Aesthetics, scientism, and ordinary language: A comparison between Wittgenstein and Heidegger

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Wittgenstein and Heidegger’s objections against the possibility of an aesthetic science were influential on different sides of the analytic/continental divide. Heidegger’s anti-scientism is tied up with a critique of the reduction of the work of art to an object of aesthetic experience. This leads him to an aletheic view of artworks which precedes and exceeds any possible aesthetic reduction. Wittgenstein too rejects the relevance of causal explanations, psychological or physiological, to aesthetic questions. His appeal to ordinary language provides the backdrop for his critique of the philosophical tradition’s focus on a narrow range of evaluative aesthetic terms, thus excluding most of the language we ordinarily employ in the relevant cases. The main aim of this paper is to compare Heidegger with Wittgenstein, showing that: (a) there are significant parallels to be drawn between Wittgenstein and Heidegger’s anti-scientism about aesthetics, and (b) their anti-scientism leads them towards partly divergent criticisms of what I will call ‘aestheticism’. The divergence is mainly due to a disagreement concerning appeals to ordinary language. Thus situating the two philosophers’ positions facilitates a possible critical dialogue between analytic and continental approaches in aesthetics.
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Archival date: 2020-04-23
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