ZUIDERVAART, Lambert_Cultural Paths and Aesthetic

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    DOI: 10.1177/0191453703029003004 2003 29: 315Philosophy Social Criticism

    Lambert ZuidervaartValidity

    Cultural Paths and Aesthetic Signs : A Critical Hermeneutics of Aesthetic

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  • Lambert Zuidervaart

    Cultural paths and aestheticsignsA critical hermeneutics of aestheticvalidity

    Abstract Contemporary philosophical stances toward artistic truthderive from Kants aesthetics. Whereas philosophers who share Kantsemphasis on aesthetic validity discount arts capacity for truth, philosopherswho share Hegels critique of Kant render artistic truth inaccessible. Thisessay proposes a critical hermeneutic account of aesthetic validity thatsupports a non-esoteric notion of artistic truth. Using Gadamer and Adornoto read Kant through Hegelian eyes, I reconstruct the aesthetic dimensionfrom three polarities in modern Western societies. Then I describe aestheticvalidity as an horizon of imaginative cogency governing the exploration,presentation and creative interpretation of aesthetic signs. The essay arguesthat aesthetic processes, so construed, are crucial to cultural pathfinding,and that aesthetic validity-claims in art talk contribute significantly to thispursuit. Aesthetic validity, cultural orientation and art talk constitute thehermeneutical matrix from which questions of artistic truth emerge.

    Key words Theodor W. Adorno aesthetics art Hans-Georg Gadamer Jrgen Habermas hermeneutics imagination Immanuel Kant language validity

    The idea of artistic truth has fallen on hard times. It has received fewsustained visits in Anglo-American philosophy since mid-centuryanalyses by John Hospers (1946) and Monroe Beardsley (1958).1 Evencontinental philosophers after Martin Heidegger and Theodor W.Adorno have come to doubt its viability. One must think twice beforeentering theoretical ruins where even philosophers fear to tread.

    Yet the issues traditionally addressed under the label of artistic

    PSCPHILOSOPHY & SOCIAL CRITICISM vol 29 no 3 pp. 315340

    Copyright 2003 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi)www.sagepublications.com [0191-4537(200305)29:3;315340;032999]

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  • truth have not disappeared. If anything, they have intensified: the roleof artists in society, relations between art and knowledge, and questionsabout validity in cultural interpretations. What has changed is theparadigm with which philosophers work. Whereas philosophers used tosort out such issues in terms of a mediation between (epistemic) subjectand (epistemic) object and whatever transcends this mediation, nowthey emphasize language, intertextuality and context. To revisit the ideaof artistic truth is to test the potential and limitations of a postmeta-physical paradigm in contemporary philosophy.2

    This cannot be done, however, without revisiting Immanuel Kant.Contemporary philosophical stances toward artistic truth derive fromKants aesthetics. Kant recognizes that validity encompasses more thanepistemic truth: validity is multidimensional. In distinguishing aestheticvalidity (beauty) from epistemic validity (truth) and moral validity(goodness or rightness), however, Kant gives an ambiguous account.On the one hand, he demarcates an unusual zone of experience andactivity where imaginative cognition and creative conduct can occur. Heemphasizes an irreducible dimension of valid aesthetic judgment and,by extension, of aesthetic experience and aesthetic objects. And hedefines the fine arts with reference to this dimension, as those areas ofproduction and reception in which aesthetic ideas and taste prevail.On the other hand, Kants descriptions of this zone untether it from hisusual anchors of validity, namely, intellectual concepts and rationalideas. Hence aesthetic experience and activity, as aesthetic, are neithertheoretical nor practical and are not fully constituted in a Kantian sense.His account of the subjective universality and exemplary necessity oftaste-judgments reflects this untethering, as does his account of thebeautiful as purposiveness without purpose. To be sure, Kants subse-quent descriptions of (aesthetic) reflective judgment as a common senseand of beauty as the symbol of morality try to establish ties from theaesthetic to the epistemic and the moral. Yet his demarcation of the aes-thetic does not allow him fully to secure the aesthetic dimension as onein which valid experience and activity occur. Many followers of Kantdo not expect to find truth or goodness in aesthetic matters, nor in thosearts where aesthetic considerations prevail. How to anchor aestheticvalidity remains obscure.

    When Hegel, criticizing Kant, reintroduces truth and goodness intoarts vocation, he simultaneously cuts art loose from ordinary aestheticexperience and activity (i.e. the realm of natural beauty, in Kantsaccount), and he makes art subservient to philosophical interpretation.For the most part, recent philosophers in the English-speaking worldhave followed Kant rather than Hegel, even though they focus on artrather than on natural beauty or on other aesthetic phenomena. Theyapproach art as primarily aesthetic. By contrast, 20th-century German

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  • philosophers such as Gadamer3 and Adorno4 prefer Hegels emphasison artistic truth to Kants emphasis on aesthetic judgment. Not sur-prisingly, they also make art seem esoteric. One challenge facing a non-esoteric account of artistic truth, then, is to establish a notion ofaesthetic validity that neither collapses it into either epistemic or moralvalidity nor renders it irrelevant or impotent with respect to ordinarycognition and conduct. The challenge is to retain a Kantian emphasison the irreducibility of the aesthetic while giving an account of aestheticvalidity that connects it with artistic truth.5

    My response to this challenge takes four steps. First, I propose acritical hermeneutic conception of aesthetic processes. Second, I developa notion of aesthetic validity as imaginative cogency. Third, to showthe relevance of aesthetic experience and activity for questions of truthand goodness, I explore the relation between aesthetic validity and whatI shall label cultural orientation. Fourth, given the role of language inthe raising of validity-claims and the prominence of questions of aes-thetic validity in the arts, I examine how the arts enter into ordinaryconversation and discourse. Aesthetic validity, cultural orientation andwhat I shall label art talk provide the context in which one can movefrom a Kantian emphasis on aesthetic autonomy to a postmetaphysicalconception of artistic truth. This essay aims to describe the hermeneu-tical matrix from which questions of artistic truth emerge.

    I Aesthetic signs

    Despite the prevalence of anti-aesthetic theories and artworks since the1960s, it is a fact of contemporary life in North America and Europethat society and culture have an irreducible aesthetic dimension. Thisdimensions differentiation and institutionalization are historicalachievements, for better and for worse. A permanent reversal or sub-version of such processes would require that the societal formation asa whole be transformed. Hence, as Adorno indicates, a critique of theaesthetic that does not simultaneously criticize the political andeconomic systems framing the aesthetic would miss its target, becausethis lies too far away. So too, attempts to describe the aesthetic dimen-sion that do not situate it in a larger societal formation would attributefeatures to objects as such that actually are functions of a complex socio-historical process. Since one cannot do everything at once, however, Ishall restrict myself to giving a partial phenomenology of the aestheticdimension, with an important caveat: I do not attempt an eidetic intu-ition aimed at some ahistorical essence. Rather, I provide a brief dialec-tical reconstruction of certain socio-historical patterns that have becomeprominent in Western societies since the 18th century.

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  • Three polarities prevail in the aesthetic dimension of modernWestern societies and cultures. All three can be found in Kants accountof fine art. The fact that they surface there does not mean that they arepeculiar to the arts as such, however. All three are versions of the dialec-tic between nature and freedom that pervades Kants entire Critique ofJudgment.6 They help constitute the aesthetic dimension as a whole, andnot simply those arts in which the aesthetic dimension becomes promi-nent. The polarities in question occur between play and work, betweenentertainment and instruction, and between expression and communi-cation. In each case Kant tries to split the difference, as it were, arguingthat the fine arts are more like play than like work but are not merelyplay; that they serve neither entertainment nor instruction but a delight-ful cultivation of the mind; and that they must express aesthetic ideaswith a view toward communicability. I shall propose that these threepolarities are constitutive for the aesthetic dimension in modern Westernsocieties: its content emerges from tensions between play and work,between entertainment and instruction, and between expression andcommunication. If it were constituted as a recognizable zone of experi-ence and activity in a different societal formation, the aesthetic dimen-sion would have a different framework and hence a significantlydifferent meaning. Let me comment on each polarity.

