Critique is an assertion of values pitted against a state of affairs. To say that things should not be the way they are–to respond to questions such as ‘Why do I think this political or economic arrangement is wrong (and why should I care?)?’ implies an ethical stance. Critique thus draws together fact and value, domains that a long tradition of moral thought has argued exist on distinct planes. For there are dimensions of political life that are incomprehensible without this conjunction between ethical motivations and social realities. But if they are to have political consequences, such questions cannot be confined to private introspection. Scale matters. This talk looks at the articulation between everyday interactions and social movements to show the interplay among the first, second, and third person stances that characterize ethical life. Drawing ethnographic examples from American feminism and Vietnamese Marxism, it considers some of the ways in which ethical intuitions emerge, consolidate, and change, and argues that objectifications and the reflexivity they facilitate help give ethical life a social history.
We live in an era of aesthetics. Art has become both pervasive and powerful – it is displayed not only in museums and galleries but also on the walls of corporations and it is increasingly fused with design. But what makes art so powerful, and in what does its power consist?
According to a widespread view, the power of art – its beauty – lies in the eye of the beholder. What counts as art appears to be a function of individual acts of evaluation supported by powerful institutions. On this account, the power of art stems from a force that is not itself aesthetic, such as the art market and the financial power of speculators. Art expresses, in a disguised form, the power of something else – like money – that lies behind it. In one word, art has lost its autonomy.
In his talk, Markus Gabriel rejects this view. He argues that art is essentially uncontrollable. It is in the nature of the work of art to be autonomous to such a degree that the art world will never manage to overpower it. Ever since the cave paintings of Lascaux, art has taken hold of the human mind and implemented itself in our very being. Thanks to the emergence of art we became human beings, that is, beings who lead their lives in light of an image of the human being and its position in the world and in relation to other species. Due to its structural, ontological power, art itself is and remains radically autonomous. Yet, this power is highly ambiguous, as we cannot control its unfolding.
Markus Gabriel holds the chair for Epistemology, Modern and Contemporary Philosophy at the University of Bonn and is also the Director of the International Center for Philosophy in Bonn as well as the director of the Center for Science at Thought at Bonn.