxford, San Diego: Elsevier, pp. 101 – 117. Levinson, Jerrold (2017): “Artist versus Aesthete”. In: Stefan Majetschak/Anja Weiberg (Eds.): Aesthetics today. Contemporary Approaches to the Aesthetics of Nature and of Arts. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter, pp. 95 - 108. Piecha, Alexander (2002): Die Begründbarkeit ästhetischer Werturteile. Paderborn: mentis. Schmücker, Reinold (2001): “Funktionen der Kunst”. In: Bernd Kleimann/Reinold Schmücker (Eds.): Wozu Kunst? Die Frage nach ihrer Funktion. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, pp. 13 – 33.

 This contribution is a shortened version of a claim that I first, and in detail, defended in Schmücker 2003 (in German).


Reinold Schmücker

Schmücker, Reinold (2003): “Kunstkritik als demokratischer Prozeß”. In: Ursula Franke/Josef Früchtl (Eds.): Kunst und Demokratie. Positionen zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts. Hamburg: Meiner, pp. 99 – 113. Schmücker, Reinold (2009): “The Lord of the Flaws. The Autonomy of the Artist and the Function of Art”. In: The Nordic Journal of Aesthetics 38, pp. 6 – 17. Scholz, Oliver R. (2001): “Kunst, Erkenntnis und Verstehen. Eine Verteidigung einer kognitivistischen Ästhetik”. In: Bernd Kleimann/Reinold Schmücker (Eds.): Wozu Kunst? Die Frage nach ihrer Funktion. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, pp. 34 – 48. Sonderegger, Ruth (2000): Für eine Ästhetik des Spiels. Hermeneutik, Dekonstruktion und der Eigensinn der Kunst. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp. Stecker, Robert (1997): Artworks. Definition, Meaning, Value. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press. Steinbrenner, Jakob (1996): Kognitivismus in der Ästhetik. Würzburg: Königshausen und Neumann. Steinbrenner, Jakob (1999): “Das Schöne und die Supervenienz”. In: Grazer Philosophische Studien 57, pp. 311 – 323. Strube, Werner (1981): Sprachanalytische Ästhetik. Munich: Fink. Wolterstorff, Nicholas (2015): Art Rethought. The Social Practices of Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Zangwill, Nick (1995): “The Beautiful, the Dainty, and the Dumpy”. In: The British Journal of Aesthetics 35, pp. 317 – 330.

Jerrold Levinson

Artist versus Aesthete Abstract: Two of the principal roles or positions in the aesthetic/artistic situation are those of artist and aesthete. The former is obviously primarily a creative role, while the latter is obviously primarily an appreciative role. And these roles, as we know, are also interdependent: aesthetes would have little, or at any rate less, to appreciate without artists; while artists would have little, or at any rate less, creative motivation without appreciators, with aesthetes as the most important vanguard therein. But what, more significantly, differentiates artist and aesthete? Do the basic impulses of the two tribes coincide, or are they rather in conflict? Is being an artist fully compatible with being an aesthete, or might there be a fundamental tension between those identities? Are the same talents, inclinations, and attitudes essential to being a successful artist as those which make for a successful aesthete, or are they at some level at war with one another? These are some of the questions that are explored in this article.

1 Two of the principal roles, or positions, or identities in the aesthetic/artistic situation are those of artist and aesthete. The former is obviously primarily a creative role, while the latter is obviously primarily an appreciative role. And these roles, as we know, are also interdependent. For aesthetes would have little, or at any rate less, to appreciate without artists, while artists would have little, or at any rate less, creative motivation without aesthetes to appreciate what they have created. But what more significantly differentiates artist and aesthete? Do the basic impulses of the two tribes coincide, or are they rather, inherently in conflict? In other words, is being a creative artist fully compatible with being a committed aesthete, or might there be a fundamental tension between those two identities? Are the same propensities, talents, and attitudes essential to being a great artist those which make for an outstanding aesthete, or are they at some level at war with one another? My aim here is to explore those questions, in the course of which fuller profiles of the artist and the aesthete will be developed. Along the way I examine some concrete cases of artists and aesthetes, figures such as Beethoven and Van Gogh, on the one hand, and figures such as Oscar Wilde, and Joris-Karl Huysmans’ fictional character Des Esseintes, on the other hand, while also mindDOI 10.1515/9783110540413-007


Jerrold Levinson

ful of cases where the identities of artist and aesthete have to a great extent been successfully combined in a single individual, such as those of Robert Schumann, Charles Baudelaire and John Updike.

2 I take it there is no need for a preliminary characterization of the artist in the present context. But the picture of the aesthete in the contemporary mind is perhaps less clearly defined. Let us thus begin with some definitions of “aesthete”, drawn from various dictionaries. “A person who professes a superior appreciation of what is beautiful” (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). “One who has a high degree of sensitivity toward the beauties of art or nature” (Random House Unabridged Dictionary). “One who affects great love of the arts and indifference to practical matters” (Random House Unabridged Dictionary). “One who cultivates an unusually high sensitivity to beauty in art or nature” (American Heritage Dictionary). “Someone who greatly appreciates beauty and the arts” (

There are elements that I wish to retain from these definitions: First, an aesthete is an appreciator more than a critic, judge, or promoter. Second, the appreciation of an aesthete is typically aimed at both art and nature. Third, an aesthete cultivates his or her sensibility so as to optimally appreciate the beauty or other aesthetic value of objects. But there are elements I do not wish to retain from these definitions, which prompt me to the following remarks: First, an aesthete achieves a high degree of appreciation of objects, rather than merely professing to have achieved such. Second, an aesthete does not merely affect to love the arts, but actually does so. Third, an aesthete need not be indifferent to practical matters, though he or she may regard them as less important than aesthetic matters. Moreover, seeking a characterization of the aesthete that is most to my purpose here, I draw attention to other associations the term “aesthete” sometimes carries that I want to explicitly disavow. One is the idea that an aesthete must be deaf to the moral, ethical, social, or political aspects of an artwork or natural phenomenon. This may have been a central tenet of the 19th century Aestheticist

Artist versus Aesthete


program of thinkers, such as Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde, but it is one I here put aside. Another is the idea that since receptivity is central to the aesthete’s very existence, an aesthete is thus a purely passive creature, incapable of positive action or personal engagement. I put that idea aside as well. Let me now lay my cards on the table regarding what I am really aiming at in my characterization of the aesthete. It is not something hewing all that closely to the dictionary definitions surveyed, nor is it the stereotypical picture of the aesthete as an over-refined, otherworldly, precious, and sneering individual. Rather, it is the notion of an ideal appreciator—an ideal appreciator of aesthetic and artistic phenomena, wherever they are to be found and in whatever form they occur.¹ But, you may well ask: “Even though you have signaled how your notion of an aesthete departs from some popular pictures of this creature, why go on using that term, instead of one like ‘ideal appreciator of art and nature’”? Well for one, that last term is a rather ungainly mouthful. For another, keeping the term “aesthete” for the role I wish to contrast with that of artist allowed me to title this talk in a more elegant way than I could otherwise have done. And for yet another, the term “aesthete” deserves to be reclaimed from its unfortunate conscription by disdainers, dandies, and snobs. My reasons for flying the banner of “aesthete” are thus both aesthetic and political. In any case, if you keep in mind that “aesthete” for me is simply shorthand for “ideal appreciator of art and nature” there will be no confusion. In a nutshell, then, an aesthete is an individual wholly dedicated to the understanding, enjoyment, and appreciation of art and beauty in all their forms, but not necessarily an amoral, apolitical, impractical, dismissive or condescending being.

3 Before proceeding I should say something about how the category of aesthete, in my understanding of it, relates to some neighboring categories, such as those of art lover, art critic, and art connoisseur. First, the relation between the aesthete and the art lover. The former is a lover of art and beauty, much of which is found outside of art, and the former is a more comprehensive identity, affecting almost all aspects of the person’s life.

 My “ideal appreciator” is a close relative of Hume’s “true critic”, but those figures are not completely equivalent. Cf. Levinson 2002 for discussion.


Jerrold Levinson

Second, the relation between the aesthete and the art critic. The former is one who seeks primarily to understand and enjoy an object to the fullest, rather than the latter, who seeks primarily to evaluate or explain it. Third, the relation between the aesthete and the art connoisseur. The latter is concerned above all with the identification and authentification of the object, rather than with the understanding, experience and enjoyment of it.

4 I now offer thumbnail psychological profiles of the artist and the aesthete, first drafts of the dual portrait promised in my title. The artist is: exclusive, focused, partisan, engaged, intolerant, and inherently prone to a kind of aesthetic “tunnel vision”.² The aesthete is: inclusive, open, catholic, evenhanded, sympathetic, and inherently prone to a kind of aesthetic “wide-angle vision”. Clearly, this is to characterize artist and aesthete in starkly contrasting terms, as yet with no justification for such a characterization. Moreover, the positions of artist and aesthete so characterized might most reasonably be thought of as the ends of a continuum, with real individuals occupying only intermediate positions on that continuum. Nevertheless, there is, I suggest, a basis for that rough characterization of artist and aesthete, and I will now provide some evidence for it from the observations of art theorists, music analysts, and literary critics. What I will try to show, from an admittedly partial series of quotations, is the plausibility of the tendency toward “tunnel vision” as a characteristic, almost invariable, trait of the artist, especially those who aim at greatness, or at any rate, leaving their mark on the history of their art.

5 Recall first Harold Bloom’s seminal notion of the anxiety of influence, something that afflicts poets in their oedipal struggle with their predecessors, fighting to make the world safe for their own forms of poetic imagination, putting them in necessary conflict with their poetic elders, and thus bound to repudiate what they have done on pain of being fatally consumed and emasculated by

 Tunnel vision is the loss of peripheral vision with retention of central vision, resulting in a constricted circular tunnel-like field of vision.

Artist versus Aesthete


them. In Bloom’s words, “poetic history is […] indistinguishable from poetic influence, since strong poets make that history by misreading one another, so as to clear imaginative space for themselves.” (Bloom 1972: 5) Next consider Leo Steinberg’s trenchant observations on how narrow-minded one of the greatest visual artists of the 20th century could be in responding to the art of another such artist. In 1906 Matisse exhibited a picture called The Joy of Life, now in the Barnes Foundation […] [and] one of the great breakthrough paintings of this century […] and it made people very angry. Angriest of all was Paul Signac, […] vice-president of the Salon des Independants, who would have kept the picture out […] [but] Matisse happened to be on the hanging committee […]. One year later Matisse went to Picasso’s studio to look at Picasso’s latest painting, the Demosielles d’Avignon, now in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This, we know, was another breakthrough for contemporary art; and this time it was Matisse who got angry. The picture, he said, was an outrage, an attempt to ridicule the whole modern movement. He swore that he would “sink Picasso” and make him regret his hoax […]. Such incidents are not exceptional. They illustrate a general rule that whenever there appears an art that is truly new and original, the men who denounce it first and loudest are artists because they are the most engaged. No critic, no outraged bourgeois, can match an artist’s passion in repudiation. (Steinberg 1972: 3 – 4)

Listen now to New Yorker music critic Alex Ross commenting on the character of Pierre Boulez soon after his demise earlier this year, noting how unstinting Boulez was in his excoriation of composers past and present, especially those without the good fortune to be French: The ferocity of his opinions—at one time or another, he found fault with Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Copland, Shostakovich, Britten, Verdi, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, not to mention a great many contemporary figures—was hardly surprising in an active composer; artists almost require such animosities to clear the air for their own work. (Ross 2016: 74)

And since, as you just heard, one of the targets of Boulez’s intemperate invective was Tchaikovsky, consider what Tchaikovsky had to say about some other composers, as confided to his diary: First, “I like to play Bach […], but I cannot regard him, as do many others, as a great genius”. Second, “I have played over the music of that scoundrel Brahms. What a giftless bastard!” And third, “Such an astounding lack of talent was never before united with such pretentiousness as in Richard Strauss.” The tendency of great composers to manifest blindness towards the virtues of other great composers certainly did not wait for the 20th century to make its appearance.


Jerrold Levinson

Consider next this observation by one of Beethoven’s modern biographers, Maynard Solomon, concerning the overwhelming personal force that invariably manifests itself in the oeuvre of artists, especially artists of Beethoven’s stature: Just as every superior artist creates values that transcend the limitations of his own personality, and just as he is an agent for the transmission of a common heritage which presents itself to him as a given, so is it equally certain that his works bear the unique impress of his personality. […] the singularity of every creative artist’s work is apparent not only to the trained observer but even to many observers of relatively slight sophistication. (Solomon 1988: 102)

The force of personality felt behind the works of Beethoven, of which their specific kind of expressivity is an upshot, comports ill with the even-handed and open-armed attitude of the aesthete, as I have construed that role, toward all forms of artistic expression and all modes of aesthetic appeal. To continue this series of examples, I put in as evidence a fictional case, from Ian McEwan’s novel Amsterdam, one of whose protagonists is a British composer of conservative cast named Clive Linley. With undisguised scorn Linley tells us of “a publicly subsidized concert in a nearly deserted church hall, in which the legs of a piano were repeatedly struck with the broken neck of a violin, for over an hour. An accompanying program note explained, with references to the Holocaust, why at this stage in European history no other forms of music were viable.” (McEwan 1998: 23) This is, to be sure, a caricature of a certain strand of avant-garde composition, one befitting a literary work of sardonic tone, but whose kernel of truth—the tendency of progressive artists towards exclusive agendas and partisan principles—is nonetheless undeniable. It is in the nature of an ambitious artist, given the demands of that role, to be inclined, if not inexorably, to manifesto—manifesting allegiance to the singular rightness of his or her artistic path and vision.

6 An extreme case of the kind of tunnel vision that I suggest is endemic to, and perhaps in a degree necessary to the creative artist, but which would be uncalled-for and self-defeating for an aesthete, would be an artist whose psychological state prevents him or her from stepping outside of the self and viewing things from a more objective or impartial perspective, but who is thus enabled to produce work of staggering expressiveness. Canvases of Edvard Munch, Emil Nolde, Mark Rothko, Francis Bacon, or perhaps most obviously, Vincent Van Gogh, come readily to mind in illustration of this.

Artist versus Aesthete


Speaking of one of Van Gogh’s last paintings, the Wheat Field with Crows of 1890, the art historian Meyer Schapiro notes that it presents “a disquieting situation for the spectator, who is held in doubt before the great horizon and cannot, moreover, reach it on any of the three roads before him; these end blindly in the wheat field or run out of the picture” (Schapiro 1978: 87), and adds that its converging lines have become diverging paths which make impossible the focused movement toward the horizon, while the great shining sun has broken up into a dark scattered mass without a center, the black crows which advance from the horizon reversing in their approach the spectator’s normal passage to the distance. (Schapiro 1978: 89)

The overall effect is one of blockage and oppression, an ultimate sense of noway-out, which hits the viewer with the force of a sledgehammer. Undeniably, the state of mind that produced this picture, and which it so powerfully expresses, is not one conducive to the disinterested and impartial appreciation of other modes of artistic expression central to the aesthete as I have characterized him. This is even clearer if we look to a letter that Van Gogh sent his brother in which he discusses this picture and some others, noting the extreme sadness and solitude which he has succeeded in expressing in it, then going on to say “[…] these canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, what I find healthful and strengthening in the country […].” (Schapiro 1978: 90) Schapiro remarks that in light of that cheery pronouncement it seems as if Van Gogh “hardly knew what he was doing”, the act of painting likely serving the artist as a genuine catharsis: “the final effect upon him is one of order and serenity after the whirlwind of feeling.” (Schapiro 1978: 91– 92) Can one imagine an artist like Van Gogh, in the condition just recalled, having the equanimity and broadmindedness to recognize and appreciate with equanimity a range of artistic styles and expressions? Of course Van Gogh’s case is an extreme one, especially at the end of his life, but it is perhaps only a highly magnified form of what manifests itself in most strong artistic temperaments, and which makes that temperament fundamentally at odds with that of an aesthete.

7 Here I come to the heart of the tension that I propose exists between our two figures, the artist and the aesthete. What I am about to say is, to a degree, exaggerated, cast too much in black and white. But I ask you to consider whether there is not a substantial measure of truth there nonetheless.


Jerrold Levinson

Being open and responsive to the appeal and value of other artforms, other styles, and other forms of expression, which the stance of the aesthete requires, may very well undermine the artist’s driving impulse to do things his or her way, often fueled by the conviction that such a way is the best way, or the only way, to proceed in a given art. A creative artist of substance will inevitably strive to be original and individual, whether in form, expression, medium, or subject, and will normally be in possession of a firm faith, even an unshakeable conviction, in the rightness of his or her way of proceeding. To be too catholic and receptive in regard to other modes of artmaking, which the stance of the aesthete requires, threatens to undermine the faith and conviction which appear to be the motor force of so much great art. The ambitious artist will have a tendency to regard his or her style or mode of artmaking as imperative, as how art should be done, as what the age calls for, or the like. To acknowledge other styles or modes as equally valid—to see one’s chosen path as an artist as just one among many—risks sapping or blunting the force or will required for strong, innovative artmaking. The creative artist’s vision of how to write or compose or paint or sculpt cannot easily be regarded by the artist as just an option, just one viable alternative among others: It must seem to the artist a sort of fate, in Nietzsche’s sense, something necessary to the individual, something whose call must be answered.

8 Consider in this connection Richard Wagner and his operatic ideal of Gesamtkunstwerk. Here is what a writer in the British newspaper The Guardian had to say about it: Wagner couldn’t spell it [“Gesamtkunstwerk”], but he knew what he meant by it, and the word could be said to sum up his entire aesthetic philosophy once he had decided to cast off what he came to see as the shackles of Italianate opera. It means “total work of art”, and Wagner introduced the term in 1849 in a series of essays, the most notable of which is “The Artwork of the Future”, in which he decried the fragmentation of the arts and argued it had been downhill all the way since the Greeks […]. He was especially critical of the way opera had become a vehicle for showy effects rather than a deep, unified statement of cultural truths. (Moss 2013)

Artist versus Aesthete


Does this sound like the kind of person who could arrive at a generous and comprehending appreciation of the virtues of operas of rather different sorts, such as those of Monteverdi, Mozart, Rossini, Bizet, or middle-period Verdi?³ Another instructive example is that of Arnold Schoenberg and the historical necessity he claimed for dodecaphonicism, or composition in accord with the twelve-tone method, designed to ensure equality among the twelve notes of the chromatic scale, and thus prevent the emergence of tonality and its familiar harmonic anchoring. As a New York Times critic noted in an essay ten years ago, “Seized with excitement over his breakthrough, Schoenberg predicted that the 12-tone technique would assure the supremacy of German music for another hundred years” (Tommasini 2007). Of course he was wrong in that, but his statement reflects the passionate composer’s typical narrow focus of mind about his chosen path, one he is certain others must follow, leaving other ways of composing behind. And in 1979, almost sixty years later, one of the most faithful of Schoenberg’s followers, Charles Wuorinen, could affirm, in the same spirit as his master, the following: “While the tonal system, in an atrophied or vestigial form, is still used today in popular and commercial music, and even occasionally in the works of backwards-looking serious composers, it is no longer employed by serious composers of the mainstream.” (Tommasini 2007) Would a composer with such a perspective, not at all atypical of creative artists, be likely to arrive at a fair appreciation of the music of composers such as Dmitri Shostakovich, Benjamin Britten, Samuel Barber, Bernard Herrmann, Carl Orff, Leonard Bernstein or Philip Glass, all of whom were active at that time? One wouldn’t think so. One might also cite the many artists who heard the call and marched to the tune of Clement Greenberg’s categorical insistence on flatness and abstraction as the only acceptable aims of painting in what was then the present moment, as set out in his well-known 1961 essay “Modernist Painting” (Greenberg 1965). Would painters in thrall to, or even just giving lip service to, the Greenbergian doctrine, such as Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still, or Jules Olitski, be apt viewers for the contrary efforts of some of their contemporaries, such as Lucien Freud, David Hockney, or M.C Escher? Their ability to function as aesthetes, as I have construed that role, seems more than doubtful. It may be noticed that I have so far said nothing about the aesthete’s interest and delight in aesthetic matters outside of art—in landscapes, in animals, in per Nor was Wagner, as his writing of the time makes plain, able to fairly assess the merits of Mendelssohn’s dramatic oratorio Elias [Elijah], though his conscious dislike and derogation of Mendelssohn’s music did not prevent him from appropriating, without acknowledgment, the opening of Mendelssohn’s Fair Melusina Overture for the opening of his Rheingold.


Jerrold Levinson

sons, in gardens, in clothing, in furniture, in cuisine, in the urban environment, and so on. This is, of course, one thing that by definition separates the aesthete and the artist: the latter is of necessity only concerned with art, while the former is of necessity concerned with the aesthetic in all its guises. Therein lies another possible source of tension between the roles of artist and aesthete. For an artist to become too absorbed by or enamored with the aesthetic outside of art could weaken his or her resolve to create powerful sources of aesthetic experience grounded in specifically artistic invention, rather than those found elsewhere, whether in nature or other spheres of human activity. The more an artist approaches the condition and stance of an aesthete, the more attention he devotes to aesthetically appreciating all the world has to offer, the more he may end up asking himself why he should devote so much energy to providing what nature, persons, and human industry outside of art seem to provide in abundance, and, ultimately, the more his dedication to artistic expression might begin to falter. On the side of the aesthete there are also observable tendencies that exert pressure on that figure to be and to behave in certain ways. The complete aesthete, in contrast to the creative artist, cannot allow himself or herself to become too attached to, too singularly devoted to, too narrowly committed to promoting and advancing, any single mode of artistic expression, for that would undermine the openness to all such modes of artistic expression or aesthetic display to which the aesthete, on my construal, pledges allegiance.

9 If there is this conflict between the outlook and orientation of artist and aesthete, at least in the purest cases of such, is it then reasonable to aspire to be both an artist and an aesthete? At least two possibilities for doing so with success suggest themselves. One possibility is to install a kind of division in one’s psyche, whereby one harbors and fosters within oneself both an artist and an aesthete persona, but manages to compartmentalize them, so that the inherent tendencies and allegiances of these personae are kept from undermining each other. Another is to allow one’s artist self and one’s aesthete self to dominate at different periods of one’s life, in regular or irregular alternation, temporarily letting that other self and its contrary impulses lie dormant.

Artist versus Aesthete


10 Most of my attention so far has gone to fleshing out the profile of the artist in the dual portrait promised by my title. It is time to devote a little more attention to fleshing out the other side, that of the aesthete. Oscar Wilde’s last words were allegedly these: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.” This remark is perhaps typical of an aesthete on the usual understanding of that identity, and would seem disqualifying of an aesthete in the sense I have championed. But consider that such a remark might well reflect only a refined or discriminating taste, rather than a narrow or exclusive one. After all, perhaps some wallpaper really is objectively awful, and not something even a catholic taste in interior decoration is called upon to embrace! Thus, even those alleged parting words of Wilde do not condemn him without appeal as the narrow, dismissive, stereotypical sort of aesthete, rather than the broad, receptive, non-stereotypical sort of aesthete I have chosen to foreground instead. Joris-Karl Huysmans’ novel A Rebours, usually known in English as Against the Grain, is perhaps the most notorious portrait of an aesthete, or at any rate, a certain kind of hyper-sensitive, neurotic, precious, reclusive, amoral and unworldly aesthete. A Rebours has been called an “extravaganza of aesthetic appreciation” (White 1998: xxv) by Nicholas White, author of the Introduction to its most recent rendering in English, who notes that the novel “dramatizes the apparent incompatibility of elite aesthetic taste, on the one hand, and social and political engagement, on the other.” (White 1998: xvii) It could not be more clear that much of what characterizes Huysmans’ protagonist, Des Esseintes, does not apply to the figure of the aesthete as I choose to conceive him. Unlike that ideal appreciator of the artistic and the aesthetic in all its guises, Des Esseintes progressively constricts the range of phenomena capable of engaging him aesthetically, until no longer able to focus, we are told, “on anything but meticulously selected works distilled from tormented and subtle intellects.” (Huysmans 1998: 72) Moreover, Huysmans’s perverse hero derogates nature, vaunting the superiority of artifice over nature at every turn, until a partial volte-face which has him promoting the cultivation of hothouse flowers that imitate the products of artifice; despising contemporary urban life and its distinctive manifestations; disdaining human beings in general and is both misanthropic and misogynist; endeavoring to entirely expunge social reality from his consciousness; evincing the most hypercritical taste in literature, finding that among Latin authors only Petronius affords him unmixed satisfaction; and exhibiting behavior that cannot be described as other than immoral, including in-


Jerrold Levinson

ducing the death-by-jewel-encrustation of a pet tortoise, arranging for a disadvantaged youth to become a thief and murderer by addicting him to the delights of a brothel otherwise beyond his reach, and actively encouraging a close friend to wed in such manner that the marriage was bound to fail and then roundly rejoicing in that failure. So are there, then, any lessons to be learned from Huysmans’ portrait of Des Esseintes for my portrait of the aesthete, given that the aesthete in my sense is not at all to be identified with the very peculiar variety of aesthete that Huysmans’ creature represents? Put otherwise, is there anything positive we might take away from Huysmans’ portrait of Des Esseintes as far as our picture of the aesthete is concerned? Indeed there is. One such thing is the potential of artifice, or human invention, applied in all spheres from the most intimate and domestic to the most public and global, to expand and enhance our aesthetic lives—something that in no way requires a concomitant derogation of the natural. A second, related thing is the aesthetic potential of fusions of the artificial and the natural, as exemplified well in Des Esseintes’ play with an aquarium built into a wall of the ship-like dining room of the house he outfits as his refuge from modern life, emptying and refilling it with water dyed different colors, “thus creating for himself, at his own pleasure, the various shades displayed by real rivers, green or greyish, opaline or silvery […]” (Huysmans 1998: 17). A third thing is the rewards of acute attention to the fashioning of one’s surroundings—a sort of concern for interior design to the nth power—exemplified throughout the novel by Des Esseintes’ studied choices in wallpaper, furniture, flowers, clothing, lighting, sound insulation, and the books and paintings selected for permanent display in his private quarters. A fourth is the championing of transgressive, unsettling, unfashionable modes of art, illustrated by the spotlight shone on artists such as Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, Stephane Mallarme, and Edgar Allan Poe—all daring and provocative choices at the time. And a last, fifth thing is the easily overlooked and persistently underrated aesthetic potential of the so-called “minor” senses of taste, smell, and touch, and the often-labelled “minor” arts based on them, such as lapidary art, culinary art, winemaking, perfumery, horticulture, floristry, massage, and so on. Perhaps the most striking instance of this in Huysmans’ novel is the collection of casks of liqueur dubbed by Des Esseintes “his mouth organ”, involving a system for dispensing small portions of each as desired, with each liqueur corresponding, for Des Esseintes, to the timbre of some musical instrument. “Des Esseintes would drink a drop of this or that, playing interior symphonies to himself, and thus providing sensations analogous to those which music affords the ear.” (Huysmans 1998: 39)

Artist versus Aesthete


11 It is worth noting, as I bring this dual portrait to a close, that the contrast I have been concerned to draw between the artist and the aesthete—understood as an ideal appreciator of the aesthetic and the artistic—has many parallels in other domains. For instance, the contrast, in the religious realm, between spiritual reformer and enlightenment seeker; or in the athletic realm, between top-ten tennis player and normal tennis fan; or in the gastronomic realm, between professional chef and amateur gourmet. In the first of each of these pairs what is most salient is an intensity of focus and a firm conviction in the rightness of what is being pursued or promoted, while in the second of each what is most salient is a breadth of concern for and openness of spirit to what of value may be on offer. Optimum creation and innovation call for one mode of mind, optimum reception and appreciation call for quite another. Such is the contrast I have been at pains to highlight in my portrait of the artist and the aesthete. That I have executed it with lines overly sharp and in colors overly bright will be readily remarked. But I trust that the resemblance to my target can nonetheless be discerned.

Bibliography Bloom, Harold (1972): The Anxiety of Influence. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Greenberg, Clement (1965): “Modernist Painting (revised version)”. In: Art and Literature. No. 4, pp. 193 – 201. Huysmans, Joris Karl (1998): Against Nature [originally: A Rebours]. Margaret Mauldon (Transl.). Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Nicholas White. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Levinson, Jerrold (2002): “Hume’s Standard of Taste: The Real Problem”. In: Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 60. No. 3, pp. 227 – 38. McEwan, Ian (1988): Amsterdam. New York: Doubleday. Moss, Stephen (2013): “A to Z of Wagner: G is for Gesamtkunstwerk”. In: The Guardian, 18 April; samtkunstwerk (accessed 12/11/2016). Ross, Alex (2016): “The Magus: Pierre Boulez’s fiery career”. In: The New Yorker, 25 January; (accessed 12/11/2016). Schapiro, Meyer (1978): “On a Painting of Van Gogh”. In: Meyer Schapiro (Ed.): Modern Art: 19th and 20th Centuries. New York: Braziller, pp. 87 – 100. Solomon, Maynard (1988): “Thoughts on Biography”. In: Maynard Solomon (Ed.): Beethoven Essays. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 101 – 115.


Jerrold Levinson

Steinberg, Leo (1972): “Contemporary Art and the Plight of its Public”. In: Leo Steinberg (Ed.): Other Criteria. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 3 – 4. Tommasini, Anthony (2007): “Unraveling the Knots of the 12 Tones”. In: The New York Times, 14 October; (accessed 12/11/2016). White, Nicholas (1998): “Introduction.” In: Joris Karl Huysmans: Against Nature [originally: A Rebours]. Margaret Mauldon (Transl.). Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Nicholas White. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. vii – xxvi.

Peter Lamarque

What Is the Philosophy of Poetry? Abstract: It is only relatively recently that analytical philosophers have given special focus to poetry as a topic in its own right in aesthetics or as a semi-autonomous branch of the philosophy of literature. A new field is taking shape: the so-called Philosophy of Poetry. But do analytical philosophers have anything new to say on the topic? What kinds of issues or problems attract their attention? Rather than simply surveying the field, the paper looks at some emerging concerns—about form & content, experience, interpretation, expression, and poetic truth—and suggests that poetry poses some quite serious challenges to standard conceptions of meaning and truth. On the current showing it seems likely that studying the practices and norms of poetry will force a reconceiving of the powers or limits of language that could itself promote fresh understanding in core areas of philosophy. So bringing analytical philosophy to poetry can yield benefits in both directions, offering insights as well as challenges.

My task is to introduce and briefly characterise a relatively new branch of analytical aesthetics, which has come to be termed The Philosophy of Poetry (Gibson 2015). The designation fits the familiar pattern of topic divisions within aesthetics like The Philosophy of Visual Art, The Philosophy of Music, and so forth. But just when aestheticians are getting used to another recent sub-division, The Philosophy of Literature (Lamarque 2009c), here comes a sub-branch of that, focused on poetry. What is it exactly? Is there any genuine intellectual space for it? After all, there seems no need for a Philosophy of the Novel because questions about the novel are already accommodated in the Philosophy of Literature. Does poetry merit its own slot where the novel does not? But the simple fact is, given its current focus, the Philosophy of Literature has virtually become the Philosophy of the Novel, with its emphasis on topics like narrative, fictionality, imaginative resistance, reference, character and agency, emotional response to fiction, empathy, ethical content, narrative truth, and so forth. These are not topics, as we shall see, that have a central bearing on poetry. In a word, Philosophy of Literature has not served poetry well. There is space, I contend, for a distinct Philosophy of Poetry at least in a substantially expanded conception of Philosophy of Literature. My aim is not to give a history of the Philosophy of Poetry—there are plenty of precursors in the history of philosophy, from Aristotle to Heidegger, that might DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-008


Peter Lamarque

anticipate such a designation. Indeed my interest is narrower still in attending only to the contribution, if any, that analytical philosophy or specifically analytical aesthetics might make to a Philosophy of Poetry. What I mean by “analytical” here is best shown by demonstration, in the discussion that follows: it is partly methodological or procedural, partly a matter of questions raised, partly the use of resources from other areas of analytical philosophy. As for aesthetics, I conceive it, broadly speaking, as a value enquiry: ultimately one that seeks to characterise and find value in peculiar kinds of sensuous or imaginative experience. The aesthetic realm is not co-extensive with the artistic realm. Philosophy of poetry, as a branch of aesthetics, is also about value and also, I suggest, about kinds of experience. The enquiry rests on two principal questions: What is distinctive about poetry among the literary arts? and What are the fundamental values of poetry? My discussion will address six topics that illustrate some core issues in the philosophy of poetry: Definition; Paraphrase and Form-Content Unity; Experience; Interpretation; Expression; Truth and Profundity.

1 Definition Analytical aesthetics has often seemed obsessed with definition (finding “necessary and sufficient conditions”), yet not many sustained attempts have been made by analytic philosophers to define poetry, and there is no broad consensus (Ribeiro 2007). Perhaps the demand for definition is less pressing in this case, given that poems on the whole are easy enough to recognize. However, attempts even by literary critics are rarely without controversy. For example, the critic Terry Eagleton offers a rough and ready definition which he suggests might “turn out to be the best we can do”: “A poem is a fictional verbally inventive moral statement in which it is the author, rather than the printer or word processor, who decides where the lines should end” (Eagleton 2007: 25). Yet this is flawed on many counts. It is far from clear that poetry needs to be either fictional or moral or in any sense a statement. Here we are simply confronted by the inexhaustible diversity of poetry: epic, lyric, dramatic, narrative, confessional, satirical, rhymed, non-rhymed, nonsense poems, prose poems, concrete poems, so it goes on. It looks as if in Wittgenstein’s terms we have just a family of cases overlapping, criss-crossing but without any essence. In fact, I suggest that another of Wittgenstein’s notions, that of a practice, affords the most helpful approach in a philosophy of poetry. Rather than focusing on definition, we should attend to the practice or practices of those who engage with poetry. No doubt there is some culture-relativity here but at a generic

What Is the Philosophy of Poetry?


level the practice-based approach involves identifying attitudes, expectations, responses, or judgments that are conventionally or characteristically brought to bear on poetry by (knowledgeable) practitioners: poets, readers, commentators, those who appreciate or find value or pleasure in poetry. This is not a sociological but an analytical enquiry. It might even be conceived in Kantian transcendental terms, asking what reading and appreciative protocols must be in place if poetry is possible. Without an established practice with its own concepts and conventions there would be no distinction between poetry and non-poetry and no way to identify the values of poetry. Some simple facts about the practice are easy to discern. Whatever a poem might look (or sound) like, if we take it as a poem we bring to it a distinctive kind of attention as broadly determined by the poetic tradition. We assume, for example, that the surface language itself is salient, that its physical textures, sound, rhythm, metre, repetitions, rhymes, are not merely incidental but integral to our attention, to be appreciated in their own right, not just as vehicles for but as identifying conditions of the content conveyed. We attend to the thoughts embodied in a poem through this precise mode of articulation. If we know this is the “game” that is played then our responses are shaped accordingly. And of course those who create poetry anticipate such responses, either actively inviting them or in different ways subverting or problematizing them. This idea from Wittgenstein of grounding the understanding of a concept— in this case poetry—within a (more or less loosely) rule-guided practice, is now a familiar move in analytic aesthetics and the philosophy of literature (Lamarque/ Olsen 1994). So, in a word, the philosophy of poetry can profitably be seen as the exploration of a practice, not the search for a definition. It is on this assumption that I will proceed in what follows.

2 Paraphrase and Form-Content Unity If we are looking for what is distinctive about poetry among the literary arts, a good place to start is that prominent feature in the practice just mentioned, the fact that in the recognition of poetry as poetry, surface aspects of language become salient, to be appreciated in its own right, not just as a vehicle for conveying content. There are two related debates about poetic meaning—concerning paraphrase and concerning the supposed indivisibility of form and content—that seem peculiar to poetry in this regard. But they are potentially problematic for analytical approaches. T.S. Eliot described as a “commonplace” the idea that “the meaning of a poem may wholly escape paraphrase” (Eliot 1975: 110 – 11, quoted in Leighton


Peter Lamarque

2009: 167). The “resistance” of poetry to paraphrase, or at least the “problem” of paraphrase, arises from the simple thought that to try to capture in different words what a poem is saying would be to abandon precisely what gives the poem its interest and its very identity. The point follows again from that basic protocol of reading poetry, under which the language of a poem invites attention to itself. Analytic philosophers of course have a central interest in meaning so the thought that there is a linguistic usage such that the meaning of a sentence can be expressed in only one way is both intriguing and puzzling. It is a fundamental principle in the philosophy of language, when language is considered as a vehicle for thought, that there must be different ways, in principle, in which the very same thought might be expressed. If the principle does not apply to poetry, we might infer either that poetic usage is not primarily a vehicle for thought or that the notion of the “same thought”—i. e. the identity condition for thoughts— needs revising in the case of poetry. The debate about paraphrase and poetry is rife with confusion. What is the status of the claim that poetry “may wholly escape paraphrase”? Is it an empirical claim to the effect that however hard readers try they are just not able to come up with adequate paraphrases? Is it a matter of degree, with some poems easier than others to paraphrase? Or is it some kind of necessary truth, such that it is impossible in principle to come up with a precise paraphrase? Or is it more like a prescription?—avoid trying to paraphrase poetry. On reflection it seems that none of these is quite right. There has been some interest from analytical philosophers in recent years. Peter Kivy (Kivy 1997, Kivy 2011) has argued that paraphrase is not a special problem for poetry once it is recognised what criteria of “sameness of meaning” are appropriate. If it is demanded of paraphrase that it involve the “reproduction of the poem’s total effect on the reader” then of course, Kivy claims, paraphrase is impossible. But such a criterion is “nonsensical”, he thinks, because “it demands of paraphrase something that never was the object of the exercise in the first place” (Kivy 1997: 105). But arguably, although Kivy appeals to a commonsense conception of paraphrase (roughly, sharing the same meaning), he has not got to the heart of what is problematic about paraphrase and poetry. For one thing he associates paraphrase too closely with interpretation. We shall see later that interpretation is quite different from paraphrase as normally understood. But also, when the critic Cleanth Brooks coined the phrase “heresy of paraphrase” (Brooks 1968) he was not saying what can or cannot be done but what should or should not be done. For Brooks the heresy is to think that at the core of each poem is some abstractable and paraphrasable statement. The search for such a statement is what Brooks rejects.

What Is the Philosophy of Poetry?


In contrast to Kivy, the philosopher of language, Ernie Lepore, has defended the unparaphrasability of poetry by appeal to what he calls hyperintensionality, a kind of linguistic context in which “replacing an expression with its synonym changes meaning” (Lepore 2009: 195). Lepore thinks that poetry exemplifies such a context and in this regard is similar to quotation. Although bachelor is synonymous with unmarried man, substitution will not preserve meaning (or truth) in some contexts, for example in the move from: “bachelor” is the first word in “bachelors are unmarried men” to “unmarried man” is the first word in “bachelors are unmarried men”

Lepore claims that poems also create hyperintensional contexts: “poetry, like quotation, doesn’t support substitution of synonyms because it harbors devices for being literally (partly) about their own articulations” (Lepore 2009: 195). Lepore’s suggestion reinforces the thought that there is more to the unparaphrasability of poetry than just the contingency of what can or cannot be done in practice. However, it is questionable whether poems really are (even partly) about their own articulation: the idea seems too solipsistic, too inward facing. And although hyperintensionality might give an insight into the semantics of poetry, it offers little more to an explanation of the value of poetry, than already noted in the fact that in reading poetry special attention is invited to the precise language used. The lesson from the paraphrase debate is that what matters is not whether poems can be paraphrased—most of them can—but whether the resulting paraphrase, even in cases of near absolute synonymy, is in any sense substitutable for or equivalent to the poem itself. The default assumption is that it is not: and that rests on a judgment of value not on a matter of semantics. I suggest a better way of thinking of unparaphrasability is less as a brute fact about poetic usage, more as a convention in the practice of poetry itself: not something discovered by readers in reading poetry but something demanded within the practice. (Lamarque 2009a; criticised in Kivy 2011, who believes the conception is too essentialist, but powerfully defended in McGregor 2014 and Hulatt 2016). By way of a slight diversion an amusing and telling example of sameness and difference in poetry appears in a recent essay by the philosopher Sherri Irvin, “Unreadable Poems and How They Mean” (Irvin 2015). Irvin cites some scathing remarks by the poet and critic Joan Houlihan about contemporary, post-modernist poetry claiming that it sometimes uses words in a way that treats them as meaningless.


Peter Lamarque

Houlihan suggests that the particular words of some poems are, in fact, inessential to them: major substitutions can be made preserving the poem’s identity. Again her claim rests on a judgment of value, not on semantics. She gives as an example a poem by Christina Mengert with the enigmatic title “*”. The original, in its entirety, reads as follows (Irvin 2015: 88 – 89): Is an axle’s excavation an axiom’s inversion that muzzles the ventriloquist breath of a nipple. The revolving door of its throat.

Houlihan offers the following as an essentially equivalent substitute: Is an axiom’s evacuation an axle’s inversion that snubs the ventriloquist bread of a testicle. The spinning jenny of its lashes.

“I would argue,” Houlihan writes, that “my poem is the original. It is exactly the same poem, albeit with different words—but neither set of words makes any difference to the meaning” (Irvin 2015: 89). Sometimes when meaning is so elusive it doesn’t seem to matter. That phrase “neither set of words makes any difference to the meaning”, even if offered as hyperbole, is challenging. It suggests that it is not the words themselves that create meaning—or indeed the poem itself—but only certain formal qualities. The form—the sound, the rhythm, the metre—substitutes for the meaning. There is no other meaning to be grasped. Her alternative is not a paraphrase because strictly there is no meaning to paraphrase. The poem, she seems to be saying, has no semantics. She takes this to be typical of some (post‐) modern poetry. In fact, Irvin comes to the rescue of the poem, having cleverly discovered another use of one of the key phrases: “The ventriloquist breath” opens Lavinia Greenlaw’s poem “The Iron Lung,” published not long before Mengert’s poem first appeared. If the ventriloquist breath is the breath induced by an iron lung, this brings new layers of resonance and possibilities of meaning to the poem: the axle’s excavation now has a connection to a mechanistic action of the iron

What Is the Philosophy of Poetry?


lung; the “revolving door of its throat” may be connected to the relentless forcing in and out of breath. (Irvin 2015: 93)

Irvin notices that “The move from ‘muzzles’ to ‘snubs’ [in Houlihan’s rewriting] would undermine the sense of suffocation we have through the image of the muzzling of breath” (Irvin 2015: 95). So perhaps after all Mengert’s poem does have a meaning to be recovered, beyond its sound and its form. But the example brings us to the idea of form and content and their relation. Houlihan seems to suggest that in certain kinds of post-modernist poetry there is no more to content than some fairly abstract form. In fact, a more traditional debate makes a stronger claim for form/content unity: that the one cannot be identified independently of the other. Such a claim would explain why it should be that a paraphrase of a poem, however accurate, always seems inadequate, never equivalent to, or substitutable for, the poem. Again, though, philosophically speaking, this idea, form-content unity, is puzzling. After all, it seems easy enough to speak of form and content separately: to identify a rhyme scheme, metrical pattern, stanza length, or poem-type without mentioning what a poem is about, and to describe content—skylarks, melancholy, yearning—without mentioning formal qualities. How could form and content be indivisible? The clue lies in the very idea of content in a poem. The crucial thought, I suggest, is that specifications of content come in degrees of “finegrainedness” (Lamarque 2015). We can specify content in a coarse-grained manner by identifying a subject matter (say, a visit to Tintern Abbey) or broad themes (say, melancholy). At this level poems can share the same content (just as could a poem and a paraphrase). But the more fine-grained the specification the less possible it becomes for that content to be shared: this response to Tintern Abbey, this account of melancholy. The question then arises: Is it useful to identify a level of fine-grainedness such that only the poem itself counts as specifying its own content? If the answer is Yes, then both form-content unity and unparaphrasability are established but again, arguably, it is not a fact about a poem that it exhibits form-content unity but a demand made of it when it is read or valued a certain way, not least when read as a poem. And what exactly is that value, on which form-content unity rests? The value often cited is the unique experience that a poem affords.


Peter Lamarque

3 Experience The idea that the value of a poem resides at least partly in a reader’s experience of it is again puzzling for the analytic philosopher for whom the primary function of language is to embody and convey information or, more widely, to perform illocutionary acts. And anyway the idea of “experience” is troublingly vague. Can anything substantial be said? No doubt the experience sought in poetry—and inevitably the focus turns to lyric poetry—is multi-faceted: affective, cognitive, imaginative, and also visceral, in response to the physical textures of the language spoken. The lushness of these lines from Gerard Manley Hopkins is felt: Let me be to Thee as the circling bird, Or bat with tender and air-crisping wings That shapes in half-light his departing rings, From both of whom a changeless note is heard. (From Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Let me be to Thee as the circling bird”, in Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Major Works, Oxford, 1986)

But the relevant experience is not just phenomenological. It emerges from that special kind of attention that poetry, especially the lyric, invites: in brief, an attention to a form-content unity. A subject is perceived and imagined through the forms of its presentation. What is experienced is the subject through a finegrained perspective. The subject in this case is the relation of the speaker to God seen through the metaphorical perspective of the bird or bat circling round a light at night. The experience of a subject in this way through the specific perspective that a poem offers, linguistic and imaginative, will always be unique to each work. Of course there is a high degree of subjectivity in the experience of individual readers (and readings by the same reader at different times) but there is also an important level of shared response (Attridge 2015: 167– 8). Grounding the value of poetry in experience is useful for several reasons. It connects poetry naturally to other arts, in particular painting, music, dance, or sculpture, where experience is paramount. Yet it also, in illuminating ways, pulls poetry apart from other kinds of language use. Paradigmatically, the value of language resides in the communication of thought, under the constraint of truth-telling. The shift to experience in poetry once again highlights the medium as much as the “message,” emphasizing the artistic over the merely functional. The experience that matters in poetry is the experience not of “form” alone or “content” alone but of the fusion of the two.

What Is the Philosophy of Poetry?


4 Interpretation This emphasis on experience might also offer a different way of thinking about poetic interpretation. Instead of merely linking interpretation to meaning in any straightforward sense, it might be more rewarding to link it to experience, broadly conceived. This is where Kivy goes wrong in equating paraphrase, which only connects to meaning, with interpretation. Interpreting a poem, including finding new ways of reflecting on its imagery or themes, can be viewed as a means of enriching the experience a poem can offer: and also a way of encouraging other readers to expand their own imaginative response. Let us look at an example rather different from the resonating sound-picture —“bat with tender and air-crisping wings”—offered by Gerard Manley Hopkins. This is a more somber reflection by the First World War poet Wilfred Owen: “Futility” (quoted in Attridge/Staten 2015: 40) Futility – by Wilfred Owen Move him into the sun Gently its touch awoke him once, At home, whispering of fields unsown. Always it woke him, even in France, Until this morning and this snow. If anything might rouse him now The kind old sun will know. Think how it wakes the seeds, Woke, once, the clays of a cold star. Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides, Full-nerved – still warm – too hard to stir? Was it for this the clay grew tall? - O what made fatuous sunbeams toil To break earth’s sleep at all?

Here are some interpretive comments offered by a literary critic, Henry Staten: […] we’re building up to the climactic line, “Was it for this the clay grew tall?” The weight of irony in this line, of the bitterest dashing of hope, lies on the word this, on which the entire poem pivots; what a challenge for a reader to give this precisely the right pacing and intonation. It’s a marvellous line: “the clay grew tall” reminds us of the corpse as child and boy, growing toward manhood, and of Genesis; but it also takes us back to “clays of a cold star,” which were invoked in connection with the triumph of the sun, and gives the question the larger sense, “was it for this that the clay of earth came to life and eventuated in the human animal with its upright posture?” When the clay of earth was first mentioned, however, it was to point to the triumph of the sun over cold, dead matter, whereas now clay is evoked


Peter Lamarque

with the dawning awareness that the cold is going to be the ultimate winner; the line needs to be read with the undertone of incipient anxiety. (Attridge/Staten 2015: 50 – 1)

The commentary, part of a considerably longer passage, aids us in experiencing the mood of the poem, the sad transition from the warmth of the first stanza with the “kind old sun” and its gentle touch, to the cold clay of the second inducing “incipient anxiety”. We are told to look out for the irony, the dashing of hope, the “dawning awareness that the cold is going to be the ultimate winner”. This doesn’t give us the meaning as such but it characterises, elaborates on, and heightens, the tone of despair, or futility (as in the title). Analytic philosophers approaching interpretation in the arts have been drawn to a terminology and methodology that, in my view, at least in the case of literature, has had a baleful effect, obscuring rather than illuminating the subject matter. For example, in the philosophy of literature there is endless use of the phrase “the meaning of the work”. It is not the singularity implied by the definite article that creates the problem; the phrase “a meaning of a literary work” is no better. The problem rests with taking the model of sentence meaning as paradigmatic. The phrase “the meaning of the work” draws its inspiration from the phrase “the meaning of the sentence”. That’s where things go wrong because it encourages analytical philosophers to appeal to their own familiar theories of sentence meaning in talking about literary art: it might be Gricean notions of utterance or utterer’s meaning; it might be speech act theory; it might be Davidsonian truth-conditional semantics. However, none can capture what is distinctive about literary—and especially poetic—interpretation. In this context, though, it is important to acknowledge Monroe Beardsley’s distinction between explication and interpretation (Beardsley 1981: 401– 403). Explication does indeed investigate verbal or sentential meaning and is integral to literary critical enquiry. We need to know what individual words mean, the idioms, the connotations, the symbols, before we can appreciate poetic value. But interpretation, in the conception that interests me (in fact not the same as Beardsley’s), as illustrated in the Wilfred Owen example, has a different role. It applies not at a sentential or verbal level but to whole works or substantial passages and, again, it is not meaning in any literal sense that it reveals but something more like a vision or theme or value experienced. The emphasis on sentential meaning, leading to the meaning of the work, distorts key aspects in the practice of poetry, not least form-content unity and the salience of verbal texture—sound, rhythm, rhyme—that we have remarked on. For example, in resting on the paradigm of communicative speech, it gives undue weight to the question of intention. The grasp of intended meaning is no doubt crucial to successful communication. But the search for intention is

What Is the Philosophy of Poetry?


of minimal relevance for the kind of interpretation in our example. As a guide to experience, what matters in poetic interpretation is whether the text itself encourages, supports and rewards the experience invoked. I suggest that what is needed in the philosophy of poetry is a radical reorientation. Rather than thinking of a work of poetry—or indeed any literary work—as a text communicating an utterance meaning that invites understanding, it is more fruitful to think of it as a work, a work of art, engaging a practice, and inviting a distinctive mode of appreciation. The kind of commentary in our sample passage does not aim at recovering the meaning of the work or even at advancing understanding of the work in any literal sense, it aims rather at providing a perspective on the particulars of the work which enhances its interest and offers a further web of concepts through which to reflect on the work.

5 Expression Let me comment very briefly on expression in poetry. I acknowledge that not all poetry aims at expression, at least affective or emotional expression. But in the Western romantic tradition the lyric has been a dominant poetic form (as emphasised by Hegel) and it is here we find subjectivity, expressiveness and a personal response to a situation to be paramount. Conventionally, although not necessarily, lyric poetry in this tradition uses the first person “I”. Some analytic philosophers, given familiar core interests in emotion, reference, the self, “I”, and expressiveness in other contexts, have been drawn to reflect on this lyric tradition. Problems familiar to literary critics become refocused for philosophers. But again I contend, as with the case of paraphrase and interpretation, the intervention has not always been illuminating. Take this simple lyric by Emily Dickinson: My river runs to thee: Blue sea, wilt welcome me? My river waits reply. Oh sea, look graciously! I’ll fetch thee brooks From spotted nooks,— Say, sea, Take me! (From Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Boston, 1924)


Peter Lamarque

The poem has an emotional intensity, pleading, yearning (“Take me!”). But who is the speaker (the “I”) and the addressee (“thee”, “Blue sea”)? What is the metaphor of the river running into the sea? Is it about death, the soul flowing into the vast sea of heaven? Is it about love? Is the speaker offering herself to a lover? We need not linger on interpretation. But the philosopher will ask: what kinds of speech acts are these? Is “wilt welcome me?” a genuine question, is “Take me!” a genuine command? J. L. Austin famously stated: […] we could be issuing any of these utterances, as we can issue an utterance of any kind whatsoever, in the course, for example, of acting a play […] or writing a poem—in which case of course it would not be seriously meant and we shall not be able to say that we seriously performed the act concerned. (Austin 1979: 241)

Monroe Beardsley, as spokesman for the New Critics, consolidated Austin’s view, albeit in a less provocative formulation: “the writing of a poem, as such, is not an illocutionary act; it is the creation of a fictional character performing a fictional illocutionary act” (Beardsley 1970: 59). The implication in both formulations is that the speech acts in Dickinson’s lyric are not real questions or commands, they are not “seriously meant”. But Austin has been frequently attacked on this point, not only in famous debates with critics like Jacques Derrida, Christopher Ricks and Geoffrey Hill but more recently by philosophers, for example, Maximilian de Gaynesford. De Gaynesford argues that in suitable circumstances genuine performatives can occur in poetry and that it is important that this be recognised (de Gaynesford 2009: 13). Who is right here? What kinds of speech acts are possible in lyric poems? Underlying all this is a genuine fault-line between what might be called Romantic and Modernist conceptions. The legacy of Modernism is to stress the “autonomy” of the work and to insist that if an emotion is expressed in a poem then necessarily attribution of the emotion is to a poetic speaker or persona, not directly to the poet or to any psychological state of the poet; it is the language of the poem that is expressive and the linguistic mode is fictional. In contrast, the legacy of the Romantic tradition holds that poems, in particular lyric poems, reflect something deeply personal about the author and even if the scenario depicted in a lyric is fictional (which it is sometimes but not always) the poet’s own sensibility is always on show. Lyric poets do indeed sometimes (often?) invent scenes that are both expressive and fictional. Emily Brontë’s poem “Remembrance” is one such in which the “I” refers to a persona, not directly to Brontë herself (the example is famously

What Is the Philosophy of Poetry?


discussed by F. R. Leavis, in Leavis 1952/53). The poem is a dramatic monologue. Brontë envisages a lover returning to a loved one’s tomb year after year yet slowly coming to move on, to relinquish the intense emotion it stirs (“Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee, / While the world’s tide is bearing me along”). The poem begins like this: Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee. Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave! Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee, Sever’d at last by Time’s all-severing wave? (From Emily Brontë, “Remembrance”, Norton Anthology of Poetry, New York, 2005)

For those who stress the inherent fictionality of the lyric such dramatic monologues are paradigmatic, in effect expressive but not personal (or autobiographical). For those who deny that the lyric is necessarily fictional, these examples are neither paradigmatic nor in themselves impersonal. On the latter view, Emily Brontë the poet—like Emily Dickinson in the earlier example—is deeply implicated in the nature and resonance of the expressed emotion. It is her emotion even if not grounded in autobiographical fact. The philosopher Jenefer Robinson has sought a middle way between the two standpoints in what she calls a “new romantic theory of expression” (Robinson 2005: ch. 9). While conceding a persona in first-person lyric poetry, she insists on a place for the poet’s real expressiveness and the role of poetry in the discovery of emotion. One example she discusses is Shelley’s lyric “To a Skylark”, which famously begins: Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! Bird thou never wert, That from Heaven, or near it, Pourest thy full heart In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

And develops in an increasingly reflective, even philosophical, mode: Waking or asleep, Thou of death must deem Things more true and deep Than we mortals dream, Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream? We look before and after, And pine for what is not: Our sincerest laughter


Peter Lamarque

With some pain is fraught; Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

Robinson writes of the poem: “We get a sense both of the poet’s wishes and values and of how those wishes and values affect his cognitive appraisals about the skylark and the human world” (Robinson 2005: 278). She goes on: [Shelley] conveys his breathless awe at the bird’s glorious song as well as his downcast feelings on thinking about the world in contrast with the bird’s song. [He] has given us his reflections upon his emotional experience as well as a sense of what the experience is like. The poem is the result of his cognitive monitoring of the experience. (Robinson 2005: 279, italics in original)

For Robinson we cannot but mark the poet’s own cognitive appraisals and emotional responses that inform the writing. The poem can reveal to the poet himself and to the reader the precise character of the emotion expressed: Once the poem is finished, the emotion expressed has been “brought to consciousness”. Both Shelley and the reader can now, as it were, look back on the emotional process described by the poetic speaker as his ideas and feelings develop through the poem, and we can now grasp exactly what emotion was being articulated. (Robinson 2005: 278)

This marks a subtle, and surely important, refocusing on the poet in a full appreciation of the expressive lyric, a challenge to the more extreme demands of “autonomy”. It is simply wrong to think that lyric poetry is fictional all the way down.

6 Truth and Profundity A final topic on which analytic philosophers have had much to say is the socalled cognitive potential of literary works: in particular, their role in seeking or disclosing truth. On this topic, as noted earlier, most attention has been directed at works of narrative prose rather than poetry. This is natural enough given that the novel—or narrative fiction—makes its claim to truth primarily through the actions or attitudes of characters that invite moral, political or even metaphysical appraisal. No doubt something similar is possible in certain kinds of poetry: dramatic or narrative poems most obviously. Also poetry (or verse) can be used directly as a vehicle for philosophy: Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura and Pope’s Essay on Man are clear examples. And poets will often reflect on abstract ideas (Lamarque 2009b), even if these are not overtly philosophical.

What Is the Philosophy of Poetry?


Nevertheless, the more characteristic emphasis in poetry, notably lyric poetry, on experience, subjectivity, expression, and content-under-a-perspective suggests a different kind of “truth” from that sought either by systematic philosophy or even the “truth” claimed for narrative fiction. The lyric poet might reflect on growing old, like W. B. Yeats, “An aged man is but a paltry thing, / A tattered coat upon a stick” (“Sailing to Byzantium”, Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats, Ware, 2000) or Philip Larkin, “Life is first boredom, then fear. / Whether or not we use it, it goes” (“Dockery and Son”, Philip Larkin, Collected Poems, London, 2003). But the interest of such lines is not primarily in the literal truth or otherwise of the extracted propositions but in the way the thoughts are integrated into an aesthetic structure inviting the kind of experience we earlier characterised. The critic Jonathan Culler, in his recent book on the lyric, has characterised what he calls a “ritualistic” dimension to lyric poetry that gives focus to “memorable writing to be received, reactivated, and repeated by readers” (Culler 2015: 37). He is noting one of the pleasures of lyric poetry, notably that written in the first person, which is to recite the lines as if from one’s own point of view, to inhabit the sentiment from within. Can lyric poetry be profound? Indeed it can, but not in the mode of a philosophical treatise and not simply in virtue of being difficult to understand. We call a lyric profound when a sentiment or idea comes alive for us through a sense that just this way of expressing it is right, the form exactly consonant with the content. This is true of the Wilfred Owen poem and also Shelley’s “To a Skylark”. And even, I suggest, in Larkin’s humorous and melancholic “Dockery and Son”, with its ruminative lines: Where do these Innate assumptions come from? Not from what We think truest, or most want to do: Those warp tight-shut, like doors. They’re more a style Our lives bring with them: habit for a while, Suddenly they harden into all we’ve got And how we got it; looked back on, they rear Like sand-clouds, thick and close

The profundity in Larkin’s lines lies not in some abstracted thought about how personality and ambition are formed but in just this way of realising and embodying a thought. Truth and profundity in poetry lie in the clarity, integrity and precision of the expression which at its best can bear an authority that has the power to grip our minds and perhaps reshape our thoughts in fundamental ways. The themes might be perennial—mortality, beauty, despair—but the exploration of them


Peter Lamarque

through subjects as varied as a soldier’s death, skylarks, a train journey, can offer a perspective that is entirely fresh and illuminating, and in that sense profound. Where a poem, as we say, strikes a false note it is not so much a failure to “correspond with reality”, more a matter of sentimentality, cliché or insincerity. The ideas or emotions expressed lack “authority” because they seem poorly thought out, too glib, derivative or lacking precision. Poetry is profound through bringing to mind and crystallising thoughts that are original, powerful and affecting. It is instructive for analytic philosophers to reflect on a conception of truth of this kind that seems fundamentally different from the propositional truth defined by philosophy. Indeed all the topics briefly sketched here relating to poetry—practices, paraphrasability, form and content, poetic experience, meaning, expression, speech acts, and profundity—suggest ways in which thinking about language can be extended and enriched in this unusual context, well beyond the familiar paradigm of sentences imparting information and corresponding with facts.¹

Bibliography Attridge, Derek (2015): The Work of Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Attridge, Derek/Staten, Henry (2015): The Craft of Poetry: Dialogues on minimal interpretation. London: Routledge. Austin, John L. (³1979): “Performative Utterances”. In: J. L. Austin: Philosophical Papers. James O. Urmson/Geoffrey J. Warnock (Eds.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 233 – 52. Beardsley, Monroe C. (1970): The Possibility of Criticism. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press. Beardsley, Monroe, C. (²1981): Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. Brooks, Cleanth (1968): The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry. [1st ed. 1947] London: Methuen. Culler, Jonathan (2015): Theory of the Lyric. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. de Gaynesford, Maximilian (2009): “The Seriousness of Poetry”. In: Essays in Criticism 59. No. 1, pp. 1 – 21. Eagleton, Terry (2007): How to Read a Poem. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

 This paper draws fairly extensively on two other articles of mine: “Philosophy and the Lyric” in The Journal of Literary Theory, vol. 11 (2017), no. 1, pp. 63-73, and “Poetry” in The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics, Berys Gaut & Dominic Lopes (Eds.), London: Routledge, 3rd edition, 2013, pp. 532– 42.

What Is the Philosophy of Poetry?


Eliot, T.S. (1975): “The Music of Poetry”. [1st ed. 1942] In: Selected Prose. Frank Kermode (Ed.). London: Faber & Faber, pp. 107 – 114. Gibson, John (Ed.) (2015): The Philosophy of Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hulatt, Owen (2016): “The Problem of Modernism and Critical Refusal: Bradley and Lamarque on Form/Content Unity”. In: Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 74. No. 1, pp. 47 – 59. Irvin, Sherri (2015): “Unreadable Poems and How They Mean”. In: John Gibson (Ed.): The Philosophy of Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 88 – 110. Kivy, Peter (1997): Philosophies of Arts: An Essay in Differences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kivy, Peter (2011): “Paraphrasing Poetry (for Profit and Pleasure)”. In: Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 69. No. 4, pp. 367 – 377. Lamarque, Peter (2009a): “The Elusiveness of Poetic Meaning”. In: Ratio 22. No. 4, pp. 398 – 420. Lamarque, Peter (2009b): “Poetry and Abstract Thought”. In: Midwest Studies in Philosophy 33. No. 1, pp. 37 – 52. Lamarque, Peter (2009c): The Philosophy of Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lamarque, Peter (2015): “Semantic Finegrainedness and Poetic Value”. In: John Gibson (Ed.): The Philosophy of Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 18 – 36. Lamarque, Peter/Olsen, Stein Haugom (1994): Truth, Fiction, and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Leavis, F.R. (1952/53): “Reality and Sincerity”. In: Scrutiny 29. No. 2, pp. 90 – 98. Leighton, Angela (2009): “About About: On Poetry and Paraphrase”. In: Midwest Studies in Philosophy 33. No. 1, pp. 167 – 176. Lepore, Ernie (2009): “The Heresy of Paraphrase: When the Medium Really is the Message”. In: Midwest Studies in Philosophy 33. No. 1, pp. 177 – 197. McGregor, Rafe (2014): “Poetic Thickness”. In: British Journal of Aesthetics 54, pp. 49 – 64. Ribeiro, Anna C. (2007): “Intending to Repeat: A Definition of Poetry”. In: Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 65. No. 2, pp. 189 – 201. Robinson, Jenefer (2005): Deeper than Reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Georg Mohr

On the Very Idea of Understanding Music

Abstract: Can music be “understood”? Does the notion of understanding make sense when applied to music? In everyday communication, understanding seems linked to words and (images of) objects. “Understanding” works of literary or pictorial arts, therefore, seems to be quite “natural”. In instrumental music, however, where words, pictures or narrative programs are missing, we only can refer to sounds, the form of their succession and the interrelations between their elements (tones). Two issues arise here: First, what concept of understanding fits to hearing and interpreting music in general? Second, if there is no general answer to the question of what understanding music in general means, understanding music might be something different depending on what kind of music we are dealing with.

1 Preferences and Aesthetic Appreciation Probably all of us, when leaving a concert, have heard people commenting on the music they have just listened to some minutes ago, like this: (1) “I didn’t like that.” Or like this: (2) “I didn’t understand what was going on.” Comment (1) is an expression of dislike: The person had no pleasure hearing the music. Comment (2) takes another stance. Instead of just expressing subjective and momentary negative emotions, it expresses a lack of understanding. The underlying conviction will be the following: When we talk about music, we should not just express our personal likes or dislikes, rather we should refer to the features of the music and try to understand the music by adequately taking notice of how these features are realized and how the music “works”. Besides these two brief and rather simple comments, we can sometimes hear people say things like the following: (3) “I don’t like that kind of stuff, but I don’t deny that it is masterful music, intelligent, complex, and at an aesthetically high-level.” Or this: (4) “It’s only rock ’n’ roll, but I like it.” DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-009


Georg Mohr

What is worth being noted here is that these commentators (3) and (4) explicitly make the distinction between their personal pleasure on the one hand and the aesthetically relevant features of the music on the other. While commentator (3) admits that music she doesn’t like can nevertheless be aesthetically valuable, commentator (4) admits that music she likes is not necessarily of high aesthetic value. Consequently, while the first two commentators implicitly claim that music is adequately commented on by reference to one dimension only, i. e., in the first case by reference to its personal, emotional effects, and in the second case by reference to an understanding—or lack of understanding—of the “objective” features of the music, the third and fourth commentators are aware of two aesthetic standpoints: (a) personal taste preferences and (b) interpersonal understanding of aesthetic features. And they are aware that we have to distinguish between them. Talking about music, at least if we try to communicate our musical experiences instead of just expressing our spontaneous subjective emotional reactions, we make a distinction between pleasure and understanding. We admit that a piece of music that we don’t like might nevertheless have aesthetic value, in virtue of its being a complex work of art. And we admit also, that an aesthetically valuable musical work of art is not necessarily of the kind of “pleasing listening”. We could question why pleasure—even without understanding it—should be a criterion for aesthetic appreciation at all. And we can question as well why understanding—even without pleasure—should be a criterion for aesthetic appreciation at all. I presuppose, without arguing for this here and now, that (a) if pleasure counts for aesthetic appreciation, then pleasure cannot be conceived of as merely an impulsive, subjective emotional reaction, and (b) understanding is relevant for aesthetic appreciation. This may be said at the beginning, just to be sure that: – understanding is an adequate mode of “appreciation” of music, – music is a legitimate and adequate object of understanding, – understanding is a necessary element of the aesthetic stance. This is disputed nowadays. It was more or less undisputed during the period of European “Classical” Score-based Musical Works of Art from the 17th thru the 19th century—in the English speaking literature called the “Common Practice Period”.

On the Very Idea of Understanding Music


Since 20th century avant-garde and particularly since the emergence of pop music, however, musicians, fans and even academic musicologists have critically questioned the notion of understanding music. They suggest using other categories that should be more adequate when we talk about pop music. Pop music is not supposed to be made in order to be “understood”, they say, but to be experienced, to be felt, to move one physically, to create a collective presence, to tune in, to turn on and to take off. While many fans of pop music reject the idea of “understanding music” and prefer to create ambiences, atmospheres and the like, many admirers of “classical” music take this as a reason to deny the aesthetic dignity of pop music; they agree insofar as to not make pop music an object of understanding. Anyone, however, who opens her ears as wide when listening to pop music as one does when listening to classical score-music, will realize that there is a huge number of pop “songs” (in the broadest sense, including purely instrumental pop music) which are clear expressions of musical competence, of “good taste”, of compositional complexity etc. and which, consequently, can and must be considered as full fledged objects of musical analysis and understanding at a level comparable to “classical” music.

2 Musical Understandings Understanding music is essential for any conception of music which links the notion of music to conscious human activity, be it composing, performing, listening, or all this at the same time as one and the same activity. But what does “understanding music” mean? In the following, I will briefly comment on some important and influential conceptions of understanding music, in order to conclude with a brief sketch of my own view. One might first want to know whose musical understanding we are talking about. Stephen Davies has given an account of the different “musical understandings” depending on the perspective and the kind of involvement (Davies 2011: 88): – the listener’s understanding, – the performer’s understanding, – the music analyst’s understanding, – the composer’s understanding. I will more or less concentrate on the first perspective: the listener’s understanding. Davies mentions the following requirements of the listener’s musical understanding:


– – – – –

– – – – – –

Georg Mohr

to hear the sound of music in the noise it makes (Davies 2011: 90); discriminating music from other sounds occurring at the same time that are not part of the performance or sounding of the given work; to be aware of the music as beginning and as coming to a close (Davies 2011: 91) a) concerning the work as a whole and b) to its movements, melodies and subsections; to be able to recognize repeats as such and to re-identify earlier themes or other material, even if modified; to be able to identify the themes in a sonata form movement even if, in the recapitulation, a theme moves from major to minor; to be able to recognize songs in different versions with considerable alterations: for example Blue moon of Kentucky by Bill Monroe and Elvis Presley; Star Spangled Banner in Jimi Hendrix’ parody at Woodstock; to hear the waxing and waning of musical tension and movement; to hear the expressive character of the music (if it has one); to follow the progress of the music so that its course makes sense; to be able to predict how the music will continue at any given moment; to be able to distinguish between an unanticipated, but appropriate continuation, and a performance or compositional blunder (Davies 2011: 92); to experience the music as unfolding in a “logical” way, with what preceded as justifying or making appropriate what follows.

To sum up, Davies claims that “music appreciation frequently is approached and concerned centrally if not exclusively with ‘architectonic’ listening that maps the work’s form.” (Davies 2011: 96)

2.1 Architectonicism Music aesthetics has long time been dominated, somewhat prefigured, by the paradigm of composing musical works: complex unities of organized sound with structures following established traditions. The basic idea of this conception of music is still—more or less—accepted. Consider for example this recent definition: “Music is (1) any event intentionally produced or organized (2) to be heard, and (3) either (a) to have some basic musical feature, such as pitch or rhythm, or (b) to be listened to for such features.” (Kania 2011: 12) Works of music are unities in the sense that each element (sound, tone, note) has its function and its significance, by virtue of its interrelations with all the

On the Very Idea of Understanding Music


other elements (sounds, tones, notes). By applying, modifying, changing and inventing rules of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic organization of tones, the composer creates the musical work. The musical work is an “organic form”. Christian Friedrich Michaelis (1770 – 1834) in his Ueber den Geist der Tonkunst (1795, 1800) introduced the notion of organic form into the paradigm of work-oriented music aesthetics just at the beginning of the 19th century when composing large-scaled works was common practice (see Michaelis 1997, Mohr 2004, Mohr 2007). Corresponding to this paradigm of musical work, music aesthetics entered into, to a large extent, the increasingly academic business of understanding music by analysing the structure of a given musical work. A musical work requires the effort of understanding by listening precisely (or at least) to the structure of moving sounds, to its “musical logic”: listening to music is a “logical activity” (Riemann 1873). Understanding music now means understanding the whole complex of interrelations that hold together the sounds. That is to say that the architecture of music qua musical work is now in the focus of musical listening. ‘Architectonicism’ becomes the adequate mode of intelligible listening, because its object is architectural music. Musical life has considerably changed since then, and the scope of music, the scope of what is accepted as being music, is larger. Somewhat surprisingly, western philosophy of music is still more or less concentrated on the 18th and 19th century paradigm of the musical work. The preferred objects of music-aesthetic study are still the works of, primarily, Mozart and Beethoven, sometimes Bach, Haydn, and, then, Schubert, Chopin, Schumann and Brahms. Consequently, architectonicism is still the dominating paradigm of musical understanding in western academic philosophy of music. Outstanding Anglophone philosophers of music defending architectonicism are Peter Kivy and Stephen Davies.

2.2 Concatenationism Interestingly, architectonicism has been criticized by another prominent personality in contemporary western philosophy of music, who does not especially argue for his criticism by referring to other types of music, like modern, avantgarde, pop or music from other cultures. Jerrold Levinson refers to the same musical tradition of classical western music but defends another conception of musical understanding as adequate, precisely for this same tradition too. In his book Music in the Moment (1997), he refers to Edmund Gurney’s The Power of Sound (1880) and calls his conception of understanding music “concatenationism”. The basic idea is that “music essentially presents itself for understanding


Georg Mohr

as a chain of overlapping and mutually involving parts of small extent, rather then either a seamless totality or an architectural arrangement.” (Levinson 1997: 13) More precisely, the basic idea of concatenationism is a conjunction of four propositions linking the notion of “musical understanding”, in the narrow sense, with the notions of “musical enjoyment”, of “musical form” and of “musical value”: 1. Musical understanding centrally involves neither aural grasp of a large span of music as a whole, nor intellectual grasp of large-scale connections between parts; understanding music is centrally a matter of apprehending individual bits of music and immediate progressions from bit to bit. 2. Musical enjoyment is had only in the successive parts of a piece of music, and not in the whole as such, or in relationships of parts widely separated in time. 3. Musical form is centrally a matter of cogency of succession, moment to moment and part to part. 4. Musical value rests wholly on the impressiveness of individual parts and the cogency of the successions between them, and not on features of large-scale form per se; the worthwhileness of experience of music relates directly only to the former. (Levinson 1997: 13 f.)

It is “absolutely crucial” in Gurney-Levinson’s concatenationist view that one is “tracking the music as it develops at each point, having a sense of where it has just been and where it is now going, perceiving it as a developing process”. (Levinson 1997: 23) An ontological argument for this view is that, as Levinson later put it, a piece of music “is a temporal process, and so never apprehended by us as a whole, but rather only in portions of limited extent, ones that can be aurally grasped as almost-present-at-one-time, or […] ‘quasi-heard’.” (Levinson 2006: 506) The notion of quasi-hearing is crucial for a consistent conception of hearing music via following a succession of tones. As Edmund Husserl had already shown in his 1905 lectures on inner time-consciousness, hearing a musical movement, especially a melody, presupposes a continuum of interrelated temporal parts each of them undergoing a transformation from future present to present present to past present (see Stolzenberg 2011, Mohr 2012). In Levinson’s words: “Hearing musical movement is necessarily hearing a sonic entity not all of which is sounding at any instant, while at any instant, one hears the sounding notes as belonging to a musical flow, or as contained within a musical process, of which they form a part.” (Levinson 1997: 15) Levinson distinguishes between “three components” of the experience of quasi-hearing: “actual hearing”, “vivid remembering”, and “vivid anticipation”. This framework is “roughly

On the Very Idea of Understanding Music


isomorphic” with Husserl’s distinction between “now”, “retention”, and “protention”. Basic musical understanding, then, is not an “intellectual grasp of largescale connections between parts”, is not an “aural grasp of a large span of music as a whole” (Levinson 1997: 13), but the “responsive following of music”, “moment to moment”, “whose basis is the phenomenon of quasi-hearing” (Levinson 1997: 30). Concatenationism doesn’t deny the interest in the cognition of large-scale forms of musical composition. But as a matter of aesthetic pleasure, the sequential apprehension of locally graspable parts of small extent is prior to the synoptic apprehension of large-scale relations or of a piece’s global form. In his reply to Levinson, Kivy defends architectonicism by saying that “it contributes a very substantial part of the satisfaction to be had from classical music” (Kivy 2001: 202). Indeed, one might say, classical music is architectural music and, consequently, architectonicism is an adequate conception of musical understanding for this paradigm of music. But, first, there may be other types of music whose point might be mistaken if we fix our aural attention to large-scale architectural structures. There might be musical tasks of quite another kind that call for different conceptions of musical understanding. And, second, even inside the paradigm of western classical music, the apprehension of global forms presupposes the experience of following small parts of music moment by moment, this experience being the dimension of the temporal sonic reality of the content of the global architecture of the musical work as a whole. These two points seem to justify a plea for concatenationism—in principle: 1) Concatenationism leaves room for different musical attitudes and musical kinds. 2) Concatenationism rightly highlights the notion that abstract formal thinking must be based on a temporal process of sensible perception in order to be thinking about music.

3 Aesthetic and Cognitive Understanding of Music A somewhat “comprehensive” theory (thus the label used by Huovinen 2011: 127) has been developed by Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht since the 1970s. He distinguishes between non-conceptual aesthetic understanding and conceptual cognitive understanding (Eggebrecht 1999). Aesthetic understanding in his view is fundamental and “allows one to recognize a progression of tones as inherently related, and to recognize reappearances of this close-knit unit” (Huovinen 2011: 128).


Georg Mohr

In (implicit) opposition to a conceptualist view, Eggebrecht argues that cognitive understanding is not in any sense “better” than aesthetic understanding, but has to refer to the aesthetic understanding of the temporal musical processes as its basis, because aesthetic understanding is “richer” “than conceptual understanding can ever reach” (Eggebrecht 1999: 33). Conceptual understanding makes explicit the perceived “musical sense” (“musikalischer Sinn”). And so “deepens” the understanding of the music, but just points to what is conceptually available. Because it is “always possible, indeed likeley, that there will be a move from aesthetic to cognitive understanding—just as conceptual cognitive understanding continually feeds back into the non-conceptual realm of aesthetic understanding”, the “aesthetic understanding of music” is more than just “hearing music and reacting to it” (Eggebrecht 1999: 32). The importance of the experience of the sensational properties of music is also underlined by Malcolm Budd in his “Understanding Music”: “the most fundamental features of musical experience—those that lie at the heart of musical understanding—are not representational but instead sensational properties of the experience”. Consequently, to “the degree that it is difficult for a listener to experience a work with the right sensational properties, the work is difficult for him to understand.” (Budd 1985: 245) Roger Scruton conceives of musical understanding as the capability to hear sounds independently from their physical causes and to apply the right metaphors to what we hear, primarily space and motion, so that we perceive melody, harmony and rhythm (Scruton 1983; Scruton 1997: 211– 238).

4 Kinds of Music and of Musical Understandings Different types of music (styles, genres) might be linked with different types of requirements of understanding. What there is to be understood, and which sense of “understanding” constitutes an adequate behaviour to the music, depends on the music in question (see Bittner 1999: 36). Not only are there differences, but there are kinds of music that seem to not be understood in such a way. There is music that heavily and intentionally expresses emotions or arouses emotions in every listener. But there is also music that gives no hint at all that it should be listened to emotionally, so that we will come to the conclusion that this music is simply not dealing with emotions at all. And there is music where looking for structure and architecture runs empty. Not because the composer was unable to organize a structure, but because this music is not even intended to realize a structure, i. e. because it is simply not architectural music. Varèse’s Ionisation is not structured like a classical symphony is, like f. e. Mo-

On the Very Idea of Understanding Music


zart’s, Beethoven’s, etc. Understanding Varèse’s music requires other types of description and study. Peter Brötzmann’s Machine Gun is not structured in the sense of a bebop jazz tune, like f. e. Charlie Parker’s Ornithology, or Miles Davis’ So What and so on. In the booklet to the John Abercrombie Quartet reissue boxset entitled The First Quartet (ECM 2478-80), the musicians remember that the comments and suggestions made by producer Manfred Eicher during the recording sessions showed that he understood their music perfectly well before it existed, or more precisely: while there existed only a part of it or a “false” realisation of it. What was he referring to? And what were the musicians referring to when they accepted Eicher’s suggestions as the expression of an ‘adequate’ understanding of the music that was just going to be invented?

5 What Does “Understanding Music” Mean? We cannot simply use a predefined notion of understanding on the one hand and a predefined notion of music on the other hand and then apply the former to the latter. I suppose that we should try to determine these two notions reciprocally and use a somewhat inductive method, i. e. we should enter into the question by looking at what people do when they listen to music, perform music or compose music. This is not a purely descriptive procedure. Perhaps we will not accept everything people do while listening to or making music as being musical understanding. We should be able to decide whether we accept a given behaviour as musical understanding or not. But the justification of this decision should not be based on abstract normative definitions. Instead, our conception of “musical understanding” should be informed by musical practices. We must enter the hermeneutic circle of the reciprocity of formation of concepts and description of phenomena. One important advantage of this procedure is that we can avoid essentialism (“What music in itself is, is independent of what people practice as music.”) and we can avoid chauvinism (“Some types of sound organization which some people take as being music is under the level of what deserves the name of ‘music’.”). Music psychology and music sociology take the perspective of the recipients and analyses how people de facto react to music, what they do with music. This approach is evidently not sufficient for the elaboration of an open conception of understanding, because some of these reactions might not be conceivable as musical understanding in any determinate sense. But it is certainly a necessary step


Georg Mohr

in the direction of understanding musical understanding in the present era, where even the production of music becomes a more and more public spontaneous activity of collective performance. Anyway, we should distinguish between the two meanings of the notion of musical understanding: 1) a modal meaning: to understand heard sounds as music or not to perceive them as music at all, 2) a veritative meaning: to understand music rightly or falsely, to grasp a rhythm or meter or to misinterpret it, to response adequately or inadequately to the music. Something similar has been suggested by Erkki Huovinen in his “Understanding Music” (2011: 129 – 131) with his distinction between 1) sense of understanding, i.e. to apprehend sounds as music (as musically meaningful) or to “experience the sounds as subjectively meaningful” (131) (perceptual understandings), 2) epistemic understanding of music in terms of beliefs that can be true or false. A perceptual understanding being discordant with true beliefs can nevertheless be a musical understanding. Everything in music that we appreciate, especially as a quality of (this) music, is something that we hear musically and that we understand as a musical quality and hence as music.

Bibliography Bittner, Rüdiger (1999): “Was heißt es, Musik zu verstehen?”. In: Werner Keil/Jürgen Arndt (Eds.): “Was du nicht hören kannst, Musik”. Zum Verhältnis von Musik und Philosophie im 20. Jahrhundert. Hildesheim, New York: Olms, pp. 26 – 37. Budd, Malcolm (1985): “Understanding Music”. In: Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Vol. 59, pp. 233 – 248. Davies, Stephen (2011): Musical Understandings and Other Essays on the Philosophy of Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Eggebrecht, Hans Heinrich (1999): Understanding Music. The Nature and Limits of Musical Cognition. Richard Evans (Transl.). Surrey: Ashgate, 2010 [German original edition: Musik verstehen (1999). Wilhelmshaven: Noetzel]. Gurney, Edmund (1880): The Power of Sound. London: Smith, Elder & Co. Huovinen, Erkki (2011): “Understanding Music”. In: Theodore Gracyk/Andrew Kania (Eds.): The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Music. London, New York: Routledge, pp. 123 – 133.

On the Very Idea of Understanding Music


Huovinen, Erkki (2013): “Concatenationism and Anti-architectonicism in Musical Understanding”. In: Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 71. Iss. 3, pp. 247 – 260. Husserl, Edmund (1905): Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewusstseins. Martin Heidegger (Hrsg.). Halle: Niemeyer. Kania, Andrew (2011): “Definition”. In: Theodore Gracyk/Andrew Kania (Eds.): The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Music. London, New York: Routledge, pp. 3 – 13. Kivy, Peter (2001): New Essays on Musical Understanding. New York: Oxford University Press. Levinson, Jerrold (1997): Music in the Moment. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Levinson, Jerrold (2006): “Concatenationism, Architectonicism and the Appreciation of Music”. In: Revue Internationale de Philosophie 60, pp. 505 – 514. Michaelis, Christian Friedrich (1997): Ueber den Geist der Tonkunst und andere Schriften. Lothar Schmidt (Ed.). Chemnitz: Schröder. Mohr, Georg (2004): “Michaelis, Christian Friedrich”. In: Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Personenteil Bd. 12. Kassel: Bärenreiter, col. 164 f. Mohr, Georg (2007): “‘Die Musik ist eine Kunst des inneren Sinnes und der Einbildungskraft’. Affekt, Form und Reflexion bei Christian Friedrich Michaelis”. In: Musik-Konzepte. Sonderband Musikphilosophie. Ulrich Tadday (Ed.). Munich: edition text + kritik, pp. 137 – 151. Mohr, Georg (2012): “Musik als erlebte Zeit”. In: Philosophia naturalis 49, pp. 319 – 347. Riemann, Hugo (1873): Musikalische Logik. Hauptzüge der physiologischen und psychologischen Begründung unseres Musik-Systems, Leipzig: Kahnt. Scruton, Roger (1983): The Aesthetic Understanding, Manchester: Carcanet. Scruton, Roger (1997): The Aesthetics of Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Stolzenberg, Jürgen (2011): “Über das Hören von Melodien. Überlegungen zu einer Phänomenologie des musikalischen Zeitbewusstseins”. In: Carl Friedrich Gethmann (Ed.): Lebenswelt und Wissenschaft. Deutsches Jahrbuch Philosophie. Bd. 2. Hamburg: Meiner, pp. 1115 – 1127.