    Play has been a central concept of aesthetics since Kant andSchiller, re-emerging in the 20th century as the purported origin of allculture and as a semi-sacred alternative to the grim secularity of techno-capitalist society.7 Gadamer tries to wrest play from the subjectivemeaning that it has in Kant and Schiller (TM 101, WM 97), making itan ontological concept from which to derive the structure of artistictruth. Adorno, by contrast, criticizes regressive elements in play andreactionary tendencies in theoretical celebrations of play, preferring todefine art as a negation of play rather than its mere continuation (AT31719, T 46972). In both cases, however, an underlying tensionbetween play and work remains in effect. The aesthetic (and, by exten-sion, art) gets defined as a zone where serious play sublimates purposefulactivity or where an illusory freedom from function provides a neces-sary critique of praxis.

    What such theories have in common, and what makes up thepositive content to the play/work dialectic, is an emphasis on explo-ration. It is less the prevalence of play or a liberation from work thatmarks the aesthetic than the opportunity or setting to explore, wherean explorations goal emerges from the process of exploring and usuallyis not predetermined. The process of exploration is just as important tomeaningful work as it is to lively play as the problems caused by itsabsence in Taylorized industry and hyper-commercialized sport attest.Similarly, open-ended inquiry helps sustain substantial scholarship just

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  • as much as hypothetical role-playing provides impetus for Kohlbergianpost-conventional morality.8 It is understandable that exploration getsframed by a play/work dialectic in a techno-capitalist society. Yet thisframing, both in theory and in social reality, risks turning explorationinto what Adorno calls a Naturschutzpark, a nature preserve wherepeople go for relief, only to leave everything outside as it is. The samething occurs when art becomes the bastion of exploration, as if the restof life can do without it. A better alternative, it seems to me, is toidentify those elements of exploration that are indispensable across theboard and to promote their flourishing within dominant institutions.This cannot be done without a critique of such institutions and of thesocietal formation to which they belong.

    Essential to such a critique would be to re-examine the dialecticbetween entertainment and instruction that also frames the aestheticdimension. On Kants analysis of taste-judgments, purely aestheticexperience serves neither to entertain nor to instruct. The definitivefeature of taste-judgments is their resting upon a feeling of delight orfavor (Gunst) that arises in disinterested reflection upon an object ofperception (CJ 15, pp. 8996; V: 20311). This rules out sensorygratification and instrumental or moral achievement as primary goalsfor aesthetic experience. His subsequent description of fine art as pro-moting a delightful cultivation of the mind simply continues this delicatebalancing act (CJ 435, pp. 1826; V: 3037). His description distin-guishes fine art from agreeable arts, whose primary purpose is enter-tainment,9 from craft, which has primarily instrumental ends, and,implicitly, from religious and political art, whose ends might not bestrictly instrumental but closer, perhaps, to what Kant defines as moralgoodness.

    Yet Kant also sees aesthetic experience and fine art as potentialpropaedeutics to the moral life. Morality is not their aim, but it couldbe one of their benefits under appropriate conditions. His contorteddepiction of beauty as the symbol of morality indicates the importancehe attaches to the non-entertaining and non-instructing cultivation ofthe mind wrought by aesthetic experience and fine art (CJ 59,pp. 2258; V: 3514). Gadamer and Adorno continue this Kantianfocus, through Hegelian lenses, in their appeals to Erfahrung andBildung. The difference between them lies in their contrasting appraisalsof how such formation should occur under contemporary conditions.Whereas Gadamer embraces the continuity of a classical humanist tra-dition, Adorno endorses modern arts critique of culture-industrialHalbbildung.

    If aesthetic practices serve neither to entertain nor to instruct, andif they are not identical with mass-mediated infotainment, which oftenneither amuses nor informs, how should aesthetic cultivation or

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  • formation be understood? Perhaps as a training in creative interpre-tation. This suggestion does not lie so far afield from Kant as it mightfirst seem.10 Once one strips mentalist trappings from his account ofreflective judgment, one can see taste-judging as a process of inter-preting signs before, alongside, or against their established usages andsignifications. The same object which in other contexts functions as aconventional signal or symbol acquires or displays multiple layers ofpossible meaning in the aesthetic context. Kant would say that the objectin such a context gives occasion for imagination and understanding toengage in freely harmonious play. On my own critical hermeneuticapproach, it would be preferable to say that aesthetic practices letthe meaning of the sign become an open question, or that they let theopenness of meaning be constitutive for the sign. It is not so muchthe case that meaning in such contexts is endlessly deferred (Derrida) asthat meaning is multiply referred beyond the signs established usagesand significations.11

    To forestall misunderstandings, however, let me introduce threequalifications. First, such creative interpretation is not monological, onthe Kantian model of a judging subject and a perceived object. Ratherit is dialogical, involving communities and practices of interpretationwithin which different interpreters interact. Second, creative interpre-tation is not unbounded. There are limits to the possible meanings thatcan make sense for any particular sign, even though the limits oftenare discovered in the process of interpretation. Third, creative interpre-tation itself calls upon pre-understandings and vocabularies that areintrinsic to aesthetic practices as these have developed in socio-historicalsettings.

    If my proposal is on the right track, then framing the aestheticwithin a dialectic of entertainment and instruction is both understand-able and inadequate. Understandable, because the creativity in aestheticpractices makes them intrinsically entertaining, and the interpretationthey involve can be instructive. Yet inadequate, both because creativeinterpretation exceeds the confines of conventional entertainment andinstruction and because these conventions themselves need the expan-sion and disruptions that occur under the impetus of creative interpre-tation. Hence, as I have argued with respect to exploration, so creativeinterpretation too should not be safely cordoned off in a special zoneoutside ordinary cognition and conduct. Rather it should be recognizedand promoted within the ordinary as an indispensable ingredient forhuman flourishing under contemporary conditions.

    The third polarity occurs between expression and communication.Kant articulates this as a tension between genius and taste in whichgenius, as an uncommon gift for fashioning and expressing aestheticideas, must give way to taste, as a common sense that makes such

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  • feeling-laden and creative intuitions publicly accessible or universallycommunicable (CJ 49, p. 195; V: 317). More specifically, Kant con-cludes that taste, not genius, is the primary thing to which one mustlook in the judging of art as beautiful art, since the richness and orig-inality of (aesthetic) ideas is not as necessary for the sake of beauty asis the suitability of the imagination in its freedom to the lawfulness ofthe understanding (CJ 50, p. 197; V: 319).12 If forced to choose, Adornowould come down on the side of genius and Gadamer on the side oftaste, even though Adorno rejects Kants subject-centered notion ofexpression, and Gadamer criticizes Kant for denying taste any signifi-cance as knowledge and for failing to define taste positively by whatgrounds commonality and creates community (TM 43, WM 401).

