On the Sameness of the Aesthetic, Psychoanalysis & Dasein – JOSH MCLOUGHLIN

Josh Mcloughlin is co-founder and editor at Sonder.

On the Sameness of the Aesthetic, Psychoanalysis & Dasein*

This essay considers the nature of the relationship of three categories: the ‘aesthetic’; ‘theory’; and ‘being-in-the-world’ – or what Martin Heidegger calls Dasein.[1] The first question in such a study must be: why is it that the aesthetic is preserved as a category distinct from other modes like philosophy – or ‘theory’ – and being-in-the-world? Is it because the aesthetic is always seen as somehow being other to theory and to being-in-the-world, since it is often seen to say something about the world, to descant on it, to re-present it elsewhere, away from the actualities of lived experience or being-in-the-world? Are theory and the aesthetic different because theory somehow ‘explains’ the aesthetic? Simon O’Sullivan offers the following definition of the aesthetic:

art is not an object amongst others, at least not an object of knowledge (or not only an object of knowledge). Rather, art does something else. Indeed, art is precisely antithetical to knowledge; […] Which is to say that art might well be a part of the world (after all it is a made thing), but at the same time it is apart from the world. And this apartness, however it is theorised, is what constitutes art’s importance.[2]

O’Sullivan’s view unfolds a certain way of thinking about the category of the aesthetic and its relation to ‘the world’ and to ‘theory’, and it is this way of thinking that will be challenged in this essay.[3] The assertion that art is ‘antithetical to knowledge’ places it in direct opposition to ‘theory’ (or ‘philosophy’, a love of knowledge). Noël Carroll also opposes theory and the aesthetic when he says that, ‘twentieth-century aesthetics has been preoccupied with defining art’.[4] Likewise James. M. Thompson says that, ‘art is produced and enjoyed and even defined against a background of theories’.[5] The Greek ‘theōria’ originally meant ‘contemplation, speculation’, which again emphasises a separation from the ‘object’ of theory, which would be the aesthetic. In conventional thinking, that is, theory ‘define[s]’, explains or ‘contemplat[es]’ the aesthetic, and is therefore fundamentally different from it or ‘against’ it in some way. Not only that, but art is seen as uncomfortably straddling the border between inhabiting the world and what O’Sullivan ambivalently calls an ‘apartness’ which is other to it. In the end, however, O’Sullivan comes down on the side of this ‘apartness’ from the world of the aesthetic, since it is this ‘apartness’ which ‘constitutes art’s importance’. But what if the aesthetic is not opposed to theory? What if the aesthetic is actually the condition for the possibility of thinking philosophically? In fact, what if theory and the aesthetic were profoundly similar modes, where the former is modelled intimately on the latter? That would mean that it is the aesthetic which ‘defin[e]s’ or explains theory and not the other way round.[6] What if, moreover, subjective experience of the world were always-already aesthetic? If the aesthetic is also the condition for being-in-the-world at all, it makes little sense to speak, as O’Sullivan does, of the aesthetic as being ambiguously divided or ‘apart’ from the world and less sense still to ground ‘art’s importance’ in its difference to the world and being-in-it.

This essay will show how the aesthetic provides the model for theory and for Dasein, so that thinking philosophically and being-in-the-world are both always-already aesthetic. This way of thinking retains the aesthetic as a foundational concept, yet problematizes the distinctions between the ‘aesthetic’, ‘theory’ and ‘being-in-the-world’. This essay will unfold a way of thinking about the aesthetic which does away with the opposition O’Sullivan sets up between it and theory, taking psychoanalytic theory as a case in point because so much of that theory makes use of the category of the aesthetic. First, I will challenge O’Sullivan’s notion of opposition between the aesthetic and theory by suggesting a general colloquy between the two. I will then undertake a comparative analysis of psychoanalytic theory and a revised category of the Heideggerian aesthetic in order to show how the category of the aesthetic and psychoanalysis possess a profoundly similar structure. Once this way of looking at the aesthetic and theory has been mapped out, I will look at the place of that other key concept in Heidegger’s philosophy, Dasein, in relation to both psychoanalysis and the aesthetic, demonstrating how the aesthetic constitutes the model and possibility for being-in-the-world at all. In the end, all three categories will emerge constituted as and by allegory, listening and what Heidegger calls ‘disclosure’ (alétheia).[7]

