Volume 1, 2018
Aesthetics and Philosophies of Art
Wittgenstein’s critique of the scientism of aesthetics
Given the extreme importance that Wittgenstein attached to the aesthetic dimension of life, it is surprising that he wrote so little on the subject. It is true that we have the notes assembled from his lectures on aesthetics given to a small group of students in Cambridge (Wittgenstein 1966). For Wittgenstein aesthetics is conceptually expansive in its important linkages to the philosophy of language, to the philosophy of mind, to ethics. Aesthetics is a multi-faceted, multi-aspected human cultural phenomenon, where connections of diverging kinds are more in play than causal relations. The form of explanation we find truly satisfying will thus strikingly diverge from the form of explanation in science – the models of explanation in Naturwissenschaften are misapplied in Geisteswissenschaften, and the viewing of the latter through the lens of the former will yield reduction, exclusion and ultimately distortion. Thus, the humanities are for Wittgenstein in this sense autonomous. Wittgenstein in his mature later work generated a vast body of work perhaps united only in its therapeutic and intricately labored search for conceptual clarification. One sees the same philosophical aspiration driving his foray into aesthetics. In this paper, I will refer to Wittgenstein’s critique of scientism of aesthetics.