    What both authors retain from Kant, by way of Hegel, is the notionof aesthetic presentation (Darstellung).13 Presentation, I would suggest,makes up the positive content to the aesthetic-framing dialectic ofexpression and communication, where expression concerns what anagent presents to others, and communication pertains to what othersinterpret the presenting agent to have said. Although modern aestheticpractices have an expressive side, such that contemporary explorationsand creative interpretations cannot avoid asking who or what someobject or product or event expresses, the aesthetic sign cannot bereduced to a mere expression. Similarly, modern aesthetic practices havea communicative side, such that people engaged in aesthetic experienceand activity cannot help wondering about the significance of an aestheticsign. Yet aesthetic signs cannot be reduced to mere means of com-munication. Instead aesthetic signs are presentations. They makemultiple meanings available in ways that either exceed or precede bothidiosyncratic expressions of intent and conventional communications ofcontent. What aesthetic signs present can be called their import.Although media of imagination play a special role in the formation ofaesthetic signs, the import of aesthetic signs need not be equated withKants aesthetic ideas.

    Yet Kants conception of aesthetic ideas does provide hints in thedirection I propose, as Rudolf Makkreel has shown. Kant makes dis-covering and expressing aesthetic ideas central to the fine artists work.14Even our finding non-artistic objects beautiful involves taking them asexpressions of aesthetic ideas.15 Aesthetic ideas are themselves presen-tations, regardless of whether fine artists present them in works of art.As perceptually based intuitions whose meaning exceeds the grasp ofordinary language and concepts, they can suggest rational ideas andpresent rational ideas to sense. They add to our interpretation ofexperience by suggesting significant affinities even when direct concep-tual connections are lacking.16 Read in this way, Kant assigns to imagin-ation, in conjunction with reflective judgment, an ability to present the

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  • meaning of something in a pre-conceptual and pre-linguistic way.Whereas the schemata of imagination directly present conceptualcategories, making them perceptually applicable, aesthetic ideas, assymbolic presentations, are indirect modes of expressing certain[rational] ideas that cannot be directly articulated by means ofconcepts. They provide a nonreferential type of meaning and allowus to arrive at a reflective interpretation of things that surpass nature.17

    If one substitutes aesthetic practices for Kants imagination, aes-thetic signs for aesthetic ideas, and import for rational ideas, onecomes close to the notion of presentation I wish to propose. Whenobjects function as aesthetic signs, they are already caught up in inter-subjective processes of exploration and creative interpretation. Theseprocesses allow them to be meaningful in ways that are not so muchinexplicable as ever in need of explication. Such explication presupposesthat aesthetic signs are about something other than themselves, and thatsuch aboutness is both sharable and shared by various interpreters. Areading of aesthetic signs, while exploratory and creative, is neitherprivate nor arbitrary, even when what is read lacks the apparent settled-ness of lexical meanings or the apparent definiteness of asserted propo-sitions. It is so, of course, that aesthetic signs have an importantpropensity to unsettle language and disturb thought. Yet this is onlypossible because they are not private and are not arbitrary. Aestheticsigns i.e. objects in their functions as aesthetic signs present nuancesof meaning on which the vividness of language and the acuity of thoughtdepend, as does the attunement of conduct to complexities and uncer-tainties in concrete situations.

    As was the case with exploration and creative interpretation, myaccount refuses to restrict the occurrence of presentation to art, propos-ing instead that presentation is a constitutive function within ordinarycognition and conduct. This also pertains to modern perceptions ofnature, which Adorno makes thematic in ways that neither Hegel norGadamer would allow. Despite, and amid, the advancing exploitationof creatures and habitats for technological and commercial ends, theyretain their capacity to astonish, to shock and to confuse and, in thatcapacity, to function as aesthetic signs. A sensitivity for such featuresmight not indicate moral proclivities, as Kant thought, but it doessuggest an openness for what Adorno calls the nonidentical and foralternative interpretations of such creatures importance.

    From my partial reconstruction of three modern polarities, explo-ration, creative interpretation and presentation emerge as central to theaesthetic dimension in contemporary Western society. These are notpeculiar to art, for they occur in many areas of culture, even whenneither recognized nor encouraged. They are best understood as inter-subjective processes rather than as the capacities or contents of a

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  • subjective consciousness facing either independent or subjectively con-stituted objects. Although objects enter such processes or, better,various creatures, events and products enter such processes as objects they do so as aesthetic signs. That is to say, the objects of explo-ration, creative interpretation and presentation simply are creatures,events and products in their capacities to sustain discovery, to call forthreflective readings, and to acquire import in intersubjective contexts.While such capacities would remain dormant if people did not togetherengage in the relevant experiences and activities, it would be a mistake,and a reversion to the subject/object paradigm of so much modern phil-osophy, to think that aesthetic experiences and activities simply assign,impute, or create the objects capacities. Moreover, when aesthetic prac-tices concern the agents or results of exploration and the like, aestheticinitiative often resides in the objects themselves. Either, in the case ofsome animals and all humans, these objects are able to engage in aes-thetic experiences and activities. Or, in the case of cultural events andproducts, access to their objective aesthetic capacities requires anacknowledgement of their having arisen, in part, from prior intersub-jective processes of exploration, creative interpretation and presen-tation.

    II Imaginative cogency

    Given this account of the aesthetic, what sense can be made of thenotion of aesthetic validity for example, Kants notion that taste-judg-ments raise a claim to subjective universality and exemplary necessity?One cannot simply assume that all intersubjective processes raise claimsto validity. When people wordlessly share a certain mood (whatHeidegger thematizes in his discussion of attunement), they typicallyraise no such claim. In the absence of any reference to an epistemic ormoral end that the mood should or should not serve, people wouldfind it odd or insulting to be told that the feeling they share is somehowincorrect or inappropriate. Is there a plausible sense in which intersub-jective exploration, interpretation and presentation can have more orless merit and can give rise to intrinsic validity-claims?

    Not only do I wish to answer yes, but also I hold that neglectingaesthetic validity impoverishes both philosophical theories of validityand ordinary aesthetic practices. Initially I plan to develop this answerwithout reference to art, where most philosophers who acknowledgeaesthetic validity tend to locate it.18 To simplify the discussion, I shallhenceforth use imagination and its derivatives as a shorthand for theprocesses I have identified as central to the aesthetic. Imaginationshould be understood as referring to intersubjective processes rather

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  • than to a mental capacity, and as involving aesthetic signs rather thanmental contents. I shall summarize the notion of aesthetic validity withthe term imaginative cogency. Let me explain.

    At first it sounds paradoxical to say of aesthetic experiences andactivities that they can have more or less merit or can give rise tovalidity-claims. Is it not definitive of imaginative processes in contem-porary settings that they are exploratory, allusive and transgressive? Dothey not, in that sense, defy any expectation of validity? And does notsuch defiance lend them weight as a site of opposition to prevailingnorms and institutions?

    On second thought, however, it is precisely these features of imagin-ation that prompt the question about validity. This becomes apparentwhen one reverses the rhetoric of the previous paragraph. Can a site ofopposition be genuinely oppositional (and not simply anarchic orreactionary) if it lacks boundaries and direction? Can expectations ofvalidity be defied by something that cannot claim any validity for itself?Can exploration, allusion, and transgression occur if the processes inquestion are completely unlimited? Is not the concept of complete lackof limitation itself thoroughly paradoxical?

    As a matter of fact, the vocabulary people use to talk about aes-thetic processes and signs is loaded with evaluative terms. These gobeyond simple labels for private preferences (like/dislike) or for con-sumerist attitudes (interesting/boring). We say, for example, thatcertain jokes pack a punch while others fall flat. One metaphor istrite or forced while another is original or convincing. One storyis profound, another mere fluff. Some decorations are attractive,others are tawdry. Some public celebrations are tedious, others areexciting. Some landscapes are gorgeous and others are ugly. And wefind much more agreement in these assessments on specific occasionsthan the myth of individual taste would lead one to expect. Indeed,conflict in the usage of such terms is no more an argument against thenotion of aesthetic validity than differences about facts or values arearguments against the notions of epistemic or moral validity.

