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Josef Früchtl: As If We Could Trust: Fiction and Aesthetics of the Political
As If We Could Trust: Fiction and Aesthetics of the Political
(p. 53 – 63)

Aesthetic Community and As If

Josef Früchtl

As If We Could Trust: Fiction and Aesthetics of the Political

PDF, 11 pages

Demonstrating the reliance on a consensus in ascribing aesthetic as well as moral and political judgments, Josef Früchtl defends the mode of the consensual as if, a fiction that allows not only for the stability of political discourses negotiating controversy, but also for the mimetic assumption of equality essential to any radically democratic resistance. Früchtl thus repositions Rancière, but also reconsiders how Habermas’ theory of truth within speech acts turns into a decisively political point of view, moving him closer to Lyotard’s description of the différend. Just as the différend needs to be understood by the differing parties, for Habermas dissent requires the possibility of agreeing to disagree, starkly opposed to the radical disagreement of a Rancièrian mésentente. And yet Früchtl sees the same basic potential for consensus at the very heart of the aesthetic community that may recognize the claim to equality in resistance movements as well as the exception of the aesthetic experience.

Fiction: A Short Story

I would like to begin with a short story. And in doing so, I draw upon an experienced German story-teller and philosopher (who, by the way, is very well known in Giessen). It is a short story, but a fundamental one – as is the tradition with philosophy –, and it goes like this1:

For a long time, philosophy needed fiction, roughly speaking, only when figments of the imagination were called for. Sometimes this would be for arbitrarily combined characteristics (such as those which make up the creatures found in fables, like centaurs or unicorns), and sometimes for a self-contradictory non-entity (like a square circle or a wooden iron). For Immanuel Kant, a non-entity (nihil negativum, Unding) was located right at the bottom of the “scale of nothing,” meaning as it did a term which cancels itself out, a term in opposition not only to reality, but also to possibility. In contrast, a thought-entity (ens rationis, Gedankending) may also be a “mere invention” or “fiction,” as Kant stated, but at least one which is possible. The opposite concept to fiction was thus initially that of reality. A fiction is not real but possible. As the concept of reality gradually merged with the one of truth (something is true if it really complies in a certain manner), especially under the omnipotent influence of Christianity, the concept of fiction, secondly, assumed a mantle of negativity, of deceit and delusion. According to this view, fictions were deceptive in a formal sense, in that they veiled their status of fabrication. When Christian religion had to relinquish its power over science and philosophy at the end of the 18th century, however, one reaction to this development was the crystallisation of an additional, a third interpretation of fiction, believing it to be beyond the alternative between true and false, able to stand up in its own right. Evidence of this interpretation can be found in science and art equally. In the former, fiction achieved validity as a hypothesis, as a statement principally capable of being true, but not (yet) proven true. In the latter, fiction – that world created in literature, drama, paintings, and opera – was viewed as facilitating an area of truth, as expansively presenting metaphors and images which were potential candidates for the truth. A fourth interpretation of the concept of fiction which emerged was that of self-reference. Here fiction refers to itself, in other...

  • community
  • social movements
  • art
  • activism
  • contemporary art
  • politics
  • resistance

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Josef Früchtl

is Chair in Philosophy of Art and Culture – Critical Cultural Theory at the University of Amsterdam. Head of the Department from 2007 to 2012. Research interests: aesthetics, ethics, critical theory, theory of modernity, philosophy of film.

Other texts by Josef Früchtl for DIAPHANES
Anneka Esch-van Kan (ed.), Stephan Packard (ed.), ...: Thinking – Resisting – Reading the Political

This volume contrasts a number of recently suggested concepts of the political – each of which connects to certain instances of art and literature in its discourse – with questions concerning the rigidity of those connections: How strongly do such claims to politics depend on their specific examples, what is the scope of their validity to understand art with regard to politics, and how can they help us grasp the political within other pieces of art? In each case, manners of thinking concepts of the political, the mutual resistance of such concepts and their academic treatment, and the turn towards specific readings informed by those concepts converge.

The essays collected in “Thinking Resistances. Current Perspectives on Politics, Community, and Art“ engage with political phenomena in their interrelations with arts as well as with recent theoretical and philosophical perspectives on the very meaning of politics, the political, and community.

With contributions by Armen Avanessian, Friedrich Balke, Judith Butler, Simon Critchley, Anneka Esch-van Kan, Josef Früchtl, Andreas Hetzel, Jon McKenzie, Dieter Mersch, Chantal Mouffe, Maria Muhle, Nikolaus Müller-Schöll, Stephan Packard, Wim Peeters, Jacques Rancière, Juliane Rebentisch, Gabriel Rockhill, Frank Ruda and Philipp Schulte.