Aesthetic and Image Consciousness in Husserl’s Phenomenology

The ACRPS has published Aesthetic and Image Consciousness in Husserl’s Phenomenology (424 pp.) by Wissal Elech, an adaptation of the author’s doctoral dissertation.

Discovering Husserl’s aesthetics and phenomenology

The book aims to explore the place of aesthetics in the thought of Edmund Husserl, the philosopher regarded as the founder of phenomenology. Such a question is undoubtedly beset by several obstacles. First, Husserl wrote very little on aesthetics and did not dedicate a composition to its foundations and themes, as did his teacher Franz Brentano in his Grundzüge der Ästhetik. Moreover, there is a factor making it harder to interpret Husserl’s aesthetic thought within his phenomenology, the foundations of which he constructed within a transcendental scientific conception without an explicit aesthetic dimension – in addition to aesthetic philosophy’s reliance on epoché (suspension of judgment) and application of phenomenological reduction to perceptible knowledge and values associated with natural attitude. Both of these create ambiguity around phenomena related to artistic imagery in phenomenological analysis. The second obstacle is that the literature on Husserl’s thought focuses on his ontological ideas at the expense of his aesthetic thinking. Third, the notion of “Husserlian aesthetics” has received negative assessments from scholars – either due to the lack of clarity, disorganization, and pervasive empiricism of his phenomenological work, or to the harmonization of aesthetics with Husserlian philosophical concepts based on the principle of neutralization (i.e., the exclusion of perception).

Despite these hurdles, Aesthetic and Image Consciousness aims to overcome the challenges related to the opportunities for aesthetic thought that lie within Husserl’s phenomenology, especially in the philosophy of images, by delving deeper into a new perspective on aesthetics derived from phenomenological methodology. Such a view was articulated by Roman Ingarden, a student of Husserl’s, in his Phenomenological Aesthetics; aesthetics is relevant, hence, to phenomenology’s critique of naturalism and objectivism, and the intentional method of phenomenology seeks to understand consciousness not as a linear course from or toward something, but as a creative idea based on a relationship to the self, the object, or subject.

Aesthetic and Image Consciousness attends to the most important aesthetic results of a critique of the phenomenological approach to the contemplative perception of the world as based on prior assumptions. It elaborates on meaning in the artistic experience by resituating aesthetics relative to the concepts of donation and meaning to clarify the preconditions and traits of creativity. The book considers forms of renewal in Heidegger’s aesthetic reading of art and his critique thereof in his phenomenological analysis and focus on the ontological aspect of the aesthetic experience; then in Sartre’s attitude to the aesthetic experience of a work of art as involving imagination; and in Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s association between the “phenomenology of perception” and the body and his assertion that the aesthetic experience can be tangibly perceived.

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