Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar (Week 4, TT18)
In his Lectures on Fine Art, Hegel claims that art’s “highest vocation” is to reconcile certain deep contradictions in human life, contradictions that stem from the opposition between spirit (Geist) and nature (Natur). But his account of art’s vocation has often been criticized for presupposing that the political and social world is worth being reconciled to. In this essay, I address these concerns by showing that aesthetic reconciliation does not depend on social reconciliation. On the interpretation I defend, art reconciles spirit and nature not by denying that the opposition between them exists, or by claiming that this opposition can be definitively resolved in modern life, but by providing access to a separate mode of experience, characterized by the feeling of Seligkeit, in which the individual transcends her self-conception as a finite being opposed to nature.