Published online by Cambridge University Press: 14 January 2010
Our narrative of the German aesthetic tradition has reached the present. Yet we have come to no conclusion, if by conclusion we mean closure, the end of an intentional development and a telos to be reached. We end our story, because to continue it would mean to step into the realm of prediction. Hegel is right when he says that philosophy awakens only at the end of a day to look back, to wonder, to sort out, and to find a logic in events that escape the immediacy of the present.
The current stage of aesthetics is one of revivalism. Yet while all of the twentieth-century aesthetic positions revived previous notions, there was hardly a time when almost all paradigmatic theories were taken up simultaneously. Today, however, some philosophers return to Baumgarten in order to replace aesthetics as a philosophy of art with the original notion of aesthetics as sense perception. Those, for example, who champion an ecological aesthetics argue for such a shift in the conception of aesthetics as a discipline. Others aim to restrict the notion of aesthetics to art, yet warn of a philosophical overburdening of art. These thinkers see the post-Kantian development in aesthetics as a wrong turn toward the cognitive. For them, to place demands upon art, like to grant access to the absolute and to contain truth unavailable through philosophy, does art no favor. Rather, art needs to be freed from the heterogeneous claims that philosophy heaps upon it.