The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 1, 1998

Aesthetics and Philosophy of the Arts

Endre Kiss
Pages 77-84

Philosophical Aspects of Literary Objectiveness

Gadamer’s hermeneutic philosophy avoids the problem of literary objectiveness altogether. His approach witnesses the general fact that an indifference towards literary objectiveness in particular, leads to a peculiar neglect of par excellence literariness as such. It seems obvious, however, that the constitutive aspects of the crisis of literary objectiveness cannot be shown to contain the underlying intention of bringing about this situation. At this point, one can identify what could probably be the most important element in a definition of literary objectiveness. In contrast to ‘natural’ objectiveness and objectiveness based on various societal conventions, the legitimacy of a literary work is solely guaranteed by its elements being organized in accordance with the rules of literary objectiveness. Thus when the crisis of literary objectiveness intensifies, literariness will also find itself in a crisis. This crisis detaches new, quasi-literary formations from various definitions of literariness. When literary objectiveness ceases, however, to be understood as a system constituted by various objective formations aiming to correspond in one way or another to the ‘world’, scientific analysis of literary objectiveness will be rendered impossible. The crisis of literary objectiveness thus brings about the crisis of the theory of literature and the philosophy of art. Gadamer explicitly argues that the scientific approach proves to be inadequate in the analysis of artistic experience. This attitude results in the categorical rejection of a scientific orientation (and so in a complete indifference towards literary objectiveness), but he seems to overemphasize an otherwise correct thesis on the non-reflexive character of artistic experience. It is the anti-mimetic and Platonic character of Gadamer’s aesthetic hermeneutics that determines the status of literary (artistic) objectiveness in his system of thought. What is of crucial importance, however, is to point out that this aesthetics entails a fundamental reduction of the significance of literary objectiveness. As soon as the essence of aesthetic object-constitution is taken to be re-cognition (plus the emanating aesthetic possibilities), the absolutely natural interest in the original object represented by a work of art.Undoubtedly, Gadamer’s conception answers a number of questions that tend to be ignored by other theories. It is just as obvious, however, that Gadamer completes here the aesthetic devaluation of the objective domain. It is not the characteristics of the ‘original’ that constitute the image, but in effect the image turns the original into an original. Paraphrasing this claim one arrives at a near paradox: not objectiveness makes a work of art possible, but a work of art lends objects their objectiveness.