Repository | Book | Chapter

Functional purposelessness

the "practical meaning" of aesthetics

Hans-Georg Soeffner

pp. 69-81

The overall goal of the article is to characterise the relational structure between common-sense thinking, aesthetics, and science on the basis of phenomenological-protosociological and anthropological thought. Drawing on Helmuth Plessner's concept of the "categorical subjunctive," the practical meaning of aesthetics is carved out from a point of view of the sociology of knowledge. The basic argument states that the human being – because of its "eccentric positionality" – is situated in an aesthetic relationship to him- or herself and to the world that is created by the divergence and possible discrepancy of the human senses. As a result, human being is confronted with the necessity to cope with an antagonism between opening and closure. While common-sense thinking strives for the exclusion of risks and implausibilities, and scientific thinking purposefully concentrates on errors and ruptures in the common-sense perception of reality, aestheticisation constitutes a specific way of dealing with this antagonism: The aestheticisation of arbitrary objects, through the pre-reflexive activation and consolidation of separate sensory areas, creates a specific open mode of reality that gives the improbable an accent of reality and that influences our perception of ourselves and the world. Aestheticisation enables the generation of unity. It is a process which aims for simultaneous experience of divergence on the one hand and for the fusion of sensory perception on the other. It diverges from the "closing" practice oriented mode of reality of the everyday mind, while on the other hand, due to its open and subjunctive character, sympathises with the sensory area of scientific possibility and reality blueprints – however, without corresponding with it. Precisely in the blueprint of this lived and experienced horizon of possibility does the practical meaning of aesthetics exist.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-01390-9_6

Full citation:

Soeffner, H.-G. (2014)., Functional purposelessness: the "practical meaning" of aesthetics, in M. Barber & J. Dreher (eds.), The interrelation of phenomenology, social sciences and the arts, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 69-81.

This document is unfortunately not available for download at the moment.