"On the Concept of Existentialist Aestheticism" & E. Cassirer´s critical rationalism contra historical political Philosophy”.
Ernst Cassirer: „That self-knowledge is the highest aim of philosophical inquiry appears to be generally acknowledged. In all the conflicts between the different philosophical schools this objective remained invariable and unshaken: it proved to be the Archimedean point, the fixed and immovable center, of all tough. /.../ In the history of philosophy scepticism has very often been simply the counterpart of resolute humanism.“1
The term like Existentialism is well known, it is one of the most important and widely. known philosophical concepts in the modern Philosophy, (M. Heidegger, K. Jaspers, A. Camus, J.P. Sartre) but the Concept of Aestheticism his hardly used in theoretical philosophical literature (only M.C. Breadsley, A. Artaud, W. Pater have mentioned it). My this essay shows that these concepts - Aestheticism and Existentialism - are very closely related notions and these terms also have very multiple meanings. The most important message of this polemic writing is that there are two main sources of consciousness: irrational-intuitive (subjective) and rational-logical (objective) thinking, that means: aesthetic-aestheticism contra conceptual (philosophical) thinking (B. Croce). The further purpose of this writing was a kind of synthesis from these conceptual claims, that means the Philosophy should be taken as an Art of thinking (Th. Adorno).2
Under the Concept of "existentialist Philosophy" I mean most of all K.-R. Popper's and F.A. von Hayek's theoretical Philosophy. Especially Popper's critical rationalism and criticism about so-called "historicism" in the history of western political Philosophy (i.e. F. Hegel and K. Marx, also M. Heideggers existentialist criticism) and Hayek's Concept about so-called "self-organization" of Society. Most important is here Popper's Concept of Open Society and his truly tolerant ideas and democratic attitude within, and this is, I think, very important in the today World and especially in theoretical and political philosophical thinking and for democracy at all. M. Heidegger's criticism about F. Hegel’s and Fr. Nietzsche’s works is opening new areas in existentialist thinking, in such new research areas like existentialist Aestheticism.3
Cassirer: „Such is the new anthropology, as it is understood by Augustine, and maintained in all the great systems of medieval tough. /.../ At the beginning of modern times there appeared a thinker who gave to this anthropology a new vigor and new splendor.“4 (Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, B. Pascal, R. Descartes, etc!).5
The polemic and paradoxical Concept of theoretical existentialist Aestheticism is so at first considered as an intuitive and irrational Aestheticism and in its second form as a logical-conceptual philosophically created reality, that means the traditional Existentialist discourse as such. In its second form, Aestheticism is a pure and single-purpose view, which maintains the supreme value of art over everything else. Existentialist Aestheticism is so something like a rhetorical and poetical philosophical form of thinking what is described also like a sceptical and reflective view of World (Heidegger and K. Löwith). But Existence was so not a continuously unfolding whole but a series of lyric moments (Aestheticism). It is a situation due to the combination of cosmic and social homelessness, to the fear of the world and life, characterized by such loneliness as was probably never experienced before.6
Cassirer: „Between the receptor system and the effector system, which are to be found in all animal species, we find in man a third link which we may describe as the symbolic system.“7
Human being feels himself cut off, as man, from nature, and isolated, as a person, in the middle of swarming masses. His first reaction to the recognition of this new and uncertain situation is modern existentialist individualism, (intuitive thinking, the Concept of existentialist Aestheticism), the second reaction is modern political collectivism. (the Concept of critical rationalism and critic of any kind of political "historicism"). If, however, individualism grasps only a part of man, collectivism sees man only as a part; both miss the man as a whole, man is wholeness in his own life. That means here theoretical existentialism. (M. Buber), modern individualism (Popper's Open Society Ideas and existentialist continental thinking) contra modern collectivism (Hegel's "historicism" and "essential abstractionism" and non-humanist political conceptions (so-called communism, etc.). Most important in this writing are so K.-R. Popper's truly tolerant and humanistic Ideas about truly democratic future in Open Society.
