Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Watsuji Tetsurō and The Subject of Aesthetics
by Johnson, Carl Matthew, Ph.D., University of Hawai'i at Manoa, 2012, 244; 3569117
Abstract (Summary)

A central question in aesthetics is whether aesthetic judgment is subjective or objective. Existing approaches to answering this question have been unsatisfying because they begin with the assumption of an individual observer that must then be communalized through the introduction of a transcendent object or the transcendental reason of the subject.

Rather than introduce a vertical transcendence to account for the ideal observer, I propose an alternative account based on the anthropology of the Japanese philosopher WATSUJI Tetsurō. According to Watsuji, human existence is a movement of double negation whereby we negate our emptiness in order to individuate ourselves and we negate our individuality in order to form communal wholes. Human beings are empty of independent existence, and thus open to create ideal aesthetic subjects in historically and regionally situated communal contexts.

I propose an account of aesthetic experience as a double negation in which we negate our surroundings in order to create a sense of psychical distance and negate our ordinary selves in order to dissolve into the background of primordial unity. I examine aesthetic normativity and find that the subject of aesthetics is active and plural rather than passive and individual. Aesthetic judgment and taste are, respectively, individual and communal moments in the process of double negation. Artistic evolution is a process by which the context of artist, artwork, and audience develop into a meaningful historical milieu. Genius is the ability to make public one’s private values through the creation of objects that can travel beyond their original contexts and create new contexts around them. Such an ability is the result of a double negation played out between the genius and critical receptivity.

Extended examples taken from Noh theater, Japanese linked verse, tea ceremony, and The Tale of Genji are also used to illustrate my arguments.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Odin, Steve
School: University of Hawai'i at Manoa
School Location: United States -- Hawaii
Source: DAI-A 74/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian Studies, Philosophy, Aesthetics
Keywords: Aesthetics, Japan, Objectivity, Subjectivity, Watsuji, Tetsuro
Publication Number: 3569117
ISBN: 9781303035814
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