Art and the Absolute: A Study of Hegel's Aesthetics

By William Desmond | Go to book overview
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Chapter Five
Dialectic, Deconstruction
and Art's Wholeness

Deconstruction and the Absence of the Absolute

The dissolving dialectic between "oldness" and "newness," rear guard and avant-garde, mentioned at the close of the last chapter, tends to be resolved in favor of the "new" and the "avant-garde" by "modernist" approaches to art, and even more so by various strains in contemporary culture now often dubbed "postmodern." 1 This resolution finds many different expressions in contemporary culture, but, relevant to present purposes, we need but mention its aesthetic and philosophical manifestations. Aesthetically, it is revealed in the pervasive repudiation of imitative, mimetic ideals in art, coupled with a contrasting glorification of notions like "originality" and "creativity." Philosophically, it is to be found in the critical, often debunking attitude to traditional philosophical ideals, present, for instance, in the rhetoric of some of Heidegger's epigones in their purported "overcoming" of the tradition of western metaphysics. Does Hegel's philosophy of art have anything of significance to contribute to this contemporary situation? We have already seen Hegel's complex concern with imitative and creative views of art. I now wish to argue that Hegel's view of the art work as a rich end, as what we previously called an open whole, presents a countering positive balance to some of the culturally corrosive results that have sometimes sprung from the critical approaches of modernist and postmodernist thought.

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