Cassirer: „The decisive step leading from the use of signs and pantomime to use of words, that is, of symbols, could scarely be described in a more striking manner. /.../ But a series of such associations, even if they are repeated and amplified, still does not imply and understanding of what human speech is and means. /.../ It had understand that everything has a name – that the symbolic function is not restricted to particular cases but is a principle of universal applicability which encompasses the whole field of human tough.“8
The absolute existential paradox throws into relief the limitations of reason, of external knowledge, and points to the need for a different kind of thinking, different from purely logical and scientific thoughts – to a way of thinking, based on an inner participation, when the individual by his guilt has gone outside the universal, while he can return to it only by virtue of having gone as an individual into an absolute relationship with the absolute. Man first is – only afterwards is he this or that. Man must create for himself his own essence (J.-P. Sartre). Essence refers to the true nature of things, the humanness of man, it can be considered in an abstract way. Now the Existentialists claim that all preceding philosophy was too much concerned with essences, with ideas, with concepts, and therefore it becomes too abstract.(Popper's criticism about G.F. Hegel). They want to start with existence and to hold on it, so that the real things are kept intact, as intact as they occur in our actual personal experience. The Philosophy should not be abstract but based on personal experience, and the historical situation in which man finds himself, so that it could become the basis not for speculation but of each man's life. The only evidence to be accepted was that one which both could be and had been tested by experience (S. Kierkegaard).9
Cassirer: „Here the symbol is still regarded as a property of the thing like other physical properties. In mythical thought the name of a god is an integral part of the nature of god. If I do not call the god by his right name, then the spell or prayer becomes ineffective. The same holds good for symbolic actions. A religious rite, a sacrifice, must always be preformed in the same invariable way and in the same order if it is to have its effect.“10
The most important areas in this kind of theoretical thinking are a Study of Nihilism (Fr. Nietzsche, K. Jaspers, M. Heidegger) and a ironic Attitude (like Platon and Kierkegaard) and specific creative activity as "re-mythological" Destruction (for example in works of Fr. Nietzsche) and this destructive activity become so closely identified by the sense of existence (G. Vattimo, R. Barthes). Reacting against the absolute claims of reason made the existentialist thinkers to make those absolute claims for the irrational; instead of scientific or rational thought they associatively embraced everything irrational and expected thus to find the absolute knowledge. This absoluteness, too, leads into the void, and this void is nothingness (nihil, niente, le Néant, das Nichts, die Leere). If we believe nothing, if nothing has a meaning and if the person cannot affirm any values at all, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance. (Fr. Nietzsche).11
Against that is very important some kind of positivist attitude and new way of thinking, it's must (or can) to seems like something abstract, like rediscovered Myth, but it is very important and that means existentialist theoretical thinking like new Concept of Aestheticism. It's first of all irrational and intuitive Art of thinking, in a second hand it is most individualistic and existentialist thinking. And most of all is this new way of thinking opposite from all social and "historical" political concepts on the past in their non-humanistic expressions. Because most of all are important truly humanistic and tolerant Ideas and democratic tradition from ancient Greek Philosophers (Platon, Heraklit) to today Worlds democratic concepts.12
Cassirer: „ We need no such strange and farfetched theories in order to see that for the primitive mind myth and language are, as it were, twin brothers. Both are based on a very general and very early experience of mankind, an experience of social rather than of a physical nature. /.../ Nature itself is nothing but a great society – the society of life. From this point of view we can easily understand the use and specific function of the magic word. The belief in magic is based upon a deep conviction of the solidarity of life. To the primitive mind the social power of the word, experienced in innumerable cases, becoms a natural and even supernatural force. Primitive man feels himself surrounded by all sorts of visible and invisible dangers. He cannot hope to overcome these dangers by merely physical means. To him the world is not a dead ore mute thing; it can hear and understand.“13
What Fr. Nietzsche thinks in his Concept of radical nihilism and in his Concept of existentialist Aestheticism as ironic attitude, -- that there is no absolute good and evil, every individual has to choose himself perpetually, (like M. Heidegger and K. Jaspers and K. Löwith in their existentialist thinking), -- that every man must invent his own way, that means existentialist way in political and philosophical sense. The Concept of abstract Nihilism is something different from social and "historicist" political concepts and their non-humanistic expressions in the past, the last one was something like "decadence", writes Nietzsche. That means: abstract individualistic existentialism against social "mass culture" and some non-humanistic political concepts. So the most important are tolerant and humanistic Ideas of future highly democratic Open Society. (K.-R. Popper).14
