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New Left Review 106, July-August 2017

Sven Lütticken


Notes on Legal Form and Aesthetic Form

It is far from coincidental that the authors of key early works of aesthetic philosophy, such as Kant and Hegel, also published major works on the philosophy of law. When aesthetics emerged as a branch of philosophy in the eighteenth century, it was not as a philosophy of art or of the arts, but as a philosophy of the senses. Modern philosophy tried to found itself on reason alone, on the subject as pure cogito; in the process, it cut itself off from the world. Aesthetics was philosophy’s attempt to reconnect reason and sense, subject and object. Art became central to this project because here, matter already seemed to be informed by reason. Whatever its medium, the work of art is a sensuous object that appears to be truly sensible, and yet we cannot fully grasp its essential workings. Constructed according to an obscure logic, the artwork is a bridge between philosophy and the world, but also a constant challenge to philosophy’s claim to dominion. If in the realm of the aesthetic, the material world reveals itself to be ‘dimly akin to reason’, in law reason reaches out into the world and seeks to regulate the tangled mesh of the social. [1] A shorter version of this text was written for Contour Biennale 8 (‘Polyphonic Worlds; Justice as Medium’) in Mechelen. Thanks to the participants in my theory seminar at the Dutch Art Institute. The phrase ‘dimly akin to reason’ is from Terry Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic, Oxford 1990, p. 17.

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Sven Lütticken, ‘The Juridical Economy’, NLR 106: £3

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