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Toward post-aesthetics: A critique of post -Enlightenment discourse from Kant to Adorno

Kyoung-Hoon Yoo, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation explores two major issues: the critical debates on the Enlightenment and the construction of post-aesthetics. The debates between modernists and (post)modernists can be rendered as new accounts of the ongoing clash on how to come to terms with the legacy of the Enlightenment. Habermas emphasizes the Enlightenment as in a continuous process toward maturity. His communicative action theory is an endeavor to complete the “unfinished project” of modernity that requires a more rigorous absorption of the Enlightenment principles of reason so as to overcome current social problems. To the contrary, (post)modernists diagnose the destabilization of reason and provide new interpretations of rationalistic principles of the Enlightenment that are necessarily intertwined with the current problems. The (post)modern critique of modernity, however, is not a disavowal of reason but an investigation that is in continuity with the critical ethos of the Enlightenment's longing for a more enlightened society. This argument comprises the first chapter that interweaves critical thinkers as diverse as Kant, Hegel, Horkheimer, Foucault, Lacan, Habermas, and Adorno in the development of post-aesthetics. ^ Adorno's post-aesthetics reenacts critically Kant's failed project of synthesizing two lacerated domains of knowledge and morality through aesthetic mediation. Aesthetic judgment, according to Kant, has nothing to do with objective cognition, moral determination, and sensuous gratification. It should be pure, autonomous, disinterested, and purposive without any specific purpose in order to avoid falling into the grip of heteronomy. A sustained experience with art ascertains the supersensible substrate that completes total subjectivity integrating the three faculties of understanding, reason, and judgment. Kant disregards, however, aesthetics' dialectical relation with nonaesthetic realms so that art is doomed not only to occupy its non-interactive niche but also to lose its critical power against diremptive society. Post-aesthetics configures art's autonomy and critique in an effort to construct a viable nexus of knowledge, morality, and art that could offer an exceptional model of reconciliation. ^

Subject Area

Literature, Modern|Philosophy

Recommended Citation

Yoo, Kyoung-Hoon, "Toward post-aesthetics: A critique of post -Enlightenment discourse from Kant to Adorno" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3055299.