Ruth Ronen

The Limit as Aesthetic Demonstration

Abstract: Wittgenstein’s pre-occupation with the notion of limit (of thought, sense, and language), was described by Alain Badiou as an aesthetic one. The limit is aesthetic because it is not an object to be theorized nor a concept, but rather, what has to be demonstrated, made to be seen, clearly displayed. In this paper, the conjunction between limits, as highlighted in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, and the act of aesthetic demonstration is explored, both in the aesthetic tradition and in contemporary thought about art, in order to explain why the limit which is aesthetically set, cannot be crossed.

1 Wittgenstein, Anti-Philosophy and Aesthetics The contemporary French philosopher, Alain Badiou has studied what he calls anti-philosophers, and one of the anti-philosophers he names is Wittgenstein. The very idea of referring to Wittgenstein as an anti-philosopher may appear counter-intuitive and indeed has elicited some criticism¹. Wittgenstein is more likely to be considered the philosopher par excellence, just as Bach is likely to be considered the composer par excellence. And yet, in order to grasp the meaning of this “diagnosis” of Wittgenstein as anti-philosopher, we should first look attentively at what an anti-philosopher is according to Badiou. Badiou claims²: for a number of philosophers in the history of thought, philosophizing was equivalent to three conjoined operations: “a critique of language, logic and the enunciations of philosophy. The destitution of the category of truth. The dismantling of the pretensions of philosophy to constitute a theory” (Badiou 2009: 17). These typical operations of anti-philosophers however do not destruct the philosophical practice but radically shift its aims. In fact, Badiou believes that the anti-philosopher is the reason for which philosophy can continue to be, because it is he/she who is capable of implementing radically new philosophical acts, and above all, of releasing philosophy from its pretensions and absurdities. An anti-philosophical act par excellence is, for instance, the one promulgated by  For instance, Soulez 2016.  Badiou’s notion of anti-philosophy was adopted from Jacques Lacan who addressed himself as an anti-philosopher. Badiou’s first study of an anti-philosopher was indeed dedicated to Lacan, especially through Lacan’s references to Plato. The third anti-philosopher, after Lacan and Wittgenstein, is Nietzsche. But Badiou names others: Pascal, Rousseau, and Kierkegaard. DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-010


Ruth Ronen

Wittgenstein in the Tractatus when he says: “Most propositions and questions, that have been written about philosophical matters, are not false, but senseless” (TLP 1998: 4.003), which encapsulates the fact that anti-philosophy uproots the category of truth as traditionally understood, as well as shifts the notion of meaning and the weight of philosophical assertions. So if we follow these three operations Badiou associates with anti-philosophy, Wittgenstein evidently refuses to discuss philosophical theses, and resists the heritage of philosophy as theory³. Discussing philosophy as theory would mean considering the truth of philosophical propositions, a possibility from which Wittgenstein clearly diverts as he inverts the classical values attributed to sense and truth. The philosophical act gives priority to truth⁴, whereas for Wittgenstein, a proposition says what is immediately comprehensible (endowed with sense). That this proposition will be considered true or false refers to the strictly empiricist and contingent occurrence of the state of affairs described. It is only when a proposition is endowed with sense that one verifies whether this state of affairs occurs. It follows from this inversion that for Wittgenstein “thought is the effect of a proposition that has sense, and this proposition is the picture, or the description of a state of affairs. The result is a considerable extension of non-thought, an extension which is inacceptable to the philosopher” (Badiou 2009: 41– 2). According to Badiou, then, from this inversion of truth and sense arises the senselessness of most philosophical propositions. Since thought is a proposition endowed with sense, philosophy itself falls under an extended domain of non-thought and its theses are devoid of sense. Although many philosophers would agree that truths in themselves have no sense, and that truth perforates every sensible proposition, Badiou maintains that only for anti-philosophy, a previous condition of sense decides that propositions describe a possible state of affairs, which subverts the very idea of philosophical truth (Badiou 2009: 54). Wittgenstein’s rejection of philosophical theses as deprived of sense (because they subject sense to truth)—hence places him in an anti-philosophical stance. It should be stressed however that the future of philosophy depends on the gesture of the anti-philosopher, claims Badiou, as anti-philosophy applies to the manner in which certain philosophers persist in their singular route searching, against all forms of ancient and contemporary sophisms, for ways of tying together being, the subject, and truth (Badiou 1991: 136 – 137).

 “Philosophy is not a theory but an activity” (TLP 1998: 4.112).  Philosophy gives priority to truth and hence touches non-sense, claims Badiou. Truth, for the philosopher, is what perforates sense (Badiou 2009: 54).

The Limit as Aesthetic Demonstration


I will not develop this aspect of anti-philosophy further, but will look at another aspect of Wittgenstein, for which Badiou qualifies him as an anti-philosopher. An aspect which probably singularizes Wittgenstein’s kind of anti-philosophy, or more likely, it indicates another crucial dimension of anti-philosophy which he implements. While the philosopher in general feigns ways of presenting what cannot be thought in the register of proposition and of theory, and ways of exhibiting what is devoid of sense through sense,⁵ as an anti-philosopher Wittgenstein does not theorize about what cannot be thought or made sense of, and yet he addresses incessantly what lies at the limit of sense—thought and language. “Philosophy”, he says, “should limit the thinkable and thereby the unthinkable. It should limit the unthinkable from within through the thinkable. It will mean the unspeakable by clearly displaying the speakable” (TLP 1998: 4.114; TLP 1998: 4.115). Wittgenstein is an anti-philosopher, claims Badiou, because he is engaged in demonstrating the limit of thought or the difference of thought from non-thought⁶, although this difference cannot be theorized from without. Since the limit of thought cannot be conceptualized or be turned into an object of thought, this limit can only be demonstrated and Badiou locates Wittgenstein’s anti-philosophical motion in this act of demonstration. Wittgenstein’s preoccupation with limits is evident⁷ but Badiou claims that not only the intense presence of limits but also their non-theoretical significance, qualify Wittgenstein as anti-philosopher. The limit or difference that is being demonstrated through the sentences of the Tractatus ⁸ is not something—it is not an object in the world. Badiou claims that, for Wittgenstein, between “ce qui est” and “ce qui est dit”, there is something which is not a thing, but a remainder of the relation between the two, between being and the proposition (Badiou 2009: 33 – 34). Wittgenstein for that matter—beyond thought articulated in a sensible proposition, beyond the picture which is itself a fact of language— states: “There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself. It is the mystical” (TLP 1998: 6.522). This concern with the limit, this philosophical operation of

 “Philosophy is a regressive and sick non-thought, since it pretends to present its own absurdity in the register of the proposition and of theory. The philosophical illness emerges when nonsense presents itself as sense, when non-thought imagines itself as thought.” (Badiou 2009: 19).  Demonstration here translates Badiou’s idea of monstration = fait ou acte de montrer, that is, of making something be-shown.  “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” (TLP 1998: 5.6).  Badiou insists that the Tractatus is the only text that Wittgenstein published, the only text he estimated to be worthy of public exposition. “The rest, all the rest, it is fitting to ascribe to it […] just the status of an immanent glossary, a personal Talmud” (Badiou 2009: 18).


Ruth Ronen

showing the fact of difference which is not an object of theory nor place, nor a value or substance, institutes Wittgenstein as an anti-philosopher. Wittgenstein is not only engaged in defining the rules of thought and language per themselves, but is concerned with the effect produced when their boundaries are set. Badiou suggests that sentences from the Tractatus like: “the limit [to thinking] can only be drawn in language, and what lies on the other side of the limit will be simply nonsense”, or “tautology has no sense” (TLP 1998: 4.461) or “outside logic there is only chance” (TLP 1998: 6.3) indicate that Wittgenstein “stands at the limit” so to speak. The site of demonstrating the limit is where the anti-philosopher destructs philosophy as theory (i. e., if the limit was a concept or substance, truth’s place in relation to a proposition— even one devoid of sense—would also be theorizable) through an act that neither theorizes nor makes sense of the limit. What cannot be thought or made sense of produces a remainder (of the relation between being and language), thus demonstrating the limit of what is thought and said sensibly (Badiou 2009: 34). This is what Wittgenstein describes as the task of philosophy in the Tractatus: “tracing the borders of the thinkable and through this, the borders of the unthinkable” (TLP 1998: 4.114). Or: “the contemplation of the world sub specie aeterni (from the viewpoint of eternity) is its contemplation as a limited whole” (TLP 1998: 6.45). That is, Wittgenstein seeks the clarity induced by the separating act at the limit of language and the world. In instituting the philosophical act as an act of demarcation, even if demarcation enacted from within, Wittgenstein lets-to-be, shows something which is seen but cannot be said, the line of demarcation itself. Furthermore, Badiou claims that Wittgenstein’s anti-philosophical act of demonstrating a limit creates an archi-aesthetic paradigm for the philosophical act. That is, the anti-philosophy of Wittgenstein lies in the double move of undermining the theoretical line that separates the expressible from the inexpressible, and replacing this non-theorizable line of separation by an aesthetically determined limit. Badiou, in other words, characterizes as aesthetic Wittgenstein’s anti-philosophy which approaches the limit of thought by letting-it-to-be (laisser-être) as pure monstration, that is, without representing the limit in a propositional form. What I wish to focus on in Badiou’s analysis is not the justification for including Wittgenstein in this category of anti-philosophy, but the fact that Badiou calls Wittgenstein’s anti-philosophical procedure archi-esthétique. Wittgenstein’s association of philosophy and art is not irrelevant here, but the main point to be stressed is Wittgenstein’s aesthetic-artistic gesture of “showing clearly” what cannot be otherwise said. The limit of thought is the very basic, primary place, where we encounter the aesthetic.

The Limit as Aesthetic Demonstration


Why is the anti-philosophical act of demonstrating the limit—the site of a difference which is not a thing in the world, nor a value or a concept—qualified as aesthetic? Badiou says: “I say archi-aesthetic since it concerns carrying within scientific or propositional activity the principle of a clarity which the (mystical) element transcends (est au-delà), and of which art is the real paradigm” (Badiou 2009: 22). The aesthetic does not demonstrate what is beyond propositional activity, but demonstrates clearly the limit of that activity, which is neither itself propositional nor does it refer to anything in the world. Hence, we cannot say the aesthetic has to do with the sensible dimension nor that the demarcation involves the senses. The aesthetic here is connected with the nature of the procedure in regard to the limit, beyond which is mysticism. Let us look more closely at how Badiou perceives this role of aesthetic demonstration with regard to setting the difference between the thinkable and the unthinkable. The limits of the thinkable are the limits of my world: we cannot go beyond what can be thought because we cannot exit the world and look at it from its “other side” (TLP 1998: 5.61). Philosophy’s usual practice would be to pretend to incorporate what cannot be thought within theory, qualifying what is beyond thought (as extension, as indeterminacy, as a thing-in-itself, as Idea etc.), positing the conditions under which this realm could be further qualified. This is the illness of philosophy, claims Badiou, and where this illness is overcome, non-thought is no longer presented as controlled by thought. It is here that the aesthetic act becomes affirmative regarding this separation of the one (thought) from the other (non-thought). Something which is unspeakable gains an affirmative status through the limit, without the unspeakable thereby becoming an object of thought in any way. It is this affirmative and clarifying function of the act of demonstrating the limit of the thinkable (from what is not thinkable, speakable or verifiable), that Badiou terms aesthetic. Aesthetics, in other words, is where the power of demonstration replaces propositional claims; the limit is demonstrated in the sense that it is not an object that we can think of or know (as in TLP 1998: 2.0122 ff.). There is an important dimension to this power of demonstration that places it on a totally different terrain than propositional claims. Demonstrating the limit of thought is aesthetic in not aiming to represent non-thought per se, nor to represent the difference between thought and non-thought. When Wittgenstein says, “We cannot think anything unlogical, for otherwise we should have to think unlogically” (TLP 1998: 3.03), the unthinkable is not qualified as being unlogical. Nothing is stated about unthinkability, nor about the difference between thinkability and its negation: and yet the difference is demonstrated as the limit of logicality. The point stressed by Badiou is that the affirmation attained does not apply to the ne-


Ruth Ronen

gated (the unthinkable, the unlogical) but to the act of negation/setting-the-limit itself ⁹. Demonstrating the limit hence does not qualify what is beyond the limit, nor does it conceptualize the difference between the two opposites.

2 Demonstrating the Limit as an Aesthetic Ideal In order to further explore this idea of demonstrating the limit as understood in aesthetic terms, one should get closer to aesthetics and to aesthetic thought. In Hegelian aesthetics the sensible image art is identified with, this image is not exhausted by sensibility. Art is beautiful, Hegel claims, when at the limit of the sensible image, the image exhibits an Idea, represents through sensibility what is different from it—the abstract Concept. The beautiful image of art is constituted by the sensible being “liberated from the scaffolding of its purely material nature. […] the work of art stands in the middle between immediate sensuousness and ideal thought” (LA I: 38). Art, in other words, is the middle term between purely objective existence (materialized in the sensible image) and purely inner ideas (which conceptualize truth) since art’s beauty is manifested in embodying and revealing the Idea through an individual configuration (LA I: 73). This synthesis is called by Hegel the beauty in art and it unifies the two opposites without turning them into one. The disaccord between objective material existence and truthful ideas is what constitutes the most beautiful works of art.¹⁰ The history of art indeed shows ways of coming to terms with this disaccord, but for Hegel, art assumes its historical role on the condition that it demonstrates this incompatibility between the sensible and the ideational. Once the material, sensible element is subdued or suppressed and art “retreats from the sensuousness of imagination into spiritual inwardness” (LA I: 80), the beauty of art as Idea will eventually cease to be. The aesthetic, in other words, is where art synthesizes the distance between the sensible image and the Idea by demonstrating their difference, without letting the one triumph over the other. In Hegel’s terms: Now the nature of the artistic Ideal is to be sought in this reconveyance of external existence into the spiritual realm, so that the external appearance, by being adequate to the spirit, is the revelation thereof. […] The ring of this bliss [where the Ideal exists in externality] resounds throughout the entire appearance of the Ideal, for however far the external

 See my Ronen 2014: 19 – 38 for an analysis of negation as an affirmative procedure (which does not apply to the negated).  In Hegel the Ideal is produced when appearance is purified from chance and material externality (LA I: 155). The Ideal is hence the manifestation of spirit (the Idea) in sensible form.

The Limit as Aesthetic Demonstration


form may extend, the soul of the Ideal never loses itself in it. And precisely as a result of this alone is the Ideal genuinely beautiful […] (LA I: 156 – 7).

Beauty, or the heart of aesthetics, lies in the striving of the Ideal for demonstration in the image. An effective image will hence come close to harmonization with the Ideal but never quite because the difference of the ideal from the sensible image will always be retained. Thus, when the human body, exempt from its purely sensuous finitude, shapes the Idea in classical art (the historical case which, according to Hegel, exemplifies most perfectly the harmony of embodiment with spirit), even here “the spirit is at once determined as particular and human, not as purely absolute and eternal […]” which, in its turn, will bring about the dissolution of the classical art-form (LA I: 79). We see that the case of ultimate harmony already contains the kernel of its dissolution because the human shape remains in some sense alien to the spirit it embodies. Hegel’s aesthetic therefore has to do with the power of demonstrating the limit of form in embodying an idea; thus, art is beautiful when the Idea is revealed in its innermost essence in the externality of an image. For Hegel an image is beautiful when it expresses the Idea. Yet the idea per se does not transpire in the image. Rather, art is transformative both for the external form and for the idea itself: portraying human spirit through the image of two beggar boys in a painting by Murillo shows us that the idea cannot be detached from its visual realization. The aesthetic site of beautiful art does not define anything of the spirit, nor does it promote our grasp of the concept per se. The beautiful image for Hegel demarcates the limit of the sensible form in the idea and of the idea in the sensible form. In other words, the difference between the sensible form and the idea, is a difference that in itself cannot be represented, nor conceptualized, rather, it is demonstrated in artistic beauty without producing a unified whole. Demonstration of difference, of the limit of ideality in sensibility and vice versa, touches the heart of Hegelian aesthetics. The aesthetic idea of limit as discussed heretofore, can be further exemplified through the figure of the littoral. The littoral is a frontier line between sea and land and is constituted by the unstable line that the sea creates when it approaches the shore. Nevertheless, despite this instability, shore and sea are never confounded: “the littoral, it is what poses a domain […] a frontier, but precisely of those which have nothing in common, not even a reciprocal relation” (Lacan 2006: 117). The littoral does not mark the bringing together of sea and land, but effectivity keeps the two apart. The littoral, in other words, operates as an image of division: it marks the limit of each side when it approaches the other side. Littoral is an image of difference and separation and yet the image of the littoral does not show a boundary nor materially marks the presence of a frontier-line


Ruth Ronen

—it is an image of separation rather than a representation thereof. As an image, the effectiveness of the littoral lies neither in what it shows (it fails to show sea and shore as distinct because the sea is constantly undulating in order to conquer land), nor in how it shows the limit of sea in land (the littoral misses a crucial property of boundaries—their material stability). The figure of the littoral does not define anything, not even the boundary of the sea nor the concept of boundary. It is an aesthetic demonstration rather than a theoretical delimitation.

3 Demonstrating the Limit in Contemporary Aesthetics Going back to aesthetics, the association of the aesthetic with the question of the limit of what can be presented or imaged, has a long history. I will argue that it is the act of demarcating the limit of imaging, rather than the image per se (i. e., the image as a closed self-sufficient unit), that constitutes the core of aesthetics. Hegel is one example of this aesthetic motivation which can be traced along the whole history of aesthetic thought. The idea that the aesthetic is what holds the power of demonstration in the absence of propositional claims, and that the aesthetic is the power of demonstration applied to the question of boundary, border or limit, seems to recur also in contemporary thought. What is the meaning of the aesthetic in these contexts, and in what sense has the aesthetic replaced propositional claims, or why does the aesthetic serve as the entry point to the issue of the limit or boundary of thought? These questions will be considered in the context of contemporary aesthetics in order to fully grasp Badiou’s idea that Wittgenstein is an anti-philosopher because he demonstrates the limit of thought by way of an archi-aesthetic (rather than theoretical) operation. Badiou is one among a number of contemporary continental philosophers who place the question of limit at the heart of philosophizing. Marion’s idea of the invisible (Marion 2004), Nancy’s touching (Nancy 1996: 17), Rancière’s notion of regime (Rancière 2004) and Badiou’s configuration (Badiou 2005: 12 ff.), make a composite of figures of demarcation, and all these figures are archi-aesthetic in the sense elaborated above. So the limit occupies a central place in contemporary thought about art and aesthetics. In the work of these philosophers: Badiou, Rancière, Nancy and Marion—a school of thinkers which does not really constitute a school, art is one of, if not the primary condition of philosophy, and aesthetics is diagnostic of the future of philosophy. The idea that the limit can be demonstrated even if difference is not graspable or thinkable, and, specifically,

The Limit as Aesthetic Demonstration


the idea of limit as central to aesthetic thought recurs in various forms in all of these thinkers’ work. In what follows, I will concentrate on the limit as it appears in Jacques Rancière’s coinage of the “aesthetic regime”. This notion, of the aesthetic regime, which is central to Rancière thought about art and its philosophy, assumes a boundary by definition¹¹, and yet it challenges the very idea of boundary, of setting a limit. The aesthetic regime, claims Rancière, is where the art of the beautiful and the art of living—that is art and life—are conflated, where the setting of their boundaries falters. But before looking at the aesthetic regime as a particular act of demarcating an alleged absence of limit, a few words about its context. The aesthetic regime is, according to Rancière, one way of distributing the sensible, the significance of which for our present concerns can be illustrated in the political domain: politics consists in transforming the space of circulation into a space for the appearance of the subject: the people, the workers, the citizens. It consists in refiguring space, that is, in what is to be done, to be seen and to be named in it. It is the instituting of a dispute over the distribution of the sensible, over that nemeïn that founds every nomos of the community (Rancière 2010: 37).

This quote from Rancière’s political philosophy suffices to indicate why the distribution of the sensible is tantamount to demonstrating the limit of political action and why for Rancière politics is immanently aesthetic. What sets the political domain, says Rancière, is the difference between those who act and those who bear the action. Politics is constituted by the distribution of the sensible, by the allocation of a place for seeing and for acting, on the basis of which the nomos names this distribution (into “rulers” and “citizens” for instance). The political domain of action, in other words, is not distinguished from non-political action but rather is determined by the limit of who can act and be seen in this domain. It is a limit on the political domain set from within, and the nonpolitical would hence be equal to the limit set on political action. This idea of distributing the sensible before any regulation or law is implemented; the idea that the demarcation of space precedes the distribution of functions and roles—is fundamentally aesthetic. It is aesthetic in the sense that the limit in the domain of acting (politically or artistically) is clearly shown even if it

 Regimen in Latin refers to ruling, and hence regime indicates a system confined by the order of a rule.


Ruth Ronen

cannot be theorized.¹² There is a clarity within the space of distribution, that later will be assigned meaning and a name by way of law and order, by way of distinguishing the manager from the worker, the slave from the master. Distributing the sensible sets the limit on action prior to any conceptualization of the differences thus produced. The distribution of the sensible that determines the limits on political action and sets a community is not different from what determines the limits on art (the ways it is practiced and discussed). Rancière recognizes three regimes in the domain of art: the ethical, the representational and the aesthetic. Each presents a different encounter between the sensible form and the limit on thought demonstrated by this form—the Hegelian overtones are obvious here. Each regime points at a mode of regulating the sensible domain (as practiced in art), a regulation that decides how art is appreciated and understood. For instance, under an ethical regime, the domain of the sensible (what can be seen or shown in art) is distributed according to the prohibition on showing certain things, like god, through images. The forms of art produced in submission to a regime will hence reflect the way sensibility is limited by an idea of art. Plato, who is part of the ethical regime, posits a dividing line that demarcates true arts, those that imitate a model for a purpose, from artistic simulacra which imitate appearances and hence produce empty forms (Rancière 2004: 21). For Plato this division is demonstrated by the idea of imitation (which admits different origins and purposes): “imitation is a kind of play and not serious; and those who take up tragic poetry in iambics and in epics are all imitators in the highest possible degree” (Plato Rep.: 602b). The distribution of the sensible by imitation hence demonstrates a limit on what Plato includes as serious forms of expression. In the case of the ethical regime then, art as a form of doing and making is set a limit of presentability by imitation since imitation is what “affects the ethos, the mode of being of individuals and communities” (Rancière 2004: 21). So the idea of ‘regime’ for Rancière indicates a mode of setting a limit to sensible figurations, as under each regime art is set against non-art. A regime assumes that art-forms exhibit a pre-ordained notion of what art is in the same way that a mode of action exhibits a pre-ordained determination of the political sphere. The art of the specific regime demonstrates a limit on presentability, a limit demonstrated from within the regime itself according to an ethical idea

 There is nothing in the action or in the product itself that qualifies them as political (action) or artistic (product). The entry of an industrial object into the domain of art, for instance, cannot be theorized in terms of a new feature that qualifies objects to become art. This is one reason why the limit of the artistic domain cannot be theorized nor universalized.

The Limit as Aesthetic Demonstration


(thus imitation which determines an ethical regime of images, is a notion internal to the regime even if it is generated by a specifically held ethos). The aesthetic regime is for Rancière one regime among others, in which the sensible is distributed to determine the boundaries of the visible—the boundaries of artistic action, etc. The aesthetic regime is however exceptional in the history of regulating artistic making. The limit on what is admitted into the sensible, in the case of the aesthetic regime, appears not to impose a limit at all as the aesthetic is a permissive regime. When examining what can take place within the space of art, we see that, as it was constituted by Kant and the romantics, the aesthetic regime marks the inability but also the refusal to draw a limit. Around the aesthetic regime, the whole idea of distribution and drawing the limit on the space of appearance, appears to be challenged. What are the implications of this exceptional character of the aesthetic regime for the idea that demonstrating the limit is aesthetic? The absence of limit (everything can be presented as an image for aesthetic contemplation) can, however, shed some light on the archi-aesthetic as an act of demonstrating the limit. The aesthetic regime, as used by Rancière, introduces a change in the distribution of the sensible. Although Rancière’s regimes do not produce a historical mapping of art, the aesthetic regime, approximately overlaps the onset of modernism, and it hence reflects the idea that art is absolutely singular and immanently autonomous. Singling out the aesthetic experience from the moral or purely sensible experiences, as introduced by Kant, the herald of aesthetic thought, meant that the beauty of nature and art are subject to a singular mode of judgment (such a singularity was not assumed in the other regimes). However, Rancière’s aesthetic regime, in re-constituting the logic of aesthetic thought since Kant, indicates the duality this turn entails. While aesthetic thought aims to isolate images for aesthetic judgment or simply single out the beauty of art, it also relinquishes the attempt to define this singularity. Rancière claims that aesthetic thought asserts the absolute singularity of art but also “destroys any pragmatic criterion for isolating this singularity” (Rancière 2004: 23). So how are we to grasp the change in the function of the limit under the aesthetic regime? When photography, for instance, was not considered a part of the sensibility of the artistic domain under the representational regime, this was due to the fact that photography did not answer the idea of representation: that of the structuring of reality by way of form. So photography, lacking a representational distance from the photographed object—a distance that stipulates every structuring of reality—could not be considered art. We can see in this case that the limit on participating in the artistic domain was dependent on a meta-artistic understanding of what the task of art is. Drama and epos were two modes of structuring reality according to two representational paradigms, where the limit on rep-


Ruth Ronen

resentation was theoretically determined (hence, the situation portrayed in the drama is obliged to be different from the run of events in the epos). With the aesthetic regime, the autonomy of art entails an infinite license to incorporate images into the domain of art. The limit of art is not yet diluted nor destructed as a result. Rancière’s point is that under the aesthetic regime the idea of setting a limit changes its status and can no longer be theorized or conceptualized. From a specific moment in history, marked by the aesthetic regime, the limit no longer distinguishes between two things, it does not define a difference. A limit is set without that limit being theorized as a difference, without a concept that distinguishes one mode of imaging from another—art from non-art. The onset of aesthetics involves a transcendence of the difference between art and life. As it is no longer possible to set the limit on what can become art, art loses its grasp on heteronomy (no external idea, like imitation for Plato, would now pertain to determining the limit of art). That is, art is no longer defined by an external idea but simply by a limit demonstrated from within the boundaries of art itself. In the aesthetic regime: art is no longer identified as a specific difference within ways of doing or through criteria of inclusion and evaluation, allowing one to judge artistic conceptions and applications, but as a mode of sensible being specific to its products. These latter are characterized by their belonging to the mode of being of a sensible element that differs from itself, identical with a form of thought that also differs from itself. In this regime, art comes to be identified as a specific concept. However, it comes to be identified only by the non-appearance of criteria that separate its ways of doing from other ways of doing (Rancière 2009: 65 – 66).

The aesthetic regime, according to Rancière, sustains a difference from itself as part of itself; in other words, it has no outside. Once the aesthetic regime took hold of our thought about art, crossing its boundaries—assuming there is nonart—has turned out to be impossible. The aesthetic regime incorporates everything, modernity and postmodernism, romantic poetry and photography, artistic beauty and art’s political impact. Art of the aesthetic regime distributes the sensible so that art is demarcated from non-art from within art itself; art reveals a domain of resistance, of antinomy within art itself, a resistance which Rancière calls dissensus. Rancière shows that under the aesthetic regime, unlike the other regimes, the distribution of the sensible follows a dual movement: the entry into art is of utmost importance (for example, the entry of photography into the domain of art had far reaching effects). On the other hand, the paradigmatic status given to art is due to absence of demarcation. The limits of art are the limits of our world; i. e., art is both singularly marked and its limits are fluctuant.

The Limit as Aesthetic Demonstration


Hence, a form of life can appear as a form of art thereby demonstrating that art is everything there is. So how can life still be distinguished from art? Only from within art itself, when life becomes art, as can be illustrated through cases where an artistic practice appears to conflate art with life in the most profound manner. Let us take such an example: The Russian film director Alexander Sokurov portrayed a whole historical drama from within the walls of the Hermitage mueseum in his film “The Russian Ark” from 2002, and of the Louvre in “Frankofonia” from 2015. In each case the historical era, or the deeper meaning of the political situation in the “outside” reality is grasped through the artistic collection and its fate inside the museum. In “Frankofonia” for instance, the fact that artistic treasures from the Louvre were not transported to the Third Reich and the collection was maintained intact in a shelter with the Nazis tacit consent, is an artistic-political fact that in some respects “decided the war” and the future of the relations between the conqueror and the conquered. These films illustrate how political reality is both incorporated into the space of a museum, and at the same time, this political reality is distinguished from art through this very act of incorporation. The limit on what is considered art is demonstrated by internally marking the reality admitted into art—as excluded. Hence, the difference between art and life is demonstrated from within art itself as a difference that cannot be conceptualized (i. e., since everything can become art, non-art is an empty, even senseless category). According to Rancière the indiscernibility of art from life “turns out to be the indiscernibility of the critical discourse, doomed either to participate in the labelling [of art] or to denounce it ad infinitum […]” (Rancière 2010: 128). That is, art becomes life and vice versa, where there is no critical discourse that determines the difference between the two. It is then that everything can be labelled art, or alternatively, the singularity of art is constantly denounced. In order for art not to become just a history of forms, and for life not to become an aestheticized life in the absence of a concept of art (and of non-art), a limit must be drawn. Even if a limit which cannot be crossed, but which demonstrates the resistance of life to art and vice versa. Art, under the aesthetic regime, is committed to inventing such a limit, to creating a dissensus. Without dissensus, Rancière suggests, art cannot be created nor appreciated. There is no thought without its limit in non-thought. There is no art without its limit in non-art, even if everything can become art. Duchamp’s Fountain in light of dissensus, is not a moment where art and life are conflated but a founding moment when a specific demarcation of art from life (of aesthetic objects from industrial ones) is transferred into a fact of art, a fact of dissensus. Dissensus is a limit which, created from inside the aesthetic sphere, is neither theorized nor reducible to a concept. This limit as a real presence that can-


Ruth Ronen

not be theorized nor reduced to a thing in reality is crucial to sustaining the reality of art. The idea of regimenting, distributing, or limiting art in the aesthetic regime, hence refers to dissensus which is nothing else but the aesthetic setting of limits. If we return now to Wittgenstein and anti-philosophy, we can say that Wittgenstein is an anti-philosopher because for him acknowledging the limit of thought and the limit of sense does not end up in assimilating non-thought or non-sense. Anti-philosophy, claims Badiou, admits the possibility of the nonthinkable by clearly displaying the limit of the thinkable as a limit that cannot be crossed, precisely because this limit does not differentiate two things. For the anti-philosopher, non-thought is not a mode of thought, non-sense is not a kind of meaning. Wittgenstein employs an operation of clearly demonstrating the limits of the thinkable, of our world, thereby providing us with an indication of the force of the aesthetic in setting these limits.

Bibliography Badiou, Alain (1991): “Lacan et Platon”. In: Michel Albin (Ed.): Lacan avec les philosophes. Paris: Éditions Albin Michel, pp. 133 – 154. Badiou, Alain (2005): Handbook of Inaesthetics. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP. Badiou, Alain (2008): Conditions. London, New York: Continuum. Badiou, Alain (2009): L’antiphilosophie de Wittgenstein. Basse-Normandie: Nous. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1975): Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art. Vol. I. Thomas M. Knox (Transl.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. (LA I) Lacan, Jacques (2006): Le séminaire livre XVIII: D’un discours qui ne serait pas du semblant. Paris: Seuil. Marion, Jean-Luc (2004): The Crossing of the Visible. James K. A. Smith (Transl.). Stanford, CA: Stanford UP. Nancy, Jean-Luc (2006): The Muses. Peggy Kamuf (Transl.). Stanford, CA: Stanford UP. Plato (2008): The Republic. Benjamin Jowett (Transl.). Classics. (Rep.) Rancière, Jacques (2004): The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. London, New York: Continuum. Rancière, Jacques (2009): Aesthetics and Its Discontents. Steven Corcoran (Transl.). Cambridge: Polity Press. Rancière, Jacques (2010): Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. London, New York: Continuum. Ronen, Ruth (2014): Art Before the Law. Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press. Soulez, Antonia (2016): Détrôner l’être: Wittgenstein Antiphilosophe? Limoges: Les Éditions Lambert-Lucas. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1998): Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Charles K. Ogden (Transl.). New York: Dover Publications. (TLP)

Jianping Gao

Difficulties in Reading Images: Diversity and Internationality in Image Reception Abstract: People often mistakenly think that spoken and written languages are national while paintings and music are universal. However, a profound misunderstanding lies in this claim. Literature is recognized, accepted, and appreciated by means of symbols—and is therefore said to be national—, but this also applies to the visual arts such as painting, music or dance. Literature can be understood only through translation, but even translation may fail to remove language barriers so that only partial and not-so-deep understanding can be achieved. In fact, more or less the same thing can be said about painting, music, dance and other forms of art. This article is focused on painting.

1 “Ignorance in Painting” Languages are not global. We think with languages and our thinking is restricted by languages and is therefore national and regional. Languages not only determine the way we talk, but also influence what we talk about. People do not create certain ideas first and then find a certain language to express them; on the contrary, they think of the ideas with language, and the process of thinking and expressing is one and the same process. Every language has a unique situational context, a unique history of development, an intertextuality constituted by its classical texts historically and its living discourse currently. All of this determines how people talk and influences the idiosyncratic beauty and humor a language can have. There is a sense of pleasure derived from the use of language. Chinese people, especially men of letters, like to chat in order to enjoy their use of language. This is also true with people in other countries. If you use a foreign language to chat with a native speaker, enjoy the beauty and humor of that language, speak inspiringly and tell jokes fluently, then this means you’ve mastered that language. Languages tacitly and powerfully affect the way people think, constitute the political unity, national identification, religious demarcation, and the defining feature of humanistic studies. There is no universal language. Learning a foreign language is difficult, and it is even more difficult to master it. Studying foreign languages can constitute a way of life. It can often be found that those who have studied a foreign language for years act and even think like the people who naDOI 10.1515/9783110540413-011


Jianping Gao

tively speak that language. This is because languages are inherently part of life. People studying a foreign language naturally get involved in a foreign culture. It is said that literature is national while paintings are universal. Paintings do not depend on languages. You may understand paintings the moment that you look at them, whereas you may not master a language even though you may have studied it for years. In fact, nobody has ever examined how much one can get from a quick glance at a painting. Some simple, widely used symbols including traffic symbols such as traffic lights, no whistling signs, drive slow signs, school signs, hospital signs, men’s restroom, and women’s restroom will be grasped easily. These signs have been gradually internationalized, and you may understand them very quickly. However, they are merely guides to action. Symbols should not only guide action, but are also expected to generate meaning. Artistic appreciation should not simply be understood as a recognition of simple common symbols. Artistic appreciation is much more complicated. First of all, what painting languages express ranges from the themes to various details. Take Chinese characters for example, every character has a meaning. But once it is written, its strokes and structures, the directions, lengths, intensities, strengths, and connections of its lines are all striving for the expression of meaning and pursuit of beauty, which goes beyond the meaning of the characters per se. It is not only about what has been painted but how it is painted. In the past, philosophers were keen to find the innocent eye that newborns might have. Later on, psychology proved that innocent eyes do not exist. What newborns see is not an innocent world; on the contrary, they can not see. Children begin to see the world in the course of growing and learning. Alike, painting does not start from capturing the appearance of nature, but from learning its formal language and understanding the world through studying. Different art languages, and different levels of mastery of the formal language would show the world differently. It is due to this reason that people of different ages, sexes, and experiences and from different ethnic groups, nations, and cultural backgrounds see the world differently. However, the innocent eye assumption cannot only be negated evidentially by scientific experiments; it is actually a product of a certain concept of a painting idea which advocates the pursuing of illusionary appearances. The pursuit of illusionary appearance in painting emerged in a certain historical period, with respect to certain opportunities and requirements. It is, as Ernst H. Gombrich emphazised, due to the influence of epics, tragedies and other narrative literature that made the Greek people sought for illusionary appearance in order to create a delusion of vividness. This can further be explored, though it has already been explored by many theorists. It has clearly been articulated that a natural attitude

Difficulties in Reading Images: Diversity and Internationality in Image Reception


towards nature did not itself come naturally. When Gombrich used the terms “making” and “matching,” he put forward an idea to approach nature by correcting schemes, thus refuting the idea of direct imitation of nature (see Gombrich 1959: 100 and others). People who cannot read are called illiterate; those who cannot read images are likewise blind with respect to images. People have to learn to read and manage to improve their reading capabilities. There is a famous Chinese movie titled The Life of Wu Xun, which presents the misery of illiterate people. Those people are “blind” even though they have normal sightedness. There is an important area they cannot enter; that is, the world of written language. The illiterates have often been bullied in the life world in which written languages are deeply entrenched. Different people may find different meanings in one and the same painting. Some will look at it and skip it; others might look into it profoundly; some might be aroused in emotions and affections, in which the dramatic differences appear. I once looked at the religious murals in a Turkish church together with a couple of European aestheticians. I could only get some sense of the antiquity and solemnity from those paintings in this orthodox church. While my colleagues warmheartedly explained to me the details like what this sheep symbolizes, and what that tree refers to, etc. I learned a lot from these explanations. Certainly, this is not enough for a deeper understanding of those paintings, which requires profound knowledge, a well-trained interest in art, and idiosyncratic propensity of religious belief. Images have national traits. Every nation has developed its own tradition of image making, which is collaboratively shaped by its national history, philosophical ideas, literature and arts, and the formal languages accumulated in the process of image making. It takes time to learn how to read those images just as learning a foreign language. Hence we cannot just simply take for granted what our eyes have caught. The image emerging in our eyes is the outcome of our capacity of reading image symbols. The more we want to see, the more capacity of reading image-symbols is needed. This is the advantageous point of painting. You can get something from it without learning. I cannot read Italian, but I can have a general idea about painting during the Italian Renaissance period, and make some sense of it. It is the same for Europeans looking at Chinese paintings, even though they cannot speak and read Chinese language. This advantageous point might turn into its opposite when people conclude from this fact that there is no need to learn how to read images at all. Generally speaking, people make judgments by intuition, believing that what they see is the same for everyone. If somebody is a young student or a child, we might tell him or her that what he saw is not


Jianping Gao

true and that he needs more learning. However, if somebody is a “mature scholar” or a person whose confidence has been strengthened by his position, he will believe that his or her judgment is authoritative and refuse to learn something. If someone explains to us a manuscript of Leonardo da Vinci, we will stay modest and believe that the explanation is necessary since we cannot read Italian. However, if someone tries to explain one of Leonardo’s paintings, we may think that this is unnecessary and feel impatient, though the painting includes a lot for us to learn, and we can learn it. We might feel annoyed if someone says that our intuitive feeling towards a painting is wrong and we should approach it from a different perspective. In fact, intuition is an outcome of learning and cultural influence. We all learned a lot in the process of our upbringing, but later on the process of learning is forgotten. As researchers, we may know that our teachers have led us through the door to special academic fields. However, we often forgot what we learned from our primary and high school teachers. We also forgot a lot of what we learned before we went to school and what we learned from our surroundings and through different types of media. We forgot the bedtime stories, though we may not have really forgotten them as they may be embedded in our sub-consciousness and may have accompanied us throughout our lives. In fact, these forgotten experiences are still there, affecting our interest, shaping the ability and direction of our artistic appreciation. Let me return to the examples of Leonardo’s manuscript and painting. If we do not know the language the manuscript has been written in, we may listen to explanations of it attentively and may learn a lot. However, when we look at his painting, we may pretend that we have understood it. But we actually do not and we may even do not know that we do not understand it. That is very sad. It is possible for people to pretend that they understand a painting which they actually do not understand or even misunderstand. This is a difference between texts and images. And the fact is that one has to learn how to read images.

2 Differences in Appreciating Calligraphy It has been frequently discussed that modern Chinese ink and wash paintings are not as influential in the West as expected. This can partly be explained by the Westerner’s attitude toward these paintings. Many have been stranded by this theoretical predicament. For example, some argue that this is because Chinese painting skills are required to produce these paintings. Jackson Pollock claimed that his abstract expressionism has been influenced by China. Later on, a Chinese painter Zhao Wuji (Zao Wou-ki, or Chao Wu-chi) did the same.

Difficulties in Reading Images: Diversity and Internationality in Image Reception


No matter how hard Pollock tried to learn from the East, his paintings do not have the ink skills of Chinese paintings, by Chinese standards. He did very well in dripping, spilling, and sprinkling as well as in using oil paint with different colors, but in contrast to Zhao Wuji, he did not have the skills the Chinese ink-washing painting required to display people’s movements, visions, and expressions in his paintings (Sullivan 1989: 194 – 196). And owing to his training, his most abstract paintings are not free of Chinese skills. Since Pollock was more influential in the West than Zhao, Pollock might be considered to be better than Zhao, and painting without Chinese skills higher than those with Chinese skills. This argument is very popular, but it is groundless. Whether Chinese skills are better or not is not decided by painters alone or by how good paintings are; it is closely related to how the paintings have been accepted by audience and society. Let me give an opposite example. In Stockholm, Sweden, there is a Chinese pavilion which was built over 200 years ago. In addition to Chinese porcelain, furniture, and silk, the palace has several Chinese couplets made by Swedish writers in the way they imagined Chinese couplets to be at that time. I brought some Chinese visitors to see the couplets and they reacted to them differently. One scholar took a historical attitude and believed that they were understandable and great, given that the Swedish writers created the couplets more than 200 years ago. But other visitors, particularly artists, couldn’t accept the couplets as they were not calligraphy. What was the real problem? It was about the different ways of appreciating calligraphy. At that time the Swedish writers copied Chinese calligraphy as static images. The Swedish people, especially the royal family took great interest in these couplets and admired them in the same way as they thought Chinese people might do. They took the couplets as Chinese symbols as they imagined them to be. This is much similar, I think, to today’s European and American visitors in China admiring Peking Opera or Kun Opera. They are new to them as cultural symbols. They are interested in the singing styles and enjoy the beautiful scenes, and that is it. This is also an opportunity to show their wide range of vision and their generosity for cultural variety. However, this is still a misunderstanding, though in good will. Let me start with calligraphy. The Swedish people at that time and the Europeans thereafter, including most contemporary Westerners, usually believe that calligraphic works are static images. They may have been told this, and have subsequently realized that this is not true, but they have gotten used to it. For example, European and American students often omit strokes when writing Chinese characters. This is because they take Chinese characters as images, therefore omitting one stroke more or less does not matter. Nobody has made a


Jianping Gao

rule with regard to how many strokes should be made in order to complete a painting of a face or a tree. However, this isn’t true with Chinese characters. They have a fixed number of strokes so that a stroke more or less makes a great difference. It always takes a long time for foreign students to get this point. What is more important than keeping the correct number of strokes is to follow the correct stroke order in writing. Chinese characters must be written in the correct order. Chinese teachers stress the importance of the stroke order, and correct the wrong stroke order. Chinese calligraphy stresses the importance of the stoke direction and order, the intensity of strokes, the thickness of ink, balance, symmetry and the addressing of imbalance and asymmetry. A calligraphic work is dynamic. Without these qualities, a calligraphic work can’t be a good work. This pursuit of dynamics in Chinese calligraphic works could not be understood by the Swedish people and other Europeans in the 18th century. This is not because they simply couldn’t understand this kind of art, but because more learning is needed in order to achieve understanding. Thanks to the multi-century exchange between China and the West, Chinese art became more and more intelligible for Westerners. However, it is still a question as to how much of it they can understand, which is related to daily practice, but also entails further theoretical explanations.

3 Learning to Understand the Symbols of Images Let’s start with the need for study in order to produce paintings. It is easy to understand that study is required to produce paintings. There are different national painting traditions, different ways of study, different forms of organizing study, and different procedures, rules and teaching materials for study. I wrote an article dedicated to a comparison of The Wheels of Chance and The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting in order to explain that Europeans learn to produce paintings differently from Chinese people (Gao 2013). Europeans learn how to paint by proportion and size and with auxiliary lines, and bring their images in line with standard geometric figures. On the contrary, the Chinese learn how to paint by copying (linmo) paintings the way they follow calligraphy copybooks. In this way, they learn how to use their brushes and ink and design the layouts of their paintings. Europeans use practical geometry, explain how paintings are constituted, and teach painting skills. The Chinese stress sensory experience, and while copying, they learn the painting languages, decide which direction lines should go and in what order and with what intensity they should

Difficulties in Reading Images: Diversity and Internationality in Image Reception


be created, and ensure dynamic coordination among various painting factors. This shows the differences between European and Chinese approaches to learning painting. Different nations have different painting traditions. We have realized that different peoples have different schemas with which they comprehend reality as E. H. Gombrich enunciated. He distinguished drawing from writing, taking drawing as a higher form than writing. He explained that writing is just making whereas painting is matching. Obviously, this point has not yet fully been developed. In discussing schemas, it is necessary to explain how they are made. Europeans believe painting is higher than writing while the Chinese take the opposite stance. While Europeans think that practical geometry is the foundation of painting, the Chinese drawing is thought to be based on calligraphy. This also refers to the relationship between traditional and modern. We need to face the modern challenges and modernize, but we shouldn’t do away with traditions utterly. The problem of Chinese modernity is twofold: how to deal with traditions and how to deal with the West. If we simply inherit traditions, we won’t modernize; if we accept the West uncritically, we won’t have a Chinese modernization. Chinese-type modernization is both Chinese and modern. We need to handle the modern challenges while preserving the essence of traditions simultaneously. Study is necessary for both the producing and appreciating of paintings. I lay special emphasis on this because it is often neglected. In essence, appreciating paintings is identical with producing them. I would like to present a theory of “inner copying” (nei mofang) that we learn from our own imitation of actions in order to feel the dynamics of images. Inner copying does not necessarily mean to make actual imitation. People would take paintings as a course of movement, and their heart moves along the paintings when they look at them. We may have read stories about ancient calligraphers who are said to imitate a calligraphic work with their right hands knowingly or unknowingly on their left hands, on the ground, on walls, or on their bodies when coming across with excellent calligraphic works. The reason is that they tried to grasp how calligraphy works by exercising it personally. In fact, when appreciating Chinese paintings, people may have to use their hands to some extent; some contents need to be appreciated with hands. We appreciate paintings using both eyes and hands. In a sense, the more we use our hands, the better we can appreciate. Hands and eyes are two important dimensions for appreciating Chinese paintings, and “hands” count even higher than “eyes”. Certainly, commentators’ appreciation differs from the artist’s. The categories of “hands” and “eyes” cannot be applied to the ranking of a painter’s appreciation and a commentator’s appreciation in general. To some extent painters can understand paintings better


Jianping Gao

than commentators, and since commentators cannot usually paint, their comments could be irrelevant or superficial. On the other hand, however, visual symbols are different from linguistic symbols, and symbols used in theoretical discussions are different from those used in paintings. These differences entail the shift from pictorial symbols to verbal ones, which means that commentators need to express in language how they feel about the paintings. It is not justifiable to say that the meaning of a painting is solely determined by the extent of which languages can express. The meaning of a painting lies in the meaning of images themselves. Imaginary thinking can capture the meaning of images themselves without using concepts or languages. However, commentators have to make the shift. What they do is somehow similar to translation. Translation means turning one language into another while commentators express the meaning of visual images in language. This is also a highly creative work in another sense. In addition, commentators should also incorporate knowledge from all branches of the humanities and social sciences. Commenting doesn’t merely mean to talk about what one feels; it includes analyses of the feeling and the interaction with different fields of knowledge. Of course, an ordinary audience does not have to know philosophy, psychology, sociology and history, nor aesthetics, art history or even who a painter was and when his painting was produced. It is fine for them to care about their own feelings and the meaning they interpret. However, commentators require all these types of knowledge and use it to translate visual meaning into linguistic meaning in order to augment the meaning of a painting and avoid misunderstandings. It might be concluded here that appreciating images is an ability which should be learned in the same way as we learn a foreign language. We may realize that it is hard to learn a new language. This is especially true for adults. They may have spent many years trying to learn a new language without progress. We may think that it is much easier to learn how to appreciate paintings than to study languages. Paintings can be readily understood, and the more you look at them, the more you will know about them. In fact, it is difficult to learn how to both understand languages and appreciate paintings. It is easy to tell how good your command of a foreign language is, but it is hard to test your understanding of an artistic work and find out how well you understand it. As a matter of fact, it is difficult to appreciate paintings. To do this well you need to be exposed to the long-term artistic training and appreciation, develop artistic understanding as you grow up, and acquire an understanding of artistic practices. This is a craftsmanship, a quality, and a capacity of artistic interest leading to an accumulation of knowledge on image and symbols.

Difficulties in Reading Images: Diversity and Internationality in Image Reception


4 Different Meanings of Internationality Finally, I’d like to come to the topic of internationality. Art can be regarded as international, but the internationality per se ought to be reflected. Some artistic works are admired in the national domain, and some are especially admired by peoples from other nations. Which is better? A paradox comes into play here. People often judge artistic works and artists by the extent of their international reputation, such as where exhibitions of certain works were held, what kind of awards an artist has won, which comments were made by international experts, and what journals made comments. All these are standards of judgment. For example, the exhibitions of a local painter’s works in New York and Paris are believed to be better than exhibitions of their works in Beijing, while exhibitions in Beijing are believed to be more meaningful than those in a provincial city. This is an indisputable fact, however, theoretically speaking, this is unreasonable. Artistic comments are not the same as sports comments. For athletes, provincial, national, international and Olympic gold medals are quite different in value. An Olympic gold medal could be as important as ten national gold medals. This sounds reasonable. There are international standards for sports events, and these standards challenge the limits of human physical strength. To ensure that athletes get higher, faster, and stronger, they are required to compete according to certain rules. There are similar views in the world of art in which it is believed that art is recognized in different scopes and represents different levels of accomplishment. There used to be a popular saying that “what is international is worthy to be accepted to be Chinese.” This statement is an adaptation of an earlier statement: “What is unique to the Chinese can be well accepted in the world.” The statements are opposite in meaning. The statement “What is unique to the Chinese can be well accepted in the world” stresses the importance of Chinese national characteristics. National characteristics are a pass to the world, so it is important to develop and promote the national characteristics to be recognized by the world. This is a design for art styles and paths. However, the statement “What is international can be well accepted in China” represents a different attitude: When something that stems from China earns an international reputation and is awarded a medal some kind of distinction, it will also be naturally recognized in China. This is another design for art styles and paths. The two statements represent two different strategies and lead to two different styles. Ethnicity doesn’t come naturally. It consists of different factors based on historical reasons. Influenced by calligraphy and Chinese literati, that Chinese ink


Jianping Gao

and wash painting should be ideographic, Chinese paintings are required to appear vigorous, well-structured, and dynamic. Very much infiltrated by philosophy, however, European art has been developed in a combination of two traditions, imitation and form (mainly geometrical form), and underwent an artistic transformation and development process related to formal integrity, the adaptation of the part to the whole, and light and color. National characteristics are hereditary, but they can be learned, which means that we can learn from each other through dialogue to reach a certain level of reception. Europeans don’t use unique traditional Chinese painting skills, but they work to make strokes and lines beautiful and dynamic, too. This has been found in the works of many painters from the past to present. Painters are aware of the movement of their paintbrushes. But have this feeling and awareness been recognized and conceptualized in theory? This used to be impossible in Europe in the past because there existed an artistic and philosophical tradition which suppressed the exploration of beautiful strokes in painting. Is it possible for the feelings of beauty to be recognized along with the dialogue between China and the West? It is possible, I think. And it is also the opportunity for ink and wash paintings to reach out to the world. The concept of universality can be plural. In the past, the tension only lay in the opposition between particular and universal, between global versus local. It seems that something universal was there, and all that was different from it was local. Later on, this kind of universality was just another form of locality that had spread globally. Universality can also be plural; there are different types of universality which have become global from different regions. This can be taken as a shift from diversity to pluralism. By diversity I mean that different types of universality are found in different geographical spaces respectively, and by pluralism I mean that they are found in the same geographical space.

5 Conclusion Let me return to the problem of image reception. One needs to learn how to read images. The ability to read images should be acquired in order to develop the capacity to read symbols, and thus understand the object of painting. Different cultures have quite different traditions of creating images. This leads to a considerably different understanding and evaluation of images, which is twofold. One is about understanding: foreign cultural images may not be understood at all or only to a certain extent. The other is about feeling: we may feel estranged from an image of a foreign culture.

Difficulties in Reading Images: Diversity and Internationality in Image Reception


What should be avoided is pretending to understand and commenting arbitrarily on what we do not know of a foreign culture. Chinese people shouldn’t be conceited when reading foreign cultural images. In the same way Westerners shouldn’t be conceited in reading Chinese paintings and calligraphic works. The world we have is pluralistic, by which I mean that through study we can appreciate images and paintings created by different traditions. This will help us to experience and accept them, to develop our feelings and enrich our inner and outer worlds.

Bibliography Gao, Jianping (2013): “The Wheel of Fortune vs. the Mustard Seed: A Comparative Study of European and Chinese Painting”. In: Diogenes 59. No. 233, 234. Iss. 1, 2, pp. 101 – 117. Gombrich, Ernst H. (1962): Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation. London: Phaidon Press. Sullivan, Michael (1989): The Meeting of Eastern and Western Art. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.

Eva Schürmann

Frame and Framing. On the Parergonal Constitution of Artistic Representation Abstract: In this paper, the term Parergonality is used for the complete set of conditions that are necessary for the appearance and performance of artworks: be this the room of a museum, the frame of a painting, the stage, the framing of a film scene, the lighting, or the preface. It refers to more than incidental and accompanying aspects of presentation. What parergonality also points to is the constitutively relevant how of artistic representation. How something is shown and seen can, under certain circumstances, be more significant than what is being represented because it guides the attention or opens up a particular perspective. It is therefore necessary to differentiate between various forms of parergonality in the sense of framework factors. The interpretative power of artistic criticism, for instance, or the institutional power of museums constitutes artworks in a different way than staging or performance does. Moreover, artworks often consist of particular forms of framing perspectives in that they create or problematize certain points of view. Artworks thereby illustrate general interpretative frameworks or a culture’s or era’s style of thinking, as one might say with Wittgenstein. Thus, in a way that is analogous to “seeing-as”, artworks can be regarded as various forms of “showing-as”. They can disclose aspects through de-framing and re-shaping. I shall exemplify my thoughts with an artwork by Cristo and Jeanne-Claude. Their wrappings not only implemented resolute de-contextualisations; they are also particularly suitable to shed light on the performative forms of discursive framing.

1 A possible distinction between artworks and other objects aims at considering the former as items that are of interest because of how they represent and portray rather than because of what they show or articulate. The reception of an artwork, at any rate, is often more concerned with the modalities of artistic portrayal than with their content. When watching a film adaptation of a novel that we know or a recent theatre performance of Othello, for instance, we do not For hints and help I owe many thanks to Stefan Majetschak. Furthermore, I would like to thank the students of my Phd class, as well as Sebastian Spanknebel, Caterina Brand and Levno von Plato for comments and improvements. DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-012


Eva Schürmann

eagerly ask what the story is about. We rather experience the dramaturgical ideas and means of stage-management as inventive and enriching or, on the contrary, as rushed and unbalanced. Similarly, we might find the plot and characters of antique or Christian iconography in painting and sculpture strange or uninteresting, were it not for their highly complex and interesting manner of portrayal and arrangement¹ or grouping through which some unmitigated motif of human self- and world conditions has been made thematic. What is being represented in the case of the “Angel Appearing to Zacharias” or “Bacchus and Ariadne” might concern us just a little or not at all; yet we admire the colouring and the flow in Ghirlandaio’s or Titian’s manner of painting, respectively. Anna Karenina, too, would not become boring even if today she could simply get divorced. Similarly, we could tell Hamlet to make a decision somewhat earlier. These narratives concern us even though we might not have their problems today or even though their story—as is so frequent in more or less abstruse opera libretti—merely is the obsolete background of past historical conditions or a dramatic exaggeration. Tolstoy’s mode of narrating is unsurpassably subtle and gripping, Shakespeare’s language so fascinating, the music so much more important than the libretto—so that in all these cases it is how something is said, shown, and performed that stands in the centre of aesthetic experience or judgement. Yet, this “how” of the representation has to be differentiated in various respects: It is reflexivity insofar as artworks consist of representing themselves in their being represented —as Friedrich Schlegel (KFSA, II: 127) wrote. Secondly, it also is to be conceived of as style, namely as a characteristic manner to say and show something. Additionally, it relates to the contextual conditions of being presented and of appearing. In what follows, I would like to assess whether this “how” can be further qualified when examining the parergonal condition of artworks. By this I not only mean the ornamental accessories but also various types of framings that are constitutive of artworks². Already in 1966, Ronald Hepburn introduced an extended sense of words like “frame” and “framed” and conceived of artworks as contextually controlled, even, determined. But he considered this aspect to be crucial to the difference between art and nature (see Hepburn 1966: 285 – 310). I make recourse to the term “parergonality” to denote not only a wide spectrum of framing-factors and -conditions, but also to emphasise the distinction be-

 “Arrangement” here is understood in the sense of Goethes term “Choir”, which is equally important to Wittgenstein. See Goethe (1798) and Brusotti (2016).  That framing starts with the boundary of an evenly primed image area has been discussed by Meyer Schapiro (1994: 253 – 274).

Frame and Framing. On the Parergonal Constitution of Artistic Representation


tween the “what” and the “how” in order to show the later as more decisive for art and aesthetic experience. Depending on the artistic genre, the frame and accessory parts are not necessarily concrete objects. Rather, we can think of the embeddedness of artworks in discursive settings as framework-phenomenon or of the hanging in a museum as a form of framing. In the case of the moving image (see Borschtschow 2013), it literally is the framing that forms the artwork, whereas in the case of a score it is its performance. The framing of a moving image consists in showing a section and in disclosing a perspective. That is, the artistic medium is not constituted by a framed object; but it rather is the result of a framing action. In theatre, eventually, it is the entirety of the staging—from decoration to lighting—through which a theatre play becomes an artistic event. There is yet another form of framing, when one asks for the perspectivisations that artistic representations of any medium take, by disclosing or questioning interpretative frameworks and their respective thought-patterns. A collection of all these different types of frames and framing is present, so I would suggest, in a specific form of vision-guidance. Referring to Wittgensteinian seeing-as, I contend that the parergonal constitution of artistic (re‐) presentation consists of a specific showing-as. That is, the “how” of a portrayal consists of revealing a particular aspect in the sense of a particular conception. When a theatre performance or an actor shows Faust, for example, as a “global player”, as the title of a Faust interpretation by Michael Jaegger (2013) goes, in that a particular aspect is carved out and in that the character is shown in a certain light, this is due to framing presentation efforts. Yet, this will be unpacked step by step in this paper.

2 In his Critique of Judgement, Kant uses the Greek word “parerga” to denote “ornaments […] as for example the frames of pictures, […] golden frames” or other “external […] complements” (Kant CJ: 76)³ that play a sophisticated role within the Analytic of the Beautiful, which will not be further discussed here. Referring to Kant—though with an important shift of meaning—Jacques Derrida conceives  An alternative translation for the original “Zierate […] wie Einfassungen von Gemälde[n], […] goldene Rahmen” or other “äußerliche Zutaten”(Kant KU:65) is proposed by Paul Guyer: “ornaments […] like the borders of paintings, […] gilt frame” or other “addendum” (Kant CPJ: 111). The German term ‘Einfassungen’ is frequently used with reference to jewellery; in English the word ‘mountings’ may come close to this.


Eva Schürmann

of the parergon as a framing movement and describes it as “a formal and general predicative structure, which one can transport intact […] and reformed […] into other fields, to submit new content to it” (Derrida 1987: 55). I would like to follow up this specific path, in order to examine whether the how-level of artworks can productively be made accessible with the help of the concept of parergonality as an activity of framing. A detailed investigation into the issues discussed by Kant or Derrida would take us too far.⁴ I therefore only take up Derrida’s proposal by conceiving of parergonality as including not only the complete set of conditions that are necessary for achieving and performing artworks, but also the interpretative and discursive imagination and conceptualisation frameworks. This broad notion of frame and framing, that will receive further sub-differentiations, includes things such as the frame of a picture; the room of a museum; the stage; the hanging; or the preface, as well as interpretative patterns; styles of thinking; or world views⁵ that implicitly or explicitly underlie or become thematic in artworks. The scope of parergonality, in my view, goes far beyond the decorative, and points to what Wittgenstein would call fundamental principles (OC 1969: 670) as well as to what with Bateson (1972) or Goffman (1974)⁶ could be called framing conditions. Such basic beliefs that are constitutive of world views, as well as framing conditions of discursive and social settings, define from the outset the framework within which we are enabled to speak, act, think, and perceive. Already in every-day-life our ways of seeing are formed by normative presumptions and culturally predetermined ideas. In artistic portrayals those ways of perceiving are expressed and are made visible in certain modes of representation that are based on conceptions and thought-patterns. They act as intrinsic framing conditions and determine the scope of possible interpretations. The term “parergon”—whose translation is notoriously difficult (see Dünkelbühler 1991b)—not only opens up another field of connotation,⁷ but I also hope that such a change of focus will enable me to examine an old problem with a shift of emphasis. For the term ‘parergonality’ not solely points to the materiality of frames, but also to the process of framing, and thus to the movement of a perspectival portrayal or framing outlook. Thus, framings are not merely the respec-

 On this, see Dünkelsbühler (1991a) and Krewani (2003). Also see the scientifically very persuasive history of art study by Beyer (2008).  Denis Paul and Elizabeth Anscombe translate the German term “Weltbild” here as “world-picture” (OC 1969: 95).  A good commentary by Herbert Willems (1997).  In addition to the connotations implied by other how-factor terms, such as “style” or “reflexivity”.

Frame and Framing. On the Parergonal Constitution of Artistic Representation


tive perspectives,⁸ they are rather perspectivisations with a virtually transcendental scope, namely general conditions for possible perceptions and potential points of view. In this active, procedural form parergonality, therefore, has a performative⁹ character. In other words, it realises itself through practical implementation. As already mentioned, the parergonal constitution of an artistic presentation is linked with practical actions; and only due to their effects we are able to speak of an artwork. The example of framing and assembling moving pictures is suitable for differentiating the various facets of the concept of “framing”. In relation to my claim of “showing-as”, however, the similarities between different framing actions also come to the fore: in the same way as the camera detail and camera work show and bring to mind something-as-something, the exhibition context presents the Bottle-Rack-as-artwork or the actor-Faust-as-global-player. In each instance, it is a showing-action that guides the vision, attracts the attention, and facilitates the attitudes. I would like to discuss the connection between the intrinsic framing conditions of artworks that are intangible due to their performative nature and what we can call—along with Ludwik Fleck¹⁰ and Ludwig Wittgenstein¹¹—the style of thinking. As the characteristic way an action is performed, style is, obviously, something pertaining to the how-level.¹² It is this “how-something-is-formed” that conditions how something can appear and be perceived.¹³ The manner in which a presentation articulates, shows, or sees something constitutes its sensually perceivable character. It rests on parergonal conditions such as a general inter-

 For an earlier exploration of the term, see: Koch (2010) and Koch (2016).  On the connection between performativity and parergonality, see Wirth (2004: 603 – 628).  The physician and philosopher of science, Ludwik Fleck, already used the term “thoughtstyle” early on to show that even style starts with a particular manner of thinking and perceiving, which Thomas Kuhn, as a follow up to Fleck, described as theory-laden seeing-as. See: Fleck (1979); it is interesting that “thought-style” is virtually a style of perception, according to Fleck: “thought-style bound Gestalt-perception and ideovision” are the forms of scientific observation that Fleck describes as style compliant perception. The drawback to the collectively and individually influenced creativity of styles of thought is, admittedly, to exclusively see only that which is not contradictory and to miss whatever is contradictory or heterogeneous.  “How much we are doing is changing the style of thinking and how much I’m doing is changing the style of thinking and how much I’m doing is persuading people to change their style of thinking.” (LA 2007: 28).  For further remarks on the connection between style and aesthetic perception, which is closely related to the present discussion, see: Schürmann (2012).  At this point, I wish to thank Gerhard Dirmoser for his untiring willingness to discuss these questions.


Eva Schürmann

pretative framework or world-view dependent preconceptions and ideas.¹⁴ To speak with Wittgenstein: “It is like a pair of glasses on our nose through which we see whatever we look at. It never occurs to us to take them off” (PI 1958: 45). That is, a general cultural framework influences the individual forming of an artwork and vice versa. Baroque preferences for the theme “theatre”, for instance, are linked to an era’s patterns and frameworks of thought before they shape the style of an artwork. This is why there are variations of theatre motifs that span over individuals, nations, and genres, such as those of Calderón de la Barca, or Rembrandt, or Gian Lorenzo Bernini. A presentation’s modality is shaped by collective patterns of thought that take up a sensual form through style. Framing imagination-contents that ground an artwork, such as an era’s or a culture’s basic normative orientations and the evaluative assumptions of a speech community, become sensually perceivable through the stylistic “how” of a presentation.

3 The unity of a presentation is not guaranteed through exclusion and inclusion but is also negotiated through intrinsic conditions. Take, for example, the vanishing-point perspective panel painting that Niklas Luhmann has discussed in connection with his second order observation and what he calls “parergonal latency”: The unity of space guaranteed by perspective renders the represented figures observable as observers. The painting’s unity is thus no longer guaranteed solely by the composition but also by the observational relationships displayed within the painting. The frame does not cease to function as the boundary of the composition, but the painting’s internal observational relationships, together with its vanishing-point perspective, reveal the world as transcending the frame and as the true object of representation. In this way, even the invisible can be drawn into the painting and rendered visible. (Luhmann 2000: 86)

Hence, according to Luhmann, the painting’s internal perspective, or the point of view that is expressed in an artwork, is to be conceived of as framing. Whatever the vanishing-point perspective shows, it insinuates an ideal observer position that gives access to a view that is only visible through the painting. If understood in this way—and this is the aim of my argument—the artwork is thereby the portrayal of a view that presents a very particular idea, point of

 For further discussion on world-view dependent preconceptions, see: Schürmann (2011).

Frame and Framing. On the Parergonal Constitution of Artistic Representation


view, or version of whatever is being represented. Every portrayal (even before the vanishing-point perspective) is perspectival in the sense that it takes up a point of view or standpoint showing not merely something, but a particular manner of showing or viewing something. If it co-thematises this reflexively, it is a form of “shown-seeing”, as I have discussed in detail elsewhere (see Schürmann 2008). Every portrayal, therefore, does not merely show anything; it rather points to something by determining the way we look at things. In this way, portrayal is akin to Wittgenstein’s aspect seeing: we fail to see something if we merely see the rabbit and not the duck; or we see it through different eyes. This manner of viewing and showing something makes itself explicit in the style of a presentation. Style is, insofar, the symptom of an original mindset and a typically normative basic attitude. The style of something (be it the political style, the style of driving, or the architectural style) is concerned with the “how” of the realisation of a performed action—be it of thinking, portraying, telling, or perceiving. It is the differences in the manner of implementing, configuring, painting, or telling that make similar contents different artworks, such as Rembrandt’s or Ruben’s Bathsheba, respectively. The portrayed is only what it is, due to the modes of portrayal. Styles of thinking are substantially connected with the conceptions, perspectives, and points of view that are expressed through a presentation and thus with what I here discuss as parergonal conditions of framing considerations. Hence, my thesis is twofold. On the one hand, I claim that the “how” of an artistic performance can reasonably be considered as a transformation of a presentation by the contents of imagination and thought-patterns—patterns that embed, as it were, the seeing of what shows itself through the presentation. On the other hand, I think that the parergonal condition of artistic presentations can, concurrently, be specified, because the internal framing of the painting consists of points of view and perspectives that determine the partly individual and partly collective styles of thinking and perceptual influences. A dense nexus of conceptualisations, perceptions, and imaginative powers influences our intentional relationships to ourselves and to others, no doubt even outside the artistic realm. Yet, artworks provide the only opportunity to make something visible and perceivable that would otherwise remain merely intrinsic. Such relationships should be called performative because it is the “how” of the implementation and of the thereby implied embodiment that matters. How something is shown, seen, presented, or formulated determines what it can be perceived as and realised as. This can only be explained as a process.


Eva Schürmann

4 Considering that in every artwork, conventions and interpretative patterns of an era become thematic—and that these simply come along unnoticed outside of the art world—we can conceive of the entire history of art as a framing survey. In contrast to this, most modern art is devoted to escape the framework or to extend it—be it the framework of the museum, the tangible concept of the work of art, or the normative background assumptions regarding what art is to be. Yet, even John Cage’s silence¹⁵ has to be framed by opening or closing the piano lid, for instance. Thus, the distinction frame/framed enables and guarantees, simultaneously, the distinction between art and non-art. Literally, the frame is the concrete limit of an artwork, and what is thereby produced is the creation of an inner unity through the dissociation from what is external. The frame opens and closes concurrently. Simmel (see 1994: 11– 17) has described this as inward inclusion and outward exclusion; and Derrida mentions that the parerga have a texture that “separates them not only […] from the integral inside, from the body proper of the ergon, but also from the outside, from the wall on which the painting is hung, from the space in which statue […] is erected” (Derrida 1987: 61) as well as from their discursive contexts in their widest sense. The parergon marks itself off from all of this in a different way as the ergon does; while the frame itself is atopic—neither inside, nor outside—it is only the frame that assigns the framed a place. Only the atopic accessory parts assign a place to the artwork, make the artwork to be an artwork, and the apparently incidentally guarantee the discriminability between soup cans and artworks. For what is this and what is that, what a urinal and what, by contrast, an influential leap into the open is determined by the framing. If museums or art-discourse did not exist, the explosiveness of the framing-enquiries from Duchamp to Beuys to Warhol would not be perceivable. Following a particular interpretation, it is, incidentally, the task of philosophy to enquire about the framing conditions of the relationships towards ourselves and others, and to focus on the unexpressed and not thought about, or at least the non-thematised conditions of our thinking, speaking, perceiving, and acting. If the aesthetic denotes the particular sphere of perception in which things are brought to our attention in a way that differs from the ordinary, philosophy itself proceeds in an aesthetic manner when it tries to move away from

 John Cage’s famous piece 4’33’’ was premiered in 1952, the score was published in 1960: 3 movements, tacet, 1st movement 33’’, 2nd movement 2’40’’, and last movement 1’20’’.

Frame and Framing. On the Parergonal Constitution of Artistic Representation


habitual ways of thinking, which is considered to be one of its main tasks in certain theoretical contexts. In this vein, Nietzsche describes philosophy as the methodologically conducted “seeking-out of all things curious and questionable in existence” (EH: 8), Adorno as the systematic “resistance against all clichés” (Adorno 1973: 132), Dewey as casting off “partial ideas to which we are wont to give the name of facts” (Dewey 1931: 12). And Wittgenstein as “ethnological approach” that has virtually made alienation a routine. Thus, working in philosophy is “really more a working on oneself. On one’s own conception. On how one sees things” (CV 1980: 24, 45). Hence, we might reach the view that art and philosophy have a decisive similarity in that they both critically thematise the framework conditions. Moreover, in the same way as the arts and artists, philosophy and its modern age actors cannot ignore their relationship to themselves, their media, their problems of presentation, their traditions, and their discourses. Due to fundamental reasons and their parergonal conditions, both are, therefore, reflexive. Artworks have, admittedly, more possibilities of sensual visualisation and indicative power than philosophy does.

5 There are plenty of artistic efforts that, as mentioned above, try to escape or at least thematise the framework. A particularly convincing artwork of this kind is, I think, Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude’s project Wrapped Reichstag that took place in the year 1995 (see figure 1). Referring to Christo supports my considerations in many ways. First of all, this temporary artwork was an outstanding example of sensual beauty as an end in itself. With its reflective silver-blue surface, its symmetry wrapped in generous drapery, its sublime magnitude, its surface swayed by the wind, and its charm of mysterious alienation, the historical building from Paul Wallot had, for a brief period, a fairy-tale-like appearance. Moreover, it is obvious that wrapping represents an act of resolute de-framing. All the common connotations of the building were virtually bracketed out; it was de-contextualised and singled out to thereby frame it in a new and uncommon way, giving it parergonal accessory parts and only thereby making it to an artwork. Beyond such critical value, however, it is also particularly suitable to shed light on the non-representational and performative character of discursive framing that is linked to schemes of conceptualisations as well as to mindsets. For the artistic event was preceded by almost 24 years of preparation, discussions, and


Eva Schürmann

Figure 1: Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin, 1971 – 95, Germany Photo: Wolfgang Volz/laif. © 1995 Christo

actions. These social processes are very well suited to illustrate what it means for framings to be performative and discursive movements. Already years before the realization, the couple tried to gain support (see figure 2) and permission for the wrapping. When his work on the project began, the Wall was far from falling and the political conditions were fundamentally different ones. Before the couple could, at last, wrap the historical building, the German Bundestag had to grant permission, which came as a now legendary vote on the 25th February, 1994. With the high parliamentary attendance of 531 Members of the Bundestag, a decision was reached after 70 minutes of debate and dedicated addresses on both sides, with 295 votes in favour of the project and 226 opposing it (10 abstentions). Although this was not a particularly close result, it still shows how controversial this project was and what considerable amount of convinced opponents it had. The Member of Parliament Wolfgang Schäuble, for instance, criticised that over the whole debate there was no consistent answer as to what the point of all this actually was. Christo’s action intervened in the prevalent framework conditions to such a fundamental extent that the disagreements were not merely about judging the project in this or that way, but much more about what the discussion really was about: about art or about politics, about an individual quirk or a collective symbol, about democratic voting processes or about aesthetic events. The project was anything but museum business; instead, it took place at the centre of the highly competitive area of public assertion and interpretative hegemony. This illuminates precisely what I described earlier as general interpretative world views that portray and challenge framework conditions.

Frame and Framing. On the Parergonal Constitution of Artistic Representation


Figure 2: Willy Brandt visits Christo and Jeanne-Claude at their home in New York on October 4th 1981. Photo: Wolfgang Volz/laif

The media discussions about the happening reached as far as influencing what is called political style. Hence, the work represents a landmark in the tradition of Beuys’ social sculpture, too. A sequence of practical problems that required the participation of many people had to be solved before the work could be put into effect: 90 rope access technicians and 120 assemblymen were involved. The business transactions and engineering services were processed and organised by a limited liability company. The vast and accurately calculated panels of fabric had to be purpose-made and recyclable in an environmentally responsible way. It is hard to imagine what the debate would have been, had the event polluted the environment or been financed by public funds. It would have obscured its aesthetic origin altogether. Christo’s incorruptibility and strict conception prevented this from being the case. Companies wanted to “tailor […] bedside carpets, handbags, or curtains” (Meiering 2006: 81) with the wrapping material. The artist couple did not consent to this in spite of seven-digit sums that were offered for the rights of use for the fabric. Instead, they gave away small material samples on site to all who wanted to have them.¹⁶ The project was financed ex This artwork could therefore also be discussed in relation to its character as a gift.


Eva Schürmann

clusively by drawings and collages untiringly produced by the artist (see figure 3). The impossibility to take commercial advantage of the artistic event is an indispensable part of the concept of a temporal end in itself.

Figure 3: Christo: Project for West Berlin – “Der Deutsche Reichstag”. Collage 1972. 22 x 28” (56 x 71 cm). Pencil, charcoal, pastel, wax crayon, fabric, staples, photographs, map and tape. Private collection. Photo: Wolfgang Volz/laif. © 1977 Christo

According to estimates, the action costs amounted to 13 million Deutsche Mark, the visitor number was 3 million, and 1.3 billion Deutsche Mark of income for the city was generated as a result.¹⁷ Christo’s projects, however, were not supposed to be bought, nobody should own them, nobody should commercialise them, nobody can ask for an entry fee for the viewing—not even we own these works. Our work is about freedom and freedom is the enemy of all claims of ownership, and ownership is synonymous to duration. Therefore, this work cannot last. (Baal-Teshuva 1995: 82)

 According to an estimate by the Berliner Morgenpost (Richter 2010).

Frame and Framing. On the Parergonal Constitution of Artistic Representation


In fact, the artwork makes the discursive context not sensually apparent at all. It is, however, part of its performative framework conditions, without which it would not be what it is. Its sensual effect is, nevertheless, not a property of the reflexive but rather an irreducible quality. More than for other contemporary artists, Christo’s exclusive concern is, according to his own statement, sensual beauty: “It really is the case that beauty is the only important thing. Only beauty counts.”¹⁸ It should, Christo said in advance, “produce a very broad, angular drapery, almost gothic, incredibly beautiful” (Baal-Teshuva 1995: 10). With the wrapping the form should be brought to higher prominence and the proportions of the building would only then be revealed. If it was possible to present the Reichstag in this way, displaced from its history, and if the transformed building could be celebrated for 14 days as the epitome of freedom and beauty—both as ends in themselves—this confirms, yet again, that the de-framing represents a new framing in its own right. Within a humanist context, we may say that Christo achieved the feat of Schiller’s quest to enact beauty as the sensually perceivable form of freedom.

6 In conclusion, I wish to highlight that what I intended to show is that an artwork is constituted through the “how” of the implementation of a presentation, and that this “how” consists of many framework conditions and framework actions. The imaginative framework is just one of these, yet it exists within a whole set of mental images, ideas, and world-view dependent conceptions. Such patterns determine whether something can—to take Wittgenstein’s example—be seen as a rabbit, as a duck or in a productively different manner. The productivity of the “showing-as” consists, in a manner of speaking, in taking off the glasses through which one is used to looking through. The point of aspect seeing is not to look somewhere else but rather to look at the same thing differently, such that this thing can disclose another aspect of itself. Translation by Levno von Plato

 The artist couple in an interview with the Tagesspiegel on 30. 8.1996.


Eva Schürmann

Bibliography Adorno, Theodor W. (1973): Philosophische Terminologie. Band 1. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Baal-Teshuva, Jacob (1995): Christo und Jeanne-Claude. Köln: Taschen. Bateson, Gregory (1972): Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology. San Francisco: Chandler Pub. Beyer, Vera (2008): Rahmenbestimmungen. Funktionen von Rahmen bei Goya, Velázquez, van Eyck und Degas. Paderborn, Munich: Fink. Borschtschow, Rebecca (2013): “Bild im Rahmen, Rahmen im Bild”. In: IMAGE 17. No. 1, pp. 61 – 68. Brusotti, Marco (2016): “That they point is all there is to it”. In: Lars Albinus/Josef Rothhaupt/Aidan Seery (Eds.): Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Frazer’s “Golden Bough”: The Text and The Matter. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, pp. 311 – 338. Derrida, Jacques (1987): The Truth in Painting. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press. Dewey, John (1931): Philosophy and Civilization. New York: Minton, Balch and Company. Dünkelsbühler, Ulrike (1991a): Kritik der Rahmen-Vernunft: Parergon-Versionen nach Kant und Derrida. Munich: Fink. Dünkelsbühler, Ulrike (1991b): “Rahmen-Gesetz und Parergon-Paradox. Eine Übersetzungsaufgabe”. In: Ludwig Pfeiffer/Hans Gumbrecht (Eds.): Paradoxien, Dissonanzen, Zusammenbrüche. Situationen offener Epistemologie. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, pp. 207 – 233. Fleck, Ludwik (1979): Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang (2009): The Metamorphosis of Plants. [1st ed. 1798] Cambridge: MIT Press. Goffman, Erving (1974): Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. London: Harper and Row. Hepburn, Ronald (1966): “Contemporary Aesthetics and the Neglect of Natural Beauty”. In: Bernard Williams/Alan Montefiore (Eds.): British Analytical Philosophy. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 285 – 310. [Reprinted 2003 in: Peter Lamarque/Stein Haugom Olsen (Eds.): Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: The Analytic Tradition: An Anthology. Blackwell, pp. 521 – 534.] Jaegger, Michael (2013): Global Player Faust oder Das Verschwinden der Gegenwart: Zur Aktualität Goethes. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann. Kant, Immanuel (1914): Kant’s Critique of Judgement. London: Macmillan. (CJ) Kant, Immanuel (1974): Kritik der Urteilskraft. Hamburg: Meiner. (KU) Kant, Immanuel (2000): Critique of the Power of Judgement. New York, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (CPJ) Koch, Gertrud (Ed.) (2010): Perspektive – Die Spaltung der Standpunkte. Paderborn: Fink. Koch, Gertrud/Hilgers, Thomas (Eds.) (2016): Perspektive und Fiktion. Paderborn: Fink. Krewani, Anna (2003): Philosophie der Malerei bei Jacques Derrida. PhD Thesis. Ruhr-Universität Bochum: Electronic publication, URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz: 294 – 12123. Luhmann, Niklas (2000): Art as a Social System. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Frame and Framing. On the Parergonal Constitution of Artistic Representation


Meiering, Dominik (2006): Verhüllen und Offenbaren. Der Verhüllte Reichstag von Christo und Jeanne-Claude und seine Parallelen in der Tradition der Kirche. Regensburg: Schnell und Steiner. Nietzsche, Friedrich (2004): Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is & The Antichrist: A Curse on Christianity. Thomas Wayne (Transl.). New York: Algora Publishing. (EH) Richter, Christiane (2010): “Wie der verhüllte Reichstag Berlin veränderte”. http://www. html (accessed: 03/11/2016). Schapiro, Meyer (1994): “Über einige Probleme in der Semiotik der visuellen Kunst: Feld und Medium beim Bild-Zeichen”. In: Gottfried Boehm (Ed.): Was ist ein Bild? Munich: Fink, pp. 253 – 274. Schlegel, Friedrich (1988): “Athenäums-Fragmente Nr. 238”. In: Ernst Behler/Hans Eichner (Eds.): Kritische Schriften und Fragmente: Studienausgabe in 6 Bänden. Bd. 2. Paderborn: Schöningh, p. 127. (KFSA, II) Schürmann, Eva (2008): Sehen als Praxis. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Schürmann, Eva (2011): “Darstellung einer Vorstellung. Das Bild der Welt auf der Pioneer-Plakette”. In: Christoph Markschies/Ingeborg Reichle/Jochen Brüning (Eds.): Atlas der Weltbilder. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, pp. 376 – 385. Schürmann, Eva (2012): “Stil als Artikulation einer Haltung”. In: Stefan Deines/Jasper Liptow/Martin Seel (Eds.): Kunst und Erfahrung. Beiträge zu einer philosophischen Kontroverse. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, pp. 296 – 315. Simmel, Georg (1994): “The Picture Frame: An Aesthetic Study”. In: Mark Ritter (Ed.): Theory, Culture & Society. London: SAGE, pp. 11 – 17. Willems, Herbert (1997): Rahmen und Habitus. Zum theoretischen und methodischen Ansatz Erving Goffmans. Vergleiche, Anschlüsse und Anwendungen. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Wirth, Uwe (2004): “Das Vorwort als performative, paratextuelle und parergonale Rahmung”. In: Jürgen Fohrmann (Ed.): Rhetorik. Figuration und Performanz. Stuttgart: Metzler, pp. 603 – 628. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953): Philosophical Investigations/Philosophische Untersuchungen. G. E. M. Anscombe/Rush Rhees (Eds.). G. E. M. Anscombe (Transl.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (PI) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1969): On Certainty/Über Gewißheit. G. E. M. Anscombe/G. H. von Wright (Eds.). Denis Paul/G. E. M. Anscombe (Transl.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (OC) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1980): Culture and Value. G. H. von Wright/Heikki Nyman (Eds.). Peter Winch (Transl.). Amended 2nd edition. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (CV) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2007): Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. Cyril Barrett (Ed.). 40th anniversary edition. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. (LA)

Astrid Wagner

Focusing the Blind Spot. On the Inventive Use of Signs in Art Abstract: This paper deals with some pivotal conditions of inventive symbolization in the arts. Given that the understanding of artworks, just as the understanding of all kinds of signs, is bound to practices of interpretation, these practices can be conceived as the basis on which the potentiality space for creative uses of signs is grounded. The purpose of this paper is to explore that potentiality space, to some extent, by specifying typical features of inventive uses of signs in art and in aesthetic symbolization, taking into account the interwovenness of their syntactic, pragmatic, and semantic dimensions. The presented view goes beyond a mere combinatorial explanation of creativity, focusing instead on some conditions of illuminating rule-violation, of rule-transformation, and on a reflective function of art, i. e. on artistic ways to make parts of the grammar of a form of life visible.

