Art and Representation: Contributions to Contemporary Aesthetics

By Ananta Ch. Sukla | Go to book overview

5

Possible World and Representation

RUTH RONEN

In our post–Kantian age we have been forced to give up on “the thing in itself.” One can say that from a philosophical point of view, whether one believes language provides conceptual schemes or just a way to mark a rational consensus, knowledge-claims we venture to advance about things are claims that can neither be absolutely objective nor transcend the limits of what is conceivable and expressible. In a post–Kantian age there is therefore little point in asking anything about the nature of the object in and of itself; the object, insofar as it transcends the limits of conceptualization, has become irrelevant to philosophical discussion. Because the only possible way to come across an object is through ways it is conceptualized, philosophers are naturally led into discussions of ways of knowing the object and of modes of representing the object with language.

Yet, despite this unavoidable distancing of the object from the human mind, it will be misleading to claim that within philosophical discussions, the question of the object as is has been put within parentheses. Analytic philosophers’ notion of “common sense” provides the official and efficient way of referring to that unknowable object that is still made present through our commonsensical world-pictures. That is, outside the relativist camp, whose position vis-à-vis the object, when strictly applied, verges on incoherence, the object and the question of how it puts constraints on representation are, even if indirectly, constantly addressed. It is certainly beyond the scope of this chapter to engage in the general question of whether the object in itself, if not knowable in itself, is still relevant to philosophical discussions, is taken into consideration or indirectly referred to in various philosophical contexts. I restrict my case to a very specific area where the relevance of the object that exceeds the limits of language (whether formal or natural) is marked. I refer here to the range of philosophical interpretations given to the notion of impossibility; these interpretations reflect a need to concretize the object of representation beyond what is demanded by language itself. The

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