This paper re-examines the relevance of three academic norms to contemporary academic life – communism, universalism and disinterestedness – based on the work of Robert Merton. The results of a web-based survey elicited responses to a series of value statements and were analysed using the weighted average method and through cross-tabulation. Results indicate strong support for communism as an academic norm defined in relation to sharing research results and teaching materials as opposed to protecting intellectual copyright and withholding access. (...) There is more limited support for universalism based on the belief that academic knowledge should transcend national, political, or religious boundaries. Disinterestedness, defined in terms of personal detachment from truth claims, is the least popular contemporary academic norm. Here, the impact of a performative culture is linked to the need for a large number of academics to align their research interests with funding opportunities. The paper concludes by considering the claims of an alternate set of contemporary academic norms including capitalism, particularism and interestedness. (shrink)
British writers of the eighteenth century such as Shaftesbury and Hutcheson are widely thought to have used the notion of disinterestedness to distinguish an aesthetic mode of perception from all other kinds. This historical view originates in the work of Jerome Stolnitz. Through a re-examination of the texts cited by Stolnitz, I argue that none of the writers in question possessed the notion of disinterestedness that has been used in later aesthetic theory, but only the ordinary, non-technical concept, (...) and that they did not use this notion to define a specifically aesthetic mode of perception or a specifically aesthetic mode of anything else. The nearest thing that they had to the Stolnitzian conception of “the aesthetic” was their conception of taste, which differs from the former in some essential respects. (shrink)
The idea of aesthetic disinterestedness has been a central concept in aesthetics since the late eighteenth century. This exchange offers a contemporary reconsideration of disinterestedness from different sides of the question.
The old, historical concept of ‘disinterestedness’ has dominated the tradition of aesthetics for almost two centuries. In environmental aesthetics, a rather recent branch of aesthetics, some scholars such as Arnold Berleant have criticized disinterestedness, claiming that it is not a satisfactory criterion since it views the environment as an artwork. As an alternative, Berleant proposes a theory of the ‘aesthetics of engagement’. I claim that although his main intention is to introduce a comprehensive perception of nature, ‘appreciating nature (...) as nature’, into the aesthetics of nature, Berleant misinterprets ‘disinterestedness’ and overlooks the fact that it can still be maintained within environmental aesthetics. Disinterestedness can guide our judgements with the notions of non-instrumentality, transparent self, and impartiality. In this sense, I argue that the proper opposite of engagement is not disinterestedness but a dominant concept of aesthetics left over from the eighteenth century, the ‘picturesque’, in contrast to holistic accounts of the philosophers who look for an immersion-of-self-in-a-bigger-Self, disinterestedness provides being devoid-of-any-empirical-self and disinterestedness is not anthropocentric, but anthropogenic, human-generated, which accepts the ‘otherness’ of nature and opens the way for respect and care in environmental ethics. (shrink)
This chapter examines the critiques of sentimentalism developed by Moritz Geiger and José Ortega y Gasset within the field of phenomenological aesthetics. It explores and evaluates the main arguments behind this critique: namely the existence of an aesthetic attitude, an intellectualized view of appreciation, and the predominance of form over content. Though both authors utilize Kant’s idea of “aesthetic disinterestedness”, they endorse a view of appreciation which differs from the Kantian one in substantial respects.
This article roots Kant’s concept of disinterestedness, as he uses it in the Critique of Judgment, in Aristotle’s notion of philia by establishing a path from ethics to aesthetics and back. In this way, the third Critique turns out to be one of the main sources for a new ideal of humanity: the ideal suitable for late Enlightenment. This article argues that Kant reaches this fruitful use of disinterestedness by giving to Aristotle’s concept of philia an aesthetic turn.
