Tuesday, December 18, 2012

From "The Aesthetic Dimension: Aesthetics, Politics, Knowledge," by Jacques Rancière

Let us summarize the three points. First, a distribution of the sensible means a certain configuration of the given. Second, this configuration of the given entails a certain relation of sense and sense. That may be conjunctive or disjunctive. The relation is conjunctive when it obeys a certain order of subordination between faculties, a certain manner of playing the game according to established rules. It is disjunctive when the relationship between faculties has no rule. Third, the conjunction or disjunction is also a matter of hierarchy. Either there is a hierarchy between the faculties, which may be overturned, or there is no hierarchy, in which case there is a faculty whose proper power stems from the rejection of the hierarchical relation.

This rejection of the hierarchical relation between the faculties that make sense involves a certain neutralization of the social hierarchy. This is suggested in the second section of Critique of Judgment through the example of the palace. It is underlined later in the sixtieth section, which attributes to the aesthetic sensus communis a power of reconciliation between principles and classes.

It is also spelled out a few years later in Schiller’s political interpretation of the aesthetic experience as the neutralization of the opposition between the formal drive and the sensible drive. By translating the play between the faculties into a tension between drives, Schiller reminds Kant’s readers of what is at stake. Before becoming faculties that cooperate to form judgments, understanding and sensibility designated parts of the soul, the better part, the leading part of intelligence that has the power to measure, and the subordinated or rebellious part of sensibility that knows only the shock of sensation and the stimuli of desire. As Plato emphasized, the partitioning of the individual soul was a partition of the collective soul, which also was a partition of the classes in the city; there was the class of intelligence and measure that was destined to rule and the class of sensation, desire, and unlimitedness that is naturally rebellious toward the order of intelligence that it must be subjected to. The aesthetic experience is a supplementation of this partition—a third term that cannot be described as a part but as an activity of redistribution, an activity that takes the form of a neutralization.

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