Artistic Detachment in Japan and the West: Psychic Distance in Comparative Aesthetics
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A study of the notion of artistic detachment, or psychic distance, as an intercultural motif for East-West comparative aesthetics. It opens with an overview of aesthetic theory in the West since the 18th-century empiricists and concludes with a survey of various critiques of psychic distance.
contemplation. Although Lewis briefly outlines his aesthetics and theory of values in an appendix to Mind and the World-Order, his Kantian theory of “aesthetic disinterestedness” is found especially in a later work titled An Analysis of Knowledge and Valuation (1946). Like the American philosophers Charles S. Peirce, John Dewey, A. N. Whitehead, and Stephen C. Pepper, Lewis develops a concept of value as the immediately felt “aesthetic quality” pervading all events. For Lewis, value is a term
detachment such that the ecstasy of aesthetic experience is explicitly identified with the rapture of mystical experience. Polanyi asserts: Returning to the cult of rapturous contemplation in Zen Buddhism, we meet with a theoretical development of it into a doctrine of aesthetics. Art, poetry, and painting are said to be the transmission of visionary experience and hence to tell of the NOTHING. . . . Of all ancient systems of ecstatic contemplation, Zen Buddhism alone applies directly to the
actor) and object (kensho, the audience) in a complete interpenetration of performer and spectator. In this way the actor and the audience together form a single unit 116 — Artistic Detachment East and West of theatrical experience. This in turn has important implications for the concept of yûgen as the basic principle of beauty in the nò theater. Since the universal standpoint of riken no ken brings about a total interfusion of actor and audience, the beauty of yûgen cannot be located either
identical with “everyday mind” (heijò-shin) (p. 147). No-mind or the unconscious is everyday mind as the effortless, natural, spontaneous, and pre-self-conscious mind that eats when hungry, drinks when thirsty, and sleeps when tired. In this context Suzuki translates passages from Takuan’s essay “The Mind of No-Mind” (“Mushin no Shin”) to clarify how the Zen doctrine of no-mind underlies the military art of swordsmanship (p. 111). According to Takuan the Zen swordman must shift from the conscious
spiritual content of Japanese art derives— namely, what he calls the spiritual mysticism of Indian Buddhist religion, the pantheism of Chinese Taoist philosophy, and the moral idealism of bushidò (Light 1987:52). Part Three of Light’s book contains a translation of Kuki’s Propos on Japan, which includes a series of brief vignettes on the aesthetic and intellectual dimensions of Japanese culture analyzed from the standpoint of French philosophy and vice versa. Kuki’s greatest contributions have