    These examples suggest that discrimination and assessment areintrinsic to aesthetic experiences and activities. The examples need notsuggest, however, that the standards to which such experiences andactivities appeal are universally binding, either in the sense that theyobtain regardless of social, cultural, or historical setting, or in the sensethat they are obligatory for every human being. In Kantian language,the implicit standards do not have either epistemic or moral validity.Within the Kantian framework, which anchors validity in concepts ofunderstanding and ideas of reason, this apparent absence of epistemicor moral validity gives rise to the so-called antinomy of taste (CJ 56,pp. 21415; V: 3389). The antinomy is a conflict between two

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  • incompatible claims, each of which is equally well founded: (1) there isno rational basis for aesthetic evaluations, otherwise we could provewhich of two conflicting evaluations is correct; (2) there is a rationalbasis for aesthetic evaluations, otherwise we would not argue aboutthem when they differ.

    If, however, one does not anchor the validity of all standards inhuman rationality as described by Kant, and if one detaches the questionof a rational basis from the question of aesthetic standards, then thisantinomy need not arise. In keeping with the etymological roots ofstandard in the old French estandard, aesthetic standards can beregarded as rallying-points around which people congregate in orderto recall, project, contest and attain identity-constituting commitments.Aesthetic standards are more or less widely shared expectations con-cerning the outcomes of aesthetic processes in which people engage. Assuch, aesthetic standards (and perhaps other standards as well) will notbe universally binding in a Kantian sense.19 Each one can be contested,moved, or replaced. Yet the very process of contesting a standardrequires that people appeal to some notion of validity. Hence it makessense for people to argue about conflicting aesthetic evaluations even ifthey cannot point to some rational principle on the basis of which theconflict could potentially be settled. Arguments about conflicting aes-thetic evaluations primarily appeal to shared expectations concerningintersubjective processes,20 not to a universal principle of abstractreason. What gives rise to the apparent antinomy of taste is too narrowa conception of what counts as validity, one that ties validity too closelyto a restricted notion of rationality.

    Indeed, within the context of modern aesthetic processes, it ispossible to articulate a general idea of aesthetic validity that is less vagueand less mentalist than the Kantian notion of taste as a common sensepointing toward a supersensible substrate connecting nature andfreedom. The idea I want to postulate is that of imaginative cogency.Returning to my previous examples, one can say that, from an aestheticvantage point, what distinguishes a pungent joke from a flaccid one isthat the successful telling of a joke weaves its story together well, buildsup to its punch line, and then delivers this with a surprising consistencyand flair. A trite metaphor lacks the innovative connections that wouldcharacterize an original one, and a superficial story lacks the depth ofinsight provided by one that is profound. Poorly orchestrated publiccelebrations lack the dramatic pacing, ceremonial setting and vigorousinteractions that would make them less tedious. And so on.

    In such cases what makes for a greater degree of aesthetic validityis the complexity, depth and intensity with which the imaginativeprocess unfolds. Or, to say this more carefully, when evaluating therelative aesthetic merits of modern cultural events and products, people

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  • employ implicit standards of complexity, depth and intensity, and thehorizon of such standards is something like imaginative cogency. Notsurprisingly, given the reciprocation between theory and practice inmodern Western cultures, these standards resemble the marks of aes-thetic merit identified by aestheticians since the 18th century: NicholasWolterstorffs unity, internal richness and fittingness-intensity, forexample,21 or integrality, articulation, intensity and depth in AdornosAesthetic Theory (AT 18692, T 27787).22

    Two qualifications are required here, however. First, such standardscannot be abstracted from the imaginative character of the processes inquestion without losing much of their content. This would occur, forexample, if one regarded them as mere analogues of the consistency,coherence and explanatory power scholars might expect in the contextof empirical investigations and theoretical arguments. The cogency towhich people appeal when they expect complexity, depth and intensityin aesthetic processes is a cogency of exploration, creative interpretationand presentation, all of which are inherently open-ended, althoughneither directionless nor infinite. Second, imaginative cogency is anhorizon rather than merely a rule or principle.23 It can be approximatedin a theoretical description but cannot be pinned down in an axiomaticstatement. Although this might appear problematic for theorists whowish to secure categorical clarity, it might also suggest the limits ofinquiry, not only with respect to aesthetic processes but also with respectto epistemic and moral processes where theoretical success has seemedmore likely in the past.

    III Cultural orientation

    All of this becomes relevant for a theory of artistic truth when one recog-nizes, with Habermas, that art has become an expert culture in whichaesthetic validity-claims can be thematized. Unfortunately this develop-ment in Western societies has brought with it three tendencies, both intheory and in practice, that isolate such expert thematization, to theimpoverishment of both art and culture, and to the detriment of artistictruth. First, the pursuit of aesthetic merit gets channeled overwhelm-ingly into the art world, in compensation, as it were, for the ongoingexploitation of everyday life and environments for non-aestheticpurposes. Second, non-aesthetic concerns become marginal within theart world itself, so that the relevance of art for science or politics ormorality becomes opaque. Then, as a final step in arts self-involvement,aesthetic merit becomes a questionable goal within art itself, giving riseto an anti-aesthetic expert culture where the last resistance to businessas usual threatens to disappear, albeit with a transgressive gesture.

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  • Hence contemporary Western societies face either the much-heraldeddeath of art or arts much-less-heralded rebirth. Since my criticalhermeneutic approach aims to contribute to arts rebirth, I refuse torestrict the pursuit of aesthetic merit to the art world, to make non-aesthetic concerns marginal to art, or to embrace the de-astheticizationof either art or culture.

    Cultural orientation is a crucial concept in this regard. Althoughthe concept carries echoes of Kants cultivation of the mind andsymbol of morality,24 it is closer to Hegels conception of art as asensuous appearance of the (culturally embedded and culturally unfold-ing) idea. Following Hegel, I do not restrict the process of cultural orien-tation to art itself, although, following Adornos critique of Hegel, I alsodo not retain Hegels construction of a progressively self-actualizingabsolute spirit. Cultural pluralism and historical contingency areunavoidable features of contemporary society. Any theory of culturalorientation should take these features into account.

    By culture I mean the entire network of practices, products andinstitutions through which traditions are shaped and transmitted, socialsolidarities are generated and contested, and personal identities aremolded and embraced. It is similar in some respects to Habermass con-ception of the life-world. I do not locate art outside of culture. Rather,art is a part of culture in a complex society, as are language, education,organized religion, and the networks many other nodes. Cultural orien-tation refers to how individuals, communities and organizations findtheir direction both within and by way of culture. As Gadamer has sug-gested, such cultural pathfinding is never pure or neutral. It is alwaysalready under way, drawing upon cultural resources that are historicallyeffective to a greater or lesser extent. Accordingly, cultural orientationunavoidably involves both disorientation and reorientation.

    Contrary to the tendency since Kant to divorce the aesthetic fromthe cultural, I wish to argue that aesthetic processes are intrinsic to pro-cesses of cultural orientation and have a special role to play in thisregard. This is not to deny that epistemic and moral processes also playspecial roles, but to claim that their roles are not sufficient by them-selves and that the aesthetic provides part of what the epistemic and themoral lack. Epistemic processes typically appeal to standards of empiri-cal accuracy and logical consistency, giving rise to claims to epistemiccorrectness. Moral processes typically appeal to standards of obligationand appropriateness, giving rise to claims to normative legitimacy. Inany given situation, however, a proposed course of action can be deemedboth correct and right, all things considered, and yet be found unimag-inative. Conversely, another proposed course of action can be con-sidered highly imaginative but either epistemically ill-founded or wrongin some moral or ethical regard. My suggestion will be that aesthetic

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  • failure is no less problematic than epistemic or moral failure, eventhough people may find it more difficult to specify in advance whatwould make for aesthetic success in a given situation. The reason aes-thetic failure is problematic has to do with the role of imaginative pro-cesses in cultural orientation.