Cassirer: „The magic function of the word was eclipsed and replaced by its semantic function. The word is no longer endowed with mysterious powers; /.../ Physically the word may be declared to be impotent, but logically it is elevated to a higher, indeed to the highest rank. /.../ It is not confined within the narrow limits of our human world, for it possesses universal cosmic truth. But instead of being a magic power the word is understood in its semantic and symbolic function.“15
But in that type of being that is called theoretical philosophical knowing, the only being that we encounter is that which is perpetually here: the knowing itself, that means that the presence of the knowing of our own Existence is presence of nothing, that also means that nothing is true. Nothing is true because, if all depends on the needs of the species, there is no constant, absolute truth, but merely changing physiological requirements. Radical nihilism is the conviction that the highest values which one wants to accept are really untenable, and added to this is the insight that there is another world or a true nature of things (political "historicism" from Platon to Hegel) or anything divine or given morality and the morality was so the greatest antidote to a Concept of practical and theoretical nihilism.16
Cassirer: „Science is the last step in man´s mental development and it may be regarded as the highest and most characteristic attainment of human culture. /.../ There is no second power in our modern world which may be compared to that of scientific thought. It is held to be the summit and consummation of all our human activities, the last chapter in the history of mankind and the most important subject of a philosophy of man.“17
In a political sense it means some kind of criticism about some main political tradition and Ideas. The most important Philosopher is here K.-R. Popper and his critical rationalism18 and intensive critic of any kind of "historicism" in political non-humanistic thinking in the past (from Plato to F. Hegel and K. Marx). Popper's main Idea was a Concept of Open Society and criticism about truly democratic and tolerant society "historic" enemies (like K. Marx); thinking contra political "historic" thinking of the past (for example G.F. Hegel) and new dimensions what are opening with modern continental thinking like Existentialism (like M. Heidegger) and new and polemic Concept of existentialist Aestheticism and truly tolerant Ideas about Open Society within. (Popper, von Hayek, etc.).19
Cassirer: „Beauty is truth; it is a fundamental character of reality. If the beauty which we feel in the harmony of sounds is reducible to a simple numerical ratio it is number that reveals to us the fundamental structure of the cosmic order. /.../ The symbol not only explained the object; it definitely took the place of the object. /.../ This process begins in language, but in science it assumes an entirely new shape.“20
The existential attitude and the aesthetic disposition have been characterised, for expository purposes, as two mutually irrelevant and separate attitudes. But they are not simply two different attitudes but they regularly interact in the process of the Aesthetic experience (R. Ingarden). The final purpose of this essay was to found arguments for the fact that there is such a way of thinking like theoretical existentialist Aestheticism and why this logical concept must find new dimensions and importance.21
Of course is there the Concept of Existentialism what means the large Field of Philosophy of Life in 19. century and names like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, etc. closely related is. What is directly the Concept of existentialist Aestheticism? The final purpose of this essay is to define the new and just a little polemical concept as existentialist Aestheticism and open new dimensions and nuances on this new concept.22
The Concept of existentialist Aestheticism is one of the most new, polemical but also very specific concept at all. – Only Breadsley, Artaud, Wilde and Parter have mentioned this concept at all. But the concepts as existentialism and Aesthetic are well known and often used notions. – Concepts, but used in very different way by different Authors -- Heidegger, Jaspers, Camus, Sartre , etc.23
Those concepts of Existentialism and Aesthetics are very closely related to the most philosophical questions in modern Philosophy. The name of this writing is something like the first question, -- are there something like existentialist Aestheticism at all.24
In the all human mind there are only two pure fundamental but opposite conceptual forms like subjective and objective that means, -- irrational-intuitive and logical-intellectual thinking-forms. The symbol of both of them rises the philosophy as Art of Thinking between intuitive and intellectual thinking.25
Other words: the philosophical concept of existential aestheticism is the beginning irrational and intuitive from that make we with help of logic conceptual existential reality. The concept of existential aestheticism is very ambivalent concept and it is possible explain this concept very different way too. Very important in this polemical writing is the concept of Existentialism, but only when then this word with the concept and meaning of Aestheticism connected are.