1 Introduction Inventive use of signs is a characteristic feature of expressive and original artworks. Nevertheless, up to now the phenomenon of creative symbolization is still in need of explanation. What are the conditions for such a kind of creativity? When do we consider signs to be used in an inventive and creative way? And what makes the successful inventive use of signs so illuminating? These are the questions that stimulated the following reflections, which are meant to highlight one important function of creativity that can be considered extremely relevant in aesthetic experience. In this paper, I will develop some answers to these questions from a point of view that places special emphasis on the role of signs and interpretation. One main insight of such perspective, and at the same time a starting point for this investigation, is that the understanding of artworks, just as the meaning and understanding of all kinds of signs, is bound to practices of interpretation. These practices can be considered to be the basis on which the potentiality space for creative uses of signs is grounded. If the realm of intelligible creativity is thus bound to practices of interpretation, we here have to focus on the conditions for understanding new and creative ways of symbolization. In the following, I would like to specify some typical features of such inventive uses of signs in art and DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-013


Astrid Wagner

aesthetic symbolization. In this endeavor, particular attention will be paid to taking into account the interwovenness of their syntactical, pragmatic, and semantic features. The presented approach will go beyond a mere combinatorial explanation of creativity, focusing instead on some conditions of illuminating rule-violation, of rule-transformation, and on artistic ways to make parts of the grammar of a form of life visible. The main argument that I would like to make in this paper is twofold. In a first step, I try to show in how far creativity, in general, is bound to signo-interpretational practices. In a second step, I develop and defend the thesis that art can be considered creative, illuminating, and striking in so far as it unveils parts of the grammar of a form of life and thus of our signo-interpretational practices. Creative artworks of this kind allow us to become aware of implicit parts and features of the network of basic beliefs that form our picture of the world and thereby of the normative and semantic structure of the dominant life practices. Thus they enable us to focus the blind spots in the perception and conception of ourselves, of other persons, and of the world.

2 Preliminary Remarks on Signs and Interpretation Perception, speech, and thought, in the domain of arts as well as in everyday life, are events that take place in signs and language. In case of a successful symbolization, i. e. when signs are used in such a way that they can be understood, both linguistic expressions as well as non-linguistic signs possess certain syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic features. In other words, they have meaning, reference, and truth conditions and refer to particular situations, times, and contexts. Wherever such syntactical, semantic, and pragmatic properties are present, however, a practice of interpreting those signs is already presupposed and relied on. In a perspective in which these features are determined by and rest upon interpretational practices, interpretation attains the status of a fundamental process. Usually, when we talk about signs, we think of signs in the strict sense of conventionally fixed symbols and patterns with stipulated meanings, references, and truth conditions. Such signs can be propositional or non-propositional. From this narrow sense of signs I would like to distinguish a broader sense, in which every sensible figure or structure can, in principle, become a sign when it enters a cognitive process of understanding, and, as we will see in the following, there are quite different ways to enter into such a process. Whether a sensi-

Focusing the Blind Spot. On the Inventive Use of Signs in Art


ble entity becomes a sign or not depends on acts of interpretation. And such interpretation is always bound to a practice in which the semantic and syntactic features of the signs are set up. This interpretational practice is the framework that marks the potentiality space for all kinds of creative symbolization (denotation, representation, exemplification, or expression). On the basis of the distinction between a narrow and a broader concept of signs, some further distinctive features can be specified, first with regard to the related symbolic functions: While representation is usually restricted to signs in a strict sense, presentation can be considered a basic function of all kinds of signs. Successful representation already presupposes presentation. In this point I disagree with John R. Searle, who conceives presentation as a subclass of representation. Furthermore, there are no inferential relations within the realm of signs in a broad sense. Inferentiality comes into play in the propositional and conceptual realm. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the distinction between the narrow and the wide concept of signs corresponds to the distinction between propositional and linguistic signs on the one hand and nonpropositional, pictorial, non-linguistic signs on the other hand. Particularly in arts, there are non-propositional signs that meet all requirements of the narrow sign concept. Otherwise, approaches like iconography and iconology would be impossible. Nevertheless, I think it can be shown that artistic creativity would not be possible without signs in a wider sense, and that, especially in contemporary and avant-garde art, the genesis of signs becomes the focus of attention (cf. Wagner 2008: 182– 197). Hand in hand with the widening of the conception of signs goes a broader understanding of interpretation. Thus, the hermeneutic interpretation of texts and images, as it has been addressed for example by Hans-Georg Gadamer, becomes just one kind of interpretation process among many others, from phenomenal discrimination, identification and re-identification, schematization, the setting of interrelations and classifications, up to explicit description, explanation, argumentation, adjudication, belief formation, justification, and theory construction. In this perspective, interpretational processes are pivotal on all levels of (to use a phenomenological expression) our being in the world, of our self-understanding, and the organization, structuring, and conception of our experience, from perception to thinking and speaking.

3 Theories of Creativity Against this background, we can now switch to the issue of creativity. Even if we restrict our investigation to the domain of art, creativity is not at all a homoge-


Astrid Wagner

neous phenomenon. There are many different artistic strategies to foment creativity and there are just as many related theories of creativity. Even in the philosophical tradition there are many different approaches to the question of creativity. Nevertheless, two main standard views of creativity can be distinguished that have been modified and further developed over and over until today: the first one is based on combinatorics and is inspired by Leibniz; the second one points to the intended violation of given rules and to the ingenious capacity to establish new rules. This second view is, above all, inspired by Kant, and the corresponding key capacity attributed to creative persons is a special kind of imagination that enables a person to accomplish what he calls “schematizing without concepts” (cf. Wagner 2008: 68 – 117). Both views are helpful to understand certain types of creativity, but both are likewise problematic and fragmentary. The problem of the combinatorial view does not only consist in the often addressed restriction of combinational possibilities, but also, and even more important with regard to artistic creativity, in the fact that it is not at all clear what elements should be combined in different and new ways. Even if we consider such realms of art where, at least for a certain time, sets of elements seem to be fixed—for example by Vitruvius’ books of architecture, or by the theory of harmony for musical composing, or within the framework of a special iconographic tradition—, the case in point still remains without reply: the question of which combinations of these elements are to be considered as not only new, but creative, inventive, and illuminating, and why that is the case. Thus, in the end the combinatorial view also comes to the question of rules. There is no recipe for creative combination, not even in the idealized case of given sets of elements. And if we have a closer look, we see that even in the stated paradigmatic cases, the elements could have been identified in other ways. We could, for example, have focused on materials instead of forms or on the different ways to produce sounds instead of the relevant features of the harmonic system. Although the disposition of trying unusual combinations and generating new and multidimensional associations might be considered a prerequisite of creative minds, the combinatorial theory of creativity is insufficient, in order to explain the creation of aesthetically enlightening and inspiring artworks or to mark its conditions. It does not explain how to distinguish between mere novelty within the combination of given elements on the one side and illuminating or stirring creative ways to use signs and symbols on the other side. This is why we will concentrate in the following on the second view, that is on the approach that links creativity with attempts of breaking, transforming, violating, discarding, or replacing previous and established rules and structures. This explanation of creativity meets, at first glance, a similar problem as the combinatorial view. It

Focusing the Blind Spot. On the Inventive Use of Signs in Art


is not at all obvious what are the rules to be violated or jettisoned. In order to add some clarity on that, I suggest to distinguish between three kinds of rules: first, the relatively narrow realm of explicit rules that in large part refer to techniques (for example the rules of counterpoint in composition); second, the immense field of implicit rules and regularities that are given by artistic traditions and by paradigmatic or style-setting artworks; and third, the implicit rules that guide our signo-interpretational and culture-specific life practices. The feature of inventive symbolization that I consider extremely relevant for the arts, and on which I would like to focus in the following, is mainly linked with the second and the third kind of rules, namely with the effort to address the symbol functions themselves by focusing on their assumptions and preconditions and by checking out their limits. Thus, such aspects of our world-pictures, our forms of life, and our conventional interpretation practices that are always operative and effective within our understanding of the world, of ourselves and of other persons, but which normally remain implicit, can be uncovered and brought into focus. This is what I would like to call the reflective function of art. Important aspects of this function have been addressed in different respects under the key term of the self-referentiality of art, prominently in the writings of Arthur C. Danto (e. g. Danto 1981), and recently for example by Georg W. Bertram (cf. Bertram 2014, chap. 3 and 4). Nevertheless, we will see that the reflective function is more comprehensive and goes beyond the concept of self-referentiality of art.

4 Creativity, Rules, and Practice Where there are explicit rules of artistic production, it is not very difficult to explain what it means to violate and transform them. To continue with the above given example we can see how, for instance, the reversion of the traditional rules of species counterpoint leads to forms of dissonant counterpoint as they have been theorized by Charles Seeger and used by Arnold Schönberg in his compositions. But what does it mean to focus on implicit rules and regularities or even to violate them? How can the artist do that if he or she does not explicitly know what the rules are? How can implicit semantic and normative features of our symbolizing and interpretational practices be made perceptible and brought to mind? In order to better understand the problem of implicit rules, it is worth having a closer look at some of Wittgenstein’s reflections on rule following. For Wittgenstein, normativity and intelligibility are ultimately based on the logic of language-games (he speaks of the grammar of language-games). By the


Astrid Wagner

term language-game he refers to all forms of symbolic expression immersed in practices, from gestures, facial expression, speech, and writing, up to mathematics and symbolic logic. It is the practical use that creates the meaning of words and other symbols and that determines their semantic and pragmatic properties (as there are meaning, reference, truth conditions, situation, context, etc.). However, in order to learn the meaning and use of a word or another type of sign, it is not necessary to explicitly know the rule governing the respective practice. In most cases we blindly follow the rules involved in a practice of interpretation. Sets of these practices, customs, and established ways of social and intellectual interaction constitute different forms of life which, accordingly, can be described as networks of proven, inter-subjectively accepted, and commonly lived practices. The form of life plays a quasi-transcendental role for our judgments (including the aesthetic judgments) and for our orientation in the world, remaining itself somehow untouchable, like an unquestionable factuality. We will come back to this point later. Let us first consider some further aspects of rules and understanding addressed by Wittgenstein that are important regarding the issue of creativity. We initially learn the meaning of signs not by definitions, but by being introduced or drilled in a practice. Although this act of learning does take place in a special situation, what we have to learn is to apply the sign correctly in similar contexts. However, the situations in which we use the sign, for example a word or a gesture, are never identical, and we always need imagination (and thus, a certain form of creativity) in order to identify kinship and similarity between one situation or context and another. That is why the “blurred edges” of concepts, the indistinctness and openness of signs and language, and the role of examples and samples are so important (PI 1958: 71– 73, 77, 88). It is very significant for our present issue that the operating rules of actual symbolization do not strictly determine the future use of a sign, neither in linguistic, nor in non-linguistic practices. Creativity of symbolization makes use just of the openness and polysemous nature of signs and languages (cf. Abel 2009). At the same time, this draws the attention to the sensual and aesthetic fundament of our language-games that has been addressed, for example, by Andrea Wilke in her paper on Wittgenstein’s philosophy of art (cf. Wilke 2012). Such attention is important in Wittgenstein’s approach not only with regard to the intuitive content of concepts, but also in respect of the pragmatic functions of the symbols themselves. Just think of his considerations on the semantic significance of such aspects of spoken language as intonation, phrasing, rhythm, pitch, volume, clang, color, breathing, modulation etc. “There is a strongly musical element in verbal lan-

Focusing the Blind Spot. On the Inventive Use of Signs in Art


guage. (A sigh, the intonation of voice in a question, in an announcement, in longing; all the innumerable gestures made with the voice.)” (Z 1967: 161) Let us note the point that the application of a sign “is not everywhere bounded by rules” (PI 1958: 84), neither in language-games nor in other symbolic practices. On the contrary, a certain openness and variability is conditional for the applicability of signs and symbols. And it is this dynamic feature of symbolic practices that allows us to “make up the rules as we go along” and even “to alter them—as we go along” (PI 1958: 83). No one demonstrated as clear as Wittgenstein that not only saying, but also showing depends on interpretation. Even the indexical dimension of language is not self-explanatory. “[A]n ostensive definition explains the use—the meaning— of the word just when the overall role of the word in language is already clear” (PI 1958: 30). And the same holds for the deictic function of rules themselves: A rule stands there like a sign-post.—Does the sign-post leave no doubt open about the way I have to go? Does it show which direction I am to take when I have passed it; whether along the road or the footpath or cross-country? But where is it said which way I am to follow it; whether in the direction of its finger or (e. g.) in the opposite one?—And if there were not a single sign-post, but a chain of adjacent ones or of chalk mark on the ground—is there only one way of interpreting them? (PI 1958: 85)

Against the background of our previous considerations, we would surely answer that there is always a certain margin of interpretation and that the limits of the different interpretations are not fixed in advance. They just may be tried out. The interesting question is: How far can we diverge from an established practice? How radically can we alter norms and standards? And that depends not only on ourselves, but on the needs, the interests, the willingness, and the flexibility of the other members of our symbolic community and, not to forget: on what Wittgenstein calls the “favor of nature” (OC 1974: 505). Furthermore, there is a large range of different forms of deviation and variation. For Wittgenstein, there is at least one important difference to be made with regard to the question of aesthetic rules: 1. First there are rules that come along with certain styles or traditions. These may be explicit rules in the sense of certain techniques but also may be implicit rules of the type that Wittgenstein connects with connoisseurship (Kennerschaft) and the role of art criticism. For Wittgenstein, the area in which the mastering of such rules is relevant is not at all restricted to fine arts but to the wide field of a cultivated taste that implies for example cuisine and fashion. The point here is to “get a feel for the rules” so that one can utter judgments like “now it sounds right”, “that’s correct” or “that’s appropriate”.


Astrid Wagner

2. From that field of cultivated taste Wittgenstein distinguishes the stirring, enlightening, and illuminating art where the knowledge of rules may be a background condition for understanding, but is not pivotal for its effect: When we talk of a Symphony of Beethoven we don’t talk of correctness. Entirely different things enter. One wouldn’t talk of appreciating the tremendous things in art. In certain styles in Architecture a door is correct, and you notice it. But in the case of a Gothic cathedral what we do is not at all to find it correct— it plays an entirely different role with us. The entire game is different. […] It is as different as to judge a human being and on the one hand say “He behaves well” and on the other hand “He made a great impression on me.” (LA 1966: I.23)

Nevertheless, this kind of tremendous art may become a paradigmatic sample for a whole new style, and it is, at the same time, always deeply connected with the grammar of our form of life.

5 Forms of Life and World-Pictures So let us come back to the question of how we can become aware of implicit parts and features of the network of beliefs that form our picture of the world and become aware of the normative and semantic structure of the dominant life practices that generate, establish, and pass these beliefs on. Human experience, and thus the experienced reality, are necessarily conditioned by symbolic and cultural practices, by world pictures and forms of life that generate different standards of rationality and different patterns of normativity. As we stated above, self-conception, world experience, and social relation depend on processes and practices of interpretation, from the sensual and perceptional level up to the intellectual level of reflected judgments. Even our normative standards and criteria of rationality and intelligibility are rooted in practices of interpretation and are embedded in networks of basic beliefs and convictions shared with others and valid within a social community. To such networks Wittgenstein refers with the term “world-picture”. On the epistemological level, world-pictures provide security and certainty with respect to certain convictions and beliefs. On a practical level, they play an important normative role insofar as they guide our actions and generate the criteria for their evaluation. Combining these two aspects, epistemological and normative, world-pictures are to be considered as the basis of the forms, standards, and principles of rationality and normativity operative within a community.

Focusing the Blind Spot. On the Inventive Use of Signs in Art


The world-picture, in the way Wittgenstein used the term, is a network of beliefs and convictions shared with others and valid within a social community. Let us keep in mind that such communities and their distinctive features can be of quite different shapes (cultural, scientific, religious, etc.) and that it is not at all clear where to trace the limits between different world-pictures, unless we are confronted with a conflictive situation that seems to have no reasonable solution. However, it is the shared world-picture where the normative and semantic structure of the dominant practices and beliefs becomes manifested. A prominent feature of such world-pictures, of these “inherited backgrounds”, is their holistic character. On the basis of Wittgenstein’s reflections at least two distinct levels appear on which holism becomes important for the issue we are treating. On the first level, we can state a kind of relational or structural holism. Wittgenstein shows that our beliefs form a whole complex that, as to its theoretical part, can be described as a system in which premises and conclusions are based on each other, while for its much larger and less systematic part that includes our common sense beliefs he uses metaphors like building, nest, network, or gearing, i. e. structures whose components are functionally related (cf. OC 1974: 140 f., 144, 248). These beliefs are not isolated items, but strongly interconnected. They are operative within whole networks. The holism related to the cohesion of beliefs is rooted in a semantic holism deployed in detail in the Philosophical Investigations where we can learn how the meaning of our symbolic expressions depend on other components of the language-game, especially on the situations and contexts in which they are used, on the actions and reactions of other speakers, and, thus, on the practices that fix the forms and circumstances of their use. The holistic character of our beliefs is also revealed by the limits of reasonable and meaningful doubt as to certain convictions, judgments, and postures that are taken for granted and that function as a “scaffold” or “rotational axis” within the whole complex of beliefs. These central beliefs, that include among others all the common sense propositions Moore tried to defend against skepticism, entrench whole sets of beliefs. But neither the metaphor of the anchor, nor of a foundation, aptly describe the function of such undoubted and unquestionable beliefs within the moving holistic structure of a belief network, so that Wittgenstein states: “I have arrived at the rock bottom of my convictions. And one might almost say that these foundation-walls are carried by the whole house” (OC 1974: 248). My thesis with regard to creative, illuminating art is that it allows us to realize part of the structure of this inhabited and permanently used house that usually does not come into the focus.


Astrid Wagner

6 Cognitive Functions of Art I hold that one of the most important cognitive functions of creative and illuminating art is to bring to light paradigmatic patterns or features of our forms of life and, thus, to unveil part of the holistic semantic and normative network of beliefs that forms our world-picture. Searching for the basis of these beliefs, of what seems self-evident to us and of what we intuitively understand, we sooner or later come to a point where we can only refer to a practice, a common modus operandi. It can be shown that the incorporation of such common practices and traditions permeates the experience of the life-world down to the perceptual and emotional level in such a way that they shape moral, as well as aesthetic, intuitions. In creative artworks some hidden aspects of this modus operandi can be addressed, brought to light, and made available even for a critical reflection. This is why art can have both epistemic and practical (social, political, or moral) functions. It can make visible implicit presuppositions of our interpretation practices, as well as parts of our networks of beliefs. These functions go beyond a mere internal relation as given by the self-referential character of art, in the way it has been emphasized by Danto. They permit reflection on the epistemic and normative structure of our life-world. However, it is important to state that the creative and inventive use of signs in art is not random, nor can we say that anything goes, because it is precisely the operative interpretation practices that, on the one hand, should be addressed, reflected, and transformed, but that, on the other hand, are the basis for meaningfulness and intelligibility. The task of creative art is to try out the range of possibilities of cognitive world disclosure by virtue of signs, given the interpretation practices operative within a community at a certain time. Art can unveil the blind spots of our perception and reflection and has done so in different ways in European culture. It can instantiate and thus make explicit (not in a conceptual sense) the implicit presuppositions and regularities of our signo-interpretational practices. While traditional forms of art focused above all on paradigmatic features of the respective world-pictures, the classical modernists began to pay attention to the conditions and the formation of perception and to experiment with perceptual patterns. Postmodern and contemporary art, in turn, often attracts attention to its own conditions and prerequisites and addresses the normative and semantic standards of art itself. Successful inventive symbolization does not produce incomprehension, but instead draws attention to conditions of understanding.

Focusing the Blind Spot. On the Inventive Use of Signs in Art


Bibliography Abel, Günter (2009): “The Riddle of Creativity: Philosophy’s View”. In: Peter Meusburger/Joachim Funke/Edgar Wunder (Eds.): Milieus of Creativity. An Interdisciplinary Approach to Spatiality of Creativity. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 53 – 72. Bertram, Georg W. (2014): Kunst als menschliche Praxis. Eine Ästhetik. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Boden, Margret (22004): The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms. London: Routledge. Danto, Arthur Coleman (1981): The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press. Wagner, Astrid (2008): Kognitive Dimensionen ästhetischer Erfahrung. Eine Untersuchung im Ausgang von ‘Kants Kritik der Urteilskraft’. Berlin: Parerga. Wilke, Andrea (2012): “Wittgensteins Philosophie der Kunst”. In: Wittgenstein-Studien 3, pp. 133 – 186. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1958): Philosophical Investigations/Philosophische Untersuchungen. G. E. M. Anscombe/Rush Rhees (Eds.). Second edition. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (PI) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1966): Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. Cyril Barrett (Ed.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (LA) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1974): On Certainty/Über Gewißheit. G. E. M. Anscombe/G. H. von Wright (Eds.). Reprinted with corrections and indices. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (OC) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1967): Zettel. Second edition. G. E. M. Anscombe/G. H. von Wright (Eds.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (Z)

Josef Früchtl

Trust in the World. Going to the Movies with Cavell, Wittgenstein, and Some Prior Philosophers Abstract: One of the challenging aspects of the philosophy of Stanley Cavell is the fact that he connects the central philosophical problem of scepticism with art and cinema. In doing this, he very much relies on Wittgenstein, but has to make two even larger argumentative steps that connect him to a theory of subjectivity, elaborated by German idealism, and to a theory of aesthetic experience first elaborated by Kant. Going to the movies with Cavell, Wittgenstein, and these prior philosophers means restoring our trust in the (modern) world.

We know from anecdotes that Wittgenstein, after teaching a philosophy class at Cambridge University, rushed to a movie theatre especially enjoying Hollywood movies, musicals, westerns, and detective movies. And like every cineaste, he sat in the very first row (Malcolm 1962: 27– 28). But we know, as well, that Wittgenstein’s philosophy, until recently, has had little influence on the study of film, corresponding to the general fact that he has written very little about philosophy of art. This situation is—slowly but continuously— changing. Among the group of people that are interested in philosophy and film, Wittgenstein, or let us say: a Wittgensteinian approach to philosophy and film, has attracted more and more attention (see Turvey 2009: 470 – 480, Gilmore 2005, Sinnerbrink 2011, Schmerheim 2016). Stanley Cavell, in such a context is a philosopher who has played an influential role as promoter. One of the challenging aspects of his philosophy is the fact that he connects a central philosophical problem— the problem of scepticism— with art and cinema. In doing this, he very much relies on Wittgenstein but—as I would like to demonstrate—has to make two even larger argumentative steps that connect him to a theory of subjectivity, elaborated by German idealism, and to a theory of aesthetic experience first elaborated by Kant. Going to the movies with Cavell, Wittgenstein, and these prior philosophers finally means restoring our trust in the world, more precisely the modern world. This is the general thesis I would like to argue for, hoping the argument for the thesis is fairly successful.

DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-014


Josef Früchtl

1 Scepticism and Acknowledgement Following the scholarly definition of scepticism, Cavell’s intricate argumentation for the primacy of the counter-principle—“acknowledgement”—can be concentrated on two focal points: on the problem of a relationship to the world as a whole, and on the problem of other minds. Concerning the latter, Cavell counters the sceptics (and their equally cognitivistic opponents) with the idea that what separates us as human beings or as subjects is not, or not primarily, our bodies, but our minds, or more precisely “a particular aspect or stance of the mind”. Cavell names this aspect “position” or “attitude”. Thus what separates us from each other as entities in space and time and as empirical subjectivities is an attitude, an ethos in the Greek sense of the word. Separateness, then, is something which can be denied or acknowledged (see Sparti/Hammer 2002: 21, Cavell 1979a: 369). Cavell’s concept of acknowledgement at first is distinct from the one which made Hegel famous in a German and continental European context. For Cavell’s, acknowledgement simply means that (expressive) statements by another party, or by another person, prompt a reaction, regardless of which one. This reaction can be positive, indifferent or negative. It is the reaction as such which is important, for it conveys a non-epistemic confirmation of the other person. For Cavell, the attitude of acknowledgement represents “a completely elementary form” of intersubjective confirmation located “below the threshold”, marking the “affirmation of specific characteristics of the opposite person in question”. Thus, the attitude of acknowledgement is an affirmation of the non-specific characteristics of a person. This fundamental level is concerned—as we could say—with “existential”, or as I prefer to say: ontological affirmation (Honneth 2005: 60). Cavell’s argumentation in favour of the primacy of acknowledgement also concentrates on a second context. Cavell sees the “truth” or the “moral of scepticism” in the idea “that the human creature’s basis in the world as a whole, its relation to the world as such, is not that of knowing”. The term “world as a whole” (Welttotalität) suggests a Kantian understanding, and in fact, Cavell readily refers to “Kant’s insight” that there are “limitations of knowledge”, but that these are not, or do not have to be “failures” (Cavell 1979a: 241, see 48). They are only failures from the point of view of a subject which misunderstands itself cognitivistically, which would like to assume its place opposite to the world as a whole, and which in so doing becomes placeless and homeless in it. For the concept of the world, which is, as Kant clarifies, actually an “inclusive concept” (Inbegriff) or an “idea” (Cavell 1979a: 393, Kant KrV: 406 – 409, Gabriel 2008: 141), this means that in every single act of knowledge we are necessitated to presume a whole, a referential context which, however, we cannot secure cognitively. This

Going to the Movies with Cavell, Wittgenstein, and Some Prior Philosophers


condition of the possibility of knowledge must itself remain within the area of non-knowledge. “Knowing” things (in the world) is one thing; “revealing” (in German “offenbaren”) the world in which these things have their place (their significance) is quite another (Cavell 1979a: 54).

2 Film and Acknowledgement For Cavell, scepticism and its counterpart, acknowledgement, illustrate the central problem not only of philosophy, but also of art, especially of the art form of tragedy. The tragic dimension of the sceptic as person, which consists in continually denying the existence of the other, the so-called problem of other minds, indeed of existence at all, and in so doing finding himself, the others and the objective world in isolation and meaninglessness, emerges with existential vehemence in the tragedies, for Cavell predominantly those of Shakespeare (Sparti/ Hammer 2002: 23). As for film, Cavell offers the far-reaching hypothesis that it is “a moving image of scepticism” (Cavell 1979b: 188). This means, first of all, that the world which is perceivable on the screen is inaccessible (in a literal sense) for us as viewers, just as for the figures in the screen world, i. e. our world is vice versa inaccessible (Cavell 1979b: 24, 155). Only a movie is able to play with that situation. Then all persons involved are moving between their ontological dimensions, like in Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), or in Last Action Hero (1993, with Arnold Schwarzenegger). Film presents us as viewers with a world to which we may have access in our imagination, and yet not ontologically, at least not at the moment at which we perceive it. As agents we are excluded from it. It is a world, i. e. an action context, in which we cannot be physically present and act in. And this description leads to the well-known sceptical reaction that the world projected onto the screen (thus) does not exist. But film is a moving picture not only of scepticism, but also of acknowledgement. Corresponding to the two focal points in Cavell’s argumentation for the primacy of acknowledgement, film provides two possible ways of awarding evidence to this primacy. The first one, the acknowledgement of the other, is most at home in the Hollywood comedies of remarriage. Whilst in melodramas the external presentation of happiness in marriage is male-dominated, only permitting the wife to find her own voice and express her individuality in the painful processes of self-discovery, the comedies of remarriage (made prominent by actors like Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant) show how an individual can only build up a relationship to himself with the help of other individuals, through friendship and love. Here, indeed, we can hear Hegel’s concept of ac-


Josef Früchtl

knowledgement in the background. All the verbal battles between the still married and not yet remarried couples are aimed at a readjustment of balance between the self and other. In the melodrama the (married) man fights against the idea of his wife being acknowledged (by himself and by others); in the comedy of remarriage, the battle of the sexes rages turbulently yet with ultimate bite inhibition, a purely verbal battle for mutual acknowledgement (Cavell 1996: 9, 30, Sparti/Hammer 2002: 29, Rothman 2009: 351). Film also, however, provides a solution to the second central aspect of Cavell’s concept of acknowledgement, namely the relationship to the world as a whole. Building on Kant’s description of the problem, and addressing those problems brought forth by Wittgenstein (and Heidegger), Cavell’s solution is that we as recognizing beings are forced to anticipate a whole (world), but that we are not capable of grasping it cognitively. This accepted coercion, or this insight into a necessity, is the correct consequence to draw from Kant’s theory of finiteness. Film, based on the technique of photography, draws this consequence in its own way. “The camera, being finite, crops a portion from an indefinitely larger field; continuous portions of that field could be included in the photograph in fact taken; in principle it could all be taken. […] When a photograph is cropped, the rest of the world is cut out” (Cavell 1979b: 24). A photograph is “of a world,” where “world” is a term of totality for an infinite referential context. The recording camera always cuts something out of the world, always presenting a cutting of the world. That is its standpoint of finiteness. But, turned on its head, this means that every cutting implies the whole, that every visual presentation implies what it is not presenting. In the case of the photographic picture, as opposed to a painted picture, the infinite is an implication of the finite. On the other hand, two obvious objections can be raised for a critique of Cavell’s film philosophy pursuant to his two focal points: acknowledgement of the other and acknowledgement of the world as a whole. Firstly, solving a problem which arises through the medium of film by employing a sub-genre of film must be unsatisfactory. As a medium, film places the viewer in a state of isolation, expressed in a cultural-historical way: in the state of Cartesian, Protestant and tragic subjectivity which existentially describes scepticism. A genre such as the comedies of remarriage can, at best, balance out this formal deficiency of the medium, but not solve it. Secondly, it is obvious that the world as a whole is an implication not only of film, but also of photography. The film’s achievement concerning these two points—its implication of the world and acknowledgement of subjectivity— would therefore have to be presented in a different way. I shall touch upon that way in my further comments below.

Going to the Movies with Cavell, Wittgenstein, and Some Prior Philosophers


3 Subjectivity, Modernity, and Movement In which way, then, firstly, can film as a medium achieve acknowledgement of subjectivity? In order to answer this question in terms of Cavell, it seems fitting to extend his understanding of the concepts of subjectivity and acknowledgement by including a new dimension crystallised in German idealism. Both concepts—subjectivity and acknowledgement—are considerably less marked by Descartes than by Kant and his German Idealist successors. Thus, what I want to do at this point is obviously not guided by suggestions presented by the later Wittgenstein, though he will pop up in my final considerations. So what about subjectivity? According to Kant and his Idealist successors, it is a relational concept. It is the term describing an entity whose relationship to other is accompanied by a permanent relationship to self. What we call “I” is, within the so-called mentalist, or subject-object paradigm, nothing other than a (double) relationship. Anyone saying “I” has always already, thus in the mode of an a priori perfect tense, doubled himself. He or she has produced an equation with “I” on both sides. An “I” can only exist as this relationship. It is not a thing, not an object. It is nothing other than the relationship itself, infinite self-reference. This brings me to a comparison—a speculative analogy—between subjectivity and film, in which the tertium comparationis is movement. As infinite self-reference the Self is a dynamic relation, so to speak a kind of pure movement, or a kind of mental perpetuum mobile. And however one wishes to define film and the type of movement which might be characterized within it, it will not be possible without the category of movement as such. Siegfried Kracauer (for him movement, for example chases, are quasi made for the screen), Gilles Deleuze (the moving-image and the higher estimated time-image), Noël Carroll (film belongs to the class of moving images) and others offer well-known examples for such a thesis (Kracauer 1985: 71– 72, Deleuze 1986, Carroll 1996: 49, Currie 1995: 19 – 47). “Movement” here has three meanings: the mechanical meaning due to the camera and the projection machine; the meaning of objective illusion created by the acceleration of sequences of images; and above all consciously constructed sequences of images via montage (which gives us the impression of a dynamics of space without moving our own body). Within this framework of a theory of self-consciousness, named especially by Hegel, acknowledgement is the result of an altercation, a “movement” back and forth, in which each subject attempts to grasp the other. But since grasping the other is an act of objectification, it includes seeing the other as an object and insofar destroying the other in its self-reliance. Thus in the “movement” of ac-


Josef Früchtl

knowledgement each subject attempts in externally directed action to do what it has to do for internal reasons: to objectify itself. A subject can achieve consciousness of itself only by objectifying itself; this internal dynamics has an external equivalent in the objectification of another subject because in the process of acknowledgement, as well, it is a necessary step to see this subject as an object. Self-consciousness is a result of a process of objectification. The cultural and artistic medium which can, better than any other, present this complicated movement or process of self-objectification is film, feature film, as literature and theatre but also dance are weaker competitors. It exhibits a story of people who interact with each other and their environment trying to objectivise themselves on a level of reciprocal recognition. At the same time this external relationship between (inter)acting subjectivities represents the internal relationship of subjectivity trying to objectivise itself. In both cases we have to deal with an infinite relationship. What we call subjectivity or self-consciousness is nothing but movement. Of course, I am aware that these propositions are in need of further and detailed argumentation. I have done that in my recent books (Früchtl 2009, Früchtl 2013). What I can present here, is only the outline of that argumentation. But my first proposition is clear: film is the adequate medium of subjectivity. In it the subject finds the symbolic-aesthetic acknowledgement best suited to its formal philosophical structure worked out by German idealism. And—extending my proposition—as long as subjectivity, again in line with Hegel, also functions as a principle of Modernity (see Habermas 1990), it becomes clear that the presented essentialistic determination of film in fact is a modern one, or put another way, that it requires relativisation in historic terms. For now, two questions may remain. The first one is whether the concept of acknowledgement as we know it from German idealism may be assigned to the relationship between spectator (subject) and movie (object). In my reading, Cavell is working with two concepts of acknowledgement: an ontological-existentialist and a social. The first one stands in the tradition from Kierkegaard to Heidegger and Sartre, the second one from Fichte and Hegel to Honneth. In Cavell’s Hollywood comedies of remarriage the figures act in the sense of a social and reciprocal acknowledgement, though Cavell doesn’t refer explicitly to the German idealist tradition, only indirectly, we may say, via romanticism and the American transcendentalism of Emerson and Thoreau. But if it is about the relationship between spectator and the world on screen, we cannot strictly work with the social concept of acknowledgement. In that case, acknowledgement means that the contemplating or perceiving subject feels provoked to show a reaction which in fact is a non-epistemic confirmation: not of what is going on on

Going to the Movies with Cavell, Wittgenstein, and Some Prior Philosophers


screen, but that there is something going on. The fact that a subject is reacting to something is already a first and basic act of acknowledging it. Beyond that, if we conceive of the cineastically perceiving and experiencing subject in the sense of the German idealist theory of the Self, that Self has to follow the infinite dynamics, so to speak the internal movement, that is hidden in the act of self-identification, which in fact is an equation: saying “I” implies “I=I”. Based on that dynamic structure, the Self recognizes itself in the structure of mobilization of a film. The Self reacts to a film before—in a systematic, not a temporal way—reacting to its content. The infinite inner dynamics of subjectivity mirrors itself in the dynamics of the medium of film. And if Hegel is right in claiming for the first time that subjectivity is the principle of Modernity as well, then film is the most adequate aesthetic medium of that epoch. But why—one might ask anew—isn’t this true for music, too? Music, too, is an art of “movement”, of dynamics of tones and acoustic-compositional forms. My answer, again very quickly, would be that film relies on the structure of space and time, not—like music does—only of time. As Erwin Panofsky has already stated, film offers a “dynamisation of space” and a respective “spatialisation of time”. Different to what is happening on a theatre stage, it is not only bodies that are moving in space but space itself: it is approaching, drawing back, turning around, dissolving and taking shape again (Panofsky 1999: 25, see also Seel 2005: 182– 185). In the case of film, seeing means perceiving and experiencing a permanently changing, temporally structured space. Film offers a mobile and pictorial experience of space, the experience of a virtual mobile space. And to this epistemological and ontological structure, film finally adds the performance we know from literature and theatre: acting and verbalising figures that in principal refer to each other in the way of mutual recognition. This is a unique achievement of film that illustrates, seen against the background of Cavell, its twofold manner of acknowledgement. The second question that remains is whether film as an aesthetic-technological medium does not harken back to a conception of the Self which, following the linguistic turn, either no longer stands up at all or only in a modified form. As is well known, German Idealism pursued Descartes’ mental representation model, according to which the word “I” stands for a representation (repraesentatio), albeit a very special one, one which represents nothing (sensual), one to which we cannot refer directly, but only regressively-analytically. From this, 20th century linguistic philosophy infers a procession from the substantivistic self to the personal pronoun “I”, analysing the use of this expression and concluding that this expression is “not a concept, not a proper noun, not a label for something (including a representation), but a singular term with an exclusively index-


Josef Früchtl

ical function”. The meaning of the word “I” is to be found not in the fact “that it denotes, but that it indicates” (Schnädelbach 2012: 98). This question can be answered in two ways. On the one hand, in subjectphilosophical terms, the critique based on language philosophy does have to be taken seriously, and yet it is patently not capable of completely replacing the programme of consciousness philosophy. The works of Manfred Frank stand for a critique of the critique (see Frank 1991, Frank 2012). On the other hand, in film-philosophical terms, it should be emphasised that the limits of the mentalistic-idealistic conception of the self can also, and especially, be demonstrated using film, bringing its indexical character to the fore. Film does not primarily show something by pointing towards it in the manner of a sign, but by creating a presence, a sense which cannot be fully expressed in propositions. The showing itself does not fully merge into its apparent message, precisely because of its underlying movement. To this extent, in a sense, film shows that which is gestic. In the words of Kant—to whom I will refer to in the following section—, it indicates something, namely that those who refer to themselves by saying “I” can also refer to the world as something which is “fitting” for them.

4 Aesthetic Experience, the World as a Whole, and Trust So far I have argued for the first aspect of acknowledgement—the acknowledgement of subjectivity—within the framework of cinema. Secondly, the philosophy of Kant and German Idealism also seem to be helpful concerning clarification of the cineastic acknowledgement of the world as a whole, albeit with one major difference. Whereas acknowledgement of the subjectivity specific to Modernity is best achieved by the medium of film, an equal privilege cannot be claimed for film regarding acknowledgement of the world as a whole, or at least not while it is still dependent upon the technique of photography or is based on the trusted realism of everyday practicality. This is even true of an animationstrong genre such as “mind-game movies”, films which play in the heads of the main characters and therefore at the same time play a game with the viewer, frequently bound up in epistemological and ontological confusions (Elsaesser 2009). In Inception (2010, by Christopher Nolan), a film about a dream within a dream within a dream, the cityscape of Paris collapses in on itself like an egg box; a wonderful, completely original image; but in order to have such an effect, our everyday realism—so to say, our photographic realism—is required.

Going to the Movies with Cavell, Wittgenstein, and Some Prior Philosophers


The imagery of film relies to an unavoidable extent on recordings of our everyday world. In order to acknowledge the world as a whole cineastically, it is necessary to take two larger argumentative steps. Firstly, one has to deviate to the more general level of aesthetic experience, and for this Kant remains the best starting block. The games of Verstand and Einbildungskraft, of our linguistic-logical and imaginative capacity, which constitutes aesthetic judging permits no cognitive or otherwise definitive judgements. But in the case of aesthetic judgments the strange agreement (Übereinstimmung or Zusammenstimmung) between the cognitive capacities which are actually directed against each other—since our understanding wants to have rules and laws whereas imagination wants to be productive without any law—permits us to conclude the agreement of subjectivity and objectivity, of our self and of the world. In his early works (Kant Refl.Log.: 1820a), Kant coined a formulation for this which sounds just as old-fashioned and classically ancient as it does timeless and gentle: “Beautiful things indicate that human beings match (fit in) the world” (Die schönen Dinge zeigen an, dass der Mensch in die Welt passe). The question of how one feels as a reasonable being would have to be answered in Kantian terms indeed as follows: “One feels at home in oneself and in the world” (Recki 2006: 102). But it has to be repeated that this is a strange feeling, as strange as the agreement between the cognitive faculties, and that it is primarily an epistemological-ontological feeling, not an ethical or political one. The ontological affirmation provided by an aesthetic experience has no implication of political conservatism. The aesthetic feeling of fitting in the world (as such) is prior to a political or ethical judgement, and thus means more than a Wittgensteinian fitting in a way of life (see Scruton 2011). Aesthetic experiences indicate, in an ontological or existential sense, that the basic relationship between man and the world can be viewed as a matching and a match. This matching can now be further explained in a second step, using the concept of trust. Philosophically speaking, this term has been a part of Political Philosophy since Hobbes and has become a familiar term in Moral Philosophy through a criticism of Kant put forward by Annette Baier and Carol Gilligan. In Sociology, the term has acted as a functional compensation for knowledge since Georg Simmel. Under the conditions of extensive anonymity, coordinated action is not possible in any other way (Hartmann 2001: 10 – 12; Giddens 1990: 29, 88, 92; O’Neill 2002: 6). For my theme, a psychological meaning of the trust concept is particularly relevant, namely what Erik Erikson called “basic trust” (in German “Urvertrauen”). The sense of the reality of things and human beings is here the product of a relationship of trust that means of a stable, positive interaction. A lack of reality, in reverse, indicates a lack of trust.


Josef Früchtl

And this is precisely Cavell’s theory with regard to sceptics. They deny reality because they lack trust, and they lack it because they cannot build upon the stability, however unstable, of positive interactional relationships. To quote Hilary Putnam, they cannot build upon the “shockingly simple” insight from Wittgenstein’s On Certainty that “a language game is only possible if one trusts something” or “relies on something” (“… dass ein Sprachspiel nur möglich ist, wenn man sich auf etwas verlässt. (Ich habe nicht gesagt ‘auf etwas verlassen kann’)”) (Putnam 1995: 177). Sceptics cannot, as Martin Hartmann puts it, rely on a “practice of trust”, which, because it cannot be defined as a practice and yet provides the context for rules and criteria, presupposes a “trust in practice”; a trust in the existence of a practice of trust. According to Hartmann, the vehemence of this vicious circle can be removed by giving the trust “a moderately existential character”, that means to the extent that one names it with recourse to what psychology calls “basic trust” (in German Urvertrauen) and phenomenology calls “trust in the world” (Weltvertrauen). Normally, as is well known, we rely on the fact that a building will not collapse, that the sun will rise and that our fellow men will not approach us with (very) evil actions. Hartmann initially rejects this manner of speaking because it fails to fulfil a basic condition of action, namely the featuring of options. Where we cannot act any differently because we have no alternative, we cannot trust. To this extent it does not really make sense to say that one trusts in the fact that the building one is entering will not collapse. But for Hartmann, as a trust in practice, basic trust or trust in the world is justified. We can do nothing other than to trust that those in whom we place our trust are actually pursuing our practical understanding of trust (see Hartmann 2011: 31, 71, 107, 114, 119, 311). To the extent, then, that an aesthetic experience—that means, still closely following Kant: the interaction (Zusammenspiel) of our epistemic dimensions of experience, i. e. of sensuousness, imagination and reason—in other words: the interaction of affections-perceptions, imaginings and interpretations—permits us to conclude an interaction between the subject of the said experience and the world, such an aesthetic experience achieves an acknowledgement of the world as a whole. As an aesthetic practice, it reinforces that existential or ontological affirmation which we exercise in our various lifeworld, in particular ontogenetic-intersubjective practices. This is, however, as I have said already, an achievement of the aesthetic, and not solely the cineastic experience. Cineastic experiences restore our trust in the modern world; aesthetic experiences restore our trust in the world (as such).

Going to the Movies with Cavell, Wittgenstein, and Some Prior Philosophers


5 A Last Remark: Trust and Love Let me come back to Cavell for the last time. In his extraordinary book The Claim of Reason we can find an aphoristic—and beautiful—statement substituting the term “trust” by “love”. The context is Wittgenstein’s simulated discussion with a sceptic asking: “But, if you are certain, isn’t it that you are shutting your eyes in face of doubt?” (“Aber schließt du eben nicht nur vor dem Zweifel die Augen, wenn du sicher bist?”). Wittgenstein’s answer: “They are shut” (“Sie sind mir geschlossen”) is interpreted by Cavell in the following way: ‘They (my eyes) are shut’, as a resolution, or confession, says that one can, for one’s part, live in the face of doubt.—But doesn’t everyone, everyday?—It is something different to live without doubt, without so to speak the threat of scepticism. To live in the face of doubt, eyes happily shut, would be to fall in love with the world. For if there is a correct blindness, only love has it. (Cavell 1979b: 431)

Relationships of love, friendship and concern promote the practice of trust in a special way. They are felt by the subjects to be so necessary that they are apparently without alternative. But—as said above—where there is no alternative, there is no action and therefore no trust (trust needs the featuring of options, of acting differently). But it is well known that subjects do not feel it to be this way at all. It is precisely these relationships which are overwhelmingly deemed to be marked by trust. The situation here is thus another, and I follow Hartmann again: A loving being is namely “not a being which cannot act differently, it is a being which does not want to act differently”. With the event of the onset of love, the spontaneous “decision” is made “to not want to decide any longer” (Hartmann 2011: 97). Without really realising it, one has opted for trust. Cavell reminds us that accepting the attitude of trust is meant as entering a practice under unlikely conditions. Cavell’s formulation, quoted above, is cautious, not to say: sceptic. “If” there is a solution at all, it “would be” the one of love, a special kind of trust. Without realising it, the sceptic would have fallen in love with the world, with existence, and would have opted for (not completely, but always partly) blind trust. In so doing he would become a true anti-sceptic, namely a practical one.


Josef Früchtl

Bibliography Carroll, Noëll (1996): Theorizing the Moving Image. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cavell, Stanley (1979a): The Claim of Reason: Wittgenstein, Skepticism, Morality, and Tragedy. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cavell, Stanley (1979b): The World Viewed. Enlarged Edition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Cavell, Stanley (1996): Contesting Tears. The Hollywood Melodrama of the Unknown Woman. Chicago, London: The University of Chicago Press. Currie, Gregory (1995): Image and Mind. Film, Philosophy, and Cognitive Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Deleuze, Gilles (1986): The Movement-Image. Cinema 1. Hugh Tomlinson/Barbara Habberjam (Transl.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Elsaesser, Thomas (2009): “The Mind-Game-Film”. In: Warren Buckland (Ed.): Puzzle Films: Complex Story Telling in Contemporary Cinema. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 13 – 41. Frank, Manfred (1991): Selbstbewusstsein und Selbsterkenntnis. Stuttgart: Reclam. Frank, Manfred (2012): Ansichten der Subjektivität. Berlin: Suhrkamp. Früchtl, Josef (2009): The Impertinent Self. A Heroic History of Modernity. Sarah L. Kirkby (Transl.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Früchtl, Josef (2013): Vertrauen in die Welt. Eine Philosophie des Films. Munich: Wilhelm Fink. Gabriel, Markus (2008): Antike und moderne Skepsis. Zur Einführung. Hamburg: Junius. Giddens, Anthony (1990): The Consequences of Modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Gilmore, Richard A. (2005): Doing Philosophy at the Movies. Albany: State University of New York Press. Habermas, Jürgen (1990): The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Twelve Lectures. Frederick G. Lawrence (Transl.). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. Hartmann, Martin (2001): “Einleitung”. In: Martin Hartmann/Claus Offe (Eds.): Vertrauen. Die Grundlage des sozialen Zusammenhalts. Frankfurt, New York: Campus, pp. 7 – 34. Hartmann, Martin (2011): Die Praxis des Vertrauens. Berlin: Suhrkamp. Honneth, Axel (2005): Verdinglichung. Eine anerkennungstheoretische Studie. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Kant, Immanuel (1968): “Kritik der reinen Vernunft”. In: Werkausgabe. Bd. IV. Wilhelm Weischedel (Ed.). Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. (KrV) Kant, Immanuel (1914): “Reflexionen zur Logik”. In: Kants gesammelte Schriften. Akademie-Ausgabe. Vol. XVI. Königlich Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Ed.). Berlin: Reimer. (Refl.Log.) Kracauer, Siegfried (1985): Theorie des Films. Die Errettung der äußeren Wirklichkeit. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Malcolm, Norman (1962): Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir. Oxford: Oxford University Press. O’Neill, Onora (2002): A Question of Trust, The BBC Reith Lectures 2002. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Panofsky, Erwin (1999): “Stil und Medium im Film”. In: Ders.: Stil und Medium im Film & Die ideologischen Vorläufer des Rolls-Royce-Kühlers. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, pp. 19 – 58. Putnam, Hilary (1995): Renewing Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Recki, Birgit (2006): Die Vernunft, ihre Natur, ihr Gefühl und der Fortschritt. Paderborn: Fink.

Going to the Movies with Cavell, Wittgenstein, and Some Prior Philosophers


Rothman, William (2009): “Stanley Cavell”. In: Paisley Livingston/Carl Plantinga (Eds.): The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film. London, New York: Routledge, pp. 344 – 355. Schmerheim, Philipp (2016): Skepticism Films: Knowing and Doubting the World in Contemporary Cinema. New York, London: Bloomsbury. Schnädelbach, Herbert (2012): Was Philosophen wissen und was man von ihnen lernen kann. Munich: Beck. Scruton, Roger (2011): “A Bit of Help From Wittgenstein”. In: British Journal of Aesthetics 51. Iss. 3, pp. 309 – 313. Seel, Martin (2005): Aesthetics of Appearing. John Farrell (Transl.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Sinnerbrink, Robert (2011): New Philosophies of Film: Thinking Images. London, New York: Bloomsbury. Sparti, Davide/Hammer, Espen (2002): “Einleitung”. In: Stanley Cavell: Die Unheimlichkeit des Gewöhnlichen und andere philosophische Essays. Davide Sparti/Espen Hammer (Eds.). Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, pp. 7 – 38. Turvey, Malcolm (2009): “Wittgenstein”. In: Paisley Livingston/Carl Plantinga (Eds.): The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Film. London, New York: Routledge, pp-470 – 480.

David Wagner

Walton’s “Vivacity” and Cinematic Realism Abstract: If we consider fictional motion pictures as props in a game of makebelieve (Walton 1990), it should be irrelevant whether these films aim at a high degree of verisimilitude. Walton claims that in order to use depictions as fictions what we need is not co-identity with natural appearance, but a sufficient amount of “richness” and “vivacity” for our spontaneous imaginings to arise. – Filmmaker Peter Jackson’s use of HFR technologies together with CGI and 3D in his Hobbit-Trilogy has led movie audiences to reject the new “life-like” images in favour of ordinary cinematic experience. Jackson’s foray into new screening technologies seems to produce experiences one needs to get used to. Central to this essay is the notion that the experience of realism is relative to the observer and very likely an acquired habit. This claim, made earlier already by Jakobson (1987), Steinberg (1972), and Goodman (1976), raises the question of how we come to employ Walton’s criteria of richness and vivacity. Is the persuasive power of images conventional too?

1 Seeing and “Imagining Seeing” The aim of my essay is to shed some light on Kendall Walton’s use of the term “vivacity” and its possible role in the discussion of cinematic realism. In doing so I will make reference to a paradoxical phenomenon that occurred when filmmaker Peter Jackson introduced HFR-3D, a technology that in addition to its 3D-effects doubles the usual frame rate of filming and projecting a motion picture from the standard of 24 frames per second (fps) to 48 fps. Paradoxically, at the screenings, the public felt that his movie did not look “real”, while the aim of the newly employed technology had been precisely to enhance the reality effect for its audience. One central claim of Kendall Walton’s book Mimesis as Make-Believe (1990) is the notion that we use pictures in a very different way from sentences. While the sense of spoken or written assertions depends on context, their semantic content, and their reference function, pictures, contrastingly, need not refer in a comparable way: their main function, according to Walton, is one of props in authorised games of make-believe. Walton’s theory is one of pictorial use, his interest lies in understanding what we do with pictures: “[…] depiction is a pragmatic notion, a matter of the use to which things with semantic content are to be put. […] The use of pictures in visual games is in a certain way prior DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-015


David Wagner

to their possession of semantic content. […] We must use a picture in a visual game in order to understand what is being said by means of it.” (Walton 1990: 351) When Noël Carroll in 1991 reviewed Kendall Walton’s Mimesis as MakeBelieve, he focused on the topic I am concerned with here: the audience’s psychological participation in fiction. Carroll thinks that Walton’s optimistic account of games of make-believe and our ability to participate in them generates problems of its own: [I]f we adopt Walton’s picture, I find it difficult to explain why so often we are not moved by fictions. […] quite frequently the works designed to authorize such games fail to promote the anticipated emotional state (however one wishes to describe that state) that the fiction was designed to promote. […] That is, there are many fictions where the audience has a prop and where what the prop has been designed for is evident, but where one just doesn’t get caught up in it. (Carroll 1991: 385)

My argument will lead to the conclusion that fictions sometimes fail to become “vivid” or “realistic” experiences because our potential for spontaneous imaginings, the ability to vividly imagine seeing something, i. e. —to successfully enter a visual game of make-believe—is bound by conventions. To begin with, and in order to rehearse Kendall Walton’s terminology, let us consider a random screenshot from Peter Jackson’s movie The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey (2012). Five minutes and twenty-eight seconds into the movie, the cinema audience is presented with a view of the balcony of the dwarves’ fortress castle Erebor. This is just the very moment Smaug, a gigantic dragon, wreaks havoc on the scenery below the castle. In Walton’s terminology, it is real that you, as an audience-member, see in this image on the screen a bearded, middle-aged man and to the far right of the picture frame, a knight in black armour holding a lance. The bearded man, dressed in a brown medieval outfit and wearing black gloves, is gazing beyond some kind of balustrade of strangely shaped blocks of concrete or styrofoam, splattered with green paint. In the left third of the foreground there seems to be a metal lance, similar to the one held by the knight to the right of the image. The background reveals three columns of fake marble—the kind you may have seen in scores of baroque churches—and perhaps another balustrade or windowsill. Watching this scene in a movie theatre, or even as part of a digital projection of the DVD or Blu-ray Disc version, enables you to enter into yet another mode of looking at this image: A mode parallel to seeing its real constituents. You could have played its authorised visual game of make-believe. Using this scene as a prop, you would have imagined seeing its fictional contents: That on the balcony

Walton’s “Vivacity” and Cinematic Realism


of the fortress city Erebor, Balin, a dwarf, and an unnamed dwarf-knight stand gazing beyond the marble balustrade at Smaug, a dragon from the north of Middle-earth, who is at that very moment engaged in burning the place to cinders. Peter Jackson certainly did not intend to bring Smaug’s destruction into the cinemas, his use of HFR in combination with 3D aims not at making fictional things real, but to “get the actual spectator into a fictional world, to expand the picture world around the spectator” (Walton 2008: 70). This is just what Kendall Walton in his Mimesis as Make-Believe describes in reference to Caravaggio’s adolescent Bacchus (c. 1595 – 1597), who extends a glass of wine to the observer in anticipation of future 3D-technologies. The problem with Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit was, however, that the increase of photographic realism caused by HFR, also increased the clarity and definition of fake sets and the actors’ make-up. John Knoll, co-creator of Photoshop and visual effects supervisor and CCO for George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, is reported by Kevin Kelly to have explained the resulting phenomenon along these lines: Imagine you had the lucky privilege to be invited by Peter Jackson onto the set of the Hobbit. You were standing right off to the side while they filmed Bilbo Baggins in his cute hobbit home. Standing there on the set you would notice the incredibly harsh lighting pouring down on Bilbo’s figure. It would be obviously fake. And you would see the makeup on Bilbo’s [face] in the harsh light. The text-book reason why filmmakers add makeup to actors and then light them brightly is that film is not as sensitive as the human eye, so these aids compensated for the film’s deficiencies of being insensitive to low light and needing the extra contrast provided by makeup. These fakeries were added to “correct” film so it seemed more like what we saw. But now that 48HFR and hi-definition video mimic our eyes better, it’s like we are standing on the set, and we suddenly notice the artifice of the previously needed aids. When we view the video in “standard” format, the lighting correctly compensates, but when we see it in high frame rate, we see the artifice of the lighting as if we were standing there on the set. (Knoll as reported by Kelley 2013)

It seems that the achieved photographic realism worked directly against the necessary suspension of disbelief we need to enter a Waltopian game of visual make-belief. Put differently, while the film itself looked “real”, the depicted fictional world looked “fake”. Which leads me to the questions that interest me here: Is our acceptance of certain visual modes habitual?—And where does cinematic realism come into all of this? Isn’t all we require for a game of makebelieve to “work” a sufficiently incomplete prop to trigger our imagination? Let me start with the second question. A tentative definition of realism may be helpful. How about this fairly common-sensical view: Realism is the iconic


David Wagner

reference-relation of a pictorial representation to its object(s) in the real world. This sounds pretty uncontroversial. After all, we all know what the real world looks like and we should recognise a depiction that highly resembles an aspect of this real world, right? —A high degree of verisimilitude would make for a high degree of realism. If it is verisimilitude we are after, photography and analogue motion pictures stand out, and this is, indeed, what has been claimed of photography from its historical beginnings. Walton wants to broaden our understanding of pictures by his theory of visual games of make-believe. It is his intention to show that depictions are not “simply imitations of visual forms” (Walton 2008: 78) but rather means by which we manage to imaginatively expand our psychological make-up. Engaging in visual games of make-believe may cause us to empathise with the scenes we see in depictions. Which does not mean, however, that we ignore their material quality: the colours and grain of the photographs, the brush-strokes of the paintings, the structure of the canvases or screens are all there to be seen as well. Walton thus understands our involvement with depictions as being twofold. Medium awareness ideally adds to our aesthetic engagement with the work of art. As an extension of his theory of make-believe, Walton’s take on photographic realism is equally psychological. It presents photographs and analogue motion pictures as versatile aids to vision, comparable to mirrors, telescopes, or microscopes. Walton claims that we really see the world through photographs, that photographs are transparent (cf. Walton 1984: 251). In our treatment of paintings or drawings, the aspect of imagining ourselves seeing their objects plays a crucial role. When we are seeing through a photograph, however, we truly, albeit indirectly, see the depicted object (cf. Walton 1984: 254). The reason for this is the fact that photographs are not mere depictions, they are manifestations of their subject matter.¹ To return to our screenshot from the beginning of Jackson’s Hobbit: We actually see the actor Ken Stott, because the photographic medium has indexically captured his image, and we may, on top of this, also imagine ourselves fictitiously seeing the dwarf Balin, provided we engage in the game of make-believe triggered by this image. Walton writes in his 1997 essay, “On Pictures and Photographs”, that one of the objectives of his transparency theory is to show that our interest in photographic images is not always directed at the informational content of these images, but that we use photographs because of their nature as traces of the objects or persons we care for:

 On the topic of depiction vs. manifestation see: Maynard (1983).

Walton’s “Vivacity” and Cinematic Realism


We sometimes have an interest in seeing things, in being in perceptual contact with them, apart from any expectations of learning about them. This interest helps to explain why we sometimes display and cherish a photograph of a loved one (or a movie star or athlete or personal hero), even a fuzzy and badly exposed photograph, long after we have extracted any interesting or important information it might contain, and why we sometimes prefer such a photograph to a realistic painting or drawing that is loaded with information. (Walton 1997: 72)

The remarkable point in this quote is: Walton says that a fuzzy and badly exposed photograph (low information content) may mean more to us than a realistic painting or drawing (high information content) of the same subject matter. Walton thus follows Ernst Gombrich (1980) in placing information in opposition to evocation. To imaginatively see a photograph may be less a matter of informational content than of an evocative re-actualization of one’s memories or background knowledge.² Until now I have been talking as if there were a single unified notion of realism—this is not the case. Instead, even in our discussion so far, we can distinguish at least two different ways of talking about realism.³ On the one hand, there is photographic realism, which we may define as the (perhaps) mediaspecific ability of photographs to produce naturalistic images. On the other hand, we have the reality effect, the spectator’s response to an artwork or a depiction: perceptual realism. This pair of realisms can be taken as parallel to the above mentioned functions of information and evocation. Responding to the emergence of computer generated imagery (CGI), Stephen Prince defined perceptual realism twenty years ago as: “a relationship between the image or film and the spectator, [which] can encompass both unreal images and those which are referentially realistic. Because of this, unreal images may be referentially fictional but perceptually realistic.” (Prince 1996: 32) While technical advancements like Real-3D or HFR cinema may be used to enhance photographic realism, it is not clear whether the perceived reality-effect even depends upon such enhancement. Our apparent paradox is not paradoxical at all if the cinema audience is interpreted as saying that (1) “we can’t manage to imagine Middle-earth, it is not real to us” and Peter Jackson says (2) “a reduction of blurring, a smoother viewing experience and higher resolution will result in more visual information and thus provide a higher degree of immersion and realism”.—It is time to turn our attention to Walton’s use of the term vivacity, since  E. H. Gombrich recalls the case of an “intelligent woman who had her first baby relatively late in life [and who] observed that baby snapshots began to assume more vividness for her after she had experienced how babies move and react.” (Gombrich 1980: 267)  For a list of seven forms of realism in the field of film philosophy, see: Gaut (2010), chapter 2.


David Wagner

we use this word in our everyday lives as much for expressions like “I had a vivid dream” as for “this image is particularly vivid”.—In other words: we tend to use “vivacity” as much for personal experiences as for judgments concerning a general attribute of depictions.⁴

2 Enter “Vivacity” Kendall Walton uses vivacity in his writings in a number of contexts, and with good reason: “A lot of different things affect the vivacity with which we imagine” (Walton 1990: 94 Fn. 27). By examining this term’s function in Walton’s theory of make-believe, we may gain an insight into the distinction he draws between paintings and drawings, on the one hand, and photographic art-forms on the other. This distinction directly affects our visual games of make-believe, for as we have seen in the last section, only photographic images are transparent. Transparency is, however, a distinction that seems to lose its relevancy with digital cinema: digital imaging operates according to an ontology that is more related to painting than to indexical photography. How exactly do the features of a work of art influence our ability to enter into a visual game of make-believe? In his discussion of depictive styles Walton tells us that [t]he significance of many features of pictorial styles lies in their effects on viewers’ games. When the games played with certain depictions can be regarded as richer or more vivid perceptually than those played with certain others, we might speak of differences of “realism” (of one sort); thus the scramblings of cubism lessen its realism in one respect. (Walton 1990: 315)

Why are the “scramblings of Cubism” less realistic? Well, according to Walton, our games of make-believe will not be as vivid if we use Braque’s or Picasso’s Cubist artwork as our props. But it is hard so see why this should be the case. Isn’t the inspiration of Walton’s theory found in Ernst Gombrich’s idea of a hobby-horse—a simple wooden stick, serving as a prop in the horse-riding game played by children (cf. Walton 2008; Gombrich 1963)? Walton’s prime example for an image enabling us to participate in a particularly rich and vivid perceptual game is one of the many versions of Meindert Hobbema’s paintings of a water mill.  Michael Baxandall tells us that vivacity (vivacità) in 15th century descriptions of Renaissance paintings refers to the liveliness of the painting as well as the lively movement of the artist’s hand in the act of painting, or the movement of the brush as it manifests itself in the artwork (cf. Baxandall 172: 145 – 147).

Walton’s “Vivacity” and Cinematic Realism


Regarding Hobbema’s 17th century painting The Water Mill with the Great Red Roof (for a reproduction of the image, see Walton 1990: 294), Walton tells us that our perceptual experience of pictures is intimately connected to our imaginings. We do not see the painting and then reason that it is a depiction of a water mill. If we were so detached from our experience that seeing and imagining were separate acts, Hobbema’s painting would not qualify as a picture. The intensity of our seeing the picture as a mill is a result of our visual game, in particular, of the fact that it is an adequately rich and vivid visual game: “When one sees an actual mill, the thought that one is seeing a mill is inseparable from the experience of seeing it. If the thought of seeing a mill, one’s imagining this, is not part of one’s perception of the canvas, one will not vividly imagine this perception to be an experience of seeing a mill.” (Walton 1990: 295 Fn. 3) This has to do with how an image is supposed to be seen, the “authorized” part in the phrase “authorized visual games of make-believe”. In Walton’s words: “Appreciating paintings and novels is largely a matter of playing games of makebelieve with them of the sort it is their function to be props in.” (Walton 1990: 53; italics added) Hobbema’s Water Mill is a prop for a naturalistic game of make-believe, with which we are entitled to play the reality game, or, in other words, the artist is likely to have intended us to do so. Walton thinks that this is not the case with Cubist works of art. They may tell us something about the fractured impressions of life, about the multiple points of view we can take when approaching an object, but they will not be good props in the reality game we play with more naturalistic works of art. Their game is of a different kind. This view of realism as a naturalistic style versus more experimental styles, such as Cubism, coincides with Nelson Goodman’s. He also labels naturalism as the more realistic, because it is an “accustomed, standard mode of representation” (Goodman 1984: 127). While Goodman stresses the point that standard modes of representation support our ability to figure out what it is those representations denote, his definition of representation does not conform with Walton’s. Walton’s representations are props, he says “representational works of art serve as props in games of make-believe” (Walton 1990: 53) and “[t]o represent something is to generate fictional truths about it” (Walton 1990: 297). Since the function of these props is “society relative” (Walton 1990: 54)—meaning that they function only with reference to a given social context—their use is to a certain degree conventional. So, even though for both Walton and Goodman naturalistic depictions and the specific brand of realism we associate with them are conventional, their conventions have different causes. It is time to return to our tentative definition of realism. I previously suggested, as the starting point of our investigation, to use a fairly common-sense notion


David Wagner

of realism: the relation between reality and its depiction; moreover, I said that due to its naturalistic style, the depiction should provide us with a fairly high degree of verisimilitude and thus the sought-after “reality effect”. Walton tackles the problem of realism by introducing a relation between two fictional worlds. These two worlds are linked by an authorised visual game of make-believe. If the game is—let us call it a “reality game”⁵—we are dealing with a close match between the world of the artwork (the work-world) and its highly vivacious counterpart, the game-world. In other words: the spectator manages to immerse herself in the game-world to a degree that feels “real” to her, provided she imagines herself seeing what the work-world requires her to see. To Walton, our ability to use representations as props in games of makebelieve depends on the interplay of these two aspects. Walton chooses to call them “fictional worlds” since in his theory all images are fictions. In the individual game-world of a particular member of the cinema audience, let’s call her Jane, it is fictional that Jane sees the dragon Smaug descend on the city of Erebor. But this is not fictional in the movie The Hobbit. Jane is not among the characters of the movie (nor the book by Tolkien, for that matter). So there is a second world, the fictional world of the movie itself: the work-world. And the workworld determines to a certain degree which game-worlds may arise. It is unlikely that we will imagine ourselves seeing The Hobbit as a historical documentary. This is due to the meta-rule that The Hobbit belongs to the genre of fantasy. And it is unlikely that any member of the cinema audience is unaware of that fact. Walton explicitly tells us what he means by “fictional”: “In general, a proposition is fictional if there is a prescription to the effect that it is to be imagined” (Walton 1990: 61). The relation of these two fictional worlds, work-world and game-world, is a relevant puzzle piece in estimating the function of “vivacity”. Immersion in a work-world is the emotional involvement that makes the game-world seem as “real” (or nearly as real) as the real world. One way of achieving this effect is to mimic the unpredictability of our everyday experience of reality. According to Walton, a work’s capacity to surprise us will result in “a more ‘vivid’ or ‘realistic’ experience” (Walton 1990: 14) since our daily interactions with the world are unpredictable too. If we are, however, consciously aware that we are participating in a game of make-believe, we are less likely to get immersed in our imaginings:

 Walton does not use this term, it is my shortcut for: visual game of make-believe resulting in a naturalistic game-world.

Walton’s “Vivacity” and Cinematic Realism


A deeper explanation of why spontaneous imaginings tend to be more vivid than deliberate ones might go like this: The relevant general principle is that evidence of the falsity of a proposition imposed forcefully on one’s consciousness makes it difficult to imagine vividly that the proposition is true. If I want to imagine myself in a trackless wilderness, I may enhance the vivacity of my experience by closing my eyes or blotting out the automobile traffic and skyscrapers from my field of vision with my hand so that I see only trees and sky. Staring intently at skyscrapers and automobiles does not make it difficult to imagine oneself in the wilds. What is not so easy is imagining this vividly while glaring evidences of civilization dominate one’s consciousness. (Walton 1990: 15)

While reality games are not necessarily what we play when we approach works of art, with some paintings, like Hobbema’s Water Mill, we are authorised to do so. It makes sense—and the painting encourages us—to see the work-world as a world that provides cues to a naturalistic game-world, e. g. the existence of fictional trees that function like the real trees we encounter in everyday life. Since photographically produced images are transparent, all photographs and analogue motion-pictures may to some extent authorise us to play reality games. And because this is the case, it does not matter whether what we see in a photograph is blurred or fuzzy or badly exposed. The indexical aspect of photography and analogue film provides the basis for our games of make-believe to become reality games. However, if motion pictures are digital artefacts combining computer-generated imagery with digital image processing, some of our traditional assumptions regarding the transparency claim will have to be reconsidered. The consequence: We will have to treat digital motion pictures more like “paintings that move”. The term “tableaux vivants” may acquire a new meaning. As it turns out, in the case of The Hobbit, this shift from transparent pictures to hyper-realistic constructions led to the paradox: that some members of the cinema audience failed to immerse themselves in the fictional world of Middle-earth —they simply did not manage to vividly imagine seeing what the work-world prescribed.

3 Why Fictions Fail Regarding The Hobbit, it seems one problem its original audiences encountered was the obvious falsity of its work-world enhanced by HFR—fake sets and all too visible make-up. This made it difficult for the audience to imagine a game-world with sufficient vivacity. Hence, the claim that its high-end technology failed to provide a life-like or “real” viewing experience. In a way, this would prove Walton’s transparency thesis right and simply point to the fact that the filmmakers did not realise how life-like their medium is. One member of the cinema audi-


David Wagner

ence put it like this: “Props looked like props, sets looked like sets, and make-up looked like make-up” (New Zealand man, 47 years, as quoted in Michelle et al. 2015: 12). When we look at a photograph of a loved one and treat it like a trace of that person, a handwritten letter perhaps, we may cherish it and keep it in our wallet, then we do so, according to Walton, because of the photograph’s transparency. Now, it seems obvious to me that we would feel differently towards that photograph if we knew that it had been created in Photoshop based on some preliminary sketches. Computer generated imagery (CGI) may still look life-like, but does Walton’s transparency claim extend to Orcs (= Tolkien’s fantasy race akin to goblins)? I would assume that the knowledge that one is seeing a CGI character has some impact on the believability of the image. Carolyn Michelle and her team at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, provide proof for this assumption in an empirical study that lists several factors for the failure of Jackson’s work-world (cf. Michelle et al. 2015). Among those factors is the finding that for a number of viewers the ability to suspend disbelief was undercut by their awareness of the artificiality of the CGI characters. These viewers remained in a mediated mode of reception, noticing what was CGI and what was not, and did not manage to enter the transparent mode of reception, a condition for pleasurable narrative immersion: For these [viewers], a perceptible visual disjunction between real-life footage and digitally rendered characters, objects and settings further undermined believability and led some to compare watching The Hobbit to watching a video game, actors in a play, a “making of” documentary, HD children’s television programme, or “cheap Brazilian soap opera”. (Michelle et al. 2015: 13)

But there is yet another aspect. The use of HFR changed the appearance of Middle-earth. Cinema audiences had already lived through three instalments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings when his Hobbit Trilogy—the prequel to the other Tolkien saga—arrived in the cinemas. They were used to a specific visual quality. For some viewers this resulted in a nostalgia for “old school” visual effects and the more traditional cinematic feel of the work-world they had gotten used to in these films (cf. Michelle et al. 2015: 15 – 17). The important thing about this finding consists in the audience members’ intertextual reasons for rejecting the “new look” of the Hobbit Trilogy. Rather than allowing his fans to return to a familiar story world, Peter Jackson had unwittingly changed the appearance of that world. What does this tell us about Kendall Walton’s “vivacity” and his description of how to respond “vividly” to a work-world by successfully entering into a visual game of make-believe?

Walton’s “Vivacity” and Cinematic Realism


Each of the three factors which led to negative responses of cinemagoers can be explained with reference to a context external to the work-world. If we go to the theatre, we don’t mind that actors wear make-up, that sets are made of plywood and props are merely props. Our ability to temporally suspend disbelief is conditioned by our expectations of the medium. Since we expect blockbuster cinema to offer visual stimulation and magical attractions, its success lies in concealing the machinery that creates that magic. The persuasive power of images or the ability of visual fictions to move us vividly, appear to be linked to conventions. The fact that viewers accustomed to HFR-3D had a much more positive visual experience when seeing the second of the Hobbit movies seems to attest to that (cf. Elliott 2015). In a way, Kendall Walton himself gives an answer to Noël Carroll’s question why fictions sometimes fail by pointing to the fact that deliberate imaginings are always weaker, less vivid than the ones that happen spontaneously: “evidence of the falsity of a proposition imposed forcefully on one’s consciousness makes it difficult to imagine vividly that the proposition is true” (Walton 1990: 15). Such evidence clearly exceeds any artistic intention, but may still lurk in the objective qualities of the work-world. In Walton’s theory, the mimetic aspect of realism shifts from the work to the viewer’s engagement with the work. Walton’s vivacity is not used like its Renaissance counterpart “vivacità” to describe the objective liveliness of the depiction, instead it leads us to explore the reasons why we are moved by a work of art.

Bibliography Baxandall, Michael (1972): Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Carroll, Noël (1991): “On Kendall Walton’s Mimesis as Make-Believe”. In: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 51. No. 2, pp. 383 – 387. Elliott, Darren Joseph (2015): “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – A New Era of Realism?” (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato. 10289/9365 (accessed 01/07/2016). Gaut, Berys (2010): A Philosophy of Cinematic Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Gombrich, Ernst Hans (1963): Meditations on a Hobby Horse and Other Essays. London: Phaidon Press. Gombrich, Ernst Hans (1980): “Standards of Truth: The Arrested Image and the Moving Eye”. In: Critical Inquiry 7. No. 2, pp. 237 – 273. Goodman, Nelson (1976): Languages of Art. An Approach to a Theory of Symbols. Indianapolis, Cambridge: Hackett. Goodman, Nelson (1984): Of Mind and Other Matters. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.


David Wagner

Hopkins, Robert (2003): “Perspective, Convention, and Compromise”. In: Heiko Hecht/Robert Schwartz/Margaret Atherton (Eds.): Looking into Pictures. An interdisciplinary Approach to Pictorial Space. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, pp. 145 – 165. Jakobson, Roman (1987): “On Realism in Art [1921]”. In: Krystyna Pomorska/Stephen Rudy (Eds.): Language in Literature. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, pp. 19 – 27. Kelly, Kevin (2013): “Pain of the New”. In: The Technium. (accessed 13/12/2016). Maynard, Patrick (1983): “The Secular Icon: Photography and the Functions of Images”. In: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 42. No. 2, pp. 155 – 169. Michelle, Carolyn/Davis, Charles/Hight, Craig/Hardy, Ann (2015): “The Hobbit hyperreality paradox: Polarization among audiences for a 3D high frame rate film”. In: Convergence, May 2015. DOI: 10.1177/1354856515584880 (accessed 12/13/2016), pp. 1 – 22. Prince, Stephen (1996): “True Lies. Perceptual Realism, Digital Images, and Film Theory”. In: Film Quarterly 49. No. 3, pp. 27 – 37. Steinberg, Leo (1972): “The Eye is Part of the Mind [1953]”. In: Other Criteria. Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 289 – 306. Walton, Kendall L. (1984): “Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism”. In: Critical Inquiry 11. No. 2, pp. 246 – 277. Walton, Kendall Lewis (1990): Mimesis as Make-Believe. On the Foundations of the Representational Arts. Harvard: Harvard University Press. Walton, Kendall Lewis (1997): “On Pictures and Photographs: Objections Answered”. In: Richard Allen/Murray Smith (Eds.): Film Theory and Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 60 – 75. Walton, Kendall Lewis (2002): “Depiction, Perception, and Imagination: Responses to Richard Wollheim”. In: The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 60. No. 1, pp. 27 – 35. Walton, Kendall Lewis (2008): Marvelous Images. On Values and the Arts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tanja Wetzel

Anpassungsprobleme. Die Kunst und das Lehramt Abstract: Problems of Adaption. Art and Teaching. Neither ‘art pedagogy’ nor ‘art education’ make up a consistent unity. Both expressions are composed of two concepts that constitute a relation without merging into a third concept. Art is and always will be unseizable and defies pedagogical endeavours which aim at learning or teaching it. This state of affairs causes problems for teachers of art at schools as well as for specialists in art teaching methodology at universities and art academies. Their area of expertise does not appear to them as pure and noble as they assume the branches of science and art of their colleagues might appear to them. Notably the concept of “participation” seems to provide a model by means of which the conflict between art and life can be reconciled. Closely connected with this concept are art pedagogical expectations that it might particularly well appease the adolescent person’s hunger for authenticity and individual expression. It appears to be of ultimate importance to understand that one can come particularly close to art if one keeps distant from it, if one leaves art alone and enters into a dialogue with it. In art education autonomous artistic processes may develop from this insight, which let one temporarily forget the fact that they are meant to be art.