    Finding ones way, whether as an individual, a community, or anorganization, is a multidimensional, complex and unending task in con-temporary societies. The time is long past when widely shared world-views or dominant political or religious institutions, such as thenation-state or the church, mosque, or synagogue, provided compre-hensive road maps that most people followed.25 This does not mean,however, that the need for orientation has disappeared or that no otherinstitutions have stepped into the breach. If anything, the burdens offinding ones way have increased, as each individual, community andorganization must repeatedly uncover anew where it should be headedand why. At the same time, techno-capitalism has had the cumulativeeffect of prescribing direction while undermining a sense of worthwhilealternatives. Technological and economic imperatives have becomedominant in culture.

    Although such dominance does not eliminate the burdens of findingones way, it does increase the difficulty of recognizing this tasksmultidimensionality and complexity and of pursuing orientation withsufficient nuance and vigor. It is precisely here that imaginative processesbecome crucial. In order not to pursue whatever is technologicallyfeasible just because it is technologically feasible, people need to explorealternatives without a predetermined goal. In order not simply to dowhatever the market-place seems to dictate, communities and organiz-ations need to engage in creative interpretation that is open to multiplemeanings. In order not to be seen either as frivolous time-wasting or asa salvific escape, such exploration and interpretation must have theirown worth, and this worth must be tied to the worth of the presen-tations to which the interpreters attend. To pursue exploration andcreative interpretation as ways of gaining (re-)orientation, participantsmust discriminate between better and worse aesthetic processes andmust raise claims to aesthetic validity.

    This does not mean that aesthetic processes suffice for purposes ofcultural orientation in the face of techno-capitalist pressures. The explo-ration of alternative courses of action, for example, usually does not,by itself, provide an adequate basis for communal or organizationaldecisions. Other factors must enter the mix, such as a relatively accurateunderstanding of the situation and a practical weighing of what is rightand appropriate, not to mention the omnipresent questions of technicalfeasibility and economic viability. Yet sufficient emphasis on explorationcan bring to the fore considerations that are easily suppressed, such as

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  • how participants might feel in relation to a proposed course of action.It can also remind participants of hopes and needs that exceed the estab-lished vocabularies of decision-making the plight of people who wouldnot be immediately affected by the decision, for example, or aspirationsfor a good society that no single group or decision can realize. In thissense, although not entirely on their own, aesthetic processes can helpretain the social-critical and -utopian potentials that Adorno mistakenlylimited to negative tendencies within art and philosophy.

    It is useful in this connection to distinguish some tracks in thepursuit of aesthetic validity as a way of cultural orientation. Along onetrack, aesthetic validity-claims get raised with respect to the anticipatedoutcome of an aesthetic process. Along another track, aesthetic validity-claims arise with respect to the process itself. Imagine, for example, anon-profit organization that wishes to turn a run-down warehouse intoa community center. Much of the planning and decision-making willfocus on the final product and how to achieve it. In an organizationattuned to aesthetic considerations, one topic of discussion will be howthe building can be redesigned to elicit those elements of explorationand creative interpretation that would make it an aesthetically richenvironment for the organization and the people it serves. Another partof the discussion will be more reflexive, pertaining to the process ofplanning and decision-making itself. Is this process structured to supportimaginative participation? Is it carried out in a way that elicits open-ended dialogue about what the building should be like and how it willfunction in its urban environment? Aesthetic validity-claims would risealong both tracks, as claims about not only the aesthetic merits of theenvisioned building but also the aesthetic merits of the envisioning itself.Later, when the organization has completed its renovation project, anew track will arise: is the building actually an aesthetically richenvironment for its users, and does it need further improvements in thatregard? Traditional aesthetics has restricted its attention to the thirdtrack and restricted this track to the aesthetic merits of finishedartworks. By expanding the notion of aesthetic validity beyond finishedproducts of the artistic sort, I hope to have shown more clearly theimportance of aesthetic validity for cultural orientation. Nevertheless,art remains an indispensable site for aesthetically laden pursuits ofcultural orientation. To see why this is so, we must consider next howthe arts enter into ordinary conversation and discourse.

    IV Art talk

    Once Kant had described aesthetic ideas as creative intuitions thatexceed the grasp of ordinary thought, the relation between art and

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  • language became a contested topic in Western aesthetics. It is commonknowledge, and a basis for much of analytic aesthetics, that languageusage pervades experiences of art. Viewers, listeners and readers talkabout art, write and read about it, watch videos and television programsabout art, read reviews, listen to their acquaintances talk about art, andso forth. Let me introduce the term art talk as a way of summarizingall these sorts of language usage. When art talk occurs as a relativelyunproblematic use of language to reach an understanding, it can becalled art conversation. When it enters a more reflective mode whereimplicit validity-claims become an explicit topic of discussion, art talkcan be called art discourse.26 In everyday art talk people regularly andalmost imperceptibly slide between conversation and discourse. Thereare many possible topics (depending on the artistic medium, the back-ground and experience of the participants, and the setting and occasion),and many different dimensions to art can provide points of entry: tech-nical, economic, political, ethical, etc. Like language usage in most othercontexts, art conversation tends not to thematize the validity-claimsimplicit in speech-acts, but it does make dimensions of validity avail-able for art discourse.

    This initial description of art talk derives from Habermass theoryof communicative action. Habermass theory suggests that three dimen-sions of validity have special significance in what I call conversation anddiscourse.27 He identifies three validity-claims for which every speakeris accountable when she or he uses language to reach an understand-ing: truth (Wahrheit), normative legitimacy or rightness (Richtigkeit)and sincerity or authenticity (Wahrhaftigkeit). As is illustrated in thetable, the three validity-claims correspond to three universal pragmaticfunctions of language: to represent something in the world, to establishinterpersonal relations, and to express the speakers experience, respec-tively. These functions can be derived by considering the three types ofillocutionary force that, according to Habermas, speech-acts can have:

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    Table 1 Habermass correlations of validity-claims, language-functions, and speech-acts

    Universal pragmatic Types ofValidity-claims language-functions speech-acts

    1 propositional truth representing a world constative2 normative legitimacy establishing interpersonal regulative

    relations3 sincerity expressing personal expressive


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  • constative (assert, inform, etc.), regulative (promise, request, etc.), andexpressive (wish, avow, etc.).

    Habermas regards propositional truth as the primary validity-claimthat we attach to constative speech-acts. He says that language usersraise a claim to truth whenever they make utterances as a way of assert-ing, informing, describing, and the like. In ordinary conversation thisclaim often accompanies language use without calling attention to itself.Truth becomes an issue, however, when an asserted proposition is calledinto question. At this point it becomes apparent that the speaker hasraised a truth-claim when asserting the proposition. The only way toredeem this truth-claim is to engage in discourse. Habermas distin-guishes discourse (Diskurs) from communicative action (Handlung).In communicative action we silently presuppose and accept the validity-claims implicit in our utterances. In discourse, by contrast, we engagein argumentation, thematizing validity-claims that have become prob-lematic and investigating their legitimation (Berechtigung). In discoursewe do not exchange informations as we might in an ordinary conver-sation about the weather, but rather we exchange arguments that serveto ground or refute validity-claims that have been problematized. Forthe most part, facts become a topic in discourse, not in conversation.28

    Habermas tends to view aesthetic validity-claims as expressiverather than constative or regulative. In other words, when people callsomething beautiful or publicly judge the quality of a musical perform-ance or literary work, they are primarily29 expressing their own experi-ence and raising a claim to be sincere or truthful in that expression.Such a claim can, of course, be challenged by any conversation partner.The sorting out of such challenges would characterize aesthetic dis-course. Habermas also tends to regard art and art criticism as a differ-entiated value sphere in which expressive validity-claims can bethematized. Science/technology and law/morality, by contrast, are dif-ferentiated value spheres for the thematizing of constative and regula-tive validity-claims, respectively.

