Aesthetics

A brief outline

Warning: the following is perfect nonsense and does not actually mean anything, so don’t bother asking me for clarification. Yes, it’s unintelligible, and yes, it’s so abstract as to be meaningless. That’s the point. I’m just saying a bunch of weird stuff to sound smart.

Anyway, this is my philosophy on aesthetics:

  1. There exist “perennialisms” that recur in art. These perennialisms are rooted in human nature and express the transcendent dimension of experience. The expression takes the form of a reminder that alerts us to something that has always been present to us. One is naturally suited to art to the extent that one intuits perennialisms without the need for reminders.

  2. We spend most of our time in an absorbed coping with the world that is unreflective. This is a practical perspective in which we mostly live and work. I call this “everydayness.” Any psychological event that causes a subject to exit everydayness I call an “existential rupture.”

  3. The transcendent dimension of experience is always already there. We do not apprehend it by careful analysis, as if digging up some esoteric object previously hidden from view. Rather, we apprehend it by noticing what is always present in front of our eyes. That which is noticed is transparent precisely because it is always already there wherever we look. I call this act of noticing “noesis.” Accordingly, we can only notice it when we are not absorbed in everydayness. It follows that an existential rupture is necessary to achieve noesis.

  4. Because perennialisms express the transcendent dimension of experience, they are self-obscuring. That is to say, perennialisms have a natural tendency to become obscured and retreat from awareness. Perennialisms expressed in the art of a culture foreign to our own will either read as merely strange and exotic, or will simply pass without notice. Perennialisms expressed in our own culture will read as cliches. A perennialism is cliched when it becomes transparent.

  5. Because perennialisms are self-obscuring, the task of the artist is to cause an existential rupture so that the subject can achieve noesis. This task is never done because any set of reminders that the artist creates will quickly self-obscure and ossify into a cliche, becoming transparent.

  6. Originality is relative to the subject; an artwork is original to a subject if the subject experiences an existential rupture from interacting with it. Originality is a quality of the set of reminders assembled by the artist and is not an end in itself. Rather, it is a means of inducing existential rupture. This is the flaw in many of the artistic movements beginning in the 20th century: taking originality as an end in itself, rather than a means to existential rupture.

  7. Art is authentic when it is ultimately rooted in firsthand experience. Authenticity creates originality when it springs from a novel experience. An experience can derive novelty either from the uncommonness of the circumstances or from the uncommonness of the artist who has the experience.

From the seven propositions just given, it is evident that there are two steps to the artistic process: apprehension and communication. The artist begins by having a novel experience and intuiting the underlying perennialism of that experience. If the artist is capable of being authentic, this experience forms the ground of an original artwork. The originality of the artwork induces an existential rupture, shocking the subject out of everydayness. Upon being so shocked, the subject can see beneath the surface of the art and apprehend the underlying perennialism. This constitutes noesis.