This paper examines the conception of disinterested love, pur amour, advocated by the Archbishop of Cambrai, Francois Fenelon, and its role in the thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau andWilliam Godwin.We argue that for Fenelon, Rousseau, and Godwin, virtue is, or follows directly from, a form of love stripped of self-interest. Hence, virtuous activity is performed without either hope of reward or fear of punishment and sometimes with no reference to the self at all. At the same time, this disinterested love re-identifies (...) the self with something beyond, whether this is friends, God, the common weal, or utility. We demonstrate that Rousseau and Godwin adopted a specifically Fenelonian conception of disinterested love by considering the particular use they make of Fenelon's works, and, indeed, their references to him as a person. Interestingly, the logic of disinterestedness propels quite disparate thoughts about political life: for Fenelon the virtue is preeminently religious, and lawgivers and monarchs should exemplify and perpetuate pur amour; Rousseau's version is reconceptualised psychologically and reoriented such that it demands democratic politics, while for Godwin disinterestedness becomes a personal moral issue, actually requiring the dissolution of politics and government. (shrink)
While several commentators agree that Schopenhauer’s theory of ‘will-less contemplation’ is a variant of Kant’s account of aesthetic disinterestedness, I shall argue here that Schopenhauer’s account departs from Kant’s in several important ways, and that he radically transforms Kant’s analysis of aesthetic judgement into a novel aesthetic attitude theory. In the first part of the article, I critically discuss Kant’s theory of disinterestedness, pay particular attention to rectifying a common misconception of this notion, and discuss some significant problems (...) with Kant’s approach. In part two, I argue that Schopenhauer gives up Kant’s concern with the transcendental conditions of the reflecting judgement, but nonetheless retains two crucial aspects of Kant’s analysis: first, the idea that pure aesthetic pleasure cannot be based on the satisfaction of some personal desire or inclination and, second, that aesthetic experience is ultimately based on the stimulation of our cognitive powers. For Kant, too, suggests that, although our application of the predicate ‘beautiful’ be independent of the subsumption of the object under any determinate concept, it still leaves room for the imagination and the understanding to play ‘beyond’ what is regulated by determinate concepts. For Schopenhauer, aesthetic pleasure is equally the result of the cognitive freedom and expansion that the ‘will-less’ attitude affords. Schopenhauer thus transforms the Kantian transcendental analysis of beauty in terms of non-conceptual reflection’ into a psychological theory of beauty in terms of ‘non-conceptual cognition’. Hence, according to both Kant and Schopenhauer (or so I argue) a beautiful object yields a degree of harmony that cannot be reduced to the discursively rigid unity offered by conceptual knowledge. And, although Schopenhauer’s ‘idealistic’ version of aesthetic perception fails to accommodate for several valuable ways in which artworks can convey ideas, thoughts, and emotions, his account of aesthetic contemplation in terms of ‘will-lessness’ and objectivity is still rich in psychological insight. (shrink)
This book’s main claim is that political art should not disregard questions of aesthetic reception and value. It argues that some neglected aspects of traditional aesthetics actually enhance the relationship between art and politics more than contemporary art theorists are keen to admit.
The concept of self-interest is core to modern understandings of individual desire and need. It is also central in the concept of homo economicus and, in a variety of forms, underpins economic science. The critical discussion of the notion of self-interest in William Hazlitt, An Essay on the Principles of Human Action, remains unknown in sociology and economics even though it resolves a number of key problems associated with the concept and makes an original, indeed, unique contribution to action theory. (...) In particular, Hazlitt shows that the basis on which an individual pursues their own interest is identical with their sympathy with the interests of others. Hazlitt shows that a clear distinction between self and other cannot be sustained, and that an individual is as remote from their future self as they are from any other person. Even the `sexual appetite' Hazlitt shows cannot be understood in terms of simple self-interest as it is stimulated and consummated through mental and reciprocal capacities. These and related aspects of Hazlitt's Principles are set out below, and their relevance for an understanding of self-interested action and self-formation is demonstrated. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Aesthetic disinterestedness is one of the central concepts in aesthetics, and Jerome Stolnitz, the most prominent theorist of disinterestedness in the 20th century, has claimed that (i) ancient thinkers engagement with this notion was cursory and undeveloped, and consequently, (ii) the emergence of disinterestedness in the 18th century marks the birth of aesthetics as a discipline. In this paper, I use the extant works of Epicurus to show that the ancient philosopher not only had similar concepts, (...) but also motivated them in careful and complex ways. I argue that, in the Epicurean theoretical framework, arts belong to the category of ‘merely natural’ desires, and this classification, combined with what we know of Epicurus’ rejection of art criticism, shows he had carefully worked out reasons supporting the idea that art ought to be approached terminally, rather than instrumentally. Finally, I compare the notion of aesthetic disinterestedness with Epicurus’ views on arts and argue that in many ways the latter are not inferior to the former, and therefore ought to belong to the history of aesthetics. (shrink)
