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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

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Proceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics, vol. 6, 2014


In this article I will deal with the development of a theory of aesthetics within the work of the French contemporary philosopher Bernard Stiegler with particular reference to his concept of symbolic misery. Rather than give an extensive account of Bernard Stiegler’s aesthetics this article will focus on some key concepts mobilized in the definition and analysis of symbolic misery. Firstly, I will argue that Stiegler’s understanding of the aesthetic comes from an expanded notion of aesthesis, where the political and the aesthetic are mobilized together. In this regard I will interrogate some key concepts in his work Symbolic Misery (2004, 2014) which sets out the diagnosis of the impoverishment of the aesthetic which Stiegler identifies with our current epoch. The impoverishment Stiegler identifies has its sources in a mechanical turn which has led to a proletarianisation of knowledge and a process of disindividuation. This analysis of regression is based on an expansion of the concept of individuation from the philosophy of Gilbert Simondon and the development of the concept of organology. Thirdly, this article will attempt to explore the remedy to symbolic misery which Stiegler seeks in the work of Joseph Beuys: participation becomes the central tenant, a participation which enables the re-engagement with the symbolic. This article argues that the choice of Beuys, as the example of this type participatory practice, is in itself problematic.