Theory, the aesthetic & allegory

Terry Eagleton argues that thinking and speaking about art (in other words thinking philosophically or ‘doing’ theory) always involves thinking and speaking about something else. [8]  Broadly speaking, then, we may say that theory is allegorical, because ‘at its simplest,’ says Jeremy Tambling, ‘allegory is a way of saying one thing and meaning another’.[9] For Eagleton, the meaning behind such theory is always geared towards ‘the middle class’s struggle for political hegemony’ – but whatever the particularities, all theory shares this allegorical character.[10] At the same time, Heidegger seems to place the aesthetic within the space of allegory. He says that ‘works are as naturally present as things’ and that all aesthetic objects have a ‘thingly character’ – just as O’Sullivan says ‘after all [art] is a made thing’ – which they share with other objects.[11] Heidegger immediately objects to this conflation of aesthetic and non-aesthetic objects and experiences, however, and such an objection arises, he says, because we are compelled to assert that the aesthetic (say, music or sculpture) says something other than that which it ‘is’ (say, noise or stone).[12] Heidegger concludes that ‘the work is a symbol’, but insofar as the aesthetic means something other than what its materiality ‘says’, we can conclude that art too is allegorical.[13] If both theory and the aesthetic share this allegorical structure, theory might be understood as an allegory of an allegory. To take this idea further, thinking about art (theory), means thinking like art – that is, allegorically. What, then, is the difference between theory and the aesthetic, if both are allegorical modes? The difference is that it is the aesthetic which first provides the allegorical model for philosophical thinking.

Seen in this way, the aesthetic is far from being ‘antithetical to knowledge’.[14] Alain Badiou points out that Plato’s objection to art is ‘not so much as an imitation of things but an imitation of truth’.[15] But if we think of art and theory as allegorical, Plato’s notion is reversed: philosophy (the love of knowledge or ‘truth’) as the allegory of an allegory becomes an imitation of art. Indeed, this overturns Badiou’s own idea that the aesthetic is ‘the charm of a semblance of truth’, since it is philosophy and not art which is ‘semblance’ or imitation.[16] This bringing together of art and theory as allegory troubles O’Sullivan’s, Plato’s, Badiou’s and Carroll’s distinction between the aesthetic and philosophy: if both are allegorical, and moreover if theory takes after the aesthetic, the two cannot be thought of as ‘against’ or ‘antithetical’ to one another.[17] In fact, the two cannot be thought of even as very different at all. Theory can no longer be considered to ‘explain’ the aesthetic, since it is the structure of the aesthetic which comes to define the philosophical. The idea that the aesthetic provides a kind of model for other forms thinking is present in Heidegger’s readings of Friedrich Hölderlin, and we will also see that Heidegger’s notion of the aesthetic (which he calls simply ‘poetry’ or Gedichte) concerns not just the relation of art and theory but also overlaps with Dasein. Before we consider the relation of being-in-the-world and psychoanalytic theory to the aesthetic, we will concentrate on that last category, expounding it in more detail, whilst keeping in mind that both art and theory are allegorical and that theory seems to take after the aesthetic.

Heidegger’s ‘Aesthetic’

What exactly is the aesthetic? Heidegger reads Hölderlin’s verse to formulate the notion of the poetic ‘measure’.[18] This poetry, or Gedichte, can be thought of as the category of the aesthetic more generally – as we will see, Heidegger’s idea of painting shares much with what he calls poetry. As Heidegger explains, this poetic measure ‘passes aloft towards the sky, yet remains below on the earth’ and ‘this between is measured out for the dwelling of man’.[19] This ‘measure-taking’ is not merely of the earth, but ‘gauges the between’ of heaven and earth, the sky.[20] This measure-taking is primary, however, and is not to be thought of in an quantitative sense: it is, as Heidegger says, ‘the taking of the measure by which the measure-taking of human being is accomplished’ (222). All other forms of calculation and measuring, indeed all other forms of human activity, take after this original aesthetic measure. This might confirm our earlier ideas about theory being modelled on art, since philosophy is a form of calculation, of ‘measure-taking’, but we will see shortly just how closely how ‘poetry and thinking meet’.[21] The measure, for both Hölderlin and Heidegger, is God. Yet, God is not the measure because He is knowable, but precisely because he remains a mystery. God thus remains unknowable, such that not only God himself but His ‘manifestness’ is also a mystery.[22] God’s disclosure in the sky allows a register of what is concealed, but that which is registered remains unknown to consciousness. The aesthetic, in this way, involves disclosure without full or direct knowledge. Throughout his philosophy, Heidegger adopts the term alétheia, meaning a ‘disclosure’ which does not result in direct knowledge of truth, to signal this kind of ‘unconcealment’.[23] It is precisely this registering, this ‘letting come’ which retains the unknowability of that-which-is-disclosed, which comes to define the poetic ‘measure’.[24] In his reading of Van Gogh, Heidegger says of the shoes in the painting ‘this being emerges into the unconcealment of its Being’.[25] That process of ‘unconcealment’ isn’t presentation as such, but it is a disclosure of the fact that there is something which remains unpresentable.[26] The work of visual art, like Hölderlin’s poetic ‘measure’, allows the disclosure (alétheia) of something unavailable to consciousness. That grouping of visual art and poetry allows us to let Heidegger’s ideas stand for the category of the aesthetic in the more general sense in which we have been using it.

