Categories in action: Sartre and the theory-practice debate

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This paper addresses the topic of creative practice research degrees by looking at the role concepts play in the creation and appreciation of art. The nature of the relationship between conceptual judgement on the one hand and aesthetic experience on the other has been a central topic for discussion throughout the history of Western philosophy. Unfortunately, the greater part of that history has given us arguments which try to wedge the two apart. However, the phenomenological tradition within recent continental philosophy sets out to remove the opposition between the conceptual and the aesthetic. Two aspects of phenomenology are important here: 1) its interest in writing, and 2) its emphasis on our condition as beings immersed in and actively engaged with the world, as opposed to being detached observers of it. The two come together in the claim that the concept - any concept - is not something which confines or reduces experience but an action through which the speaker brings to light new aesthetic possibilities. By tracing these points through the writings of Kant, Nietzsche and Sartre, I show how the descriptions we employ in aesthetic judgement a) can stand alongside the physical gestures of the artist as constructive interventions in the development of an artwork, and b) can bring new perspectives to bear on the theoretical framework employed by the practitioner in their research.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2002

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  • The domain of visual art hosts a multitude of artistic forms and practices. The Journal of Visual Art Practice supports research across the entire range of this varied field. The journal engages with the progressive nature of the subject, reflecting upon the changing terrain of art in recent years.
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