Featured Post


This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Friday, August 5, 2011


From Wikipedia :

Thomas Scheff defines intersubjectivity as "the sharing of subjective states by two or more individuals."[1]

The term is used in three ways:

1.First, in its weakest sense intersubjectivity refers to agreement. There is intersubjectivity between people if they agree on a given set of meanings or a definition of the situation.
2.Second, and more subtly intersubjectivity refers to the "common-sense," shared meanings constructed by people in their interactions with each other and used as an everyday resource to interpret the meaning of elements of social and cultural life. If people share common sense, then they share a definition of the situation.[2]
3.Third, the term has been used to refer to shared (or partially shared) divergences of meaning. Self-presentation, lying, practical jokes, and social emotions, for example, all entail not a shared definition of the situation, but partially shared divergences of meaning. Someone who is telling a lie is engaged in an intersubjective act because they are working with two different definitions of the situation. Lying is thus genuinely inter-subjective (in the sense of operating between two subjective definitions of reality).

Recently I stumbled across a online discussion in which the participants seemed convinced that one could demonstrate the "objective reality" of critical opinion on art, as against a poster who claimed that all criticism was subjective. None of the challengers exerted themselves to define just what mental procedures one ought to use to test works of art for their artfulness, however.

Kant, as I've mentioned before, made it his project to formulate theories about how one might situate one's faculties of taste defined in terms of *a priori* principles, principles that existed independently of mankind's conditionally motivated *a posteriori* principles.

Kant also attempted to formulate ways in which taste would be considered to have universal applications to all men. I don't think that this condition of universality was necessary to Kant's argument, though it does lend weight to his assertion that art's ability to evoke beauty and the sublime is rooted in *a priori* principles rather than individual taste.

Clearly, the poster arguing pure subjectivity, interpreted through a Kantian lens, would be stating that every critical opinion was conditionally motivated through the individual critic's taste. Presumably any intellectual justifications would merely be reflections of that taste, and therefore they would be within the domain of affects that Kant calls (in CRITIQUE OF JUDGMENT) "the AGREEABLE"-- that is, the purely personal response by which one likes or dislikes an object.

Presumably the poster's opponents were arguing (however muddily) that the intellectual justifications of a good critic went beyond the bounds of personal taste; that those intellectualizations had a positive value that transcended personal taste. In what I've summarized of Kant's argument above, this would seem to parallel the transcendence of the *a priori* principles. However, Kant himself would not have recognized the intellectual justifications of art alone as constituting *a priori* principles. For Kant, such arguments would be relegated to the category of "the GOOD"-- by which he means all those things that a given critic thinks of as good for society or humankind. Kant regards all things in this category to be conditional as well, in that they reflect *a posteriori* societal values.

I've already written extensively about Kant's views of the beautiful and sublime in PART 1 of KANT STOPS THE MUSIC , and won't address that here. What I want to suggest, though, is that there is a potential unconditioned component to all critical response, but that it need not be universal, only shared in terms of an intersubjective phenomenology.

Take as example this quote from a BEAT post made in early 2011 by Tom Spurgeon, in response to an essay by Rich Johnson:

A lot of the rest of this seems like nonsense to me, too. To take one: Vertigo expanding what comics storytelling could do 40 years after EC comics did better comics in the same genres and 30 years into the underground/alternative comics revolution is pure boilerplate PR. I don’t begrudge DC being smart enough to put some of their hot comics of that time into a line and make more of them, and I quite enjoy many of their titles, and many of their creators are excellent and Karen Berger is a peach, but this view of Vertigo as a boundaries-pusher outside of anything but the most made-up, self-serving conception of comics is PR horseshit and needs to die.

In my NO FEUD LIKE AN OLD FEUD posts I traced the manner in which I attempted to get Spurgeon to put his cards on the table, as to why EC "did better comics" than Vertigo, which is the essence of Spurgeon's post if one can get past his attempt to paint Johnson as DC's bootlicker. Spurgeon absolutely refused to discuss the reasons for his opinion, so plainly I cannot address those reasons here.

However, even though the opinion "EC is better than Vertigo" was expressed in a contemptible manner, that in itself doesn't make it a wrong opinion. It is an opinion more than a few critically aware comics-fans, as well as actual critics, may well share. If so they would presumably share in them in the manner described by the number (3) definition of intersubjectivity above: as "shared divergences of meaning."

By this line of reasoning, if the opinion "EC is better than Vertigo" is shared in such a way to be a subjectivity than is more than merely subjective, more than the coincidence of assorted conditionally motivated reactions, then it would have, ipso facto, "objective reality."

Of course, so would the opinion "Vertigo is better than DC."


Stay tuned for Part 2.

No comments: