Aesthetics and literature: ontological and social aspects

Among the prototypical conceptions of Western aesthetics is Diotima’s discourse on man’s ascent to Beauty, which does not reach a fulfilment “until he arrives at the notion of absolute Beauty, and at last knows what the essence of Beauty is” (Plato, Symposium). This meta-ontological perspective, which contemplates Beauty in absolute connection with the Real and the Good, is preserved in apophatic philosophical-religious traditions to this day. Literature is a part of these traditions, insofar as with its semantic openness the absolute openness of the creative Primordial is invoked.

However, in the Early Modern Period at the latest, a different ontology of beauty – with equally old roots to those of the Platonic ones – prevails in the West: the subject’s appropriation of creative potentials in the process of his gradual independence. This tradition culminates in (post)modern projects of social differentiation and aesthetic self-realization. In the freedom of the artistic field, the connections between the Beautiful, the Real and the Good are seen in a new light. Their manifestations range from pragmatic instrumentalization to radical depragmatization.

The conference addresses the complex relationships between the aesthetic, ethical and epistemic dimensions of literature in different social contexts.