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The Modern Concept of Aesthetic Experience: from Ascetic Pleasure to Social Criticism

Critical Horizons 11 (3):333-339 (2010)
This paper examines the use of “pleasure” as the distinguishing mark of aesthetic experience in post-Kantian philosophy. It shows how the distinctive features of aesthetic experience, such as pleasure, qualify this experience as a platform for social criticism. The key argument is that the autonomy of the aesthetic experience is not “false”, rather it is paradoxical in the strong sense that the fact of its communicative efficacy, which follows from distinctive, “autonomous” aesthetic features, necessarily loads it with functions and expectations that are external to the aesthetic moment. Kant takes a complicated path to qualify aesthetic judgment as disinterested in order that it may eloquently testify for morality. He thereby sets up the cogency of the modern pattern of looking to aesthetic experience as a locus of meaningful communication for ideas that are experientially poor or remote
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