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aesthetics / beauty / escape / God / kant / psychoanalysis
World War I, Wasily Kandinsky

World War I, Wasily Kandinsky

A man like Kant can explain the beautiful in terms of a pure disinterested pleasure — such a knotted definition is not in itself surprising, nor is the kind of cynicism about the potential and limitations of life which is quite effectively communicated thereby. What is curious is that he in fact means to enhance the importance of artistic creation by converting the unsettling power of the artist into a kind of channel to a familiar universality. Is the beautiful not, then, grasped – but grasped in precisely at its most narrow and isolated state, through a transcendental enframing, even as an annihilation of life itself: as a kind of dazzling infinition which nonetheless does not interact with our conscious interest but with our immaterial, intangible “soul”?

There is even almost a kind of foundational axiom of psychoanalysis embedded in Kant’s definition (of course a paradox): there is no pleasure except in losing the possibility for pleasure — the glare of infinite Being when one has finally completely lost one’s identity, and dissolved oneself into the universal (father-mother)… The deep pessimism expressed in this kind of escape, this resentment of life which is by no means peculiar to Kant, is nevertheless quite clearly the pulsing thread underlying his patchwork labor in his “critiques” of the mournful becoming of things. We find in psychoanalysis as well such a stoic willingness to defend the infinite ‘metaphysical’ essence which refuses to escapes its container: and always he leaves open the possibility that human beings are indeed the receptacles of divine messages, channels of pure truth. Frames…

The various critiques in effect each pass through God: the divine body in each case codified, colonized, and contained according to a schema or matrix. Ancient diagrammatics: but religious prophecy and classical philosophy — which is perhaps to say a body without organs and its degenerate, parasitic outgrowths — allow such a convergence only through the quelling of a kind of very earthly subterranean enmity between the drives amounting to a kind of repressed hatred. For now they are neither and only pretending, which lodges us squarely in the endless hypocritical abyss of the subject: and finally this desire (and repeated failure) to escape, to dissolve and to disappear turns inwards and becomes a kind of holy resentment, a “stoic” pessimism. The way out is completely blocked, or rather the only path of escape is precisely through this divine sieve we thereby create: and is there not always a bizarre consciousness of self-division which takes place, a realization we are merely ‘acting,’ which suddenly seems almost to divide the Cosmos itself in order to produce the way out such vanity desperately and incessantly seeks? In short, perhaps Kant meant to be — an artist…?

The Author

mostly noise and glare


  1. Perhaps in his inherent, unavoidable artistry Kant managed to permeate this pessimistic escaping through his incessant critiquing – or is this another “framing”, taking away from the “art” in itself (as he suggests in his Critique of Aesthetic Judgment)?

    Illuminating words, Mr. Weissman; your elucidations never cease to inspire deeper reflections.

  2. Concise and yet communicative; your closing lines “..and is there not always a bizarre consciousness of self-division which takes place, a realization we are merely ‘acting,’ which suddenly seems almost to divide the Cosmos…” remind me a bit of what I’ve been reading recently of Luigi Pirandello’s work (bio: Of the small bit of Deleuze & Guatarri, Massumi, et al. that I’ve read, Pirandello and others (Brecht, Beckett) have inspired in me a bit of the absurd; a second line of exploration along these philosophers’ (shall we say) “musings.”

  3. Maxim Kategov says

    I think Kant is very complicated philosopher. He used the concepts in very special peculiar sense. What is, precisely, “disinterested pleasure”? When you speak about “limitation of life”, whether you have the sense? Whether you hit Kant? Kant spoke about the imagination games.
    Do you differ objective and subjective universality? Psychoanalysis speaks about father-mother universality. I want to speak about ecological male-female (non-past, but future; non-history, but contingency; non-inner, but outside oriented)universality, communicatio. And I feel some sympathy to Kant.
    By the way, Kant had the distinction between “communicatio” and “commercium”. When Gilles Deleuze speaks about “events communicatio” in 24 serie his “Logic of Sense”, he should speaks about “events commercium” in Kant sense.

  4. “A man like Kant”: like there could be _anyone_ like Kant!
    The first paragraph of your piece is quite complex. I find your writing in general to be quite complex… A bit of your “narrative artistry”? Of course, simpler isn’t always better.!
    This power of art — art as a sort of “channel to a familiar universality” — is something we all, to a degree, would like to have access to… I myself have found art (the novel) to be a more resistant form than science (philosophy)… I have tried both approaches — but lately I am finding that simply saying/uttering the truth is hard enough — without a pretending to fiction… Though I would hesitate to place these forms in any sort of mental hiearchy… Rather I would set them horizontally on a field of discourse…
    You mention “the beautiful” as interacting with our soul… This is a sensible enough formulation.. (Though I would “tarry with the object” and focus more on the neuro atomics of the brain…) The beautiful: a metaphysical essence which “refuses to escapes (sic) its container”… We have all pondered the beautiful a lot in our lives… It is something, indeed, that many can be considered obsessed with. How much of this is conditioning, and how much of it is “natural”, I don’t know…
    And you also mention the schema. This is a concept very dear to my heart. Though I have no god, and cannot agree that the divine body is codified or colonized, or anything else, according to the schema… I instead see _our minds_ as being schematic, schematizing things, material without god… And as artists or scientists, we “thereby create” wonderous forms of phenomena, which distract us from our nightmares as we live through our days… “Only pretending”, we seek to have better dreams… How successful we are at this, only time will tell…

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