Crucial to this formulation of the aesthetic is a kind of receptivity: the poetic measure is a ‘listening’ which does not ‘grasp’ at the mystery it discloses.[27] Heidegger says:

the responding in which man authentically listens […] is that which speaks in the element of poetry […] in order to think of poetry, must ever and again first give thought to the measure that is taken in poetry; we must pay heed to the kind of taking here, which does not consist in a clutching or any other kind of grasping, but rather in a letting come of what has been dealt out.[28]

The aesthetic, then, is a ‘letting come’; a receptivity or ‘listening’ which does not aim at direct knowledge, but rather discloses (alétheia) that there is something which is unknowable – in this case God. Indeed this poetic-measure, this ‘listening’, is also allegorical, since what the aesthetic does is to disclose (alétheia) the heavenly in the measurement of something else entirely:

the measure consists in the way in which the god who remains unknown, is revealed as such by the sky. God’s appearance through the sky consists in a disclosing that lets us see what conceals itself, but lets us see it not by seeking to wrest what is concealed out of its concealedness, but only by guarding the concealed in its self-concealment. Thus the unknown god appears as the unknown by way of the sky’s manifestness.[29]

It is ‘the sky’s manfiestness’ to which the aesthetic listens, and in which the aesthetic ‘reveal[s]’ or allegorizes God’s unconcealment (alétheia). If we re-word Tambling’s definition of allegory, we can say that the sky is ‘one thing’ that is ‘said’ or measured, but it is another thing – God – which is the meaning of that measure.[30] The aesthetic, we can say, is both allegory and listening, even allegorical listening, which ‘unconceals’ something which nevertheless retreats from consciousness or direct knowledge. This receptivity, this ‘not seeking to wrest’ that-which-remains-unknown is key, but in naming this sensitivity ‘listening’ instead of, say, ‘seeing’ or ‘feeling’, Heidegger is not being arbitrary. Listening constitutes perhaps the ultimate receptivity, as Jacques Lacan points out: ‘in the field of the unconscious, the ears are the only orifice that cannot be closed’.[31] Receptive-listening, then, transports us from Heidegger’s aesthetic to psychoanalytic theory, connecting the two. We will see later that Dasein is also constituted by this receptivity. Now, however, we will consider psychoanalytic theory in order to refine the general colloquy we have established between the aesthetic and theory in light of the revised notion of the aesthetic as an allegorical listening which enables the disclosure or unconcealment (alétheia) of a mystery.

Psychoanalysis & the Aesthetic

As Joseph D. Lichtenberg notes, ‘the analyst […] work[s] by maintaining a posture of reflective listening not apt to be found in any ordinary experience in life’.[32] On the part of the subject or analysand, as we have seen, it is ‘the ears’ which open up most intimately and irrevocably onto the unconscious.[33] In this way, the psychoanalytic ‘talking cure’ is a misnomer, since it is as much to do with listening as speaking. This psychoanalytic listening parallels the ‘painstaking listening’ which Heidegger says is central to poetry (the aesthetic, Gedichte) in his reading of Hölderlin.[34] Just as listening is the condition for the possibility of the original aesthetic measure of a mystery unavailable to consciousness (God), so too is listening vital for psychoanalytic theory to connect to the unconscious which, as its name suggests, ultimately remains unavailable to consciousness. If we take the comparison further, psychoanalysis can be thought of as an allegorical listening to the analysand’s speech, in which the seemingly nonsensical or random montages of the unconscious and dream-content can be brought to consciousness or ‘unconcealed’ through the logic of analysis and the talking cure. After all, Freud says that ‘the dream-thoughts and the dream-content are presented to us like two versions of the same subject matter in two different languages’, meaning that psychoanalytic listening can never fully ‘know’ the contents of the unconscious in any direct way. Instead the analyst can only register the unconscious indirectly through the allegorical elaboration of ‘dream-content’ in the quite different logic of analysis following a mediating process of listening – what in psychoanalysis is called the talking cure.[35] More than this, Freud insists that dreams always mean something other than their ‘manifest content as it is presented’ – in other words not only the process of psychoanalytic interpretation but dreams and the unconscious in the first instance are themselves allegorical, much like the aesthetic and theory more generally. In fact, we can say that the ‘manifestness’ of the unconscious is allegorized through psychoanalytic listening just as God’s ‘manifestness’ is allegorized in the aesthetic measure-listening to the sky described by Heidegger.[36] In Freud’s words, the unconscious is that ‘which must be inferred, discovered, and translated’.[37] For our purposes, what psychoanalytic listening pursues is an allegorical disclosure (alétheia) of the presence of something hidden from consciousness. Psychoanalytic theory, then, is not operative as a decoding, a ‘seeking to wrest’ – what Caroll calls a ‘defining’-  but a listening, a being-receptive to the ultimately unknowable unconscious, and to this extent it is like Heidegger’s aesthetic, which also seeks to allegorically disclose (alétheia) through listening but not to irrevocably know the Godhead.[38]

We can now see that the aesthetic and psychoanalytic theory are both modes of allegory, of listening, even allegorical listening to a mystery – the one to God and the other to the unconscious. But what happens when we consider a specific psychoanalytic episode? We have until now only compared psychoanalytic theory in general – the unconscious, the talking cure, dream-content – with the aesthetic. Take Freud’s notion of ‘The Uncanny’, which Mladen Dolar calls the ‘dimension […] located at the very core of psychoanalysis’.[39] In his essay Freud quotes Friedrich Schiller, who says that the Uncanny ‘is the name for everything that ought to have remained secret and hidden, but has come to light’.[40]  As we have seen in Heidegger’s reading of Hölderlin, however, such a ‘coming to light’ does not necessitate a direct knowing. The Uncanny, as Schiller continues, ‘veil[s] the divine’ even as it discloses Heimlich secrecy – just as Heidegger’s aesthetic involves a ‘letting come’ which discloses but upholds the mystery of an unknowable God.[41] Yet Heimlich is itself ‘withdrawn from knowledge, unconscious, inaccessible’.[42] This is not a problem, however, since the Uncanny, for Freud, is charged with the significance of both the Heimlich and the Unheimlich.[43] The fact that the Uncanny involves, at the same time, disclosure and erasure, a ‘com[ing] to light’ and a ‘withdraw[al] from knowledge’, Heimlich and Unheimlich, connects Freud’s account of the Uncanny psychoanalytic episode to Heidegger’s category of the aesthetic because both converge on a disclosure or unconcealment (alétheia). Freud is alive to the the Uncanny as a profoundly aesthetic experience, despite the fact that, as he says ‘nothing is to be found upon this subject in elaborate treatises on aesthetics’.[44] What Freud ignores, however, is the importance of listening. The Uncanny, for Freud, is linked ‘the idea of being robbed of one’s eyes’, and it is the psychological significance of the ocular which is the preoccupation of the essay. [45] However, in his summary of ‘The Sandman’, Freud neglects to mention the importance Hoffman seems to place on listening to the psychological experience of the Uncanny, as Sigismund says:

[Olympia’s] playing and her singing keep the same unpleasantly correct and spiritless time as a musical box, and the same may be said of her dancing. We find your Olympia quite uncanny.[46]

Sigismund says that Olympia’s ‘singing’ is profoundly Uncanny, but he also condenses her divergent visual (‘her playing’) and aural uncanniness in the image of the ‘musical box’, implicitly installing listening as the preeminent Uncanny sense. Whilst the Uncanny obliterates vision, it enters the unconscious, as Lacan says, through ‘the ears’.[47]  Listening is what catalyses the experience of the Uncanny, and would have to be what remains following the Uncanny encounter, since the subject’s vision is, as Freud says, ‘robbed’. In fact, as Dolar goes on to suggest, ‘it seems that Freud speaks about a “universal” of human experience when he speaks of the uncanny’.[48] Psychoanalysis itself, then, is comprehensively defined by the importance of listening: the ears offer the proper way into the unconscious; the Uncanny, the quintessential ‘human experience’ in general and psychoanalytic encounter in particular, results from that same aural receptivity; and the talking cure centres on a listening to the unconscious which results in an allegory – what Freud calls the ‘translation’ – of ‘dream-content’ into the logic of psychoanalysis.[49] Ultimately, it is Heidegger’s aesthetic, that ‘measure’ which also listens to and discloses (alétheia) the existence of something unavailable to consciousness through the allegory of the sky, which provides the model for psychoanalytic listening. If the Uncanny, as well as being profoundly to do with listening is, as Dolar suggests, a kind of ground zero of the psychoanalytic subject’s being-in-the-world, then both Freud’s Uncanny and its model, the aesthetic, connect with Heidegger’s own concept of Dasein, to which we will now turn.

