ANTHROPOLOGY OF AESTHETICS
- Towards Renascence -
CULTURE AS IDENTITY
Polarity in Art, Lifestyle and Ontology -
Japan, a visual and theoretical model
By Nold Egenter
The following text and its rich illustrations is basically an attempt to reconstruct
an anthropology of aesthetics.
The paper essentially uses Japanese materials, art and architecture in the wider sense.
However, not only the conventional history of Japanese art is dealt with, present
popular art is included, as well as cultic art studied by the author in agrarian
Technical, social and religious criteria of the latter clearly show that this cultic
art surviving traditionally in the framework of rural Shinto is temporally very deeprooted.
The festive signs and symbols are prehistorical survivals which have disappeared in other cultures, essentially for religious reasons (Christianisation, Islamisation).
If we say anthropology, this means that the same study could be done in other cultures.
Particularly the Euro-Mediterranean domain with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia shows
a lot of sources which can be interpreted in the same way (see this website).
The study is also an evolutionary theory of aesthetics. It indicates how aesthetics
might have developed. Evidently the impulses do not come from preconceived human
ideas, but from a disposition of the objects to autonomously express
what we call 'pro-portion' or 'categorical polarity'.
The fact that we deal with these objects in a pluridisciplinary approach, including
religious considerations to some extent, makes this study particularly interesting.
It shows a close relation between aesthetic criteria and the religious world view,
an aspect which can be traced throughout the histories of art and religions, but which
never appears so intrinsically interwoven as in the present case, giving art, architecture
and aesthetics the priority in the formation of the corresponding ontology.
In view of conventional discussions of aesthetics, the results of the present study are striking in various ways. In the following some points:
- First, it is not a matter of personal taste whether an object is considered as
having aesthetic qualities or not. All descriptions are objective.
- The sources shown have a very clear structural disposition. They can be 'intersubjectively
controlled'. The approach thus can be considered scientific.
- Art is considered irrational by many, aesthetic judgments are interpreted as 'vague
and confused' (A.G. Baumgarten 1735). We have managed to describe this 'irrational structure' in its interpretation of
categorical relations and termed it 'categorical polarity'.
- Categorical polarity is antithetical to the analytical sciences. We thus gain
insights into a pre- and para-analytical system of cognition which might have been of great importance
for the development of culture.
- Aesthetics are usually interpreted as having their origins in human sensations (gr. aisthesis = sensation). We now find the counterpart of a very long and ancient process
of the development of this aesthetic sensation. The tremendous continuity of this cognitive system in many cultures questions the Eurocentric
myth of the creator genius.
- Contrary to ideas that aesthetics developed in language (F. de Saussure) we have
gained strong arguments to assume that aesthetics developed in a field of activity
related to fibrous objects more ancient than language (Indoeuropean etymology is
a strong indicator: many roots can be related to principles of fibroconstructive demarcation).
- Art thus is not merely a 'desinterested pleasure' in the sense of Kant and Schopenhauer.
It was and still is the pre- and para-analytical prototype of human cognition.
- If we manage to understand that this anthropologically founded type of aesthetics provided not only
the basis of human culture, but was also responsible for the tremendous manifold of human cultural expressions, then, it might be possible to
use it again in a new age of cross-cultural art based on anthropology.
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