Homo Aestheticus: The Invention of Taste in the Democratic Age

Homo Aestheticus: The Invention of Taste in the Democratic Age

by Luc Ferry
     
 

Can subjective, individual taste be reconciled with an objective, universal standard? In Homo Aestheticus, Luc Ferry argues that this central problem of aesthetic theory is fundamentally related to the political problem of democratic individualism.

Ferry's treatise begins in the mid-1600s with the simultaneous invention of the notions of taste (the essence

Overview

Can subjective, individual taste be reconciled with an objective, universal standard? In Homo Aestheticus, Luc Ferry argues that this central problem of aesthetic theory is fundamentally related to the political problem of democratic individualism.

Ferry's treatise begins in the mid-1600s with the simultaneous invention of the notions of taste (the essence of art as subjective pleasure) and modern democracy (the idea of the State as a consensus among individuals). He explores the differences between subjectivity and individuality by examining aesthetic theory as developed first by Kant's predecessors and then by Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and proponents of the avant-garde. Ferry discerns two "moments" of the avant-garde aesthetic: the hyperindividualistic iconoclasm of creating something entirely new, and the hyperrealistic striving to achieve an extraordinary truth. The tension between these two, Ferry argues, preserves an essential element of the Enlightenment concern for reconciling the subjective and the objective—a problem that is at once aesthetic, ethical, and political.

Rejecting postmodern proposals for either a radical break with or return to tradition, Ferry embraces a postmodernism that recasts Enlightenment notions of value as a new intersubjectivity. His original analysis of the growth and decline of the twentieth-century avant-garde movement sheds new light on the connections between aesthetics, ethics, and political theory.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Ferry uses the history of aesthetics to explain the origin and growth of modern philosophy. In the Middle Ages, art reflected a fixed order of values, based on divine authority. The onset of the Enlightenment in the 17th century dealt the medieval world view a fatal blow. Human beings attempted to establish an ethics of reason resting on autonomy, not submission to God. In aesthetics, subjective taste moved to the forefront; in politics, rational consensus was stressed. But a new movement arose in turn to challenge the aesthetics of reason. Twentieth-century artists emphasize individuality rather than autonomy; the artist need not be bound by the dictates of an allegedly universal reason. Here the influence of Nietzsche has been decisive. Ferry opposes the excesses of postmodernism and calls for a balance between rational standards and artistic freedom. His erudite work is especially valuable for its careful discussion of Kant and Hegel.-- David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., Ohio

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226244594
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
01/28/1994
Edition description:
1
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Luc Ferry has taught at the Sorbonne and at the University of Caen and is the former Minister of Youth, National Education, and Research in the French government. He is the author or coauthor of eight previous books published by the University of Chicago Press, including, most recently, The New Ecological Order and Man Made God.

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