Dasein & the Aesthetic

Heidegger uses the term Dasein to describe a kind of ‘universal’ mode of human experience, which can also be called ‘being-in-the-world’.[50] But what is the connection between Dasein or being-in-the-world and the aesthetic and psychoanalytic theory – which we have said are both profoundly allegorical and to do with listening and disclosure (alétheia)? Before answering that question we need to look at what exactly Dasein is. There is another term which is crucial to Heidegger’s discussion of the aesthetic ‘measure’ which also usefully clarifies Dasein: ‘dwelling’.[51] Heidegger urges us to ‘think of what is usually called the existence of man in terms of dwelling’, and that this ‘dwelling rests on the poetic’.[52] Heidegger also says that, ‘when Hölderlin speaks of dwelling, he has before his eyes the basic character of human existence’.[53] Dwelling, then, is nothing less than the fact of ‘existence’ peculiar to the human subject. Elsewhere Heidegger says, ‘this entity which each of us is himself…we shall denote by the term “Dasein”’.[54] We can say, then, that Dasein and dwelling are in accordance: both describe the ‘basic character’ of human existence, ‘that entity which each of us is himself’. Dasein, like theory, also takes after the aesthetic since, as Heidegger attests, it ‘rests on the poetic’. The aesthetic is not an ‘ornament’ to dwelling or Dasein, as Heidegger says, but ‘poetry first causes dwelling to be dwelling’.[55] ‘Poetry’ – Gedicthe, the aesthetic, the poetic-measure – not only provides the model for theory, but ‘is what first brings man onto the earth […] and thus brings him into dwelling’.[56] Poetry is what makes being-in-the-world possible; or to put it another way, Dasein is always-already aesthetic.

If Dasein, like theory, is modelled on the aesthetic, is it also allegorical and to do with listening? As Christopher Kul-Want notes, ‘the identity [of Dasein] is always outside of itself since it is essentially receptive and affectable’.[57] That ‘receptiv[ity]’ brings Dasein into contact with the aesthetic and with psychoanalytic theory, which both involve aural ‘receptiv[ity]’. We can push the comparison further. If, as Kul-Want says, ‘the identity [of Dasein] is always outside of itself’, and we retain the logic with which we have theorised the aesthetic and the philosophical, Dasein too becomes allegorical, since its meaning or ‘identity’ lies elsewhere. Indeed the connection between the aesthetic and Dasein emerges in the phrase of Hölderlin’s to which Heidegger pays such close attention: ‘poetically man dwells’.[58] But is Dasein to be thought of as a listening which results in a disclosure (alétheia) of some unknown, as is this case for psychoanalysis and the unconscious and for the aesthetic and God? We have said that Dasein involves both listening and allegory, and it is the very fact and convergence of these two factors which confirms Dasein as unconcealment. Dasein, which is ‘the basic character of human existence’ unconceals its own ‘basic character’  in its very receptivity or listening to poetry, since ‘dwelling […] rests on the poetic’ and it is ‘poetry [that] first causes dwelling to be dwelling’.[59] Yet, just as the Uncanny, as Schiller says  ‘veils’ even as it unconceals that which remains mysterious, so too does Dasein attain to the same disclosure (alétheia) as the aesthetic and psychoanalytic theory precisely because its ‘identity is always outside of itself’.[60] In other words the unconcealment of Dasein comes from its listening to poetry and its allegorical ‘outside of itself’ identity. When we locate Dasein’s ‘basic character’ in the aesthetic, as Heidegger does, we are locating that essence within an allegory, since the aesthetic is the primary allegorical mode. Like theory, then, Dasein emerges as the allegory of an allegory. Thus, Dasein is always subject to an unconcealment which precludes direct knowledge (alétheia) precisely because, like Hölderlin’s God, Dasein cannot be ‘grasp[ed]’ since its essence is ‘outside of itself’, an allegory of the aesthetic, which is also an allegory. We can re-write Hölderlin’s ‘poetically man dwells’ as follows: ‘aesthetic is Dasein’ or ‘Dasein is aesthetic’. Of course, the two are exactly not the same: on the one hand, poetry, (Gedicthe) stands for the category of the aesthetic and, on the other, and Dasein is being-in-the-world. Yet, in Heidegger’s reading of Hölderlin, the aesthetic as poetic-measure is a prerequisite for ‘dwelling’ or Dasein.[61]

We will return to the question of sameness later but for now the difference, once again, is that it is the aesthetic which is the model (we could even borrow from Heidegger and call it the ‘measure’): both being-in-the-world and theory are always-already aesthetic, since both are modelled on the kind of receptive-listening and allegory which Heidegger attributes to that original aesthetic moment. The aesthetic (Gedicthe) constitutes a listening to an unknowable which is allegorised for the purpose of making all other measurements of the world (theory) and being-in-the-world (dwelling, or Dasein) possible. In turn, theory and Dasein replicate that structure in their own allegorical listening which discloses (alétheia) a mystery which cannot be grasped fully. For psychoanalytic theory the mystery is the unconscious; for being-in-the-world, it is the ungraspable because always ‘outside of itself’ identity of Dasein itself.

