On the Fragmentation of Contemporary Society : An Aesthetic Diagnosis and Prescription
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The more we are online in the current age of social media, the more we struggle with disconnection from our physical world. The deterioration of our passionate involvement in the world can be seen as some kind of gross exaggeration of Søren Kierkegaard’s Present Age. We struggle with mental health at earlier and earlier ages, and our material obsession has never been greater; our social movements fade away as they fall off from ‘trending’. What, then, is missing in today’s social construction? I will argue that we are facing a decrease of aesthetic engagement—or the ability to be totally in tune with the process of our sensory experience—in contemporary life. I will then prove how the lack of this kind of experience decays our personal, physical relationship to the world (subjective orientation), which will in turn work against the richness of our social involvements (intersubjective relationships). First, from Martin Heidegger, I employ the notion of world-disclosure as the purity of subject orientation in the world, where the subject reveals the world to themselves in a responsible way via the actions of their body, the result of which is the subject’s feeling well-oriented in the world. To argue for the existential importance of aesthetic experience, I use Jürgen Habermas’ notion of aesthetic-practical rationality, which represents one’s ability to be aesthetically open to the world as a completely necessary portion of a subject’s holistic way of reasoning their way through the world. Then, in Artistic Truth, Lambert Zuidervaart argues that artworks can make truth claims, which allows me to argue for the concrete social and cultural relevance of aesthetic engagement. Finally, by using Martin Seel’s complete account of the aesthetic experience as a complex interplay between viewer and object, I observe the decline of the aesthetic openness in contemporary society. I then propose that the mass employment of such a holistic mode of rationality would richen our engagement with our world and each other.