Harvard Mahindra Humanities Center Seminar on German Studies: New Perspectives: Threading the Needle: Painting as Experiment in Rubens's Four Philosophers


Thursday, February 25, 2021, 3:00pm


Virtual Event


Speaker: Christopher Braider, University of Colorado

The talk threads the needle between recent attempts to find a way round the hermeneutics of suspicion defining the mode of reading called “critique” and acknowledgment of the fact that critique will always be with us if only because both acts of reading and the objects on which they bear are inmates of the kind of historical and thus ideological conditions critique denounces. It does so through a brief discussion of the problem of aesthetics, especially as we meet it in Kant and Hegel: a subfield of philosophy that has been consistently subjected to criticism from the moment it arose in Western Europe over the course of the eighteenth century. One goal is thus to vindicate aesthetics by rescuing it from critical cancellation. However, doing so demands a dialectical rather than a self-defeatingly apologetic method. If, in the spirit, for instance, of Benjamin or Adorno, we approach aesthetics as doctrine, it will inevitably fall subject to critique, owing to the historically overdetermined character it owes to the fact that it has a precisely determined historical place and date of birth. But what if we approach it less as doctrine than as an historical dilemma—as an attempt to solve the very problems critique adduces against it? The result would be a dialecticized aesthetics of the sort the talk sets out to model in a reading of a painting by a major precursor of eighteenth-century aesthetic art and theory alike, the strikingly self-critical baroque artist, Peter Paul Rubens.

Harvard Mahindra Humanities Center Seminar German Studies: New Perspectives
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