Heiddegerian ‘Gathering’: The Aesthetic, Psychoanalysis & Dasein

This study has shown three things. First, the ‘aesthetic’, ‘theory’ and Dasein are all to do with listening: the aesthetic is a listening-measure to and of an unknowable, mysterious God; Dasein in turn is profoundly ‘receptive’ to that poetry; psychoanalysis, like the poetic-measure, is itself a listening to an unknowable unconscious. Second, all three are allegorical: the aesthetic is allegorical in Heidegger’s sense of meaning something other than its materiality and also in the sense of the poetic-measure as allegorizing the heavenly unknown in the measuring of the sky; Dasein or ‘dwelling’ is allegorical because its ‘identity is always outside of itself’, since the aesthetic is the condition for its possibility; and psychoanalytic theory is allegorical not only because all theory seems allegorical of the aesthetic, but because psychoanalytic listening in particular, just like Heidegger’s poetic-measure, produces an allegorical knowledge of a great unknowable (the unconscious). Lastly, all three allow a disclosing (alétheia): the aesthetic or Heidegger’s poetic-measure registers the presence of a God which remains unpresentable in its unconcealment; Dasein is subject to alétheia precisely because it unconceals its essence in its listening to poetry and, at the same time, remains veiled precisely because its identity is always allegorically ‘outside of itself’; and psychoanalytic theory – the talking cure, the interpretation of dreams – can only ever unconceal the unconscious, which by its very essence cannot ever be brought fully to consciousness and presented directly. We can combine these three elements as follows: the aesthetic involves an allegorical listening to the sky which unconceals an unknowable God; Dasein involves an allegorical listening to poetry, the very fact of which unconceals the always unknowable-because-allegorical essence of Dasein; the allegorical listening of psychoanalytic theory allows the unconscious to ‘emerge into […]unconcealment’ in the same way the aesthetic unconceals God through the allegory of the sky.[62]

What are the consequences of these conclusions for thinking about the nature of the categories of ‘aesthetic’, ‘theory’ and ‘(being-in) the world’ and the relations between them, which we said at the start we would consider? We can now see that the aesthetic and psychoanalytic theory are both modes of allegory, of listening, even allegorical listening to a mystery – the one to God and the other to the unconscious – and so the aesthetic is far from being ‘antithetical to’ or ‘against’ theory as O’Sullivan and Thompson suggest. Moreover, theory can no longer be said to ‘defin[e]’ the aesthetic, as Carroll would have it, since it is the aesthetic which provides the very model for philosophical thinking. Likewise Plato and Badiou are mistaken in considering the aesthetic as imitation or ‘semblance’, since it is the allegorical listening of the aesthetic which animates (psychoanalytic) philosophy.[63]  If the aesthetic undergirds Dasein in the same way, as we have seen, it makes little sense to speak of the ‘apartness’ of the aesthetic from the world, as O’Sullivan does, because being-in-the-world ‘rests on the poetic’.[64] Dasein or ‘dwelling’ and the aesthetic are always-already imbricated, to the extent that the importance of the aesthetic lies not in its ‘apartness’, as O’Sullivan has it, but in its absolute inherence in all forms of thinking and being-in-the-world. Thus have we redefined the categories of the aesthetic, theory and being-in-the-world. The result is that there appears certain affinities between them, and the aesthetic constitutes the model and the condition for the possibility of thinking philosophically and being-in-the-world. But are we to conclude that the aesthetic, theory and Dasein are the same? After all, they still remain three distinct categories. Heidegger says, ‘the equal or identical always moves toward the absence of difference. […] The same, by contrast, is the belonging together of what differs, through a gathering by way of the difference’.[65] We can think of the aesthetic, psychoanalytic theory and Dasein as being the ‘same’ in this way, that is, the same but not ‘equal or identical’. The three categories retain their difference as the ‘aesthetic’, ‘theory’ and ‘being-in-the-world’ respectively, but at the same time they ‘belong together […] through a gathering’, and what is ‘gather[ed]’ into sameness is listening, allegory and unconcealment (alétheia).[66]

* A version of this essay will be presented at the International Journal of Arts & Sciences Conferences, November 8-11 2016, University of London

 

[1] John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (trans.) Martin Heidegger, ‘Exposition of the Task of a Preparatory Analysis of Dasein’, in Being and Time (Oxford: Blackwell, 1962), pp.67-77, p.68.

