Frankfurt - Warwick. Workshop

31 March until 1 April 2017

Goethe-University, Campus Westend
Building "Normative Ordnungen", Room 501
Max-Horkheimer-Str. 2, 60323 Frankfurt am Main

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Programme (pdf): click here...

Friday, 31 March
12.45–13.00: Martin Seel (Frankfurt/M.)
Welcome and Introduction

Diarmuid Costello (Warwick)
‘Orthodoxies, Art Historical and Philosophical: Michael Fried and Roger Scruton on Meaning and Intention in Photography’

14.30–15.00 Coffee & Tea

Juliane Rebentisch (Offenbach/M.)
‘Aesthetics and Contemporary Art’

16.30–17.00 Coffee & Tea

Christoph Menke (Frankfurt/M.)
‘The Paradox of Ability and the Value of Beauty’

Saturday 1 April

Eileen John (Warwick)
Fiction that feels like a parable: the disturbing children of Erpenbeck and Coetzee’

Stephen Mulhall (New College, Oxford)
‘Philosophy, Autobiography and the Ascetic Ideal: J.M. Coetzee's Scenes from Provincial Life’

12.30–14.00 Lunch


Peter Poellner (Warwick)
‘Horizonality, Possibility, Value: Some Thoughts on Musil's Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften’

15.30–16.00 Coffee & Tea

Christiane Voss (Weimar)
‘Dioramatic Perspectives’

Martin Seel (Frankfurt/M.)
What is a poetic thought?’

‘Orthodoxies, Art Historical and Philosophical: Michael Fried and Roger Scruton on Meaning and Intention in Photography’
Roger Scruton is the arch sceptic about photography: photography cannot satisfy a genuine aesthetic interest because our interest in photographs is necessarily a practical interest in the objects photographed, rather than an aesthetic interest in their manner of depiction. Michael Fried is the arch aesthetic defender of recent photographic art: photography matters as art today as never before—largely in virtue of inheriting the problematic of absorption and theatricality in beholding art that took canonical form with
Diderot and 18th Century French painting. Despite this, I show that the terms in which Fried defends the artistic credentials of photography turn out to endorse several motivating tenets of Scruton’s scepticism despite himself. I take Fried’s interpretation of Thomas Demand’s constructed photographs as "allegories of sheer intendedness” as my main example.

‘Fiction that feels like a parable: the disturbing children of Erpenbeck and Coetzee’
I am interested in contemporary fiction that can make a reader feel that she
is being offered a parable. But some of these parable-like works go on for too long and are too disorienting, perhaps, for purposes of effective teaching or illumination. Erpenbeck's novellas The Old Child and The Book of Words and Coetzee's The Childhood of Jesus and The Boyhood of Jesus will be considered as works that put a child or child-like figure at the centre of such stories, and that press the question of what kind of readers we need to be.

‘The Paradox of Ability and the Value of Beauty’
The decisive practical question of the project of enlightenment is the paradoxical relation between the growth of abilities and the intensification of power relations. Indeed, the question is whether ability and domination (or servitude) can be disconnected from one another at all. Are there any free abilities, any abilities of freedom? Or is the freedom of ability, that is, the ability of freedom, a paradox which can only be maintained and
sustained rather than resolved? The discourse of aesthetics, the modern theory of the aesthetic, offers the possibility for an investigation of this question. For it is in aesthetics, that is to say, in the domain of semblance, that the being of ability appears. But it appears here, from the beginning and throughout, in an internally opposed and contradictory way. In the context of modernity, aesthetics, as theory and praxis, is the field of the struggle over what abilities (that is to say: ‘subjects’) are. This defines the debate about the concept of beauty.

‘Philosophy, Autobiography and the Ascetic Ideal: J.M. Coetzee's Scenes from Provincial Life’
In this paper, I utilize Nietzsche’s concept of the ascetic ideal, and his vision of its pervasive presence in Western culture, as a lens through which to
understand J.M. Coetzee’s idiosyncratic approach to the task of autobiographical writing, both in his theoretical writings on the topic (in Doubling the Point) and in a trilogy of texts that his publishers present as autobiographical exercises. This means tracing Coetzee’s understanding the role of the concepts of confession, sincerity and truthfulness in the field of life-writing, as well as the existential difficulties they engender of telling the truth about oneself without self-deception, and of bringing confession to a decisive and productive end. The final part of the paper looks at how these theoretical issues work themselves out in the first volume of Coetzee’s autobiographical trilogy – Boyhood.

‘Horizonality, Possibility, Value: Some Thoughts on Musil's Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften’
Musil’s philosophy of mind in Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften crystallizes around a distinctive inflection of characteristically modernist dualisms -- specifically around the distinction between an essentially power-oriented “ratioid” Wirklichkeitssinn and an anderer Zustand associated variously with imagination, metaphor, and “possibility”. The phenomenology of the andere Zustand in MwQ has partial affinities with traditional characterizations of the aesthetic attitude while also being canvassed as the
basis for a non-distorted or proper ethical orientation. Musil’s thinking onthis is challenging and elusive but still potentially fruitful – or so I shall argue in this paper.

‘Aesthetics and Contemporary Art’
The lecture will not only give an overview over the major challenges contemporary art poses for modernist aesthetics. It will also reflect on the ways in which aesthetics (in all its varieties) is implicated in questions of art criticism and vice versa.

‘What is a poetic thought? ’
"We speak of understanding a sentence in the sense in which it can be replaced by another which says the same; but also in the sense in which it cannot be replaced by any other. (Any more than one musical theme can be replaced by another.)" Starting from this remark in §531 of the Philosophical Investigations my presentation will deal not with poetry in particular but with the difference and interrelation between "poetic" (in a wide sense) and "prosaic" (more or less Fregean) thoughts. This will lead to the question of whether the established theoretical hierarchies – prose (and its analysis) as prior to (the analysis of) poetic language, or the other way around – are sound.

‘Dioramatic Perspectives’
While it is already a truism, that postmodern aesthetics expanded into fields that lead and lay far beyond the Arts in a narrow sense (e.g.: politics, rhetoric, everyday-life, games, architecture etc.) it is less often considered how far aesthetics play a role in institutions and exhibitions that play educational and epistemic roles, for example in a scientific way. Especially the traditional division between "realms of aesthetics" and "realms of science" seem to suggest that scientific and aesthetic forms of knowledge are alien to one another. This presupposition will be critically considered in the light of an analysis of so called "Habitat Dioramas". These are museal dispositifs and "lookarrangements" that exist in Natural History Museums worldwide since the late 19th century. They figure as "windows to nature" and are constructed by taxidermists, biologists and zoologists to reenact and/or represent a vivid and illusionistic picture of an allegedly untouched nature.
The questions are: 1) how and which aesthetic strategies are employed that impart scientific knowledge to laymen and children? 2) What philosophical
notion of "aesthetic" is here involved? 3) How could the somewhat anachronistic style of "Habitat Dioramas" be related to modern concepts of aesthetic?

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