By Paul de Man
Editor note: Edited and with an creation by way of Andrzej Warminski
Publish 12 months note: First released in 1996
Paul De Man's attractiveness used to be irreparably broken through the revelation after his demise of his wartime anti-Semitism, obscuring a few legitimate highbrow contributions to the sphere of aesthetics. This selection of philosophical essays, compiled via Andrzej Warminski of the college of California, argues for the shut connections among artwork and politics and artwork and technological know-how. He discusses Kant and Hegel, whose significant contributions to aesthetics are much less identified than their paintings on rationality and morality. And in an essay on Schiller he deplores, fairly naively, the poet/playwright's loss of philosophical trouble for the foundation of his artwork.
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Additional info for Aesthetic Ideology (Theory and History of Literature, Volume 65)
4 The problem there under discussion is what to do with the "changeling"; the simpleminded child so called because it would be natural for anyone to assume that this child has been substituted by mistake for his real offspring. The substitutive text of tropes now has extended to reality. 4. Examples used in logical arguments have a distressing way of lingering on with a life of their own. I suppose no reader of J. L. Austin's paper "On Excuses" has ever been quite able to forget the "case" of the inmate in an insane asylum parboiled to death by a careless guard.
The zero, it turns out, is another moment of signification, of the signifying function or the real definition, without which "a theory of language as sign or as name (nominal definition)" cannot come into existence. It is worth quoting de Man's difficult conclusion on the zero at length: The notion of language as sign is dependent on, and derived from, a different notion in which language functions as rudderless signification and transforms what it denominates into the linguistic equivalence of the arithmetical zero.
Like the blind man who cannot understand the idea of light, the child who cannot tell the figural from the proper keeps recurring throughout eighteenth-century epistemology as a barely disguised figure of our universal predicament. For not only are tropes, as their name implies, always on the move— more like quicksilver than like flowers or butterflies, which one can at least hope to pin down and insert in a neat taxonomy—but they can disappear altogether, or at least appear to disappear. Gold not only has a color and a texture, but it is also soluble.