In debates about nature conservation, aesthetic appreciation is typically understood in terms of valuing nature as an amenity, something that we value for the pleasure it provides. In this paper I argue that this position, what I call the hedonistic model, rests on a misunderstanding of aesthetic appreciation. To support this claim I put forward an alternative model based on disinterestedness, and I defend disinterestedness against mistaken interpretations of it. Properly understood, disinterestedness defines a standpoint which precludes (...) self-interest and utility, and it does not entail a passive subject abstracted from who they are. This standpoint is compatible with a 'situated aesthetic' in which appreciation of aesthetic qualities is grounded in an embedded subject who is sensitive to the context and narrative of the object. The alternative model provides a conception of aesthetic value which distinguishes it from amenity value, and it also defines a non-instrumental approach that offers the opportunity for enhanced appreciation and attention to nature's value. (shrink)
The notion of disinterestedness is often conceived of as antiquated or ideological. In spite of this, Hilgers argues that one cannot reject it if one wishes to understand the nature of art. He claims that an artwork typically _asks_ a person to adopt a disinterested attitude towards what it shows, and that the effect of such an adoption is that it makes the person temporarily _lose the sense of herself_, while enabling her to _gain a sense of the other_. (...) Due to an artwork’s particular wealth, multiperspectivity, and dialecticity, the engagement with it cannot culminate in the construction of world-views, but must initiate a process of self-critical thinking, which is a precondition of real self-determination. Ultimately, then, the aesthetic experience of art consists of a dynamic process of _losing the sense of oneself_, while _gaining a sense of the other_, and of _achieving selfhood_. In his book, Hilgers spells out the nature of this process by means of rethinking Kant’s and Schopenhauer’s aesthetic theories in light of more recent developments in philosophy–specifically in hermeneutics, critical theory, and analytic philosophy–and within the arts themselves–specifically within film and performance art. (shrink)
Scholars of Shaftesbury generally consider his notion of disinterestedness as the beginning of modern aesthetics while connecting it questionably with a view of modernity as defined in terms of the segregation of truth, beauty, and goodness. To read Shaftesbury differently, it is necessary to look into the textual circumstances of his key aesthetic ideas. In particular, it is important to recognize his implicit use of Sir William Temple's discussion of the Chinese garden immediately before the few justly famous passages (...) about the beauty of the ocean, the vale, and the fruit trees and about the free and spontaneous response of the human character which constitutes the aesthetic experience. As well as a useful illumination for his new understanding of disinterestedness, this unusual involvement of a radically different artistic and philosophical tradition may also be his momentary revelation and acknowledgement of an otherwise hidden metaphysical inspiration for his revolutionary aesthetics. (shrink)
Two philosophers, Robert Spaemann and Henri Gouhier, have identified a similarity between Fénelon and Kant in the prominence of motive in their thought: disinterestedness in Fénelon's pure love and in Kant's good will. Spaemann emphasizes their common detaching of the ethical in terms of motivation from the context of happiness. In this article I explore further similarities and differences under the topics of perfectionism, pure love, good will, happiness, and disinterestedness, as these are pertinent to their thought. On (...) perfectionism there appears a stark contrast; on pure love over against good will, on happiness, and on disinterestedness, however, there seems a balance between likenesses and differences. Finally I point out a qualification set on pure love by Fénelon and on the good will by Kant. (shrink)
