Ankündigung Symposium “Pathology and Aesthetics“, 19.12.2014 (inkl. Programm)

Plakat_SymposiumLouis_neuklein_page_1Unlike current usages of the term, Kant uses ‘pathological’ not as the opposite of the ‘normal’, something dangerously irrational or (psychologically) diseased. On the contrary, for Kant, it is our everyday, ‘normal’ actions that are more or less always pathological. Behavior is pathological whenever something (a “Triebfeder”) – ranging from the most basic need to the most elevated and abstract idea – is driving our actions. In other words, when the mind follows the attraction of an inclination, of an empirical interest, it is “pathological.” Kant opposes to the pathological the purely formal, autonomous determination of the will, in which he situates human freedom. The driving force corresponding to the latter is not an inclination, but “a respect for something entirely different from life, something much more worthy than life and its enjoyment”: duty as the supra-sensual nature of the genuine drive (“echte Triebfeder”) of practical reason.

As is well known, this discovery of the ethical condition through the withdrawal from the realm of material objects, the discovery of the “pure” sollen, “before” every object, through the uniquely human faculty of abstraction, has had a strong impact on the way in which the Critique of Judgment would conceptualize the respective (“higher”) feelings of beauty and sublime. Just as many of his eighteenth-century predecessors and contemporaries, Kant discarded the matter of sensation as a potential danger to aesthetic contemplation, feeding rather what might be called a pathological art. Many of his nineteenth- and twentieth-century successors, however, argued that such a purely formalist account of aesthetic experience based on speculative and pragmatic functions of the subject failed to account for the particular intensity and worldly embeddedness of aesthetic affections.

German idealists, such as Schelling and Hölderlin, and contemporary (art) philosophers, such as (e.g.) Henri Maldiney, Jean-François Lyotard and Gilles Deleuze, start exactly with a reassessment and profound reinterpretation of the German term ‘Empfindung‘. It is remarkable how this is often connected to a meditation on suffering and pathology. Rather than being a higher ‘Geistesgefühl‘ (Kant), the aesthetic dimension would be of an essentially affective nature: it concerns an event that affects us and that discloses no intentional structure whatsoever. One can discern in this evolution a return to the original Greek meaning of the terms pathè, pathèma, and pathos, namely the undergoing of an event that happens to us. The oldest meaning of these words is suffering, sickness and bodily ache. It is remarkable that many contemporary authors prefer negative affects (such as fear and a correlated Angstbereitschaft) over more euphoric affects when the disclosure-character of art is concerned. Astonishment seems more like a wound, than like a wonder. For example, in Deleuze’s view of the artist as a symptomatologist, “a clinician of civilization”, art must extract us from our habitual, dogmatic correlations with the world and reveal how the body as pure vitality and thus as pure pathos puts the organic-organized body under pressure. The shock with which art forces thought to abandon its merely abstract possibilities and effectively realize itself through a connection to reality, is for Deleuze necessarily a violent one, and is conceptualized using (and transforming) a range of psychiatric pathologies (e.g. hysteria and schizophrenia).

In this one-day symposium, we intend to focus on aesthetic implementations of pathology and their way of determining pathology not (only) in a negative way, as deficiency, but also in a positive, constructive manner, furnishing philosophy the paradigm of a renewed subjectivity, of a new way of being oneself.


Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf, Haus der Universität, Schadowplatz 14, 40212 Düsseldorf, Room 021, 1st floor


09.30 – 10.00 welcome and introduction

10.00 – 11.00 Prof. Dr. Sjoerd Van Tuinen – ‘Mannered or Mannerist? On the Difference between Affected States and Affected Becoming’

11.00 – 12.00 Prof. Dr. Wolfram Bergande – ‘Beyond Antropopathy’

12.00 – 14.00 Lunch

14.00 – 15.00 Prof. Dr. Arthur Cools – ‘From Blanchot to Kant: a One-way Ticket? Estrangement and Aesthetic Distance in Modernist Narration’

15.00 – 16.00 Dr. Claudio Rozzoni – ‘Diagnosis and Illness – The Artist as Symptomatologist’

16.00 – 16.20 Coffee break

16.20 – 17.20 Louis Schreel – ‘What Drives Ethical Will? Pathology in Kant and Deleuze’


Louis Schreel (Düsseldorf), Sarah Czirr (Düsseldorf), Daniel Blanga-Gubbay (Brüssel)






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