    Here my own departure from Habermas begins, despite my indebt-edness to his theory of communicative action in many other respects.Like Martin Seel, I find it implausible to regard aesthetic validity-claimsas primarily expressive.30 My earlier account of aesthetic validity asimaginative cogency points rather in a hermeneutical direction. Thatdirection includes a notion of artistic truth that neither restricts thegeneral concept of truth to propositional truth la Habermas nor limitsarts validity to aesthetic validity la Seel. Yet I do agree with Habermasthat the raising of validity-claims occurs in intersubjective linguisticpractices, just as I agree with Seel that non-expressive but aestheticvalidity-claims are among those raised in this way. Art talk is not theonly arena in which aesthetic validity-claims arise, however, nor are

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  • aesthetic validity-claims the only ones that commonly and legitimatelyarise in art talk. What distinguishes art talk in modern Western societiesis not the occurrence of aesthetic validity-claims but the precedencethese have there, whether explicitly or implicitly, over the other typesof claims made in art talk. Aesthetic validity-claims have precedencebecause of the way the art world has developed as an institutionalizedsetting for promoting aesthetic processes and adjudicating aestheticvalidity-claims.

    Recent moralizing and transgressive art conversations, and the dis-courses they generate, provide interesting test cases for my conception.Let us suppose that a prominent elected official (Mayor Rudolph W.Giuliani, for example) denounces an exhibition at a publicly funded artmuseum (the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, for example), callingthe art offensive, immoral and sacrilegious. And let us say the museumsdirector and trustees, the exhibitions sponsors and some prominent artcritics defend the exhibition as a well-curated provocation about whichmature citizens should make their own judgments. Aesthetic consider-ations would appear to play little role on either side, except insofar asthe phrase well-curated implies them. If we probed such talk further,however, and arranged for the participants to explain their pronounce-ments arrangements obviously difficult to achieve in mass-mediatedpublic disputes of this sort we would find that certain aesthetic pre-judgments actually play a crucial role. The mayor, for example, thinksthat art should be primarily aesthetic, but in a conventional way, suchthat exploration, creative interpretation and presentation do not get outof hand. The exhibitions advocates, by contrast, take the disrupting ofaesthetic conventions and the pushing of the imaginative envelope tobe marks of aesthetic authenticity and badges of artistic courage. Whenprompted to say what makes art immoral and why it should not beimmoral, moral critics return to the primacy of the aesthetic in art, justas do advocates of transgressive art, when encouraged to say whatmakes specific products or events transgressive and why these shouldbe transgressive. In the midst of such anti-aesthetic controversies thekey players could decide, of course, that imaginative processes are notcrucial to art and that questions of aesthetic validity are not worth dis-cussing. Then, conceivably, the art world might collapse or turn into itsopposite. But until that occurs, the raising of aesthetic validity-claimswill be unavoidable and central to contemporary art talk. In addition,the raising of aesthetic validity-claims in other contexts will receive con-siderable impetus and content from the way these claims arise in arttalk.

    On my account of art talk, then, when aesthetic validity-claims arisein conversations about art, and when they are thematized in art dis-course, this does not occur in separation from pursuits of culturalorientation. (That distinguishes my approach from a tendency toward

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  • aestheticism in much of post-Kantian philosophy of art.) Neither,however, does cultural orientation supplant aesthetic validity-claims.(This, in turn, distinguishes my approach from a tendency toward anti-aestheticism on the part of both moralizing and transgressive artcritics.31) Rather, the implicit appeal to aesthetic standards such as com-plexity, depth and intensity, as it occurs in conversations about art, ispart of a search for cultural orientation. This is so in two respects. First,talking about art with a view to aesthetic merits is indispensable tofinding ones way within art itself. Such talk helps individuals, com-munities and organizations understand art within their culture andreach decisions about how to use it and what to learn from it. Second,aesthetically focused art conversations serve the finding of ones way inaesthetic matters outside of art. It helps people direct their attention toimaginative processes, and it gives them vocabularies and syntax formaking ordinary aesthetic judgments. Moreover, in both respects a con-versational raising of aesthetic validity-claims about art can follow thetracks I distinguished earlier, and can strengthen peoples movementsalong those tracks both within and outside art: (1) envisioning an aes-thetic outcome; (2) participating in an envisioning process; and (3)evaluating a finished event or product. The first and second of thesetracks are especially important in the interactive procedures character-istic of what Suzanne Lacy calls new genre public art.32

    In contexts of cultural pluralism and conflict, however, the appealto aesthetic standards seldom remains implicit. When people havedifferent understandings of the same artistic phenomena or reachcontrary decisions about their worth, aesthetic validity-claims will riseto the surface and become topics for discourse. This can take a numberof focuses. The discussion can focus on the meaning of aesthetic validity-claims (e.g. What do you mean when you say this novel is profound?),on the status of these claims (e.g. Calling this photograph prurient isaesthetically irrelevant, isnt it?), on their motivation (e.g. When you saythat was a great dance performance, youre just expressing your ownpersonal bias, arent you?), or on their justification (e.g. Why do youthink a musical composition should be original?). Discourses that nevermove beyond issues of status and motivation tend to be less illuminatingwith respect to the artistic phenomenon under discussion, since theyeasily evade questions about a products or events aesthetic merits. Thisdoes not mean that such issues have no legitimate role to play in art dis-course, however: the status of a claim indicates whether it properlybelongs to the original conversation, and a claims motivation suggestswhether discourse about it is worth pursuing. Accordingly, when itcomes to art discourse, I do not accept Habermass restriction of dis-course to argumentation aimed at legitimation. Nor do I share Seelsview that claims to validity get raised and justified by maintaining andconfirming theoretical assertions. Certainly argumentation in the strict

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  • sense and theoretical assertions properly so called can play a role in artdiscourse. Yet it would be inaccurate to say that art discourse as a wholeis a process of argumentation or theorization, and inappropriatelyrestrictive to say that it should be such a process. Kant already recog-nized this when he spelled out the apparent antinomy of taste.

    One additional point about art discourse needs to be made. Art dis-course also belongs to the search for cultural orientation, and this makesaesthetic processes doubly reflexive. Earlier I said that exploration,creative interpretation and presentation provide important ways inwhich individuals, communities and organizations find their directionboth within and by way of culture. Because the art world has developedas an institutionalized setting for promoting aesthetic processes, art is acrucial site for the aesthetically laden pursuit of cultural orientation.That in itself gives art a certain reflexivity, making it a place where aes-thetic processes can themselves be explored, interpreted and presented.As a constituent of arts institutionalization, art talk makes such reflex-ivity palpable by serving simultaneously to help find ones way in artand to help find ones way in aesthetic matters outside art. Doublereflexivity occurs when discourse about aesthetic validity-claims, asraised in art conversation, points such talk toward the horizon of aes-thetic standards. That happens, for example, when participants in anart talk say the talk itself is unimaginative. Saying this raises a differentclaim from the claim that this talk or some aspect of it is inaccurate orinappropriate. It has the effect of raising the stakes of art talk to anunsurpassable limit, similar to the effect of calling a theoretical debateillogical or a practical discussion illegitimate. Yet this metaclaim occursfairly frequently within art talk, under various guises, and it contributesto double reflexivity.