In the Critique of the Power of Judgment, Immanuel Kant proposes a puzzling account of the experience of the beautiful: that aesthetic judgments are both subjective and speak with a universal voice. 1 These properties the subjective and the universal seem mutually exclusive but Kant maintains that they are compatible if we explain aesthetic judgment in terms of the minds a priori structure, as explicated in his earlier Critique of Pure Reason. Kant advances two major claims towards arguing (...) for the compatibility of the subjectivity and universality of the experience of beauty: that aesthetic judgments are disinterested, and that the universality of an aesthetic judgment derives from the transcendental idealists account of ordinary spatio-temporal experience that is, our ordinary cognitive framework can explain the experience of beauty. If correct, these two claims support the thesis that, while the experience of beauty is wholly subjective, it nevertheless speaks with a universal voice . I will move to interpret Kants theory of the beautiful with reference to his earlier two Critiques in order to better understand the marriage of subjectivity and universality. In turn, this re- veals a deeper symmetry between the disinterestedness of the experience of beauty and the freedom of moral action, allowing Kant to maintain, as he indeed does, that beauty is the symbol of morality.. (shrink)
Taking Heidegger's prominent critique of Nietzsche's treatment of Kant's notion of 'aesthetic disinterestedness' as a foil this paper argues that, contrary to the dominant interpretation, Nietzsche's text contain a positive and radical notion of 'aesthetic disinterestedness'. It is argued that Nietzsche's naturalistic notion of aesthetic disinterestedness is a key feature of his conception of art as natural life process that contests the boundaries, values and libidinal constitution of the 'human'. The ramifications of this for Heidegger's reading of (...) Nietzche's aesthetics are considered. The paper reviews Nietzsche's critical treatment of the notion of 'aesthetic disinterestedness' in both "The Birth of Tragedy" and the "Genealogy of Morality" and relates these to his overall vision of the relationship between art and life. (shrink)
Arnold Berleant’s enlargement of the scope of aesthetics to environments and social relationships opens the way for associations with approaches from other human and social sciences. One possible term of comparison is Hartmut Rosa’s theory of modernity, which applies the concept of resonance to various fields, including nature and art. At the beginning, their aims appear to be different and their alternatives slightly different: engagement stresses the continuity between the embodied self and the world, whereas resonance is primarily based upon (...) a model of communication. Nevertheless, their relational theories converge in several respects: they focus on experience, defend participatory models against objectifying and merely contemplative relationships, and practise social criticism in their search for a meaningful and good life. (shrink)
The best judge of the soundness of a philosophical argument is the philosopher with the greatest philosophical aptitude, the deepest knowledge of the relevant subject matter, the most scrupulous character, and a disinterested position with respect to the subject matter. This last feature is important because even a highly intelligent and scrupulous judge may find it hard to reach the right conclusion about a subject in which he or she has a vested interest. When the subject of inquiry is the (...) soundness of theistic arguments, the best judge will be the most intelligent and scrupulous philosopher who is also disinterested in the soundness of the theistic argument under consideration. I argue that, in this case, the disinterestedness requirement is best satisfied by the theist whose belief in God is “properly basic”, and in the course of defending this argument I uncover a little-recognized desideratum for theistic arguments. (shrink)
I argue that Nietzsche’s criticism of the Kantian theory of disinterested pleasure in beauty reflects his own commitment to claims that closely resemble certain Kantian aesthetic principles, specifically as reinterpreted by Schiller. I show that Schiller takes the experience of beauty to be disinterested both (1) insofar as it involves impassioned ‘play’ rather than desire-driven ‘work’, and (2) insofar as it involves rational-sensuous (‘aesthetic’) play rather than mere physical play. In figures like Nietzsche, Schiller’s generic notion of play—which is itself (...) influenced by Kant’s claim that aesthetic pleasure is orthogonal to desire-satisfaction—becomes decoupled from his (further) Kantian view that aesthetic play essentially involves a harmony of sensuous receptivity and rational spontaneity. The result, I suggest, is a self-standing opposition between desires and passions. This motivates a recognizably Romantic vision of aesthetic disinterestedness, as freedom from desire realized in a state of creative determination by passion. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant and his work occupied a space at the crossroads of several important movements in philosophy. In this essay, I look at two important crossroads in aesthetics. First, the subjective turn in aesthetics, when the focus on aesthetic objects was rebalanced with the focus on the subject’s experience of such objects, the weight shifting from the objective to the subjective. Second, after many years and many theories advancing the view that universality of judgment could be achieved, at least in (...) part, through adoption of the appropriate perspective – or attitude – when considering a particular aesthetic object, Kant offers us perhaps the most sophisticated view of disinterestedness of any, and as he does so he solidifies that tradition, bringing it to its culmination, and ushers in the beginning of its end. (shrink)