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Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 1, 2018

Aesthetics and Philosophies of Art

Hong-Bin Lim
Pages 169-173

What is the Matter With the Idea of Infinity?

I argue that the metaphysical idea of “sub specie aeternitatis” might have a heuristic function for aesthetic reflection. This means, simply, that various conceptions of infinity are constitutive to the configuration of artworks. From this perspective, we need to focus on the tension between two concurring conceptualizations of time in the history of fine arts. The concept of infinity will be contrasted with duration, which is mostly motivated by the will to consider artworks as entities or symbolic systems. After the collapse of traditional metaphysics, a modern substitute for the idea of infinity has been proposed by many avant-garde artists. One of the conceptions of infinity might already be employed in modern artists’ idea of ephemerality. In the representation of ephemerality, we observe the artists’ critical attitudes toward the traditional concept of duration. The temporality of space, self-expressiveness of the matter itself, and reconstruction through media are the symptoms of late postmodern art. However, the well-known postmodern rejection of the metaphysical ideal might fail because postmodernism is not in control of infinity as an aesthetic idea. The alleged insistence on the fragmentary, differential, and contingent character of artistic self-understanding indicates toward their despair regarding the infinity problem.

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