Spinoza and the Genesis of the Aesthetic
This paper identifies an aesthetics implicit in Spinoza’s philosophy through the concept of a genesis of the aesthetic. A genesis of the aesthetic indicates that a philosophy of art is not yet fully formed in his work, but can emerge as a consequence or effect of his thought. This theory would evaluate the work of art primarily in its relationship to truth. Following the architectonics of Spinoza’s own thought, this paper constructs a progression – from the imagination, to reason, to intuition – toward a concept of aesthetic practices that aligns itself ever more closely with the freedom, perfection, and affirmation of infinite substance itself. The specific forms of aesthetic reception and production flowing from Spinoza’s ideal of wisdom unite two seemingly disparate paradigms: the aesthetic as essentially affirmative, as a joy in the individual power of every individuated thing, on the one hand; and the cultivation of a critical, ethically informed aesthetics of liberation, one capable of occupying different positions (obedience, autonomy, resistance) with respect to state or sovereign power, on the other hand.
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