Es mag irritieren, hier in diesem Kontext das Verhältnis von Kunst und Lehramt nicht vorrangig in Bezug auf seine Chancen und Möglichkeiten zu diskutieren, sondern aus der Perspektive von Schwierigkeiten, die damit verbunden sind. Diese tragen zur prekären Stellung des Faches Kunst im schulischen Kontext bei und betreffen in gleicher Weise die Fachdidaktik Kunst an Kunsthochschulen und Akademien, an denen sich die Lehramtsausbildung in besonderer Weise gegenüber einer kunstwissenschaftlichen und freien künstlerischen Ausbildung behaupten muss. Indem ich Anpassungsprobleme in den Fokus der folgenden Diskussion rücke, unternehme ich gar nicht erst eine defensive Argumentation, sondern möchte auf der Basis eines „dennoch“ oder „gerade dann“ ein VerBeim hier vorliegenden Text handelt es sich um die Überarbeitung eines Vortrags; der Duktus der mündlichen Darstellung ist bewusst erhalten geblieben. DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-016


Tanja Wetzel

ständnis für kunstpädagogische Belange erwirken. Ich möchte für ein Dilemma sensibilisieren, von dem ich vermute, dass es sehr viel mehr Bereiche betrifft, als nur das Lehren und Lernen von Kunst im schulischen Kontext. Gleichfalls soll dem Verdacht begegnet werden, es könnte sich – im Rahmen des Lutherjahres fast naheliegend – um eine Art Schuldeingeständnis handeln, kein eigenständiges Fachgebiet aufbieten zu können, weshalb sich die meisten FachdidaktikerInnen mehr oder weniger mit dem Problem herumschlagen, sich wissenschaftlich, theoretisch sowie forschend legitimieren zu müssen und institutionell eine Art Randposition einzunehmen. Anpassungsprobleme, dies sei der letzte Punkt dieser kleinen Vorrede, werden gern einseitig als Defizit eines sich nicht genügend anpassenden Elements definiert, statt eine dialektische Struktur anzunehmen, die dieses Phänomen hervorbringt. So können damit einhergehende Probleme durchaus als Symptom eines ganzen Systems gedeutet werden, das verzweifelt darauf bedacht ist, alle Anteile, so heterogen sie auch sein mögen, auf Homogenität, Einheit und Normalität zu verpflichten. Das, was nicht passt, kann auf diese Weise markiert und abgespalten werden, mit der Hoffnung, dass das Unangepasste möglichst nicht an den inhärenten Widersprüchen des Ganzen rühren wird. „Kunst“ als Schulfach war lange Zeit „Zeichenunterricht“ und damit vor allem einer technischen Handwerklichkeit verpflichtet. Auch als sich in den 1950erJahren allmählich „Kunst“ als Fachbezeichnung durchsetzte, war damit lange noch nicht der Gegenstand in seiner ganzen Breite gemeint. Einen Schub der Öffnung brachte die legendäre Curriculumrevision in den 1970er-Jahren, die vor allem von Hessen ausging, während man in Süddeutschland in der Rezeption noch lange einem klassischen Kanon der Kunst bis 1900 und in der ästhetischen Produktion der Malerei und der Zeichnung verpflichtet blieb. So beginnen also die Anpassungsprobleme in den 1970er-Jahren, was sich unter anderem an den vielen wechselnden Bezeichnungen widerspiegelt, die diesem Fach in der Folgezeit je nach fachlicher Ausrichtung gegeben wurden wie „Kunst“, „Kunstunterricht“, „Ästhetische Erziehung“, „Visuelle Kommunikation“ oder „Ästhetische Forschung“. Kunst, insbesondere die Gegenwartskunst, wird im Rahmen „Ästhetischer Erziehung“ seit den frühen 1980er-Jahren nunmehr als Ausdruck einer komplexen Selbst- und Weltbefragung begriffen, wofür gerade das Unsagbare, die „Leerstellen“ als Kern des Künstlerischen gesehen wurden. Das Subjekt, also die Schülerinnen und Schüler treten mit ihrem persönlichen Zugang ins Zentrum ästhetischer Erfahrung und werden nun damit konfrontiert, statt nach einer Wahrheit und einem Sinn hinter den Bildern suchen zu können, auf das Paradox von sichtbar-unsichtbar, sagbar-unsagbar sowie einer potentiellen Mehrdeutigkeit verpflichtet zu werden. Ihr bildnerisches Tun soll sich idealerweise analog zur professionellen künstlerischen Praxis entwickeln, was immer auch damit gemeint

Anpassungsprobleme. Die Kunst und das Lehramt


sein mag. Damit werden neue Fragen zentral: Lässt sich Kunst überhaupt lehren und lernen? Und wenn ja, wie? Geht es um ästhetische, bildnerische oder gar künstlerische Erfahrungen im Kunstunterricht? Kann Unterricht der Kunst überhaupt gerecht werden? Was sind die Verluste, was ist vielleicht auch ein Gewinn, wenn man sowohl die Subjektivität der Schülerinnen und Schüler und ihren Wunsch nach eigenen Möglichkeiten des Sich-Ausdrückens anerkennt und gleichzeitig auch die Ansprüche der Kunst ernst nimmt, nicht in einem bloßen Vormachen-Nachmachen aufzugehen? Insbesondere jene Bestrebungen der Kunstpädagogik, diesen Problemen damit zu begegnen, den Kunstunterricht nunmehr als eine bloße Vermittlung von Kunst zu deklarieren, verkennen nicht zuletzt die Wirksamkeit und (durchaus berechtigten) Ansprüche der institutionellen Rahmung. Um zumindest als ‚Nebenfach’ ernst genommen zu werden, soll die Beschäftigung mit Kunst im Pflichtprogramm von Schule gehalten werden, nicht zuletzt, um die damit verbundenen Potentiale für Bildungsprozesse zu verteidigen und zu sichern. Zu den Anpassungsproblemen zwischen Kunst und Lehramt trägt sicherlich ganz elementar die Widerständigkeit des Ästhetischen gegenüber jeder zweckrationalen Verwertungslogik bei, mit der auch der Gegenstand Kunst im Rahmen eines institutionell organisierten und legitimierten Unterrichts konfrontiert wird. Eine explizite didaktische Reflexion stellt den typischen sich im 20. Jahrhundert auch universitär etablierten Umgang mit Kunst als Unterrichtsgegenstand dar, für den die pädagogische Situation und der Gegenstand in ein Verhältnis gebracht werden müssen. Hier geht es zuvörderst um Lehr- und Lernziele, aktuell Kompetenzen genannt, um Standards, die erreicht werden müssen, um Leistungsanforderungen, die zu erbringen sind, um in der Logik von Schule erfolgreich zu sein. Das führt nicht selten zu Double-bind-Situationen (Mügel/Wetzel 2016: 103), in denen Kunstlehrende von Schülerinnen und Schülern erwarten und verlangen, dass sie sich beispielsweise mit einer experimentellen Haltung in offene Gestaltungs- und Rezeptionsprozesse begeben, für die es aber zugleich vorab mehr oder weniger implizit bereits Beurteilungskriterien gibt, die zu antizipieren man die Schülerinnen und Schüler nötigt, weil es für sie am Ende um Noten geht. Dieser Artikel vertritt nun die These, dass es vor diesem Hintergrund zunächst weniger um das „Wie“ einer Vermittlung von Kunst gehen kann, als vielmehr um die grundlegende Anerkennung dieser fehlenden Passung zwischen Kunst und Pädagogik; ein Eingeständnis, das vor allem den Vertretern des Faches schwerfällt, weil es die bestehenden Legitimationsnöte des Faches Kunst im Fächerkanon nicht mildert, sondern eher befeuert. Eine fehlende Passung anzuerkennen, heißt einzugestehen, dass man Kunst weder lehren noch lernen kann – aber wie kann Kunst dann noch legitimer Gegenstand von Unterricht sein? Nur dann, und das sei an dieser Stelle als zweite These vorweggenommen, wenn man sich bewusst ist,


Tanja Wetzel

dass der Prozess der Vermittlung mit an dem arbeitet, was sich vermittelt, das Was also mitformt. Und das kann manchmal wenig mit Kunst zu tun haben, obwohl solche Prozesse durchaus „künstlerisch“ genannt werden können. Dazu später mehr. Um in das Problemfeld konkret einzusteigen, wähle ich den Zugang über die Kunst. Das „Bataille Monument“ des Schweizer Künstlers Thomas Hirschhorn war eine umfassende Installation im öffentlichen Raum, die er 2002 anlässlich der Documenta 11 in Kassel realisierte. Dieses Beispiel bietet sich insofern an, als Hirschhorn hier das erste Mal mit einer installativen Arbeit den Versuch unternahm, den Produktionsprozess seiner Arbeit im öffentlichen Kontext für das aktive Mitwirken einer Reihe von Jugendlichen zu öffnen. Das bildete für ihn als Künstler eine neue Erfahrung, die er schließlich kaum bewältigen konnte, weil es ihm nicht gelang, sich als Künstler an das von ihm selbst gestiftete partizipative Moment in seiner ganzen Komplexität und Tragweite anzupassen. Das „Bataille Monument“ folgte vorangegangenen Projekten zu Spinoza oder Deleuze. Hirschhorn wählte zur Umsetzung dieses Projektes die Friedrich-WöhlerSiedlung in Kassel, ein Ort an der Peripherie der Stadt mit besonderer Problemlage. „Es ist ein Standort“, so Hirschhorn in seinem Konzept dazu, der die Realität annimmt, Aufbau und Betreuung können realisiert werden, Reibung und Auseinandersetzung sind möglich, es braucht keinen geeigneten Standort für das ‚Bataille Monumentʻ, die Standorte seiner einzelnen Elemente werden nach Konsultation mit den Bewohnern der Siedlung miteinander verbunden. (Hirschhorn 2002: Abs. 8)

An diesem Ort entstand dann für 100 Tage ein Ensemble aus acht Elementen, unter anderem einem TV-Studio, einem Imbisstand mit Kebab-Verkauf, einem Shuttledienst zwischen der Siedlung und anderen Spielorten der Documenta sowie einer Hütte zur theoretischen Arbeit Batailles. Hirschhorn baute diese provisorischen Welten in seiner gewohnten künstlerischen Manier, also mit billigen Materialen aus Holz, Karton, Plastik und viel Klebeband, auf betont schnoddrige Art. Das hatte etwas sehr Spielerisches und wenn man ihn als Künstler erlebte, wirkte er wie ein kleiner großer Junge mittendrin. Mit dem „Bataille Monument“ sollte nichts verstanden werden, wie Hirschhorn in einem Gespräch betont, hier sollte nichts funktionieren „im Sinne von Nützlichkeit“, er verstehe die Installation vielmehr als eine „Behauptung“, die die Bewohner des Quartiers nicht ausschließt. „Deshalb ist meine Arbeit ein Kunstwerk und nicht ein soziales Projekt“ (Hirschhorn in Blomberg 2002: Abs. 20). Als Besucherin der Documenta hatte ich damals den Eindruck, dass Hirschhorn den französischen Theoretiker George Bataille doch recht beliebig als Bezugsgröße seiner Installation wählte, selbst wenn er in einem Interview die

Anpassungsprobleme. Die Kunst und das Lehramt


Wahl wie folgt begründete: „Bei Bataille geht es um die Maßlosigkeit, den Verlust, die Gabe, sich zu verausgaben in einer aggressiven, offenen, den anderen einschließenden Art“ (Hirschhorn in Mack 2002: 46). Dieses Statement ließe sich zunächst auf den spielerischen Charakter der Installation beziehen, im Sinne eines Mit-Spielens der Bewohner und Besucher. Ein ökonomischer Aspekt dazu findet sich bei Bataille 1953 in seinem Essay zum Homo Ludens von Johan Huizinga. Hier spricht dieser von einem „jeu immense“ (Bataille 1988: 107) als einer gewaltigen, jede Rationalität sprengenden Bezugsgröße von Kultur, die sich überall dort geltend mache, wo eine als vernünftig sich behauptende Zweck-MittelLogik durchgesetzt werden soll. Dieses „Zuviel“ des Spiels im Sinne einer überschüssigen Energie könne jedoch, so Bataille, nicht (im Sinne von Nützlichkeit) verwertet werden, sondern müsse vergeudet und verschwendet werden, sei es in Formen von Kulten, Spielen, Prachtbauten oder den Künsten – aber auch durch Kriege und Katastrophen, wenn es den Menschen nämlich nicht gelinge, diesen Kräften entsprechende sublimierende Formen zu bieten. Das lässt sich insofern auf die Realität der Friedrich-Wöhler-Siedlung beziehen, die im Zuge der Industrialisierung durchaus mit idyllischem Akzent für die Arbeiter und Angestellten der nahen Henschel-Werke gebaut wurde, mittlerweile aber zu einem sozialen Brennpunkt geworden ist – mit hoher Migrationsrate, Jugendarbeitslosigkeit und wenig Raum für gesellschaftliche Teilhabe der Bewohner. Insbesondere in der Bataille-Hütte erschließt sich dann jedoch eine Auseinandersetzung mit diesem Denker nicht wirklich. Stichworte tauchen auf, lange Textkolonnen werden präsentiert, die jede Leselust blockieren, die Bücher Batailles stehen parat, man könnte sich etwas notieren, aber was und wozu? Allenfalls ein Tisch in der Mitte, auf dem eine große,wellige Pappe liegt, die mit Folie überzogen ist und wie ein riesiges Meer die Besucher an die Ränder verdrängt, könnte auf die Maßlosigkeit anspielen, die Bataille beschäftigte. Vermutlich aber nutzte Hirschhorn Bataille einfach als Anregungspotential, um künstlerisch zu arbeiten. So bezieht sich Hirschhorns an Bataille anknüpfendes Votum von der „den anderen einschließenden Art“ für ihn zunächst auf die Notwendigkeit, als Künstler auf Unterstützung bei der Realisation seiner Arbeit angewiesen zu sein. An anderer Stelle klingt das dann in Bezug auf das Mittun der Jugendlichen so: „Nicht: Mache es wie ich. Sondern, mache es mit mir zusammen“ (Hirschhorn 2002: Abs. 5) – und zwar, was ihm ganz wichtig ist, gegen Entgelt. Für die Jugendlichen, die in dieser Siedlung lebten, war das Bataille Monument sicherlich eine Mischung aus Attraktion und Provokation; mit Bataille wussten sie vermutlich wenig anzufangen. Sie wurden von Hirschhorn in den Prozess hineingenommen, nicht nur, damit dieses Projekt nicht wie ein Raumschiff in dieser Siedlung landet, sondern auch, um das Projekt explizit ins Ge-


Tanja Wetzel

sellschaftliche hinein zu öffnen. Hirschhorn zeigte sich später selbst überrascht, welche Eigendynamik sich dadurch entfaltete. So gestalteten sich die Verbindlichkeiten gegenüber den Jugendlichen in Bezug auf ihre Teilhabe schwierig: Material verschwand und tauchte wieder auf, die Jugendlichen hielten sich zum Teil nicht an verabredete Arbeitszeiten und forderten über eine Entlohnung hinaus eine persönliche Zuwendung und vor allem eine Perspektive, dass sich mit diesem Projekt für sie langfristig etwas ändern könne. Dazu hatten sie durchaus auch Anlass, da Hirschhorn selbst formulierte: „Als Künstler mit einem Projekt im öffentlichen Raum stelle ich mir folgende Fragen: Bin ich fähig, mit meiner Arbeit Begegnungen zu machen? Und, bin ich fähig, durch meine Arbeit Ereignisse zu erzeugen?“ (Hirschhorn 2002: Abs. 1) Das kommentierte der Jugendliche Mustafa mit den Worten: „In drei Monaten ist der Scheiß vorbei, dann packt Thomas seine Sachen, und alles ist wie früher“ (Waltinger 2002: 5). „Thomas“ sah sich eben nicht als Sozialarbeiter, aber er weckte Erwartungen, die er nicht erfüllen konnte – und nach eigener Aussage auch gar nicht erfüllen wollte. Es stellt sich also die Frage, welche genuin „künstlerischen“ Erfahrungen die Jugendlichen durch dieses Projekt machen konnten. „Partizipation“ ist als Schlagwort seit einigen Jahren auch in der Kunstpädagogik angekommen. Damit wird vor allem die Hoffnung verknüpft, direkte Erfahrungen mit Kunst machen zu können, indem man – diesseits aller Machtgefüge, die die Kunst in der Gesellschaft verorten und zugleich fixieren – gleichberechtigter Teil werden kann, als Person wahrgenommen und wertgeschätzt wird. Das alte Thema der Differenz von Kunst und Leben scheint durch dieses neue Label plötzlich problemlos unterlaufen werden zu können. Dagegen könnte eingewendet werden, dass Kunst immer schon in Machtstrukturen verstrickt ist, so dass sich selbst das Versprechen auf Teilhabe – wie im Fall von Hirschhorn – am Ende für die Jugendlichen als Mogelpackung entpuppt.Vielleicht ließe sich in diesem Zusammenhang sogar im Sinne Bourdieus von einem verschleierten Prinzip (Bourdieu/Champagne 1997: 531) sprechen, mit dem sich nun gesellschaftliche oder auch künstlerische Interessen sogar besonders barrierefrei durchsetzen lassen. Zwischen den Wünschen und Ansprüchen, etwas an oder durch die Kunst zu lernen, sie verstehen und sich aneignen zu wollen oder unmittelbar Teil zu haben, äußert sich auch ein Hunger nach Authentizität und Intensität. Man will sich spüren, sich selbst ausdrücken, man möchte gemeint sein – und all das soll die Kunst stillen. Aber was würde von der Kunst bleiben, wenn sie doch geteilt und verteilt würde? Vielleicht lässt sich allenfalls so von der Kunst aus an der Kunst teilnehmen, als ein, wie der Künstler Georg Meistermann 1959 schrieb „Anteilnehmen an der Entfaltung des Möglichen“. (Meistermann 2007: 41)

Anpassungsprobleme. Die Kunst und das Lehramt


Dieses Grunddilemma, die Kunst in ihrer Eigenständigkeit und Unvermittelbarkeit anzuerkennen und trotzdem ein Mögliches zu entfalten, an dem Anteil genommen werden kann, das sich anwenden, vielleicht sogar pädagogisch wenden lässt, artikuliert sich auch im folgenden Konflikt aus der jüngeren kunstpädagogischen Historie: 1968 erschien die erste Ausgabe von Kunst+Unterricht, der für lange Zeit einzigen kunstpädagogischen Fachzeitschrift in Westdeutschland. Kunst und Unterricht im Titel mit einem Plus-Zeichen zu verbinden,war Programm, um damit die Eigenständigkeit beider Bereiche kenntlich zu machen und diese doch deutlich aufeinander zu beziehen. Siegfried Neuenhausen, der sich als bildender Künstler in einer besonderen gesellschaftlichen Verantwortung sah, sollte diese neue Zeitschrift entwickeln. Es sollte um Kunst gehen, aber auch um Unterricht. Neben drei weiteren Künstler-Kollegen nahm er Gunter Otto in das Herausgeberteam, der insofern die pädagogische Flanke bildete, als er als Oberstudienrat an der Pädagogischen Hochschule in Berlin tätig und so mit dem aktuellen fachdidaktischen Diskurs vertraut war. Das ungewöhnliche, fast quadratische Format der ersten Ausgaben bildete den formalen Rahmen. Inhaltlich gab es Vorschläge und Beispiele für Unterricht, allerhand aus der kunstpädagogischen Fachkultur, aber auch Artikel, die sich zum Teil nicht direkt auf die Kunstpädagogik beziehen ließen, daneben auch wissenschaftliche Texte, mal ein harscher Beitrag aus der Kunst oder etwas Politisches. Aber Gunter Otto begann rasch, so Neuenhausen mündlich im Gespräch, „den ganzen Laden zu dominieren“. Das eher heterogene, aber frische Gemisch des Anfangs verschwand, vor allem der Schwerpunkt der Kunst, und das Format der Zeitschrift schrumpfte auf das handliche und wohlbekannte DIN A4-Format von Schulheften. Einer der ersten, heftigen Konflikte entzündete sich an einem Interview mit Joseph Beuys, das für die vierte Ausgabe Anfang 1969 geplant war. Die Idee dazu kam von Neuenhausen, der an der Kunstakademie Düsseldorf studierte hatte und von dort Beuys kannte. Ausgerechnet Beuys zu seinen Vorstellungen ästhetischer Erziehung zu befragen, stieß wiederum bei Otto auf großen Widerstand. Zum einen, so vermutete später Neuenhausen, weil sich Otto mit seinen Bezügen gern in abgesicherten Bahnen bewegte, zum anderen, weil dessen kunstpädagogische Vorstellungen so gar nicht zu den künstlerischen von Beuys passten. Auch hier ging es um eine fehlende Passung, doch trotz Ottos heftiger Einwände wurde das Interview geführt und gedruckt. Neuenhausen und weitere Künstler verließen schon bald sukzessive die Herausgeberrunde und wurden von Kunstpädagogen unterschiedlicher Ausrichtung abgelöst. Aber es lohnt, eine weitere inhaltliche Schicht unter diesem Konflikt näher zu beleuchten, um seine Brisanz für die Fragestellung besser zu verstehen.


Tanja Wetzel

Gunter Otto, der ab den späten 1960ern die westdeutsche Kunstpädagogik 40 Jahre lang wie kein anderer maßgeblich beeinflussen sollte, entwarf in seiner fachdidaktischen Frühphase (zwischen den 1960er- und den 1970er-Jahren) Kunstunterricht aus einer primär erziehungswissenschaftlichen Perspektive. Für ihn bildete Kunst den zentralen Fachinhalt, der für ihn damals auf rationale, d. h. begründbare Strukturen zurückführbar sein musste, um einen planbaren Zusammenhang von Zielen, Inhalten, Methoden und Medien des Kunstunterrichts zu liefern. Den dafür passenden Gegenstand lieferte ihm die zeitgenössische abstrakte Kunst im Sinne ihrer Konkretion, weil sich Künstler dieser Ausrichtung einer besonders kontrollierten Aussageweise bedienten. Ihre Farb- und Formsprache folgte nämlich, so Otto, den strengen Gesetzmäßigkeiten der Gestaltungslehre und wurde von ihnen mit großem Sachverstand reflektiert (vgl. Legler 2001: 269 f.). Mit seinem Anspruch auf Rationalität, Transparenz, Kontrollier- und Optimierbarkeit insbesondere in der Planung von Unterricht, von Lehr- und Lernprozessen, bewegte sich Otto allerdings damals durchaus in den wissenschaftlichen Tendenzen seiner Zeit. Bildnerisch-praktisch stellte sich Otto das beispielsweise so vor, dass Schüler präzise Malanweisungen erhalten, die vom Lehrer zuvor z. B. aus der Malerei Cézannes abgeleitet wurden, um auf diese Weise Cézannes Erkenntnisleistung nachvollziehbar zu machen. Die Schülerinnen und Schüler sollen z. B. die Farben Blau, Braun und Grün möglichst feinstufig differenziert in Richtung Hell-Dunkel und Warm-Kalt abmischen und daraus ein „in sich differenziertes Farbgefüge“ (Otto 1969: 202) herstellen. Natürlich kann es sinnvoll sein, Schülerinnen und Schüler im Rahmen einer Übung Farben mischen zu lassen und differenzierte Farbtabellen anzulegen. Ein Nachvollzug von Cézannes Schaffen ist auf diese Weise sicher nur bedingt möglich. Es stellt sich ohnehin die Frage, ob diese Analogie zum künstlerischen Schaffen ein sinnvoller Inhalt praktischen Tuns von Schülerinnen und Schülern sein kann. Aber nicht zuletzt an dieser Aufgabenstellung wird nachvollziehbar, weshalb die künstlerische Vorstellungswelt Beuysʻ so gar nicht zu Ottos Konzept eines für den Unterricht ertragreichen Bezugs zur Kunst passte. Beuys’ Arbeiten dürften ihm zu „chemisch“ gewesen sein, zu wenig greifbar. Allein die Bezüge zur Anthroposophie Steiners bestätigten Ottos gegen Beuys gehegten IrrationalismusVerdacht. So ist auch Beuys’ legendäre Kunstvermittlungs-Aktion „Wie man einem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt“, die dieser 1965 in der Düsseldorfer Galerie Schmela im Kontext seines erweiterten Kunstbegriffs aufführte, rational gesehen letztlich abstrus. Den Kopf mit Blattgold, Goldstaub und Honig bedeckt, schritt Beuys mit einem toten Hasen in den Händen von Objekt zu Objekt. Das Publikum wurde räumlich ausgeschlossen und konnte diese Performance nur vor der Schaufens-

Anpassungsprobleme. Die Kunst und das Lehramt


terscheibe der Galerie verfolgen, die so eine stumme Aktion blieb. Man sieht auf einer Fotografie, die im Anschluss an die Aktion entstanden ist, Beuys mit lehrmeisterlich erhobenem Zeigefinger auf einem kippeligen Stuhl sitzend, unter einem Fuß einen Ski, in einer insgesamt nicht besonders stabilen Lage. Was sollte sich also ausgerechnet daraus, so könnte sich Otto skeptisch gefragt haben, Konstruktives für den Kunstunterricht ableiten lassen? Bezeichnend jedoch für den Konflikt zwischen den Herausgebern war aus meiner Sicht, dass Otto auf diese so ganz andere, konträre künstlerische Vorstellungswelt, auf dieses Abstruse, Unmögliche, provokant Entrückte nicht offen und neugierig reagierte – schließlich dürfte es doch interessant sein, was ein namhafter bildender Künstler zum Thema Kunstunterricht und Ästhetische Erziehung zu sagen hat.Warum musste so etwas Kantiges und für Otto Unpassendes aus dem Heft und damit aus dem kunstpädagogischen Diskurs ausgeschlossen werden? Zum Glück erschien dieses Interview mit dem Titel „Das Bildnerische ist unmoralisch“ (Beuys 1969) und hat auch knapp 50 Jahre nach Erscheinen nichts an Aktualität verloren. In seiner Rolle als Interviewer verweist Neuenhausen darin auf die Ansprüche schulischer Realität, und Beuys argumentiert ganz aus seiner künstlerischen Vorstellung heraus, radikal, manchmal auch etwas überzogen, aber dennoch sehr eindrücklich. Er bezieht darin das Bildnerische auf alle Prozesse von Bildung, vor allem auf die Bildung von Persönlichkeit. Er definierte das Künstlerische als eine umfassend gedachte Größe Des-mit-sich-selbst-und-mitder-Welt In-Beziehung-Setzens (vgl. Beuys 1969: 52) sowie als eine Kräftekonstellation, an der Fühlen, Wollen und Denken in einer sich wechselseitig durchdringenden Bewegung der Formung beteiligt sind (dazu auch Zumdick 2001: 141). Kunst ist für Beuys „plastische Formung“, sie ist für ihn nur insofern genuin bildnerisch, als sie immer schon bildend ist, weshalb auch sein vielzitierte Satz „Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler“ häufig falsch verstanden worden ist. „Plastische Formung“ kann damit sowohl zu politischen Aktionen führen als auch in Kunstwerke münden, wofür eine strenge „Begriffsbildung“ mit Form- und Materialfragen abgeglichen werden muss (vgl. Beuys 1969: 51, Szeemann 2008: 58). Im Umkehrschluss wendet sich Beuys strikt dagegen, den Kunstunterricht als speziellen Fall zu konstruieren und damit von anderen Fächern und generell im Schulischen zu isolieren (Beuys 1969: 52 f.). Für ihn stellte das Künstlerische ein Prinzip dar, das in allen Fächern wirken sollte im Sinne eines Ästhetischen, das als Grundlage der Erziehung oder gar des Lebens Geltung beanspruchen kann. Das war eine durchaus berechtigte Forderung, die auch Parallelen zu Herbert Reads „Erziehung durch Kunst“ (1958/dt. 1962) aufwies, der gegenüber aber Neuenhausen zu bedenken gab, dass doch ein Bemühen um ästhetische Erziehung oftmals nicht einmal über die Grenzen von Schule hinausreicht, also, dass der


Tanja Wetzel

Kunstunterricht oft nicht einmal dazu führt, sich „eine Wohnung geschmackvoll einzurichten oder einen vernünftigen Kunstdruck auszusuchen“ (Neuenhausen in Beuys 1969: 53). Mit der von Beuys jedoch im Interview für die künstlerische Lehre wie auch für den Kunstunterricht an Schulen geforderten Wechselbezüglichkeit zwischen einem persönlichen und einem technischen Pol, zwischen dem Eigenen im Sinne von Wünschen, Gefühlen, Vorstellungen, Gedanken und Ideen und handwerklichen oder methodischen Fähigkeiten und Fertigkeiten, entwirft er zugleich auch ein Modell für eine sinnvolle ästhetische Praxis von Schülerinnen und Schülern – anders als das bei Otto der Fall war, wo die Gefahr bestand, die ästhetische Praxis so stark zu schematisieren, dass zum einen die Person des Schülers oder der Schülerin aus dem Blick gerät und zum anderen der Gegenstand stark verkürzt zu werden droht. Seit den späten 1970er-Jahren hat sich in der fachdidaktischen Diskussion in dieser Hinsicht viel getan. So rückten insbesondere die Persönlichkeit der Lernenden, ihre Lebenswelt, ihre Wünsche und Hoffnungen deutlich ins Blickfeld. Auch die Beziehung zwischen Lehrenden und Lernenden sowie zwischen den Schülern untereinander wurde zu einer wichtigen Kategorie für Lernprozesse, die nun in Bezug auf die Persönlichkeit als umfassende Entwicklungsprozesse verstanden wurden. In der Rückschau ist aber durchaus interessant, dass der Grundkonflikt zwischen Kunst und Pädagogik (notgedrungen) bestehen blieb, weil man einerseits die Kunst in ihrer gesamten Breite als Gegenstand von Unterricht nicht aufgeben wollte, andererseits jedoch auf ästhetische Erfahrung als Bezugsgröße – trotz ihrer sich einem diskursiven Zugriff entziehenden Spezifik – bestand. Wirklich bearbeitet wurde dieser Konflikt in der fachdidaktischen Grundlagendiskussion kaum, allenfalls umgangen, indem man beispielsweise das neue kunstpädagogische Konzept einer „künstlerischen Bildung“ (Buschkühle 2004: 8) erfand, für das in Bezug auf eine konkrete Schulpraxis doch recht gängige Sequenzen des Kunstunterrichts der 1970er-Jahre modifiziert wurden, so etwa die Entwicklung „Fantastische[r] Fahrzeuge auf Reisen“ (Buschkühle 2007: 1 ff.) – diesmal allerdings als künstlerisches Projekt deklariert. So wurde überdies in den unterschiedlichen kunstpädagogischen Schulrichtungen gegenseitig polemisiert, manche Fachgruppen grenzten sich rigoros voneinander ab und bastelten an einer Universallösung für eine ästhetische Praxis im Kunstunterricht – all dies vor dem Hintergrund eines kleinen und ständig von innen und außen in Frage gestellten Fachs, wodurch letztlich die eigene Stellung eher geschwächt als gestärkt wurde. Dabei bietet gerade der Kunstunterricht mit der besonderen Möglichkeit ästhetischer Praxis ein Potential, um Erfahrungsräume insbesondere für adoleszente Identitätsbildung zu öffnen. Hier könnten sich subjektive Momente inneren

Anpassungsprobleme. Die Kunst und das Lehramt


Erlebens und Wünschens – das sogenannte Eigene – artikulieren und sich damit behaupten in einer Art Zwischenraum, der Schutzraum für Experimente und Probehandeln sein kann, trotz aller Qualifizierungs- und Selektionsfunktionen von Unterricht und Schule. Insbesondere in Fächern wie Kunst und Musik liegt es ja an der Lehrperson, den Unterricht für derartige „Symbolarbeit“ offen zu halten (Hirblinger 2007: 103).Vor allem künstlerische Projektarbeiten können dann vielschichtige Prozesse ermöglichen, die sich auf bildnerische, aber auch soziale und emotionale Aspekte des Lernens beziehen. So lassen sich mitunter langfristige Prozesse initiieren, bei denen es neben produktiven Phasen auch Phasen des Stillstands oder Umwegs, der Frustration und des Scheiterns gibt. Innerhalb solcher intermediären Räume können sich „narrative Strukturen“ ereignen, an denen die Lehrenden „das ‚Auftauchenʻ und ‚Verschwindenʻ einer Geschichte interessieren muss“ (Hirblinger 2007: 103). Ihre Aufgabe besteht dann darin, den Rahmen zu bestimmen, in dem diese Geschichten erzählt werden können. Abschließend stelle ich deshalb ein schulisches Projekt ästhetischer Praxis vor, in dem sich ein solch narrativer Prozess vollzog und in dem sich ein dynamisches Austarieren zwischen dem persönlichen und technischen Pol ereignete. Es will zeigen: So kann es gehen! und demonstriert im gleichen Zug, dass solche Projekte keineswegs verallgemeinerbar sind, sondern dass sie an bestimmte Personen und bestimmte Kontexte gebunden sind. Das Beispiel stammt aus dem Unterricht von Bernhard Chiquet, der an einer Schule in Basel unterrichtet und dieses Projekt 2011 gemeinsam mit einem Kollegen durchführte. Ich möchte eine längere Passage aus dem Transkript zitieren, weil das Projekt dadurch sehr plastisch wird: Ein Beispiel (für offenen Unterricht) war, dass ich mit einem Kollegen zusammen eine Gruppe ermutigt habe, Installationen zu machen und dafür den Materialbegriff auszudehnen, um nicht in den Kategorien von Werkstatt zu denken: Holz, Metall, Ton, Keramik – sondern radikaler dranzugehen. Wir haben vorgeschlagen, auf eine sehr spezielle Weise anderen etwas sagen zu wollen und uns dafür ein Jahr Zeit zu nehmen. Es gab unendlich viele Zwischenschritte, ein Runterbuchstabieren, Nachfragen, Infragestellen und so weiter. Das hat dann zu sehr intensiven Prozessen geführt. Mit der Zeit wurde festgelegt, dass es eine Präsentation gibt, bei der die Schülerinnen und Schüler selbst ein Teil sein sollen, sich körperlich in dieser Installation bewegen, sie aufbauen oder kommentieren, aber möglichst nicht „geborgt“. Wir haben dann gemeinsam beschlossen, dass die Überlegungen dazu zunächst unter uns bleiben, nicht nach außen dringen, aber dass wir das später dokumentieren. Manche fanden es toll und waren stolz darauf, dass die anderen nicht kapierten, was sie machten, dass sie irgendwie „weiter“ waren. Andere haben ein wenig darunter gelitten. […] Mein Kollege hat im Schulgarten Quadratmeter an die Schüler verpachtet und zwei Schüler begannen, ein Loch zu graben – wie Kinder, die sich vorstellen, sich auf diese Weise


Tanja Wetzel

nach China durchzugraben. Man musste externe Experten holen für die Sicherheit, weil es Kiesboden war. Innerhalb eines Jahres entstand ein Riesenloch von 4 m Tiefe und 2 mal 2 m Ausmaß, was mit einer Party mit den Eltern abgeschlossen werden sollte. In diesem Moment griff die Schulleitung ein, hat das gewertet, indem sie argumentierte, ein Loch sei so negativ, was das denn überhaupt solle? Und die Aktion wurde gestoppt. Der Schulleiter hat sicherlich gespürt, dass das etwas mit Kunst zu tun hatte, mit der negativen Seite der Materie; er hatte aber vermutlich Angst davor, dass es imageschädigend sein könnte. […] Dieses Projekt hatte sehr starke Schülerpersönlichkeiten angezogen, es hat unglaublich viel Kraft gekostet und Ausdauer. Wir konnten schließlich diese Arbeit durchsetzen, weil sie zwei Schülern übergeben wurde, die das Loch ausgemauert haben und einem Brunnen anglichen“ (Chiquet in Wetzel/Lenk 2013: 145 f.)

Chiquet beschreibt damit ein beeindruckendes und sehr poetisches Projekt. Am Anfang werden lediglich ein paar Pflöcke eingeschlagen: „Mit Material arbeiten“, aber nicht in einem technischen Sinne wie in einer Werkstatt. „Ein Zeitraum“, der mit einem Jahr viel länger ist, als das in Schule sonst üblich ist. „Nicht nur etwas für sich zu machen“, sondern „anderen etwas sagen wollen“. Am Ende sollte es eine Präsentation geben. Die Schülerinnen und Schüler machten Erfahrungen mit einem langen, diskontinuierlichen Prozess, mit Unwägbarkeiten, Engpässen, Um- und Nebenwegen. Mit Materialproblemen, die gelöst werden mussten, mit Ansprüchen seitens der Schulleitung nach vorzeigbaren, „schönen“ Ergebnissen. Sie wurden mit Einschlüssen und Ausschlüssen konfrontiert, mit der für das Alter typischen Ambivalenz zwischen: Ich will so sein wie die anderen und Ich will anders sein (hier: zunächst das Projekt für sich zu behalten, sich zu Geheimnisträgern zu machen, etwas „Besonderes“ zu werden – dadurch aber auch mit der Angst konfrontiert zu sein, nicht mehr zur Gesamtgruppe zu gehören). Einige Schüler werden bei dem Projekt wichtige Erfahrungen gemacht haben – andere eben nicht. Dass diese beiden Lehrer einen solchen Prozess anregten und begleiteten, hat insofern mit kunstpädagogischer Professionalität zu tun, als es sehr viel eigener künstlerischer Erfahrungen bedarf, um solche unwägbaren Prozesse zu begleiten und den nötigen Mut zu haben, sich auch in Widerspruch zu institutionellen Vorgaben zu begeben und diesen auszuhalten. Dieses Projekt hat mit „Kunst“ im marktüblichen Verständnis vermutlich wenig zu tun. Beuys würde es aber sicherlich ein „künstlerisches“ Projekt genannt haben. Aber manchmal muss man eben zur (institutionalisierten) Kunst auf Distanz gehen, um sich ihr auf diesem Weg wieder anzunähern. Zwischen Kunst und Pädagogik ist und bleibt eine Lücke, ein Spannungsfeld mangelnder Passung. Das ist eine Schwierigkeit und ein Glück zugleich, weil dieser Zustand dazu herausfordert, das Verhältnis immer wieder neu auf die Probe

Anpassungsprobleme. Die Kunst und das Lehramt


zu stellen, zu experimentieren, zu scheitern oder etwas glücken zu lassen. Wo ein Spiel im Dazwischen ist, entstehen eben auch Möglichkeiten.

Literatur Bataille, Georges (1988): „Sommes-nous là pour jouer? Ou pour être sérieux?“ In: Œuvre complètes, Vol. XII, Articles II 1950 – 1961. Paris: Gallimard, S. 100 – 125. Beuys, Joseph (1969): „Das Bildnerische ist unmoralisch. Interview“. In: Kunst+Unterricht, Heft 4. Seelze: Friedrich, S. 50 – 53. Blomberg, Katja (2002): „Leben am Literatur-Kiosk, Künstlergespräch mit Thomas Hirschhorn“. (besucht am 25. 11. 2016). Bourdieu, Pierre; Champagne, Patrick (1997): „Die intern Ausgegrenzten“. In: Pierre Bourdieu et al. (Hrsg.): Das Elend der Welt. Zeugnisse und Diagnosen alltäglichen Leidens an der Gesellschaft. Autorinnen und Autoren: Alain Accardo, Gabrielle Balazs, Stéphane Beaud, Emmanuel Bourdieu, Pierre Bourdieu, Sylvain Broccolichi, Patrick Champagne, Rosine Christin, Jean-Pierre Faguer, Sandrine Garcia, Remi Lenoir, Françoise Œuvrard, Michel Pialoux, Louis Pinto, Denis Podalydès, Abdelmalek Sayad, Charles Soulié, Loȉc J.D. Wacquant. Konstanz: UVK, S. 527 – 534. Buschkühle, Carl-Peter (2004): Kunstpädagogen müssen Künstler sein. Zum Konzept künstlerischer Bildung. Hamburg: University Press. Buschkühle, Carl-Peter (2007): „Bildung im künstlerischen Projekt“. material/peez/2007 - 11-buschkuehle.pdf (besucht am 24. 11. 2016). Hirblinger, Heiner (2007): „Der ‚fruchtbare Moment‘ in Bildungsprozessen der Schule. Eine psychoanalytisch-pädagogische Interpretation des Konzeptes von Friedrich Copei“. In: Helmwart Hierdeis/Hans Jörg Walter (Hrsg.): Bildung. Beziehung. Psychoanalyse. Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt, S. 85 – 110. Hirschhorn, Thomas (2002): „‚Bataille Monumentʻ für die Documenta 11, Kassel 2002“, http:// (besucht am 24. 11. 2016). Legler, Wolfgang (2011): Geschichte des Zeichen- und Kunstunterrichts von der Renaissance bis zum Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts. Oberhausen: Athena. Mack, Gerhard (2002): „Proteste gegen die perfekte Kunst“. In: Art, Juni 2002, S. 42 – 47. Meistermann, Georg (2007): „Was man nicht lehren kann“. In: Heike Bippus/Michael Glasmeier (Hrsg.): Künstler in der Lehre. Hamburg: Philo & Philo Fine Arts, S. 37 – 43. Mügel, Rainer/Wetzel, Tanja (Hrsg.) (2016): „Nachlese“. In: Rainer Mügel/Tanja Wetzel: Interventionen. Lehrerhandeln in ‚offenenʻ bildnerischen Arbeitsprozessen. Braunschweig: kein Verlag, S. 101 – 106. Otto, Gunter (1969): Kunst als Prozeß im Unterricht. Braunschweig: Westermann. Szeemann, Harald (Hrsg.) (2008): Beuysnobiscum. Hamburg: Philo & Philo Fine Arts. Waltinger, Susanna Saéz de Guinoa (2002): „Einmal Heterotopie und zurück. Thomas Hirschhorns Bataille-Monument auf der Documenta 11. Ein Kunstwerk der anderen Art. Anfahrt inklusive“. In: Nr. 3. 711&idartikel=12285&ausgabe=12117&zu=121&L=1 (besucht am 26. 11. 2016). Wetzel, Tanja/Lenk, Sabine (Hrsg.) (2013): Mit Ecken und Kanten. Kunstunterricht als eine Frage der Haltung. München: Kopaed.


Tanja Wetzel

Zumdick, Wolfgang (2001): Der Tod hält mich wach. Joseph Beuys – Rudolf Steiner. Grundzüge ihres Denkens. Dornach: Pfort.

Jelena Toopeekoff

Wittgenstein und die Methodik der Kunstwissenschaft – Am Beispiel der Ikonik Max Imdahls Abstract: Wittgenstein and the Methodology of Science of Art – Max Imdahl’s Example. This essay examines whether it is possible to reflect on art-scientific methodology by means of Wittgenstein’s philosophy. For this reason the methodological approach of the art historian Max Imdahl is compared with Wittgenstein’s Lectures on Aesthetics and his comments on aspect seeing.

1 Einleitung Auf einen Zusammenhang von Wittgensteins Denken und den Künsten ist bereits oft und hinreichend hingewiesen worden. Dies geschah zum einen durch eine Deutung von Wittgensteins zahlreichen Bemerkungen über die Ästhetik und die Musik. Zum anderen wurde oft Wittgensteins Einfluss auf die bildende Kunst und einzelne KünstlerInnen betont, welche durch sein Denken maßgeblich inspiriert wurden und es in ihre Arbeiten aufgenommen haben. In diesem Beitrag wird jedoch der Versuch unternommen, Wittgensteins Bemerkungen zur Ästhetik auf die werkanalytische Methodik der Kunstwissenschaft zu beziehen: Wie stellen sich theoretisch fundierte Verfahren der Werkinterpretation dar? Einer der bis heute einflussreichsten Kunstwissenschaftler, der das Verfahren der Werkinterpretation entscheidend um die Konditionen für zeitgenössische Kunst erweitert hat, war Max Imdahl. Die von ihm entwickelte Methode der Ikonik ist zweifelsohne ein methodologischer Meilenstein der Kunstwissenschaft. Im Folgenden soll diese für die Methodologie der Disziplin beispielhafte Praxis einigen von Wittgensteins Bemerkungen gegenübergestellt werden. Vorab sind allerdings zwei Anmerkungen einerseits zur Auswahl der Methode und anderseits zum Anliegen dieses Aufsatzes notwendig.Warum wird hier Max Imdahls Methodik beispielhaft herangezogen und nicht die von Aby Warburg, Heinrich Wölfflin oder Hans Belting? Ein konkreter Bezug von Wittgensteins philosophischem Denken zu kunstwissenschaftlichen Verfahren ist bis jetzt kaum hergestellt worden, obwohl bereits auf die kunstphilosophische Relevanz von Wittgensteins

DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-017


Jelena Toopeekoff

Bemerkungen hingewiesen worden ist.¹ Max Imdahls Ikonik schien prima facie die deutlichsten Überschneidungspunkte mit Wittgensteins Bemerkungen zur Ästhetik zu haben, was die Annahme zuließ, dass eine Gegenüberstellung von Imdahl und Wittgenstein am ergiebigsten ausfallen würde. Insofern ist das Ergebnis der vorliegenden Untersuchung notwendig ein offenes, besteht ja das Ziel zunächst nur darin, zu prüfen, ob sich mithilfe von Wittgensteins Philosophie Teile der Methode Imdahls reflektieren und möglicherweise auch bewerten lassen. Meine Überlegungen werde ich in den folgenden Schritten präsentieren: Zunächst wird die Methode Max Imdahls beschrieben (2). Dabei wird vor allem auf eine der Ikonik inhärente Problematik der methodischen Systematisierbarkeit hingewiesen, die das Extrahieren von vier Thesen rechtfertigt. Im Anschluss werden die zuvor erarbeiteten Thesen so formuliert, dass sie dialektisch effektiv auf Bemerkungen Wittgensteins bezogen werden können. Dabei wird sich zeigen, dass die Imdahlschen Thesen überwiegend mit zwei unterschiedlichen Werken Wittgensteins in Verbindung gebracht werden können. Erstens mit Wittgensteins Vorlesungen über Ästhetik und zweitens mit jenen Bemerkungen des Manuskriptbandes MS 144², die sich mit dem Aspektsehen befassen (3). Im Hauptteil werden die Imdahlschen Thesen mit den Bemerkungen Wittgensteins kontrastiert (4). Abschließend folgt ein kurzes Fazit (5).

2 Ikonik Das von Max Imdahl entwickelte Paradigma der Ikonik entstand zu seiner Zeit maßgeblich aus der Motivation, die bis dahin weitläufig etablierten Methoden der Ikonographie und Ikonologie entscheidend um die Konditionen für zeitgenössische und vornehmlich nicht gegenständliche Kunst zu erweitern. In seiner wohl wichtigsten Arbeit Giotto Arenafresken. Ikonographie – Ikonologie – Ikonik richtet sich Imdahl Anfang der 80er Jahre damit hauptsächlich gegen Erwin Panofskys Dreistufenmodell, das an Werken³ ausschließlich drei Sinnebenen unterscheidet: 1. Die vorikonographische Sinnebene, auf der „die linearen und koloristischen Phänomene des Bildes als Figuren und Dinge begriffen [werden]“ (Imdahl 1994: 306). 2. Die ikonographische Sinnebene, auf der die auf der vorikonographischen Ebene erkannten Figuren und Dinge des Bildes mit Textgrundlagen identifi Vgl. hierzu: Majetschak 2007.  In diesem Beitrag zitiert nach PU 1984.  Imdahl bezieht sich in seinem Buch zwar ausschließlich auf Bilder, andere Gattungen sind jedoch von seiner Kritik keinesfalls ausgeschlossen.

Wittgenstein und die Methodik der Kunstwissenschaft



ziert werden und für welche aus diesem Grund die Kenntnis bestimmter literarischer Quellen unumgänglich ist (vgl. Imdahl 1994: 306). Die ikonologische Sinnebene, bei der „der ikonologische Bildsinn […] in der Funktion des Bildes als einer Ausdrucksform“ historisch bedingter „Geisteshaltungen [besteht], die zur Entstehungszeit des Bildes in der Malerei wie auch sonst in religiösen, philosophischen und poetischen Ideen“ (Imdahl 1994: 306) hervorgetreten sind.

Betrachtet man diese drei Sinnebenen, die primär auf die Deutung von Werken anhand von zu identifizierenden Narrationen und Motiven ausgerichtet sind, wird zunächst deutlich, dass hier das Kunstwerk und die im einzelnen Werk vorliegenden Konfigurationen und Gestaltungselemente als „Funktionswert“ (Imdahl 1996: 90) eines prinzipiell zu dechiffrierenden Deutungshorizontes begriffen werden. Da es in der gegenstandslosen Kunst weder Motive bestimmter Textgrundlagen noch figürliche Elemente gibt, wird Imdahls Einwand, eine solche Methode schließe vor allem zeitgenössische Kunst als Gegenstand der kunstwissenschaftlichen Interpretation aus, natürlich verständlich. Doch ging es Imdahl noch um einen weiteren Einwand, wenn er bezogen auf Panofsky und andere Interpreten betont, sie würden den intrinsischen und spezifischen Sinn eines Kunstwerks verfehlen, wenn sie Bilder nur als Indikatoren für bestimmte geistesgeschichtliche Entwicklungen oder als Illustrationen verstehen. Um diesem im einzelnen Kunstwerk vorliegenden Mehrwert an Sinn, den Imdahl „ikonischen Sinn“ (vgl. Imdahl 1996: 92) nannte, Rechnung zu tragen, beschloss er, nicht die Ikonographie und die Ikonologie zu revidieren, sondern um ein neues Paradigma zu erweitern. Dieses sollte auf einer singulären Betrachtung einzelner Kunstwerke bestehen und eine im Werk unabhängig von externen Faktoren bestehende Eigenleistung zu Tage zu bringen. Um seine Methode als Erweiterung und nicht als Ausschluss der bestehenden Sinnebenen zu präsentieren, benannte Imdahl sie, in Anlehnung an die Ikonographie und Ikonologie, Ikonik. Thema der Ikonik ist das Bild als eine solche Vermittlung von Sinn, die durch nichts anderes zu ersetzen ist. Über diese Unersetzbarkeit lässt sich nicht abstrakt diskutieren. Um sie zu gewahren und sich ihrer bewusst zu werden, bedarf es der konkreten Anschauung eines Bildes, und zwar ist eine spezifische ikonische Anschauung unerlässlich. (Imdahl 1994: 300)

Wie sich in diesem Zitat deutlich zeigt, hielt Imdahl nicht nur die Betrachtung einzelner Werke für besonders wichtig, sondern es ist vor allem die Anschauung des einzelnen Werkes, die sich hier paradigmatisch für Imdahls Verständnis einer adäquaten Auseinandersetzung mit Kunstwerken erweist. Nicht zu Unrecht weist Gottfried Boehm darauf hin, dass Imdahl „Methoden mit Allge-


Jelena Toopeekoff

meinheitsanspruch, aber ohne Sinn für die sinnliche Eigentümlichkeit der einzelnen Werke verabscheute“ (Boehm 1996: 7). Getragen von der Idee, dass, um zum ikonischen Sinn eines Werkes vorzudringen, dessen hochkomplexe Struktur mittels der Anschauung erfasst werden müsse, befand Imdahl, dass das Kunstwerk selbst die Instanz sei, vor der sich das wissenschaftliche Verfahren bewähren müsse (vgl. Boehm 1996: 8). Wenn aber die Struktur eines Werkes das eigentliche Vorgehen im Einzelnen vorschreibt, scheint eine systematisch dargelegte Methode mit konkreten Vorgaben und Schritten ausgeschlossen, und es kann die Frage aufkommen, ob von Imdahl als einem „Theoretiker im eigentlichen Sinne“ (Boehm 1996: 7) überhaupt zu sprechen ist. Um die Schwierigkeit der unzulänglichen methodischen Systematisierbarkeit zu umgehen, habe ich im Folgenden vier Thesen extrahiert, die gewissermaßen als Allgemeinplätze für eine Methode Imdahls fungieren sollen. Dieses Vorgehen wird benutzt, um die Methode Imdahls, trotz unzureichender Systematisierbarkeit, für eine Bewertung zugänglich zu machen. Vor dem Hintergrund des bereits Gesagten kann beispielweise schon eine erste These formuliert werden, der noch drei weitere Thesen ähnlichen Formates folgen werden: T1 Der Ikonik liegt die Auffassung zugrunde, dass die „Geschichte der Kunst, um wahre Kunstgeschichte zu werden, durch die enge Pforte des Verständnisses einzelner Kunstwerke hindurch muss.“ (Imdahl 1996: 100)

Doch wie gelangt man zum ikonischen Sinn eines Kunstwerkes? Imdahl spricht hierzu zwei Möglichkeiten an, zwei Theorien der Erfassung des Werksinnes über den Form- und Kompositionsbegriff, von denen er glaubt, dass nur ihre Synthese dem Kunstwerk wirklich gerecht werde: 1. den verkürzten Form- und Kompositionsbegriff Panofskys, bei dem die Form als ein bloßes Zeichen verstanden werde; das heißt, bei dem sowohl Form als auch Komposition nur unter der Perspektive eines „erinnernde[n], wiedererkennenden Gegenstandsehens“ (Imdahl 1996: 90) diskutiert werden. 2. den autonomen Form- und Kompositionsbegriff Konrad Fiedlers, eines Kunsthistorikers des 19. Jahrhunderts, für den das Werk gerade die „Veranlassung eines sehenden, nicht aber wiedererkennenden Sehens“ (Imdahl 1996: 89) sei. Da man in der Anschauung eines Kunstwerkes gewissermaßen von einem nur identifizierenden Sehen erlöst sei und die Möglichkeit habe, die Bedeutung reiner Sichtbarkeitswerte zu erschließen, die über ein begriffliches Verständnis hinausgehen (vgl. Imdahl 1996: 89 f.). In seinem Hauptwerk schließt Imdahl auf eine Unzulänglichkeit beider Verständnisse, da die ikonographisch-ikonologische Sichtweise, vermöge einer

Wittgenstein und die Methodik der Kunstwissenschaft


„Radikalisierung“ (Imdahl, 1996: 91) des wiedererkennenden gegenstandsbezogenen Sehens, die Berechtigung nicht motivischer Bildeinheiten nicht berücksichtige, wohingegen Fiedlers autonomer Sehbegriff die ikonografisch-ikonologischen Bedeutungsinhalte eines Werkes außer Acht lasse (vgl. Imdahl, 1996: 91). Vielmehr könne man nur zum ikonischen Sinn eines Kunstwerkes vordringen, wenn die Erfahrungen eines autonomen, sehenden Sehens und eines heteronomen, wiedererkennenden Gegenstandssehens und die ihnen entsprechenden syntaktischen und semantischen Sinnebenen zu einer durch nichts anderes zu substituierenden Bildidentität ineinander vermittelt (Imdahl 1996: 92)

würden. Erst eine Synthese beider Arten des Sehens, so Imdahls entscheidende Schlussfolgerung, führe zu einem „erkennenden Sehen“ (Imdahl 1996: 92), welches der eigentlichen Leistung des Werkes gewahr wird. Im Unterschied zu den angeführten Kompositionsverständnissen kann so nämlich allen dem Werk zugehörigen Einheiten ein Eigenwert entnommen werden, der weder die wiedererkennbaren figürlichen Bildgegenstände noch die im Werk vorhandenen formalen Relationen bevorzugt und versucht, das Kunstwerk durch seinen Gesamteindruck zu verstehen. Nun kann auch die zweite Imdahls Methode zugrundeliegende These festgehalten werden: T2 Es gibt einen je eigenen semantischen Sinn von Kunstwerken (ikonischer Sinn), der durch die Synthese von wiederkennendem Sehen und sehendem Sehen zu einem erkennenden Sehen auf der syntaktischen Ebene von Kunstwerken erfasst werden kann (vgl. Imdahl 1996: 92 f.).

Gelingt es, den ikonischen Sinn eines Werkes zu erfassen, hat dieser noch zwei weitere Merkmale, die Imdahl zufolge notwendig berücksichtigt werden müssen. Erstens kann der spezifisch ikonische Sinn eines Kunstwerkes nur gewonnen werden, wenn man das Werk gewissermaßen als gegenwärtige „ästhetische Evidenz“ (Imdahl 1996: 97) wahrnimmt und den Versuch unterlässt, es aus der Perspektive historischer Umstände oder anderer fiktiver Rückversetzungen (vgl. Imdahl 1996: 97) zu deuten. Zweitens kann der ikonische Sinn eines Kunstwerkes niemals hinreichend sprachlich ausgedrückt werden. Der von Imdahl oft betonte Mangel sprachlicher Bezugnahmen auf ikonische Sinnstrukturen lässt sich wohl am besten am Medium des Bildes veranschaulichen. In Bildern dargestellte simultane Ereignisse können, bedient man sich des sprachlichen Ausdruckes, nur aufeinander folgend geäußert werden, was wie-


Jelena Toopeekoff

derum der Schilderung eines je wahrgenommenen Inhaltes bereits eine dem Werk strukturell verschiedene Abfolge aufzwingt. Was sich aber als hochkomplexe szenische Simultanität zur unmittelbaren Anschauung vergegenwärtigt, ist im Medium der Sprache weder als empirische Tatsache zu beschreiben, noch auch als imaginierte Vorstellung zu erzeugen. (Imdahl 1994: 310)

Obgleich also die Beschreibung das einzige Mittel ist, um die Erfahrung des ikonischen Sinnes eines Werkes mitzuteilen, verfehlt sie zwangsläufig immer ihr Ziel. Aus diesen beiden Merkmalen lassen sich nun die letzten beiden Thesen Imdahls bestimmen: T3 Der ikonische Sinn eines Kunstwerkes äußert sich in einer ästhetischen Gegenwart, die unabhängig ist von den historischen Zusammenhängen, aus denen das Kunstwerk hervorgeht (vgl. Imdahl 1996: 97). T4 Der ikonische Sinn eines Werkes ist nicht sprachlich–narrativ vermittelbar und kann daher nur partiell deskriptiv überführt werden (vgl. Imdahl 1996: 93).

3 Vier Thesen Formuliert man nun die extrahierten Thesen etwas prägnanter, dann ergeben sich die folgenden Variationen von Tn: T1* Im Vordergrund der Ikonik steht die Analyse des einzelnen Werkes und nicht seine Verbindung mit anderen Zusammenhängen und Werken. T2* Kunstwerke haben einen genuin ikonischen Sinn, welcher erkannt werden kann. T3* Der ikonische Sinn eines Kunstwerkes ist zeitlos. T4* Jede sprachlich-deskriptive Annäherung an die ikonische Sinnstruktur eines Werkes ist unzureichend.

Bei dem Versuch, diese Imdahlschen Thesen mit Bemerkungen Wittgensteins in Verbindung zu bringen, zeigt sich, dass sie mit zwei unterschiedlichen Themengebieten in Wittgensteins Werk die meisten Schnittpunkte aufweisen. Denn betrachtet man die Inhalte der Thesen etwas genauer, sind es T1* und T3*, welche versuchen, vom kontextsensitiven Entstehungszusammenhang von Kunstwerken zu abstrahieren, wohingegen T4* die Möglichkeit der sprachlichen Bezugnahme auf Kunstwerke negiert. Dies wiederum sind Themen, die von Wittgenstein in den von ihm gehaltenen Vorlesungen über Ästhetik diskutiert werden. Die der zweiten These T2* zugrundeliegende Vorstellung verschiedener Arten des Sehens ist

Wittgenstein und die Methodik der Kunstwissenschaft


hingegen wohl am ehesten mit einer Problemstellung verwandt, die von Wittgenstein in seinen Bemerkungen über das Aspektsehen behandelt wird. Thematisch-komparativ sollen daher im nächsten Abschnitt die Imdahlschen Thesen in zwei Schritten mit den Bemerkungen Wittgensteins kontrastiert werden: Im ersten Schritt wird auf der Grundlage der Vorlesungen über Ästhetik eine mögliche Kritik der Thesen T1*, T3* und T4* vorgenommen. In einem zweiten Schritt soll dagegen versucht werden, T2* mithilfe von Wittgensteins Bemerkungen über das Aspektsehen zu fundieren.

4 Imdahl und Wittgenstein 4.1 Vorlesungen über Ästhetik Um dem Argumentationsstrang der Vorlesungen über Ästhetik, die Wittgenstein im Sommer 1938 vor einer kleinen Gruppe von Studenten im Cambridge hielt (vgl. LA 2005), kohärent zu folgen, ist es am sinnvollsten, mit der Imdahlschen These T4* zu beginnen: T4* Jede sprachlich–deskriptive Annäherung an die ikonische Sinnstruktur eines Werkes ist unzureichend.

Gleich zu Beginn der Vorlesungen diskutiert Wittgenstein eine ganze Reihe von ästhetischen Bezugnahmen. Vor allem sei dabei auffällig, dass man besonders im Bereich der Ästhetik – zum Beispiel bei der Betrachtung von Kunst – oft hört, die Werke seien „schön“ oder „gut“ (vgl. LA 2005: I.5). Der geläufigen Meinung, dass solche Ausdrücke als adäquate Bezugnahmen auf ästhetische Gegenstände gelten könnten, setzt Wittgenstein in den Vorlesungen allerdings eine andere Ansicht entgegen, wenn er darauf aufmerksam macht, „dass im wirklichen Leben ästhetische Adjektive wie ‚schön‘ [und] ‚gut‘ usw. kaum eine Rolle spielen, wenn ästhetische Urteile gefällt werden“ (LA 2005: I.8). Weder ist ein „Mensch mit Urteilsvermögen“ in diesem Zusammenhang „jemand, der ‚wunderbar!‘ bei bestimmten Gelegenheiten sagt“ (LA 2005: I.17), noch würden wir jemanden als musikalisch bezeichnen, „der ‚Ah!ʻ sagt, wenn ein Musikstück gespielt wird“ (LA 2005: I. 17). So sicher wie Wittgenstein glaubte, dass, wenn über Kunstwerke gesprochen wird, „wir [zwischen] Leuten unterscheiden, die wissen, wovon sie sprechen, und solchen, die das nicht tun“ (LA 2005: I.17), ging er keinesfalls von der Unzulänglichkeit sprachlicher Bezugnahmen auf Kunstwerke aus. Nur wäre es sinnvoller Worte zu verwenden, die keine lobende oder ablehnende Funktion haben, sondern vielmehr eine deskriptive. Beispiele, die Wittgenstein neben „den


Jelena Toopeekoff

ganz und gar uncharakteristischen Wörtern ‚gutʻ und ‚schönʻ“ (LA 2005: I.5) hierfür anführt, sind „frühlingshaft“, „bombastisch“ und „getragen“ (LA 2005: I.9). Denn beinahe entgegengesetzt zu der Imdahlschen These T4* war Wittgenstein der Überzeugung, dass das Kunstwerk und der „Eindruck, den es mir macht“, ganz maßgeblich „mit den Dingen in seiner Umgebung zusammen[hängt]“ (Z 1984: 175). So z. B. mit unserer Sprache und ihrer Intonation, also mit dem ganzen Feld unserer Sprachspiele. Wenn ich z. B. sage: Es ist, als ob hier ein Schluss gezogen würde, oder, als ob hier etwas bekräftigt würde […] – so setzt mein Verständnis eben die Vertrautheit mit Schlüssen [und] Bekräftigungen, voraus. (Z 1984: 175)

Was man nach Imdahl also nicht einmal sprachlich auszudrücken vermag, kann, folgt man Wittgensteins Argumentation, vielleicht nur durch jenen sprachlichen Zusammenhang hergestellt werden, der einen in die Lage versetzt, Gestaltungselemente eines Werkes überhaupt zu akzentuieren.Wäre es unmöglich, bestimmte Bildelemente oder Teile einer Skulptur durch Motive unserer Sprache auszuweisen – wie z. B. in Gemälden Diagonalen oft als Abhebungsmotiv gedeutet werden, welche Bewegung und Dynamik suggerieren – bliebe es unterbestimmt, auf was darin, neben etwaigen figürlichen Elementen, überhaupt hingewiesen würde. Denn was wir „wirklich wollen, um ästhetische Rätsel zu lösen“, bemerkt Wittgenstein an andere Stelle, „sind gewisse Vergleiche [und] Zusammenführung[en]“ (LA 2005: IV.2), die natürlich auch sprachlicher Natur sein können. Schließlich sind es in der Regel auch deskriptive Exemplifikationen bestimmter Art, die bei der Betrachtung und Deutung von Kunstwerken Experten von Laien unterscheiden. Von dem, der als „Kenner“ (vgl. LA 2005: I.18) in einem ästhetischen Kontext bezeichnet wird, erwartet man zurecht komplexere Aussagen, die mittels bestimmter Vergleiche und Zusammenführungen ausführen, ob ein Übergang in einem Musikstück richtig ist oder wie ein Werk korrekt in einen kunsthistorischen Zusammenhang einzuordnen ist. Doch wie steht es mit den anderen Imdahlschen Thesen, zum Beispiel T1*? (T1*) Im Vordergrund der Ikonik steht die Analyse des einzelnen Werkes und nicht seine Verbindung mit anderen Zusammenhängen und Werken.

Wenn der Eindruck, den bestimmte Kunstwerke auf uns machen, nicht unabhängig von der Umgebung des Kunstwerkes ist, wie zum Beispiel von der Sprache einer Kultur, fällt es nicht schwer, sich vorzustellen, dass auch andere Dinge maßgebend für jene Vergleiche und Zusammenführungen sein können. Und so schließt Wittgenstein in einer Bemerkung von 1948, dass auch jemandem „Verständnis für Gedichte oder Malerei beibringen zur Erklärung dessen gehören

Wittgenstein und die Methodik der Kunstwissenschaft


[kann], was Verständnis für Musik sei“ (VB 1984: 550). Dem Beispiel der Musik folgend, könne jedoch eine solche Erklärung vielleicht nicht einmal anhand einzelner Werke gegeben werden. Denn um das zu beschreiben, was zu einer bestimmten Zeit „musikalischer Geschmack“ (vgl. LA 2005: I.26) genannt wird, müsste ebenso auf bestimmte „Lebensweisen“ (LA 2005: I.35) hingewiesen werden, die ausschlaggebend für die in einer Kultur zugrundeliegenden Paradigmen der Beurteilung von Kunst sind. So meinte Wittgenstein, man müsse dann beispielsweise zu beschreiben in der Lage sein, „dass Kinder durch Erwachsene unterrichtet werden, die Konzerte besuchen usw., dass die Schulen sind, wie sie sind“, „ob Kinder Konzerte geben oder Frauen, oder ob nur Männer das tun“ (LA 2005: I.26), und so fort. Die „ungeheuer komplizierten Situationen, in welchen der ästhetische Ausdruck einen Platz hat“ (LA 2005: I.5), sind nach Wittgenstein nie unabhängig zu verstehen von der „sehr komplizierte[n], aber genau festgelegte[n] Rolle“ ästhetischer Ausdrücke in einer „Kultur oder Epoche“ (LA 2005: I.25). Auf die in T1* aufgeworfene Frage, was die eigentliche Aufgabe der Kunstgeschichte sei, die Betrachtung einzelner Werke oder eine mehr historiographische Orientierung zur Erschließung der Kunst in der Geschichte (vgl. Boehm 1996: 13), hätte Wittgenstein also sicherlich mit Letzterem geantwortet. Vor diesem Hintergrund kann nun, zumindest aus der Perspektive Wittgensteins, auch T3* zurückgewiesen werden: T3* Der ikonische Sinn eines Kunstwerkes ist zeitlos.

Gesetzt die Prämisse, dass die Beurteilung von Kunstwerken nie losgelöst von einer bestimmten kulturellen Praxis stattfindet, wäre es natürlich sinnlos zu behaupten, dass der Sinn eines Kunstwerkes unabhängig ist von den historischen Zusammenhängen, aus denen das Kunstwerk hervorgeht. Denn wenn eine Lebensweise maßgebend für die Beurteilung von Kunstwerken ist, kann zumindest festgehalten werden, dass wir zum Beispiel „in völlig anderer Weise über die Krönungsrobe Edward II.“ sprechen „als über einen Anzug“ (LA 2005: I.31) oder von dem, „was im 15. Jahrhundert kultivierter Geschmack genannt wurde“ (LA 2005: I.29). Somit kann auch die dritte der Imdahlschen Thesen bestritten und festgestellt werden, dass Wittgenstein in seinen Vorlesungen, ähnlich wie Panofsky in seinem Interpretationsmodell, einen sprachlich–kulturell relationalen Ansatz vertritt.⁴  Es kommt hier nicht darauf an anzugeben, wer von beiden im Recht liegt. Für eine bloße komparative Darstellung ist es zunächst ausreichend aufzuzeigen, dass Imdahl und Wittgenstein sich widersprechende Auffassungen eines adäquaten Verständnisses von Kunstwerken haben, obwohl dieser Punkt noch stärker herausgearbeitet werden müsste.


Jelena Toopeekoff

4.2 MS 144 Nachdem im letzten Abschnitt ermittelt werden konnte, dass die Imdahlschen Thesen T1*, T3* und T4* im Widerspruch zu Wittgensteins Auffassung stehen, soll nun aufgezeigt werden, dass sich die These T2* durch Bemerkungen Wittgensteins fundieren lässt. Dazu ist es notwendig, zusätzlich zu T2* erneut deren erste Formulierung hinzuzuziehen: T2* Kunstwerke haben einen genuin ikonischen Sinn, welcher erkannt werden kann. T2 Es gibt einen je eigenen semantischen Sinn von Kunstwerken (ikonischer Sinn), der durch die Synthese von wiederkennendem Sehen und sehendem Sehen zu einem erkennenden Sehen auf der syntaktischen Ebene von Kunstwerken erkannt werden kann (vgl. Imdahl 1996: 92 f.).

Deutlich erkennbar unterscheidet Imdahl zwischen drei Arten des Sehens: dem wiedererkennenden Sehen Panofskys (S1), dem sehenden Sehen Fiedlers (S2) und dem erkennenden Sehen der Ikonik (S1+S2). Die zentrale Frage ist nun, ob diese Arten des Sehens, welche nach Imdahl den entscheidenden Schlüssel bieten, um zum ikonischen Sinn eines Kunstwerkes vorzudringen, gewinnbringend mit Wittgensteins Bemerkungen über das Aspektsehen in Verbindung gebracht werden können. Der Hypothese dieses Aufsatzes zufolge kann diese Frage mit Ja beantwortet werden. Um sich jedoch nicht vollständig in das komplexe Beweisziel der Bemerkungen über das Aspektsehen zu verstricken und einen sinnvollen Zusammenhang zu Imdahl herzustellen zu können, sollen im Folgenden nur wenige Bemerkungen Wittgensteins ebenso wie eine äußerst hilfreiche Besprechung dieser Bemerkungen in einer Dissertation aus dem Jahre 2007 von Chang Liu hinzugezogen werden. Wittgenstein beginnt seine Überlegungen über das Aspektsehen mit folgender Unterscheidung: Zwei Verwendungen des Wortes „sehen“. Die eine: „Was siehst du dort?“ – „Ich sehe dies“ (es folgt eine Beschreibung, eine Zeichnung, eine Kopie). Die andere: „Ich sehe eine Ähnlichkeit in diesen beiden Gesichtern“– der, dem ich dies mitteile, mag die Gesichter so deutlich sehen wie ich selbst. Die Wichtigkeit: Der kategorische Unterschied der beiden ‚Objekteʻ des Sehens. (PU II 1984: 518)

Begründet lässt sich fragen, worin der Unterschied in den zwei Verwendungen des Wortes sehen besteht? Zunächst kann vielleicht darauf hingewiesen werden, dass hier zwei unterschiedliche Situationen der Berichterstattung über das Gesehene vorliegen (vgl. Liu 2007: 20 ff.). In beiden Situationen befinden sich zwei Personen im Gespräch, und es wird eine Angabe über einen gesehenen Gegenstand gemacht. Der Unterschied liegt in den möglichen Antworten, die Wittgenstein für die

Wittgenstein und die Methodik der Kunstwissenschaft


Situationen gelten lässt. Im ersten Fall gibt es verschiedene Optionen, eine Angabe über das Gesehene zu machen, zum Beispiel durch eine Beschreibung, Zeichnung oder Kopie. Im zweiten Fall gibt es diese Möglichkeiten nicht, weil beide Personen mit denselben Gegenständen, zwei Gesichtern, konfrontiert sind (vgl. Liu 2007: 24). Zurecht weist meiner Ansicht nach Chang Liu darauf hin, dass sich die zwei unterschiedlichen Verwendungen so präzisieren lassen, dass in der ersten Situation „ein erwünschter Bericht über das Gesehene dem Adressaten […] die gesehenen Gegenstände möglichst deutlich darstellen [soll]“ (Liu 2007: 23), in der zweiten Situation hingegen „der Sprecher das Wort ‚sehenʻ […] verwendet, um […] seinen eigenen Gesichtseindruck auszudrücken und nicht gleichzeitig die Eigenschaften oder die Änderungen des gesehenen Gegenstandes zu beschreiben“ (Liu 2007: 29). „Diese Erfahrung“, schreibt Wittgenstein an anderer Stelle, wenn „[i]ch sehe, dass es sich nicht geändert hat; und […] es doch anders [sehe]“, „nenne ich ‚das Bemerken eines Aspektsʻ“ (PU II 1984: 518). Lässt sich die Vermutung bestätigen, und es gibt in der Tat zwei unterschiedliche Verwendungen des Wortes sehen, wobei die erste schlicht durch die „Schilderung der betreffenden Gegenstände“ (Liu 2007: 33) erfolgt, in der zweiten dagegen sehen benutzt wird, um die „Änderung des Eindrucks […], jedoch nicht gleichzeitig die Änderung des Gegenstandes selbst“ (Liu 2007: 33) auszudrücken, müssen auch unterschiedliche Situationen angegeben werden können, in denen sich der Gebrauch des Wortes sehen eindeutig entweder in die eine oder die andere Richtung zuordnen lässt. Zum Beispiel wäre eine Verwendung des Wortes im zweiten Sinne, wie Wittgenstein an vielen Stellen bemerkt, schlicht unsinnig, da in manchen Situationen „[z]u sagen ‚Ich sehe das jetzt als …ʻ, für mich so wenig Sinn gehabt [hätte], als beim Anblick von Messer und Gabel zu sagen: ‚Ich sehe das jetzt als Messer und Gabel. ʻ“ (PU II 1984: 521) Wenn allerdings nach einem Kontext gefragt wird, in dem sehen im zweiten Sinne sinnvoll verwendet wird, merkt Wittgenstein an, dass wohl besonders in Gesprächen über ästhetische Gegenstände [oft] die Worte gebraucht werden: „Du mußt es so sehen, so ist es gemeint“; „Wenn du es so siehst, siehst du, wo der Fehler liegt“; „Du mußt diese Takte als Einleitung hören“; „Du mußt nach dieser Tonart hinhören“; „Du mußt es so phrasieren“ […]. (PU II 1984: 534)

Der Hypothese dieses Beitrages zufolge lässt sich nun – ist der Bezug zur Kunst einmal hergestellt – eine Analogie ziehen zwischen den verschiedenen Arten des Sehens, die von Imdahl herausgestellt wurden, und den zwei Verwendungen des Wortes nach Wittgenstein. Auf der Ebene des wiedererkennenden Sehens, das nach Panofsky den elementaren Zugang zum Verständnis des ikonographischen oder ikonologischen Bildsinnes bildet, wäre es ebenso unsinnig, zum Beispiel bei


Jelena Toopeekoff

einem Gemälde Christi beständig darauf hinzuweisen, man sehe diese Figur jetzt als Jesus Christus oder diese Figur könne als Jesus Christus gesehen werden. Vielmehr würde man die abgebildete Figur direkt als Jesus Christus ansprechen und im Anschluss eine entsprechende Beschreibung angeben. Dies lässt den Schluss zu, dass das wiedererkennende Sehen Panofskys mit der ersten Verwendung des Wortes sehen nach Wittgenstein in Verbindung gebracht werden kann. Bei dem erkennenden Sehen, welches Imdahl für die Betrachtung von Kunstwerken fordert, kann eine einfache Beschreibung qua Identifikation mit bestimmten Figuren nicht gegeben werden. Diese Art des Sehens entspricht vielmehr einer Verwendung des Wortes im zweiten Sinne nach Wittgenstein, da eine Beschreibung der ästhetischen Gegenstände durch die Verwendung des Wortes sehen im ersten Sinne ausgeschlossen scheint. Eine adäquate Beschreibung in Imdahls Sinne kann ja nur gegeben werden, indem auf die „wiedererkennbaren figürlichen und dinglichen Bildwerte formale Relationen sowie bloße Linien und Richtungen jenseits des mitgebrachten Sinns aller gegenständlichen Trägerschaften“ (Imdahl 1996: 92) in einer bestimmten Weise hingewiesen wird. Diese Art der Beschreibung hat ähnlich dem Bemerken eines Aspektes nichts mit der bloßen Angabe der Wahrnehmung des Abgebildeten zu tun. Doch lässt sich sowohl bei Wittgenstein als auch bei Imdahl fragen, zu was genau der entsprechende Gegenstand mit diesem Hinweis, man müsse es so sehen oder man müsse gewisse Linien jenseits gegenständlicher Trägerschaften deuten, in Relation gesetzt wird? Vor allem, wenn der lediglich erneute Verweis auf den Gegenstand selbst, wie bei der Verwendung des Wortes sehen im ersten Sinne, ausgeschlossen erscheint. Eine Möglichkeit wäre, auf den erkannten Aspekt durch die Hinzunahme eines Bildes aufmerksam zu machen. Doch wie Wittgenstein an anderer Stelle akzentuiert, kann selbst der, welcher

Was wir in spezifischen Konfigurationen erkennen, ist eben oftmals nicht durch diese oder andere Bilder ausdrückbar. Kann aber weder durch einen deskriptiven Verweis auf den Gegenstand noch mithilfe eines Bildes eindeutig dargestellt werden, welchen Aspekt man in einer Figur oder Konfiguration sieht, hilft mitunter nur eine komparative „Erklärung“ (Liu 2007: 112), den erkannten Aspekt aufzuzeigen.

Wittgenstein und die Methodik der Kunstwissenschaft


Dies ist natürlich nicht das erste Mal, dass im Rahmen der WittgensteinForschung darauf hingewiesen wird, dass die „begriffliche Erklärung besonders wichtig für die Darstellung des Aspekterlebnisses [ist]“ (Liu 2007: 112). Doch kann aufgrund des Umstandes, dass oft auf einen an Werken zu bemerkenden Aspekt nur aufmerksam gemacht werden kann, indem man ihn mittels begrifflicher Erklärungen in einen neuen Vergleichskontext rückt, ein erneuter Bezug zur Methode Imdahls hergestellt werden. Denn genau darin, dass eine solche Erklärung mithilfe sprachlicher und nicht visueller Bezugnahmen erfolgt, kann der Grund vermutet werden, warum die These T4* aufgestellt worden ist: (T4*) Jede sprachlich–deskriptive Annäherung an die ikonische Sinnstruktur eines Werkes ist unzureichend.

Unter der Voraussetzung, dass der ikonische Sinn eines Bildes nicht wieder durch ein Bild erklärt werden kann, sondern nur vermöge einer vom Kunstwerk strukturell verschiedenen sprachlichen Erklärung, erscheint nämlich die von Imdahl betonte Diskrepanz zwischen dem Sinn eines Kunstwerkes und dessen Mitteilung nicht mehr allzu unplausibel zu sein.

5 Fazit Die diesem Aufsatz zugrundeliegende Absicht war es zu prüfen, ob mit Wittgensteins Philosophie auf kunstwissenschaftliche Methoden reflektiert werden kann. Als eine solche werkanalytische Methode wurde Max Imdahls Ikonik herangezogen, weil diese mit Wittgensteins Bemerkungen zur Ästhetik prima facie die meisten thematischen Überscheidungspunkte aufwies. Bei der konkreten Gegenüberstellung der Imdahlschen Thesen mit Wittgensteins Bemerkungen im Hauptteil dieses Aufsatzes zeigte sich dann, dass zwar die Thesen T1, T3 und T4 aus der Perspektive Wittgensteins negativ zu bewerten wären, da sie den kontextsensitiven Charakter von Kunstwerken übersehen, sich aber die zweite These T2 sogar durch Wittgensteins Bemerkungen über das Aspektsehen fundieren ließ: Imdahl fordert für eine angemessene Betrachtung von Kunstwerken immer ein Sehen gemäß Wittgensteins zweiter Verwendung des Wortes, was wiederum Imdahls, der vierten These T4 zugrundeliegende, Auffassung zu erklären vermag.


Jelena Toopeekoff

Literatur Boehm, Gottfried (1996): „Die Arbeit des Blickes. Hinweise zu Max Imdahls theoretischen Schriften“. In: Max Imdahl: Reflexion Theorie Methode. Bd. 3. Gottfried Boehm (Hrsg.). Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, S. 7 – 41. Imdahl, Max (1994): „Ikonik. Bilder und ihre Anschaung“. In: Gottfried Boehm (Hrsg.): Was ist ein Bild? München: Fink, S. 300 – 324. Imdahl, Max (1996): Giotto Arenafresken. Ikonographie – Ikonologie – Ikonik. München: Fink. Liu, Chang (2007): Wittgenstein über das Aspektsehen. [Diss. Univers. Bielefeld.] Bielefeld: mbv. Majetschak, Stefan (2007): „Kunst und Kennerschaft. Wittgenstein über das Verständnis und die Erklärung von Kunstwerken“. In: Wilhelm Lütterfelds/Stefan Majetschak (Hrsg.): „Ethik und Ästhetik sind Eins“. Beiträge zu Wittgensteins Ästhetik und Kunstphilosophie. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, S. 49 – 68. Schulte, Joachim (1987): Erlebnis und Ausdruck. Wittgensteins Philosophie der Psychologie. München, Wien: Philosophia. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1984): „Philosophische Untersuchungen“. In: Werkausgabe. Bd. 1. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, S. 225 – 580. (PU) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1984): „Vermischte Bemerkungen“. In: Werkausgabe. Bd. 8. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, S. 445 – 573. (VB) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1984): „Zettel“. In: Werkausgabe. Bd. 8. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, S. 259 – 443. (Z) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2005): Vorlesungen und Gespräche über Ästhetik, Psychologie und Religion. Cyril Barrett (Hrsg.). Ralf Funke (Übers.). Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Verlag. (LA)

Martin Gessmann

Wittgenstein und Weltdesign Abstract: Wittgenstein and World Design. World design is a deeply ambivalent topic. On the one hand, are the optimists who believe that design is about making the world a better place. On the other hand, are the pessimists who complain about the uniformization of all articles of use—from architecture to fashion—worldwide. The advertising of global companies and the cultural critique have further intensified this impression in either way. This essay wants to show that both views are nowadays obsolete and outdated. World design has become essentially a political issue. The fundamental question now is how we want to live together and how design influences our ways of life. The moot point is how design determines our identities. The right understanding of networking will prove crucial in this context. You just have to understand it as a connection not only between people, but also and especially between things.

1 Einleitung Weltdesign genießt heute einen zweideutigen Ruf. Auf der einen Seite stehen die Optimisten, die nach wie vor meinen, Weltdesign habe einen zivilisatorischen Auftrag: Aufklärung wird in die Welt getragen dadurch, dass einfache Formen und einsehbare Inhalte die Welt übersichtlich machen und ordnen. Jeder kann mitmachen,wenn er denn will,Technik und Fortschritt werden für alle zugänglich, Produkte und die dahinterstehenden Programme werden zur Open Source. Weltdesign ist dann zu verstehen als ein Beitrag zur Völkerverständigung: über alle lokalen Kulturen und Üblichkeiten hinweg werden wir anschlussfähig in der Art,wie wir miteinander kommunizieren und handeln. Kein Flecken Erde und kein hinterster Winkel ist entlegen genug, um nicht am Fortschritt der Menschheit teilzuhaben. Eine lange, gewundene Linie zieht sich von den Pionieren des Weltdesigns in die Gegenwart: beginnend im 18. Jahrhundert mit den Autoren der Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers und endend mit den Enzyklopädisten des Silicon Valley. Sei es, dass Google sich dem Projekt verschrieben hat, das Wissen der Welt endlich der ganzen Menschheit zugänglich zu machen; sei es, dass Apple den Menschen wieder vor die Technik stellen wollte; oder Facebook uns auffordert, mit einer Kultur der Weltbefreundung doch noch ernst zu machen, über alle Kulturen, Sprachen und Religionen hinweg. DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-018


Martin Gessmann

Auf der anderen Seite stehen die Pessimisten. Es braucht nicht viel Recherche, um schon in der allgemeinen Wahrnehmung eine solche Haltung vorherrschend zu finden. Stichworte wie Funktionalismus genügen meistens, um ausreichend Material zu assoziieren: von den Plattenbauten bis zu Weltautos, die so gesichtslos sind, dass sie zwar überall gleichermaßen hinpassen, aber zugleich auch nirgendwo wirklich. Wir haben uns längst daran gewöhnt – zugleich aber nie verstanden, warum es eigentlich so sein muss: dass unsere gesamte Lebenswelt jenem als seelenlos empfundenen Gestaltungsimperativ folgt. Angefangen, wie es schon Heidegger empörte, bei der Industrialisierung von Landschaft und Umwelt – das Rheinkraftwerk, die Autobahnen – und einer vergleichbaren Kolonialisierung der Städte – kein Dorf mehr ohne die immer gleichen Industriegebiete – bis hin zum Mikrokosmos des Alltäglichen – von der LED-Leuchte über die Zahnbürste bis hin zum Klopapier. Die Kritiker nähern sich dem Phänomen von zwei Seiten. Progressiv verstanden verschreibt man sich weiter einer klassischen Kulturkritik. Wo die Befürworter von Aufklärung sprechen, halten die Gegner das Konzept einer Dialektik der Aufklärung entgegen. So zuletzt Byung-Chul Han. Weltdesign steht für alles Glatte und Konturlose: Apple, Jeff Koons und Brasilian Waxing haben ihn ausdrücklich zu der These angeregt (Han 2015: 9). Die Dinge sind für ihn allesamt nackt geworden, so sehr, dass sich keiner mehr an ihnen reiben kann und wir alle einander gleich und verwechselbar werden, wenn wir sie benutzen. Weltdesign ist ein Agent einer gnadenlosen Gleichmacherei, die Han zuletzt mit dem Phänomen des Terrorismus verknüpft. Es gilt also: ISIS ist ein Apple-Produkt. Auf konservativer Seite findet man sich berechtigt, einen beherzten Schritt zurück zu machen – in dem vollen und klaren Bewusstsein darüber, dass man intellektuell schon einmal ein gutes Stück weiter war. Wir sprechen von der Bewegung eines „Neuen Realismus“, der die vergangenen 200 Jahre Geistesgeschichte am liebsten wieder von der Tafel wischen würde. Um es übersichtlich und einfach zu machen, gruppiere ich in zwei Spielarten: die eine ist anglo-amerikanisch und zuletzt protestantisch inspiriert: zu nennen wäre etwa Richard Sennett (flankierend z. B. John Searle und Jeremy Rifkin), der mit seiner Wiederbelebung des „Handwerks“ eine vorindustrielle Welt häuslicher Verhältnisse erneut für vorbildlich hält. Es ist zuletzt ein Plädoyer für eine Community der Selbstversorger – beseelt vom Pioniergeist, aber auch der Weltabgewandtheit religiös inspirierter Siedler (Amish People, Shaker, Quäker etc.). Ergänzend dazu gibt es inzwischen auch eine kontinental-katholische Linie des Neuen Realismus. Auch diese gefällt sich darin, das Rad der Geistesgeschichte einfach wieder zurückzudrehen. Anders als die anglo-protestantische Variante wird jedoch nicht eine Arts-and Crafts-Romantik wiederbelebt, es geht nicht um die heile Welt von Heim und Werkstatt in gottgefälligem Einklang mit Umwelt und

Wittgenstein und Weltdesign


Schöpfung. Es geht nicht um Bewahrung und Schonung, es geht um gesellschaftlichen Aufbruch und Utopie. Mittelalter wird ergänzt durch Science Fiction. Etwas noch nie Dagewesenes soll demnach angedacht werden, wir handeln realistisch am besten von möglichen Welten – Welten, in denen alles grundsätzlich ganz anders sein kann als in der uns bekannten und gewohnten. Die Betonung liegt also auf dem Anteil des Neuen im Realismus. Es wird darauf bestanden, dass man erneut und überhaupt wieder verhandeln kann, überall dort, wo die Moderne mit Vorstellungen von Sachzwängen und gesellschaftlichen Notwendigkeiten operiert. Wenn man es sich ganz einfach machen will, kann man auch dieses Projekt in religiösen Deutungsmustern anmoderieren. Es handelt sich dann nicht nur um das Bedürfnis, es überhaupt wieder mit Gottesvorstellungen und Vergleichbarem zu tun zu haben, sondern weit konkreter noch um das Verlangen, es ab jetzt wieder mit einem katholischen Gott zu tun zu haben. Gemeint ist damit ein Gott, der nicht bereits einen fertigen Weltplan hat, dem es nur mehr oder weniger gut zu entsprechen gilt. Und der Max Weber-These folgend auch nicht mehr mit einem Kapitalismus, dessen zwanghaftes Auftreten als Folge einer Säkularisierung eben jener fatalen Heilsgeschichte gedacht werden soll. Der Protestantismus steht so gesehen überhaupt im Verdacht, ein Agent der Moderne zu sein und der alten Metaphysik ein Ende gemacht zu haben – als eine Art Korruption von innen. Der Gott des Neuen Realismus ist gegenüber dem protestantisch-modernen viel permissiver zu denken. Er lässt uns wieder Spielräume, das heißt, er macht uns Angebote, die wir auch ungestraft wieder ablehnen dürfen. Quentin Meillassoux fand sich vor rund zehn Jahren genötigt, eben in diesem Sinne zu einem gewollten Anachronismus zu greifen: zurück zu einer alten Metaphysik in vorkritischer Tradition, ausgehend von Descartes; zugleich wollte er – der Strategie der Jesuiten folgend (Meillassoux 2006: 167– 190) – darauf bestehen, dass das Schicksal des Menschen wieder als verhandelbar zu denken ist und den Intellektuellen bei der fälligen Neubestimmung eine leitende Funktion zukommt. Ein philosophisches Priesteramt wird also wieder eingeführt und für notwendig erklärt. Um das möglich zu machen, wird die seit dem 19. Jahrhundert frei geräumte Stelle eines transzendenten Gottes neu besetzt. Hinter dem gewöhnlichen Lauf der Dinge wird erneut eine letzte metaphysische Instanz angenommen. Diese soll aber zu nichts anderem taugen, als eben unseren Vorstellungen eines Neuanfangs in der Welt den nötigen ontologischen Platz einzuräumen. So erscheint die Welt der Gesetze und Notwendigkeiten selbst noch einmal in ein allumfassendes Chaos getaucht. Alles in der Welt ist demnach kontingent zu denken (sogar die Naturgesetze). Und nichts hindert uns in der Folge dieser Chaos-Bestimmung mehr daran, uns die Welt ganz anders und vollkommen verändert vorzustellen. Wie genau und konkret, das dürfen dann die hauptamtlichen Utopisten ausführen. Nicht zuletzt darf man Meillassoux’ Einlassungen auch als Hilfestellung für die


Martin Gessmann

gesellschaftlichen Projekte seines Lehrers Alain Badiou und anderer, dem Projekt Assoziierter verstehen, wie etwa Slavoj Žižek. Einen Schnittpunkt im Weltdesign finden die eben angestellten Überlegungen schließlich dort, wo das Design als ein Weltentwurf verstanden wird – als ein Weltentwurf, der sich aus vermeintlichen Zwängen der Ökonomie wie auch der technischen Modernisierung ergibt. Jene Zwänge werden von Alain Badiou als eine „Diktatur des Angesichts der Wirklichkeit“ (Badiou 2016: 14) entlarvt, und jener Diktatur gilt es das utopische Projekt künstlerischer Formfindung entgegenzuhalten.Wenn das gelingt, wird die Welt wieder zu einem Ort, in dem sich die Künstlernatur des Menschen frei verwirklichen kann – das alte Projekt des Situationismus der 1960er Jahre lebt hier weiter fort. Unnötig zu betonen, wie viel rückwärtsgerichtete Romantik auch in diesem Anti-Weltdesign noch enthalten ist. Um wirklich zwanglos zu erscheinen, müssen die Gegenentwürfe die Frucht einer voraussetzungslosen Einbildung sein. Ihre Gestalt muss sich als grundlos richtig und einleuchtend erweisen. Wahrheit muss sich unmittelbar zu verstehen geben. Das gilt auch gesellschaftlich. Foucault konnte in diesem Sinne zum Maoisten werden und den unmittelbaren Volkszorn zum Maßstab des Wahren machen. Badiou lässt sich analog zu dieser Gedankenfigur – wie Žižek und andere – zu einem Lob des Stalinismus in seinem schlimmsten Tagen hinreißen – und zuletzt, wie wir eben noch erfahren durften, auch noch eines Trumpismus (Žižek 2016).

