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5) The consequences of this critique of aesthetics


We obviously need to differentiate between art, as a collection of works of art, techniques and museums, and aesthetics, as a discipline that claims to take as its object the pleasure felt in front of a piece of art, in other words aesthetic feeling.

Aesthetics can only have a legitimate place as an autonomous and consistent discipline if it has its own object, which only it can deal with, in which case its necessity must be recognised. Otherwise it would be superfluous, its object being in fact the object of other disciplines.
Aesthetics claimed to have two objects of its own, which no other discipline studied: on the one hand, the concept of beauty, and on the other, the pleasure derived not from the matter, but from the form of the object.

In other words, other disciplines, such as physiology or psychoanalysis, can study the causes or the nature of the pleasure derived from the content of an object, this pleasure coming under the heading of the pleasurable; but as there is a completely different kind of pleasure derived from completely different causes, that derived from the form of the object, it is necessary for another discipline, radically distinct from physiology, to take it as its object of study: aesthetics.

And finally: it is because beauty is a concept with its own, specific meaning, which cannot be reduced to other, seemingly similar concepts, such as pleasantness, value, etc., that a specific discipline must take charge of it: aesthetics.

If, then, we have succeeded in showing that the concept of beauty and the concept of pleasure derived from the form are not consistent concepts, that is to say that we have succeeded in reducing them to concepts that are already known and much clearer, then aesthetics loses its consistency and its necessity, because it derives its legitimacy solely from these concepts. On the other hand, art remains: it is only the discourse on it that must be inscribed within the framework of another discipline: axiology replaces it as the discipline in which questions on art must be constituted.

Indeed, far from suffering any diminution of its being as a result of the fall of aesthetics, art perhaps finds its fullness in finally finding what constitutes its true ground.

The work of art is now seen as "something capable of presenting contents of meaning of great value" (either to the general public or to highly singular sensibilities, depending on what the artist has decided).

Museums are "places where experiences of values can be made" (which could not be played out in the "real" world, which is why art has legitimacy, as it procures an effect that only it can provide).
These can be unprecedented, and disconcerting. Contemporary art, as the moment in art when the "disconcerting" is encountered in a privileged way, will perhaps benefit from the disappearance of aesthetics. Aesthetics could no longer accord any status to an art form that is in no way concerned with beauty, and that no longer makes much use of the old Aristotelian conceptual pairing of matter and form.

Finally, this disappearance of aesthetics, if its necessity were proven, would perhaps paradoxically make it possible to answer the traditional question it has posed since its birth: "I find it beautiful. I think such and such a work of art is beautiful. But is it really beautiful?

As long as this question is framed in terms of beauty, it cannot be resolved. For how can we resolve a question that uses an empty concept? If there is a mysterious quality, beauty, that magically appears or disappears in the work depending on who is looking at it, then we will never know if the work is really beautiful.
If we understand that the question is: do the contents of meaning that we encounter in this work (joy, the colour red, etc.) have any real value, then we at least encounter a question that really makes sense: does joy occupy a high place in the real and universal hierarchy of things?
It is then up to axiology, as the discipline responsible for determining the value of things, to answer this question. If axiology could achieve its goal, then the question of the real 'beauty' of things would be resolved. Is this not just a vain dream? This is the fear that keeps nagging at the very heart of our thinking.

To sum up, then, there is this irony of fate: it is only by disappearing that aesthetics will perhaps make it possible to resolve the aesthetic problem,... because there is nothing aesthetic about it.