Rob Shields’ seminar on the pragmatic and experiential dimensions of situation ethics as a form of collective engagement with reality or “aesthesis” was given to the DFG-Graduiertenkolleg “Practicing Place Soziokulturelle Praktiken und epistemische Konfigurationen“ (Practicing Place: Sociocultural practice and epistemological configurations) at Katholischen Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt. We are thankful for the critical engagement of participants in the Graduate Collegium and include their voices along with Prof Joost Van Loon, who chaired the doctoral seminar. The talk connects aesthesis and ethics to politics and morals, via a discussion of the polis and of civic obligation (versus rights).
The June 22 2023 talk is based on a paper by Rob Shields and Nicholas Hardy and reflects 20 years of thought on “ethical aesthesis”. Here is a rough edit:
Abstract: Aesthesis, the classical term for sensing and perceiving, is at the heart of innumerable problems that plague global society. Even the recognition of these problems can be taken as an example of aesthesis awakening from the ‘anaesthesia’ of consumer society. The purpose of this paper is to open a conversation on aesthesis as central to critical cultural theory at this time. Starting with an exploration of Pre-Socratic and classical debates, we consider the role of the body, affect, and of the intangible or virtual. Although abridged for the purposes of a conference presentation, we trace the codification of aesthesis into Western theories of aesthetics. Drawing on a relational interpretation of Protagoras’ aesthesis, we argue that modern pragmatists such as William James and more contemporary thinkers, recognize and develop the relational and ethical aspects of aesthesis. Given the limitations of space, we will move from a discussion of classical sources to follow sociological work and social theory on the polis to assay the political potential of aesthesis (forthcoming in a more complete version in Thesis Eleven).