2 Durchführung Lässt man die eben geführte Debatte Revue passieren, stellt sich ein Eindruck ein, den man wohl am schnellsten mit dem Stichwort „déjà vu“ bezeichnet.Was hier an Pro- und Contra-Positionen in Sachen Weltdesign entgegengehalten wird, kennen wir bereits gut aus anderen Zusammenhängen. Ein Heilsversprechen wird gegeben: Design steht dann im Zusammenhang mit einer Zivilisierung der Menschheit, Design ist das,was alles nach außen hin zuletzt zusammenhält, die Außenhaut der Aufklärung – oder um es gleich in ein bekannteres Bildfeld zu rücken: der flexible Mantel, den wir Moderne uns im Namen des Fortschritts um die Schultern legen. Dagegen urteilt die Kulturkritik, jene Außenhaut der Aufklärung könne nicht mehr sein als eine trügerische Fassade, überall glatt und metallisch glänzend, etwas, das uns ästhetisch blendet, nur um den wahren Charakter des Fortschritts zu bemänteln – die dunkle Seite der Aufklärung. Oder um es gleich wieder in der Bildsprache Max Webers zu sagen: Weltdesign ist das „stahlharte Gehäuse“, als das sich jene scheinbar flexible Außenhaut der Dinge schließlich erwiesen hat, bei näherem, kritischen Hinsehen. Was poliert und silbrig glänzt ist in Wahrheit auch

Wittgenstein und Weltdesign


durch und durch metallisch – eine zivilisatorische Zurüstung, die uns keinen Raum mehr zu atmen lässt. Uns Betroffenen bleibt dann nur die Option einer Rebellion – einer Rebellion, die zugleich um ihre Ohnmacht und historische Sinnlosigkeit weiß, sich also bewusst ist, dass nichts Wesentliches aus ihr folgen wird. Ein Ausbruchsversuch aus der Moderne führt zurück in die heile Welt des Mittelalters und der zünftigen Handwerke, eine andere mitten in das hippe Künstlerviertel einer Sicence-FictionGesellschaft: dorthin, wo wir uns allesamt einer extravaganten Makerkultur verschreiben und damit von der überkommenen Zivilisation abkoppeln. Wir gebärden uns wie die Besatzung im Raumschiff Enterprise und beamen uns via 3DDruck alles Nötige und auch noch uns selbst an Bord. Wir verstehen uns als wagemutige Bohème und brechen jeden Tag zu nie gesehenen Sonnen und fernsten Planeten auf, umgeben von einem Weltall unerhörter Möglichkeiten. Meine Feststellung geht also nüchtern gesehen dahin, dass wir es immer noch mit einer klassisch geführten Debatte zu tun haben, wie sie um das Stichwort einer Säkularisierung kreist: Am Anfang verbanden wir hehre Motive mit dem Unternehmen Weltdesign, später mussten wir uns dann – schmerzlicher Weise – eingestehen, dass es damit nicht weit her war – und noch schlimmer, sich sogar das Gegenteil des erhofften Effekts einstellte: anstatt einer menschlicheren, schöneren, besseren Welt leben wir nun in einer inhumanen Welt, in der sich nicht mehr wohnen lässt – frei nach Heidegger –; umgeben von glänzenden, aber auch einförmigen und charakterlosen Dingen, kurz: in einer Welt, die Fortschritt sagt und in Wahrheit Rückschritt meint. Wie viel an religiöser Aufladung in dieser Säkularisierungsthese auch noch enthalten ist, das lässt sich mit einem kurzen Blick auf die Geschichte des Designs abschätzen. Man muss sich dazu noch einmal ins 19. Jahrhundert zurückversetzen und nachvollziehen, auf welche Grundfrage das Weltdesign ursprünglich eine Antwort bieten sollte. Die erste Anforderung an Design wird von den Pionieren so formuliert, dass es einen resoluten Bruch mit der traditionellen Gestaltung der Dinge geben muss. Gottfried Semper macht als erster deutlich, als wie dringlich jene Aufgabe wahrgenommen wird. Er schaut auf die neuesten technischen Produkte – wie etwa das eben erfundene Gaslicht – und empört sich darüber, dass jenes revolutionäre Leuchtmittel uns immer noch in Kerzengestalt vorgestellt wird (Semper 1852: 12– 13). Man verkenne das Wesen und die Möglichkeiten der Innovation, wenn man keine eigene, neue Form und Funktion dafür finde. Ähnlich wird es sich später mit den ersten Automobilen verhalten, die wie Pferdekutschen daherkommen – und so im Grunde mit allem, bis zu den ersten Handys, die immer noch wie Funkgeräte oder klassische Telefone aussahen. In der Designtheorie sprechen wir von der äußeren Form als einer Metapher – Metapher deshalb, weil eine Übertragung


Martin Gessmann

stattfindet von einer gewohnten Bedeutung (dem bisherigen Ansehen) in einen neuen, noch ungewohnten Kontext (das ist dann die modernisierte technische Infrastruktur). Die zweite Anforderung wird bereits mit der ersten Weltausstellung der neuen Industrieprodukte offenbar. Sie fand 1851 im Christal Palace in London statt, einem eigens im Hyde Park aufgestellten Ausstellungsgebäude aus Stahl und Glas. Wie Peter Sloterdijk es einmal herausgestellt hat, verkörpert es in vollkommener Weise den Rahmen, in dem sich eine Industriemoderne von nun an selbst verstehen muss (Sloterdijk 2005: 265 – 276). Es erscheint als eine durchsichtige Außenhaut um ein Interieur künstlicher Weltprodukte. Eine bewegliche Sphäre, in die es einzutauchen gilt, um zu verstehen, wie zukunftsorientiert und zugleich grenzenlos das wahre Design sein muss. Der Kristallpalast steht überall und nirgends, er ist als Metapher zu verstehen für eine vollkommene Globalisierung eines jeden künftigen Stilempfindens. Wir verstehen das intuitiv, wenn wir den Hochglanz der Produkte wahrnehmen im Widerschein eines Lichtes, das auf uns durch die Wölbung einer durchsichtigen Glaskuppel fällt. Im Kristallpalast, wo immer er steht, gilt: nur der Himmel ist die Grenze. Nimmt man beide Anforderungen zusammen – den gestalterischen Bruch mit allem Dagewesenen, die Ausrichtung der Produkte an Weltstandards – dann steht das Design nun vor folgendem Grundproblem: finde eine Form, die jenen Vertrautheitsverlust und Vertrauensverlust aufwiegt, der durch Herkunft, Tradition und Einbettung in lokale Gegebenheiten bislang gegeben war. Schaffe einen Ausgleich dafür, dass die Dinge ihre bislang selbstverständliche Form verlieren und damit zugleich zum Teil eines vollkommen künstlichen Kosmos der Dinge werden können. In einer derartigen Anmoderation des Problems ist freilich auch schon die Richtung vorgegeben, in die seine mögliche Lösung aus der Sicht des 19. Jahrhunderts gehen muss. Es gilt, den Mangel an Verwurzelung wettzumachen durch eine Anbindung an eine höhere Macht. Anstatt in Geschichte, Herkunft und Üblichkeiten muss der Anker ausgeworfen werden in Zukunft, Fortschritt und Überheblichkeiten. Es muss das Spektakuläre gesucht werden, das vergessen lässt, was war, und Aussicht bietet darauf, was überhaupt möglich ist und sein kann. Zwei Instanzen kommen für eine solche Anbindung in Frage: Wissenschaft und Kunst. Denn beiden wird im ausgehenden 19. Jahrhundert noch zugetraut, etwas von dem Göttlichen und Hochgespannten zu bewahren, das die Aufklärung uns zuvor nahegelegt hat, hinter uns zu lassen. Beide Instanzen geben sich fortschrittlich und avantgardistisch, abenteuerlustig und heilsversprechend, im Stil rücksichtslos nüchtern und zugleich extravagant. Design, wann immer es ausstellungsreif wird, erscheint uns dementsprechend als ein eigenartiges

Wittgenstein und Weltdesign


Hybrid: eine Zusammensetzung aus vollkommener Sachlichkeit und künstlerischer Überzeichnung. Es hat einerseits immer Teil an einem mathematischtechnischen Weltbau und präsentiert sich dabei als ein geniales Arrangement naturwissenschaftlicher Notwendigkeiten; andererseits tritt es mit dem Anspruch auf, einen Enthusiasmus in uns zu erwecken, groß genug, um ein Leben ohne Produkte des Designs als wertlos erscheinen zu lassen. Design gewährt uns Einlass in exklusivere Sphären und lässt uns dauerhaft träumen. Wie weit die Aufladung von Design mit einer derartigen Sinnerwartung gehen kann, das macht zuletzt die Dekadenz der Jahrhundertwende deutlich. Jetzt gilt es bereits auf Verfallstendenzen zu reagieren, die das Design in die Nähe des Kitsches gerückt haben. Vor allem die Wiener Moderne empfindet den Hang der Produkte zum Seichten als eine besondere Form der Blasphemie gegenüber dem hehren Anspruch säkularer Sinnstiftung. Von Karl Kraus bis zu Adolf Loos, von Robert Musil bis zu Ludwig Wittgenstein lässt sich in diesem Zusammenhang eine durchgehende Linie ziehen. Alle vereint das Bemühen, die Welt der Moderne noch einmal durchsichtig zu machen auf eine höhere Ordnung hin, die streng wissenschaftlich fundiert ist und mit Hilfe genialen Künstlertums zum Vorschein kommen kann. Das wahre Weltdesign wird hier geboren, insofern es nun um eine letzte Formgebung der Welt und der Dinge geht: „Die Welt ist alles,was der Fall ist“ (TLP 1989: I). Und gelänge es, diesen Fall gedanklich aufzuhalten durch Herausstellung einer letzten Form der Dinge, dann wären die Weltprobleme allesamt gelöst. Und der Mensch erlöst. Wie tief die Enttäuschung auch gewesen sein mag, dass sich jene Hoffnung nicht erfüllen sollte – wie es das nachgereichte Vorwort des Tractatus bereits einräumt, trotzdem die „Wahrheit der“ dort „mitgeteilten Gedanken unantastbar und definitiv“ (TLP 1989: 2– 3) erscheint – das hier gegebene Heilsversprechen ist aus den Köpfen der Designer des 20. Jahrhunderts nicht mehr herauszubekommen. Es wäre nun ein eigener, langer Absatz nötig, um das zu belegen – ich muss hier aber abkürzen und zum Schluss kommen.

3 Schluss Das Bild über den Stand der Debatte wie auch der Sache ist damit einigermaßen vollständig, und jetzt kann es abschließend zur Bewertung gehen – oder besser gleich zu der Frage, was daran falsch ist und wie wir es im 21. Jahrhundert besser machen. Die Recherche ergab, dass wir uns auf drei Ebenen der Betrachtung bewegen. Auf der ersten wird mit Weltdesign das Projekt einer Weltzivilisation verbunden. Design soll also dazu beitragen, dass sich Lebensverhältnisse bessern und technischer Fortschritt zugänglich wird – für alle und weltweit, das ist der Anspruch.


Martin Gessmann

Deshalb ist Weltdesign auch ein Vorposten der europäischen Aufklärung. Dem hält die Kulturkritik entgegen, frei nach Adorno, dass das gut gemeinte Projekt inzwischen in sein schieres Gegenteil umgeschlagen ist, auf das Zivilisationsversprechen also eine Ankunft mitten in die Barbarei folgte. Auf der zweiten Ebene haben wir es bereits mit einer Reaktion auf jene Einsicht der Kulturkritik zu tun. Der Barbarei modern designter Lebensumstände wird die heile Welt einer ursprünglich gebliebenen Lebenswelt entgegengesetzt. Sei es als Rückkehr in die Welt des Ateliers und der alten Handwerke, sei es als Ausblick in die Welt der Ateliers avantgardistisch autonomer Künstler. Die dahinterstehenden Ideale haben nicht mehr nur mit Technik, Gesellschaft und Lebenswelt zu tun, sondern bereits mit gemeinschaftlichem Zusammenhalt und Politik. Menschen im neuen Einklang mit Natur und Kreativität werden eins mit sich und der Menschheit. Auf der dritten Ebene wird die Linie gesellschaftlicher Relevanz schließlich bis an ihr letztes kulturelles Ende ausgezogen. Über die zivilisatorischen und gesellschaftspolitischen Einsätze hinaus wird ein Anker in Transzendenz und Religion ausgeworfen. Wenn man so will, reagiert das Design im 20. Jahrhundert damit selbst schon wieder auf die Anfechtungen, die ihm gegenüber in seinem Verlauf laut werden. Mit Weltdesign ist dementsprechend zuletzt noch ein Heilsversprechen verbunden. Wer sich ihm verschreibt, der hat Aussicht darauf, eine letztmögliche Verbindung zu höherer Wahrheit zu bekommen – durch Wahrnehmen ihres Abglanzes in der Welt. Wer mitmacht, gehört zu der Gemeinschaft von Auserwählten, die auf eine höhere Gnade hoffen dürfen – auf dem Wege materieller Erleuchtung. Weltdesign wird zur möglichen Eintrittskarte in einen Zirkel erlöster Seelen. Und jene Karte, wenn man genau hinschaut, wird in der einen oder anderen Weise von fast allen Global Playern in Sachen Weltdesign gespielt, von IKEA über Coca Cola zu Apple, Facebook und Google und so weiter. Nun zu der Frage: Was ist an dem Bild falsch? Soweit wir damit die Historie des Weltdesigns und seine intellektuellen Hintergründe beleuchten bis zum Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts: gar nichts. Wenn wir uns aber fragen, was es mit Weltdesign im 21. Jahrhundert auf sich hat – das heißt, was wir heute tatsächlich unter diesem Titel verhandeln, dann muss man davon ausgehen: die bisherige Einschätzung und Diskussion liegt grundsätzlich falsch. Warum? Der Grundfehler liegt ganz offenbar darin beschlossen, dass wir Weltdesign immer noch als eine Bestimmung der Beziehung „Mensch – Welt“ ansehen. Wir gehen davon aus, dass Weltdesign es mit Objekten zu tun hat, Gegenständen, die wir gestalten und die insgesamt unsere Lebenswelt ausmachen – vom alltäglich Nächsten bis zum umweltlich Fernsten, vom Zahnstocher bis zum Weltklima.

Wittgenstein und Weltdesign


Unser Verhältnis zu den gestalteten Dingen hat sich aber heute grundlegend verändert. Es sind eben nicht mehr einfach nur Objekte, mit denen wir umgehen, passive Utensilien, die darauf warten, von uns genutzt zu werden, Laufwege und Infrastrukturen, denen wir einfach nur blind folgen und uns fügen müssen.Womit wir es heute zu tun haben sind Gegenstände, die selbst aktiv werden und mitmachen, Systeme, die mitarbeiten, System-Verbünde, die mitorganisieren und auch schon vorausplanen. Es fängt an bei einfachen Dingen wie einer Wetter-App, die mit mir mitreist und die Temperatur und die Aussichten anzeigt immer da, wo ich gerade bin; es geht weiter mit Systemen wie den Navigationsgeräten, die uns nicht nur den Weg von A nach B anzeigen, sondern auch Services anbieten, wie Antworten auf die Frage: wo ist die nächste Toilette, wo das nächste Restaurant; es endet schließlich bei Systemverbünden, die zuletzt etwa autonomes Fahren möglich machen – und darüber hinaus auch noch den Individualtransport einbetten in eine überlokale Verkehrsplanung. Und so wird es irgendwann mit allen Dingen sein: sie sind nicht nur einfach da und warten auf unsere Handhabung, sie gehen uns selbst zur Hand, als sei in ihnen wirklich so etwas wie ein kluger Assistent verborgen. Im Auto ein Fahrer, im Verkehr ein Planer, in der Fabrik ein Manager. Um jene Zukunftsaussicht in eine Reihung und Zählung zu bringen – und zugleich abzusetzen vom gegenwärtigen Stand der Dinge, spricht man inzwischen von der Kultur einer Industrie 4.0. Damit schließt man an und greift zurück auf die bisherigen Meilensteine des Internetzeitalters. Auf der Stufe von 1.0 ging es noch um den reinen Informationsaustausch und technische Steuerung; 2.0 markierte den Punkt, an dem die Terminals geöffnet wurden für Interaktion. Man handelte zugleich damit, dass man Informationen austauschte, man gab nicht nur etwas zu verstehen, sondern bewertete es auch. Wir haben uns an die Sterneauszeichnung und Kommentarfahnen bei Kauf- und Buchungsportalen bereits so sehr gewöhnt, wie auch an die Allgegenwart der Likes und Dislikes, dass es uns längst als selbstverständlich erscheint. Mit 3.0 ist der Punkt erreicht, an dem zur Bewertung die Services hinzukommen, also Verknüpfungen von Informationen mit Angeboten, die uns hilfreich sein können. Wer etwa einen Flug umbuchen will, darf entscheiden, ob auch die dazugehörige Hotelreservierung gleich angepasst werden soll und Geschäftstermine verschoben werden. 4.0 bezeichnet schließlich den Stand der Dinge, wenn dermaleinst Informationen, Interaktionen und Services nicht mehr nur auf uns Menschen als Nutzer ausgerichtet und abgestimmt sind, sondern den maschinellen Dienstleistern selbst zugesprochen und zugetraut werden. Sie kooperieren dann praktischerseits direkt mit einander, ohne den Umweg über die Schnittstelle Mensch zu nehmen. Industrie 4.0 wird jene künftige Kultur genannt, weil die Industrie schon heute als der Vorreiter einer derart komplexen und bereits maschinen-intern ablaufenden Organisation gelten darf.


Martin Gessmann

„Schulter an Schulter“ (Neumann 2015), so lautet die Formel, die das Verhältnis von Mensch und Maschine dann kennzeichnet, will sagen: wir sind allesamt Arbeiter im Weinberg des Herrn. Nimmt man diese Aussicht ernst, kann man gleich genauer verstehen, worin der Fehler in der bisherigen Schätzung des Weltdesigns liegen muss. Weltdesign als eine reine Objektgestaltung ging noch davon aus, dass mit dem Design eine Festlegung getroffen wird: entweder kommen uns die Dinge entgegen oder nicht. Drehen sie uns etwa den Rücken zu, fühlen wir uns der Welt entfremdet; verlangen sie von uns ganz bestimmte Handhabungen und Abläufe, können wir das schätzen oder auch nicht; sehen wir in ihnen eine höhere Weltordnung aufscheinen, dürfen wir uns erhaben fühlen oder eben auch nicht. Anders zu dem Zeitpunkt, da wir es mit einem Gegenüber zu tun haben, dessen Design mit einer eigenen, noch verhandelbaren Verhaltensweise verbunden ist. Dann ist mit der äußeren Gestalt eben noch nicht ausgemacht, ob wir uns grundsätzlich zivilisiert oder barbarisiert fühlen müssen; darüber werden vielmehr die inneren Werte eines praktischen Entgegenkommens entscheiden. Wir ärgern uns also nicht mehr grundsätzlich über die Tücke eines Objekts, wenn jenes Objekt an sich bereits verbesserungsfähig ist. Objekte bekommen eine zweite Chance, sie können uns auch – gegen allen Augenschein – die Hand reichen. Wie es sich in einem Auto fährt, sehen wir nicht mehr nur dem schnittigen oder behäbigen Äußeren und seinen technischen Daten an. Sobald es autonom fährt, entscheidet auch der Charakter der Chauffeurseinstellung ganz wesentlich mit. Alle Dinge bekommen so gesehen eine Art Persönlichkeit zugesprochen, die sich in der Art und Weise manifestiert, wie sie bereit sind, uns zur Hand zu gehen. Design wird zu einem Charakterdesign, das sie uns in neuer Weise wesensverwandt macht: nämlich in einer ganz lebenspraktischen Hinsicht. Verdichten wir diese Aussichten und Eindrücke zuletzt zu Thesen, gilt es grundsätzlich festzuhalten: 1. Design hat es künftig nicht mehr mit der Gestaltung von Dingen zu tun, sondern von Strukturen. 2. Jene Strukturen sind nicht mehr als objektive Gegebenheiten hinzunehmen, denen sich der menschliche Gebrauch fügen muss. Sie sind vielmehr als Netz von Verknüpfungspunkten zu denken, an denen entlang sich unser Handeln mit demjenigen der Servicegeber verbindet. 3. Design ist dementsprechend keine Eigenschaft von Objekten mehr, sondern von hochkomplexem, überindividuellem Handeln. 4. Design wird damit zu einer Disziplin, deren Ausgangspunkte nicht mehr in der Technik, Ästhetik und der Ökonomie liegen, sondern in der politischen Dimension gesamtgesellschaftlicher Abläufe.

Wittgenstein und Weltdesign



Design sieht sich zuletzt nicht mehr vor die Alternative gestellt, Erfüllungsgehilfe einer Moderne zu sein, die unsere Lebenswelt zur schützenden Hülle oder zum „stahlharten Gehäuse“ macht. Design wird vielmehr zur Instanz, die jene Netze knüpft, in denen wir uns als gesellschaftliche Wesen wiederfinden – oder auch nicht.

Wenn das alles auch nur ein Stück weit einleuchtet oder in die richtige Richtung weist, dann ist die Frage nach dem Weltdesign entgegen allem Anschein noch nicht zu Ende diskutiert. Im Gegenteil, sie steht an ihrem ersten Anfang. Denn nun muss mit Hilfe jener Designvorgaben gestritten werden darüber, ob wir uns – und gegebenenfalls wie wir uns – als Menschheit in der Moderne neu definieren wollen. Dazu bedarf es aber einer Einbettung des Weltdesigns in die klassischen Menschheitsfragen politischer und kultureller Natur. Es gilt dementsprechend, ein neues Kapitel globaler Selbstverständigung aufzuschlagen.

Literatur Badiou, Alain (2015): À la recherche du réel perdu. Paris: Fayard. Han, Byung-Chul (2015): Die Austreibung des Anderen: Gesellschaft, Wahrnehmung und Kommunikation heute. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer. Meillassoux, Quentin (2006): Après la finitude. Paris: Editions du Seuil. Neumann, Horst (2015): „Industrie 4.0 – Große Chance für die Arbeit.“ http://www. twitter/neumann_essay.html (besucht am 18. 11. 2016). Semper, Gottfried (1852): Wissenschaft, Industrie und Kunst. Vorschläge zur Anregung nationalen Kunstgefühles. Braunschweig: Vieweg. Sloterdijk, Peter (2005): Im Weltinnenraum des Kapitals. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1998): „Tractatus logico-philosophicus“. In: Brian McGuinness/Joachim Schulte (Hrsg.): Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung. Tractatus logico-philosophicus. Kritische Edition. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Žižek, Slavoj (2016): „Wo aber Gefahr ist, wächst das Rettende auch.“ In: http://www. - 11/us-wahl-donald-trump-populismus-linke-slavoj-zizek/seite-3 (besucht am 18. 11. 2016).

Wittgenstein and the Arts

Benjamin Kiel

Zum Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst Abstract: How the Arts Deal with the Work of Wittgenstein. This article is a continuation of a previous study (Kiel/Toopeekoff 2016) that examined up to what extent the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein had an influence on the development of American art in the 1960s. During this examination it became clear that misunderstandings concerning the philosophy of Wittgenstein, and hence the interpretation of the artworks of the examined artists, in most of the literature that was used to answer such question have been and still are perpetuated. In regard to the question of how the arts deal with the work of Wittgenstein it seems necessary to look critically at publications entitled „Wittgenstein and the arts“ and the often too easily made appearing relations and links between the name Ludwig Wittgenstein and an artistic position. In this context the following article will introduce an artist of whom it is said that he not only was influenced by the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein but that he even was his student in Cambridge: Jani Christou, important Greek composer of avant-garde music in the 1950s and 1960s.

Auf eine Auseinandersetzung mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in den verschiedenen Künsten ist bereits mehrfach hingewiesen worden und ebenso häufig wurde dabei die unterschiedliche Art und Weise der Rezeption der Philosophie Wittgensteins in der zeitgenössischen Kunst deutlich. Daher soll es im Folgenden nicht darum gehen, der Liste an Künstlern, die sich mehr oder weniger explizit auf Wittgenstein beziehen, eine weitere Position hinzuzufügen; sondern vielmehr wird versucht, anhand einer künstlerischen Position exemplarisch den Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst deutlich zu machen. Denn ausgehend von der Beobachtung, dass der Einfluss der Philosophie Wittgensteins auf die Werkentwicklung bestimmter Künstler tendenziell überschätzt wird (vgl. Kiel 2016: 248), lässt sich fragen, ob diese Beobachtung nicht auch in weiteren Fällen zutreffend ist, in denen ein solcher Einfluss oder gar Zusammenhang zwischen dem Werk eines Künstlers und der Philosophie Wittgensteins behauptet wird. Im Zentrum der folgenden Untersuchung steht dabei der griechische Komponist Jani Christou (1926-1970), dem in jüngster Zeit vermehrt Aufmerksamkeit zuteil wurde. Da sein Werk bisher noch nicht in Gänze erforscht ist, scheint es vor allem auf dem Hintergrund eines oftmals behaupteten Studiums von Christou bei DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-019


Benjamin Kiel

Wittgenstein in den späten 1940er Jahren und den sich daraus entwickelnden Spekulationen über mögliche Zusammenhänge zwischen der Genese seines Werkes und der Philosophie Ludwig Wittgensteins notwendig, seine Position einer kritischen Betrachtung zu unterziehen. Die Beschäftigung mit Jani Christou ist vor allem Resultat eines im Frühjahr 2016 veröffentlichten Beitrags im Magazin South as a State of Mind, das als Publikationsorgan der documenta 14 dient. In diesem Beitrag, der unter dem Titel „Keeping Score: Notation, Embodiment, and Liveness“ erschienen ist, untersucht der Autor Hendrik Folkerts das Verhältnis zwischen Partitur und Aufführung, welche Funktion die Partitur innerhalb der Musik einnimmt, aber vor allem, welche Funktion sie in der Performance-Kunst innehat. Traditionell gehe in chronologischer Hinsicht, so Folkerts, die Partitur üblicherweise der eigentlichen – musikalischen – Aufführung voraus, und gebe in der Regel bestimmte Handlungsanweisungen, wie das jeweilige Stück aufzuführen sei, auch wenn Raum für Interpretation und Improvisation gelassen werde (vgl. Folkerts 2016: 152). Folkerts beginnt seine Untersuchung mit einem Verweis auf die avantgardistische europäische Musik der 1960er Jahre und die in dieser Zeit beginnende Loslösung von konventionellen Notationssystemen innerhalb der Avantgarde, welche das traditionelle Verhältnis von Partitur zur Aufführung in Frage stellte. Diesbezüglich nennt er zunächst mit dem englischen Komponisten Cornelius Cardew einen Künstler, der in seiner Radikalität sowohl im Bezug auf die Notationsweise als auch hinsichtlich seiner Konzeption von Aufführungen eine für die Entwicklung der avantgardistischen Musik exemplarische Position darstellt. In wenigen Worten zusammengefasst beschreibt Folkerts Cardews Methode als eine „dissolution of the hierarchies and boundaries between composer and interpreter“ (Folkerts 2016: 152). Diese Auflösung geschah beispielsweise derart, dass dem Musiker ein großer Freiraum hinsichtlich der Interpretation und damit Ausund Aufführung eines Stücks eingeräumt wurde. Ein weiterer Aspekt war, dass das von Cardew gegründete Scratch Orchestra keinen alleinigen Dirigenten beziehungsweise Leiter hatte. Die wohl bekannteste Partitur Cardews ist die zu seinem Stück Treatise. Konzipiert zwischen 1963 und 1967, umfasst die Partitur 193 Seiten, in denen es bis auf wenige Elemente – wie etwa Notenlinien am unteren Bildrand – zunächst keinen Verweis darauf gibt, dass es sich um eine Partitur zu einem Musikstück handeln könnte (Abb. 1). Auch wenn bestimmte sich wiederholende Elemente ausgemacht werden können und manche Formen auch die Assoziation zu Tonhöhe oder Tonlänge evozieren, verzichtet Cardew absichtlich auf jegliche Instruktion oder Einleitung, um zukünftige Interpreten nicht zu einer Art sklavischem Ausführen der ihnen vorgegebenen Anweisungen zu zwingen (vgl. Cardew 1971a: i). Was die Ordnung

Zum Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst


Fig. 1: Cornelius Cardew, Treatise, 1963-67, Partitur (Ausschnitt). In: South as a State of Mind 7. Nr. 2. (2016), S. 155. Abdruck mit freundlicher Genehmigung von C.F. Peters Ltd & Co. KG Leipzig.

der Zeit und damit das Tempo, den Takt oder die Dauer jedes einzelnen Abschnitts angeht, macht Cardew ebenfalls keine Angaben. Im Zusammenhang mit dieser Art der grafischen Notation erwähnt Folkerts den 1970 verstorbenen griechischen Komponisten Jani Christou, in dessen Werk sich ebenfalls grafische Partituren finden. Auch sie ermöglichen den Interpreten in ähnlicher Weise ein hohes Maß an Improvisation und freier Interpretation. Die Partitur zu seinem Stück Epicycle (Abb. 2) aus dem Jahr 1968 enthält „both written instructions and drawn images that describe how to spatialize and time the performance“ (Folkerts 2016: 153). Das Stück, dessen Uraufführung 1968 einen ganzen Tag dauerte – ursprünglich sollte es eine ganze Woche lang aufgeführt werden –, bestand aus einem Magnettonband, das die Hintergrundmusik zu einem Film des Malers Kosmas Xenakis lieferte. Der Raum, in dem der Film Xenakis’ gezeigt wurde, diente als eine Art Bühne, wobei das Tonband eine kontinuierliche Abfolge sich nach einer bestimmten Zeit wiederholender musikalischer Muster lieferte. Zudem spielten Musiker, die jedoch die Aufführung zu jedem Zeitpunkt verlassen konnten. Gleiches galt für das Publikum, das außerdem dazu eingeladen war, ebenfalls an der Performance teilzunehmen (vgl. Lucciano 2000: 110f.). Im Bezug auf die grafischen Partituren der beiden Komponisten schreibt Folkerts nun, es sei bemerkenswert, dass „both Cardew and Christou were influenced by Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus“ (Folkerts 2016: 153). Darin unterscheide Wittgenstein, so Folkerts, „between language as clear and explicit signification (the word ,tree‘ that directly relates to the ,tree‘ object) and language that does not (the word ,ethics‘, for example)“ (Folkerts 2016: 153).


Benjamin Kiel

Fig. 2: Jani Christou, Epicycle, 1968, Partitur (Ausschnitt). In: South as a State of Mind 7. Nr. 2 (2016), S. 156. Photo: Jani Christou Archiv, Athen.

Konsequenterweise könne die letztere Art von Sprache daher nicht dem empirischen Wissen zugeordnet werden und in fact, it is in this way that philosophy develops as an ongoing questioning without verification or falsification. Wittgenstein’s inquiry into the nature of language and how we communicate provided Cardew and Christou […] with a great deal of freedom to move away from known, stable systems of signification in music (Folkerts 2016: 153).

Abgesehen davon, dass es fraglich ist, ob die Philosophie sich durch die Implikationen des Tractatus zu einer Art Befragung ohne Verifikation oder Falsifikation entwickelte – denn die philosophischen Probleme hielt Wittgenstein ja weitgehend durch die im Tractatus formulierten Sinn- und Wahrheitskriterien von Sätzen für gelöst, wodurch die traditionelle Philosophie an ein Ende gelangt zu sein schien; abgesehen also davon, ob man Folkerts Aussage ohne Weiteres zustimmen kann, ist durch die doch sehr allgemein gehaltene Formulierung nicht klar, welche Aspekte der Wittgensteinschen Gedanken im Tractatus nun Christou und Cardew beeinflusst haben sollen. Freilich: Man könnte durch die von Folkerts’ gemachte Benennung von Sprache-als-Bezeichnung eine Rezeption der Bemerkungen im Kontext der sogenannten Abbildtheorie und deren Implikationen vermuten. Eine solche Spekulation soll an dieser Stelle jedoch nicht ausgearbeitet werden. Vielmehr wird der Frage nachgegangen, ob Cardew und Christou tatsächlich vom Tractatus beeinflusst worden sind, wobei Jani Christou weit mehr im Fokus der Untersuchung stehen soll als Cornelius Cardew. Dies geschieht aus dem Grund, da

Zum Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst


bei Cardew durchaus eine Verbindung zwischen seinem Werk Treatise und dem Tractatus hergestellt werden kann: so lässt sich etwa das englische Wort „treatise“ als „wissenschaftliche Abhandlung“ aber auch als „Traktat“ übersetzen. Darüber hinaus bezieht sich Cardew in einer nach der Veröffentlichung von Treatise erschienenen Schrift ausdrücklich auf Bemerkungen aus dem Tractatus – aber mehr noch als auf diese bezieht er sich auf Bemerkungen aus der Spätphilosophie Wittgensteins, mit denen er grundlegende Konzepte seiner Kompositionsweise zu erklären versucht (vgl. Cardew 1971b: xvii ff.). Hier scheint also in der Tat eine Verbindung und Rezeption der Gedanken Wittgensteins vorzuliegen, auch wenn sicherlich nicht davon ausgegangen werden kann, dass die Philosophie Wittgensteins ursächlich für die Genese von Treatise gewesen ist. In Jani Christous Werk ist hingegen ein solcher Zusammenhang nicht derart eindeutig festzustellen. Aber kann dennoch ein Zusammenhang zwischen dessen Werk und der Philosophie Wittgensteins hergestellt und plausibel nachgewiesen werden? Und wenn ja, wie zeigt sich diese Verbindung und anhand welcher kompositorischer Methoden und Mittel kann ein potentieller Einfluss deutlich gemacht werden? Die Beantwortung dieser Fragen zeigt zugleich etwas darüber, wie mit der Philosophie Wittgensteins beziehungsweise mit dem Namen Wittgenstein oftmals in kunsthistorischen Zusammenhängen umgegangen wird. Nicht zuletzt sind diese Fragen umso interessanter, da es in vielen Lexikonartikeln über Jani Christou heißt, er habe zwischen 1945 und 1948 unter anderem bei Wittgenstein und Russell in Cambridge Philosophie studiert. Diesbezüglich muss jedoch gesagt werden, dass diese Behauptung bisher nicht verifiziert werden konnte. Obwohl nicht bewiesen, wird sie oftmals als Grund genannt, um in Christous Werk einen Einfluss der Philosophie Wittgensteins zu belegen.¹ Als sicher gilt hingegen, dass Christou im Zeitraum von 1945 bis 1948 tatsächlich in Cambridge Philosophie und Wirtschaftswissenschaften studierte, wobei er zeitgleich privaten Kompositionsunterricht bei Hans Ferdinand Redlich im nahe bei Cambridge gelegenen Letchworth genommen hat (vgl. Schäfer 2000: 210). Aber: Sollte Christou wirklich bei Ludwig Wittgenstein im Zeitraum von 1945 bis zum Ende seiner Lehrtätigkeit 1947 in Cambridge studiert haben, bleibt weiterhin fraglich, warum Christou gerade der Tractatus beeinflusst haben sollte. Bekanntermaßen rückte Wittgenstein seit seiner Rückkehr zur Philosophie in den

 Als Beispiel sei hier die bisher einzige umfangreichere Publikation zu Jani Christou in deutscher Sprache genannt, die anlässlich des Hamburger Musikfestes im Jahr 1993 unter dem Titel Jani Christou: Im Dunkeln singen erschienen ist. Als einer der wenigen Autoren überhaupt weist darin zumindest Thomas Schäfer darauf hin, dass es bisher weder seitens der Philosophischen Fakultät in Cambridge noch vom „Wittgenstein-Biographen Ray Monk“ (Schäfer 1994: 31) eine Bestätigung des Studiums Christous bei Wittgenstein gegeben hat (vgl. Schäfer 1994: 31).


Benjamin Kiel

frühen 1930er Jahren von seiner Konzeption im Tractatus ab und bekannte sich im Vorwort zu den Philosophischen Untersuchungen – das er bereits im Januar 1945 verfasst hatte – zu den „schweren[n] Irrtümer[n]“ (PU 2006: Vorwort), die er in „jenem ersten Buche niedergelegt hatte“ (PU 2006: Vorwort). Und diese Irrtümer basierten unter anderem darauf, dass er im Tractatus von einer irreführenden Annahme über den „Bau der Sprache“ (PU 2006: 23) ausgegangen ist, welche ihn gewissermaßen gefangen hielt (vgl. PU 2006: 114f.). Es scheint daher unwahrscheinlich, dass Wittgenstein in seinen Vorlesungen nach 1945 den Tractatus weiterhin thematisiert hat. Was den Inhalt seiner Vorlesungen betrifft, so hat sich Wittgenstein ab Mitte der vierziger Jahre vorwiegend mit der Philosophie der Psychologie beschäftigt (vgl. Schulte 2001: 131; vgl. von Wright 2013: 6). Auch die posthum publizierten Titel Zettel, Bemerkungen über die Philosophie der Psychologie und Vermischte Bemerkungen geben Einblick in die Themen, mit denen sich Wittgenstein in eben jenem Zeitraum befasste. Darüber hinaus bildete die eigene Forschung Wittgensteins das thematische Gerüst seiner Vorlesungen (McGuinness 2012: 408). Wenn also die Philosophie Wittgensteins auf das Arbeiten von Christou aufgrund seines Studiums in Cambridge Einfluss genommen hat – immer vorausgesetzt der Fall, dass Christou tatsächlich Student Wittgensteins zwischen 1945 und 1947 gewesen ist –, so dürften es folglich eher Themen gewesen sein, die dem sogenannten Spätwerk Wittgensteins zugeordnet werden können. Vor diesem Hintergrund müsste Folkerts’ Aussage, dass Christou von Wittgensteins Tractatus beeinflusst war, widersprochen werden. Dies vor allem dann, wenn man davon ausgeht, dass Folkerts’ Quellenlage sich nicht von der allgemein zugänglichen unterscheidet.² Gleichwohl ist damit noch nicht gesagt, dass Christou nicht doch von Wittgensteins Philosophie beeinflusst gewesen ist und dass diese ihm nicht doch eben jene Freiheit verschaffte, mit dem es ihm gelang, sich von konventionellen Notationssystemen zu lösen (vgl. Folkerts 2016: 152). Um diese Frage zu klären, lohnt ein kurzer Blick auf die Entwicklung der avantgardistischen Musik in den 1950er und 1960er Jahren.

 Im Gegensatz zu anderen Abschnitten seines Textes führt Folkerts für seine Aussage, dass Christou von Wittgensteins Tractatus beeinflusst war, keine Verweise an (vgl. Folkerts 2016: 150169).

Zum Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst


1 Grafische Partituren und die Neue Musik in den 1950er und 1960er Jahren Dabei zeigt sich, dass es erste Experimente mit unkonventionellen, grafischen Notationsformen bereits im New York der 1950er Jahre gegeben hat. In diesem Zusammenhang ist etwa Morton Feldman zu nennen, der für Stücke aus seiner Serie Projections (1951-52) grafische Notationen verwendete. Im hier zu sehenden Beispiel markieren die gestrichelten Linien Ein-Sekunden-Abschnitte, die Boxen beziehen sich auf die Tonhöhe und Dauer der zu spielenden Töne, die Zahlen stehen für die Anzahl gleichzeitig erklingender beziehungsweise zu spielender Töne. Am rechten Bildrand sind die zu verwendenden Instrumente zu finden (Abb. 3).

Fig. 3: Morton Feldman, Projections II (Opening), 1951, Partitur (Ausschnitt). Abdruck mit freundlicher Genehmigung von C.F. Peters Ltd & Co. KG Leipzig.

Da Feldman nach diesem Experiment wieder zur konventionellen Notation zurückkehrte, gilt als eigentlicher Wegbereiter grafischer Notation Earle Brown, Zeitgenosse Feldmans, dessen wohl berühmteste Partitur – December aus dem Set Folio – ebenfalls 1951 entstand (vgl. Osmond-Smith: 2004).³  An verschiedenen Stellen werden mögliche Parallelen und Zusammenhänge zwischen der Entstehung solcher grafischer Partituren und der gleichzeitig in New York stattfindenden Entwicklung in den bildenden Künsten hervorgehoben (vgl. Osmond-Smith 2004: 344). Zudem sei ebenfalls auf die Entwicklung der Fluxus-Bewegung, die ca. 1962 entstand, und ihre Verbindung zu John Cage und dessen Einfluss auf eben jene Bewegung hingewiesen. Auf europäischer Seite


Benjamin Kiel

Brown gibt keine Vorgaben, wie die Partitur auszuführen ist: sie kann entweder von links nach rechts oder umgekehrt, oder aber auch um 90 Grad gekippt gelesen werden. Die Dicke der Striche könnte beispielsweise die Lautstärke der zu spielenden Töne angeben, die Länge indes die Spieldauer. Dies ermöglicht dem Interpreten durch die spontan zu wählende Abfolge der einzelnen Abschnitte einen großen – im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes – Spielraum, was die Aufführung des Stücks angeht (Abb. 4.).

Fig. 4: Earle Brown, December, 1951, Partitur. Abdruck mit freundlicher Genehmigung von C.F. Peters Ltd & Co. KG Leipzig.

gab es Verbindungen zwischen der musikalischen Avantgarde und Fluxus-Künstlern: so arbeitete etwa Karlheinz Stockhausen mit Nam June Paik zusammen (vgl. Toop 2004: 463f.).

Zum Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst


Neben John Cage, dem wohl prominentesten Vertreter der avantgardistischen Musik im New York der 1950er Jahre, wurden auch andere Komponisten von Browns Arbeiten beeinflusst und begannen, sich ebenfalls von konventioneller Notation zu lösen. Zu diesen Komponisten zählte mit Karlheinz Stockhausen auch einer der prominentesten und einflussreichsten Vertreter der europäischen Szene, der mit Browns Werk wohl nicht zuletzt durch die Darmstädter Ferienkurse in Berührung gekommen sein dürfte. Die von Wolfgang Steinecke 1946 in Darmstadt gegründeten Internationalen Ferienkurse für Neue Musik galten in den 1950er und 1960er Jahren neben Paris als das Zentrum der europäischen avantgardistischen Musik. Ihre Entwicklungen sowie Diskurse wurden in Darmstadt neben Stockhausen auch von Pierre Boulez und Luigi Nono maßgeblich geprägt.⁴ Gelehrt beziehungsweise gearbeitet wurde in diesen Kursen zunächst mit den unter der Naziherrschaft verbotenen Werken und Theorien Schoenbergs und seiner Schüler Anton Webern und Alban Berg, wobei Webern von 1952 an bis Anfang der 60er Jahre einen gewissen Kultstatus in Darmstadt und auch Paris genoss. Große Bedeutung erhielt in diesem Zeitraum die von Schoenberg entwickelte Zwölftontechnik, die Webern in seinen Kompositionen weiterentwickelte. Weberns Arbeit bildet die Basis der in den 1950er Jahren entstandenen Seriellen Musik, womit zugleich die Grundlage und der Hauptstrom der europäischen Avantgarde dieser Zeit genannt ist (vgl. Osmond-Smith 2004: 341f.). An den Darmstädter Ferienkursen nahmen im Jahr 1957 Earle Brown und im Jahr 1958 John Cage und David Tudor teil, wobei letztere dort auch Kurse anboten. Wenn nicht schon vorher, etwa durch Einladungen von Cage und Tudor nach Donaueschingen zu den dortigen Musiktagen 1954, so hat spätestens zu diesem Zeitpunkt das Arbeiten mit grafischen Kompositionen sowie Prinzipien der Arbeitsweise Cages auf dem europäischen Kontinent Fuß gefasst. So zeugen beispielsweise Stockhausens Partituren zum Klavierstück XI (1956) oder zu Zyklus (1959) von der Zusammenarbeit und Auseinandersetzung mit Brown, Tudor und Cage (vgl. Osmond-Smith 2004: 354f.).⁵  Freilich gab es noch zahlreich weitere Akteure, die in dieser Zeit die Diskussionen in Darmstadt mitbestimmten. Zu einer detaillierteren Diskussion dieser und auch zu einer Diskussion der unterschiedlichen Stile Nonos, Stockhausens und Boulez’ vgl. Osmond-Smith (2004: 342f.). Außerhalb Europas galten New York und Tokyo als bedeutende Zentren der avantgardistischen Musik. Zwischen New York und Paris herrschte beispielsweise ein reger Austausch: unter anderem bereiste John Cage Paris Anfang der 50er Jahre, wo er auf Pierre Boulez traf; Boulez selbst hielt sich 1952 einige Zeit in New York auf, wo er arbeitete und einige seiner Stück aufgeführt wurden (vgl. Osmond-Smith 2004: 342ff.)  Die Partitur zu Stockhausens Klavierstück XI ist auf einem einzigen, großen Stück Papier geschrieben und zeigt neunzehn musikalische Fragmente ohne erkennbare Ordnung, die in jeder möglichen Reihenfolge gespielt werden können.


Benjamin Kiel

Neben Stockhausen gab es freilich weitere europäische Komponisten, die in der Folge grafische Partituren erarbeiteten. Auch wenn die Liste derer, die zu Beginn der 1960er Jahre nicht mehr mit konventionellen Notationssystemen arbeiteten, zu lang ist, um hier en detail genannt zu werden, sei dennoch auf die Partitur zu György Ligetis Werk Volumina (1961-62) hingewiesen. Die Partitur des für die Orgel geschriebenen Stücks, das durch Variationen der Klangfarbe und Tonhöhe gekennzeichnet ist, verzichtet auf Notenlinien oder Taktstriche, ist aber mit handschriftlichen Anweisungen Ligetis versehen. Strukturiert ist sie in Pedal, rechte Hand und linke Hand. Die Partitur grafisch zu notieren, ermöglichte es auf einfache Weise, die zu spielenden Cluster – also Tongruppen – und die Variation der Tonhöhe anzugeben (Abb. 5).

Fig. 5: György Ligeti, Volumina, 1961-62, Partitur (Ausschnitt). Abdruck mit freundlicher Genehmigung von C.F. Peters Ltd & Co. KG Leipzig.

Was die eigentliche Musik betrifft, ist anzumerken, dass – obwohl Zwölftontechnik und die aus ihr entwickelte Serielle Musik zu Beginn der 1960er Jahre eine große Bedeutung in der europäischen Avantgarde innehatten – es dennoch nicht so etwas wie eine stilistische Einheitlichkeit innerhalb dieser Avantgarde gab. Luigi Nono etwa arbeitete auf Basis von traditionellen Rhythmen und Liedern, die aus dem brasilianischen Bundesstaat Mato Grosso stammten oder kreierte durch Überlagerung rhythmischer Module aus bereits existierenden Kompositionen neue Stücke. Diese Arbeitsweise steht in starkem Gegensatz zu den äußerst akribischen seriellen Kompositionen Pierre Boulez’. Von zentraler Bedeutung für die Entwicklung der europäischen Musik hinsichtlich neuer Instrumente und Techniken war wiederum Karlheinz Stockhausen, der mit seinem Gesang der

Zum Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst


Jünglinge (1955) der elektronischen Musik gewissermaßen den Weg ebnete (Osmond-Smith 2004: 353ff.).⁶ Die sechziger Jahre indes zeichneten sich durch eine weite Verbreitung der unterschiedlichen und den in den 50er Jahren erarbeiteten Ansätze sowie einer Forcierung dieser aus, so dass es verschiedene Richtungen gab, in die sich die Avantgarde zerstreute (Toop 2004: 454). Was lässt sich aus dem eben Gesagten für Christous Werk und dem behaupteten Einfluss der Philosophie Wittgensteins auf ihn ableiten? Was zunächst anhand dieses Exkurses deutlich gemacht werden sollte, ist, dass Christou wohl kaum allein durch den Einfluss der Philosophie Wittgensteins damit begann, grafische Partituren zu erstellen; es ist wahrscheinlicher, dass er, wie andere europäischen Komponisten auch, von einer neuen und zu diesem Zeitpunkt bereits etablierten Möglichkeit der Komposition beziehungsweise Darstellung einer Partitur Gebrauch gemacht hat – und vor allem von dieser gewusst hat. Für diese Annahme spricht, dass sich Christous Werk nicht, wie dies oftmals behauptet wird, sozusagen isoliert und ohne Kontakt zur europäischen beziehungsweise westlichen Avantgarde entwickelte: sein Stück Patterns and Permutations (1960) wurde im Juli 1964 während der Darmstädter Ferienkurse aufgeführt und vermutlich war „Christou bei dieser Aufführung anwesend“ (Schäfer 2000: 211; vgl. Schäfer 2000: 210f.).⁷ Sollte Christou tatsächlich 1964 in Darmstadt gewesen sein, wäre es möglich, dass er Vorträge Earle Browns besuchte, der interessanterweise im selben Jahr anlässlich des Kongresses Notation Neuer Musik in Darmstadt Kurse zum Thema grafischer Notation gegeben hat (vgl. Brown 1965: 68ff.).⁸ Daraus lässt sich der Schluss ableiten, dass es mit großer Wahrscheinlichkeit weder Wittgensteins Tractatus, noch dessen Spätphilosophie gewesen ist, die ursächlich für Christous Erstellen von und Arbeiten mit grafischen Notationen war. Dennoch: auch wenn es sicherlich nicht der Tractatus und ebenso wenig ein anderer Teil der Philosophie Wittgensteins gewesen ist, durch dessen Lektüre Christou es ermöglicht wurde, „the language of scores“ (Folkerts 2016: 152) zu revolutionieren – könnte es nicht doch einen Einfluss der Philosophie Wittgen-

 Abgesehen von den Unterschieden in den Arbeitsweisen herrschte auch sonst unter diesen drei Komponisten eine mitunter erbitterte Konkurrenz, die nicht zuletzt durch den Tod Wolfgang Steineckes 1961 nochmals an Schärfe zugenommen hatte (Toop 2004: 453).  Zudem hatte Christou Kontakt zu den Komponisten Mauricio Kagel, Giacinto Scelsi sowie Iannis Xenakis. Christou war auch in Besitz von „Tonbandaufnahmen mit Musik von John Cage“ (Schäfer 2000: 210).  Während dieses Kongresses, der zu den 19. Internationalen Ferienkursen für Neue Musik 1964 stattfand, gab es auch weitere Komponisten, die in ihren Vorträgen das Arbeiten mit grafischen Partituren thematisierten. Dazu zählten unter anderem György Ligeti und Mauricio Kagel (vgl. Ligeti 1965: 35-50; vgl. Kagel 1965: 55-63).


Benjamin Kiel

steins auf das Werk Christous geben? Dies würde nahe liegen, sollte Christou tatsächlich bei Wittgenstein studiert haben. Zudem finden sich auch Bücher Wittgensteins im Jani-Christou-Archiv in Athen, wobei jedoch nicht klar ist, um welche es sich dabei handelt (vgl. Schäfer 2000: 210). Aber dennoch: kann in anderen Teilen des Werkes Christous ein Einfluss der Philosophie Wittgensteins nachgewiesen werden? Dies soll anhand von drei für das Spätwerk Christous zentrale Begriffe und Konzepte geschehen: Pattern, Praxis und Metapraxis.

2 Die Konzepte Pattern, Praxis und Metapraxis im Werk Jani Christous Den Begriff Pattern entwickelt Christou zwischen 1958 und 1960. Dieser Begriff bezeichnet vorgefertigte melodische und rhythmische Muster, die in immer verschiedener Anordnung zu neuen Komponenten gruppiert werden können. Ziel dieses Prozesses war es, ein möglichst großes Repertoire unterschiedlicher, niemals gleichklingender Basiselemente zu erstellen, aus deren Kombination untereinander dann wiederum größere Muster generiert und durch Permutation neu angeordnet werden können (vgl. Lucciano 2000: 44). Bezeichnenderweise handelt es sich bei einem der ersten aus dieser Zeit stammenden Stücke Christous um das bereits erwähnte Patterns and Permutations (1960), das ganz den Regeln der Seriellen Musik folgt. Der Begriff Praxis, der erstmals im Titel des Stücks Praxis for 12 aus dem Jahr 1966 zu finden ist, betont die Einarbeitung szenischer beziehungsweise schauspielerischer Elemente in Christous Werk.⁹ Seine volle Bedeutung für das Werk Christous erhält der Begriff Praxis jedoch erst im Zusammenhang mit dem zur gleichen Zeit von Christou entwickelten Begriff Metapraxis. Zunächst meint der Begriff Praxis einfach das Befolgen bestimmter Konventionen beziehungsweise Regeln bei der tatsächlichen, praktischen Ausübung bestimmter Handlungen innerhalb eines bestimmten künstlerischen Mediums. Oder anders ausgedrückt: Praxis meint das Ausführen von Handlungsweisen, die charakteristisch für ein bestimmtes künstlerisches Medium sind. Der Begriff

 Von 1965 bis 1966 komponierte Christou vorwiegend Musik für Theaterstücke, die klassische griechische Tragödien zum Inhalt hatten. Neben Auftragsarbeiten für das Theater verfasste Christou aber auch unabhängig davon eigene Werke. Das aus dieser Zeit stammende Stück Praxis for 12 kann dabei als exemplarisch sowohl für Christous Umgang mit der Zwölftontechnik – denn darauf referiert unter anderem die Zahl zwölf im Titel des Stücks – als auch für den Umgang mit Pattern und damit der Seriellen Musik angesehen werden.

Zum Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst


Metapraxis, den man im Sinne Christous als „‚jenseitsʻ der Praxis“ (Christou 1993: 115) übersetzen kann, bezeichnet hingegen das Brechen eben jener Konventionen durch Handlungen, die, so Christou, „uncharakteristisch für die übliche Logik [der] Handlungsweise[n]“ (Christou 1993: 113) sind, die ein Künstler in einem bestimmten Medium ausführt (vgl. Christou 1993: 113). Die Handlungen der Metapraxis, so schreibt Christou weiter, bedeuten eine Art „Anschlag auf die Logik der Beziehungen des Ausführenden zu seinem speziellen Medium; eine Verletzung innerhalb einer einfachen Ordnung von Dingen“ (Christou 1993: 114). Handlungen, die der Metapraxis im Sinne Christous zugerechnet werden können, stellen demnach bewusst und explizit Konventionen der Aufführungspraxis und damit bestehende Grenzen und Definitionen von Kunstgattungen in Frage. Als Beispiele, um beide Begriffe zu illustrieren, nennt Christou in diesem Zusammenhang einen Dirigenten, der während eine Konzerts wild gestikulierend durchs Publikum läuft, schreit oder sonstige Handlungen ausführt, die mit dem, was gemeinhin unter Dirigieren verstanden wird beziehungsweise mit dem, was von einem Dirigenten erwartet wird, nicht in Einklang gebracht werden können. Dies entspricht dem Konzept der Metapraxis. Im Gegensatz dazu kann etwa von einem Schauspieler nicht gesagt werden, er würde eine Metapraxis ausführen, wenn die Regieanweisung lautet, schreiend oder tanzend während einer der Aufführung durchs Publikum zu rennen: in diesem Falls würde er den Regeln eines bestimmten künstlerischen Mediums folgen (vgl. Christou 1993: 113). Auch könne das, was Metapraxis letztlich ist, nie genau definiert werden, da sich die „Logik [eines] Mediums mit der allgemein-historischen Dynamik verändert“ (Christou 1993: 114); d.h. also, dass dasjenige, was letztlich als Metapraxis bezeichnet werden kann, vom zeitgeschichtlichen Kontext und damit davon abhängig ist, was zum jeweiligen Zeitpunkt der Aufführung als aktuelle Konvention der Aufführungspraxis und Definitionen eines künstlerischer Mediums gilt.¹⁰ Auch im Stück Praxis for 12 sollen die Interpreten Handlungen, die zur Metapraxis zählen, ausführen: bis kurz vor Ende des ca. neun Minuten dauernden Stücks spielen die Musiker die von Christou vorgegebenen Patterns, gegen Ende des Stücks beginnen sie allerdings, unverständliche Rufe von sich zu geben, die sich zu einem Schreien steigern, das in der Folge leiser wird und verstummt. In den Schlusstakten des Stücks ist ein unverständliches Flüstern zu hören.

 Beispielsweise könne eine Handlung in einem Werk die Funktion der Metapraxis erfüllen, in einem anderen Werk hingegen nicht; und, wie Christou anfügt, gelte dies selbst für die „Aufführung desselben Werks im gleichen Zeitraum und bei gleichen Vorabsprachen [sic]“ (Christou 1993: 115). Daraus folgert Christou, dass das „Wirken der Metapraxis […] nicht durch eine spezielle Regel garantiert werden“ (Christou 1993: 115) kann.


Benjamin Kiel

Ob nun anhand der Begriffe Pattern, Praxis und Metapraxis eine „Nähe zur Sprachphilosophie Ludwig Wittgensteins“ (Angermann 1993: 107) festgestellt werden kann, wie Klaus Angermann in seinem Essay Der Anschlag auf die Logik aus dem Jahr 1993 schreibt, soll an dieser Stelle diskutiert werden. Anzumerken ist, dass Christou um 1966 herum beginnt, dem Begriff Pattern eine symbolische Bedeutung zu geben, da er meint, gewisse Muster auch im alltäglichen Leben entdecken zu können. Deutlich macht er dies, wenn er zum Beispiel schreibt, dass auf das Muster des Friedens das Muster des Krieges folgt, sich also bestimmte Handlungsmuster in zyklischer Weise wiederholen würden (vgl. Lucciano 1994: 104). Von dieser Konzeption Christous ausgehend versucht Angermann eine Verbindung zu Wittgensteins Begriff des Sprachspiels aufzubauen und für Angermann „kondensiert“ (Angermann 1993: 107) Christous Konzept der Patterns im Sinne von Handlungsmustern im Begriff der Praxis. Zu Beginn seines Vergleichs zwischen der Philosophie Wittgensteins und dem Werk Christous fasst Angermann die oftmals fälschlicherweise als Gebrauchstheorie der Bedeutung bezeichneten Bemerkungen Wittgensteins im Kontext des Begriffs Bedeutung kurz zusammen, indem er schreibt, dass nach „Wittgenstein […] jedes sprachliche Element seine Bedeutung nur im Rahmen eines Systems sprachlicher und nichtsprachlicher Tätigkeiten [gewinnt]“ (Angermann 1993: 107), wobei er noch im Wortlaut Christous anfügt, dass den „Regeln des Systems zu [folgen] als Praxis bezeichnet“ (Angermann 1993: 107) werden kann. Übertragen auf das Werk Christous meint Angermann an dieser Stelle, dass die einzelnen Pattern nur innerhalb einer Aufführung und nur in Zusammenspiel mit anderen Pattern Bedeutung erhalten beziehungsweise bedeutsam sind. Pattern – und damit letztlich die Begriffe Praxis und Metapraxis – können laut Angermann daher ähnlich dem Begriff Sprachspiel aufgefasst werden. Dem letzten Teil des Zitats Angermanns – dass bestimmten Regeln zu folgen, auch Praxis genannt werden kann – kann sicherlich ohne besonderen Verweis auf Wittgenstein zugestimmt werden. Im Hinblick auf den ersten Teil des Zitats von Angermann, in welchem er die sogenannte Gebrauchstheorie der Bedeutung anspricht, ist jedoch anzumerken, dass hier eine starke Vereinfachung der Philosophie Wittgensteins stattfindet: die Aussage, so wie Angermann sie dort trifft, ist nicht ganz richtig. Zwar schreibt Wittgenstein, dass man manchmal die Bedeutung eines Wortes durch seinen Gebrauch in der Sprache erklärt (vgl. PU 2006: 43); aber es geht Wittgenstein ja nicht darum, eine Art Theorie der Bedeutung von Worten aufzustellen – vielmehr geht es an dieser Stelle um die Verwendung des Wortes Bedeutung (vgl. Majetschak 2000: S. 192ff.). Daher muss auch der folgenden Aussage Angermanns widersprochen werden, Wittgenstein identifiziere die „Bedeutung eines Sprachelements mit dessen Gebrauch innerhalb eines Sprachspiels, also innerhalb einer konkreten menschli-

Zum Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst


chen Handlung“ (Angermann 1993: 107). Denn laut Wittgenstein kann „die Bedeutung eines Namens“ (PU 2006: 43) beziehungsweise eines Wortes auch dadurch erklärt werden, „dass man auf seinen Träger“ (PU 2006: 43) oder das zeigt, was das Wort bezeichnet, ohne einen konkreten Fall oder eine Reihe an Beispielen angeben zu müssen, wie das Wort in einem Sprachspiel und dementsprechend in einer „konkreten menschlichen Handlung“ (Angermann 1993: 107) verwendet wird. Dass Angermann zudem den Begriff Sprachspiel fälschlich auffasst, zeigt sich in einer Überlegung, in der es heißt, dass die Elemente der Metapraxis, die in Christous Spätwerk zu „Auflösungserscheinungen in der Syntax“ (Angermann 1993: 107) führen, in einem „Kontext eines unaufgelösten logischen Problems zu verstehen“ (Angermann 1993: 107) seien, „das Wittgensteins Philosophie wie ein roter Faden durchläuft“ (Angermann 1993: 107). Dieses Problem besteht aus Sicht Angermanns darin, „daß die Reflexion über das Medium Sprache wiederum nur in diesem Medium stattfinden“ (Angermann 1993: 107) könne, „wodurch der Gegenstand, um dessen Betrachtung es eigentlich geht, nur immer wieder reproduziert“ (Angermann 1993: 107) werde. Indem Wittgenstein die logische Unmöglichkeit einer Metasprache erkennt, mit der die Mechanismen der normalen Sprache sozusagen ‚objektivʻ beschrieben werden könnten, findet er zu einer indirekten Beschreibung, bei der er Sprachspiele präsentiert und ad absurdum führt, um deren Geltungsbereich zwar nicht verbal zu fixieren, aber zumindest erfahrbar zu machen. (Angermann 1993: 107)

Auch wenn Wittgenstein im Tractatus noch davon ausgeht, „Urzeichen“ (TLP 2006: 3.26; vgl. TLP 2006: 3.26ff.) und Elementarsätze (vgl. TLP 2006: 4.21ff.) angeben zu können und auch eine „Zeichensprache“ (TLP 2006: 3.325) fordert, mit der es möglich ist, „fundamentale Verwechslungen“ (TLP 2006: 3.24) in der Sprache als Grund philosophischer Probleme zu vermeiden, hegte er dennoch nicht die Absicht, eine Metasprache zu entwickeln, mit der die „Mechanismen der normalen Sprache“ (Angermann 1993: 107) hätten dargestellt werden können (vgl. TLP 2006: 4.12ff.). Und auch wenn man meinen könnte, wie er in den Philosophischen Untersuchungen schreibt, dass, „wenn die Philosophie vom Gebrauch des Wortes ‚Philosophieʻ redet“ (PU 2006: 121), es eine „Philosophie zweiter Ordnung geben [müsse]“ (PU 2006: 121), so sei dies doch nicht der Fall (vgl. PU 2006: 120f.). Zudem lässt sich streiten, ob Wittgenstein das Konzept der Sprachspiele aufgrund einer Einsicht in die „Unmöglichkeit einer Metasprache“ (Angermann 1993: 107) entwickelt hat. Des Weiteren werden Sprachspiele von Wittgenstein nicht „ad absurdum“ (Angermann 1993: 107) geführt: ihre Angabe soll vielmehr zu jener Klarheit führen, die Ursprünge philosophischer Probleme


Benjamin Kiel

erkennen lässt (vgl. PU 2006: 130ff.), indem sie ein „Licht in die Verhältnisse unsrer Sprache werfen sollen“ (PU 2006: 130). Angermann muss man jedoch zugutehalten, dass sein Versuch einer Analogiebildung nachzuvollziehen ist, da anhand der Begriffe Praxis, Metapraxis und Pattern durchaus eine Verbindung zur Philosophie Wittgensteins vermutet werden kann.¹¹ Führt man diese Analogiebildung weiter, bleibt es allerdings fraglich, ob Christou mit dem Konzept der Metapraxis zu einer Klarheit über die Ursprünge der Probleme in der Musik kommen wollte. Durch Metapraxis sollten die Grenzen der Aufführungspraxis von Musikstücken infrage gestellt werden. Aber um genau diese Wirkung des Konzepts der Metapraxis zu erläutern, bedarf es keines Verweises auf die Philosophie Wittgensteins: sondern es kann, wie schon im Fall der grafischen Partituren, auch hier auf die Entwicklung der avantgardistischen Musik in Europa verwiesen und deutlich gemacht werden, dass Christou mit seiner Wende zur – durchaus als solcher zu bezeichnender – Performance-Kunst auf Basis des Konzepts der Metapraxis an den Entwicklungen innerhalb eben jener Avantgarde teilhat.¹² Anders ausgedrückt: Christou ist mit seinem Konzept der Metapraxis und dem daraus resultierenden „Protest […] gegen den etablierten Konzertbetrieb“ (Trappmann 1993: 69) sowie dem Infragestellen von Konventionen künstlerischer Medien ein Künstler und „Komponist der 60er Jahre“ (Trappmann 1993: 69), dem die Strömungen in der zeitgenössischen Musik und Kunst nicht verborgen geblieben sein dürften. Das wird auch anhand Christous eigener Aussagen in seiner Schrift A ‚Credoʻ for Music aus dem Jahr 1966 deutlich.¹³ Mit seiner Musik, so schreibt Christou dort, wolle er Erfahrungen und Erlebnisse wachrufen, die das Publikum von der Alltagserfahrung und -wahrnehmung – sozusagen alltäglichen Mustern von Verhaltensweisen – loslösen. Dies sei jedoch nicht möglich, werden konventionelle musikalische Konzepte angewendet, sondern es müssten akustische Energien in Musik umgewandelt und dadurch erfahrbar gemacht werden. Dabei schwebe über allem, wie könnte es zu dieser Zeit anders sein, natürlich „the whore of decoration

 Vollkommen unplausibel und nicht nachvollziehbar ist hingegen der Versuch Anna Luccianos, die Werkkonzepte Christous mithilfe der Philosophie Wittgensteins zu interpretieren (vgl. Lucciano 1994: 95f.).  Als ein Beispiel sei hier das Stück Terretekthor (1966) von Iannis Xenakis genannt, bei der die Musiker im Publikum sitzen und dort das Werk aufführen. Ein weiteres Beispiel ist Mauricio Kagels – durchaus satirisch gemeintes – Stück Match (1964) dass einen Widerspruch zwischen der Ernsthaftigkeit der zu hörenden Musik und der Inszenierung des Stücks als eine Art sportlichem Wettkampf erzeugt (vgl. Toop 2004: 461).  In englischer Übersetzung abgedruckt in Anna Luccianos Schrift Jani Christou: The Works and Temperament of a Greek Composer, S. 92-93.

Zum Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst


and aesthetics“ (Christou 1966 zitiert nach Lucciano 2000: 93), so Christou wörtlich, der die Musik seit Erfindung der Polyphonie bis hin zur Seriellen Musik, also seit dem späten Mittelalter bis weit in das 20. Jahrhundert hinein, bereits erlegen ist. Und auch Hörer und Komponisten sind der Gefahr, ihr zu verfallen, gleichermaßen ausgeliefert. Folgerichtig beschließt Christou sein Credo damit, dass die schrille und mitunter schockierende Musik seiner Zeit symptomatisch sei für die Dringlichkeit, sich von einer vererbten Ästhetik und abgenutzten Gedankenmustern lösen zu müssen (vgl. Christou 1966 in Lucciano 2000: 92f.). Unter Bezugnahme auf Christous eigenes Credo wird deutlich, dass die Philosophie Wittgensteins weder für das Konzept der Metapraxis noch für das Konzept der Pattern in Christous Werk ursächlich gewesen sein dürfte.

3 Schlussbetrachtung Ausgangspunkt der Untersuchung bildete der Text von Hendrik Folkerts, in welchem er behauptet, dass es Wittgensteins Tractatus gewesen ist, der neben Cornelius Cardew auch Jani Christou jene Freiheit verschaffte, mit der er sich von konventionellen Notationsweisen lösen und so die „language of scores“ (Folkerts 2016: 152) revolutionieren konnten. Zwar kann auch von Cardew nicht ohne Weiteres behauptet werden, es sei vor allem der Tractatus gewesen, der ihn zu dieser Art der grafischen Notation inspirierte; aber im Gegensatz zu Christou bezieht er sich zumindest partiell auf die Philosophie Wittgensteins, wenngleich davon ausgehend nicht ohne Weiteres gesagt werden kann, diese sei ein entscheidender Faktor in der Entwicklung seines Werks gewesen. In Bezug auf Jani Christou ist es unwahrscheinlich, dass es die Lektüre des Tractatus gewesen ist, die ihn maßgeblich zur Erstellung seiner Partitur zu seinem Stück Epicycle oder auch zur Erstellung weiterer grafischer Notationen beeinflusste. Dass Folkerts diese Behauptung zusätzlich und anders als in anderen Abschnitten seines Textes nicht mit einer Quellenangabe belegt, ist ein weiteres Argument, um diese Behauptung anzuzweifeln. Denn es finden sich zum einen keine Belege dafür, dass Christou tatsächlich in Cambridge zwischen 1945 und 1948 bei Wittgenstein studiert hat; sollte dem aber dennoch so sein, so dürften es zum anderen nicht Gedanken aus dem Tractatus, sondern eher Themen aus dem Spätwerk Wittgensteins gewesen sein, die in den Vorlesungen und Seminaren Wittgensteins behandelt wurden und mit denen sich Christou demzufolge beschäftigt haben dürfte. Demnach muss den Aussagen Folkerts widersprochen werden. Dies vor allem dann, wenn man zusätzlich die Entwicklung der avantgardistischen Musik in den 1950er und 1960er Jahren berücksichtigt. Anhand dieser Entwicklung konnte gezeigt werden, dass das Arbeiten mit grafischen


Benjamin Kiel

Notationsweisen zu dem Zeitpunkt, als Christou die von Folkerts erwähnte Partitur erarbeitet hat, bereits weit verbreitet und etabliert war und dass Christou mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit von dieser Arbeitsweise gewusst hat. Auch anhand seines Textes A ‚Credoʻ for Music wurde deutlich, wie sehr Christou an der europäischen Avantgarde teilhatte. Gleichwohl bildet das nicht nachgewiesene Studium Christous bei Wittgenstein oftmals die Grundlage teils mehr oder minder verklärter Texte, die versuchen, einen Einfluss der Philosophie Wittgensteins auf das Werk Christous nachzuweisen. In den bisher durchgesehenen Schriften Christous konnte allerdings kein eindeutiger Hinweise auf eine Rezeption der Philosophie Wittgensteins durch Christou gefunden werden. Weder wird etwa der Name Wittgenstein ausdrücklich genannt, noch können Begriffe ausgemacht werden, die eindeutig Bemerkungen Wittgensteins zugeordnet werden können. Und auch wenn sich im Jani-Christou-Archiv in Athen angeblich Bücher Wittgensteins finden – wobei bis jetzt nicht klar ist, um welche es sich handelt –, lässt dies ebenfalls nicht zwangsläufig auf eine Rezeption der Philosophie Wittgensteins durch Jani Christou schließen. Ein Zusammenhang zwischen der Entwicklung des Werks Christous und Wittgensteins Philosophie kann daher mit hoher Wahrscheinlichkeit ausgeschlossen werden. Welche Schlüsse können nun am Beispiel Christous auf den Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst gezogen werden? Anhand des eingangs erwähnten Texts Folkerts sowie anhand der Auseinandersetzung mit dem Essay Angermanns zeigte sich beispielhaft die oftmals zu beobachtende Vereinfachung, Verkürzung und oberflächliche Wiedergabe der Gedanken Wittgensteins im kunsthistorischen Zusammenhang. Durch die Formulierung Folkerts wird zudem der Anschein erweckt, als seien Christou und Cardew erst durch die Lektüre des Tractatus in der Lage gewesen, ihre grafischen Partituren zu erstellen. Der Versuch Angermanns, zwischen Gedanken aus der Spätphilosophie Wittgensteins im Kontext des Begriffs Sprachspiel eine Verbindung zu Christous Konzepten der Pattern, Praxis und Metapraxis zu schlagen, ist zweifelsohne vollkommen legitim – vor allem wenn man annimmt, Christou habe tatsächlich bei Wittgenstein studiert; allerdings konnte der Versuch einer solchen Verbindung einer genaueren Untersuchung nicht standhalten. Überdies ist eine solche Analogiebildung nur bis zu einem gewissen Punkt plausibel. Es entstand zusätzlich der Eindruck – und das bei weitem nicht nur bei den Texten von Folkerts und Angermann –, dass es nicht unbedingt darum geht, tatsächlich einen Nachweis eines Einflusses der Philosophie Wittgensteins auf die Werkkonzeption Christous zu erbringen; vielmehr hatte es den Anschein, als diene der Name und die Philosophie Wittgensteins dazu, das Werk Christous in einem bestimmten Licht zu interpretieren – ungeachtet der Plausibilität solcher Interpretationen.

Zum Umgang mit dem Werk Wittgensteins in der Kunst


Auch im Fall von Jani Christou bestätigt sich daher die schon in anderem Zusammenhang zu beobachtende Tendenz, dass der Einfluss der Philosophie Wittgensteins auf die Entwicklung bestimmter künstlerischer Positionen häufig überschätzt wird, woraus eine Art Verklärung sowohl der Philosophie Wittgensteins als auch der betreffenden Künstler resultiert. Ob diese sich nur allein auf das Werk Wittgensteins und die mit ihr in Verbindung gebrachten Künstler bezieht, oder ob es sich dabei um ein weiterreichendes Phänomen handelt, das auch andere Philosophen und andere philosophische Strömungen oder Wissensgebiete betrifft, soll Gegenstand einer weiteren Untersuchung sein.

Literatur Angermann, Klaus (1994): „Der Anschlag auf die Logik“. In: Klaus Angermann (Hrsg.): Jani Christou: Im Dunkeln singen. Hofheim: Wolke Verlag, S. 103 – 112. Brown, Earle (1965): „Notation und Ausführung Neuer Musik“. In: Ernst Thomas (Hrsg.): Darmstädter Beiträge zur Neuen Musik IX: Notation Neuer Musik. Darmstadt: Schott, S. 64 – 86. Cardew, Cornelius (1971a): „Introduction“. In: Cornelius Cardew (Hrsg.): Treatise Handbook. London: Edition Peters, S.i Cardew, Cornelius (1971b): „Towards an Ethic of Improvisation“. In: Cornelius Cardew (Hrsg.): Treatise Handbook. London: Edition Peters, S. xvii – xxi. Christou, Jani (1994): „Praxis und Metapraxis“. In: Klaus Angermann (Hrsg.): Jani Christou: Im Dunkeln singen. Hofheim: Wolke Verlag, S. 113 – 117. Christou, Jani (1966): „A ‘Credoʼ for Music“. In: Anna Lucciano: Jani Christou: The Works and Temperament of a Greek Composer. Catherine Dale (Transl.). Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers, S. 92 – 93. Folkerts, Hendrik (2016): „Keeping Score: Notation, Embodiment, and Liveness“. In: South as a State of Mind 7. Nr. 2, S. 150 – 169. Kagel, Mauricio (1965): „Komposition – Notation – Interpretation“. In: Ernst Thomas (Hrsg.): Darmstädter Beiträge zur Neuen Musik IX: Notation Neuer Musik. Darmstadt: Schott, S. 55 – 63. Kiel, Benjamin (2016): „Zum Einfluss der Philosophie Ludwig Wittgensteins auf die Entwicklung der amerikanischen Kunst in den 1960er Jahren“. In: Benjamin Kiel/Jelena Toopeekoff (Hrsg.): Die Rezeption der Philosophie Ludwig Wittgensteins in der zeitgenössischen Kunst. Kassel: Kassel University Press 2016, S. 83 – 256. Ligeti, György (1965): „Neue Notation – Kommunikationsmittel oder Selbstzweck?“ In: Ernst Thomas (Hrsg.): Darmstädter Beiträge zur Neuen Musik IX: Notation Neuer Musik. Darmstadt: Schott, S. 35 – 50. Lucciano, Anna (1994): „Sinn und Nichts: Zu den späten Werken Jani Christous“. In: Klaus Angermann (Hrsg.): Jani Christou: Im Dunkeln singen. Hofheim: Wolke Verlag, S. 93 – 102. Lucciano, Anna (2000): Jani Christou: The Works and Temperament of a Greek Composer. Catherine Dale (Transl.). Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers. Majetschak, Stefan (2000): Ludwig Wittgensteins Denkweg. Freiburg, München: Alber.


Benjamin Kiel

McGuinness, Brian (Hrsg.) (2012): Wittgenstein in Cambridge. Letters and Documents 1911 – 1951. Malden (MA), Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Osmond-Smith, David (2004): „New beginnings: the international avant-garde, 1945 – 62“. In: Nicholas Cook/Anthony Pople (Hrsg.): The Cambridge history of twentieth-century music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, S. 336 – 363. Schäfer, Thomas (1994): „Klanglandschaften. Bemerkungen zu Christous Eliotgesängen und Bergs Altenbergliedern“. In: Klaus Angermann (Hrsg.): Jani Christou: Im Dunkeln singen. Hofheim: Wolke Verlag, S. 29 – 50. Schäfer, Thomas (2000): „Multimedia: The Project. Überlegungen zum Spätwerk von Jani Christou“. In: Constantin Floros (Hrsg.): Komposition als Kommunikation: zur Musik des 20. Jahrhunderts. Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien: Peter Lang, S. 209 – 225. Schulte, Joachim (2009): Wittgenstein. Eine Einführung. Stuttgart: Reclam. Toop, Richard (2004): „Expanding horizons: the international avant-garde, 1962 – 75“. In: Nicholas Cook/Anthony Pople (Hrsg.): The Cambridge history of twentieth-century music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, S. 453 – 477. Trappmann, Klaus: „Mythos und Ritual in Christous letzten Werken“. In: Klaus Angermann (Hrsg.): Jani Christou: Im Dunkeln singen. Hofheim: Wolke Verlag, S. 63 – 74. von Wright, Georg Henrik (2013): „Vorwort“. In: Ludwig Wittgenstein: Werkausgabe. Bd. 7. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, S. 6 – 7. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2006): „Tractatus logico-philosophicus“. In: Werkausgabe. Bd. 1. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, S. 7 – 85. (TLP) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2006): „Philosophische Untersuchungen“. In: Werkausgabe. Bd. 1. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2006, S. 225 – 580. (PU)

Abbildungsverzeichnis Abbildung 1: Cornelius Cardew, Treatise, 1963–67, Partitur (Ausschnitt). In: South as a State of Mind 7. Nr. 2. (2016), Abb. S. 155. Abbildung 2: Jani Christou, Epicycle, 1968, Partitur (Ausschnitt). In: South as a State of Mind 7. Nr. 2 (2016), Abb. S. 156. Abbildung 3: Morton Feldman, Projections II (Opening), 1951, Partitur (Ausschnitt). In: http:// (Zugriff am 25.07.2016). Abbildung 4: Earle Brown, December, 1951, Partitur. In: Darmstädter Beiträge zur Neuen Musik IX: Notation Neuer Musik. (1965). Darmstadt: Schott, S. 41. Abbildung 5: György Ligeti, Volumina, 1961–62, Partitur (Ausschnitt). In: http://www. (Zugriff am 24.07.2016).

James Matthew Fielding

Wittgenstein and the Avant-garde Abstract: With this comparison, I seek to illuminate why Wittgenstein’s post-1930 philosophy took the unusual form that it did, i. e. an “album”, which purposefully lacks hermeneutic necessity and thus encourages isolation, abstraction, and reconstitution according to the reader’s priorities and not those of its author. Like the avant-garde before him, I argue that the new social function of Wittgenstein’s post-tractarian philosophy—which aimed to act as a stimulus to change one’s life outside the rarefied atmosphere of the classroom, like that of the museum for the avant-garde—demanded such a novel mode of production and reception. I end with the suggestion that, even if Wittgenstein sought to criticise the possibility of academic life delivering the kinds of results he was after, this need not mean that we today must abandon the standards of academic discourse in order to do justice to his philosophy. However, neither can we forget that this was a significant part of what he wished to achieve with his work and thus it needs to be clearly kept in mind if we seek to philosophise in a “Wittgensteinian spirit” today.

I would like to advance a comparison which may at first sight appear unorthodox. Certainly, from the point of view of Wittgenstein’s otherwise quite conservative artistic taste, a comparison of his work with the aesthetic strategies of the avant-garde is surprising. Nonetheless, when carried out conscientiously, it provides an illuminating perspective on what Wittgenstein wished to achieve in his work and how that wish motivated, even necessitated, the unorthodox methodology he adopted. By all accounts, the form of Wittgenstein’s writing is considered essential for grasping the content of his thought. Nonetheless, we still lack a clear understanding of the shift between his two major works, especially in terms of the stylistic demands placed upon readers of the later work. In particular, this comparison of Wittgenstein’s writing with the European avant-garde seeks to highlight the uniquely political character of his post-1930 philosophy, which was all but absent in his earlier writing. What is revealed here is that, while the anti-philosophical aim of Wittgenstein’s thought remains consistent across Wittgenstein’s work, in the latter part of his life this critique of philosophy is placed alongside a more general critique of culture and of the prevailing ideology that he felt was the source of our maladroit philosophical practices.

DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-020


James Matthew Fielding

1 What is the Avant-garde? Peter Bürger and the Politics of Artistic Practice Undoubtedly, the term “avant-garde” is one that is thrown around all too easily today. We therefore require a theoretical framework for understanding what is unique to the avant-garde in the historical sense, i. e. that period of art beginning shortly after the turn of the century and continuing until the start of the Second World War. According to Peter Bürger, whose Theory of the Avant-garde remains a milestone in this area of aesthetics, “avant-garde art” in this historical sense thus encompasses the well-known artistic schools of Futurism (ca. 1909 – 1914), Dada (ca. 1916 – 1921) and Surrealism (ca. 1922– 1939). The crux of Bürger’s thesis is his attempt to define the historical avant-garde in terms of a shifting perception regarding the social function of art, as opposed to its production and reception alone. This shift in the avant-gardists’ understanding of the social function of art followed, in particular, the earlier generation’s belief that art should be autonomous with regards to the practical, sociopolitical demands of living in contemporary bourgeois society. The analysis of art in terms of bourgeois ideology is central here. In fact, Bürger quotes a well known passage by Marx on this point, regarding the “untruth” of religion. The young Marx, he argues, denounces as “false consciousness” the Christian ideology (in this case), to which he cannot for all that deny some element of truth. For, though it is false, it does illuminate real suffering in this world. Quoting first Marx’s well-known passage in his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Bürger continues: It is in religion that this twofold character of ideology is brought out. 1. Religion is an illusion. Man projects into heaven what he believes he would like to see on earth. To the extent that man believes in God who is no more than an objectification of human qualities, he succumbs to an illusion. 2. But religion also contains an element of truth. It is ‘an expression of real wretchedness’ (for the realization of humanity in heaven is merely a creation of the mind and denounces the lack of real humanity in human society). And it is ‘a protest against real wretchedness’ for even in their alienated forms, religious ideals are a standard of what ought to be. (Bürger 1994: 7)

The traditional social function of art, like religion, is thus characterised by Bürger in the first instance by its “duplicity”: while it permits an illusionary sense of unity and purpose, it simultaneously makes less pressing the need to establish the kind of real social change that would bring about such qualities in the daily life of the public. Aesthetic diversion, while satisfying the public’s demand for some relief from the turmoil of contemporary society, simultaneous-

Wittgenstein and the Avant-garde


ly brings to light the need for that relief and suppresses the will to alleviate the conditions that have given rise to it. Fin-de-siècle aestheticism—which culminated at the time in the doctrine of l’art pour l’art—thus figures heavily in Bürger’s account. Where the early aestheticism of the 19th century had begun by emphasizing the power of art to regenerate public life, by the turn of the century it ended up insisting on its complete independence, isolating the artist from the needs of that same public. In this respect, it is interesting to note that one of the more distinctly doctrinal elements of the l’art pour l’art movement was clearly inscribed over the door of the Jugendstil’s House of the Secession in the Vienna of Wittgenstein’s youth: Der Zeit Ihre Kunst, Der Kunst Ihre Freiheit (To the Age its Art, to Art its Freedom). For aestheticism ceaselessly stressed that as a consequence of art’s inherent autonomy, no period of art was superior to another. Each was autonomous in and of itself. This, in turn, gave way to the peculiar phenomena of the Ringstrasse in Vienna. In a time without a progressive sense of its own aesthetic superiority, architects borrowed freely from historical styles of the past as they felt befitted the purpose of the buildings themselves. Thus, the Rathaus was designed after the Gothic style, the Burgtheatre after the Renaissance, while the Hellenic Reichsrat, complete with its imposing statue of Athena at the entrance, stood as the very symbol of Vienna’s cultural superiority within Europe. This eclecticism was not, of course, restricted to architecture. It was reflected in the interior spaces of Vienna’s inhabitants as well, its ubiquity ultimately leading to a conflict within the movement itself. Aestheticism was, in a manner of speaking, undone by its own success. Its social prestige attracted intense popular interest, popular interest brought vulgarisation, and vulgarisation brought satirical attack. Aestheticism, as Clement Greenberg would note in his early 1930s defence of the avant-garde, had by the turn of the century degenerated into an all-pervasive culture of Kitsch. L’art pour l’art’s claim to autonomy was hardly a turn-of-the-century phenomenon. It has, in fact, been generally attributed (rightly or wrongly) to Kant and Schiller’s aesthetic doctrines from over a century before. With aestheticism, however, Bürger argues that the autonomy doctrine met a kind of historical limit where it was forced to confront the paradox buried deep within its foundations. As the autonomy of art grew into a concrete artistic ideology, its lack of social impact became increasingly apparent. What had begun over a century before as a unique position in the social matrix—that is to say, a real, independent realm of value, exclusive to art—and thus a unique responsibility on the part of the artist to instigate social and political rejuvenation, had degenerated into a cloistered alienation.


James Matthew Fielding

In Bürger’s analysis, the avant-garde thus emerged as a movement opposed to this shift towards hermeticism in the pre-war generation of fin-de-siècle artists. Art, he argues, thus entered into an age of “self-criticism”, an activity he defines in terms of “ideology critique”. As Bürger notes: “At the moment it has shed all that is alien to it, art necessarily becomes problematic to itself. As institution and content coincide, social ineffectuality stands revealed as the essence of art in bourgeois society, and thus provokes the self-criticism of art.” (Bürger 1994: 27) If we look at the three main movements isolated by Bürger—Futurism, Dada, and Surrealism—such intentions are apparent. A work such as Duchamp’s The Fountain strikes at the very heart of the notion of the artistic genius and the unity of the signature; Magritte’s paintings ceaselessly confront the notion of the frame and its legitimating function; while the Futurists aimed to identify art with violence and technological progress, claiming that one must even risk one’s own life in the process. Artists of the avant-garde thus sought to attack art’s hermeticism, exploding not art itself, but the institution of art, in order to deliver artistic practice unto the real needs of the public and so to play a part in the transformation of everyday life. Despite the differences in these schools, in each movement there is a similar adoption of the preceding age’s turn to the medium itself, but the limits of that medium are exploded beyond what artists at the turn of the century would have considered appropriate, or even essential, to artistic production. More radical than the impressionists’ reduction of representation to its barest possible elements, or Klimt’s use of two-dimensionality in otherwise “high art”, the avantgardists sought materials outside the traditional realm of aesthetics, employing them in diverse but similar techniques of collage and montage. Avant-garde artists took materials from the real world, pasting scraps of newspaper or fragments of cloth on the canvas, overlapped representational images with words and everyday objects, or, abandoning the need for representation altogether, entitled works that were barely recognisable as such in blatantly absurd or contradictory ways. The artwork thus began to shed its work-like character, in order to become a “happening”, a singular event, in which the participation of the audience was frequently a crucial element. Abandoning the work-like character of artistic production, the age of the manifesto was ushered in, as artists sought to inform the public of the new relation between art and society that their works heralded. Bürger articulates such common themes in terms of the avant-gardists’ continual attack on what he calls the “organic character” of traditional works of art. “The insertion of reality fragments into the work of art,” Bürger notes in relation to the practice of montage, “fundamentally transforms the work. The artist not only renounces shaping a whole, but gives the painting a different status […].

Wittgenstein and the Avant-garde


They are no longer signs pointing to reality, they are reality.” (Bürger 1994: 78) The unity of meaning that characterises the part-whole relationship of the traditional, organic work was thus disrupted. As Bürger explains: The organic work of art is constructed according to the syntagmatic pattern; individual parts and the whole form a dialectical unity. An adequate reading is described by the hermeneutic circle: the parts can be understood only through the whole, the whole only through the parts. This means that an anticipating comprehension of the whole guides, and is simultaneously corrected by, the comprehension of the parts. The fundamental precondition for this type of reception is the assumption of a necessary congruence between the meaning of individual parts and the meaning of the whole. This precondition is rejected by the nonorganic work, and this fact defines its decisive difference from the organic work of art. The parts ‘emancipate’ themselves from a superordinate whole; they are no longer its essential element. (Bürger 1994: 79 – 80)

What this means, Bürger emphasises, is that the parts lack hermeneutic necessity. New elements of the same or similar type could be added, or present elements could be omitted, without a corresponding shift in the significance of the work as a whole. Far from a change solely in the production of art, this shift in the technique of artistic production naturally had important consequences for the reception of artworks as well. The work’s objective became associated with its shock-value, Bürger argues, drawing the recipients’ attention to the principles underlying the work and, particularly, to their contingency—ultimately like those principles structuring our everyday lives outside the gallery as well. Shock was aimed at as a stimulus to change one’s life, a means to break through aesthetic immanence and to initiate a change in how the audience viewed not only art, but life itself and the corresponding institutions which govern human interaction more generally. The avant-gardists were thus not attempting to reinforce the aestheticist’s belief in a distinct domain of experience, which would reside in the aesthetic realm alone. Rather, they were adopting the public’s readiness to accept such a domain, in order to exploit its weakness and expose the faltering ideology upon which it rested. Naturally, seen from the point of view that defends a continual development between romanticism, aestheticism and the avant-garde, this development may appear paradoxical. For, when we think of avant-garde works today, we often imagine them as those that are most removed from everyday life, the most esoteric, elitist even. In other words, they are often viewed as the very height of l’art pour l’art decadence. Hence the perennial question―“But is it art?”―associated with avant-garde works in particular. However, according to Bürger’s analysis, this does not negate the avant-gardists’ intentions. It merely signals their failure to bring about the kind of total transformation of the relationship between art


James Matthew Fielding

and life that they sought. Nonetheless, even if the avant-gardists failed in this regard—their artworks having eventually been appropriated by the very institution they sought to destabilise—the movement was not a total failure. Their critique of the institution of art succeeded in making the general categories that pervade its legitimating function apparent, raising important questions about the validity of institutionally determined artistic norms that continue to define aesthetic discourse to this day.

2 Some Limitations on the Parallel between Art and Philosophy This has, undoubtedly, been a hasty summary of Bürger’s conscientiously articulated and thoroughly dialectic argument. However, the extent to which Wittgenstein partook in some of the aesthetic strategies of the avant-garde is, I hope, already becoming clear. Nonetheless, in order to make it clear that Wittgenstein was motivated by comparable historical considerations, and that he was not simply borrowing from the avant-garde because of some inclination towards its pure aesthetic value―which would be an absurd claim―, it is necessary to provide a brief account of how aestheticism differed from philosophy around the turn of the century and how Wittgenstein positioned himself towards the latter. Firstly, it is clear that philosophy never went through the same progressive movement towards autonomy that art had made from the middle of the nineteenth century onwards. Even if post-enlightenment philosophy had isolated itself from dominant social practices in many significant respects, particularly as it freed itself from religious constraints, by the turn of the century the practical importance of philosophy was again centre-stage. This was especially the case in analytic philosophy, in Vienna and Cambridge in particular, and the benefits that analytic philosophers felt they could bring to science and mathematics. Nonetheless, the ideal of ideological disinterestedness, which Bürger characterises as essentially bourgeois in its apolitical universalism, ran deeply throughout it. Specifically, the socio-political consequences of the progress that analytic philosophy was assumed to represent were to be divorced from the value of truth itself. Furthermore, Russell, Frege, and the logical empiricists who would soon adopt their programme in Vienna, held a firm belief in the notion of progress —not only for science but for philosophy as well. Der Zeit Ihre Philosophie, Der Philosophie Ihre Freiheit would be inscribed over no doors here. Autonomy, simply put, was not part of the wider philosophical programme of the day. At the same time, however, the question must be asked: what would

Wittgenstein and the Avant-garde


such an autonomous philosophy look like? How could philosophy sever itself from the independent and objective truth that it had always sought to express with fidelity? Much like a novel without a narrative, no matter how minimal, a work of philosophy without the aim of understanding the world—or, at least, of articulating a sceptical voice regarding the possibility of such an understanding—would surpass the limit of its integrity and become unrecognisable as such. Significantly, such a work would cease to be a work of philosophy and become rather a work of art. What such limitations in the domain of philosophy highlight is the need to distinguish between the aesthetic strategies of the historical avant-garde, in Bürger’s sense (as specific to the plastic and performative arts), and those of modernism more generally (which thrived in a wide variety of domains at about the same time, with or without the doctrine of autonomy). Admittedly, it is tempting to identify the avant-garde with modernism wholesale. Such wholesale identification is facilitated, moreover, by the lack of a clear definition of what precisely modernism is. Unlike parallel endeavours within the avant-garde, it was never organised by a group who shared an agenda or even a set of clearly articulated priorities. In light of this fact, it has been claimed that modernism developed out of a prevailing desire to resist the collective stress of contemporary life and the total rationalisation of the human being within industrial society. It was of course Marx who had, only shortly before, highlighted how the commodification of time and the reification of the individual would progressively engender alienation within society. Modernist strategies that turn radically towards the material of a work’s construction, alternate abruptly between perspectives and voices, and ultimately fracture the coherence of the work as a whole, are thus interpreted as providing a refuge from the all-encompassing rationalisation of modern society. The preceding remarks lead us to the natural question: if autonomy was simply not part of the philosophical landscape at the time, what is to be gained from a comparison of the aesthetic strategies of the avant-garde, which sought to reject such autonomy and thrust art back into the centre of real life, with Wittgenstein’s philosophical corpus? At first sight, it may seem like the answer is “not a great deal”. However, it is noteworthy that Wittgenstein himself felt that there was no connection between what passed as philosophy in the academy and the everyday praxis of real life. He felt that the vast majority of philosophy was little more than nonsensical pseudo-babble, that there was not, and could be no such thing, as progress in philosophy—for he denied the realm of distinctly “philosophical truths” upon which logical positivism in particular relies, its own version of the “autonomy doctrine”, so to speak—and he thus felt


James Matthew Fielding

that contemporary philosophers were guilty of making the same mistakes that the ancient Greeks had made two thousand years prior. Furthermore, Wittgenstein distinctly recognised the “duplicitous” character of philosophy, which in his view pretended to satisfy a human demand that it could not, in principle, succeed in fulfilling. Thus, as philosophy is incapable of satisfying that desire for a higher form of knowledge, it cannot but defer ultimate satisfaction, propelling philosophers into the future armed only with the same dissatisfactions and doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Though philosophy was not conceived of in terms reminiscent of those in art by the majority of its practitioners, Wittgenstein himself understood philosophy in a strikingly similar manner, and thus, it proves perhaps less surprisingly that he should employ similar avant-gardist strategies in his attack upon it.

3 Turning Points: From Modernism to the Avant-garde in Wittgenstein As noted above, modernism lacks a coherent definition. Thus, any survey of the modernist style will have to content itself with a reliance on a “family resemblance” of diverse and often incongruent features. Nonetheless, looking at Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, one readily identifies a great deal that might justifiably be characterised as modernist in the aesthetic sense. Like many modernist classics, the text employs an arcane structure and replaces the consistent development of a stable perspective with formal patterning. It alternates dramatically between diverse perspectives, interrupting the coherence of the “narrative”. Mirroring the Viennese eclecticism of Wittgenstein’s youth, statements on the nature of language and logic, mathematics, physics, ethics, death and the meaning of life, as well as colour, music and visual perception, are placed “side by side” and positioned in such a way that chains of reasoning may be followed both vertically and/or horizontally. It displays a sensitivity to the unequal relation between the mind and the self—and, perhaps above all, the work includes the heroic idea that philosophy, when it is done correctly, can transcend the misconceptions of the modern world and provide a stable footing against its prevailing confusions. Of course, when Wittgenstein returned to philosophy in the 1930s, his position had radically changed. He recognised “grave errors” in his earlier work and clearly felt that his new approach to philosophy addressed a lack in its form as well as in its content. He later described some of the work’s stylistic features as “kitsch”, and even a casual glance at the two works side-by-side will reveal the

Wittgenstein and the Avant-garde


almost complete lack of ornamentation in the second, even when compared to the already rather austere Tractatus. In place of the earlier, punchier, aphoristic style, what we find in the Investigations is a playful and imaginative rumination on the common behaviour of humankind, which is almost banal in its everydayness. In a word, what marks the shift from the Tractatus to the Investigations is the distinctly social character that the early work lacked—even if the object of Wittgenstein’s criticism, which is to say the empty speculative use of language in philosophy, remained consistent across the two works. Beyond merely reflecting on the impersonal structure of language, in the latter work, the task is refocused on our use of language and on the role that language plays within our life. What is significant in this change, moreover, is the corresponding shift in the production and intended mode of reception of the work, which correspond to this shift towards a more social character. Now, in Bürger’s view, the modernist aesthetic continues in many significant respects along the path first laid down by fin-de-siècle aestheticism. For with respect to the categories of his analysis, modernism partakes in similar modes of production (individual), modes of reception (also individual), as well as a common purpose or social function (the portrayal of bourgeois self-understanding). That this characterisation bares a certain resemblance to the Tractatus is born out by the fact that, if one were to adopt a tractarian world-view, nothing in one’s outer appearance would change. One would still carry on much as one had done before, only without the temptation to enter into metaphysical speculation when questions present themselves as great world-shaping riddles. The aim here is thus not to transform one’s practice, but to return it to a more originary one. The ethical aspect of such a transformation is made clear in the preparatory Notebooks, where Wittgenstein notes: “It seems one can’t say anything more than: Live happily!” (NB 1979: 78) As we have seen, however, Bürger continues by defining the avant-garde in terms of its conscientious attack on such an aesthetic locus of bourgeois individualism. What is it, then, about the latter text that is specifically avant-garde in its approach, which the earlier text lacked? By Bürger’s light, there is an important distinction to make between the criticism of philosophers (what he calls “dogmatic criticism”), the criticism of philosophy by means of philosophy (“system-immanent criticism”), and the criticism of philosophy in total, which is to say, as an institution (what Bürger calls “self-criticism” or “ideology critique”). The meaning of “dogmatic criticism” should be clear here, also that this term is not intended to be dismissive. What is interesting to note, rather, is the shared dialectic nature of the other two categories, which for all that are not identical. In “system-immanent critique”, the reference to philosophy becomes the principle means of doing philosophy and advancing its endeavours. This most readily recalls Kant and his


James Matthew Fielding

own self-proclaimed “critical philosophy”. Kant’s critique remained “system-immanent” (in Bürger’s sense) insofar as he failed to question the wider institutional status of philosophical practice, proposing rather to trace the limits of thought “from the inside out”, as it were, and thus to draw positive philosophical theses from that critique. Although Kant’s investigation into the antinomies was historically conditioned, for example, the result of that investigation was posited as an atemporal, timeless norm. With self-critique, on the contrary, philosophising becomes the sole subject of philosophy and the work becomes about nothing other than the practice itself, thus conceived as historically and temporally situated. In Bürger’s terms, “the institution” and the “content” of particular works completely coincides, thus drawing our attention to the various institutional functions which grant or deny them legitimacy—i. e., from the outside-in. Like the Tractatus, the Investigations is comprised of a series of numbered paragraphs; however, unlike the Tractatus, the later text seems to have no greater organising principle. Paragraphs appear to be arranged willy-nilly, with neither tempo nor crescendo, and the endpoint of the work seems to have no greater necessity than any other. The key to understanding this structure is what Bürger calls the “non-organic” character of the avant-garde work. We have seen how this implicates a significant shift in the relation between the parts of the work and the whole. Parts of the non-organic work lack hermeneutic necessity. New elements of the same or similar type could be added, present elements could rearranged, or omitted altogether, without a corresponding shift in the overall significance of the work. Given this unusual mode of production, moreover, there seems to be no particular benefit to be gained by reading the remarks in the order they have been arranged. Wittgenstein himself appears to have eschewed all traditional forms of argumentative linearity. Of course, we know today that Wittgenstein struggled immensely over the final arrangement of the remarks in the text. In fact, the difficulties that Wittgenstein underwent finding an acceptable form for this, his second work, are referred to directly in the preface of the work, where Wittgenstein characterises the unique form of work as an “album”. The Nachlass in particular shows how the final version was painstakingly constructed from a “cut-and-paste” rearrangement of remarks contained in several manuscripts, which had themselves, in their turn, been constructed from previously rearranged manuscripts over the course of the previous fifteen years, with any number of additional commentaries, interlinear insertions and frequently minute, apparently senseless alterations. This technique of building an “album” is perfectly in-line with the avant-garde approach: in the first place, its mode of production is reminiscent of the techniques of collage and montage, and in the second, the dialogic-ther-

Wittgenstein and the Avant-garde


apeutic focus of the work mirrors the avant-garde’s intended mode of reception. But what of the work’s social function? Given that little is said by Wittgenstein about what he specifically wished to achieve in his final work, the ideological character of his attack on the institution of philosophy―unlike the avant-garde, who clearly proclaimed theirs in the various manifestos of the day―can only be witnessed directly in various Nachlass sources. Specifically, in the 1930s, when Wittgenstein returned to philosophy with this new critical agenda in hand, he composed a series of prefaces to the work he hoped to publish at that time, formulating what would eventually stand as his own private “manifesto” for the legitimate practice of philosophy. There, what Wittgenstein calls the dominant “spirit of the times”—and the extent to which the alternative mode of philosophical composition he was developing then was precisely intended to be an alternative to that spirit—is expressed by him thus: This book is written for such men as are in sympathy with its spirit. This spirit is different from the one which informs the vast stream of European and American civilization in which all of us stand. That spirit expresses itself in an onwards movement, in building ever larger and more complicated structures; the other in striving after clarity and perspicuity no matter what structure. The first tries to grasp the world by way of its periphery—in its variety; the second at its centre—in its essence. And so the first adds one construction to another, moving on and up, as it were, from one stage to the next, while the other remains where it is and what it tries to grasp is always the same. (PR 1975, Foreword)

Dogmatic criticism, as we have seen, pits one theory against another and infers its own truth from the untruth of the other. Dialectical criticism, on the other hand, proceeds immanently, deriving its force from the gaps and contradictions within the object of its criticism. In this way, the Tractatus proceeded to lead the reader along, from one familiar philosophically-sounding proposition to another, in order to end by exposing the very nonsensical character of those propositions. Like the German genre of Bildungsroman, the story is told in a series of stages through which the reader progresses towards self-discovery, a form of knowledge which would moreover be empty without having gone through this precise series of mishaps and misplaced enthusiasms. Crucially, like Kant before him, the result of Wittgenstein’s investigations at that time were posited as an atemporal norm to be upheld indefinitely upon completion of the work. The dialectical nature of the Investigations is of a significantly different sort, which ultimately allowed Wittgenstein’s latter work to escape the atemporal— and apolitical—character of the earlier work, in order to achieve a more thorough, ideologically-centred critique. Nonetheless, it is clear that doing so also posed a risk to the work’s comprehension. As Bürger notes,


James Matthew Fielding

For dialectical criticism, the contradictions in the criticized theory are not indications of insufficient intellectual rigor on the part of the author, but an indication of an unsolved problem or one that has remained hidden. Dialectical criticism thus stands in a relation of dependency to the criticized theory. That also means, however, that it reaches its limit where such a theory cannot validate its claim to be a theory. All that remains to it is ‘rejection’, as Hegel called it, whereby it also renounces its own claim to being a theory, for it can oppose the nontheory only as opinion. (Bürger 1994: liv)

With the Investigations, Wittgenstein—like the avant-garde before him—reached that limit where he openly confronted the non-workly character of his thought. Much like the perennial question with which the avant-garde has been confronted over the decades—“But is it art?”—we may therefore be tempted to ask ourselves whether that which is to be found in the Investigations is philosophy at all. Wittgenstein himself certainly did so, and with good reason. However, it must be admitted today that his work has been thoroughly appropriated by the very institutions he once opposed and thus, like the avantgarde before him, it no longer makes sense to ask the question that vexed its author during a significant portion of his life. No one wonders today whether what is found in the Investigations is philosophy, though naturally one may reject it as “non-theory” and, thus, not as false but rather as an ill-conceived and wrongheaded endeavour. But what of those of us who believe there is something of value to be taken from it? How are contemporary Wittgensteinians to resolve the tension that Wittgenstein himself was never able to resolve to his satisfaction: that between the anti-establishment character of his work and the institutional forums wherein that work continues to receive its legitimacy to this day?

4 Wittgenstein’s Continued Legacy: Lessons from the Avant-garde We need not find it surprising that Wittgenstein failed to communicate the cultural-critical objectives of his work more openly. Like the avant-garde before him, he did not demand that the content of philosophy should become politicallycharged in order to be critical of the prevailing ideology. In fact, it was probably just the opposite. For unlike the artists of the avant-garde, who very publicly announced the new relationship of art to life that their works heralded, Wittgenstein’s pessimism forbade such an open announcement. Ironically, it is perhaps the central feature of the Investigations’ composition—its non-organic character, which purposefully lacks hermeneutic necessity and thus encourages isolation,

Wittgenstein and the Avant-garde


abstraction, and reconstitution according to the reader’s priorities, and not those of its author—which facilitated the obscuration of its goals. Of course, it has now been over sixty years since the Investigations’ first appearance, and the latent ideological challenge that his work contains has not gone unnoticed by all. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this insight is most frequently (though not exclusively) associated with those scholars most familiar with the Nachlass sources. Today, it is perhaps Alois Pichler who has most thoroughly developed a re-assessment of the relationship between Wittgenstein’s critique of culture and the alternative method of philosophising that he sought to develop, and to do so moreover from a specifically ideological prospective. Pichler draws our attention to the material principles of Wittgenstein’s method of philosophical composition and the manner in which this was precisely intended to be an alternative to other, more dominant forms of philosophising, then as now. Furthermore, he highlights the manifesto-like character of the various draft prefaces to the body of work that would ultimately become the Investigations and, interestingly, how Wittgenstein penned these remarks in clear opposition to the very public manifesto of the Vienna Circle. Despite the decades that separate us from the Vienna Circle’s staunch scientism, Pichler argues that the challenge that is contained, not only in the content of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, but also in its form, remains salient to this day. As he concludes in a recent paper: Wittgenstein was doubtful about the success of his work: whether someone would understand his way of doing philosophy and manage or even want to apply it on their own: to follow his example. In this chapter I did not want to criticize the standards or conceptions of philosophy that Wittgenstein opposes. My chapter conforms to those standards rather than Wittgenstein’s (however, one might say that my chapter is not philosophy). But I wanted to stress a point that was made early on by Wittgenstein, but today often seems to be forgotten or underacknowledged: Wittgenstein challenges our Western academic traditions not only in matters of content and conceptions, but even more so, it seems to me, in matters of the form philosophy should take. (Pichler 2015: 75)

By historicising Wittgenstein, and drawing certain parallels between his strategies and those of the avant-garde, I have sought to arrive at precisely such questions: what does it mean to continue philosophising in a Wittgensteinian spirit today? What could it mean “to follow Wittgenstein’s example”, as Pichler has put it, given the anti-establishment character of his work? And can we truly do justice to that work while its legitimacy remains tied to the very institutions that Wittgenstein himself deeply opposed? This, I argue, is where the comparisons between Wittgenstein’s late work and the European avant-garde end—and


James Matthew Fielding

where we in philosophy may perhaps learn something from the contemporary reception of the avant-garde within modern aesthetic practice and discourse. In Bürger’s work, he comments on the failure of the avant-garde to bring about the complete alignment of the praxis of art with the praxis of everyday life thus: A contemporary aesthetic can no more neglect the incisive changes that the historical avant-garde movements effected in the realm of art than it can ignore that art has long since entered a post avant-gardiste phase. We characterize that phase by saying that it revived the category of work and that the procedures invented by the avant-garde with antiartistic intent are being used for artistic ends. This must not be judged a ‘betrayal’ of the aims of the avant-garde movements (sublation of art as a social institution, uniting life and art) but the result of a historical process that can be described in these very general terms: now that the attack of the historical avant-garde movements on art as an institution has failed, and art has not been integrated into the praxis of life, art as an institution continues to survive as something separate from the praxis of life. But the attack did make art recognizable as an institution and also revealed its (relative) inefficacy in bourgeois society as its principle. (Bürger 1994: 57)

Such a remark acknowledges that the time has passed wherein one might legitimately be able to repeat the critical gestures of the avant-garde in any kind of straightforward way. After World War II, we can no longer uphold the advances of technology as the harbinger of utopian redemption, à la Futurism. After Freud, we can no longer consider the subconscious a naïve and trustworthy guide for engaging with the world, as did the Surrealists. Neither can we, in the manner of Dada, continue to simply place familiar objets trouvés in the museum as examples of the aesthetic qualities of everyday life. While such gestures continue to motivate artistic works in significant ways, their bald, critical character does not bare infinite repetition; the times have changed and with that these gestures have ceased to function in the same way as before. However, the avant-garde has had a lasting impact on our commerce with art. For, following the avant-garde’s revelation of its ideologically-determined institutional status, the question of what it means for art to be critically engaged has become central to aesthetic discourse today. Like the avant-garde, it goes without saying that Wittgenstein failed to bring about the destruction of the institution of philosophy. Unlike the avant-garde, however, it would appear that he also failed to pose lasting questions about philosophy’s institutional status. Or did he? While the various Nachlass sources cited here help highlight what Wittgenstein wished to achieve in his work, it is the material construction of the Investigations that most clearly states the case: its unique method of production (the “album-form”), its intended mode of reception (dialogic-therapeutic), as well as the social function at which it was aimed (the

Wittgenstein and the Avant-garde


self-critique of philosophy in toto, in order to bring about a realignment of the praxis of philosophy and the praxis of life). Only when we admit the fact that Wittgenstein failed to achieve this goal can we begin to move his programme forward in a manner appropriate to the challenges that we are presented with today―challenges that do not necessitate repeating his critical gestures of over a half a century before, but rather finding a means to express those challenges that are unique to our times and to begin addressing them with regard to our own historical particularities. Perhaps above all, it means being conscious of the extent to which the institutional status of our contemporary academic discourse may or may not pose a threat to the social relevance that we would wish our works to have—if that is indeed what we would wish. And I am not suggesting that it need be. What I am suggesting, however, is that it was so for Wittgenstein and we would do well to keep this in mind if we wish to philosophise in a “Wittgensteinian spirit” today.

Bibliography Bürger, Peter (1994): Theory of the Avant-garde. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Pichler, Alois (2015): “Ludwig Wittgenstein and us ‘Typical Western Scientists’”. In: Sebastian Grève/Jakub Mácha (Eds.): Wittgenstein and the Creativity of Language. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 55 – 75. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1979): Notebooks 1914 – 1916. G. H. von Wright/G. E. M. Anscombe (Eds.). G. E. M. Anscombe (Transl.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (NB) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1975): Philosophical Remarks. Rush Rhees (Ed.). Raymond Hargreaves/Roger White (Trans.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (PR)

Joachim Schulte

What Makes Brahms Kellerian? Abstract: In the context of a published Lecture on Aesthetics recorded by Rush Rhees the editor quotes a lengthy passage from Smythies’ Notes of Wittgenstein’s Lectures on Description (1940). Here, Wittgenstein is reported as observing: “Take Brahms and Keller – I often found that certain themes of Brahms were extremely Kellerian.” In my paper, I try to spell out what Wittgenstein may have had in mind in making this observation. As Wittgenstein himself remarks, his words have an historical dimension that needs to be taken into account if one wants to arrive at a fruitful reading of his observation. At the same time, the suggestion that Brahms is a “Kellerian” composer can be seen as relying on insights developed by Wittgenstein in the course of his later reflections on aspect-seeing and other topics in the philosophy of psychology as well as his ideas on the immediacy of certain connections between linguistic meaning and the expression of feelings.

Those of us who wish to speculate about what Wittgenstein might be seen as having contributed to the philosophy of art will chiefly have to rely on two types of textual evidence: first, there are occasional remarks made in the context of discussing other kinds of philosophical problem or diaries or letters to relatives or friends; second, there are notes taken by Wittgenstein’s pupils of lectures he gave on aesthetic questions or questions that can be understood to have an aesthetic dimension. Many of the occasional remarks belonging to the first category have been published in the collection Culture and Value, edited by Georg Henrik von Wright and Alois Pichler (CV 1998). On the other hand, what Wittgenstein said in his lectures has in many cases been recorded by people who attended those lectures, and a fair number of these records have been published or will be brought out in the near future. As regards aesthetics, the set of four lectures published in a volume edited by Cyril Barrett stands out against the rest of the available material (LA 1966: 1– 40). But of course, lecture notes—especially if taken by young students—are bound to vary a good deal in point of reliability. One keeps wondering whether the lecturer really said what the note-takers recorded. Or, more intriguing yet is the question whether the recorded words can be construed in a way more likely to express the intended sense as opposed to the sense suggested by the words printed. At the same time, lecture notes tend to give a much better idea of the DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-021


Joachim Schulte

context of questions holding Wittgenstein’s attention than scattered remarks lifted from manuscripts dealing with all sorts of problems. Bearing these uncertainties in mind, I suggest that we treat the following passage from a “Lecture on Description”, given in 1940 and recorded by Yorick Smythies, as absolutely authoritative. This will help us to concentrate on Wittgenstein’s words as recorded without worrying whether they really represent what he said or meant.—This is the passage that will stand at the centre of my observations: You can sometimes find similarity between the style of a musician and the style of a poet who lived at the same time, or a painter. Take Brahms and Keller. I often found that certain themes of Brahms were extremely Kellerian. This was extraordinarily striking. First, I said this to people. You might say: “What would be the interest of such an utterance?” The interest partly lay in that they lived at the same time. If I had said that he was Shakespearian or Miltonian, this might have had no interest, or an entirely different one. If I had constantly wanted to say: “This is Shakespearean” of a certain theme, this would have had little or no interest. It wouldn’t connect up with anything. “This word (‘Shakespearean’) forces itself on me.” Did I have a certain scene in mind? If I say: “This theme of Brahms is extremely Kellerian”, the interest this has is first that these two lived at the same time; also, that you can say the same sort of things of both of them – the culture of the time in which they lived. here you actually have a case different to that of the faces. With faces, you can generally soon find something which makes you say, “Yes, that’s what makes them similar”. Whereas, I couldn’t say now what it is that makes Brahms similar to Keller. Nevertheless, I find that utterance of mine interesting. “That was //wasn’t// written before Wagner.” The interest of this statement would lie in the fact that on the whole such statements are true when I make them. One can actually judge when a piece of poetry was written by hearing it, by the style. You could imagine this was impossible, if people in 1850 wrote the same way as in 1750, but you could still imagine people saying: “I am sure that was written in 1850.” Cf. [a man on a railway journey to Liverpool saying,] “I am sure Exeter is in that direction.” (LA 1966: 32 n., Lecture IV [from Rhees’s notes], the text of the note is taken from Smythies’s notes of lectures on description, cf. WCL 2017]. Changes of the original text and omissions are indicated by .)

The whole context of the lecture from which this quotation is taken is of great interest if one wants to find out about Wittgenstein’s views on certain forms or works of art, about his personal preferences as well as his principles of how to form a judgement on a work of art. Here, however, I shall confine myself to indicating a few points that can be derived from my quotation. But before getting down to my discussion of this quotation, I should like to point out that there is now a more reliable text of Smythies’ notes of Wittgenstein’s lectures (WCL 2017). The version given above, however, is based on the old text first published in 1966. It is very interesting to note that Wittgenstein used the Brahms-Keller comparison as early as 1933. In a lecture given on 22

What Makes Brahms Kellerian?


May of that year and recorded by Moore, he said that one “can make a person understand a composer by drawing attention to a contemporary author, e. g. Brahms is like Keller. Aesthetics may say: Try to find Keller in Brahms”, etc. (GEM LN 2016: 351). It is instructive that, in the context of this lecture of 1933, Wittgenstein compares and contrasts aesthetic considerations with psychological questions in a manner not unlike the attitude expressed in his 1940 lecture on description.

1 Keller-Brahms Case vs. Case of Comparing Two Faces: Special Authority of Utterances (Äußerungen) Wittgenstein emphasizes that the case is different from that of two faces that can be found to be similar in several respects. For example, I may notice that certain contours or lines or colours are more or less the same, and these are features that can be pointed to, compared and (to a certain degree) measured by technical means. But the case of Brahms and Keller, as conceived by Wittgenstein, is different from that of judging two human faces. It is different, not only in not admitting analogous forms of comparison or measurement, but also in exemplifying a peculiar kind of authority to be ascribed to some kinds of utterance if made by certain persons (or types of person). That is to say, even though Wittgenstein declares himself unable to indicate a specific feature regarding which Brahms and Keller could be found to be similar in an objectively describable and intersubjectively intelligible way, his claim that there is a special kind of similarity between them is in itself held to be authoritative in some respect. Briefly, what this means is likely to be something along the following lines: if a person who knows a good deal about music and literature is strongly inclined to say something like “This theme of Brahms is extremely Kellerian”, we shall take this seriously in at least two ways: first, we can use the uttered sentence itself as a means of describing Brahms’ symphony and illustrating what kinds of impression it may make; second, we shall try to discover whether, or to what extent, we feel that this utterance resonates with something in our own response to this music. Evidently, from this perspective, Wittgenstein’s utterance can be seen to function in a way more or less analogous to that of avowals, that is, in the way of immediate expressions of pain or other sensations. To be sure, in one respect it is much more sophisticated: using names like “Keller” and “Brahms” as well as various other terms characteristic of aesthetic observations involves a much higher degree of education than expressing tooth-ache, for


Joachim Schulte

example. But in another respect these more sophisticated uses of language are just as direct—and perhaps one might say: just as primitive—as our expressions of pain. (It is in this context that some readers will be struck by the way Wittgenstein speaks of names as linguistic expressions more or less on a par with other descriptive words obviously forming part of our language. This should not surprise readers of his Philosophical Investigations, where proper names are clearly treated as meaningful expressions, whose sense or descriptive content can be seen to depend on their connections with relevant definite descriptions [PI 2009: 79; cf. Schulte 2009]. It is obvious that Wittgenstein’s way of using “Keller” and “Brahms” as descriptive terms capable of playing the role indicated here in the context of avowals or avowal-like utterances chimes well with his conception of the semantic role of proper names as clarified in PI 2009: 79 [“Moses”]. On the other hand, one may wonder whether thinking about examples of the “Keller” and “Brahms” type contributed to confirming Wittgenstein in his view of proper names and in remaining true to its Fregean and Russellian inspiration. Evidently, this is not the place to go into a discussion of this question, but it may none the less be helpful to bear it in mind.) In other words, what my suggestion amounts to is that the term “utterance” (which occurs twice in the passage quoted) be read as Wittgenstein’s English translation of his more or less technical German term “Äußerung”. One feature of these Äußerungen (or “utterances” or “avowals”) is that there is no first-person way of verifying the correctness, or falsifying the incorrectness, of sentences of the relevant kind: […] Psychological verbs characterized by the fact that the third person of the present is to be identified by observation, the first person not. Sentences in the third person of the present: information. In the first person present, expression [Äußerung]. […] (RPP II 1980: 63)

Another feature of Äußerungen is that these expressions “force themselves” on the speaker, as Wittgenstein says in our quotation. (In German, his standard expression is “sich aufdrängen”, which he uses, for example, in the famous passage PI § 304 to say that we reject “the grammar which tends to force itself on us”.) That is to say, the speaker cannot help using the words he does use: it is as if the object under consideration compelled the speaker to use these particular words and left him no choice to employ different ones.

What Makes Brahms Kellerian?


2 Role of Connoisseurs Of course, in our present context the strictly speaking psychological aspects of this phenomenon do not really concern us. (One reason for making this claim is the fact that Wittgenstein himself keeps underlining the difference between psychological and aesthetic questions and the frequent irrelevance of the former to the latter. At one point he even goes so far as to say that attempts at giving psychological explanations of aesthetic phenomena or answering aesthetic questions by psychological answers is an “exceedingly stupid” idea [LA 1966: 17 (§ 35)]. On the other hand, he waxes almost “sociological” in emphasizing the importance of allowing for facts about social developments if one wishes to give a satisfactory account of various kinds of aesthetic question. It is in this vein that he says, for example: In describing musical taste you have to describe whether children give concerts, whether women do or whether men only give them, etc., etc. In aristocratic circles in Vienna people had [such and such] a taste, then it came into bourgeois circles and women joined choirs, etc. This is an example of tradition in music. [LA 1966: 8 (§ 26)]

It is from this point of view that taking into consideration the role of connoisseurs seems obviously advisable.) What does concern us is a more complex matter dependent, for example, on the existence of a relatively developed society producing people regarded as connoisseurs, that is, highly cultured and discerning arbiters of taste whose judgement will be respected by others (cf. the third paragraph of our opening quotation). The situation that Wittgenstein finds interesting is one in which words fail us connoisseurs: a situation in which we find ourselves reduced to using expressions that force themselves on us in a way analogous to that in which “ouch” is the expression forcing itself on me in a case where someone has dropped a heavy object on my feet. In such a situation the connoisseur’s behaviour can be very revealing about the object or work of art we are interested in. For if he cannot help—and admits that he cannot help—using certain expressions when confronted by a certain work, his admission will tell me something quite different from what his words would tell me if they were the result of a deliberate choice between several options.


Joachim Schulte

3 Keller vs. Shakespeare or Milton: Contemporariness To be sure, this is a feature of Wittgenstein’s comment on Keller and Brahms which it may share with claims of similarity with Shakespeare or Milton. It seems that you simply give vent to a certain feeling by means of associating the composer’s name with that of a poet which in some unspecified way reminds you of him. (This would be similar to immediate, or instinctive, responses to questions about the supposed colours of vowels, cf. PPF 2009: 177 and 278: “If I say, ‘For me the vowel e is yellow’, I do not mean: ‘yellow’ in a metaphorical meaning – for I could not express what I want to say in any other way than by means of the concept of yellow.”) But largely owing to the contemporariness of Brahms and Keller, the comparison involved in Wittgenstein’s utterance gains an additional dimension, viz. an historical one: being members of the same culture and living at the same time can render a statement of similarity much more significant than other types of comparison. Now, of course one might think that this is due to the fact that the people compared are exposed to circumstances and influences of similar kinds. And there can be no doubt that there is something in this suggestion. But it is unlikely to exhaust Wittgenstein’s meaning. For one thing, we have to remember his insistence on the general distinction between reasons and causes as well as his oft-repeated claim that a purely causal account will have no philosophical relevance. I suppose that what he has in mind in underlining the contemporariness of Brahms and Keller is more in the nature of family resemblance. Here, too, you have an aspect of the matter which is causally determined; but at the same time you talk about these resemblances in terms of sameness, similarity, and variation, which, in spite of their causal basis, admit of a much wider spectrum of evocative combinations of ideas. In a case of ordinary family resemblance the causal factor is the brute fact of people’s being parents, children, uncles, cousins, etc. of other people. (Some readers tend to overlook this point and imagine that, according to Wittgenstein, discovering family resemblances is a means of finding out, or a way of providing evidence supporting given answers to the question, whether or not certain people are related to each other. But this has nothing to do with the sketch drawn by Wittgenstein: he is asking us to look at the varied kinds of similarities between people known to be relatives, to transfer the picture assembled in this way to other kinds of cases, and to compare it with these other cases. These cases may then be found to display a different causal structure or, as for instance Wittgenstein’s own example of our notion of number [PI 2009: 68], no causal structure at all.)

What Makes Brahms Kellerian?


4 Psychological vs. Aesthetic Aspects: Mere Association vs. Close Association In this context it is important to bear in mind that in his discussions of Äußerungen Wittgenstein is chiefly interested in clarifying psychological concepts. In discussing aesthetic matters, however, he emphasizes that he is not dealing with questions of psychology. And he adds that it would be more fruitful to compare his considerations with attempts at finding a solution to a mathematical problem. Thus, in a lecture given on 19 May 1933, he said, according to Moore: “‘Is it this note or that note that makes it sound so heavy?’ Is this a psychological question? It would be, if we were asking: Is it this note or that that causes our displeasure? But what we do, is much more like a piece of mathematics” (GEM LN 2016: 347 [9:27]). Now, if we take this sort of remark as a hint, we may want to introduce the following distinction between ways of making sense of Äußerungen of the more or less directly aesthetic kind: on the one hand, there are utterances of this type that will primarily tell us something about the speaker himself; on the other hand, there are utterances that will mainly be found interesting on the grounds that they help us understand the object or work under examination. To clarify the bearing of this distinction on our quotation and related passages, let us look at the case where a person remarks on a certain theme by Brahms: “This is Shakespearean!” As Wittgenstein suggests, we may find this comment irrelevant. Lacking additional information, it will tell us nothing about Brahms. At most, it may tell us something about the speaker: after all, the fact that he is prone to associate this piece by Brahms with Shakespeare may contribute to understanding the person who utters this comment. But as Wittgenstein also indicates, there may be a way of turning a comment of this type into a more helpful observation. Let us suppose, for example, that the speaker could continue by pointing out a certain scene from a specific play by Shakespeare, and let us suppose further that he could proceed by mentioning certain characteristics of this scene that, by way of analogy, might be seen as throwing a particular light on the theme by Brahms. In this case, we may feel that we have gained a new perspective on Brahms. That is to say, if the speaker is able to spell out what struck him in an intersubjectively appreciable fashion, then what at first looked like a largely idiosyncratic and irrelevant comment could result in an insightful remark on the work we are discussing—in this case, a given theme by Brahms. Thus, the speaker’s ability to spell out what he meant by his apparently irrelevant comment can in a certain sense be seen as redeeming this seeming ir-


Joachim Schulte

relevancy. The appearance of irrelevance is largely due to our impression that the speaker’s comment “This theme by Brahms is Shakespearean” is, as it were, a mere association of the type alluded to in the last lines of our quotation. At this point, Wittgenstein imagines a man travelling on the train to Liverpool exclaiming, out of the blue and for no good reason (as we might add), that Exeter must be over there. As Wittgenstein explains in a number of parallel passages of his later writings, we may well be able to account for this type of utterance by mentioning psychological causes and telling stories about events in the speaker’s past. These causes and stories may then be seen as his inspiration for his present words, but they would not be sufficient as a justification (in the sense of giving a reason) for the man’s exclamation. They would, as Wittgenstein says at one point, be mere attempts to proceed “as it were psychoanalytically”, trying “to discover the causes of [a person’s] unfounded conviction” (PPF 2009: 268). Another example Wittgenstein mentions in various places of his writings is the name “Schubert”. Maybe what prompted him to invoke this example is a line from a poem by Grillparzer (Grillparzer 1826), which begins with the words “Schubert heiß ich, Schubert bin ich – I am called Schubert, and I am Schubert”, where this phrase might be read as meaning “I am a Schubert”, that is, I exemplify the characteristic features signified by the name “Schubert”. Or, to put it differently, we are asked to read the second occurrence of the expression “Schubert”, not as a proper name, but rather as what Frege calls a concept word. The idea can be clarified by thinking about Frege’s example “Trieste is no Vienna”, where “Trieste” obviously functions as a proper name while “Vienna” is used as a concept word (Frege 1892: 189 [original pagination: 200]). But it is clear from the way Wittgenstein employs his example that he regards the whole scheme of trying to read the present case in terms of this distinction as an illusion. The idea supposedly expressed by saying “I feel as if the name ‘Schubert’ fitted Schubert’s works and Schubert’s face” is precisely as unjustified as the notion that “I feel as if I knew the city was over there” (PPF 2009: 270).

5 The Brahms-Keller Case is Normally Not a Case of Certain Features Fitting a Name Starting from here, one might come to think that Wittgenstein’s negative judgement about the Schubert case were bound to have damaging consequences for the Keller-Brahms case and similar examples. But a moment’s reflection may help to show that this need not be so. What makes the Schubert case illusory

What Makes Brahms Kellerian?


is the idea that the features associated with this name fit the name. This is an illusion for the simple reason that the features associated with the name are the same as those we are supposedly comparing them with. Obviously, here there is no independent way of making a comparison, and accordingly there is no acceptable way of judging whether the features of A correspond to the features of B. From this, however, we cannot derive an objection to the basic idea that a name can, as it were, serve as a picture of the object it stands for or stands in for. Wittgenstein’s well-known joke about the embarrassing attempt to paint a portrait of Goethe writing the Ninth Symphony may go some way towards explaining the point of this basic idea: It might be like this: I hear that someone is painting a picture “Beethoven writing the Ninth Symphony”. I could easily imagine the kind of thing such a picture would show us. But suppose someone wanted to represent what Goethe would have looked like writing the Ninth Symphony? Here I could imagine nothing that would not be embarrassing and ridiculous. (PPF 2009: 51)

Obviously, here we have a clear case of a clash of incompatible descriptions—viz. those closely associated with the name “Goethe”, on the one hand, and those closely associated with the name “Beethoven”, on the other—where this clash could not be explained if the names were regarded as simple labels involving no descriptive element whatsoever.

6 Physiognomy vs. Mere Atmosphere: Comparison with the “Face” of a Mathematical Series and Proof-Patterns To clarify this idea, it may be useful to resort to a piece of terminology Wittgenstein likes to rely on in other contexts. For example, in discussing possible ways of recognizing proofs he speaks of their physiognomy. And in examining our idea of mathematical proof he sometimes appeals to the notion of a Beweisfigur—a proof-pattern. (Cf., for example, the following passage: “I want to say: if you have a proof-pattern that cannot be taken in, and by a change in notation you turn it into one that can, then you are producing a proof, where there was none before” [RFM 1978: 143].) Wittgenstein says that a proof can have a certain face distinguishing it from other ones, and he emphasizes that it is this physiognomic aspect that helps to render intuitive mathematics non-empirical:


Joachim Schulte

“Yes, but surely our calculating must be founded on empirical facts!” Certainly. But what empirical facts are you now thinking of? The psychological and physiological ones that make it possible, or those that make it a useful activity? The connexion with the latter consists in the fact that the calculation is the picture of an experiment as it practically always turns out. From the former it gets its point, its physiognomy; but that is certainly not to say that the propositions of mathematics have the functions of empirical propositions. […] (RFM 1978: 382)

It is in an analogous way that we can see a name like “Brahms” or “Keller” as bearing a certain physiognomy. Wittgenstein is at pains to show that such a physiognomy is not a mere atmosphere surrounding a name from the repertoire constitutive of our cultural heritage; for an atmosphere which is really inseparable from the object in question is, as he says (PPF 2009: 50, RPP I 1980: 337), not an atmosphere at all. Evidently, such a name’s physiognomy will be something we associate with it. However, the association will not be a mere association, as I have called it above, but a close one, as Wittgenstein calls it in the remark preceding the Beethoven-Goethe passage (PPF 2009: 50 – 51). Perhaps one could say that in those cases that interest us, closeness involves a certain degree of standardization: speaking of Keller in attempting to characterize a theme by Brahms can only be helpful if the features I have in mind are generally known or easy to infer by those people who are interested in these matters. In other words, they will have to be features belonging to a well-known and intersubjectively appreciable physiognomy of the name “Keller”. (It is no accident that, for the purposes of this discussion, Wittgenstein appeals to the names, faces, and works of famous people. That is to say, Wittgenstein does not proceed in the manner of Frege, who, in the context of examining a number of related problems, uses examples taken from his personal life [Dr. Lauben, Leo Peters, etc.]. On the contrary, Wittgenstein insists on dealing with the names of famous people, and hence with names that play a role in many people’s life. For instance, in considering the phenomenon of a fusion between name and face, Wittgenstein writes: “[…] A similar fusion occurs, for example, between the faces of famous men and the sound of their names. It seems to us that this name is the only right one for this face” [PI 2009: 171; cf. Frege 1918 – 19: 332– 333, original pagination 65 – 66].) This way of putting the matter may assist us in trying to understand why unembellished reference to a contemporary poet or composer should be supposed to be more instructive than plain reference to a person flourishing in a different age. Just think of a series of portraits representing people from the time of Brahms and Keller. If you put them side to side in a certain order, you will have the feeling that what you have before you is a composite picture of the age they all belonged to. Adding a picture of Shakespeare or Milton or Goethe

What Makes Brahms Kellerian?


will only confuse matters: things will no longer add up to a recognizable gestalt. And it would be similar with the physiognomies going with certain names which, in their turn, can be seen as adding up to a portrait of the age and culture shaped by the works of the bearers of those names. Once they are seen this way, these physiognomies can, collectively, be said to epitomize their age; and in this role they may, without further attempts at spelling things out, be understood as casting light on each other that no figure from a different age could possibly cast. (For the whole complex of ideas touched on in this paragraph, see the discussion in the long note 14 of Schulte 2010: 141– 2.) So, part of the answer to my title-question will be that the similarities we may feel able to discern by comparing Keller and Brahms are due to shared features of their respective physiognomies. These physiognomies, however, cannot be reduced to structured sets of features ascribable to these people. No, these physiognomies owe some of their distinctive outlines to the fact of their common origins—their belonging to the same time and a shared culture. To be sure, we may want to spell out features constitutive of this common background. But in attempting to do so we are likely to end up invoking the intellectual physiognomies of figures like Keller and Brahms—that is to say, we are likely to come full circle.—In other words, if we try to characterize what is typical (in the physiognomic sense) of Keller and Brahms, we shall rely on the background of their common time and culture. And if we attempt to draw a picture of this time and culture, our account will have to involve the physiognomies of figures like Keller and Brahms. Now the fact that we are thus moving full circle indicates that the relations between those names, on the one hand, and certain cultural features they are meant to elucidate, on the other, are in the nature of what we may feel tempted to call conceptual or internal relations. To be sure, the temptation will chiefly be felt because our attempts at getting clearer about the relations between these highly significant and representative names, on the one hand, and between them and our more or less complex— and more or less fragmented—picture of the culture of the relevant period, on the other, tend to end up in quasi-circular moves of the kind just described. These attempts, however, can be instructive nevertheless. One reason for this resides in the fact that our attempts will always be dynamic in the sense of involving movement, that is to say: moves between the various terms of comparison that will often be represented by paradigmatic figures like Keller or Brahms and their best-known or particularly characteristic works. Another reason lies in the fact that the task of finding helpful parallels and illuminating terms of comparison is open-ended and does not oblige us all to come up with the same preferred solutions. It may, after all, turn out that you will not find the com-


Joachim Schulte

parison between Keller and Brahms useful. And if things turned out this way, I should not be justified to accuse you of having made a mistake.

Bibliography Frege, Gottlob (1997): “On Concept and Object”. [1st ed. 1892] In: Michael Beaney (Ed.): The Frege Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 181 – 193. Frege, Gottlob (1997): “Thought”. [1st ed. 1918 – 19] In: Michael Beaney (Ed.): The Frege Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 325 – 345. Grillparzer, Franz (21969): “Franz Schubert”. [1sted. 1826] In: Sämtliche Werke: Ausgewählte Briefe, Gespräche, Berichte, Vol. I: Gedichte – Epigramme – Dramen I. Munich: Carl Hanser, p. 172. Schulte, Joachim (2009): “‘Moses’: Wittgenstein on Names”. In: Hans-Johann Glock/John Hyman (Eds.): Wittgenstein and Analytic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 63 – 82. Schulte, Joachim (2010): “Concepts and Concept-Formation”. In: Nuno Venturinha (Ed.): Wittgenstein After His Nachlass. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 128 – 142. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1966): Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. Cyril Barrett (Ed.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (LA) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (31978): Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. G. H. von Wright/Rush Rhees/G. E. M. Anscombe (Eds.). G. E. M. Anscombe (Transl.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (RFM) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1980a): Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology/Bemerkungen über die Philosophie der Psychologie. Vol. 1. G. E. M. Anscombe/G. H. von Wright (Eds.). G. E. M. Anscombe (Transl.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (RPP I) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1980b): Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology/Bemerkungen über die Philosophie der Psychologie. Vol. 2. G. H. von Wright/Heikki Nyman (Eds.). C. Grant Luckhardt/Maximilian A. E. Aue (Transl.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (RPP II) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1998): Culture and Value. G. H. von Wright/Heikki Nyman (Eds.). Revised Edition of the Text by Alois Pichler. Peter Winch (Transl.). Blackwell: Oxford. (CV) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2009): Philosophische Untersuchungen/Philosophical Investigations [including Philosophy of Psychology – A Fragment]. P. M. S. Hacker/Joachim Schulte (Eds.). G. E. M. Anscombe/P. M. S. Hacker/Joachim Schulte (Transl.). Revised 4th edition. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. (PI and PPF) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2016): Lectures, Cambridge 1930 – 1933: From the Notes of G. E. Moore. David G. Stern/Brian Rogers/Gabriel Citron (Eds.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (GEM LN) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2017): Wittgenstein’s Whewell’s Court Lectures: Cambridge, 1938 – 1941: From the Notes of Yorick Smythies. Volker A. Munz/Bernhard Ritter (Eds.). Malden, MA: Wiley. (WCL)

Richard Heinrich

Rechnen und Zeichnen – Klee und Wittgenstein Abstract: Calculating and Drawing – Klee and Wittgenstein. When we ask ourselves where (and how) it is that calculation takes place, Paul Klee’s etching Old Man Calculating from 1929 seems to offer, at first sight, a simple alternative: Inside our head, or with the help of our fingers. Wittgenstein’s remarks on mental arithmetic provide strong motivation to take into consideration a third possibility: The sheet of paper we use to produce external symbols for mental operations. From this perspective, Klee’s etching (and particular features of its execution) can be understood as a reflection on the significance of formal rules in the creation of individual works of art.

1 Zum Bild Paul Klees Radierung Rechnender Greis war 1929 die Jahresgabe der Schweizer graphischen Vereinigung, mit einer Auflage von etwa hundert bis hundertfünfzig Originaldrucken. Das Blatt misst 30x23 cm (Helfenstein/Rumelin 2000: 4855). Klee war von 1921 bis 1931 am Bauhaus tätig (1925 übersiedelte das Bauhaus von Weimar nach Dessau); im Winter 1928 – 29 verbrachte er vier Wochen in Ägypten. Die Eindrücke, die er von dieser Reise mitnahm, haben enorme Bedeutung für sein Werk in dem folgenden Jahr 1929. Man sehe zum Beispiel Abend in Ägypten:

Fig. 1: Paul Klee, Abend in Ägypten, 1929. Aquarell und Bleistift auf Papier auf Karton, 23,7 x 34,5 cm; Privatbesitz, Courtesy Galerie Kornfeld, Bern.

DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-022


Richard Heinrich

Die Streifen sind das Charakteristische; sie sind verbunden mit einem theoretischen Konzept, in dem es um die Integration von allgemeiner Gesetzlichkeit und Individualität geht. Die Bilder dieser Phase sind fast alle farbig, Radierungen gibt es kaum.

2 Der rechnende Greis 2.1 Köpfe, Gesichter

Fig. : Paul Klee, Rechnender Greis, . Radierung auf Kupferplatte; Japanpapier, , x , cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Wir sehen hier mehrere Gesichter bzw. Köpfe. Darunter ist ein maximaler Kopf, nämlich eine Figur, die alles einschließt, was Teil irgend eines Kopfes auf diesem Blatt ist, und zugleich auch selbst ein Kopf ist.Wenn wir bei diesem umfassendsten

Rechnen und Zeichnen – Klee und Wittgenstein


Kopf beginnen, dann ist das ein Halbprofil, Blick und Kopfrichtung gehen links vorne aus dem Bild heraus. Innerhalb des Kopfes sehen wir einen zweiten im Profil. Wenn man sich den Profil-Kopf als selbständig denkt, dann gibt es noch einen dritten Kopf, nämlich den sichtbaren Rest des Halbprofil-Kopfes, der nun nach einer alternativen Komplettierung in der Vorstellung verlangt. Dieser Restkopf – nur ein Auge ist sichtbar – lugt schattenhaft hinter dem Profilkopf hervor; es ist kein eigener, zu diesem Kopf gehörender Oberkörper angedeutet. (Eine Zeichnung von 1939, Der Schellenengel, weist in dieser Hinsicht eine gewisse kompositorische Affinität zu dem Kopf des rechnenden Greises auf.) Der Profilkopf wirkt schärfer als der umfassende Kopf im Halbprofil, nicht so rundlich und gemütlich; das Kinn ist vorgeschoben, was ihn aggressiver erscheinen lässt; der gleiche Bildausschnitt, wenn man ihn dem umfassenden Kopf zuordnet, erscheint als die eingefallene Oberlippe eines zahnlosen Greises.

2.2 Rechnen: Hände, Finger, Kopf Das Rechnen ist eine Sache zwischen Kopf und Hand. Im Kopf als solchen spielt sich nichts ab – ich möchte sagen: er wirkt entleert. Diese (relative) Leere des Kopfes – vor allem des Profil-Kopfes – kann man von Klees Schriften her terminologisch fassen als negative Individualität, und zwar ausgehend von der Behandlung der Linien. Phänomene wie die hier horizontal durch das Bild laufenden Linien hat Klee von den früher zwanziger Jahren an in seinem Unterricht unter dem Titel Rhythmik behandelt, und der wichtigste Unterschied, den er dabei macht, ist der zwischen dividuellen und individuellen Rhythmen (wo die Teilbarkeit ein Ende findet). Dividuelle Rhythmen nennt er auch: primitive Rhythmen. Dazu eine Stelle aus dem Bildnerischen Denken (eine Zusammenstellung von Materialien zum Unterricht am Bauhaus in den zwanziger Jahren): Primitive Rhythmen „eignen sich […] zur Belebung dürftiger Stellen in gegebenen Kompositionen“, sind eine „neutrale Belebung der Fläche“ (Klee 1964: 229) und daher auch Grundlage der Ornamentik (Schraffur, Modellierung). Klee sagt, dass im Dividuellen das Individuelle auf zwei Arten bestehen kann – entweder durch Betonung oder durch Lücke, also Auslassung oder Negation. Der zweite Fall liegt hier vor: Der Kopf ist als negatives Individuum gestaltet. Der ganze Kopf hat weniger Linien als seine Umgebung, und der Profilkopf hat noch deutlich weniger Linien – etwa 40:28 steht es zwischen dem umfassenden Kopf und dem ProfilKopf. Der runde Kopf rückt durch die engere Schraffierung schon wieder in das Dividuelle zurück, wird schattig. Der Profilkopf ist am entschiedendsten individualisiert, sieht alerter aus und ist zugleich am weitesten entleert. Ob man unter diesen Bedingungen sagen soll, dass hier gerechnet wird?


Richard Heinrich

Was zunächst eher zu rechnen scheint, sind die Finger, und das wird auch an einem bestimmten Punkt des Bildes durch einen rhetorischen Effekt stark suggeriert. Sprachliche Bilder in visuellen Umgebungen spielen ja eine nicht minder große Rolle als die visuellen Bilder in der Sprache, und in dieser Radierung begegnen wir einem sehr markanten sprachlichen Bild: Die Hand – der Finger – (unter)stützt den Kopf beim Rechnen. Wenn wir uns dadurch nahelegen lassen, hier würde mit den Fingern gerechnet, so müssen wir das aber doch auch in der Sache selbst verifizieren – an den Fingern. Und da können wir nicht übersehen, wie eigenartig diese Hände und Finger gestaltet sind. Sie sehen ganz und gar nicht so aus, als sollte mit ihnen gezählt oder gerechnet werden. Diese Finger spielen doch ihr ganz eigenes Spiel – statt einen Dienst für das Rechnen zu leisten. (Viel eher als an einen Rechnenden lassen sie an einen Violinisten denken, der ein Pizzicato spielt. An seiner Sklerodermie ist Klee übrigens erst 1936 erkrankt). Der eigentliche Witz an den Fingern ist das Durcheinander, das sie insgesamt bilden. Man sieht neun Finger, aber es ist nicht leicht zu sagen, welcher zu welcher Hand gehört. Nennen wir die Hand, die zu dem Unterarm gehört, der vom unteren Bildrand an sichtbar ist, die vordere Hand, und die andere (die erst hinter dem Oberkörper heraufstehend sichtbar wird) die hintere Hand. Dann sehen wir, wie der Daumen der hinteren Hand in die Beuge zwischen Daumen und Zeigefinger der vorderen Hand greift, und wie sich die restlichen Finger der hinteren Hand hakenartig über die Finger der vorderen Hand zu krallen versuchen, wobei zwei Finger der vorderen Hand ebenfalls zu Haken gekrümmt sind. Zwicken, Kneifen, Zupfen – nicht Rechnen – sind die Aktivitäten, die ich mit der Haltung dieser klauenartigen Finger verbinden würde. Die Hauptfrage freilich ist: Was für Hände sind das? Aufgrund der Anlage des Bildes vermuten wir zuerst, dass die vordere Hand eine linke Hand ist, und die hintere eine rechte. Dieser zweite Teil scheint unproblematisch. Aber eine linke Hand kann man eigentlich nicht so halten, wie die vordere Hand – von einer linken Hand würde man den kleinen Finger weiter vorne sehen.Was wir jedoch hier ganz vorne sehen, ist der Daumen, und ziemlich eindeutig ist der am weitesten entfernte Finger der kleine Finger. Es ist auch nicht vorstellbar, dass der Mann seine Arme so über Kreuz hält, dass die rechte Hand links, und die linke rechts von seinem Oberkörper ist; das kann man zwar prinzipiell machen, doch ließen sich in dem Fall die Finger nicht so krümmen, wie gezeigt; davon abgesehen ist die hintere Hand allen Indizien nach eine rechte. Also fällt es schwer sich der Folgerung zu verschließen, dass es sich hier um zwei rechte Hände handelt, von denen die vordere nach hinten, und die hintere nach vorn gewinkelt ist. Nun könnte man meinen, es sei gerade beim Benützen der Finger zum Rechnen gleichgültig, ob man zwei verschiedene oder zwei linke oder zwei rechte

Rechnen und Zeichnen – Klee und Wittgenstein


Hände hat, es komme doch nur auf das Vorhandensein einer räsonablen Anzahl von Fingern an. Aber das stimmt nicht ganz, wenn wir an die verschiedenen Methoden der Multiplikation mit Fingern denken – da kommt es sehr wohl darauf an, dass jeder Finger einer bestimmten Hand zugeordnet werden kann, und dafür ist es vorteilhaft, dass sich die beiden Hände auch intrinsisch unterscheiden lassen. Das Rechnen mit Fingern ist nicht dasselbe, wie das Rechnen mit Strichen oder Stäbchen, obwohl es auch Methoden des Fingerrechnens gibt, die eine Erweiterung mit Stäbchen vorsehen oder zulassen. Alles das kann aber nicht bedeuten, dass es keine Rolle spielt für den rechnenden Greis von Klee, dass oder ob er zwei rechte Hände hat. In dem Moment, wo wir feststellen, dass es zwei rechte sind, fragen wir uns doch sofort, ob sie dann überhaupt beide die seinen sind, oder ob nicht etwa die vordere Hand ihm von außen entgegengestreckt wird, von einem Körper, den wir nicht im Bild haben. Die Hände wären sich dann fremd, und es ist eine gewichtige Frage, ob mit zwei einander fremden Händen zu rechnen dasselbe sein kann wie mit den zwei eigenen, zusammengehörigen Händen. Hier liegt allerdings weder das eine, noch das andere so völlig klar auf der Hand, wie es auf den ersten Blick scheinen mag – vielleicht kann ohne die Konfrontation mit einer Fremdheit auch wieder nicht gerechnet werden.

2.3 Innen und Außen Ich fasse das Bisherige in der Frage zusammen: Wo wird gerechnet? Beide möglichen Antworten wurden bisher eher verdächtig als plausibel gemacht. Erstens, im Kopf wird gerechnet – aber der Kopf ist leer. Ich betone: Der Kopf, auf den es hier ankommt, ist der Profilkopf, weil er individualisiert ist durch Auslassung, durch seine Entleerung. Die Individualisierung wäre auch anders, durch Betonung, zu erreichen gewesen; eben deshalb trägt die Leere eine Aussage: Dass der Kopf leer ist. Die andere Antwort: Mit den Fingern wird gerechnet. Aber die Finger sind durcheinander geraten. Wie auch immer, wenn das Bild den Titel trägt Rechnender Greis, dann möchte ich mich nicht voreilig darauf festlegen, dass der Greis gar nicht rechnet. Ich möchte lieber sagen: Es sieht so aus, als wollte ihm das Rechnen nicht gelingen. Nun ist es freilich so, dass wenn wir einmal von dieser Radierung absehen, dass wir dann grundsätzlich sehr wohl einen Unterschied machen wollen zwischen im Kopf rechnen und mit den Fingern rechnen. Insbesondere liegt es hier nahe, das Verhältnis von Kopf und Hand als das von Innen und Außen zu deuten. Gerade das Rechnen lässt uns an die Parole Wittgensteins denken: „Ein ‚innerer Vorgangʻ bedarf äußerer Kriterien“ (PU 1967: 580).


Richard Heinrich

Es gibt einige einprägsame Passagen, in denen Wittgenstein sich direkt mit dem Kopfrechnen auseinandersetzt. Zunächst zwei Stellen, wo er versucht, jene Priorität des Äußeren genauer zu bestimmen: Wäre es denkbar, daß Einer im Kopfe rechnen lernte, ohne je schriftlich, oder mündlich zu rechnen? Nun, warum nicht? Es lernen, heißt nur dazu gebracht werden, daß man’s kann. Aber könnte man dazu abgerichtet werden? Es könnte uns einer Rechnungen schriftlich vormachen, wir würden nie welche schreiben, oder aussprechen aber nach und nach kämen wir dahin, das Resultat ohne Fehler hinzuschreiben. Ist aber auch dies möglich, daß einem Volk nur das Kopfrechnen bekannt ist und kein anderes? Wie wird das aussehen? (MS 124: 252 f.) Ist das Rechnen im Kopf unwirklicher, als das Rechnen auf dem Papier? Man ist vielleicht geneigt, so etwas zu sagen; kann sich aber auch zur entgegengesetzten Ansicht bringen, indem man sich sagt, Papier, Tinte, etc. seien nur logische Konstruktionen. Es handelt sich um eine falsche Auffassung von der Funktion der Sprache, ihrem Verhältnis zu einer Wirklichkeit, die ihr entspricht. (MS 124: 250)

Eine Stelle, die sehr kondensiert zusammenfasst, was für ihn das Problem ist: Kann man sich das Kopfrechnen vorstellen? – Man kann wahrnehmbar rechnen und im Kopf rechnen: Könnte man im Kopf auch etwas tun, was man wahrnehmbar nicht tun kann, wofür es kein wahrnehmbares Äquivalent gibt? (TS 245: 250)

Ich will diese Fragen nicht grundsätzlich verfolgen, sondern noch kurz zwei Aspekte des Problems ansprechen, die mir die Beziehung zu dem Bild von Klee aufrecht zu erhalten erlauben.

3 Erinnerung und Zeichnung 3.1 Erinnerung Was bedeutet es, wenn wir von einem alten Mann sagen, dass sein Kopf leer ist? Am ehesten werden wir es so verstehen: Er kann sich an nichts mehr erinnern. Und hier, glaube ich, sollten wir insbesondere verstehen: Er kann sich nicht mehr erinnern, wie das Rechnen gegangen ist, als er noch erfolgreich rechnete. Nun ist es zwar so, dass Sich nicht erinnern können, wie es geht in vielen Fällen eine passende Erklärung ist für Etwas nicht erfolgreich vollziehen können – aber beim Rechnen kommt noch eine Pointe dazu. Denn das Rechnen selbst besteht in einem besonderen Maß darin, in Erinnerung zu halten, was man (eben noch) gemacht hat. Man kann nicht zusammenzählen, wenn der erste Summand beim Aufruf des zweiten schon nicht mehr präsent ist.

Rechnen und Zeichnen – Klee und Wittgenstein


Hier wird, in einer spezifischeren Weise, Wittgensteins Insistenz auf äußeren Kriterien schlagend: Das Erinnern selbst funktioniert nicht ohne äußeren Halt. Auch dazu nur eine besonders drastische Stelle: Denken wir uns eine Tabelle, die nur in unsrer Vorstellung existiert; etwa ein Wörterbuch. Mittels eines Wörterbuchs kann man die Übersetzung eines Wortes X durch ein Wort Y rechtfertigen. Sollen wir es aber auch eine Rechtfertigung nennen, wenn diese Tabelle nur in der Vorstellung nachgeschlagen wird? – „Nun, es ist dann eben eine subjektive Rechtfertigung.“ […] In der Vorstellung eine Tabelle nachschlagen, ist so wenig ein Nachschlagen einer Tabelle, wie die Vorstellung des Ergebnisses eines vorgestellten Experiments das Ergebnis eines Experiments ist. (PU 1967: 265)

Dieser Gedanke spielt eine wesentliche Rolle in der Frage des Kopfrechnens und seiner Bedeutung für die Innen-Außen-Unterscheidung. Tatsächlich gibt es eine kleine Bemerkung von Wittgenstein, wo er sich selbst die Wichtigkeit des Kopfrechnens für die Problematik der sogenannten inneren Vorgänge vor Augen führt: Kopfrechnen ist vielleicht der einzige Fall, in welchem von der Vorstellung ein regelmäßiger Gebrauch im Alltagsleben gemacht wird. Darum hat es besonderes Interesse. (TS 245: 249)

Wer sich nicht erinnern kann, kann nicht rechnen. Auch in die rechnenden Maschinen müssen wir ein Gedächtnis einbauen. Und weil Erinnerung als solche nicht möglich ist, ohne einen äußeren Halt, so auch Rechnen nicht. Aber was ist ein äußerer Halt? Das bringt mich auf den zweiten Punkt.

3.2 Zeichnung Wenn wir das Rechnen im Kopf und das Rechnen mit den Fingern einander gegenüber stellen wie Innen und Außen, dann sollten wir in der Richtung von Innen nach Außen über die Finger hinaus gehen. Wirklich Außen werden wir erst sein, wenn wir den Fingern einen Stift oder eine Nadel zu fassen geben und sie damit Striche oder andere Markierungen hervorbringen lassen, die auch noch vorhanden sein werden, wenn die Hand den Stift oder die Nadel wieder weggelegt hat. Das ist ja auch die normale Einstellung: Wenn wir sagen, ein Kind könne noch nicht so richtig rechnen, weil es noch mit den Fingern rechnet, dann haben wir als den positiven Kontrast nicht so sehr das Rechnen im Kopf im Sinn, als das Rechnen mit Strichen oder mit Symbolen. Natürlich ist die Emanzipation von den Fingern nicht einfach eine Bewegung noch weiter vom Kopf weg, über den eigenen Körper hinaus; sondern ist die Herstellung eines Bezuges zwischen dem Kopf und dem Symbol (Zeichen) über die Brücke der Finger. Und deshalb spielen bei den Über-


Richard Heinrich

legungen Wittgensteins zum Kopfrechnen auch die Finger keine Rolle als Statthalter des Äußeren, sondern Striche und andere Symbole auf Papier. Um wirklich die Rolle des äußeren Haltes spielen zu können, den wir für das Rechnen brauchen, müssen die Finger ihr Band mit dem Kopf zwar nicht lösen, aber doch öffnen und etwas hervorbringen, was jenseits dieser Immanenz Bestand hat, ein Symbol, ein Zeichen. Der Finger, der den Kopf am Kinn stützt: Das ist ein Kurzschluss, solange nicht zumindest die Finger auch noch etwas anderes – den Stift, die Nadel – bewegen. Aber die Hände des Greises tun gerade das in einer auffälligen Weise nicht: Sie stützen das Kinn (den Kopf) und im Übrigen verhaken sie sich nur ineinander. Mit einem Wort: So wie die Leere des Kopfes als Erinnerungslosigkeit verstanden werden kann, so ist das Durcheinander der Finger darauf zurück zu führen, dass jene unabhängige Folie fehlt, die sie als Referenz brauchen, um eine Ordnung zu finden. Wo wird gerechnet? Die neue Antwort: Auf einer Tafel, einem Blatt. An diesem Punkt können wir natürlich nicht ausblenden, dass das Blatt, das dem Greis fehlt, vor uns liegt. Der Greis ist beim Rechnen nicht erfolgreich, weil er die Immanenzbeziehung von Händen und Kopf nicht öffnen kann zu einer Einoder Aufzeichnung hin. Wir aber sehen eine Zeichnung. Freilich: Weder wir noch sonstwer benützt dieses Blatt zum Rechnen. Es ist etwas Gezeichnetes, aber nicht die Art von Gezeichnetem, die das Rechnen ermöglicht.

4 Schluss Warum zeigt uns ein Bild, das den Titel trägt Rechnender Greis, eine Konstellation, wo das Rechnen gerade nicht gelingt oder jedenfalls hoch problematisch ist? Ich glaube, es zeigt uns dieses Problematische an der Stelle eines anderen Misslingens, das selbst nicht unmittelbar sichtbar wird: Die Problematik, eine Rechnung zu zeichnen. Die Fruchtlosigkeit des Rechnens des Greises allegorisiert die Schwierigkeit, eine Rechnung zu zeichnen. Ein letztes Mal komme ich zum Abschluss auf die horizontalen Linien zurück. Sie sind ein Anwendungsfall dessen, was Klee die Cardinalprogression (s. Zöllner 2000) nennt. Das ist der Inbegriff des Verfahrens zur Erzeugung eines dividuellen Rhythmus: Gegeben ist zuerst eine Folge von parallelen Geraden, und wenn nun irgendwo die Parallelen geschnitten werden (das muss nicht orthogonal sein), wird in jeder Mitte zwischen zwei Geraden auf einer der beiden Seiten eine neue Gerade gelegt. Das ist eine Teilung durch fortgesetzte Halbierung, die Reihe ein Halb, ein Viertel, ein Achtel. Und sowohl das Ausfüllen eines so entstandenen Streifens, wie auch das Tilgen von Linien ergibt dann gleichsam rationale, in

Rechnen und Zeichnen – Klee und Wittgenstein


Zahlenverhältnissen angebbare Grade von Individualität bzw. Dividualität. Die Phantasie eines kontrollierten Überganges von der Ornamentik oder Schraffur zur Individualisierung einer Bedeutung. Eines der berühmtesten Gemälde Klees überhaupt, die Hauptwege und Nebenwege aus dem Jahre 1929, zeigt dieses Verfahren in seinem ganzen, glänzenden Potential (Zöllner 2000).

Fig. 3: Paul Klee, Hauptweg und Nebenwege, 1929, Öl auf Leinwand, 83,7 x 67,5 cm, Museum Ludwig, Köln.

Im Rechnenden Greis kollabiert das Verfahren: Die Teilung ist unsystematisch, die Enden von Linien hängen irgendwie in der Gegend herum. Der Zusammenhang einer Rationalität, die in einem allgemeinen Rechenausdruck gefasst werden kann, mit der bildnerischen Darstellung einer individuellen, unverwechselbaren Bedeutung ist fraglich geworden.


Richard Heinrich

Literatur Helfenstein, Josef/Rumelin, Christian (Hrsg.) (2000): Paul Klee: Catalogue Raisonné. Vol. V. Zürich: Benteli Verlag. Klee, Paul (1964): Das bildnerische Denken. Jürg Spiller (Hrsg.). Basel, Stuttgart: Schwabe & Co. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1967): „Philosophische Untersuchungen“. In: Werkausgabe. Bd. 1. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, S. 225 – 580. (PU) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1998 – 2000): Wittgenstein’s Nachlass. The Bergen Electronic Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Zöllner, Frank (2000): „Paul Klee, Hauptweg und Nebenwege 1929“. In: Wallraf-RichartzJahrbuch, 61, S. 263 – 290.

Matthias Kroß

“Wahlverwandtschaft”: Literary and Philosophical Imagination in Wittgenstein and Sterne Abstract: Ludwig Wittgenstein is said to have read Sterne’s Tristram Shandy a dozen times. The permanent digressions that thwart the telling of its protagonist’s autobiography is a satire of Lockean philosophy. This essay investigates how Sterne’s nonlinear writing may have influenced Wittgenstein’s thought in his later philosophy. The main question is whether the I of the Philosophical Investigations can be interpreted through the mirror of Tristram Shandy—an autobiography without a protagonist—as an auctorial rather than an authentic self. The essay offers a novel way of looking at the status of the “I” within Wittgenstein’s philosophy.

1 In 1943, Ludwig Wittgenstein revealed to his then-student, Theodore Redpath, that he was a great admirer of Laurence Sterne and confessed to reading Tristram Shandy nearly a dozen times (Redpath 1999: 23). Wittgenstein’s copy of the book still exists, but it is in a private collection and not available for scholarly inspection and interpretation.¹ To my knowledge, there is no other evidence of Wittgenstein’s relationship to Sterne. Uncovering the true nature of his affection for Sterne is no easy undertaking. We can see some smoke, but no cigar. As with many of the other authors who influenced him, Wittgenstein’s statements about Sterne are rather cryptic. In what follows, I consider some possible reasons behind Wittgenstein’s fondness for Tristam Shandy and, furthermore, think about how Sterne’s way of thinking—the Denkstil manifested in his spectacular way of arranging text— might have influenced Wittgenstein. A quick perusal of Tristam Shandy and Wittgenstein’s notebooks turns up striking similarities. The resemblance might suggest the existence of what Goethe

 I would like to thank Josef G. F. Rothhaupt for calling my attention to the existence of this book. DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-023


Matthias Kroß

(the poet Wittgenstein revered most of all) once called a Wahlverwandtschaft, an “elective affinity” or “elective attraction”. Here are some examples: Laurence Sterne

Fig. a: Tristram Shandy (): Book , ch. 

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Fig. b: MS :  f.

Fig. a: Tristram Shandy (): Book  ch. 

Fig. b: CV : e

Literary and Philosophical Imagination in Wittgenstein and Sterne

Fig. a: Tristram Shandy (): Book , ch. 


Fig. b: VGM : 

In each case, the textual composition expresses a particular mode of thinking, one that is non-progressive, circular, capricious, digressive, ironic, multi-voiced, and dialogic. Both Sterne and Wittgenstein thwart traditional expectations of serious literary and philosophical work. By radically breaking with established modes of expression, both authors do intend more than simply lampooning the norms of narrative representation. By ridiculing such expectations of serious literary and philosophical work, they aim at undermining the apparently self-evident and allegedly indubitable patterns of thinking—in particular with respect to sacrosanct logical norms or established philosophical methods, namely venerated ideas such as the notion of the a priori, syllogistic rules, sufficient causes, rational argumentation and action, the primacy of reason, or the unity of time and space. So by deciding to present their thoughts in such an extraordinary way, I will argue that Sterne and Wittgenstein both sought to cast doubt on an essential idea of modern philosophy: the belief that there is an authentic I, or self, that can come to grips with the phenomenological world by construing a consistent and all-encompassing narrative around it. In Sterne, it’s the way Shandy ridicules the empiricist philosophy of John Locke, whose self exists only as a self of references and projections of others; in Wittgenstein, it’s the way he rules out the possibility of speaking from the perspective of a metaphysical self: If there is no such self in the world, one must be silient thereof.


Matthias Kroß

2 I am aware that my view may be surprising. There is a crucial difference between Sterne and Wittgenstein. Sterne was a poet; Wittgenstein a dyed-in-the-wool philosopher. Yet Sterne was theologically trained and a practicing priest, and his Shandy is teeming with philosophical ideas. And Wittgenstein aspired to be read as a literary philosopher. “I think I summed up my attitude to philosophy when I said: philosophy ought really to be written as a poetic composition [Dichtung]” (CV 1980: 24e). In a letter to Ficker he described his Tractatus as “strictly philosophical, and literary at the same time” (CLF 1979: 95). Even Frege, although disagreeing with Wittgenstein on many a philosophical issue, admitted to being deeply affected by the aesthetic qualities of the Tractatus (Janik 1989: 21). The longing to marry poetical philosophy to philosophical poetry is a salient feature of the German Romantics.² Philosophical poetry presents possible states of the world as real, be it by way of pure fiction or rational speculation; poetical philosophy represents the real state of the world as one state of affairs among a multitude of others. In other words, poetical philosophy and philosophical poetry play the same tune but on different flutes. Sterne chose a literary form to compose a parody (literally a “side-song”) of Locke’s philosophical tune to show us its absurdities; Wittgenstein chose a philosophical form in the clothing of Russell and Frege, in order to show us that philosophy becomes nonsensical the moment it claims to produce a true picture or model of the world as a whole. Sterne, who lived during what could be called the spring of the modern subject, ridiculed the presumptuous claims of one of the most prominent empiricist philosophers in explaining the world and the self. Wittgenstein, on the other hand, witnessed the decline of the “genius” during a period of philosophical decadence. He was deeply impressed by Kierkegaard’s philosophy and its conception of the author as a prompter, by which the idea of an authentic subject as the sole author-

 See, for example, Schelling’s reflections on philosophy as poetry in his System des transcendentalen Idealismus (Schelling W2: 302): “Wenn es nun aber die Kunst allein ist, welcher das, was der Philosoph nur subjektiv darzustellen vermag, mit allgemeiner Gültigkeit objektiv zu machen gelingen kann, so ist, um noch diesen Schluß daraus zu ziehen, zu erwarten, daß die Philosophie, so wie sie in der Kindheit der Wissenschaft von der Poesie geboren und genährt worden ist, und mit ihr alle diejenigen Wissenschaften, welche durch sie der Vollkommenheit entgegengeführt werden, nach ihrer Vollendung als ebensoviel einzelne Ströme in den allgemeinen Ozean der Poesie zurückfließen, von welchem sie ausgegangen waren.” (“Philosophy was born and nourished by poetry in the infancy of knowledge, and with it all those sciences it has guided toward perfection; we may thus expect them, on completion, to flow back like so many individual streams into the universal ocean of poetry from which they took their source.”)