    The question of truth in art evinces the double reflexivity of aes-thetic processes. The question arises from within art itself, at the con-junction of concerns about art talk, cultural orientation, and aestheticvalidity. The prominence of aesthetic validity-claims in art talk makesone wonder about the significance of such claims relative to epistemicand moral validity-claims, both within art and outside it. The pursuitof cultural orientation by way of art, and by way of aesthetic processesoutside art, raises questions about the authenticity of what we learnthrough this pursuit. The processes of exploration, creative interpre-tation and presentation pose puzzles about the import and integrity ofaesthetic signs. The question of truth in art pertains to the significance,authenticity and integrity of that to which people in Western societiesassign special aesthetic merit.33

    Philosophy, Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto, ONT, Canada

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  • Notes

    The researching and writing of this essay were made possible by grants from theGerman Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the National Endowment forthe Humanities (NEH). An earlier draft received careful scrutiny in the weeklycolloquium of the Calvin College Department of Philosophy. I wish to thank myformer colleagues for their helpful comments, and to express my appreciationfor generous support from the DAAD and the NEH.

    1 John Hospers, Meaning and Truth in the Arts (Chapel Hill: University ofNorth Carolina Press, 1946; reprint Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1964);Monroe Beardsley, Artistic Truth, in Aesthetics: Problems in the Philo-sophy of Criticism (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1958),pp. 36799. Here I ignore Albert Hofstadters Truth and Art (New York:Columbia University Press, 1965), which is primarily a reworking ofHeidegger.

    2 My use of the label postmetaphysical stems from recent Critical Theory.See, for example, Jrgen Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse ofModernity (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987[1985]) and his Postmeta-physical Thinking (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992) and also AlbrechtWellmer, The Persistence of Modernity (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991)and his Endgames (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998). Philosophersoriented to American neopragmatism or French poststructuralism mightlabel the current paradigm differently, or they might dispute the assump-tion that there is a paradigm in which the various strands of contemporaryphilosophy converge.

    3 Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, 2nd edn, rev., trans. Joel Wein-sheimer and Donald G. Marshall (New York: Crossroad, 1989), hereaftercited as TM; German edn, Wahrheit und Methode. Grundzge einerphilosophischen Hermeneutik, 4th edn (Tbingen: J. C. B. Mohr, PaulSiebeck, 1975[1960]), hereafter cited as WM.

    4 Theodor W. Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), hereafter cited as AT;German edn, sthetische Theorie, ed. Gretel Adorno and Rolf Tiedemann,in his Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 7, 2nd edn (Frankfurt am Main:Suhrkamp, 1972), hereafter cited as T.

    5 For a response to this challenge that complements my own, see MarcusVerhaegh, The Truth of the Beautiful in the Critique of Judgement, BritishJournal of Aesthetics 41 (October 2001): 37194. Verhaegh employs anassertional spectrum principle to argue that taste-judgments providedomain-specific enhancements of cognition that themselves lead to truepropositions. Since I do not restrict truth to propositional truth, and seeka notion of artistic truth that is not so restricted, I find Verhaeghsilluminating and ingenious reading insufficient for connecting aestheticvalidity with artistic truth.

    6 In-text citations are from Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power ofJudgment, ed. Paul Guyer, trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). They use the abbreviationCJ, followed by the section number, translation pagination, and the

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  • pagination in Volume 5 of Kants Gesammelte Schriften, thus: CJ 15,pp. 8996; V: 20311. I have also consulted the following edition and trans-lations: Kritik der Urteilskraft, ed. Karl Vorlnder (Hamburg: Felix Meiner,1968); Critique of Judgment, trans. J. H. Bernard (New York: Hafner, 1972,c. 1951; originally published in 1892); Critique of Judgment, Including theFirst Introduction, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett,1987).

    7 A fountainhead for this re-emergence is Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: AStudy of the Play-Element in Culture (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1972, c.1950). The original Dutch version appeared in 1938.

    8 See Jrgen Habermas, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action,trans. Christian Lenhardt and Shierry Weber Nicholsen (Cambridge, MA:MIT Press, 1990), especially pp. 11694.

    9 Kants notion of entertainment or amusement contains more elements ofbourgeois sociability than does the contemporary notion associated withthe entertainment industry. What he calls agreeable arts include all thosecharms that can gratify the company at a table, such as telling entertainingstories, getting the company talking in an open and lively manner, creatingby means of jokes and laughter a certain tone of merriment. He alsoincludes setting the table, Tafelmusik, and all games that involve no interestbeyond that of making time pass unnoticed (CJ 44, pp. 1845; V: 3056).

    10 See especially Rudolf A. Makkreel, Imagination and Interpretation in Kant:The Hermeneutical Import of the Critique of Judgment (Chicago, IL:University of Chicago Press, 1990). Makkreel argues that, by assigningimagination the power of aesthetic comprehension, and also the capacityto create aesthetic ideas, Kants Critique of Judgment gives it the potentialfor . . . a reflective interpretation of our world (p. 1).

    11 For an account of aesthetic signs that emphasizes deferral rather thanreferral, see Christoph Menke, The Sovereignty of Art: Aesthetic Negativ-ity in Adorno and Derrida, trans. Neil Solomon (Cambridge, MA: MITPress, 1998), a translation of Die Souvernitt der Kunst: sthetischeErfahrung nach Adorno und Derrida (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp,1991). I discuss Menkes approach in Autonomy, Negativity, and IllusoryTransgression: Menkes Deconstruction of Adornos Aesthetics, PhilosophyToday, SPEP Supplement (1999): 15468.

    12 This is not to deny that Kant regards both genius and taste as necessary forthe production of fine art, however, nor to deny that he would consider thelack of originality a deficiency in particular works of supposedly fine art.For a useful summary of the tensions in Kants relating of genius to taste,see Henry Allison, Kants Theory of Taste: A Reading of the Critique ofAesthetic Judgment (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001),pp. 298301.

    13 Gadamer sees presentation as central to the structure of both play and art.Unfortunately, the translation of Truth and Method obscures this by oftenrendering Darstellung as representation, a term traditionally used totranslate Kants Vorstellung, which refers to all contents of consciousnessand especially ones tied to ordinary perception. Adorno does not give thesame prominence to the term Darstellung, but a Hegelian version of this

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  • concept is central to Adornos conception of the artwork as an autonomousentity in whose inner tensions societal forces and relations of productionreturn (nachkehren) in a formal way (cf. AT 236, T 3501). Tracing suchterminological and conceptual connections becomes even more challengingwhen interpreters rely on different translations of Kants Third Critique.Pluhar, for example, translates Darstellung as exhibition and Vorstel-lung as presentation. I follow both Bernard and Guyer/Matthews in usingpresentation as an equivalent for Darstellung and representation as anequivalent for Vorstellung.

    14 A careful reading of Kants account could distinguish three presentationalfunctions fulfilled by the aesthetic idea expressed in an artwork: actualiz-ing the artists concept, symbolizing rational ideas, and communicating thefeeling bound up with the aesthetic idea. I explain these functions andexplore their significance in Aesthetic Ideas and the Role of Art in KantsEthical Hermeneutics, in Opuscula Aesthetica Nostra, ed. Ccile Cloutierand Calvin Seerveld (Edmonton: Academic Printing and Publishing, 1984),pp. 6372.

    15 This is a much-disputed point among Kant scholars. Here I follow thereading suggested by Allison, Kants Theory of Taste, pp. 236301.

    16 Makkreel, Imagination and Interpretation in Kant, pp. 1, 5; cf. pp. 11829.17 Ibid., p. 129.18 Here I am especially concerned to distinguish my approach from that of

    Adorno as well as from that of his successors Albrecht Wellmer and JrgenHabermas, even though my approach otherwise resembles various aspectsof theirs.

