Eli Liechtenstein: "Artistic Objectivity as Creative Receptivity"

The Higher Seminar in Aesthetics

Eli Liechtenstein, University of Michigan: "Artistic Objectivity as Creative Receptivity"

While the idea of art as self-expression may sound old-fashioned, it remains widespread—especially if the relevant ‘selves’ can be social collectives, not just individual artists. But self-expression can collapse into individualistic or anthropocentric self-involvement. And compelling successor ideals for artists are not obvious. In this light, I develop a counter-ideal of creative receptivity to basic features of the external world, or artistic objectivity. Objective artists are not trying to express themselves or reach collective self-knowledge. However, they are also not disinterested or emotionless. They can be unmoved by personal feelings and human concerns, but they are still receptive—just attuned to the more elemental forces that impassion and creatively inspire them. I elaborate and further motivate this ideal in dialogue with John Ruskin’s critique of the pathetic fallacy, post-Kantian aesthetic theory, current accounts of expressiveness, and modern environmental art.