is the relation precisely between this non-censure and the
potential censure by ethics which presupposes prohibitions and
ethical commandments (“Thou shalt not kill”), when
in principle there are no aesthetic commandments?
we must not do is to draw an ethics from an aesthetics, which is
the counterpart of the liberation of aesthetics in respect to
ethics. From this
point of view I would say with the Medievals that we must
maintain the perfect autonomy of
each of the great Transcendentals:
The Just, the True, the Beautiful.
The Beautiful is neither just nor true. I agree that
Being is said by the beautiful, but precisely it is not said in
the truth-functional (veritative)
mode, nor in the injunctive mode.
are not then in accord, it seems, with the postmoderns
who make of aesthetics an ethics and of ethics an
aesthetics, in particular with all those a la mode theories
which consist in making of life a work of art, an aesthetic
particular with all the aestheticization of Nietzschean
is here that we rejoin the latest positions of Derrida, now so
close to Levinas, when he says:
“There is one thing only that one cannot deconstruct,
it is the idea of Justice.”
I really believe that the idea of Justice is irreducible
to any aesthetic idea. Then
is it the case that aesthetics can suggest to us something
concerning Justice? This
is perhaps the lateral route that Kant himself has explored by
way of the Sublime, as distinct from the Beautiful.
Not all aesthetics is an aesthetics of the Beautiful.
To the degree that all beauty elevates us, in particular
by its rupture with the utilitarian, it reveals a potential
ethical meaning, if only because
it demonstrates that everything does not enter into the
commercial order. This
has a moral meaning: the
person is not a means but an end.
In liberating us from the dictatorship of the commercial
order, aesthetics effects the beginning of a conversion to the
other than the utilitarian or even the pleasant.
to a “suffering
maintains, or to
a community of the Just in the Levinasian sense?
In certain works of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven we sense
this nostalgia or this expectation of an authentic human
it is necessary to correct what I asserted previously in saying
that ethics is the regulation of action.
One should not separate in effect the acting man from the
suffering man, practice from the “pathic” (pathique).
It is perhaps at the point of the articulation of
practice and the pathic that aesthetics has something to say, as
has been shown in particular by Michel Henry, who studies
carefully the figurations in exteriority of the pathic in
painting, notably in Kandinsky. What
we have said about moods relates equally to the pathic.
Perhaps here we are in the zone where the aesthetic and
the ethical partially overlap. But to the degree that human
action creates suffering by violence, can a pathetique be
captured by the aesthetic? This is the question that has been
raised by the Shoah. Perhaps
it is not possible to recount by a narrative or by a scenario,
but one can perhaps lament-chant. One is then in the order of
the lyric, which is the discourse of the pathic.
In language, which is not only practical, there is also
the lyrical which one can explore, like the story, from the
point of view of time. This is the time of the burden, of usury,
of the sadness of
aging, of the nostalgia for what will never return, of the
inquietude of what menaces or will not come.
All this pathic of temporality takes place in that zone
of connection and actual contamination between the verbal
lyrical and the pictorial or musical expression.of the pathic.
There is also a creation of the pathic which has not been
experienced, of power to undergo otherwise, and this adds to the
pathic beyond the already suffered.
By the pathic, one should understand in addition not only
suffering, but also enjoyment, or more broadly the felt.