[2] Simon O’Sullivan, ‘The Aesthetics of Affect’, Journal of Theoretical Humanities, 28 (2001), pp.125-135, p.125

[3] For the sake of convenience, and despite the differences between them, terms like ‘literary’ or ‘literature’, along with other aesthetic forms like visual art, music, sculpture and architecture, will be subsumed under the general terms ‘aesthetic’ or ‘art’ since that term names the category in which all those ‘artworks’ have historically been placed. Insofar as this essay considers the relation of the ‘aesthetic’ as a distinct category, the divergent histories and forms of particular aesthetic modes, such as the literary and the musical, will be elided in order to clear the way for a philosophy of the aesthetic more broadly as it relates to ‘being-in-the-world’. For a similar approach to the thinking through the category of the aesthetic in this general sense, see: Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), pp.1-3

[4]  Noël Carroll, ‘Introduction’, in Noël Carroll (ed.) Theories of Art Today (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000), pp.3-25, p.3

[5] James M. Thompson, ‘Introduction’, in James M. Thompson (ed.) Twentieth-Century Theories of Art (Ottowa: Carleton University Press, 1999), pp.xi-xiii, p.xi

[6] Carroll, p.3

[7] Heidegger, ‘Exposition of the Task of a Preparatory Analysis of Dasein’, p.68; André Schuwer and Richard Rojcewicz (trans.) Martin Heidegger, Parmenides (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1998), p.12; Albert Hofstadter (trans.) Martin Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ in Christopher Kul-Want (ed.) Philosophers on Art From Kant to the Postmodernists: A Critical Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), pp.118-148, p.134; William McNeil (ed. & trans.) Martin Heidegger. ‘Plato’s Doctrine of Truth’ in, Martin Heidegger: Pathmarks (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp.155-182. See especially Heidegger’s discussion of the ‘unconcealed’ (which McNeil renders as ‘unhidden’) on p.167-170.

[8] Eagleton, p.3

[9] Jeremy Tambling, Allegory (London: Routledge, 2010) p.6

[10] Eagleton, p.3

[11] Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, p.131

[12] Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, p.131

[13] Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, p.131

[14] O’Sullivan, p.125

[15] Alberto Toscano (trans.) Alain Badiou, ‘Art and Philosophy’, in Christopher Kul-Want (ed.) Philosophers on Art From Kant to the Postmodernists: A Critical Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), pp.277-292, p.280

[16] Badiou, p.280

[17] Thompson, p.xi

[18] Albert Hofstadter (trans.) Martin Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’ in Poetry, Language, Thought (New York, Harper & Row, 1971), pp.213-229, p.220

[19] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS …’, p.220

[20] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS …’, p.221

[21] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.221

[22] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.221

[23] See footnote 7 for the presence of alétheia across Heidegger’s philosophy. On alétheia and the aesthetic, see Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, p.134

[24] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.224

[25] Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, p.134

[26] This is where Jean-Francois Lyotard derives his idea of the task of the modern painting, which he says involves a ‘letting go of all grasping intelligence’ for the purpose of presenting the fact that an ‘unpresentable’ exists. See: Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby (trans.) Jean-Francois Lyotard, ‘The Sublime and the Avant-Garde’ in, The Inhuman: Reflections on Time (London: Polity Press, 1991), pp.89-107, p.93.

[27] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.216

[28] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.224

[29] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.223

[30] Tambling, p.6

[31] Alan Sheridan (trans.) Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (London: Karnac, 2004), p.179

[32] Joseph D. Lichtenberg, The Talking Cure: A Descriptive Guide to Psychoanalysis (London: Routledge, 1985), p.132

[33] Lacan, p.179

[34] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.216

[35] James Strachey (ed. & trans.) Sigmund Freud, ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud: Volume IV: Part 1 (London: Hogarth Press, 1974), p.295 Hereafter Freud will be footnoted in the following format: Freud, SE: IV, ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, p.295

[36] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.223

[37] Freud, SE: XXIII, ‘An Outline of Psycho-Analysis’, pp. 156

[38] Carroll, p.3

[39] Mladen Dolar, ‘”I Shall Be With You on Your Wedding Night”: Lacan and the Uncanny’, October, 51 (1991), pp.5-23, p.5. Later Dolar notes that in Freud’s account ’the entire panoply of psychoanalytic concepts: castration complex, Oedipus, (primary) narcissism, compulsion to repeat, death drive, repression, anxiety, psychosis […] all seem to converge on “the uncanny.”’ (p.6)

[40] Freud, SE: XVII, ‘The Uncanny’, pp.219-252, p.224

[41] Schiller quoted in Freud, ‘The Uncanny’, p.224

[42] Freud, SE: XVII, ‘The Uncanny’, p.230

[43] Freud says ‘Thus heimlich is a word the meaning of which develops towards an ambivalence, until it finally coincides with its opposite, unheimlich’, p.226

