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…
If a person never contradicts himself, it must be that he says nothing.
Miguel de Unamumo
Modernity is a mass exhumation, plunging multiple, trembling, accelerating tunnels into the depths of affectivity. An ambiguous anticipation of this pure positivity can be paradoxically grasped already in the very grayness, finality, boredom and gravity of the classical categories of knowledge. For the consistency of the subject in the classical sense is metaphysical, sublime, hidden, like a secret promise.
But the same metaphysical operation has an entirely different meaning to modern ears. To us, subjectivity indicates creativity and energy. Flight exploits gravity, both in taking-off and landing: modernity brings a celerity and furor to bear upon hypocritical objectivity. For what guarantees the consistency of a decision upon critical self-awareness, besides an uncertain and terrifying project of profound (psychic) extrusion?
The modern project is also classical, but re-opening rather than repeating it. Dehiscence. The modern is an historical excess, a point of over-saturation, in-differentiation, hyper-depersonalization, “literal” dissolution. Conduct an experiment, disintegrate cautiously, get started! For beneath culture and nature, beneath science and literature, a cosmic or microscopic order intrudes.