Can say that the all existential philosophy is characterized with aesthetic thinking. In subjectivity and existential philosophy is very important aesthetic thinking as such and find own expressions in creative writing as poetic and rhetorical Art of Words. The Aestheticism is so something like reflective and spiritual philosophy what is looking existential being from aesthetic point of view. On the concept of existential aestheticism is so understood as very important and ever young spiritual philosophy.26
Very important in this philosophy is the individual in his concrete mental and temporal situation, his creativity and subjective being. Very important themes in this polemical writing and existential/aesthetic philosophy are also the absurdity and nihilism with help those concepts is philosophical thinking like with sceptical point of view, that means with irony looked. The concepts of nihilism and aestheticism are directly bounded concepts, that means that the creativity is possible only after destruction as such. A concept of total nihilism is directly bounded with existential aesthetic philosophy.
Such existential aestheticism can define as rhetoric and poetical Art of Words or Art of Thinking, what his own existential and creative forms of expressions make. Very important in this polemical essay is also the concept of mythology and (re)mythological creativity what from the concept of total nihilism intuitive and irrational and mythological and ritual exits search. Such mythical, existential and aesthetic philosophy in not so rational no longer but more something like irrational/intuitive Art of Thinking. With help theology and philosophy find this aesthetic conceptual thinking his own more rational manifestation and the all the used concepts are good defined.
The final purpose of this essay is defining of the concept of existential aestheticism and important concepts in this writing also. First after defining find researcher the reality find the words, find new importance and new way of thinking and after the defining the different concepts can look to new landscapes. So can only after the analysing the concept of existential aestheticism argue that all existentialism is something like (re)mythological poetic art of words and art of thinking. The creativity as such...?
Such spiritual existential philosophy is the concept of existential aestheticism and this new art of thinking find new importance and meaning. So are the those concepts existentialism and aestheticism long interactive been, but only after the defining the new concept of existential aestheticism find those concepts new meaning and more importance.27
1.) Estonian Institute of Humanities,
(M.A. in theoretical Philosophy) 1994-2001))
2.) University of Vienna, Institute of Philosophy. (2001-2002)
3.) University of Copenhagen, Institute of Political Sciences. (2003)
4.) University of Tallinn, Estonian Institute of Humanities. (2004)
1 Ernst Cassirer: “An Essay on Man. An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture.” (New Haven and London. Yale University Press. 1944, 1972.); pp. 1- 228; (p. 1.).
2 BARUCH SPINOZA: Dagobert D. Runes: // Ing. k. tõlkinud: Maarja Liidja: // Tallinn 2004. // Kirjastus: “Ersen”, 2004; // “The Ethics of SPINOZA; // Copyrights Laws: 1957, “Philosophical Library”; // Eessõna: “Lugejale”, D. D. R. // LK: 5—216. // pp. 34-79, 80-93.
3 John Locke: “Essee inimõistusest” // “An Essay Concering Human Understanding”, Oxford, 1979 , pp. 104 – 108. (1690 A.)
4 E. Cassirer: “An Essay on Man”. p. 10.
5 Herbert Feigl: “Teaduslik maailmavaade: naturalism ja humanism” (1949. a.) // The Scientific Outlook: Naturalism and Humanism. – Readings in the Philosophy of Science. New York, 1953, pp. 10-13.
6 Raimo Tuomela: “Teadus, prototeadus ja pseudoteadus”, (1987. a.) – “Science, Protoscience and Pseudoscience. – Rational Changes in Science. D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1987, pp. 83-96.
