Reconfigurations of Kant (The Supplement of the Sublime) Should Art Education Liberate Itself From the Idea of the Aesthetic?
Pretexts: Kant as the "Anchor Man"
In this postmodern moment, an enormous amount of intellectual energy (including this essay) is spent examining the writings of Kant, especially those concerning his aesthetic recollections in his third critique, The Critique of Judgment. The significance of this debate for art education rests on what particular interpretation of Kant provides the basis for an art program. Do we accept or reject the figure of Kant for this postmodern world? Can we compromise his position? Art educators have continually recognized the need for an aesthetic component in their teaching. "Aesthetic experience" continually crops up in art education ever since Dewey's ( 1934) mention of its necessity for making progressive education "an experience." Dewey's pragmatic aesthetics has been recently revived by Richard Shusterman ( 1992). Discipline Based Art Education (DBAE), for instance, identifies aesthetics as a major area of its curriculum, besides art history, studio arts, and art criticism. (There has been a debate as to whether or not art criticism should be collapsed into the aesthetic domain. However the distinction is still maintained.) The significance of aesthetics for art education is furthered by its practice for dispelling the false separation between language and visual art, especially the "silent" and mute arts such as painting, sculpture, and printmaking. The criticism of judgment immediately initiates interpretative discourse about this affective silence, and bridges the gap through an act of appropriation. Through such an appropriation the issues which surround aesthetic ethics are not far behind.
On the whole, I think it is fair to say that art educators have paid attention to what philosophers have had to say about the aesthetic, leaving it up to philosophical expertise and authority to inform the field where it should center its attention. We have had bouts where Beardsley, Dewey, and the phenomenological-existentialist aesthetic of Eugene Kaelin have found their way into the literature. Art teachers are not normally trained as philosophers. Consequently, not enough critical thought is turned over to its questioning. But aesthetics in the postmodern "problematic" has grown increasing in its importance. The idea that we live in an aestheticized world has been given considerable ink. Aestheticians such as Welsch ( 1990: 10-12) now argue that we now live in an "anesthetized world"; the postmodern is so stylized by a "designer aesthetic" that its excesses have numbed our senses.
Another consequence of the aesthetic (as ornamentation, as figure) has been its deconstructive effects. If Plato's division between those who seek authentic truth claims are kept free of poets, rhetoricians, and artists who are perverts of reason, then "truth" is assured. Once this division is deconstructed, however, such truth claims begin to crumble. We fall into a Nietzschean position where