    19 That is to say, in the sense of Kants first two critiques. For an instructiveattempt to derive a general and postmetaphysical account of validity fromthe Third Critiques account of reflective judgment, and thereby to reconcileuniversalism with the fact of pluralism, see Alessandro Ferrara, ReflectiveAuthenticity: Rethinking the Project of Modernity (London and New York:Routledge, 1998).

    20 Even the common rejoinder I know what I like; theres no point trying tochange my mind appeals to a shared expectation, namely, that everyoneshould be at liberty to follow private preferences in aesthetic matters. Therejoinder simply ignores just how widespread is the desire for private satis-faction in a consumer capitalist society, how peculiar this desire is relativeto desires within other societal formations, and how much it depends onnon-private patterns that make the pursuit of private passions somewhatviable.

    21 Nicholas Wolterstorff, Art in Action (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980),pp. 15868. Wolterstorffs list derives from Beardsleys account of ObjectiveReasons for finding artworks aesthetically good, in Aesthetics, pp. 46270.

    22 For a brief summary of Adornos account, see Lambert Zuidervaart,Adornos Aesthetic Theory: The Redemption of Illusion (Cambridge, MA:MIT Press, 1991), pp. 199201.

    23 I use horizon in the historically inflected and phenomenological senseproposed by Gadamer. He describes a horizon as the range of vision thatincludes everything that can be seen from a particular vantage point (TM

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  • 302, WM 286) and as something into which we move and that moves withus. Horizons change for a person who is moving (TM 304, WM 288).From this passage and related ones (see TM 2459, WM 2315; TM 3027,WM 2869; TM 3735, WM 3557), it becomes apparent that Gadamershorizon does some of the work Kant assigned to taste and, more broadly,to reflective judgment as a sensus communis (CJ 40, pp. 1736, V: 2936).Against Gadamers explicit criticisms of Kants subjectivizing of taste andcommon sense, Rudolf Makkreel reads Kants sensus communis as makingpossible a critical appropriation of tradition: The sensus communisprovides a mode of orientation to the tradition that allows us to ascertainits relevance to ultimate questions of truth. It is transcendental . . . in thesense of opening up the reflective horizon of communal meaning in termsof which the truth can be determined (Imagination and Interpretation inKant, p. 158).

    24 For a detailed account of the supportive role Kant gives aesthetic cultiva-tion (Kultur) in the formation (Bildung) of character, and for an illumi-nating discussion of Kants moral emphasis on orientation, see G. FelicitasMunzel, Kants Conception of Moral Character: The Critical Link ofMorality, Anthropology, and Reflective Judgment (Chicago, IL: Universityof Chicago Press, 1999), especially chapters 4 and 5.

    25 This point has been explored by many philosophers, perhaps most promi-nently by Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 2ndedn (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984). JrgenHabermas gives an expansive social-theoretical account of the develop-ments to which MacIntyre responds, in The Theory of CommunicativeAction, trans. Thomas McCarthy, 2 vols (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1984,1987).

    26 Talk is intended to include reading, writing and listening. It is difficult tofind one term for all of these, especially since, like Habermas, I reservediscourse as a more technical term, but I find communicative action prob-lematic, for reasons similar to those given by Maeve Cooke in Languageand Reason: A Study of Habermass Pragmatics (Cambridge, MA: MITPress, 1994), pp. 768. I use the terms art conversation and art discourserather than aesthetic conversation and discourse for two reasons: to avoida common tendency among philosophers to reduce art to its aestheticdimension, and to avoid the equally common tendency to reduce theaesthetic dimension to art. My essay Autonomy, Negativity, and IllusoryTransgression (1999) explains the importance of this anti-reductionism.

    27 My drastically abbreviated account of Habermass theory derives frommany of his writings, including The Theory of Communicative Action. Hegives a lucid summary in Actions, Speech Acts, Linguistically MediatedInteractions and the Lifeworld, in Philosophical Problems Today, Vol. I,ed. G. Flistad (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1994), pp. 4574. For a fuller versionof this essay see Jrgen Habermas, On the Pragmatics of Communication,ed. Maeve Cooke (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998), pp. 21555. Thesame volume contains several other important essays on truth and meaning.The earliest comprehensive statement of his discursive theory of truth isWahrheitstheorien, in Wirklichkeit und Reflexion. Walter Schulz zum 60.

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  • Geburststag, ed. Helmut Fahrenbach (Pfullingen: Neske, 1973),pp. 21165; republished in Jrgen Habermas, Vorstudien und Ergnzungenzur Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns, 2nd edn (Frankfurt am Main:Suhrkamp, 1986), pp. 12783. More recently, Habermas has extended andrevised his theory of truth in a collection of essays titled Wahrheit und Rech-fertigung: Philosophische Aufstze (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1999).

    28 For elaborations and criticisms, see especially the following three mono-graphs, on Habermass truth theory, ethics and philosophy of language,respectively: James Swindall, Reflection Revisited: Jrgen HabermassDiscursive Theory of Truth (New York: Fordham University Press, 1999);William Rehg, Insight and Solidarity: A Study in the Discourse Ethics ofJrgen Habermas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994); andMaeve Cookes Language and Reason.

    29 Primarily, because Habermas holds that every speech-act implicitly raisesall three types of validity-claim. A specific speech-act in a certain contextwill, however, raise one claim more directly and the other two claims moreindirectly. A meteorologists statement about weather conditions to acolleague, for example, would more likely be challenged for lack of truththan for lack of appropriateness or lack of sincerity. Nevertheless, thecolleague could always problematize the statement along regulative orexpressive lines, if it were uttered loudly during a funeral, say, or simplydropped in the middle of a heart-to-heart sharing of their feelings towardone another.

    30 See especially the following essays by Martin Seel: The Two Meanings ofCommunicative Rationality: Remarks on Habermass Critique of a PluralConcept of Reason, in Communicative Action: Essays on JrgenHabermass The Theory of Communicative Action, ed. Axel Honneth andHans Joas (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991), pp. 3648; and Kunst,Wahrheit, Welterschliessung, in Perspektiven der Kunstphilosophie: Texteund Diskussionen, ed. Franz Koppe (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1991),pp. 3680.

    31 Moralizing critics tend to replace aesthetic considerations with non-aesthetic ones. Transgressive critics tend to dismiss both aesthetic and non-aesthetic considerations, preferring disorientation over any sort oforientation or reorientation.

    32 Suzanne Lacy (ed.) Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art (Seattle,WA: Bay Press, 1995). I discuss the philosophical implications of new genrepublic art in two essays: Postmodern Arts and the Birth of a DemocraticCulture, in The Arts, Community and Cultural Democracy, ed. LambertZuidervaart and Henry Luttikhuizen (London: Macmillan Press; NewYork: St Martins Press, 2000), pp. 1539; and Creative Border Crossingin New Public Culture, in Literature and the Renewal of the Public Sphere,ed. Susan VanZanten Gallagher and Mark D. Walhout (London: MacmillanPress; New York: St Martins Press, 2000), pp. 20624.

    33 I explore these three dimensions of truth in the arts significance, authen-ticity and integrity in a book manuscript titled Artistic Truth: Aesthetics,Discourse, and Imaginative Disclosure. A preliminary account occurs in myessay Artistic Truth, Linguistically Turned: Variations on a Theme from

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  • Adorno, Habermas, and Hart, in Philosophy as Responsibility: ACelebration of Hendrik Harts Contribution to the Discipline, ed. RonaldA. Kuipers and Janet Catherina Wesselius (Lanham, MD: University Pressof America, 2002), pp. 12949. See also Lambert Zuidervaart, Art, Truthand Vocation: Validity and Disclosure in Heideggers Anti-Aesthetics,Philosophy & Social Criticism 28 (2002): 15372.

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