7 E. Cassirer: “An Essay on Man”, p. 24. (& Joahannes von Uexküll: “Theoretische Biologie” (2d ed. Berlin, 1938; “Umwelt und Innenwelt der Tiere” (1909, 2d ed. Berlin, 1921.).
8 E. Cassirer: “An Essay on Man”, p. 34-35.
9 William James: “Pragamatism: mõnede vanade mõtlemisviiside uus nimetus.”, (1907. a.) “Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking.” – W. James. Pragmatism and Other Essays. New York, 1963.,pp. 22-38, 98-104.
10 E. Cassirer: “An Essay on Man”; p. 36-37. (For further details see Cassirer; “Sprache und Mythos”, Leipzig, 1925.)
11 Carl G. Hempel: “Tõesusest matemaatikas”, (1945. a.) “On the Nature of Mathematical Truth”. – Readings in Philosophical Analysis. New York, 1949, pp. 222-227, 234-235.
12 Carl. G. Hempel: “Geomeetria ja empiiriline teadus.”, (1945. a.) – “Geometry and Empirical Sciences”. – Readings in Philosophical Analysis. New York, 1949., pp. 240-249.
13 E. Cassirer: “An Essay on Man”; p. 110.
14 Albert Einstein: “Geomeetria ja kogemus”, (1921. a.) “Geometry and Experinece”. – Readings in the Philosophy of Science. New York, 1953, pp. 189-193.
15 E. Cassirer: “An Essay on Man”; p. 111.
16 John Watson: “Mis on biheivorism?”, (1924. a.) What Is Behaviorism? – Readings for an Introduction to Philosophy. New York, 1976, pp. 161-167.
17 E. Cassirer: “An Essay on Man”; p. 207.
18 Karl Popper: “Oletused ja ümberlükkamised.”, (1963. a. ) “Conjectures and Refutations. The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. London and Henley, pp. 225-232.
19 Carl G. Hempel: “Psühholoogia loogiline analüüs”, (1935. a.) The Logical Analysis of Psychology”,-- Readings in Philosophical Analysis. New York, 1949, pp. 376-382.
20 E. Cassirer: “An Essay on Man”, p. 211.
21 J. J. C. Smart: “Vaim ja aju on identsed”, (1959. a.) “The Mind and Body Are Identical”,-- Readings for an Introduction to Philosophy. New York, 1976, pp. 184-189.
22 J.J.C. Smart: “Materialism”, (1963. a. ) – The Mind-Brain Identity Theory. New York, 1973, pp. 159-168.
23George Brekeley: “Traktaat inimtunnetuse printsiipidest”, (1710. a.) “The Principles of Human Knowledge. Thre Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. London and Glasgow, 1967, pp. 65-80.
24 John Stuart Mill: “Sir William Hamiltoni filosoofia kriitiline vaatlus.”, (1865. a.). – “An Examination of Sir William Hamilton-s Philosophy.-- Classic Philosophical Questions. Edited by James A. Gould. Columbus etc. 1985, pp. 83-86.
25 Bertrand Russel: “Meie teadmised välismaalima kohta”, (1914. a.) – “On the Notion of Cause, with Application to the Free-Will Problem (From B. Russel. Our Knowledge of the External World). – Readings in the Philosophy of Science. New York, 1953, pp. 402-407.
26 ROGER SCRUTON: “SPINOZA”. Benedictus (Baruch) de Spinoza (1632 – 1677). Tõkinud: Märt Väljataga; // Tallinn, 2001 // Kirjastus: “Varrak”, 2001. // Sarjast: “Suured mõtlejad”, // Copyroght Laws: Phoenix, 1998. // LK: 3—60.
27 MICHAEL AYERS: “LOCKE”. Michael Ayers: “Locke. Ideas and Things”, Gopyright Laws: 1997, (Phoenix). // Tõlkinud: Lauri Vahtre, Tallinn, 2000; // Kirjastus: “Varrak” // Sari: “Suured mõtlejad”: // LK: 5—70. JOHN LOCKE (1632 – 1704)