[44] Freud, SE: XVII, ‘The Uncanny’, p.219

[45] Freud, SE: XVII, ‘The Uncanny’, p.230

[46] R.J. Hollingdale (trans.) E.T.A Hoffman, ‘The Sandman’ in Tales of Hoffman (London: Penguin, 1982), pp.85-107, p.100

[47] Lacan, p.179

[48] Dolar, p.7

[49] Freud, SE:V,  ‘The Dream-Work’, p.277

[50] On Dasein as being-in-the-world, see David Farrell Krell ‘Preface’ in Basic Writings (New York: Harper, 1971), pp.xxx. Mary Warnock also considers the two terms interchangeable: ‘the whole subject matter of the first part of Sein und Zeit is Dasein, conscious human being in the world’ See: Mary Warnock, Existentialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970), p.135

[51] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.213

[52] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.221

[53] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.215

[54] Heidegger, Being and Time, p.27

[55] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.215

[56] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.218

[57] Christopher Kul-Want, ‘Introduction’ to Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ in, Christopher Kul-Want (ed.) Philosophers on Art From Kant to the Postmodernists: A Critical Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010)  pp.119-120, p.119

[58] Hölderlin quoted in Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.213

[59] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.215

[60] Schiller quoted in Freud, SE: XVII, ‘The Uncanny’, p.224

[61] Heidegger says that ‘dwelling rests on the poetic’ and ‘we think of what is usually called the existence of man in terms of dwelling’, Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.214

[62] Heidegger, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, p.134

[63] It will be said that we have let psychoanalysis stand in for all theory, and it may be the case that not all theory works in this way. Yet the fact remains that, even if we allow that theory is an allegory of the aesthetic only in the most general terms, the specific case psychoanalysis is nevertheless the allegory par excellence.

[64] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.221

[65] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.218

[66] Heidegger, ‘…POETICALLY MAN DWELLS…’, p.218

Bibliography

Badiou, Alain. ‘Art and Philosophy’, (trans.) Toscano, Alberto in Kul-Want, Christopher (ed.) Philosophers on Art From Kant to the Postmodernists: A Critical Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), pp.277-292

Carroll, Noël (ed.) Theories of Art Today (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2000)

Dolar, Mladen. ‘”I Shall Be With You on Your Wedding Night”: Lacan and the Uncanny’, October, 51 (1991), pp.5-23

Eagleton, Terry. The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991)

Freud, Sigmund ‘An Outline of Psycho-Analysis’ in (ed. & trans.) Strachey, James. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud: Volume XXIII, (London: Hogarth Press, 1974), pp.144-205

Freud, Sigmund. ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, in (ed. & trans.) Strachey, James. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud: Volume IV: Part 1 (London: Hogarth Press, 1974)

Freud, Sigmund. ‘The Uncanny’, in (ed. & trans.) Strachey, James. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud: Volume XVII (London: Hogarth Press, 1974), pp.219-252

Heidegger, Martin. ‘Plato’s Doctrine of Truth’ in McNeil, William. (ed. & trans.) Martin Heidegger: Pathmarks, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)

Heidegger, Martin. ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ (trans.) Hofstadter, Albert. in Kul-Want, Christopher. (ed.) Philosophers on Art From Kant to the Postmodernists: A Critical Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), pp.118-148

Heidegger, Martin. Basic Writings (ed.) Farrell Krell, David.  (New York: Harper, 1971)

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time, (ed. & trans.) Macquarrie, John. and Robinson, Edward. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1962)

Heidegger, Martin. Parmenides, (trans.) Schuwer, André. and Rojcewicz, Richard (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1998), p.12;

Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Language, Thought (trans.) Hofstadter, Albert. (New York, Harper & Row, 1971)

Kul-Want, Christopher (ed.) Philosophers on Art From Kant to the Postmodernists: A Critical Reader (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010)

Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (trans.) Sheridan, Alan. (London: Karnac, 2004), p.179

Lichtenberg, Joseph D. The Talking Cure: A Descriptive Guide to Psychoanalysis (London: Routledge, 1985)

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Inhuman: Reflections on Time (trans.) Bennington, Geoffrey. and Rachel Bowlby, Rachel. (London: Polity Press, 1991)

O’Sullivan, Simon. ‘The Aesthetics of Affect’, Journal of Theoretical Humanities, 28 (2001), pp.125-135

Tambling, Jeremy. Allegory (London: Routledge, 2010)

Thompson, James M (ed.) Twentieth-Century Theories of Art (Ottowa: Carleton University Press, 1999)

Warnock, Mary. Existentialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s