The "Wrenching Duality" of Aesthetics: Kant, Deleuze, and the "Theory of the Sensible"
Steven Shaviro firstname.lastname@example.org November 10, 2007
If there’s anything that Left and Right today agree upon, it’s the absolute incompatibilty between aesthetic values and political ones. As Marx said, "the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it." Hallward is wary of the way that Deleuze’s thought overtly valorizes "contemplation" and aesthetic experience for their own sakes. But this attitude, opposing aesthetic contemplation to political action, is precisely mirrored on the right: for example, in the way that neoconservative art critics like Hilton Kramer (1985) and Roger Kimball (2004) exalt the supposedly transcendent values of art, in opposition to any sort of politicization (either of art, or of experience more generally.
This unseemly coincidence of Left and Right is something that Deleuze, among his many virtues, helps us to get away from. For there is no contradiction between Deleuze’s valuing of aesthetic contemplation, and his insistence (with Guattari) that Being is always, in the first instance, political. Just as there is no contradiction (but rather, a mutual implication) between Deleuze’s insistence that everything is historical and contingent, and his insistence upon what he calls "eternal truths."
Contemplation is not the "interpretation" that Marx decried, but precisely a mode in which philosophical interpretation is suspended. In the aesthetic, we no longer explain things away, as philosophical apologetics have so often done; instead, we are forced to feel the intolerable intensity of the actual. Hallward reads this as the paralysis of any possibility of action; but it is rather, for Deleuze, a necessary condition and generative factor in any sort of truly radical action, any action that does not just reproduce and ratify the order of things as they are. And "eternal truths," which are highlighted precisely in aesthetic contemplation, are absolute singularities, relations and qualities that cannot be generalized, but only communicated in their very refusal to be pacified and subsumed. For Deleuze, the aesthetic is not a sufficient condition for the political, but it is a necessary one. And if aesthetics is not subordinated to politics, this is because both are necessary, and both irreducible... Deleuze’s Aesthetics from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro