|'Night Watch' by Rembrandt|
Philosophy of Aesthetics:
A Response to Zuidervaart's Critique
by Dr. J. Glenn Friesen
In his philosophy of aesthetics, the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) devotes particular attention to two works of art. The first work that Dooyeweerd discusses is Rembrandt's “The Night Watch” (1642). The second work that Dooyeweerd refers to is the statue by Praxiteles (c.370-c.330 BC) of the god Hermes holding the young god Dionysius.
I will briefly examine Dooyeweerd's ideas of aesthetics in relation to these two works of art. The purpose of this article is to give sufficient detail in order to discuss Lambert Zuidervaart's criticism of Dooyeweerd's philosophical aesthetics in his article, “Fantastic Things: Critical Notes Toward a Social Ontology of the Arts,” 60 Philosophia Reformata, (1995), 37-54.
Of course, Dooyeweerd’s philosophy of aesthetics can and should be discussed in much greater detail. In particular, Dooyeweerd’s philosophy of aesthetics must be understood in relation to his ideas regarding imagination in general.
[...] Note that Dooyeweerd distinguishes between the intentional (inner) individuality-structure, and that structure as it may later be reproduced. The intentional individuality-structure is reproduced by acts of performance (which take place in all modalities). Books and scores may symbolically objectify the composition, but that objectification is not the original individuality-structure.
Dooyeweerd asks whether the individuality of Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” is to be attributed to its sensory matter in the objective impressions of its paint (NC II, 423). Dooyeweerd’s answer is that its individuality is not founded in any sensory matter. For, as already discussed, Dooyeweerd’s view of things is not that they are based in some substance or matter, but that they are individuality-structures that individuate from out of Totality. When the aesthetic project is actualized in an artistic work, a new individuality-structure is created.
Events such as a musical performance have an individuality-structure, too, and function in all aspects. But in the case of a score, or a painting, or a sculpture, there is an enkaptic interlacement of the aesthetic individuality-structure in a new individuality-structure that also includes the structure of the medium in which the representation is made (the paper, the canvas, the marble).
The aesthetic individuality-structure, which is enkaptically interlaced with the other individuality-structures, is founded in the historical law-sphere, which is modally qualified by free formative control (NC III, 120). The aesthetic structure that is enkaptically intertwined is not the same as the original structure evoked in the artist’s fantasy. It is a representation of that merely intentional object. The marble statue is the “objective plastic representation of an aesthetically qualified intentional fantasy-object, which itself appeared to be typically founded in a sensory fantasm” (NC III, 120).
The person viewing the work of art must not regard it as a copy of external reality. It is not a copy of reality, but a copy of the productive fantasy of the artist, which was evoked by reality. The viewer therefore needs to view the work of art in an aesthetic way, and not as a copy of external reality. Therefore, the observer of a work of art must also have aesthetic imagination.
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