Literary and Philosophical Imagination in Wittgenstein and Sterne


ity of seeing the world correctly is replaced by the radical and disturbing idea of an pseudonymous or polyonyminous auctorial I (Kierkegaard 2009: 527– 528). Such a self will no longer try to give an authentic testimony of the world, but is aware that its report of the world will be inevitably restricted and predetermined by its idiosyncratic position. If I am not mistaken, Wittgenstein has given himself a similar task in his Tractatus: to expel the authentic self from the centre of the world to its limit, thereby reducing it to a solipsistic point without extension. Indeed, Wittgenstein clinged to this idea of exiling this authentic “metaphysical I” to the limit of the world, which in fact led him to an irreversible expulsion from the realm of what might by spoken of with sense. Thus, he set the stage for his later philosophy which will be centred around the strategy to give meticulous descriptions of an empirical, non-transcendental I. The “subject” of the later Wittgenstein will be a dispersed I entangled in a multiplicity of linkages with the world as well as social relations. In contrast, the author’s I of e. g. the Philosophical Investigations may be addressed as an “auctorial I”. By dint of its authority to arrange the narrative of the philosophical discourse, this auctorial I plays out the idea of an authentic I, but only to demonstrate its unattainability and ineffability. The authentic idea may justly be compared to the famous simile of the “beetle in the box”, the existence of which might be held in suspense without harm (PI 2009: 392). Let’s now take a closer look at how Wittgenstein eliminates the authentic I from the realm of what one can sensibly speak about. In August 1916, Wittgenstein entered the following into his notebook: “My work has extended from the foundations of logic to the nature of the world” (NB 1961: 2. 8.1916). During the following months, we find him deeply immersed in tackling such intricate and complex issues as the self, the subject, ethics, religion, and aesthetics. The way Wittgenstein uses philosophical terms in these paragraphs can be confusing to the reader; he often confounds empirical terms with logical or metaphysical ones. Let me illustrate Wittgenstein’s inappropriate use of philosophical concepts by discussing an example taken from the Notebooks 1914 – 1916: “The philosophical I is not the human being, not the human body or the human soul with the psychological properties, but the metaphysical subject, the boundary (not a part) of the world. The human body, however, my body in particular, is a part of the world among others, among animals, plants, stones etc., etc.” (NB 1961: 82e). In this passage, Wittgenstein obviously manages to ascribe very heterogeneous qualities to this “subject”. In the first place, he describes the I as an empirical entity, whereas in what immediately follows he all of a sudden will address this I as an epistemological subject which abruptly adopts the role of a “metaphysical I”, which, strictly speaking, should be categorized as a transcendental


Matthias Kroß

and not as transcendent or metaphysical entity. In the subsequent passage, however, Wittgenstein does not speak of “the body” (as an object in the world), but qualifies this natural object as “my body”. But how should I know that this object in the world called body can be identified as my body unless there is something like an synthesizing “I” which in turn cannot be an empirical entity only but must be transcendental? Obviously Wittgenstein is out of his depth to provide any sensible, let alone convincing, answer to this question. (No wonder that his writing has produced bookshelves full of scholarly commentary.) Wittgenstein’s most important train of thought here is concerned with the position of the subject, or the “I”, which appears to him as something “deeply mysterious” (NB 1961: 80e). After some deliberation, he arrives at the view that the idea of an I, once thought to be the centre of the world, must be placed at its limits. Its position might be characterized as essentially eccentric. By way of explanation, he presents an impressive and well-known simile, which he would later include in the Tractatus: 5.632 The subject does not belong to the world but it is a limit of the world. 5.633 Where in the world is a metaphysical subject to be noted? You say that this case is altogether like that of the eye and the field of sight. But you do not really see the eye. And from nothing in the field of vision can it be concluded that it is seen from an eye. 5.6331 For the field of sight has not a form like that:

Because the world contains only empirical subjects—their particular bodies and minds, actions and affectations—the only position left for a metaphysical subject (’I’/’eye’) is at the world’s limit. As a precondition for the existence of its world, the metaphysical subject cannot be itself an object in the world. (This simply what the term “metaphysical” means.) The empirical I is one empirical object among others and, as such, is irrelevant for philosophy. This empirical I may be termed the “realistic I” because it can be characterized in its entirety by empirical qualities and links to other objects in the world. According to Wittgenstein, the metaphysical subject shrinks to a point without extension (like the eye in a field of vision), whereas the realistic I opens itself to the infinity of possible facts in the world experienced a posteriori. “All that we see could also be otherwise”, Wittgenstein writes (NB 1961: 12. 8.1916). “All that we can describe at all could also be otherwise” (NB 1961: 12. 8.1916). The world is not at the subject’s disposal. On the contrary, it is itself subject to the realism of the world. What is

Literary and Philosophical Imagination in Wittgenstein and Sterne


left of the metaphysical subject is the solipsistic flipside: “The world and life are one. I am my world (the microcosm)” (TLP 1963: 5.621, 5.63). But Wittgenstein sees a path linking these separate spheres: This is the way I have travelled: Idealism singles men out from the world as unique, solipsism singles me alone out, and at last I see that I too belong with the rest of the world, and so on the one side nothing is left over, and on the other side, as unique, the world. In this way idealism leads to realism if it is strictly thought out. (NB 1961: 15.10.1916)³

Moving the metaphysical subject from the centre of the world to its limit excludes it from the group of entities about which one can talk meaningfully. For Wittgenstein, this is not only a logical necessity; it also serves as an existential consolation. For as long as the metaphysical self is taken to be the centre of the world, it will mark a fundamental difference within it, splitting off the real, empirical I from the its transcendental form of life. Wittgenstein argues that a divided self results in a problematic and unhappy existence, while a happy life successfully merges the solipsistic I with the realism of the world as a whole. The happy self embraces the whole world as well as it is embraced by it in turn: “I am my world”, Wittgenstein writes (TLP 1963: 5.63). “The world and life are one” (TLP 1963: 5.621). Once this state is reached, philosophical problems vanish and silence—the silence mentioned in the final sentence of the Tractatus —ensues. The aim of the Tractatus is precisely this: to merge the metaphysical self with the objectivity of the world and in the process do away with philosophy itself. The unwritten and, in Wittgenstein’s view, far more important part of the Tractatus would be based on the clarity the self has gained by reading the written part, but this content need not and cannot be written as a series of philosophical propositions. Its adequate form would be more akin to poetry. By identifying philosophy with poetry, Wittgenstein not only outs himself as a romanticist (his remark of 1930, as said above, can be taken as a summary of the last section of Schelling’s essay on Transcendental Idealism), but also continues his project of exiling the subject to the limit of the world and excluding it from the realm of representability, as demonstrated in his early work. He now turns to focus his philosophical interest on the empirical I and the specificities of its Lebensformen, that is to say the concrete conditions and pressures under which it is acting. The concept of Lebensform and its reflection in language will result in an assemblage of rather soft descriptions of rules, family resemblances and language games. This re-orientation of his philosophical approach  The Tractatus omits the autobiographical reference in the first sentence along with the subsequent remarks about idealism.


Matthias Kroß

marks a farewell to the Tractarian idea of a “logodicy” and a definite turn to a non-representational model of human perceptions, experiences and their representations in language. To illustrate this dramatic Kehre (turn), it might suffice here to give an example taken from one of his notebooks of the early thirties highlighting the importance of subjective ideas and representations against the inadequacy of logical rigorism: It is strange that those who do attribute reality only to things and not to our ideas move in the world of ideas so naturally and never long to transcend it. That is, how natural is the given. Hell would have to freeze over before it [the given, M.K.] would be the little picture shot from an angle […]. That means that what you cannot or are reluctant to transcend would not be the world (Wi2 1994: 156, 2– 6; translation my own).

This brings me back to Sterne’s brilliant parody of empiricist philosophy. The full title of Tristram Shandy is an obvious allusion to Diogenes Laertius’ famous The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. But there is a reference to another ancient author in the title page of the first edition of the book in 1760, printed in Greek letters: Ταράσσει τοὺς ἀνθρώπους οὐ τὰ πράγματα, ἀλλὰ τὰ περὶ τῶν πραγμάτων δόγματα. This sentence is taken from the fifth chapter of Epictetus’ Enchiridion, and might be rendered in English as, “It is not by things (pragmata), that men are disturbed, but by the principles and notions (dogmata) that they form concerning things”. Like Wittgenstein’s work, especially his later writings, Sterne’s book is devoted to Epictetus’ distinction between pragmata and dogmata. His intention, I submit, is to show that the real invariably gets lost in the labyrinth of associations sparked by the imaginative powers of the protagonists. Sterne presents two different ways of coping with this loss. In the living room at Shandy Hall (the name of Sterne’s own estate) we find Walter in conversation with his brother Toby. Walter exerts all his reasoning powers in coming to grips with the vicissitudes of life and generating a consistent narrative of the world. He imagines all possible mishaps his son Tristram might encounter during birth, including the horrifying idea of Dr Slop forcefully applying the obstetric forceps, a reference to the Two Books on the Causes […] of Monsters by Fortunio Liceti (see fig. 4). In bending the world to his expectations, he deploys all the forces from his education, from his sharp wit and from all possible turns of logic. Unlike Walter, his brother “Capt’n” Toby, a war veteran who was wounded during the English campaign in Flanders, does not confront the world directly. Between his private world and the world outside stands a wall of imagination. Fig. 5 shows him restaging, in his brother’s garden, the siege of Namur, where he was wounded on one of the most delicate parts of the body.

Literary and Philosophical Imagination in Wittgenstein and Sterne


Fig. 4: Monstra partes transpositas habentia. – Ill. taken from Fortunio Liceti (1634): 135

Thanks to his escapism, Toby is well equipped to handle life’s vicissitudes and can comfort his brother. Walter’s wife, who is in labour with Tristram during the first five books, appears by name only. The same goes for Tristram, the longed-for son and the book’s alleged protagonist. Stuck at the starting blocks, Tristram never succeeds in taking an authorial lead in the book. Instead of unveiling his own views—his authentic I—the book describes the contingent, yet necessary preconditions of his life. The deplorable circumstances of Tristram’s naming may serve as an example for his sad fate. Walter thinks Tresmegistos to be an apt name for his son. (Tresmegistos, “the threefold mightiest”, refers to Hermes Tresmigistos, the ancient sage and alchemist, and author of the infamous Emerald or Smaragdine Tablets.) But the maid entrusted with communicating the name to the mother mishears it as Tristram, which contains echoes of the Latin tristis, or sad. Sterne’s message: regardless of how well the I may be prepared for authentic self-narration, regardless of its name, even one as powerful as Tresmegistos, it will always be open to the contingency of the world. For Sterne, as for Wittgenstein, there is no way to


Matthias Kroß

Fig. 5: Henry William Bunbury: The Siege of Namur by Capt’n Shandy and Corporal Trim, London (1773)

bridge the gap between the empirical infinity of the factual life and the transcendental infinity of an authentic self. Walter and Toby—through the former’s astuteness and the latter’s wisdom— attempt to uphold the idea of an authentic self despite the many beatings it takes in the book. But Sterne’s portrayal of the brothers undercuts the idea of authenticity as a state of self-deception. The belief to which the brothers cling can be maintained only if one turns a blind eye to the many facts of the world that undermine it. Toby’s and Walter’s ignorance doesn’t signal a docta ignorantia; it is the hallmark of the maniac. Walter’s shrewdness is based on the conviction that he exists at the centre of his world and has control over what’s going on inside of it. Toby’s toy war theatre outside Shandy Hall seeks to constitute an authentic self at the centre of an imaginary world. In both cases, dogmata prevail effortlessly over pragmata.

Literary and Philosophical Imagination in Wittgenstein and Sterne


3 With these findings, let me return to my initial question: what were the reasons behind Wittgenstein’s fondness for Sterne? I have three, albeit a bit speculative, answers to offer: 1. Wittgenstein may have been impressed by Sterne’s literary genius in composing a non-linear text that mirrors the non-linear flow of consciousness. In his later works, Wittgenstein applies similar textual strategies in mirroring the nonlinear, but entangled and carpet-like complexity of ordinary life. This way of representing philosophical considerations is evidently based on Wittgenstein’s remarks in his Notebooks 1914 – 1916, regarding the non-existence of an authentic I and the ineffability of the metaphysical one: If such a subject does not exist there will be no transcendent(al) other synthesizing entity left to guarantee the linearity of the philosophical narrative. Philosophy will melt like a piece of ice in an “ocean of poetry” (Schelling). 2. Sterne was one of the first early-modern writers who questioned the idea of the authentic I as the centre of its world, and suggested that such a belief inevitably leads to a kind of mania. Wittgenstein, for his part, debunks this philosophical idea as nonsensical and, in consequence, denounces previous philosophy—which he sometimes identifies with philosophy in general—as a manic enterprise—insofar as the philosophizing brothers Walter and Toby in Sterne’s Tristram do—it is circling around its world of weird views, internal problems and over-elaborate answers instead of getting its boot on the “rough ground” of ordinary life (PI 2009: 107). 3. Sterne’s virtuosity of auctorial writing, going so far as to place his own protagonist at the book’s margins, might have inspired Wittgenstein to introduce the auctorial I into philosophy—intertwining the latter unexpectedly and enduringly with literature.

Bibliography Janik, Alan (Ed.) (1989): “Gottlob Frege: Briefe an Ludwig Wittgenstein”. In: Grazer Philosophische Studien 33/34, pp. 5 – 34. Kierkegaard, Søren (2009): Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Liceti, Fortunio (21634): De monstrorum, natura, caussis, et differentiis libri 2. 2. ed. corr., auctior, & iconibus aeneis monstrorum praecipuorum ill. Padova: Frambotti. Redpath, Theodore (1999): “A Student’s Memoir”. In: Portraits of Wittgenstein. Vol. 3. F. A. Flowers III (Ed.). Bristol, Sterling: Thoemmes Press, pp. 3 – 52.


Matthias Kroß

Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph (1907): “System des transcendentalen Idealismus”. In: Werke. Bd. 2. Leipzig: Verlag Fritz Eckardt, pp. 1 – 309. (W 2) Sterne, Laurence (1948): The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. London: Lehmann. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1979): “Letters to Ludwig von Ficker”. Allan Janik (Ed.). Bruce Gillette (Transl.). In: C. Grand Luckhardt (Ed.): Wittgenstein: Sources and Perspectives. Sussex: The Harvester Press, pp. 82 – 98. (CLF) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1998): Culture and Value. G. H. von Wright/Heikki Nyman (Eds.). Revised Edition of the Text by Alois Pichler. Peter Winch (Transl.). Blackwell: Oxford. (CV) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1961): Notebooks 1914 – 1916. G. H. von Wright/G. E. M. Anscombe (Eds.). G. E. M. Anscombe (Transl.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (NB) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2009): Philosophische Untersuchungen/Philosophical Investigations [including Philosophy of Psychology – A Fragment]. P. M. S. Hacker/Joachim Schulte (Eds.). G. E. M. Anscombe/P. M. S. Hacker/Joachim Schulte (Transl.). Revised 4th edition. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. (PI) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1963): Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. David F. Pears/Brian F. McGuinness (Transl.). International Library of Philosophy and Scientific Method. Second impression, with a few corrections. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. (TLP) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1994): “Philosophische Betrachtungen, Philosophische Bemerkungen”. In: Wiener Ausgabe. Bd. 2. Michael Nedo (Hrsg.) Wien, New York: Springer. (Wi2) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1984): “Vorlesungen über die Grundlagen der Mathematik”. In: Schriften 7. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. (VGM)

Wittgenstein, Ethics and Aesthetics

Oskari Kuusela

Wittgenstein’s Comparison between Philosophy, Aesthetics and Ethics Abstract: Wittgenstein compares philosophical explanations with explanations in aesthetics and ethics. According to him, the similarity between aesthetics and philosophy “reaches very far”, and as I aim to show, the comparison can be used to elucidate certain characteristic features of Wittgenstein’s philosophical approach. In particular, it can explain how his approach differs from metaphysical philosophy as well as clarifying the sense in which there are no theses or theories in philosophy, as Wittgenstein conceives it. In the last section of the essay, I examine certain consequences of Wittgenstein’s view, including the lack of conclusive arguments in philosophy. Rather than implying that philosophy falls short of its rational aspirations, I argue, Wittgenstein’s explanation of why there are (sometimes) no conclusive arguments in philosophy can help us to see in the right light the lack of agreement in philosophy, as well as explaining why this is not a defect.

1 Comparisons between Philosophical, Aesthetic and Ethical Explanations In his writings, especially in the 1930s but later too, Wittgenstein occasionally compares philosophy and philosophical explanations with aesthetic explanations. This is exemplified by the first quote in the following that describes the similarity between the two as reaching “very far”. As I will argue, Wittgenstein’s comparison is quite instructive about his philosophical approach, in that it can be used to explain how his philosophical approach differs from metaphysical philosophy, as well as clarifying the sense in which there are no theses in philosophy as he conceives of it.¹ Wittgenstein writes: The strange resemblance between a philosophical investigation (perhaps especially in mathematics) and one in aesthetics, e. g. what is bad about this garment, how it should be, etc.

 By metaphysical philosophy I will understand philosophy that puts forward theses about necessities claimed to underlie the empirical contingencies encountered in experience. I return to this in section 2. DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-024


Oskari Kuusela

There too the question is²: “What does not yet fit here” & there too a blunter feeling says: “everything is already in order”. There too one should not throw away the false explanation because it is useful for finding the right one // for it is a part of the way that leads to the correct one. The similarity reaches very far. (MS 119: 89 – 89r; first paragraph also in MS 116: 56/CV 1998: 29)

I will return to the point about false explanations in the last section of the essay, having first discussed how the comparison helps to clarify certain characteristic features of Wittgenstein’s philosophical approach. First, however, let me quote two more remarks on the philosophy-aesthetics comparison—or as we might also say philosophy-aesthetics-ethics comparison. For sometimes this third member, too, is brought into the comparison, and Wittgenstein clearly regards these three areas of discourse as linked by certain structural features manifested in what explanation and justification is in each area. G. E. Moore reports from Wittgenstein’s lectures: Reasons, he said, in Aesthetics, are “of the nature of further descriptions”: e. g. you can make a person see what Brahms was driving at by showing him lots of different pieces by Brahms or by comparing him with a contemporary author; and all that Aesthetics does is “to draw your attention to a thing”, to “place things side by side”. […] And he said that the same sort of “reasons” were given, not only in Ethics, but also in Philosophy. (Moore 1955: 19, cf. 27; my square brackets; I will discuss the part edited out in section 3)

Finally, consider the following remark on philosophical and ethical problems from a notebook in the 1930s: “As in philosophy so in life we are led astray by seeming analogies (to what others do or are permitted to do). And here, too, there is only one remedy against this seduction: to listen to the soft voices which tell us that things here are not the same as there.” (MS 183: 88/PPO 2003: 97) A common point in the last two quotes is that thinking in philosophy, aesthetics and ethics involves making comparisons as a way of rendering things comprehensible. Regarding explanations in aesthetics specifically, I take Wittgenstein’s point to be explainable roughly as follows. Different pieces from Brahms brought together can be employed to bring to view something characteristic of his music, i. e. “what he was driving at”. (This need not necessarily be something common to all works of Brahms, but could be a network of similarities.) Additionally, however, comparisons with other composers are important too, because differences are equally significant as similarities for understanding what is characteristic of something. Correspondingly, comparisons are important  “Es heißt eben auch da …”

Wittgenstein’s Comparison between Philosophy, Aesthetics and Ethics


in ethics in order for one not to be misled by tendencies of thought that pull one in the wrong direction, as Wittgenstein explains. We must be wary of false analogies which suggest that certain cases are similar when they are not, and thus we ought to listen to the “soft voices” that tell us things are not the same here as there. Perhaps this may be rephrased in terms of the first quote. In ethics, just as in aesthetics and philosophy, there is a risk of being misled by “a blunter feeling” that drowns the “soft voices”, and suggests that things are already in order and worked out. However, in order to further unpack these remarks, let us turn to their connections with other remarks Wittgenstein makes about his philosophical approach. For, relevant points are developed more fully in many of his methodological or metaphilosophical remarks that do not mention aesthetics or ethics. We can use such remarks as an aid for clarifying Wittgenstein’s comparisons between philosophy, aesthetics and ethics.

2 Connections with Wittgenstein’s Other Remarks on his Philosophical Approach To explain how Wittgenstein’s remarks on his philosophical approach can help to understand the aesthetics-ethics comparisons, consider the following remark on the contrast between metaphysical philosophy and Wittgenstein’s own approach. The latter he describes as a conceptual investigation concerned with conceptual questions rather than factual questions, a distinction which, according to him, remains unclear in metaphysical philosophy. Like any factual investigation, a metaphysical one puts forward true/false assertions or theses about its objects of investigation, although it does not conceive itself as concerned with merely contingent facts. Wittgenstein writes: Philosophical investigations: conceptual investigations. The essential thing about metaphysics: that the difference between factual and conceptual investigations is not clear to it. A metaphysical question is always in appearance a factual one, although the problem is a conceptual one. (MS 134: 153/RPP I 1980: § 949; cf. BB 1958: 18, 35)

One could be excused for wondering whether this has anything to do with the remarks on aesthetics and ethics, and whether Wittgenstein’s critique of metaphysics has any connection with the aesthetics and ethics comparison. Indeed, insofar as we regard his critique of metaphysics as central to his later philosophy —as I would certainly do—, such a lack of connection might naturally be taken to indicate the superficiality of the comparison with aesthetics and ethics. However, that an intimate connection exists becomes evident in Wittgenstein’s next re-


Oskari Kuusela

mark that clarifies the contrast between factual and conceptual investigation, and explains what a conceptual investigation is or what it does: What is it, however, that a conceptual investigation does? Does it belong in the natural history of human concepts? – Well, natural history, we say, describes plants and beasts. But might it not be that plants had been described in full detail, and then for the first time someone realized the analogies in their structure, analogies which had never been seen before? And so, that he establishes a new order among these descriptions. He says, e. g., “compare this part, not with this one, but rather with that” (Goethe wanted to do something of the sort) and in so doing he is not necessarily speaking of derivation; nonetheless the new arrangement might also give a new direction to scientific investigation. He is saying “Look at it like this” – and that may have advantages and consequences of various kinds. (MS 134: 154/RPP I 1980: § 950)³

As Wittgenstein explains, a conceptual investigation is not an empirical or factual investigation of our concepts or of the linguistic practices in which they find their expression. A conceptual investigation does not seek to establish facts about language use, analogously with a natural historical investigation of plants or beasts, and in this sense it does not constitute a special branch of natural history: the natural history of the language use of humans.⁴ Rather, as illustrated by Wittgenstein’s example of someone who develops a new way of looking at plants and their relations, and invites another to look at plants in this new way, a conceptual investigation is concerned with developing modes of representing things or modes conceiving of looking at them. (I will come back to these notions shortly.) Moreover, as Wittgenstein explains, the new way of looking, arrived at by comparing different plants and their parts, establishes or creates a new order among the objects of study. This is illustrated by someone producing a new order amongst our descriptions of plants, i. e. organizing in a novel way the factual knowledge that a natural history has already collected. Hence, although a conceptual investigation does not aim to establish facts, it has its own kind of significance. As Wittgenstein notes, a new conceptual order or a new way of looking at plants “may have advantages and consequences of many kinds”, inclusive of it giving a new direction to factual, scientific investigation. The notion of ordering or organizing calls for particular attention in this connection. When Wittgenstein speaks in the quote about ordering things, and of ar-

 In what follows I will refer to this remark as “the conceptual investigation remark”.  For an interpretation of PI 2009: 415, where Wittgenstein speaks of himself as making remarks on the natural history of humans, which is consistent with the reading proposed here, see Kuusela forthcoming: Chapter 6.3.

Wittgenstein’s Comparison between Philosophy, Aesthetics and Ethics


ticulating a way of looking at things in this way, he is referring to something the significance of which we are, I think, very well aware, although may often fail to pay attention to it. As every museum curator presumably recognizes, and museum goers understand at least implicitly, the way in which things are placed together in an exhibition—whether an art show or in a natural history museum —can significantly influence how we perceive and understand the nature of the exhibited objects. For example, a retrospectively organized exhibition of the paintings of a painter can bring to view lines in the development of her work that would otherwise be obscured and very difficult or impossible to detect. As a consequence, the paintings may appear in a quite different light. Likewise, the arrangement of organisms in a natural history museum can significantly influence one’s understanding of the exhibited organisms due to how it places them in, for example, evolutionary history, in relation to what went on before and what came after. As these examples illustrate, our perception of things can be significantly influenced by the way they are arranged and organized. The point is that to simply place objects side by side, to arrange them in a particular way, already constitutes a mode of representing them which can significantly influence our understanding of them. Such an arrangement does not only constitute a way of directing attention, but by directing attention it invites and is conducive to particular ways of seeing and conceiving the objects in question. As noted, according to Wittgenstein, a way of ordering things can give a new direction to science. But it can also play an important role in philosophy. A good example is Wittgenstein’s suggestion to conceive first person expressions of pain, not as knowledge claims regarding inner states, but as manifestations of pain that are similar to pre-linguistic primitive pain behaviour, such as crying and moaning (PI 2009: 244). As a consequence of this novel comparison between first person pain expressions and relevant primitive modes of behaviour, certain problems can be solved which arise within the traditional view of sensation-expressions as knowledge claims concerning inner states. In essence, what Wittgenstein achieves with this new comparison is a re-conceptualization of the logical function of first person expressions of sensations, whereby certain first person pain expressions are reclassified as not belonging to the class of true/ false propositions or descriptions. This in turn is philosophically highly significant in that, consequent to this re-conceptualization, person A’s claim to know person B’s pain no longer needs to be thought of as a problematic knowledge claim about an inner object impossible for A to access. Rather, we now have an alternative to the traditional philosophical account of sensation-talk that excludes us from knowing anyone else’s sensations, holding us in the grip of the so-called problem of other minds. Alternatively, if instead we regard A’s knowledge of B’s pain as based on A’s perception of B’s pain through its immediate


Oskari Kuusela

expressions, a solution to the problem can arguably be found. What figures in the traditional account as an inner object inaccessible to others, can now be reclaimed and made accessible to others with the help of the notion of expressive behaviour. In this way, Wittgenstein’s reclassification of the function of first person pain expressions aims to solve the problem of other minds by changing the way we conceive the function of relevant expressions. The preceding does not yet explain how Wittgenstein’s aesthetics-ethics comparison can help to understand the difference between his philosophical approach and metaphysical philosophy. Hopefully, however, my pocket-size outline of parts of Wittgenstein’s private language discussion, in light of what he says about conceptual investigation, gives some idea of the potential and philosophical strength of Wittgenstein’s approach. And in fact, we are already almost in a position to see how Wittgenstein’s approach differs from metaphysical philosophy. We only need to see some further connections which I am now able to indicate. That re-conceptualizing what is philosophically problematic is central to how Wittgenstein conceives of the task of philosophy—not an idea buried in the manuscript from which I quoted—is easy to show. There are numerous remarks to this effect in his Nachlass. I will simply quote one from the early 1930s that puts the point in quite a different way, with some Tractarian echoes: “As I do philosophy, its entire task consists in expressing myself in such a way that certain problems disappear.” (TS 213: 421/PO 1993: 189; cf. MS 140: 10; MS 183: 65; PI 2009: 90, 93) Arguably, despite its rather different appearance, this remark expresses the same methodological idea that I used the pain-example to illustrate: a philosophical problem can be dissolved through the transformation of one’s way of speaking and thinking about the matter at hand, that is, through re-conceptualization or by changing one’s way of looking at it. This, however, is just what the remark about conceptual investigation speaks about too, except that the example Wittgenstein gives relates to changing one’s way of looking by re-ordering natural historical, factual knowledge. Notably, the notion of ordering figures prominently in the Philosophical Investigations too, with Wittgenstein explaining his philosophical aims in these terms: “We want to establish an order into our knowledge of the use of language: an order for a particular purpose, not the order. For this purpose we shall again and again emphasize distinctions which our ordinary forms of language make us overlook. […]” (PI 2009: 132) This, I believe, expresses the same basic methodological idea as the conceptual-investigation remark. There are philosophically significant features of our use of language, i. e. distinctions that we may easily overlook—just as we might overlook certain structural similarities between plants. In response to problems that arise as a consequence of this, we may

Wittgenstein’s Comparison between Philosophy, Aesthetics and Ethics


then emphasize those features (like structural similarities between plants), and by so doing establish an order in our knowledge of language use that facilitates the perception of relevant distinctions.⁵ But while observing certain distinctions may be important for getting clear about certain philosophical problems, other distinctions may need to be emphasized in order to get clear about other philosophical problems. What one arrangement highlights, another one might eclipse. Consequently, there is no philosophically privileged order—like complete logical analyses in the Tractatus. Rather Wittgensteinian philosophical orderings of the knowledge of language use are problem relative (cf. PI 2009: 91; cf. Kuusela 2008: 81 ff.). Note that just as in the remark on conceptual investigation, here too, Wittgenstein speaks of, not collecting or establishing facts about language use, but of ordering knowledge we already possess (i. e. knowledge of the use of language). As regards the notions of ordering and mode of representation, Wittgenstein also writes: “Who brings about an order to where there was no order before, introduces a new picture.” (MS 117: 264; cf. MS 120: 143v) He is speaking here of philosophical pictures, characteristic of which is that they represent matters as being in a certain way. For instance, such a picture might portray first person expressions of pain as true/false propositions about inner states, or alternatively, as manifesting inner states. A picture in this capacity may then help to solve a philosophical problem, if it is a correct or a helpful one. Or it may block the way out of the problem, if it misleads. As Wittgenstein comments on the importance of finding the right mode of expression or a way to conceptualize a matter in philosophy: “An unsuitable type of expression is a sure means of remaining in a state of confusion. It as it were bars the way out.” (PI 2009: 339) The role which philosophical pictures play in dealing with philosophical problems is remarked upon also in the following remark: “What is it when the philosopher ‘sees’ something? That the correct grammatical fact occurs to him, the correct picture, i. e. that which organizes things in our mind, makes them easily accessible & relieves the mind through this.” (MS 120: 143v) Relatedly Wittgenstein writes: “The philosopher says: ‘Look at it like this—.’ ‘Are you still puzzled by it?’” (MS 118: 73v; cf. MS 134: 146/CV 1998: 70) The point I have been driving at is this: Arguably, there are many methods or techniques by means of which re-conceptualizations of the kind described in the  This, I maintain, is just what Wittgenstein does by comparing first person pain expression with expressive behaviour. By pointing out that “pain” need not be understood as functioning as a name in the first person case, and that “I am in pain” need not be understood as a true/false description which describes me being in a certain state, but could be understood as expressive or manifestative, he is emphasizing distinctions we may easily overlook.


Oskari Kuusela

quote about conceptual investigation, and illustrated by the pain-example, can be affected. Such a re-conceptualization can be achieved simply by re-ordering the objects of study, so as to highlight specific connections between them, and to invite certain new comparisons between them. As noted, here the ordering of the objects itself constitutes a particular mode of representing them. But besides the technique of directly comparing different uses of language, Wittgenstein introduces a number of other methods and modes of representation that serve the purpose of philosophical clarification. Most notably, these methods and modes of representation include statements of grammatical rules (as exemplified by “meaning is use”), simple language-games (for example, the shopping language-game in the Investigations), and what we might call “natural historical pictures”, i. e. examples that describe the behaviour of strange tribes, but also scenes of language learning, such as the case of a pupil with learning difficulties in the rule-following discussion, and the child who is taught to replace her natural expressions of pain with linguistic ones (see PI 2009: 1, 43, 144, 244).⁶ All these different methods and modes of representing language use constitute instruments of clarification that can be employed for the purpose of reconceptualization and bringing about a philosophically perspicuous order into our knowledge of the use of language, as in the case of pain-language. My emphasis here on the notion of mode of representation (Darstellungsweise) is intentional. For just this—the awareness of the involvement of a mode of representation, and their self-conscious use—is crucial for the difference between Wittgenstein and metaphysical philosophy. Impressionistically but accurately enough for present purposes, we can say that metaphysical philosophy puts forward theses about necessities pertaining to its objects of investigation, i. e. reality or whatever there is in reality. Here reality includes language use, too, insofar as language is taken as philosophy’s object of investigation, and any assertions about non-empirical necessities pertaining to language—about its essence or essential features—will count as metaphysical claims. By contrast, rather than putting forward such assertions, Wittgenstein’s approach consists in the employment of various modes of representation, with the purpose of clarification through comparisons. Here the point is not to make assertions about how things necessarily are or how they must be. Rather, what may look like theses or theories in Wittgenstein’s writings only figure there as clarificatory devices. To be sure, Wittgenstein too, like metaphysical  For discussion of these different methods, see Kuusela forthcoming. For a detailed argument that “meaning is use” constitutes a mode of representation and a tool of clarification, rather than a thesis about how the word “meaning” is actually used or must be used, see Kuusela 2008: Chapter 4.

Wittgenstein’s Comparison between Philosophy, Aesthetics and Ethics


philosophers, makes statements that express necessity stronger than empirical necessity. This is exemplified by “meaning is use” when this is interpreted as a grammatical statement or a grammatical rule, rather than an empirical statement. By contrast with metaphysical philosophy, however, Wittgenstein takes the necessity expressed in a philosophical statement to be a constitutive feature of the philosopher’s mode of representation, and from his point of view non-empirical necessities are not the object of the philosopher’s assertions. Rather, instead of asserting anything about an alleged necessity in actual language use, a Wittgensteinian clarificatory statement (such as a grammatical rule) invites us to look at and examine language in the light of the necessity which the statement expresses. Moreover, we are invited to observe both the similarities and differences of actual language use from the philosopher’s mode of representing it. An example can clarify this. When putting forward the grammatical rule “meaning is use”, Wittgenstein is proposing a mode of representing the use of the word “meaning”. But his claim is not that the actual uses of the word “meaning” (or any philosophically targeted subset) really conform to this rule. In this sense, Wittgenstein is not making a claim or putting forward a thesis. Instead, the model is used as what Wittgenstein calls “an object of comparison […] so to speak a measuring rod” (PI 2009: 131). The grammatical rule, in other words, is a principle of organization employed to establish an order in our knowledge of the use of the word “meaning”, that is, an order amongst cases where language is used meaningfully, and of which we might be philosophically puzzled. (These cases are to be thought of in terms of use of words, Wittgenstein proposes, rather than, for example, intentional acts.) But this grammatical rule is not to be projected onto reality in the guise of a claim about a necessity pertaining to the actual use of the word “meaning”. An example of such a claim would be that having a rule-governed use is a necessary condition of the meaningfulness of words. Arguably, however, the confusion of metaphysics which Wittgenstein refers to by saying that metaphysics confuses factual and conceptual questions lies precisely here. While a metaphysical philosopher makes a claim about a necessity pertaining to her object of investigation (in this case the use of the word “meaning”), in Wittgenstein’s view the necessity expressed is better understood as characteristic of the philosopher’s mode of representing the object of investigation. In this sense we are to compare actual language use with the rule “meaning is use”, not to claim that “meaning” is or must be used according to this rule. Wittgenstein’s point is that looking at actual use, in the light of this rule, will enable us to account for many cases of linguistic meaning “even if not for all” (PI 2009: 43).


Oskari Kuusela

Notably, the last reservation in generality is possible, even if we restrict our attention to linguistic meaning and take the rule to express a necessity concerning linguistic meaning, because the rule constitutes an object of comparison with which actual use is not claimed to conform perfectly. As Wittgenstein says, such a rule or model is “so to speak, a measuring rod”. It enables us to examine and describe, relate and compare different sort of cases of meaningful language use, and thus to establish an order in our knowledge of relevant cases. For example, established uses according to rules and more unusual uses, such as those Wittgenstein calls “secondary uses” (PPF §§ 274– 278), can now be related in that the otherwise rather mysterious secondary uses (that might easily seem to require an explanation in terms of intentional acts) are now described as parasitic on established uses. Onomatopoeic uses, in turn, can be described as iconic in contrast with rule-governed uses. Here meaning depends on the similarity between the sound and object of reference, whereas sound of the word is irrelevant in the case of rule-governed uses (MS 141: 3; cf. BB 1958: 84– 85). Thus Wittgenstein offers us way of ordering our knowledge of language use: as conforming to, but also deviating from, a rule. The Investigations explains this contrast between metaphysics and Wittgenstein’s approach by using simple language-games as examples of modes of representing language use. In this connection, Wittgenstein describes his account of the role or status of philosophical models as constituting a response to the problem of dogmatism (a dilemma between unfairness and vacuity) which arises in connection with claims about necessities pertaining to reality⁷: Our clear and simple language-games […] stand there as objects of comparison which, through similarities and dissimilarities, are meant to throw light on the features of our language. (PI 2009: 130) For we can avoid unfairness or vacuity in our assertions only by presenting the model as what it is, as an object of comparison – as a sort of yardstick; not as a preconception which reality must correspond. (The dogmatism into which we fall so easily in doing philosophy.) (PI 2009: 131)

Comparisons therefore are right at the heart of Wittgenstein’s philosophical approach, just as he says they are central to aesthetics and ethics. On this approach a philosopher makes no claims about necessities, but she employs statements of necessity as instruments of clarification. In this sense, rather than asserted to conform to a grammatical rule, actual language use is compared and examined

 For a detailed discussion of the problem of metaphysics and dogmatism, and what Wittgenstein means by philosophising without theses, see Kuusela 2008.

Wittgenstein’s Comparison between Philosophy, Aesthetics and Ethics


in light of such rules—or other modes of representation, such as simple language-games. As Wittgenstein also writes: “The investigation of language is a description and comparing of concepts, also with ad hoc constructed concepts.” (MS 133: 9v) Such ad hoc concepts are exemplified by simplified concepts used as objects of comparison in order to point out something about actual, more complex concepts. Examples are the concept of meaning as use as interpreted in the preceding, and the concept of language as a game, according to rules which Wittgenstein explains, in more or less exactly the preceding terms, in his collaborative work with Waismann (VW 2003, 33 – 35/MS 302: 14). Another uncontroversial example is the concept of reading in the Investigations which Wittgenstein employs in his discussion of rule-following (PI 2009: 156 – 157). Philosophical explanations, conceived in this way, then are literally—like explanations in aesthetics—descriptions and comparisons, and Wittgenstein’s comparison between philosophy, aesthetics and ethics does indeed go very far, reaching right into the heart of his approach. Rather than constituting metaphysical theses about necessities governing language, Wittgensteinian statements, such as grammatical rules, are instruments of describing, bringing order into, comparing and clarifying the uses of language. When employed to describe, and to bring into focus specific aspects of language use, grammatical rules can be used to point out similarities and differences between uses of words, and in this way they can contribute to creating a perspicuous order in language use with a view to solving philosophical problems (cf. PI 2009: 122).

3 The Inconclusiveness of Arguments and Uses of False Explanations On the preceding basis we can say that, according to Wittgenstein, our understanding or appreciation of an object of interest depends, in both philosophy and aesthetics, on the adoption of specific ways of conceiving the object. This is exemplified by hearing or playing a musical phrase in a certain way as opposed to another one, and by construing the use of a linguistic expression in a certain way rather than another. In both philosophy and aesthetics, we are also faced with the task of explaining and justifying to others such ways of conceiving objects. More specifically, in philosophy the introduction and adoption of a particular way of conceiving an object of study serves the purpose of solving philosophical problems, i. e. of rendering comprehensible the object of investigation, and releasing us from problems that arise in the context of some other ways


Oskari Kuusela

of conceiving it. In this sense the justification of a philosophical account depends on its clarificatory capacity. But although there is, therefore, a rational basis for adopting one mode of conceiving an issue rather than another, Wittgenstein maintains that ultimately no conclusive arguments can be given for philosophical accounts in the outlined sense. The situation is the same in aesthetics and ethics. I quote again from Moore’s lectures: Reasons, he said, in Aesthetics, are “of the nature of further descriptions” […] and all that Aesthetics does is “to draw your attention to a thing”, to “place things side by side”. He said that if, by giving “reasons” of this sort, you make another person “see what you see” but it still “doesn’t appeal to him”, that is “an end” of the discussion; and that what he, Wittgenstein, had “at the back of his mind” was “the idea that aesthetic discussions were like discussions in a court of law”, where you try to “clear up the circumstances” of the action which is being tried, hoping that in the end what you say will “appeal to the judge”. And he said that the same sort of “reasons” were given, not only in Ethics, but also in Philosophy. (Moore 1955: 19; my square brackets)

Does Wittgenstein’s view that there are no conclusive arguments in philosophy, and that ultimately the acceptance of a philosophical account depends on what appeals to one, mean that philosophy is not the rational discipline that philosophers have considered it to be? Is the basis of our adoption of philosophical accounts in the end a matter of subjective or encultured preference (of what appeals to one)? I think not. Wittgenstein’s explanation for the inconclusiveness of philosophical justifications is something quite different from what the explanation in terms of preferences suggests. Certainly there is no reason to think that Wittgenstein would regard the inconclusiveness of aesthetic, ethical and philosophical justifications as implying that in philosophy any view is as correct or good as any other (whatever that would mean). (Note also that the preceding does not exclude the possibility of conclusively refuting a view on the basis of internal anomalies. Arguments of this kind do not involve the convincing the other to accept a different alternative view.) Let us examine this more closely. Rather than in terms of subjective preferences, Wittgenstein explains the inconclusiveness of philosophical justifications with reference to what he takes to be a characteristic feature of the discipline: that, rather than concerned to discover and establish facts, philosophy articulates ways of organizing and arranging already established facts (PI 2009: 132; cf. BB 1958: 44). A philosopher invites us to conceive the facts in some such way—and it is in this connection that questions about the justification of philosophical accounts arise. However, on the basis of Wittgenstein’s account of what philosophy does, it can be readily explained why and how philosophical justifications may fall short of conclusiveness. The reason is that, especially in complex cases such as philosophy deals

Wittgenstein’s Comparison between Philosophy, Aesthetics and Ethics


with, there seem to be always more than one possible way to order the facts. Similarly, it is possible to construe in more than one way the relative importance of different facts pertaining to an object of investigation so that, from the point of view of a certain way of ordering the facts, particular features of a case appear as more urgently in need of an explanation than others.⁸ Facts therefore underdetermine possible ways of ordering them, as well as underdetermining which facts should be in focus when explaining a case. This underdetermination of possible orderings or conceptualizations then also leaves enough room for a philosopher to follow their already settled convictions when adopting a mode of conceiving an object, and to resist alternative descriptions or conceptualizations. Arguably, this is the sense in which, if a description “‘doesn’t appeal to him’, that is ‘an end’ of the discussion’”.⁹ The situation might be compared with interpreting a philosophical text: while certain readings can be relatively easily excluded as failing to account for the textual facts, to decide between some other readings may be more difficult, and sometimes it may be possible to hold on to an interpretation indefinitely, resisting any criticisms and other alternatives, because of how textual facts underdetermine possible interpretations. From this point of view, Wittgenstein’s court analogy seems quite clear, too. In a court someone’s action might be construed in a certain way in order to demonstrate how its various features count as evidence for criminal intent. But perhaps those details can also be put together differently so that they do not support the attribution of criminal intent, after all. Hence, it may sometimes not be possible to demonstrate conclusively the correctness of competing ways of ordering the facts. Analogously, it seems understandable, how disagreement can sometimes persist in philosophy on the face of agreement about facts, without any irrationality on part of the disputing parties. It is not that philosophers fail to consider evidence for and against their accounts. It is just that there is no conclusive evidence for the kind of accounts they put forward on the Wittgensteinian view.

 Similarly, which concept should be applied to a case to describe it, or whether and how a rule or principle applies to a case, may sometimes be underdetermined in this way, as exemplified by questions such as whether abortion counts as murder, whether doing so and so counts as stealing, and so on. Here it may be similarly in dispute which features of the case are relevant for judging the case and for applying a concept to it.  Wittgenstein need not be read as suggesting that a philosopher might not have respectable reasons for what they find appealing. For example, a philosopher might consider a certain difficulty as a fair price for making a certain point that she rightly regards as impossible to give up. The question then is whether there might be a better way to do justice to this point that can also release her from these associated difficulties.


Oskari Kuusela

It is also noteworthy how different philosophical backgrounds and commitments may influence the appeal of certain philosophical descriptions or accounts. As Wittgenstein observes, in philosophy a failure to appreciate a certain view may involve, not merely an intellectual difficulty, but a difficulty of the will. What makes a subject difficult to understand—if it is significant, important—[…] is the antithesis between understanding it and what most people want to see. Because of this the very things that are most obvious can become the most difficult to understand. What has to be overcome is not a difficulty of the intellect, but of the will. (TS 213: 406 – 407/ PO 1993: 161)

This need not be taken to contradict the rational character of philosophy either. There may, of course, be cases where practical interests—for instance, relating to one’s career spent arguing for a certain view—prevent one from seeing or admitting problems that one ought to admit. However, ultimately a certain persistence seems part of rational conversation in that holding on to a view, and trying to stretch it to cover what it has difficulty to explain seems to be just what examining and developing a philosophical account requires. By contrast, giving up on an account very easily would not allow one to properly examine its strengths and weaknesses, or to develop it further on the face of difficulties. Hence, it is not the case that a philosopher’s will, their wanting to see things in a certain way and hoping a particular account turns out to be correct, is necessarily in conflict with the aspiration of philosophy to be a rational discipline. That would be too simple. Wittgenstein’s emphasis on the importance of false theories in philosophy and aesthetics can be connected with this. As he explains in the very first quote, a false explanation is useful for finding the right explanation or it constitutes part of the way that leads to the correct one. This, I take it, is because seeing exactly where and why an account fails is crucial for correcting it. Moreover, as Wittgenstein warns, there tends to be something correct in any philosophical account: it might correctly capture some aspect or aspects of the matter, even if it fails to capture others. As he writes: “In a certain sense one cannot take too much care in handling philosophical mistakes, they contain so much truth. [New parag.] It is never a matter of simply saying, this must be given up.” (MS 112: 99r; Z 1967: § 460, except the last sentence) Thus, an account that generally speaking fails, may still be able to explain something important.¹⁰ Finally,

 In this regard Wittgenstein says that, even though his early account of propositions as pictures is too simple, it does capture certain aspects of the grammar of propositions. (MS 108: 52; MS 110: 164/TS 213: 83; MS 111: 107)

Wittgenstein’s Comparison between Philosophy, Aesthetics and Ethics


even if an account cannot explain the aspects of the case it was intended to explain, it might still point to something that requires explanation which other accounts have not paid sufficient attention. Thus a false account might have something right about it in more than one sense. Relatedly, Wittgenstein sometimes speaks of getting rid of the misleading aspect of a philosophical account by acknowledging its origin. (MS 142: 11; MS 157b: 13v; CV 1998: 21; for discussion, see Kuusela 2008: 120 ff.) The point is that such an acknowledgement of origin—for instance, that there were certain examples from which the account was derived from or based on—can help to recognize the account for what it is, i. e. a model and a mode of representation, not something to which reality, allegedly, must correspond. Consequently, it becomes possible to make less rigid and dogmatic use of the model. Rather than imposing the model onto reality and trying to make reality fit it, the model can now be used to throw light on the objects of investigation in the role of an object of comparison. In this sense Wittgenstein sometimes speaks of using philosophical models as centres of variation, whereby the function of such a centre is to help us see a class of cases in an orderly fashion as ordered around centres to which other particular cases or types are related as variants. (MS 115, 221) This is a further way in which an account that, strictly speaking, does not correctly capture an actual case can nevertheless help to understand it. To conclude, rather than to raise concerns about the rational character of the discipline of philosophy, Wittgenstein’s view of the inconclusiveness of philosophical arguments could instead be used to explain the lack of agreement in philosophy as opposed to science. Importantly, seen from Wittgenstein’s point of view, the lack of agreement in philosophy need not be understood as a defect that ought to be fixed as soon as possible, in order to align philosophy with science. According to Wittgenstein’s view, rather than in the business of establishing facts, philosophers are in the business of spelling out modes of representing and ordering facts. As explained, in the latter case there are ultimately no conclusive arguments. Even if it may be part of the notions of a fact that they can be agreed upon, the same need not be true of different modes of representation. Philosophy, we might say with Wittgenstein, is not a discipline where we are trying, but failing, to agree on any particular true/false descriptions of reality. Rather, it is a discipline, where we develop different modes for describing reality. Therefore it should come as no surprise that philosophers disagree.¹¹ To freely

 Lastly, one might wonder whether the proposed interpretation of Wittgenstein’s views on agreement is in conflict with his remarks according to which philosophy only states what everyone grants to it. (PI § 599, cf. 126). Arguably there is no conflict, although the discussion of this


Oskari Kuusela

paraphrase J. L. Austin, occupying different points of view and disagreeing might not only be an occupational hazard in philosophy. It might be the occupation itself.

Bibliography Kuusela, Oskari (2008): The Struggle Against Dogmatism: Wittgenstein and the Concept of Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Kuusela, Oskari (forthcoming): Logic as the Method of Philosophy: Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Logic in Relation to Frege, Russell, Carnap, and Others. Moore, G. E. (1955): “Wittgenstein’s Lectures in 1930 – 33”. In: Mind 64. No. 253, pp. 1 – 27. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1958): Preliminary Studies for the “Philosophical Investigations”. Generally Known as the Blue and Brown Books. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (BB) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1967): Zettel. G. E. M. Anscombe/G. H. von Wright (Eds.). G. E. M. Anscombe (Transl.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (Z) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1980): Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology/Bemerkungen über die Philosophy der Psychologie. Vol 1. G. E. M. Anscombe/G. H. von Wright (Eds.). G. E. M. Anscombe (Transl.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (RPP I) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1993): Philosophical Occasions 1912 – 1951. James Carl Klagge/Alfred Nordmann (Eds.). Indianapolis, Cambridge, USA: Hackett Publishing Company. (PO) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1998): Culture and Value. G. H. von Wright/Heikki Nyman (Eds.). Revised Edition of the Text by Alois Pichler. Peter Winch (Transl.). Blackwell: Oxford. (CV) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2000): Wittgenstein’s Nachlass, The Bergen Electronic Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2003): Public and Private Occasions. James C. Klagge/Alfred Nordmann (Eds.). Lanham, Boulder, New York, Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. (PPO) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2009): Philosophische Untersuchungen/Philosophical Investigations [including Philosophy of Psychology – A Fragment]. P. M. S. Hacker/Joachim Schulte (Eds.). G. E. M. Anscombe/P. M. S. Hacker/Joachim Schulte (Transl.). Revised 4th edition. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. (PI and PPF) Wittgenstein, Ludwig/Waismann, Friedrich (2003): The Voices of Wittgenstein: The Vienna Circle, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Friedrich Waismann. London: Routledge. (VW)

issue is beyond the scope of this article. In short, rather than expecting anyone to agree on true philosophical theses, Wittgenstein only assumes agreement on the use of clarificatory devices in the sense explained earlier. Such devices, however, are: 1) much easier to agree upon than any philosophical theses. 2) Agreement is a condition for their use in that I can hardly clarify anything to you in terms you do not accept. For discussion, see Kuusela 2008: 247 ff.

Simo Säätelä

Absolute and Relative Value in Aesthetics Abstract: Wittgenstein’s “Lecture on Ethics” concludes with a paradox: all ethical and aesthetic value judgements are either relative, and thus completely trivial (since reducible to statements of fact), or absolute and important but nonsensical (since they go beyond meaningful language). While this distinction is embedded in a Tractarian conception of language and value, Wittgenstein’s treatment of it in the Lecture points forward to his later work, especially through its use of examples of “what we would say when”. But it is not until he frees himself from the Tractarian constraints on language and value that he can take in the full force of these kinds of considerations about use, and describe aesthetics in a satisfactory way. Examples from Wittgenstein’s later treatment of aesthetics show how the earlier unconditional distinction between relative and absolute value is understood instead as grammatical distinction within a family of different language-games involving aesthetic evaluation and appreciation.

1 Introduction The “Lecture on Ethics” occupies an important, but disputed and problematic place in the development of Wittgenstein’s thought. He was invited to give this lecture by the Heretics Society in Cambridge in January 1929, that is very soon after his return to England and philosophy.¹ The Lecture is commonly seen as the last expression of his early philosophy, since it develops themes from the Tractatus, but it also points forward to his later thought by emphasizing the use of language and considering concrete examples of it. This makes it crucial when we try to understand continuities and discontinuities in Wittgenstein’s thinking about ethics and aesthetics.² My intention in this paper is to elucidate the distinction between relative and absolute value, as it occurs in the Lecture, in

 The lecture was probably not delivered until November 1929 (Somavilla 2007: 243).  The text survives in three versions: two manuscripts (MS 139a and 139b) and a typescript (TS 207) (all three are printed in LE). Here I will mainly be referring to the TS, but I will also draw attention to some places where the manuscripts are not identical with the typescript. I use the word “Lecture” to refer to these texts, while “lecture”, not capitalized, refers to Wittgenstein’s actual talk. Quotations from Wittgenstein’s printed works are indicated by citation keys with the number of the remark or page. A list of the citation keys can be found at the end of this paper. DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-025


Simo Säätelä

relation to aesthetics. Then I will look at how this distinction, and the paradox that Wittgenstein thinks it leads to, is treated in his later thought about aesthetics. Wittgenstein begins the Lecture by saying that he will adopt G.E. Moore’s explanation of the term “ethics” in Principia Ethica: “Ethics is the general enquiry into what is good.” But Wittgenstein then wants to widen this definition by substituting “what is good” with “what is valuable”. This means he is “going to use the term Ethics in a slightly wider sense”, which includes what he believes “to be the most essential part of what is generally called Aesthetics” (TS 207: 2). In an earlier MS he adds: “The reasons for this will perhaps get clear later on” (MS 139a: 3). Frustratingly, however, the reasons do not get very clear later on. Wittgenstein does not really return to aesthetics: instead, when he broadens his range of examples towards the end of the Lecture these come from religion, not aesthetics. However, since Wittgenstein at least initially hoped that the reasons for including aesthetics in his definition would become clear to his listeners in the course of his lecture, and if we remember the Tractarian catchphrase about Ethics and Aesthetics being “one” (TLP 1922: 6.421), we can at least initially assume that if not everything, then at least the central points about ethics and ethical use of language are supposed to apply equally to aesthetics.

2 The Paradox of Absolute Value The fundamental point that the Lecture revolves around is the distinction between the absolute (or ethical) and the relative (or trivial) use of the kind of expressions Wittgenstein says ethics is concerned with, e. g. “good”, “value”, “importance”, “sense of life”, “worth”, and “right”: The relative use of these words is their use relative to some predetermined end. When I say “this is a good piano” I mean it comes up to a certain standard of tone etc. which I have fixed and which I conceive as its purpose. (MS 139a: 4– 5)

Wittgenstein also mentions other examples of relative value: we can talk about a good runner or golf player, or a good road, or I can say that it is important that I do not catch a cold. These are examples where something is good or important only relative to some end, for instance it might be important that I do not catch a cold because this would make me unable to deliver a lecture. In this relative sense or use, Wittgenstein claims, these words “are easily understood and present no great problems” (MS 139a: 5). Relative value judgements only have the ap-

Absolute and Relative Value in Aesthetics


pearance of judgements of value; when analyzed, they simply turn out to be statements of fact, i. e. propositions with a truth value: The essence of this difference seems to be obviously this: Every judgement of relative value is a mere statement of facts and can therefore be put in such a form that it loses all the appearance of a judgement of value: Instead of saying “this is the right way to Granchester” I could equally well have said “this is the right way you have to go if you want to get to Granchester in the shortest time” […], and so forth. (TS 207: 3 – 4)

Wittgenstein continues: “Now what I wish to contend is, that although all judgements of relative value can be shown to be mere statements of facts, no statement of fact can ever be, or imply, a judgement of absolute value” (TS 207: 4). The terminology of relative versus absolute value does not occur in the Tractatus, but the distinction clearly builds upon a Tractarian view of language and value.³ For instance, TLP 6.41 states: “If there is a value which is of value, it must lie outside all happening and being-so. For all happening and being-so is accidental.” This can be understood in the following way: Value “which is not of value” is expressed by propositions that seemingly are about aesthetics or ethics, but that can be analyzed as really being statements of facts. And vice versa, mere descriptions of events can never contain or imply any absolute or ethical value judgements. In the Lecture, Wittgenstein illustrates this with an example: […] the mere description of a murder with all its details physical and psychological […] will contain nothing which we could call an ethical proposition. The murder will be on exactly the same level as any other event, for instance the falling of a stone. Certainly the reading of this description might cause us pain or rage or any other emotion, or we might read about the pain or rage caused by this murder in other people when they heard about it, but there will simply be facts, facts and facts but no Ethics. (TS 207: 4– 5)

All this seems to suggest a kind of fact/value distinction reminiscent of Hume’s.⁴ Relative judgements are mere descriptions of facts, and we can examine the facts in any light without finding anything ethical. What, then, are absolute or ethical judgements? Wittgenstein’s first example involves the contrast between playing tennis badly, and behaving badly:

 In addition, it is probably prompted by Moore’s distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic value. Indeed, it can be claimed that Wittgenstein’s way of drawing up the Lecture in some sense replicates the framework of moral theories in general, and Moore’s way of postulating a realm of absolute and intrinsic value in particular, in order to elucidate and criticize it (cf. Iczkovits 2013: 29 – 36).  Cf. Hume’s famous description of murder in Treatise,


Simo Säätelä

Supposing that I could play tennis and one of you saw me playing and said “Well you play pretty badly” and suppose I answered “I know, I am playing badly but I do not want to play any better”, all the other man could say would be “Ah then that is all right”. But suppose I had told one of you a preposterous lie and he came up to me and said “You are behaving like a beast” and then I were to say “I know I behave badly, but then I do not want to behave any better”, could he then say “Ah, then that’s all right”? Certainly not; he would say “Well, you ought to want to behave better”. Here you have an absolute judgement of value, whereas the first instance was one of a relative judgement. (TS 207: 3)

We should note here, firstly, the appeal to “what we would say”. Wittgenstein implies that this is the appropriate thing to say in such circumstances; this is what we would say. He is not, of course, making an empirical prediction about language use, nor is he stating a logical necessity (cf. Levy 2007: 81). This kind of appeal to ordinary language, to what it makes sense to say, introduces an inter-personal aspect to ethics and language-use that is lacking in the Tractatus. Since appeal to a kind of “subjective universality” is a prominent feature of our talk in aesthetics, this perhaps also gives us a hint as to why Wittgenstein thought aesthetics should be included in his notion of ethics. We will return to this point below. Wittgenstein then adduces three other examples, of a somewhat different kind, because they refer to personal experiences that seem to him to have an absolute value (but he thinks these or similar experiences can be recognized and understood by his audience): – The wonder at the existence of the world. – The feeling of absolute safety. – The experience of feeling guilty. Considering these experiences, he arrives at a paradox that he says is “the main point of his paper”: Now the three experiences […] seem to those who have experienced them, for instance to me, to have in some sense an intrinsic, absolute value. But when I say they are experiences, surely, they are facts; they have taken place then and there, lasted a certain definite time and consequently are describable. And so, from what I have said some minutes ago I must admit it is nonsense to say that they have absolute value. And here I have arrived at the main point of this paper: it is the paradox that an experience, a fact should seem to have absolute value. (TS 139b: 15)

To elucidate Wittgenstein’s point, let us take the experience of “feeling absolutely safe”. The paradox is this: we can have this kind of experience, which, if we try to put it into language, we are tempted to describe as “feeling absolutely safe”. However, since the experience certainly is a fact (about the person having it)

Absolute and Relative Value in Aesthetics


it is nonsense to say that the experience itself can have absolute value. Indeed, at the end of the day all expressions involving absolute value are nonsensical: they have the appearance of meaningful propositions, but are not about anything; they are attempts to say something that cannot be said. Wittgenstein concludes that “a certain characteristic misuse of our language” runs “through all ethical and religious expressions” (TS 207: 7– 8). This is how he famously puts it towards the end of his lecture: “My whole tendency and I believe the tendency of all men who ever tried to write or talk Ethics or Religion was to run against the boundaries of language. This running against the walls of our cage is perfectly, absolutely, hopeless” (TS 207: 10). Why are these expressions nonsensical? The brief version of the argument is this: value is outside the world, whereas all genuine propositions are on the same level (i. e. fact-stating and thus about the world); hence propositions cannot express anything higher, and judgements of absolute value are nonsense masquerading as genuine propositions. Consequently, such statements cannot in any sense add to our knowledge. However, Wittgenstein ended his lecture by saying that he cannot but “respect deeply” the “tendency in the human mind” to attempt to express judgements of absolute value, and that he would not for his life ridicule it (TS 207: 10). The crux of the matter is that the paradox cannot be resolved by further logical analysis of language, since there really is nothing to analyze: “I see now that these nonsensical expressions were not nonsensical because I had not yet found the correct expression, but that their nonsensicality was their very essence” (TS 207: 10). How, then, are we to understand this paradox of absolute value, and can it be dissolved? The negative side of the answer is quite explicit: at least it cannot be tackled by appealing to ethical theories, or scientific theories of value, that attempt to explain the meaning of these expressions. Ethics, “so far as it springs from the desire to say something about the ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good, the absolute valuable, can be no science” (TS 207: 10). During a discussion about ethics with Moritz Schlick and other members of the Vienna circle in December 1930, Wittgenstein developed this anti-theoretical point about value, referring to what he had said in his lecture: Is value a particular state of mind? Or a form attaching to some data or other of consciousness? I would reply that whatever I was told, I would reject, and that not because the explanation was false but because it was an explanation. If I were told anything that was a theory, I would say, No, no! That does not interest me. Even if this theory were true, it would not interest me—it would not be the exact thing I was looking for. What is ethical cannot be taught. If I could explain the essence of the ethical only by means of a theory, then what is ethical would be of no value whatsoever.


Simo Säätelä

At the end of my lecture on ethics I spoke in the first person: I think that this is something very essential. Here there is nothing to be stated any more; all I can do is to step forth as an individual and speak in the first person. For me a theory is without value. A theory gives me nothing. (WWK 1979: 116 – 117)

Let us remind ourselves of Wittgenstein’s definition of ethics at the beginning of the Lecture: it is an enquiry into what is valuable. From the quote above it should be exceedingly clear that this does not mean “philosophical ethics” in the usual sense of the words (indeed, this is what Wittgenstein would call the “claptrap” or “chatter” about ethics)⁵. However, since ethics “springs from the desire to say something” about absolute value, it can be understood as a form of linguistic enquiry, an attempt to formulate something in words. It is this aspect of ethics that leads us to a paradox, and the acute sense of a loss of meaning or of a “running against the limits of language”. We want to utter these precise words, yet should realize that they are nonsense, since there really is nothing to be stated or established (nichts zu konstatieren). The paradox is rooted in our desire to say something about absolute value, which by extension might lead to intellectualizing and theorizing it (it is, as Wittgenstein stresses, a tendency in the human mind). The solution implied by the Tractatus is silence. However, in the Lecture, Wittgenstein says firstly, that absolute value judgements represent what we would say, i. e. the appropriate thing to say in certain situations. Secondly, he says that he cannot but respect this tendency to utter nonsense, as long as we acknowledge it as such and resist the temptation to turn it into “claptrap about ethics”. So the conclusion is, in some sense, a step beyond Tractarian silence.

3 Absolute and Relative Value in Aesthetics So where does all this leave aesthetics? Can we assume that the distinction between relative and absolute judgements applies to aesthetics as well as ethics (as Wittgenstein implies at the beginning of the Lecture), and do we arrive at a similar paradox when considering aesthetics? As mentioned, Wittgenstein, frustratingly, does not include aesthetics when he gives examples of absolute value in the Lecture. However, in his above quoted conversation with Schlick he offers an example involving music:

 “Geschwätz über Ethik”, in a conversation about a year earlier than the above quoted one (WWK 1979: 69).

Absolute and Relative Value in Aesthetics


What is valuable in a Beethoven sonata? The sequence of notes? No, it is only one sequence among many, after all. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that even the feelings Beethoven had when he was composing this sonata were not more valuable than any other feelings. And the fact of being preferred has equally little claim to be something valuable in itself. (WWK 1979: 116)

Here we seem to arrive at a similar paradox. The value of the sonata cannot be explained by recourse to facts (either about the piece of music like in formalistic aesthetic theories, or the experiences it might evoke, or the experiences of its creator— i. e. different versions of the expression theory of art—or by sociological theories about aesthetic preferences). However, it is also nonsensical to say that the sonata is valuable in itself, that is, absolutely valuable, since this is not a describable state of affairs. In his lecture he calls the thought of such a state of affairs a “chimera”: The right road is the road which leads to an arbitrarily predetermined end and it is quite clear to us all that there is no sense in talking about the right road apart from such a predetermined goal. Now let us see what we could possibly mean by the expression “The absolutely right road”. I think it would be the road which everybody if he sees it would with logical necessity have to go or be ashamed of not going. Generally speaking the absolute good, if it is a describable state of affairs, would be one that everybody independent of his taste and inclinations would necessarily bring about or feel guilty for not bringing about. And I want to say that such a state of affairs is a chimera. No state of affairs has in itself, what I would like to call, the coercive power of an absolute judge. (TS 207: 5 – 6)

When it comes to aesthetics, it is perhaps even more obvious that the idea of an absolutely right way of judging or experiencing a work of art, independently of any tastes and inclinations, is indeed a chimera. What, then, about relative value in aesthetics? It is interesting to note that in a first manuscript version of the Lecture Wittgenstein introduces the notion of relative value by using a musical example: Supposing I could play the piano and one of you a great connoisseur of piano playing heard me and said, “Well you’re playing pretty badly” and suppose I answered him: “I know I’m playing badly but I don’t want to play any better”. All the connoisseur could say would be “well then that’s all right”. And there would be an end of the discussion. The connoisseur would have judged me by certain standards which he could if necessary explain and I would agree that he had ranked me rightly. (MS 139a: 5 – 6)

We remember that in the final version Wittgenstein substitutes tennis for piano playing. Now why did he do that? David Levy (2007: 81) suggests that this is because he wanted to sharpen the contrast which is blurred by using piano playing as an example; since piano playing is also an aesthetic endeavor, it therefore


Simo Säätelä

might plausibly be considered “absolutely” important. The example with the tennis player is clearly supposed to imply that tennis is here to be considered just a pastime, and we do not have any reason to appeal to the judgement of “connoisseurs”. But this change (and the dropping of the phrase that it will later become “clear” why aesthetics is treated on a par with ethics) is perhaps also symptomatic for the fact that aesthetic value, in particular, is hard to fit into the Tractarian framework, where the distinction between absolute and relative value is developed in the Lecture. Indeed, the purportedly unproblematic and straightforward “relative case” raises a host of questions: Are the standards the connoisseur appeals to really “predetermined”? If so, who decides them, why should I acknowledge them, and what are the consequences of not acknowledging them? Is this a kind of Humean appeal to a “standard of taste”? And so on.

4 Dissolving the Paradox: the 1938 Lectures on Aesthetics In all, the Lecture ends on an unsatisfactory note—it remains unclear how we are supposed to handle the paradox, and whether it has been dissolved or not. We could say in general that for Wittgenstein, a paradox is a signal of a philosophical problem, or a “knot in our thinking”. Such problems are not to be solved, but rather dissolved, or “untied”. Problems of this kind are grounded in our forms of expression, so if a certain formulation leads to a paradox, then we would do well in looking closer at the presuppositions that lie beneath it. What are we supposed to learn from the Lecture? Yaniv Iczkovits has put forward an interesting reading of the Lecture and of Wittgenstein’s ethical remarks in the Tractatus. He says that the lesson to be learnt from them is that the genuinely ethical cannot be primarily situated within the expression of absolute value judgments. It can only be manifested in ordinary life, by what we do and say in all kinds of instances, even without using words such as “absolute good,” that is, without being explicitly “ethical.” Just as meaning can only be recovered by stepping back from our philosophical aspirations and acknowledging the richness of our ordinary talk. (Iczkovits 2012: 46)

Wittgenstein’s aim with these ethical remarks is, according to Iczkovits (2012: 47), to secure the sense of the ethical in human life from being “primarily approached through philosophical theories or unique forms of expression.” Instead, “ethics, if it has any fundamental meaning, is a personal matter that one must work on within one’s life” (Iczkovits 2012: 46).

Absolute and Relative Value in Aesthetics


I do agree with Iczkovits here. However, the problem with both the Tractatus and the Lecture is that Wittgenstein is only partly successful in realizing this aim —because he adopts a generalizing view of ethics and aesthetics based on certain general assumptions about language. Indeed, as Cora Diamond puts it: The trouble with the Tractatus view of ethics is not that it treats the indicative form of ostensibly ethical propositions as misleading. The Tractatus looks for a general characterization of the ethical; it does not look at the real variety of cases. The Tractatus approach to ethics is shaped by a general conception of language […]. (Diamond 1996: 254)

The Lecture is a step forward in its attempts to look at a variety of concrete examples, but it is still shaped by the Tractarian conception of language: a word has meaning only if used in a proposition; all propositions are of equal value (i. e. describe or picture facts and are true or false); and value is in some sense outside the world and beyond the reach of meaningful language. This leads Wittgenstein to declare that we have run up against a paradox, and pronounce aspects of what he believes to be appropriate language use—as evidenced by the Lecture—as a “misuse of language”. We can only get rid of the paradox by abandoning these presuppositions. Quite generally, this is what happens in Wittgenstein’s later philosophy. For instance, when talking about the paradox of the “sensation-object” (in a remark belonging to the so called private language argument), Wittgenstein makes this very clear: The paradox disappears only if we make a radical break with the idea that language always functions in one way, always serves the same purpose: to convey thoughts – which may be about houses, pains, good and evil, or whatever. (PI 2009: 304)

As we have seen, the Lecture does contain the seeds of such a break. However, the break is not radical enough until Wittgenstein actually takes seriously “the real variety of cases”, i. e. respects and acknowledges the richness of our ordinary forms of talking and acting. Only then can he give a non-reductive account of aesthetics (and by implication ethics), and get rid of the paradox. This can also be described as “completing the surroundings” of the forms of expression that strike us as problematic, and is once again an example of a strategy recommended by the later Wittgenstein: Something surprising, a paradox, is a paradox only in a particular, as it were defective, surrounding. One needs to complete this surrounding in such a way that what looked like a paradox no longer seems one. (RFM 1978: VII, 43)


Simo Säätelä

Both strategies for dealing with a paradox are operative in Wittgenstein’s later work on aesthetics. Already in his 1932– 33 lectures we can see how the putative paradox is effectively dissolved by emphasizing that we must realize that our aesthetic expressions are used in a number of “utterly different games”: The question in ethics, about the goodness of an action, and in aesthetics, about the beauty of a face, is whether the characteristics of the action, the lines and colors of the face, are […] a symptom of goodness, or of beauty. Or do they constitute them? a cannot be a symptom of b unless there is a possible independent investigation of b. If no separate investigation is possible, then we mean by “beauty of face” a certain arrangement of colors and spaces. Now no arrangement is beautiful in itself. The word “beauty” is used for a thousand different things. Beauty of face is different from that of flowers and animals. That one is playing utterly different games is evident from the difference that emerges in the discussion of each. We can only ascertain the meaning of the word “beauty” by seeing how we use it. (AWL 1979: 35 – 36)

Here Wittgenstein, as in the discussion about Beethoven, dismisses the idea that an object could be “beautiful in itself”. But this does not mean that all uses of the word “beauty” are reducible to descriptions of objects, and that all we have are “relative” judgements of value. Instead, the meaning of an aesthetic expression can only be ascertained by “looking and seeing” (cf. PI 2009: 66) how we use it in concrete circumstances, in “utterly different games”. What emerges is a much more nuanced picture of aesthetics and the role of language in our aesthetic practices. We can see this “use approach” in full bloom in the 1938 lectures on aesthetics (LA 1966). Wittgenstein begins these lectures by emphasizing that aesthetics does not primarily have to do with the use of certain words or forms of words, like “beauty”. It is in fact, he notes, “entirely uncharacteristic” to talk about “beauty” in real-life cases of aesthetic appreciation (LA 1966: 2). This also means that the “genuinely” aesthetical cannot be found by concentrating merely on the expression of aesthetic judgements, or delimited by the use of an explicitly “aesthetic” vocabulary or other particular forms of expression. Instead, we have to attend to the multiplicity of different situations and circumstances in which such expressions are used in a meaningful way: “We don’t start from certain words, but from certain occasions and activities” (LA 1966: 3). This is a radical approach to philosophical aesthetics, and Wittgenstein himself notes that it takes us far “from normal aesthetics (and ethics)” (LA 1966: 3)—by this, we may assume, he means what is customarily called philosophical aesthetics and ethics. It is significant that once again Moore is his target:

Absolute and Relative Value in Aesthetics


(If I had to say what is the main mistake made by philosophers of the present generation, including Moore, I would say that it is that when language is looked at, what is looked at is a form of words and not the use made of the form of words.) Language is a characteristic part of a large group of activities […]. We are concentrating not just on the word or the sentence in which it is used – which is highly uncharacteristic – but on the occasion on which it is said: the framework in which (nota bene) the actual aesthetic judgment is practically nothing at all. (LA 1966: 2)

In the Lecture on Ethics, Wittgenstein is preoccupied with the way language is used in ethics and aesthetics; indeed, as we saw, he claims that ethics “springs from the desire to say something about absolute value”. So the focus is on how we “write or talk Ethics” (TS 207: 10). In the 1938 lectures, however, there is a shift in perspective: the way we talk is important, but in order to understand the point of what we are saying, we must attend to the complicated situations in which aesthetic expressions are intelligibly used. What, then, becomes of the distinction between relative and absolute use of aesthetic expressions? On the surface, Wittgenstein is, in 1938, almost entirely interested in what he earlier would have called relative judgements, since he thinks aesthetics typically involves assessing something as being right or correct: It is remarkable that in real life, when aesthetic judgements are made, aesthetic adjectives such as ‘beautiful’, ‘fine’, etc., play hardly any role at all. […] The words you use are more akin to ‘right’ and ‘correct’ (as these words are used in ordinary speech) than to ‘beautiful’ and ‘lovely’. (LA 1966: 3)

We remember that in the Lecture Wittgenstein offered the example of ranking a piano player relative to certain standards as an instance of relative judgement. Wittgenstein’s examples in 1938 include judgements about the correctness of windows or the height of a door in a building, the correct way to cut a suit, the right way to play a piece of music or read a poem, etc. It is clear that he, in 1929, would have considered judgments of this kind as similarly relative to standards or rules. In such a case an assertion of (in)correctness has, as Levy (2007: 84) notes, “nothing of the speaker in it, something shown by the correctness conditions remaining unaltered if the assertion is put in the third person.” However, in the 1938 lectures Wittgenstein points out that the “correctness conditions” in aesthetics are not of this kind. If I say that a door is too low, I can of course be asked “Relative to what?”, and I might be able to say something about the style of architecture, the proportions, etc. All this seemingly stays on the relative level: the door is incorrect in relation to “predetermined standards”. However, Wittgenstein makes a point of showing how such purportedly “relative”


Simo Säätelä

judgements can be genuine aesthetic judgements which are not, pace Wittgenstein of 1929, reducible to mere statements of fact. When talking about correctness and rules in aesthetics, Wittgenstein in 1938 distinguishes two kinds of case: the first is the case where one learns the rules; one is “drilled” and accepts the rules unquestioningly. In such a case, correctness conditions indeed remain unaltered whether I or someone else asserts the correctness, and are relative to a “predetermined standard” I have to accept. But later on, when one has developed a “feeling for the rules” and is able to interpret them, one might judge something one earlier judged as being in accord with the rules, as not being right. Of course, in some sense this judgement is still relative to the rules: “if I hadn’t learnt the rules, I wouldn’t be able to make the aesthetic judgement. In learning the rules you get a more and more refined judgement. Learning the rules actually changes your judgement” (LA 1966: 5). However, in this case the rules no longer function as a “predetermined standard” and the assertion of (in)correctness does represent a genuine aesthetic judgement. When Wittgenstein earlier referred to standards, it was only rules in the first sense he was talking about. In the 1938 lectures we get a much more nuanced picture of how rules work in aesthetic judgements: a judgement about the “correctness” of a door, or suit, or the way to read a poem, etc. need not be a relative judgement in the sense that it would be reducible to statements of fact. Wittgenstein emphasizes that descriptions play an important role in aesthetics, but they are not mere factual statements that perhaps cause us to have some feelings. Instead, they function as reasons for our saying, for instance, “Too high!” about a door. This expression, in turn, is not a description, but rather to be treated as an avowal, indicating an aesthetic reaction⁶ (LA 1966: 13 – 15). This subtle interplay between the normative and the descriptive is something the earlier categorical distinction between relative and absolute judgements overlooks. But the emphasis on “relative” cases does not mean that Wittgenstein would disregard what he earlier called “absolute” judgements. Also in the 1938 lectures, he acknowledges our propensity to make such utterances, and once again he takes Beethoven as an example. However, instead of claiming that absolute judgements are a “misuse of language” he now wants us to regard them as a “different game”: We talked of correctness. A good cutter won’t use any words except words like ‘Too long’, ‘All right’. When we talk of a Symphony of Beethoven we don’t talk of correctness. Entirely different things enter. One wouldn’t talk of appreciating the tremendous things in Art. In

 For a further discussion of Wittgenstein’s notion of “aesthetic reactions”, see Säätelä (2002).

Absolute and Relative Value in Aesthetics


certain styles in Architecture a door is correct, and the thing is you appreciate it. But in the case of a Gothic Cathedral what we do is not at all to find it correct—it plays an entirely different role with us. The entire game is different. It is as different as to judge a human being and on the one hand to say ‘He behaves well’ and on the other hand ‘He made a great impression on me’. (LA 1966: 7– 8)

Judging something as tremendous is “absolute” in so far as it does not involve any recourse to rules or standards. We can see the similarity to Wittgenstein’s examples of absolute ethical value in the Lecture: we become lost for words when confronted with certain overwhelming aesthetic experiences (of the type that in classical aesthetic jargon are characterized as sublime); perhaps the only thing we can say about a cathedral is that it is “tremendous”, while at the same time being aware that this really does not do justice to our experience of it. Of course, it is true that no facts about the cathedral can make it necessary for you to pronounce it as tremendous: this is something you have to see for yourself. And if you can’t, then no amount of facts or coercion will make you do so. So in this sense the earlier Wittgenstein was right: there is no “absolute value”, that by logical necessity, one would have to see once one has taken into account all the facts. However, the same thing applies to our judgements of correctness, in so far as they are genuine aesthetic judgements. It is a mark of the “logic” of aesthetic judgements generally, that at some point we stop arguing about the facts, and have to take recourse to our testimony of our experience of the object in question. What is important here is that we, in spite of having to include our subjectivity, are still talking about the object, not of our private experiences. Stanley Cavell formulates this point, which underlies the Kantian claim to “subjective universality”, succinctly: It is essential to making an aesthetic judgement that at some point we be prepared to say in its support: don’t you see, don’t you hear, don’t you dig? Because if you do not see something, without explanation, then there is nothing further to discuss […]. Reasons—at definite points, for definite reasons, in different circumstances—come to an end. (Cavell 1976: 93)

So the difference between these “games” is that in the “absolute” case, we feel that our reasons run out immediately: there is nothing more to say. If you are not attuned, i. e. if the cathedral does not strike you as tremendous, no amount of reasoning will help. It seems futile to begin to, for instance, describe the cathedral in more detail, to make sure you have not missed something. Whereas in the judgement of the correctness of the door, I might want to appeal to descriptions and rules in support of my judgement, in order to change your way of seeing (this kind of search for reasons Wittgenstein calls engaging in an “aesthetic in-


Simo Säätelä

vestigation”). It might be that you are not familiar with the relevant architectonical rules, for instance. But this does not mean that such cases are settled simply by appealing to “predetermined standards” or rules. Here, too, we must see something without explanation in order to have something to discuss. So in both (purportedly) absolute and relative cases we are, when voicing our aesthetic judgements, expressing our subjectivity. But we are also talking with a “universal voice”, and testing the limits of what Cavell (1979: 91) calls “our attunement to criteria” and what Wittgenstein calls our “agreement in judgements” (PI 2009: 242), which at the same time are the limits of intelligibility. This makes clearer what kind of universality we can aspire to in aesthetics, and perhaps also in ethics: it is not grounded in “the coercive power of an absolute judge”, but in the kind of Kantian appeal to “what we would say when” that Wittgenstein tentatively acknowledges in the Lecture. In this perspective, the need to distinguish between absolute and relative value disappears (indeed, Wittgenstein does not even mention “value” in this 1938 lectures). What Wittgenstein earlier called absolute and relative judgements now appear as moves made in “different games” and as what it makes sense to say in different circumstances. This returns us to the close analogy between ethics and aesthetics (that Wittgenstein never abandoned).⁷ Let us revisit the case of the unrepentant liar in the Lecture. To tell someone, who has told a preposterous lie but is completely unremorseful, that he ought to behave better, is hardly a “misuse” of language, except by the most rigorous Tractarian standards; instead, it makes perfect sense to say such a thing in these circumstances. We should not misconstrue this as attempting to state something involving putative absolute value. Instead, we could say that it is an attempt to express something about one’s attitude towards lying, and the person doing it, in these particular circumstances. But to be able to claim that this is what we “would say” when confronted with the liar depends, as Levy (2007: 81) notes, on “sharing a sense that lying is something we all confront”—i. e. dependent on certain commonalities we share with others. So silence is not the only way out when it comes to ethical or aesthetic judgements, but the important point here is that further explanations, and in particular theoretical ones, will just distract us. It is a confusion to think that appealing to, say, the categorical imperative, or explaining that moral judgements express universal prescriptions, would be of any help in a situation where the liar continues to deny he ought to behave better. Similarly, it is a mistake to think that further de While not being as explicit as in the Tractatus or the Lecture, he seems to have suggested, also in 1938, that aesthetics and ethics belong together, and that what he says about aesthetics has bearing upon ethics (see LA 1966: 3). Perhaps we could even venture to say that here he proposes that we look at ethics from the point of view of aesthetics, instead of vice versa.

Absolute and Relative Value in Aesthetics


scriptions of the cathedral, facts about its history, theories of the Gothic style or artistic expression, etc. would be of help to persuade someone who does not recognize its tremendousness.

5 Conclusion Wittgenstein’s approach to aesthetics in the 1938 lectures could be summed up in his own words: I draw your attention to differences and say: “Look how different these differences are!” “Look what is in common to the different cases”, “Look what is common to Aesthetic judgements”. An immensely complicated family of cases is left, with the highlight—the expression of admiration, a smile or a gesture, etc. (LA 1966: 10)

This also means, as we saw, that the earlier unconditional distinction between “absolute” and “relative” uses of expressions is effectively undermined. Indeed, we could say that Wittgenstein brings the distinction “back to the rough ground” (cf. PI 2009: 107): this means, for instance, to challenge the unique status of “absolute” use, but also to do justice to our tendency to say such things. The kinds of judgement that he earlier called absolute (and thus nonsensical) or relative (and thus merely fact-stating), emerge as “different games” within an “immensely complicated family”⁸. When drawing our attention to the multifarious situations in which aesthetic expressions have their place, Wittgenstein acknowledges the richness and range of the resources of our ordinary language and our different aesthetic practices. In the Lecture on Ethics, while indeed looking at language as it is used in ethics and aesthetics, Wittgenstein still concentrates on the propositions or sentences in which words are used. The paradox in the Lecture is generated by a concentration on linguistic activity, on what we “write or talk”, while neglecting the circumstances in which what we utter makes sense. The lesson to be learnt from the later Wittgenstein is that we must look at the way our use of words is interwoven in our actual practices, instead of making it fit a procrustean bed of pre-established philosophical distinctions motivated by a general conception of language and value. So when Wittgenstein at the beginning of his 1938 lectures criticizes “philosophers of the present generation” for attending “to a form of

 This turn of phrase also indicates that there is a family resemblance between different kinds of aesthetic judgement. So even the “absolute” and “relative” cases, while seemingly entirely different, can be connected by “intermediate cases” (cf. LA 1966: 12).


Simo Säätelä

words and not the use made of the form of words” when looking at language (LA 1966: 3), he no doubt could, in addition to Moore, include his former self among these philosophers.⁹

Bibliography Cavell, Stanley (1976): Must We Mean What We Say? New ed. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P. Cavell, Stanley (1979): The Claim of Reason. Oxford: Clarendon P. Diamond, Cora (1996): “Wittgenstein, Mathematics, and Ethics: Resisting the Attractions of Realism”. In: Hans Sluga/David Stern (Eds.): The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein. Cambridge: Cambridge U. P., pp. 226 – 260. Iczkovits, Yaniv (2012): Wittgenstein’s Ethical Thought. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Levy, David (2007): “Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Work on Ethics”. In: Ludwig Wittgenstein: Lecture on Ethics. Introduction, Interpretation and Complete Text. Edoardo Zamuner/E. Valentina Di Lascio/David Levy (Eds.). Macerata: Quodlibet, pp. 19 – 86. Säätelä, Simo (2002): “‘Perhaps the Most Important Thing in Connection with Aesthetics’: Wittgenstein on ‘Aesthetic Reactions’”. In: Revue Internationale de Philosophie 219, pp. 49 – 72. Somavilla, Ilse (2007): “Historical and Stylistic Notes”. In: Ludwig Wittgenstein: Lecture on Ethics. Introduction, Interpretation and Complete Text. Edoardo Zamuner/E. Valentina Di Lascio/David Levy (Eds.). Macerata: Quodlibet, pp. 243 – 255. Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1922): Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Charles Kay Ogden/Frank Plumpton Ramsey (Transl.). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. (TLP) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1966): Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief. Cyril Barrett (Ed.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (LA) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (31978): Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics. G. H. von Wright/Rush Rhees/G. E. M. Anscombe (Eds.). G. E. M. Anscombe (Transl.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (RFM) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1979): Wittgenstein’s Lectures: Cambridge, 1932 – 1935. Alice Ambrose (Ed.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (AWL) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1979): Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle. Conversations Recorded by Friedrich Waismann. Brian McGuinness (Ed.). Joachim Schulte/Brian McGuinness (Transl.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell. (WWK) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2007): Lecture on Ethics. Introduction, Interpretation and Complete Text. Edoardo Zamuner/E. Valentina Di Lascio/David Levy (Eds.). Macerata: Quodlibet. (LE) Wittgenstein, Ludwig (2009): Philosophische Untersuchungen/Philosophical Investigations [including Philosophy of Psychology – A Fragment]. P. M. S. Hacker/Joachim Schulte (Eds.). G. E. M. Anscombe/P. M. S. Hacker/Joachim Schulte (Transl.). Revised 4th edition. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. (PI)

 This research was supported by the research project “Perspectives on Aesthetic Quality in the Cultural Field”, funded by Arts Council Norway.

Peter Keicher

Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“. Ethische und ästhetische Aspekte der Schriften des philosophischen Nachlasses Ludwig Wittgensteins Abstract: Remarks on the Notion of a „Turn“. Ethical and Aesthetic Aspects of the Writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Nachlass. The first part of this paper is dedicated to philosophical contributions of different authors concerning the relation between „early“ and „later“ Wittgenstein. The second part comprises, without any claim to be complete, descriptions of six different „turns“ in Wittgenstein’s philosophy during his so-called „middle period“. The third part is referring indirectly to „Wittgenstein’s Methods“ by James Conant and comprises some notes on Wittgenstein’s practical working methods and a comparison between Wittgenstein’s writings and modernist paintings of analytical and synthetic cubism. In order to compare the notion of a „turn“ with aesthetic aspects—since the notion „turn“ is up until now mostly applied to the „middle period“—the term „aspect changes“ is introduced in order to describe important changes between and within different working periods in Wittgenstein’s philosophy.

1 Einleitung Zu Beginn dieses Beitrags werden Unterschiede zwischen der frühen Rezeption Wittgensteins im englischen und deutschen Sprachraum erwähnt, es werden zwei Arbeiten von Ingeborg Bachmann und Paul Feyerabend vorgestellt, die der Abhandlung und den Untersuchungen gewidmet sind, und es wird die Unterscheidung von „Wittgenstein I“ und „II“ bei Wolfgang Stegmüller und K.T. Fann aufgeführt. Im Anschluss werden ohne Anspruch auf Vollständigkeit sechs unterschiedliche „Wenden“ vorgestellt, die im Kontext der „mittleren Periode“ Wittgensteins postuliert wurden. Die Reihenfolge dieser Kapitel entspricht der Folge der Veröffentlichungen. Deshalb wird hier auch Danièle Moyal-Sharrocks These eines „dritten“ Wittgenstein aufgeführt, obwohl sie sich auf die Schriften nach den Untersuchungen bezieht. Im vierten Kapitel werden Besonderheiten und ethische Aspekte der „Wenden“ der „mittleren Periode“ aufgeführt und es werden mögliche Erweiterungen des Begriffs der „Wende“ skizziert. Als Anregung für die Forschung wird ein ästhetischer Vergleich der Schriften Wittgensteins mit der DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-026


Peter Keicher

Malerei des Kubismus vorgestellt, und es wird auf die Vielzahl der praktischen Arbeitsmethoden Wittgensteins hingewiesen. Abschließend wird der Begriff des „Aspektwechsels“ zur möglichen Charakterisierung philosophischer und thematischer Veränderungen in Wittgensteins philosophischen Schriften vorgestellt.

2 Wittgenstein „I“ und „II“ 2.1 Frühe vergleichende Darstellungen (§ 1) Im englischen Sprachraum erschienen von Wittgensteins im Jahr 1922 veröffentlichten Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus noch zu Wittgensteins Lebzeiten drei Neuauflagen (1933, 1947, 1949). Studierenden und Kollegen in Cambridge, später auch in Ithaca, waren seine neueren philosophischen Auffassungen durch seine Lehrtätigkeit und Gespräche bekannt, und es waren – wenn auch nur in wenigen Exemplaren – auch einige philosophische Schriften, wie z. B. das Blaue Buch oder das Braune Buch, in Umlauf. Im deutschen Sprachraum hatten einige Mitglieder des „Wiener Kreises“ zwar Kenntnisse von jenen Auffassungen Wittgensteins, die heute seiner „mittleren Periode“ zugeordnet werden, doch nach der Auflösung des „Wiener Kreises“ geriet auch der Name Wittgenstein an der Universität Wien weitgehend in Vergessenheit. Erst mit der Rehabilitierung von Viktor Kraft im Jahr 1946 setzte in Wien wieder eine Beschäftigung mit den Thesen des „Wiener Kreises“ und mit Wittgensteins Logisch-Philosophischer Abhandlung ein. Als die Philosophischen Untersuchungen im Jahr 1953 in England erschienen, war in Wien eine jüngere Generation von Philosophen dabei, erst einmal die Abhandlung neu zu entdecken. Dies mag vielleicht erklären, dass Ingeborg Bachmann und Paul Feyerabend, die beide bei Viktor Kraft studiert hatten, die offenbar frühesten beiden vergleichenden Arbeiten zur Abhandlung und zu den Untersuchungen verfasst haben.

2.2 Ingeborg Bachmann (§ 2) Ingeborg Bachmann kannte Wittgensteins Abhandlung spätestens seit 1949 (McVeigh 2016: 47), denn damals besuchte sie an der Universität Wien Viktor Krafts Vorlesung zum „Wiener Kreis“. Seit etwa 1950 beschäftigte sie sich intensiv mit der Philosophie Wittgensteins, und im Jahr 1953 veröffentlichte sie ihren Aufsatz „Ludwig Wittgenstein. Zu einem Kapitel der jüngsten Philosophiegeschichte“ (Bachmann 1953). Dieser Text beginnt wie folgt:

Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“


Als vor zwei Jahren Ludwig Wittgenstein in Cambridge starb, erschien in einigen Wiener Blättern eine kurze Notiz: „Im Alter von … verschied in … der bekannte Philosoph …“ Nun, er war keineswegs bekannt; er war eigentlich der unbekannteste Philosoph unserer Zeit, ein Mann, auf den ein Wort seines Landsmannes Karl Kraus zutrifft, der von sich einmal sagte: „Ich bin berühmt, aber es hat sich noch nicht herumgesprochen.“ Daß es sich nicht herumspreche, dafür hat Wittgenstein selbst gesorgt. […] So hat die Legende sein Leben abgelöst noch zur Zeit als er lebte, eine Legende von freiwilliger Entbehrung, vom Versuch eines heiligmäßigen Lebens, vom Versuch, dem Satz zu gehorchen, der den Tractatus beschließt: ‚Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigenʻ. (Bachmann 1953: 64)

In ihrem Aufsatz erinnert Ingeborg Bachmann an die Geschichte des „Wiener Kreises“ und an die Bedeutung der Logisch-Philosophischen Abhandlung, dann stellt sie ihre eigenen Interpretationen der Abhandlung vor, die – mit den Themen Ethik, Ästhetik, Kunst und Poesie – gerade jene Aspekte betreffen, die im „Wiener Kreis“ kaum berücksichtigt wurden. Ingeborg Bachmann zufolge hat der Neopositivismus des „Wiener Kreises“ damals bereits an philosophischer Bedeutung verloren, dagegen stellt sie fest: Aber die Zeit für die Entdeckung Wittgensteins dürfte gekommen sein. Aus England erfahren wir, daß eben ein zweites, bisher unbekanntes Werk, „Philosophische Untersuchungen“ erschienen ist; auch von der Existenz eines „Blaubuches“, das Wittgenstein erst nach seinem Tod veröffentlicht wissen wollte, weiß man zu berichten. (Bachmann 1953: 74)

Kurz vor der Veröffentlichung dieses Aufsatzes waren die Philosophischen Untersuchungen erschienen, die Ingeborg Bachmann hier noch nicht berücksichtigen konnte. Schon im Jahr 1953 begann sie jedoch mit einer vergleichenden Darstellung der beiden Werke; das Ergebnis ist ihr Hörspiel „Sagbares und Unsagbares – Die Philosophie Ludwig Wittgensteins“ (Bachmann 1954), das am 16. September 1954 im Bayerischen Rundfunk gesendet wurde. Dabei handelt es sich um ein außergewöhnliches Dokument, denn gerade im Medium des Hörspiels kommen die dialogischen Aspekte der Philosophischen Untersuchungen besonders deutlich zur Geltung. Was die Untersuchungen anbelangt, konzentriert Ingeborg Bachmann sich mit erstaunlicher intuitiver Sicherheit fast ausschließlich auf die §§ 89 – 133, und damit auf genau jene Bemerkungen, die Gordon Baker und Peter Hacker sehr viel später als das Kapitel „Philosophie“ der Untersuchungen bezeichnet haben (Baker/ Hacker 2005: 191). Für Ingeborg Bachmann besteht das Gemeinsame der beiden Werke Wittgensteins unter anderem darin, „daß die Probleme der Philosophie Probleme der Sprache sind […].“


Peter Keicher

Darum geht er in den ‚Philosophischen Untersuchungenʻ daran – den ‚Tractatusʻ erweiternd –, Beispiele vom richtigen und falschen Funktionieren der Sprache zu geben, um uns den Unterschied von richtigem und falschem Denken zu zeigen. […] So bewegen sich diese Untersuchungen eigentlich im Kreis des ‚Tractatusʻ, erweitern ihn aber durch Detailuntersuchungen nach allen Seiten. Sie verlassen die Abstraktion und geben Bilder. (Bachmann 1954: 123 f.)

Wittgensteins „Schweigen“ interpretiert Ingeborg Bachmann – ähnlich wie in ihrem ersten Aufsatz über Wittgenstein – auch als eine ethische Haltung des Protests. Sein Schweigen ist durchaus als Protest aufzufassen, gegen den spezifischen Antirationalismus der Zeit […]. […] und es ist wahr, daß er wie niemand anderer die Gefahren der sich verhärtenden Antagonismen des Denkens seines Jahrhunderts: Irrationalismus und Rationalismus, erkannte, sie in seinem Werk bestand und schon überwand. (Bachmann 1954: 126 f.)

2.3 Paul Feyerabend (§ 3) Paul Feyerabend hatte Ludwig Wittgenstein bei einem Treffen des sog. „KraftKreises“ im Jahr 1950 persönlich getroffen (Feyerabend 1995: 105 f.). Etwa zu dieser Zeit, oder schon etwas früher, las er den Tractatus. Nach Wittgensteins Tod im Jahr 1951 besuchte er kurz vor der Veröffentlichung der Untersuchungen Elisabeth Anscombe in Oxford (Feyerabend 1995: 127 f.). Seit 1953 beschäftigte er sich intensiv mit diesem Werk, und im Jahr 1954 veröffentlichte er einen Aufsatz in der Zeitschrift Wissenschaft und Weltbild, von dem noch im gleichen Jahr in der Zeitschrift Merkur ein Neuabdruck erschien (Feyerabend 1954). Neben Ingeborg Bachmanns Hörspiel zu Wittgenstein (vgl. § 2) handelt es sich dabei um eine der historisch frühesten vergleichenden Darstellungen des Tractatus und der Untersuchungen. Feyerabend nimmt auf Wittgensteins Vorwort zu den Untersuchungen Bezug: Das neue Werk befindet sich in einer so engen Beziehung zum Traktat, daß es nach der Aussage des Verfassers selbst „nur durch den Gegensatz und auf dem Hintergrund“ seiner älteren Denkweise verständlich wird. In der deutschen Ausgabe des Werkes sollen daher auch beide Bücher in einem Band gebunden erscheinen. (Feyerabend 1954: 1027)

Auch wenn Feyerabend sehr detailliert auf die Unterschiede der beiden Werke eingeht, betont er doch auch deren Gemeinsamkeiten. Feyerabend bemerkt zu den Untersuchungen:

Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“


Es wird in einer anderen Form die These des Traktats wiederholt, daß wir nur dann sinnvoll sprechen, wenn wir über Tatsachen sprechen. Nur heißt es nun, daß allein den Sprechweisen des Alltags Sinn zukommt. […] Wieder finden wir die Behauptung, daß sich die philosophischen Probleme nicht in der so ausgezeichneten Sprache, also überhaupt nicht ausdrücken lassen. Sie sind gleichsam gegenstandslose Schwierigkeiten, die entstehen, wenn die Sprache leerläuft, „wenn sie nicht arbeitet“. (Feyerabend 1954: 1029)

Feyerabend zufolge besteht in beiden Werken ein widersprüchliches Verhältnis zwischen den Aufgaben der Philosophie und der Überwindung der traditionellen Philosophie. „Paradox gesagt: Aufgabe der Philosophie (im Sinne Wittgensteins) ist die Beseitigung der Philosophie (im Sinne der traditionellen Lehren).“ (Feyerabend 1954: 1035) Eine weitere Ähnlichkeit besteht Feyerabend zufolge in dem Umstand, dass Wittgenstein „die traditionellen Philosophien für Schein“ (Feyerabend 1954: 1036) erklärt, seine eigenen Ausführungen aber dennoch „in der Tat ein machtvolles Stück traditioneller Philosophie“ darstellen (Feyerabend 1954: 1038). Abschließend fordert Feyerabend, die teils „im Plauderton“ (Feyerabend 1954: 1037) verfassten Ausführungen Wittgensteins sollten argumentativ schlüssig und rational folgerichtig neu formuliert werden. „Es wird Zeit, daß sie […] Gegenstand echt philosophischer, d. h. rationaler Untersuchung werden!“ (Feyerabend 1954: 1038) Dies ist das Ziel seines Aufsatzes „Wittgensteins ‚Philosophical Investigationsʻ“, der ein Jahr später in der Philosophical Review veröffentlicht wurde (Feyerabend 1955).

2.4 Wolfgang Stegmüller, Hauptströmungen der Gegenwartsphilosophie (§ 4) Für die allgemeine Etablierung der Abkürzungen Wittgenstein „I“ und „II“ waren Wolfgang Stegmüllers Hauptströmungen der Gegenwartsphilosophie (1952) von besonderer Bedeutung. Offenbar seit der erweiterten dritten Auflage im Jahr 1965 enthält der erste Band der Hauptströmungen zwei mit römischen Ziffern gekennzeichnete Kapitel „Ludwig Wittgenstein. Philosophie I“ und „Philosophie II“ (Stegmüller 1987: x). Auch wenn diese Bezeichnungen schon früher kursiert sein sollten, fanden sie mit Stegmüllers Standardwerk im deutschen Sprachraum besonders weite Verbreitung. Im Unterschied zu Ingeborg Bachmann und Paul Feyerabend (vgl. §§ 2, 3) vertritt Stegmüller die Auffassung, dass Wittgenstein „zwei verschiedene Philosophien entwickelt hat, von denen die zweite nicht als eine Fortsetzung der ersten aufgefaßt werden kann.“ (Stegmüller 1987: 526) Auf diese Weise hat Stegmüller maßgeblich dazu beigetragen, in der Schulphilosophie das Diktum von zwei ge-


Peter Keicher

gensätzlichen, oder sogar unvereinbaren Philosophien Wittgensteins zu prägen. Im Vorwort zur dritten Auflage heißt es: Zunächst ist zu bedenken, daß es sich nicht um die Schilderung einer Philosophie, sondern zweier Philosophien handelt. Wittgensteins Spätphilosophie ist keine Fortsetzung der im Tractatus entwickelten Gedanken, sondern etwas völlig Neues, das daher auch gesondert dargestellt werden mußte. (Stegmüller 1987: xx)

2.5 K. T. Fann, Wittgenstein’s Conception of Philosophy (§ 5) Wenige Jahre nach Stegmüllers Unterscheidung „zweier Philosophien“ Wittgensteins erschien 1969 bei Basil Blackwell eine vergleichsweise frühe, dem Verhältnis von frühem und spätem Wittgenstein gewidmete Monographie. K.T. Fanns Wittgenstein’s Conception of Philosophy erinnert an Stegmüller, denn auch Fann verwendet für die Gliederung seiner Darstellung die römischen Ziffern „I“ und „II“, und auch bei Fann heißt es: „Wittgensteins spätere Sprachauffassung ist in der Tat die Antithese seiner früheren Lehre.“ (Fann 1971: 81) Bei genauerer Lektüre erweist Fann sich jedoch als weniger dogmatisch als Stegmüller. Aufschlussreich ist, wie er – ähnlich Feyerabend (vgl. § 3) – das Vorwort der Untersuchungen kommentiert, in dem Wittgenstein bemerkt, dass seine „neuen Gedanken“ nur „durch den Gegensatz und auf dem Hintergrund“ der Abhandlung verständlich werden: „Wer diesen Gegensatz versteht und würdigt, hat den Geist der Untersuchungen bereits erfaßt.“ (Fann 1971: 58) Fann beschließt seine Ausführungen mit dem Hinweis auf Wittgensteins Nähe zur Kunst. „Wittgenstein war vor allem ein Künstler, der einen neuen Denkstil schuf, eine neue Art und Weise, die Dinge zu betrachten.“ (Fann 1971: 104)

3 Wittgensteins „Wenden“ 3.1 Meril B. Hintikka und Jaakko Hintikka, Untersuchungen zu Wittgenstein (§ 6) Meril B. Hintikka und Jaakko Hintikka datieren eine bedeutende sog. „Wende“ der Philosophie Wittgensteins während der „mittleren Periode“ auf das Jahr 1929. Diese von M. B. und J. Hintikka bereits in den Untersuchungen zu Wittgenstein thematisierte „Wende“ (Hintikka/Hintikka 1986: 166, Hintikka/Hintikka 1990: 218) wird in „Die Wende der Philosophie: Wittgenstein’s New Logic of 1928“ noch

Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“


differenzierter dargestellt (Hintikka 1988: 80). Am 22. Oktober 1929 notiert Wittgenstein: Die Annahme daß eine phänomenologische Sprache möglich wäre und die eigentlich erst das sagen würde was wir in der Philosophie ausdrücken wollen ist – glaube ich – absurd. Wir müssen mit unserer gewöhnlichen Sprache auskommen und sie nur richtig verstehen. D. h. wir dürfen uns nicht von ihr verleiten lassen Unsinn zu reden. (MS 107: 176)

In philosophischer Hinsicht besteht diese „Wende“ für M. B. und J. Hintikka darin, dass Wittgenstein seine Beschäftigung mit dem Konzept einer phänomenologischen Sprache zugunsten eines Vorrangs der intersubjektiv geteilten „gewöhnlichen“ Sprache aufgibt, was später zur Konzeption der Sprachspiele führte. Unsere These besagt, daß es, insoweit es nur zwei Wittgensteins gibt, ebendieser Wechsel des Sprachparadigmas ist, der sowohl genetisch als auch systematisch die Wasserscheide zwischen ihnen kennzeichnet. (Hintikka/Hintikka 1990: 185)

Obwohl die Datierung dieser „Wende“ auf den 22. Oktober 1929 recht akzentuiert erscheint (Hintikka 1996), wird der Wandel der Auffassungen Wittgensteins bei M. B. und J. Hintikka einem längeren Zeitraum zugeordnet. „Der Wandel, der sich nach unserer These 1929 vollzieht, läßt sich also beinahe Tag für Tag in den Manuskriptbänden dieses Jahres verfolgen.“ (Hintikka/Hintikka 1990: 219) Die „Wende“ kommt M. B. und J. Hintikka zufolge philosophisch „nicht vor 1934/35“ zur vollen Geltung. Allerdings erreicht der Begriff des Sprachspiels […] nicht vor 1934/35 eine herausragende Stellung in Wittgensteins Denken, und das heißt mindestens fünf Jahre nach seiner ‚Bekehrungʻ. (Hintikka/Hintikka 1990: 183)

3.2 David Stern, From Logical Atomism to Practical Holism (§ 7) David Stern vertritt die These, die Abhandlung sei durch einen „logischen Atomismus“ geprägt, die „mittlere Periode“ durch einen „logischen Holismus“, die Untersuchungen durch einen „praktischen Holismus“ (Stern 1995: 205). Dieser dreiteiligen Gliederung zufolge besteht der Übergang von der „mittleren Periode“ zu den Untersuchungen im Übergang vom „logischen“ zum „praktischen Holismus“.


Peter Keicher

I identify a train of thought in Wittgenstein’s writings which leads from Tractarian logical atomism, through the logical holism of the late 1920s and early 1930s, and from there to his latter practical holism. […] The transition period comes to an end in the mid 1930s […]. (Stern 1995: 205, 206)

In „How many Wittgensteins?“ datiert Stern diese „Wende“ auf die Jahre 1934– 36 (Stern 2001: 215). Stern bezieht sich auf eine Vielzahl von Manuskripten aus Wittgensteins Nachlass, vermeidet jedoch eine allzu akzentuierte zeitliche Eingrenzung einer „Wende“ und betont stattdessen einen kontinuierlichen Übergang über mehrere Jahre.

3.3 Wolfgang Kienzler, Wittgensteins Wende zu seiner Spätphilosophie (§ 8) Wolfgang Kienzler verbindet seine Ausführungen in Wittgensteins Wende zu seiner Spätphilosophie mit dem Ziel, „eine genaue Beschreibung der Wende Wittgensteins mit einer angemessenen philosophischen Interpretation dieses Phänomens zu verbinden“ (Kienzler 1997: 26). Dabei konzentriert Kienzler sich philosophisch in erster Linie auf Wittgensteins Interpretationen Gottlob Freges. Immer wieder denkt Wittgenstein Fregesche Gedanken weiter und gewinnt ihnen eine neue Perspektive ab. Auf diese Weise sind Freges Ideen auch für den späten Wittgenstein eine beständige Anregung. (Kienzler 1997: 228)

Zur Bestimmung der „Wende“ bezieht Kienzler sich in Wittgensteins Nachlass vor allem auf die sog. „Wiederaufnahme“. Darunter versteht er eine Neuabschrift und Bearbeitung von Bemerkungen aus dem Typoskript TS 208 in den Manuskriptbänden MS 111– 114, die Wittgenstein in drei unterschiedlichen Arbeitsphasen ausgeführt hat, im Juli 1931, November 1931 und von April bis Juni 1932 (Kienzler 1997: 87). Kienzler zufolge steht diese Umarbeitung mit grundlegenden Veränderungen der Auffassungen Wittgensteins in Verbindung, die die Neubearbeitung erst erforderlich machen. Die wichtigste Phase innerhalb dieser „Wende“ datiert Kienzler vom Juli bis zum November 1931: „In dieser Spanne zwischen dem ersten und dem zweiten Anlauf zur Wiederaufnahme legt Wittgenstein die wichtigsten methodischen Kernsätze seiner Spätphilosophie nieder.“ (Kienzler 1997: 86)

Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“


3.4 Alois Pichler, Vom Buch zum Album (§ 9) Alois Pichler zufolge findet bei Wittgenstein eine „Wende zu den Untersuchungen“ im Spätherbst 1936 statt (Pichler 2004: 142). Damals hatte Wittgenstein seine Umarbeitung des Brown Book mit dem berühmten Satz abgebrochen: „Dieser Versuch einer Umarbeitung von S. 118 bis hierher ist nichts wert.“ (MS 115: 292) Wenig später begann er den mit „Angefangen anfangs November 1936“ datierten Manuskriptband MS 142, der auch als die „Frühversion“ der Philosophischen Untersuchungen bezeichnet wird. An dieser Stelle können wir uns erlauben zu sagen, daß die Wende im Spätherbst 1936 ein Aufbruch in einem zweifachen Sinne ist. Einmal bricht Wittgenstein die Strukturen des Buchprojektes, und ganz konkret, die Strukturen des Braunen Buchs auf, das Buch wird fragmentiert. In einem zweiten Sinn handelt es sich um ein Fortgehen vom Bisherigen und einen Aufbruch zu einer neuen Art von Buchschreiben und Denken über sein Buch. (Pichler 2004: 142)

Pichler begründet diese „Wende“ vor allem durch die stilistischen Unterschiede der „Umarbeitung“ des Brown Book und des MS 142.Wesentlich für diese „Wende“ ist der Übergang vom Buch zum Album. Dabei nimmt Pichler auf eine Bemerkung Bezug, die Wittgenstein nicht vor 1945 in MS 130, S. 22, notiert und in den Untersuchungen (TS 227) handschriftlich ergänzt hat: „So ist also dieses Buch eigentlich nur ein Album.“

3.5 Danièle Moyal-Sharrock, The Third Wittgenstein (§ 10) Danièle Moyal-Sharrock spricht zwar nicht von einer „Wende“, sie weist jedoch auf eine neue Werkphase nach den Untersuchungen hin und erweitert die Unterscheidung Wittgenstein „I“ und „II“ (vgl. §§ 4, 5) um einen „dritten“ Wittgenstein. This anthology stems from the conviction that there is a third Wittgenstein, a Wittgenstein who went beyond what he had achieved in the Investigations […]. […] This demarcation would supersede the traditional bipartite division of Wittgenstein’s philosophy crowned by the Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations, and indicate not only a new phase in Wittgenstein’s thinking, but also that Wittgenstein was the author of three, not two philosophical masterpieces. (Moyal-Sharrock 2004: 1)

Unter dem „dritten“ Hauptwerk versteht Moyal-Sharrock Über Gewißheit (vgl. Moyal-Sharrock 2004: 1). Gleichzeitig rechnet sie jedoch alle nach den Untersuchungen (TS 227) entstandenen Schriften dem „dritten“ Wittgenstein zu.


Peter Keicher

I take the third Wittgenstein corpus as essentially consisting of all his writings from approximately 1946. This includes On Certainty, Remarks on Colour, Zettel and all the writings on philosophical psychology, including Part II of the Philosophical Investigations. (MoyalSharrock 2004: 2)

Moyal-Sharrock geht vor allem von den veröffentlichten Schriften Wittgensteins aus. Sie beruft sich zwar nicht auf Wittgensteins Nachlass, aber mit Georg Henrik von Wright und Peter Hacker auf zwei besonders prominente Persönlichkeiten der Nachlassforschung (Moyal-Sharrock 2004: 2). Georg H. von Wright bezeichnete den sog. „Zweiten Teil“ der Untersuchungen als „departure in a somewhat changed direction“ (von Wright 1982:136). Peter Hacker bemerkte dazu: „The Investigations, as Wittgenstein composed it, ends at § 693“ (Hacker 1996: xvi); „Part II is not part of the same book“. (Hacker 1996: xvii)

3.6 Oskari Kuusela, The Struggle Against Dogmatism (§ 11) Oskari Kuusela widmet Wittgensteins „turn“ oder „shift“ in The Struggle Against Dogmatism mehrere Kapitel (Kuusela 2008: 96 f., 120 f., 132 f.). Dem folgenden Zitat lässt sich nicht nur seine philosophische Bestimmung dieser „Wende“ des AntiDogmatismus entnehmen, sondern auch ihre für die Jahre 1931, 1934 und 1936/37 sehr sorgfältig erarbeitete zeitliche Differenzierung. The relevant remarks from Wittgenstein’s manuscripts on prototypes and models as objects of comparison, or on the problem of dogmatism, may therefore be taken to form a continuous string of attempts to articulate the idea of a methodological shift in philosophy. This methodological shift is then what one might call „Wittgenstein’s turn.“ Apparently, we can now also date the emergence of the central idea of the turn to 1931, when manuscript 111 is written. The 1936 – 37 remarks on turning the examination around are further attempts to find a clear formulation for the idea of this methodological repositioning. But as Wittgenstein’s discussion of this topic in manuscript 115 (1934) shows, he is concerned with the formulation of this methodological insight in the intervening period as well. (Kuusela 2008: 131)

Die Bemerkung Nr. 131 der Untersuchungen, die auf MS 142, S. 122, von 1936/37 zurückgeht, ist für Kuuselas Bestimmung der „Wende“ von besonderer Bedeutung. Nur so nämlich können wir der Ungerechtigkeit, oder Leere unserer Behauptungen entgehen, indem wir das Vorbild als das, was es ist, als Vergleichsobjekt – sozusagen als Maßstab – hinstellen; und nicht als das Vorurteil, dem die Wirklichkeit entsprechen müsse. (Der Dogmatismus, in den wir beim Philosophieren so leicht verfallen.) (TS 227: 90, Nr. 131)

Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“


Was Wittgensteins Nachlass anbelangt, geht Kuusela so vor, dass er die Manuskriptquellen dieser und zahlreicher anderer Bemerkungen systematisch zurückverfolgt, und en detail mit Veränderungen der Auffassungen Wittgensteins zu unterschiedlichen Zeiten vergleicht. Die früheste erhaltene Manuskriptquelle findet sich 1931 in MS 111, S. 119 – 120, 1934 wird die Bemerkung in MS 115, S. 56 – 57, bearbeitet, und offenbar erst im Jahr 1937 gelangt sie in das 1936 begonnene MS 142.

3.7 James Conant, „Wittgenstein’s Methods“ (§ 12) Der Aufsatz „Wittgenstein’s Methods“ von James Conant beinhaltet zwar Hinweise auf eine „Wende“, die er bereits in einer früheren Publikation mit „Norway 1937“ oder „Skjolden 1937“ benannt hat (Conant 2010: 67), doch gleichzeitig geht es ihm um eine Kritik des Begriffs der „Wende“ (Conant 2011). Dezidiert wendet er sich gegen ein Verständnis des Begriffs als „a single organizing principle featuring a polar opposition between an early and a later Wittgenstein“. (Conant 2011: 622) Auch kritisiert er die aus einer „Wende“ resultierende Unterscheidung zweier „Kategorien“ von Texten Wittgensteins. […] a supposedly fundamental distinction between two categories of texts—the category of the texts that Wittgenstein wrote before the crucial moment dawned and the category of the texts that he wrote after that crucial moment dawned. And it is precisely this aspect of the standard narrative which I would most like to do away with. (Conant 2011: 624)

Die Bemerkung Nr. 133 der Untersuchungen bildet den wichtigsten Ausgangspunkt für Conants Thesen. Diese Bemerkung geht auf das 1936/37 entstandene MS 142 zurück, wobei sich – im Unterschied zur Bemerkung Nr. 131 bei Kuusela (vgl. § 11) – eine Vorform der Bemerkung bereits im Kapitel „Philosophie“ des Big Typescript findet. Es gibt nicht eine Methode in der Philosophie, wohl aber gibt es Methoden, gleichsam verschiedene Therapien. (TS 227: 91, Nr. 133.1)

Der für Conant besonders wichtige Zusatz der Bemerkung „Es gibt nicht eine Methode […]“, wurde im Typoskript der Untersuchungen erst nachträglich eingefügt. Die früheste erhaltene Manuskriptquelle dieser Ergänzung findet sich am 23. Februar 1938 in MS 120, S. 85v. Dies hat Wolfgang Kienzler „not without some irony“, wie Conant bemerkt, zu dem Vorschlag angeregt, diese „Wende“ – ähnlich Hintikka/Hintikka (vgl. § 6) – auf den 23. Februar 1938 zu datieren (Conant 2011: 641).


Peter Keicher

Für eine genauere Bestimmung des Begriffs der „Wende“ steht Conant zufolge jedoch nicht nur die Bearbeitung dieser einzelnen Bemerkung zur Debatte, sondern vor allem die mehrfachen Bearbeitungen des Kapitels „Philosophie“ des Big Typescript. […] what is at issue is not some particular aspect of Wittgenstein’s conception of philosophical method, but rather the shifts that the various aspects of that conception undergo over time. (Conant 2011: 643 f.)

Ähnlich der dreiteiligen Gliederung bei Stern (vgl. § 7) unterscheidet Conant die drei Werkphasen „Early“ (1911– 1929), „Middle“ (1929 – 37) und „Later“ (1937– 1951) (Conant 2011: 634), etabliert jedoch – im Unterschied zu Stern (vgl. § 7) – nach einer ersten Wende von 1929, eine zweite „Wende“ oder „a second […] Kehre“ für das Jahr 1937 (Conant 2011: 639). So we get the transition from Early Wittgenstein to Middle Wittgenstein which comes with the shift from the logic of our language to a plurality of logical grammars.Yet, at a later stage, we encounter Later Wittgenstein […] charging Middle Wittgenstein with having failed to be fully resolute in his criticisms of Early Wittgenstein […]. (Conant 2011: 643)

Indem Conant eine Verbindung zwischen den pluralischen Verwendungen der Begriffe „Methoden“ und „Wenden“ etabliert, relativiert er die herkömmliche Verwendung des Begriffs der „Wende“ und eröffnet damit für die Forschung völlig neue Perspektiven.

4 Ästhetische Aspekte 4.1 Die Kontinuität der Wenden der „mittleren Periode“ (§ 13) Die in diesem Beitrag vorgestellten Thesen zu Wittgensteins „Wenden“ beziehen sich – mit Ausnahme von Danièle Moyal-Sharrock – auf die sog. „mittlere Periode“ der Schriften Wittgensteins. Dabei lässt sich ein erstaunliches Phänomen erkennen, denn der Zeitpunkt dieser „Wenden“ verschiebt sich – mit Ausnahme von David Stern – entsprechend der Veröffentlichungen der Autoren von 1986 bis 2010 innerhalb der „mittleren Periode“ kontinuierlich von 1929 bis 1937, im Einzelnen von 1929, 1930 – 32, 1934– 36, 1936, 1936 – 37 bis 1937. Alle Autoren, mit Ausnahme von M.B. und J. Hintikka, nehmen dabei direkt oder indirekt auf die zeitlich unmittelbare vorausgehende „Wende“ Bezug, aber nicht immer auf alle vorausgehenden „Wenden“. So entsteht der Eindruck einer kontinuierlichen Korrektur und Veränderung der in den früheren Veröffentlichungen postulierten „Wenden“.


Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“

Gleichzeitig verschieben sich dabei auch die jeweiligen Bezugspunkte der „Wenden“. M.B. und J. Hintikka stehen historisch noch der These von „nur zwei Wittgensteins“ (vgl. § 6) nahe und beziehen sich dadurch stärker auf Wittgensteins Abhandlung. Stern betont die Bedeutung der Jahre 1934– 36, Kienzler 1930 – 32. Seit Pichler erhielt mit MS 142 die sog. „Frühversion“ der Untersuchungen von 1936/ 37 besondere Bedeutung, die jedoch im wesentlichen bereits die §§ 1– 189 der „Spätversion“ enthält, und somit auch der Werkphase der Untersuchungen zugeordnet werden könnte. Kuusela datiert die „Wende“ zunächst auf 1931 und mit Bezugnahme auf die „Frühversion“ auf 1936/37, James Conant spricht von „Skjolden, 1937“. Die dreiteilige Gliederung der „mittleren Periode“, in „early“, „middle“, „late“ (vgl. § 7), führte Conant zur These, daß es sich streng genommen um zwei „Wenden“ handelt (vgl. § 12). Übersicht zu unterschiedlichen „Wenden“ der „mittleren Periode“ Hintikka/Hintikka Stern Kienzler Pichler Kuusela Conant

     

Phänomenologische Sprache Praktischer Holismus Interpretationen Freges Stil des Albums Anti-Dogmatismus Pluralität der Methoden

 / /  / 

Die erste Spalte enthält die Autorennamen, die zweite das Veröffentlichungsdatum, die dritte Stichworte zum Charakter der „Wende“, die vierte Angaben zum Zeitpunkt der Wende.

4.2 Ethische Aspekte der „Wenden“ der mittleren Periode (§ 14) Was die Möglichkeiten ethischer Interpretationen der hier vorgestellten „Wenden“ anbelangt, kann darauf hingewiesen werden, dass Oskari Kuusela den Begriff der „Wende“ explizit mit einer „antidogmatischen“ Haltung Wittgensteins verbindet (vgl. § 11). In einem weiteren, auch rezeptionsgeschichtlich begründeten Sinne, ist aber auch schon der einfache Umstand bemerkenswert, dass im Werk Wittgensteins für den Zeitraum der „mittleren Periode“ von unterschiedlichen Autoren mindestens sechs unterschiedliche und auch jeweils unterschiedlich begründete „Wenden“ bestimmt werden können. In diesem Zusammenhang ist auch zu erwähnen, dass es sich bei den hier vorgestellten „Wenden“ nur um – wenn auch


Peter Keicher

sehr wichtige – Beispiele handelt. Tatsächlich dürften genauere Studien der wissenschaftlichen Literatur ergeben, dass von anderen Autoren noch weitere bedeutende „Wenden“ oder Veränderungen innerhalb der „mittleren Periode“ benannt wurden. Die hier vorgestellten Beispiele der Übergänge zwischen den jeweiligen Bezugspunkten der „Wenden“ der „mittleren Periode“ zeigen ebenfalls, dass mit einem zunehmenden Differenzierungsgrad der Auseinandersetzung mit Wittgensteins Philosophie auch die Grenzen zwischen entsprechenden zeitlichen Periodisierungen fließend werden. Nicht nur die Möglichkeit, im Werk Wittgensteins für einen Zeitraum von wenigen Jahren sehr unterschiedliche „Wenden“ bestimmen zu können, sondern auch der Umstand dieser zunehmend fließenden Übergänge bei einer detaillierten Beschäftigung mit Wittgensteins Philosophie deuten auf eine besondere Eigenart der Schriften Wittgensteins, die sich einer vorschnellen Kategorisierung und vereinfachten Periodisierung zu entziehen scheinen. Die Unterteilung seiner Schriften in eine „frühe“, „mittlere“ und „spätere“ Werkphase ist aus heuristischen Gründen mit Sicherheit ebenso notwendig wie sinnvoll. Um Wittgensteins Werk gerecht zu werden, in einem ethischen und ästhetischen Sinne gleichermaßen, muss jedoch bei sorgfältigen Studien auch dessen Eigengesetzlichkeit berücksichtig werden. Die Aspekte der Kontinuität und Diskontinuität, Gleichzeitigkeit und Ungleichzeitigkeit, Eindeutigkeit, Mehrdeutigkeit und Bedeutungsvielfalt gilt es dabei auch in ihren jeweiligen Widersprüchlichkeiten zu berücksichtigen. Vor allem durch die zahlreichen Umarbeitungen seiner Schriften kommt es auch immer wieder zu Veränderungen der Bezugnahmen auf frühere Werkphasen.

4.3 Erweiterung des Begriffs der „Wende“ (§ 15) Der Begriff der „Wende“ wird in der Forschung vor allem für die „mittlere Periode“ verwendet, und somit ist es fraglich, ob und inwieweit dieser Begriff zur Kennzeichnung bedeutender Veränderungen der Auffassungen Wittgensteins auch während anderer Werkphasen geeignet erscheint. Hier seien nur einige diesbezügliche Beispiele aufgeführt. In der neueren Forschung gibt es Hinweise darauf, dass bereits bei der Werkfindung für die Abhandlung mehrere Phasen unterschieden werden können, die im Detail mit bedeutenden Veränderungen der Auffassungen Wittgensteins verbunden sind (vgl. Pilch 2014). Max Black hat bereits im Jahr 1964 ähnliche Thesen vertreten, wenn er zur Abhandlung bemerkt: „A reading of the notebooks suggests that his views were in flux throughout the composition of the book.

Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“


I believe his position was deliberatedly frozen for the sake of publication.“ (Black 1964: 23) Nur kurze Zeit nach dem Jahr 1937 bedeutete im Jahr 1938 der „Anschluss Österreichs“ für Wittgenstein nicht nur einen biografischen Wendepunkt, seine Professur in Cambridge und die mit dieser verbundene Beschäftigung mit Logik und Mathematik betreffen auch sein philosophisches Werk. Weder das Verhältnis zwischen den noch im Jahr 1937 entstandenen Bemerkungen und der sog. „zweiten Hälfte“ der Untersuchungen (TS 221) von 1938/39, die gewöhnlich der Philosophie der Mathematik zugeordnet wird, noch der erneute Wechsel zur Philosophie der Psychologie im Jahr 1944 sind bislang genauer erforscht. Tatsächlich beinhalten auch die Jahre 1938 und 1944 bedeutende Wendepunkte in Wittgensteins Philosophie. Danièle Moyal-Sharrock benennt mit den von ihr dem „dritten Wittgenstein“ zugeordneten Schriften (vgl. § 10) methodisch, stilistisch und thematisch ausgesprochen unterschiedliche Stücke, darunter auch die Zettel, die zahlreiche früher entstandene Bemerkungen enthalten, und so dürften auch genauere Studien der Schriften von 1946 bis 1951 einige vielschichtige Veränderungen für die von Wittgenstein behandelten Themen ersichtlich machen.

4.4 Exkurs. Zur Etymologie der Begriffe „Wende“ und „Turn“ (§ 16) Der Begriff „Wende“ und das Verb „wenden“ leiten sich ab vom indogermanischen Verb „uendh“, das „drehen“, „winden“, „wenden“, und „flechten“ bedeutete. Später wurden die Aspekte des „Bindens“ und „Flechtens“ um zahlreiche Aspekte erweitert, z. B. im Germanischen „wendan“, „windan“ und „wandjan“, wobei der Begriff subjektivisch auch für einen besonderen Umstand, wie heute „Bewandtnis“ verwendet wurde, oder auch in dem Sinne, große Sorgfalt anzuwenden, wie heute „aufwendig“.Verwandt mit „Wende“ sind auch „wandeln“ und „wandern“, die auch Aspekte der Reise beinhalten. Der englische Begriff „turn“ leitet sich ab vom lateinischen Verb „tornare“, „drehen“ und „rund machen“, das seinerseits auf griechisch „τορνος“, zurückgeht, das offenbar eine „Drehbank“ bezeichnete. Im französischen sind verwandt „tour“ oder „tourné“. Trotz der sehr unterschiedlichen etymologischen Herkunft sind die Begriffe „Wende“ und „turn“ somit beide mit Begriffen wie „Wanderung“ oder „Tour“ verwandt. Diese etymologischen Bedeutungen erscheinen auch aufschlussreich für das Verständnis von Wittgensteins Vergleichen seiner Bemerkungen mit „Land-


Peter Keicher

schaftsskizzen“, die „auf langen und verwickelten Fahrten“ (TS 227: 2) entstanden sind, im Vorwort der Untersuchungen.

4.5 Die ethische Bedeutung der „Drehung der Betrachtung“ (§ 17) Ludwig Wittgenstein selbst spricht in den Philosophischen Untersuchungen hinsichtlich seiner früheren in der Abhandlung vertretenen Auffassungen nicht von einer „Wende“ sondern von der Notwendigkeit, die „Betrachtung zu drehen“. Das Vorurteil der Kristallreinheit kann nur so beseitigt werden, daß wir unsere ganze Betrachtung drehen. (Man könnte sagen: die Betrachtung muß gedreht werden, aber um unser eigentliches Bedürfnis als Angelpunkt.) (TS 227: 83, Nr. 108)

Diese „Drehung“ der Betrachtung dient der Beseitigung eines Vorurteils und steht somit in enger Verbindung zu den ethischen und „antidogmatischen“ Aspekten, die z. B. bei Kuuselas Charakterisierung der „Wende“ betont werden (vgl. § 11).

4.6 Malerische Aspekte (§ 18) Es mag für die Werke eines philosophischen Autors ungewöhnlich erscheinen, doch Wittgensteins Schriften lassen sich in methodischer und stilistischer Hinsicht mit bedeutenden etwa zeitgleich entstandenen künstlerischen Ausdrucksformen der Malerei der Moderne vergleichen (vgl. Keicher 2003). Die Unterscheidung zwischen Wittgensteins „früher“ und „später“ Philosophie ist in gewisser Weise vergleichbar mit der zwischen „analytischem“ und „synthetischem Kubismus“ bei Georges Braque und Pablo Picasso. Die Werke des „analytischen“ Kubismus nahmen ihren Ausgang von den konstruktiven Aspekten der Malerei Cézannes und führten durch die Variationen einer Vielzahl von Perspektiven zu immer feiner ausdifferenzierten facettenartig strukturierten Gemälden, deren streng reduzierte Formensprache an hermetischer Geschlossenheit kaum mehr zu überbieten war. Ähnlich besteht auch die Abhandlung aus einzelnen kurzen Sätzen, die in einer konstruktiv sehr strengen hermetischen Komposition verbunden werden, wobei die Bedeutungen einzelner Begriffe ähnlich wie im Kubismus aus unterschiedlichen Perspektiven variiert und polyphon in ein wechselseitiges Verhältnis gesetzt werden. Nachdem die strenge Reduktion der Formensprache des „analytischen“ Kubismus kaum mehr zu steigern war, führte die von Braque und Picasso ange-

Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“


wandte Technik der Collage zu ebenso überraschenden wie folgerichtigen Veränderungen, denn nun gelangte in die streng monochromen Bilder die Farbe zurück, und die „analytische“ Formensprache, die damals auch als „wissenschaftliche“ Kunstform galt (Cabanne 1964: 198), wurde durch Bezugnahmen auf Gegenstände des Alltags erweitert, wodurch sich der „synthetische“ Kubismus wieder für die Lebenswelt öffnete und eine Fülle von Variationen der künstlerischen Ausdrucksformen ermöglichte. Ähnlich wendet sich auch Wittgenstein in seiner späteren Philosophie der „gewöhnlichen“ Sprache zu, er behält wie Braque und Picasso eine Variation der Perspektiven und „Aspektwechsel“ bei, und sein späteres Werk kann zwar in einem Gegensatz zum früheren Werk und doch gleichzeitig als dessen folgerichtige Fortsetzung interpretiert werden. Wittgenstein selbst hat seine philosophische Arbeit mehrmals mit der eines Malers verglichen. Für die Entwicklung seines philosophischen Begriffs des „Aspektwechsels“ bezieht er sich auf Picassos Werke, die ebenfalls verschiedene „Aspekte“ berücksichtigen. Denk an eine Darstellung eines Gesichts von vorn und im Profil zugleich, wie in manchen modernen Bildern Picassos. Eine Darstellung, in die eine Bewegung, eine Änderung, ein Schweifen, des Blicks miteinbezogen ist. (MS 134: 172)

Eine in Bezug auf die Bedeutung des Begriffs der „Wende“ besonders bedeutende Bemerkung findet sich in Wittgensteins Tagebuch (MS 183). Meine Hauptdenkbewegung ist heute eine ganz andere als vor 15 – 20 Jahren. Und das ist ähnlich, wie wenn ein Maler von einer Richtung zu einer andern übergeht. (MS 183: 141)

Da Wittgenstein Werke von Picasso kannte, ist nicht auszuschließen, dass er bei diesem Vergleich tatsächlich an Picasso dachte. Die zitierte Bemerkung wurde offenbar im Jahr 1932 verfasst und im gleichen Jahr fand in Zürich die weltweit erste Picasso gewidmete Retrospektive statt. Da diese Ausstellung erstmals Werke Picassos aus sehr unterschiedlichen Schaffensperioden bis 1932 umfasste, war das Publikum damals von Picassos zahlreichen Stilwechseln überrascht. Es ist durchaus möglich, dass Wittgenstein diese Ausstellung durch Erzählungen oder Zeitungsberichte zur Kenntnis genommen hat, denn diese Retrospektive fand damals auch international besonders großes Interesse.


Peter Keicher

4.7 Die Vielzahl unterschiedlicher Arbeitsmethoden (§ 19) James Conant hat auf die Bedeutung einer Pluralität der Methoden für Wittgensteins späteres Verständnis der Philosophie hingewiesen (vgl. § 12). In pragmatischer Hinsicht sind Wittgensteins praktische Arbeitsmethoden für seine philosophischen Schriften geradezu konstitutiv. Wittgenstein notierte seine Bemerkungen in Notizbücher, er schrieb ausgewählte Bemerkungen in Manuskriptbände ab, aus diesen diktierte er Typoskripte, die er oft weiter bearbeitete, indem er Zettelsammlungen anlegte oder für die Komposition seiner Werke verschiedene numerische Systeme entwickelte. Diese nur scheinbar einfachen Arbeitstechniken erlauben eine erstaunliche Fülle pragmatischer Variationen, und tatsächlich ist in Wittgensteins Nachlass eine überraschende Vielzahl sehr unterschiedlicher von Wittgenstein angewandter Arbeitsmethoden dokumentiert. Bei einigen der bekanntesten Stücke, z. B. beim sog. „Teil I“ und „II“ der Untersuchungen sind die stilistischen Unterschiede, die eng mit den Methoden der Erarbeitung der jeweiligen Stücke verwandt sind, auch in der veröffentlichten Form deutlich erkennbar, bei anderen Stücken werden die Unterschiede erst durch genauere Studien der methodischen Werkfindung in Wittgensteins Nachlass ersichtlich. Für bedeutende Veränderungen der praktischen Arbeitsmethoden Wittgensteins, auf die z. B. Kienzler (vgl. § 8) und Pichler (vgl. § 9) aufmerksam gemacht haben, ließen sich in Wittgensteins Nachlass mehrere weitere Beispiele anführen. Den Veränderungen der philosophischen Ausrichtungen und Themen Wittgensteins während unterschiedlicher Werkphasen entsprechen nicht selten auch Veränderungen seiner praktischen Arbeitsmethoden für die Erarbeitung einzelner Werke.

4.8 Der Begriff des „Aspektwechsels“ (§ 20) Da der Begriff der „Wende“ vor allem im Kontext der „mittleren Periode“ verwendet wird, steht zur Frage, ob und inwieweit dieser Begriff für eine Interpretation der Veränderungen der Auffassungen Wittgensteins und der von ihm behandelten Themen auch für andere Werkphasen angemessen erscheint. Der Begriff des „Aspektwechsels“ erscheint geeignet, um auch im Detail die feinen und mehrschichtigen Übergänge oder Veränderungen zu charakterisieren, die bei Wittgenstein in verschiedenen Werkphasen auf unterschiedliche Weise stattfinden, von der Abhandlung bis zu den Untersuchungen und in den späteren Schriften. Der Begriff des „Aspektwechsels“ könnte auch auf das Verhältnis zwischen einzelnen Bemerkungen angewandt werden, oder für die gleichen Be-

Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“


merkungen, deren Bedeutung sich in unterschiedlichen Werkphasen in einem neuen Kontext verändern kann.

5 Zusammenfassung Mit den Veröffentlichungen aus Wittgensteins Nachlass, seit 1953 bei Basil Blackwell und seit 1960 bei Suhrkamp, mit der Verfügbarkeit des Mikrofilms der „Cornell Copy“ des Nachlasses seit 1969, mit der „Wiener Ausgabe“ seit 1993 und vor allem mit der Veröffentlichung der Bergen Electronic Edition des Nachlasses im Jahr 2001 veränderte sich auch kontinuierlich die Wahrnehmung des philosophischen Werkes Wittgensteins, die Unterscheidung von „frühem“ und „spätem“ Wittgenstein wurde um die „mittlere Periode“ erweitert, und seit einigen Jahren ist auch von einem „dritten“ Wittgenstein die Rede. Die hier vorgestellten Thesen zu Wittgensteins „Wenden“, beziehen sich auf die sog. „mittlere Periode“ der Schriften Wittgensteins und damit stehen sie indirekt mit der Unterscheidung eines „frühen“ und „späten“ Wittgenstein in Verbindung. Ohne detaillierte Bezugnahmen auf Wittgensteins Nachlass wären diese Thesen und ihre jeweiligen Datierungen kaum vorstellbar. Durch James Conants „Wittgenstein’s Methods“ erhielt die Diskussion der „Wenden“ jedoch im doppelten Wortsinn eine neue „Wende“, denn Conant kritisiert auch die bislang übliche Verwendung des Begriffs, einerseits hinsichtlich vereinfachter Periodisierungen und andererseits als eine vermeintlich kategoriale Unterscheidung eines „davor“ und „danach“ bezüglich nur eines bestimmten Aspekts der Philosophie Wittgensteins. Tatsächlich bilden die Veränderungen der philosophischen Auffassungen Wittgensteins und der von ihm behandelten Themen einen mehrschichtigen Prozess, und bereits der Umstand, dass für die „mittlere Periode“ sechs unterschiedliche Wenden benannt werden können, zeigt eine Eigenart der Schriften Wittgensteins, die sich einer vereinfachten Periodisierung und Kategorisierung zu entziehen scheinen. Die in „Wittgenstein’s Methods“ von Conant vertretenen Thesen sind indirekt mit den Fragen verbunden, ob der Begriff der „Wende“ in der singularischen Form dem Charakter der Philosophie Wittgensteins tatsächlich gerecht werden kann, und inwieweit dieser Begriff sich auch auf andere Werkphasen beziehen lässt. Deshalb wurde in diesem Beitrag auf einige andere bedeutende Werkphasen hingewiesen, z. B. die Erarbeitung der Abhandlung, das Verhältnis zwischen der Philosophie der Mathematik und der Philosophie der Psychologie oder die Schriften des sog. „dritten“ Wittgenstein. Dabei stehen nicht mehr nur Übergänge von „frühem“ zu „spätem“ Wittgenstein zur Frage, sondern Veränderungen zwischen und innerhalb unterschiedlicher Werkphasen. Als eine Alternative zum


Peter Keicher

Begriff der „Wende“ wurde der Begriff des „Aspektwechsels“ angeführt, der auch auf einzelne Bemerkungen Wittgensteins angewandt werden kann. Ohne auf die in der Wittgensteinforschung sehr unterschiedlichen Verwendungen des Begriffs der „Methode“ bei Wittgenstein näher einzugehen, wurde auf die Bedeutung der praktischen Arbeitsmethoden Wittgensteins hingewiesen. Um die Bedeutung der praktischen Arbeitsmethoden in ihrer Verbindung zu Aspekten des Stils und methodischer Darstellungsformen zu betonen, wurden Vergleiche der Methoden Wittgensteins mit bildnerischen Methoden der Malerei der Moderne bei Georges Braque und Pablo Picasso angeführt. Dadurch sollte auch die Bedeutung des Begriffs der „Wende“ relativiert und mit stilistischen oder künstlerischen Richtungswechseln verglichen werden, die dem Werk eines Künstlers einen besonderen Reichtum an Bedeutungsaspekten verleihen können. Der Vergleich der Schriften Wittgensteins mit Arbeiten von Picasso kann auch dazu dienen, auf die Bedeutung der Veröffentlichung des Wittgenstein Nachlasses bei Wittgensteinsource aufmerksam zu machen. Ähnlich wie Picasso als einer der bedeutendsten Künstler des 20. Jahrhunderts gilt, gilt Wittgenstein als einer der bedeutendsten Philosophen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Die Veröffentlichung der Faksimiles seines philosophischen Nachlasses ist nicht nur in philosophischer, sondern auch in kulturgeschichtlicher und ästhetischer Hinsicht besonders wertvoll.

Literatur Bachmann, Ingeborg (1953): „Ludwig Wittgenstein – Zu einem Kapitel der jüngsten Philosophiegeschichte“. In: Frankfurter Hefte. Jg. 8, Heft 7, Juli, S. 540 – 545. [Von Ingeborg Bachmann bearbeiteter Neuabdruck (1960) in: Ludwig Wittgenstein: Schriften, Beiheft 1. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, S. 1 – 15.] Bachmann, Ingeborg (1954): „Sagbares und Unsagbares – Die Philosophie Ludwig Wittgensteins“. Hörspiel, 16. September 1954, Bayerischer Rundfunk. [Abgedruckt in: Ingeborg Bachmann (1978): Werke. Band 4. Zürich, München: Piper, S. 103 – 127.] Baker, Gordon/Hacker, Peter (2005): Wittgenstein: Understanding and Meaning. Volume 1 of An Analytic Commentary on the Philosophical Investigations. Part II: Exegesis §§ 1 – 184. [1. Aufl. 1980] Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Black, Max (1964): A Companion to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cabanne, Pierre (1964): Die heroische Zeit des Kubismus. Stuttgart, Wien, New York: Neff. Conant, James (2010): „A Development in Wittgenstein’s Conception of Philosophy: From ‘The Method’ to Methods“. In: Stefan Tolksdorf/Holm Tetens (Hrsg.): In Sprachspiele verstrickt – oder: Wie man der Fliege den Ausweg zeigt. Verflechtungen von Wissen und Können. Berlin, New York: De Gruyter, S. 55 – 80.

Bemerkungen zum Begriff der „Wende“


Conant, James (2011): „Wittgenstein’s Methods“. In: Marie McGinn/Oskari Kuusela (Hrsg.): The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein. Oxford: Oxford University Press, S. 620 – 645. Fann, Kuang Tih (1971): Die Philosophie Ludwig Wittgensteins. München List Verlag. [Engl. Erstausgabe (1969): Wittgenstein’s Conception of Philosophy. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.] Feyerabend, Paul (1954): „Ludwig Wittgenstein“. In: Merkur. Deutsche Zeitschrift für europäisches Denken. Jg. 8, Nr. 11, November, S. 1021 – 1038. [Bearbeiteter Neuabdruck von „Wittgenstein und die Philosophie, I“. In: Wissenschaft und Weltbild. 7, Nr. 5 – 6, Mai-Juni 1954, S. 212 – 220; Wittgenstein und die Philosophie, II“. In: Wissenschaft und Weltbild. 7, Nr. 7 – 8, Juli – August 1954, S. 283 – 287.] Feyerabend, Paul (1955): „Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations“. In: The Philosophical Review 64. No. 3, Juli, S. 449 – 483. Feyerabend, Paul (1995): Zeitverschwendung, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Hacker, Peter (1996): Wittgenstein. Mind and Will. An Analytic Commentary on the Philosophical Investigations Volume 4. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Hintikka, Jaakko/Hintikka, Meril B. (1990): Untersuchungen zu Wittgenstein. Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp. [Engl. Erstausgabe (1986): Investigating Wittgenstein. Oxford: Blackwell.] Hintikka, Jaakko (1996): „Die Wende der Philosophie: Wittgenstein’s New Logic of 1928“. In: Jaakko Hintikka: Ludwig Wittgenstein. Half-Truths and One-and-a-Half-Truths. Selected Papers. Vol. 1. Dordrecht, Boston, London: Kluver Academic Publishers, S. 79 – 105. [Neuabdruck; zuerst erschienen 1988, in: Ota Weinberger/Peter Koller/Alfred Schramm (Hrsg.): Philosophy of Law, Politics and Society. Proceedings of the 12th International Wittgenstein Symposium, Kirchberg am Wechsel, 1987. Wien: Hölder Pichler Tempsky, S. 380 – 396.] Keicher, Peter (2003): „Aspekte malerischer Gestaltung bei Ludwig Wittgenstein. Studienfragmente zum Vergleich der Arbeitsweise Wittgensteins mit der bildnerischen Praxis der Malerei der frühen Moderne“. In: Katalin Neumer (Hrsg.): Traditionen Wittgensteins. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, S. 157 – 199. Kienzler, Wolfgang (1997): Wittgensteins Wende zu seiner Spätphilosophie 1930 – 1932. Eine historische und systematische Darstellung. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Kuusela, Oskari (2008): The Struggle against Dogmatism. Wittgenstein and the Concept of Philosophy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. McVeigh, Joseph (2016): Ingeborg Bachmanns Wien 1946 – 1953. Berlin: Insel Verlag. Moyal-Sharrock, Danièle (2004): „Introduction: The idea of a third Wittgenstein“. In Danièle Moyal-Sharrock (Hrsg.): The Third Wittgenstein. The Post-Investigations Works. Aldershot, Burlington: Asgate, S. 1 – 11. Pichler, Alois (2004): Wittgensteins Philosophische Untersuchungen: Vom Buch zum Album. Amsterdam, New York: Rodopi. Pilch, Martin (2014): „Der ‚Ur-Tractatusʻ“. In: Sonja Rinofner-Kreidl/Harald A. Wiltsche (Hrsg.): Analytische und kontinentale Philosophie: Perspektiven und Methoden. Beiträge des 37. Ludwig Wittgenstein Symposiums. Kirchberg am Wechsel: ÖLWG, S. 210 – 213. Stegmüller, Wolfgang (71987): Hauptströmungen der Gegenwartsphilosophie. Eine kritische Einführung. Bd. 1. [1. Aufl. 1952] Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner. Stern, David (1991): „The Middle Wittgenstein. From Logical Atomism to Practical Holism“. In: Synthese. No. 87, S. 203 – 226. Stern, David (1995): Wittgenstein on Mind and Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Peter Keicher

Stern, David (2006): „How many Wittgensteins?“ In: Alois Pichler/Simo Säätelä (Hrsg.): Wittgenstein: The Philosopher and his Works. Frankfurt am Main: Ontos, S. 205 – 229. von Wright, Georg Henrik (1982): Wittgenstein. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Andrea Wilke

Die Ethik des frühen Wittgenstein – Eine Annäherung aus kantischer Perspektive Abstract: Ethics in the Early Wittgenstein—An Approach from a Kantian Point of View. My thesis is that Wittgenstein was not only „tempted“ to use expressions like „the absolute good“ as he wrote so carefully in his lecture on Ethics (LE 1965: 7). On the contrary I want to show that it is possible to infer a precise definition of the good in his Tractatus, and that this is possible in spite of his thesis of the unspeakability of Ethics. For this purpose I want to connect his early philosophy with some of Kant’s ideas. First, I would like to show that for both of them all theoretical philosophy turns out to be a practical venture in so far as it is impossible for the human mind to grasp such entities as the Platonic idea of the good, and that for this reason the human mind has to set such norms autonomously. Second, I would like to show that according to both of them this finite definition of the good can only be done throughout the social environment the human mind is embedded in, so that all theoretical philosophy is not only practically but also aesthetically based.

1 Das Primat der praktischen Philosophie 1.1 Kant In der Vorrede zur zweiten Auflage der Kritik der reinen Vernunft schreibt Kant den berühmten Satz: „Ich mußte also das Wissen aufheben, um zum Glauben Platz zu bekommen.“ (KrV: B XXX) Um zu verstehen,was er damit meint, ist es wichtig, sich klar zu machen, dass das Wort „Wissen“ hier im platonischen Sinne einer wahren, gerechtfertigten Meinung gebraucht wird (vgl. Tht.: 201d – 206b). Die Dinge, an denen die Meinung als wahr gerechtfertigt werden muss, sind hier also die platonischen Ideen, die zumindest in ihrem kantischen Verständnis sowohl universal gültig als auch inhaltlich bestimmt sind. Um die Übereinstimmung unseres Denkens mit solchen Dingen zu überprüfen, bräuchten wir ein Wahrheitskriterium unserer Begriffe, das denselben Anforderungen genügt. Ein allgemeines und zugleich inhaltlich bestimmtes Wahrheitskriterium haben wir jedoch nicht zur Verfügung, da sein Begriff nach Kant „in sich selbst widersprechend“ ist (KrV: A 59|B 84). Die Übereinstimmung unserer Begriffe mit den platonischen Ideen, die für Kant paradigmatisch sind für jedes DOI 10.1515/9783110540413-027


Andrea Wilke

dem menschlichen Denken ontologisch vorgegebenes Sein, kann deshalb nicht festgestellt werden. Aus diesem Grunde schließt Kant das Wissen im platonischen Sinne einer rein in der Sache selbst begründeten „Kenntniß des Objektiven“ (Anth.: 1968: 188) von vorne herein aus seinen Überlegungen aus und bezeichnet er es nur noch pejorativ als das „Hirngespinst“ einer „Ahnung des Übersinnlichen“ (Anth.: 187– 189). Aufgrund dieser Kritik verwirft Kant das metaphysische Adäquationsmodell der menschlichen Erkenntnis, demzufolge sich das menschliche Denken in seinen Erkenntnisbemühungen sukzessive an ein ihm ontologisch vorgegebenes Sein annähern müsste, um am Ende dieses Annäherungsprozesses eine unmittelbare Einsicht in das Wesen der Dinge zu erhalten und dadurch, wie etwa in der Realdefinition eines Begriffes, letztlich mit der erkannten Sache selbst zusammenzufallen. Statt dessen vertritt Kant ein kopernikanisch gewendetes und ontologiekritisch geläutertes Erkenntnis- und Wirklichkeitsmodell, demzufolge sich Objektivität auf der Grundlage unserer subjektiven Denkleistungen ergibt, so dass „die“ Welt immer nur „unsere“ Wirklichkeit ist, und „die“ Dinge immer nur Dinge sind, wie sie uns entsprechend unserer subjektiven Erkenntnisbedingungen als objektiv gegeben erscheinen. Das Wissen ist deshalb nach Kant auch keine wahre, gerechtfertigte Meinung im platonischen Sinne mehr. Es ist nur noch ein Modus des Fürwahrhaltens,wobei Kant in der transzendentalen Methodenlehre seiner Kritik der reinen Vernunft anstelle der rein kombinatorisch möglichen vier Korrelationsarten subjektiver und objektiver Begründung, die in ihrer Anzahl den vier Erkenntnisstufen im platonischen Liniengleichnis entsprechen würden (vgl. Pol.: 504a – 511e), nur noch drei Modi des Fürwahrhaltens unterscheidet: Das Meinen, das Glauben und das Wissen (vgl. KrV: B 850). Allerdings ist der kantische Wissensbegriff nicht nur gegenüber dem platonischen abgeschwächt und in die kritische Position eines bloßen Modus des Fürwahrhaltens überführt. Vielmehr ist es unserem Eingangszitat zufolge auch dem Glauben noch nachgeordnet, was sich innerhalb der kantischen Systematik der Modi des Fürwahrhaltens daraus ergibt, dass hier allein das Glauben praktisch wird, während das Meinen und das Wissen rein theoretische Wirklichkeitsbezüge bleiben, die als solche letztlich keine Relevanz haben für unser „Leben“ – Leben hier verstanden als „seinen Vorstellungen gemäß zu handeln“ (MS: 1). „Was ich glaube, muß ich verantworten“ schreibt Kant deshalb in einer Nachlassreflexion (HN: 2462) und meint damit, dass wir nur im Modus des Glaubens unsere subjektiven Vorstellungen von etwas für „zureichend“ begründet halten, um nach ihnen zu handeln (vgl. KrV: B 850), wobei sich dieser genuine Handlungsbezug des Glaubens aus den o. g. erkenntniskritischen Überlegungen

Die Ethik des frühen Wittgenstein – Eine Annäherung aus kantischer Perspektive


ergibt: Weil es uns nach Kant versagt ist, ein uns ontologisch vorgegebenes Sein, wie etwa die Idee des Guten, in einem ersten Schritt denkend zu erfassen, um uns in einem zweiten handelnd danach zu orientieren, sind wir dazu genötigt, dasjenige, was für uns in theoretischer und praktischer Hinsicht objektiv gegeben sein soll, aus uns selbst heraus zu bestimmen. Dies tun wir nach Kant, indem wir unsere subjektiven Vorstellungen von etwas (bspw. von Dingen, aber auch von unseren subjektiven Handlungsabsichten) so weit verdeutlichen, dass sie hinreichen, um uns handelnd auf sie zu verlassen. Auch das deshalb „pragmatisch‘“ genannte Glauben (vgl. KrV: B 852) bleibt somit nach Kant ein bloßer Modus des Fürwahrhaltens, während eine platonische Schau der Idee des Guten, nach der wir uns praktisch ausrichten könnten, vor dem Hintergrund der kantischen Überlegungen von vornherein ausgeschlossen ist. Im Zusammenhang der kantischen Ethik bedeutet diese Erkenntniskritik die Unergründbarkeit unserer wahren Handlungsmotive: Zwar wissen wir nach Kant, dass wir moralisch handeln, wenn wir dies nach Maximen tun, die dem Sittengesetz folgen. Denn das Sittengesetz ist „ein synthetischer Satz a priori“ (KpV: 56). Ob wir jemals nach Maximen handeln, die der Überprüfung am Sittengesetz standhalten, können wir jedoch nicht feststellen, da wir auch uns selbst nicht so erkennen können, wie wir an uns selbst beschaffen sein mögen, sondern immer nur so, wie wir uns in unseren subjektiven Vorstellungen von uns als objektiv gegeben erscheinen. „Die eigentliche Moralität der Handlungen […], selbst die unseres eigenen Verhaltens, bleibt uns daher gänzlich verborgen“ (KrV: B 579/ Umst. A. W.). Kants generelle Forderung, „sein Urteil nicht ohne noth [zu] fällen“ (HN: 2588, 2506), gilt somit gerade auch in praktischen Belangen: Wenn wir noch nicht einmal unsere eigenen Triebfedern in ihrer wahren Beschaffenheit erkennen können, dann müssen wir uns erst recht davor hüten, die Triebfedern der Handlungen unserer Mitmenschen moralisch zu beurteilen. Solche Urteile könnten immer nur moralische Vorurteile sein, die nichts anderes darstellen als einen bloßen „Irrtum“. (Zum Hang zu vorschnellem Urteilen als Wurzel des Irrtums nach Kant vgl. Hofmann 2000: 136). Bereits mit Blick auf die kantische Ethik kann man deshalb von der Position eines moralischen Quietismus sprechen, so dass Wittgensteins Diktum „Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen“ (TLP 1984: 7), ebenso wie für Wittgenstein auch schon für Kant keineswegs nur im Sinne einer logischen Notwendigkeit gilt, sondern auch als eine, wenn nicht sogar als die erste und oberste moralische Pflicht. (Zur Kritik an einem militanten Moralismus als einer wesentlichen Gemeinsamkeit von Kants und Wittgensteins Ethik vgl. Bouveresse 1994: 93; zur Bezeichnung von Wittgensteins philosophischem Ansatz als einer Form von Quietismus vgl. McDowell 2009.)


Andrea Wilke

1.2 Wittgenstein Damit kommen wir zum Primat der praktischen Philosophie vor der theoretischen bei Wittgenstein, und damit zu dem berühmten Zitat aus einem Brief, den er im Jahr 1919 an Ludwig von Ficker geschrieben hat, dem Herausgeber der Zeitschrift Der Brenner, in welcher der Tractatus ursprünglich erscheinen sollte. In diesem Brief schreibt Wittgenstein über sein Buch: Von seiner Lektüre werden Sie […] nicht allzuviel haben. Denn Sie werden es nicht verstehen; der Stoff wird Ihnen ganz fremd erscheinen. In Wirklichkeit ist er Ihnen nicht fremd, denn der Sinn des Buches ist ein Ethischer. Ich wollte einmal in das Vorwort einen Satz geben, der nun tatsächlich nicht darin steht, den ich Ihnen aber jetzt schreibe, weil er Ihnen vielleicht ein Schlüssel sein wird: Ich wollte nämlich schreiben, mein Werk bestehe aus zwei Teilen: aus dem der hier vorliegt, und aus alledem, was ich nicht geschrieben habe. Und gerade dieser zweite Teil ist der Wichtige. Es wird nämlich das Ethische durch mein Buch gleichsam von Innen her begrenzt; und ich bin überzeugt, dass es streng, NUR so zu begrenzen ist. Kurz, ich glaube: Alles das, was viele heute schwefeln, habe ich in meinem Buch festgelegt, indem ich darüber schweige. (CB 1980: 96 f.)

Betrachtet man diesen Passus vor dem Hintergrund des soeben zu Kant Dargestellten, so ergeben sich vier Parallelen: Erstens betont auch Wittgenstein, dass sein philosophisches Augenmerk auf demjenigen liegt, was man herkömmlicherweise unter praktischer Philosophie versteht. Denn er schreibt: „[D]er Sinn des Buches ist ein Ethischer“ – und das, so könnte man hier zur Verdeutlichung des Gemeinten noch hinzufügen, obwohl es zumindest auf den ersten Blick „nur“ Fragen der Logik und damit dasjenige zu behandeln scheint, was man herkömmlicherweise als theoretische Philosophie auffasst. Dass sich dieses Primat der praktischen Philosophie vor der theoretischen auch bei Wittgenstein aus einer radikalen Erkenntniskritik ergibt, werden wir im Folgenden ausführlicher sehen. Zweitens finden wir auch bei Wittgenstein so etwas wie ein Gebot der moralischen Urteilsenthaltsamkeit, weshalb man auch bei ihm von der Position eines moralischen Quietismus sprechen kann (vgl. McDowell 2009), die in seinem Falle allerdings deutlicher als schon bei Kant in die Form einer allgemeinen Sprachkritik gekleidet ist. Denn Wittgenstein schreibt: „[M]ein Werk besteh[t] aus zwei Teilen: aus dem der hier vorliegt, und aus alledem, was ich nicht geschrieben habe. Und gerade dieser zweite Teil ist der Wichtige“. Wie aus dem Kontext des Satzes hervorgeht, ist mit diesem ungeschrieben gebliebenen, aber eigentlich nur wichtigen zweiten Teil des Tractatus dessen ethischer Sinn oder kurz „das Ethische“ gemeint.

Die Ethik des frühen Wittgenstein – Eine Annäherung aus kantischer Perspektive


Drittens finden wir auch bei Wittgenstein eine Kritik des für uns Denkmöglichen oder kurz eine „Denkkritik“, die man mit Kants Anliegen einer Kritik nicht nur der reinen (theoretischen), sondern darin zugleich der reinen praktischen Vernunft in Beziehung setzen kann. Denn Wittgenstein schreibt: „[I]ch bin überzeugt, dass es“, also das Ethische, „streng“, und das kann in diesem Zusammenhang nur so viel heißen wie: rein aus dem Denken, „NUR so zu begrenzen ist“, wie er dies im Tractatus getan hat. Schließlich ergibt sich auch bei Wittgenstein aus der Kritik des für uns Denkmöglichen eine „Ontologiekritik“ und zwar ebenso wie bei Kant nicht nur bezogen auch auf die Erkennbarkeit einer Welt uns ontologisch vorgegebener Dinge im Allgemeinen, sondern darin zugleich mit Bezug auf die Erkennbarkeit eines an sich Guten im Besonderen. Dies wird deutlich, wenn Wittgenstein schreibt: „Es wird nämlich das Ethische durch mein Buch gleichsam von Innen her begrenzt“. Mit dieser Begrenzung des Ethischen von Innen her kann nur die Definition des Guten von unserem innerweltlichen Standpunkt aus gemeint sein, den wir also auch nicht zugunsten einer platonischen Schau der Idee des Guten transzendieren können.

1.2.1 Ontologiekritik Beginnen wir mit Wittgensteins Ontologiekritik, so kann die Parallele zu Kants Kritik eines allgemeinen und zugleich materialen Wahrheitskriteriums unserer Begriffe bei Wittgenstein in dessen Kritik an Russells Typentheorie gesehen werden. Russell wollte mit seiner Mengenlehre ein Paradox umgehen, in das sich Frege in seinem Versuch der logischen Begründung der Mathematik verstrickt hatte und das dessen Logizismus zu Fall zu bringen drohte. Um dieses Paradox zu vermeiden, hatte Russell eine bestimmte ontologische Grundannahme gemacht, nämlich diejenige, dass es zum Wesen von Mengen gehöre, nicht Teil ihrer selbst sein zu können (vgl. Mayer 1987: 123 – 135). Eine solche Absicherung des menschlichen Denkens (also z. B. der Regeln der Logik) in einer Welt denkunabhängig gegebener Dinge (also z. B. in Mengen von Dingen) hält Wittgenstein jedoch bereits seit der frühesten Phase seines philosophischen Schaffens für abwegig. Schon im Jahr 1912 betont er in einem Brief an Russell, dass dasjenige, was dessen, ontologisch ausgerichtete, Typentheorie sagen möchte, nur durch einen wohlgeformten Symbolismus, und damit rein auf der Ebene der Logik selbst, gezeigt werden könne.


Andrea Wilke

Wörtlich schreibt Wittgenstein, „daß die gesamte Typentheorie durch eine Theorie des Symbolismus ersetzt werden muß, die zeigt, daß die scheinbar verschiedenen Arten von Dingen durch verschiedene Arten von Symbolen, die unmöglich durch einander ersetzt werden können, symbolisiert werden.“ (CB 1980: 25). „Deshalb ist“, wie er es dann in seinen Aufzeichnungen über Logik noch deutlicher formuliert, „eine TypenTHEORIE unmöglich. Sie versucht etwas über Typen zu sagen, während man doch nur über die Symbole sprechen kann.“ (AM 1984: 211) Aus dieser Textstelle – die m. E. bereits Wittgensteins gesamte Ethik in nuce enthält – lässt sich entnehmen, dass Aussagen über das Wesen der Dinge, wie beispielsweise über das Wesen von Mengen, darüber hinaus aber auch über das Wesen von Dingen im Allgemeinen und damit beispielsweise auch über das Wesen des seit Platon ebenfalls dinglich konzipierten „Guten“ im Besonderen, nach Wittgenstein grundsätzlich unmöglich sind, weil wir zu solchen vermeintlich sprach- und denkunabhängig gegebenen Entitäten keinerlei Zugang haben. Anstelle einer Repräsentation des Seins im Denken muss die Logik deshalb nach Wittgenstein „für sich selber sorgen“, wie er es dann im Tractatus ausdrücklich fordert (TLP 1984: 5.473). Im Vorgriff auf seine spätere These von der Autonomie der Grammatik (vgl. Z 1992: 320; PG 1991: 97) kann man deshalb bereits mit Blick auf seine Frühphilosophie von einer These der „Autonomie der Logik“ sprechen (Vossenkuhl 2003: 94). Diese Autonomie des menschlichen Denkens gegenüber einem ihm ontologisch vorgegebenen Sein bedeutet dabei zum einen negativ die Unabhängigkeit von ontologischen Vorgaben, und darin zugleich positiv die Aufgabe, diese Regeln des für uns Wahren und Guten aus uns selbst heraus zu setzen.

1.2.2 Denkkritik Damit kommen wir zu dem, was ich Wittgensteins Denkkritik nennen möchte und was ebenfalls aus der soeben zitierten Textstelle aus den Aufzeichnungen über Logik entnommen werden kann. Dort kritisiert Wittgenstein, dass Russells Typentheorie „versucht, etwas über Typen zu sagen, während man […] nur über […] Symbole sprechen kann“ (AM 1984: 211). Damit macht er eine Gegenüberstellung von verfehltem Wissensanspruch einerseits und dem für uns Denkmöglichen resp. Sagbaren andererseits. Dies kann transzendentalphilosophisch im kantischen Sinne gelesen werden. Denn Kant nennt „alle Erkenntnis transzendental, die sich nicht sowohl mit Gegenständen, sondern mit unserer Erkenntnisart von Gegenständen, sofern diese a priori möglich sein soll, überhaupt beschäftigt.“ (KrV 1990: B 25). Transzendentale Erkenntnis fragt also nicht nach den Dingen selbst, son-

Die Ethik des frühen Wittgenstein – Eine Annäherung aus kantischer Perspektive


dern immer nur nach den subjektiven Möglichkeitsbedingungen ihrer Erkenntnis. Sie betont damit das subjektive Fundament und damit zugleich die genuine Interessegeleitetheit des menschlichen Erkennens. Auf diese Weise ersetzt sie die rein an der Sache selbst ausgerichtete Frage der Metaphysik nach dem, was etwas ist.Wittgensteins transzendentalphilosophische Ausgangsfrage ließe sich deshalb in etwa so formulieren: Was für einen Symbolismus müssen wir voraussetzen, wenn wir denken können wollen, dass er dasjenige leisten kann, worin Russells Typentheorie versagt, dass er nämlich bereits aus sich selbst heraus und damit ohne Rekurs auf ein ihm ontologisch vorgegebenes Sein zeigen kann, wo sich das menschliche Denken in Inkonsistenzen verstrickt.

1.2.3 Sprachkritik Nun gilt nach Wittgenstein allerdings sehr viel stärker als auch schon für Kant, dass „[al]le Philosophie […] ‚Sprachkritikʻ“ ist (TLP 1984: 4.0031). Anders als Kant fragt er deshalb nicht länger nur bewusstseinsphilosophisch nach den subjektiven Möglichkeitsbedingungen objektiver Erkenntnis. Vielmehr wendet Wittgenstein seine transzendentale Ausgangsfrage dem generellen linguistic turn seiner Zeit entsprechend noch einmal sprachphilosophisch, um die subjektiven Möglichkeitsbedingungen der Darstellung von Wirklichkeit in Sprache zu thematisieren. Dabei ist zu beachten, dass im vollständigen Vollzug dieser linguistischen Wende die Sprache nicht mehr als die bloß konventionelle Bezeichnung reiner Denkformen aufgefasst werden kann, die ihrerseits das Wesen ontologisch vorgegebener Entitäten repräsentieren würden.Vielmehr ist in der Umkehrung dieser herkömmlichen Verhältnisbestimmung von Sein, Denken und Sprechen in das Konzept eines sprachlich verfassten Denkens der Wirklichkeit die Sprache nur noch als eine Verbindung von materiellen Zeichen denkbar, die auch ihren intentionalen Gehalt aus sich selbst heraus erzeugen müssen. Auf diese Weise ist es m. E. zu verstehen, wenn Wittgenstein sagt, dass er im Tractatus eine „Grenzziehung des Sagbaren von Innen her“ beabsichtige (TLP 1984: Vorwort). Das Ergebnis dieser innersprachlichen Grenzziehung des Sagbaren liefert uns Wittgenstein dann mit seiner Bildtheorie des Satzes. Ihre Grundannahme lautet, dass wir uns in unseren Sätzen „Bilder“ von Tatsachen „machen“ (TLP 1984: 2.1). Sätze werden hier also als sinnlich-konkrete Bilder im Vollsinne des Wortes und damit keineswegs als bloße Abbilder idealer Urbilder aufgefasst. Eher handelt es sich dabei um so etwas wie die produktiven Erzeugnisse der menschlichen Einbildungskraft, um hier eine kantische Terminologie zu verwenden. Wittgenstein selbst bezeichnet die von ihm als Bilder aufgefassten Sätze der menschlichen Sprache in einem mehr technischen Sinne als „Modelle“ (TLP 1984: 2.12), die der