Aesthetic detachment

This is a very interesting concept I came across.

Here’s a part from an extract:

A special attitude with which to approach art, nature, and other objects. First, it differs from a practical attitude and has no concern with practical (sensual, intellectual, or moral) utilities. An aesthetic attitude takes nature or a work of art “for its own sake.” In this sense it is “disinterested,” as Kant emphasized in his Critique of Judgment. Secondly, it does not involve personal desires, motives, or feelings in dealing with an object. This freedom from desire or emotion is called “aesthetic distance” or “aesthetic detachment.” Thirdly, in contrast to a cognitive or scientific attitude, it is indifferent to the real existence, the content or the meaning of a thing. It does not appreciate an object through bringing it under concepts. Instead it is a pure appreciation or contemplation of the perceptual qualities of an object as an object of sensation. It is claimed that in this way we can live in the work of art as an embodiment of our feeling. Schopenhauer and Heidegger ascribe a metaphysical importance to the aesthetic attitude by saying that it can reveal the essence of reality more profoundly than conceptualization.

I think having this artistic attitude is liberating in a way. For example if you’ve just had a breakup with someone whom you invested a ton of emotions, you could write all the feelings and impressions down and thereby detach yourself from your experience. It helps you see the reality – good and bad of the relationship, all the different perspectives in a much clearer manner.

It reminds me of a story I had read about a great French impressionist painter Matisse. A visitor to his studio pointed to some unholy pictures hanging on the wall and asked Matisse: “Don’t you think these have a demoralizing effect on people?” The artist calmly replied, “My dear man, it is not a woman, it is only a picture.” An artist sees only a picture in a woman, whereas an ordinary man sees a woman in a picture–this is the difference between the two. This does not of course mean that all artists are holy sages. But in them the creative urge becomes so strong that it produces a certain degree of detachment–aesthetic detachment as it is called.

Of course this is very rare even among artists but it kind of demonstrates the concept. The artist basically creates a kind of psychical distance. The connection between the images in his mind and his impulses are supported by his will. Thus, if he detaches the will the connection can be broken in theory. It is a very challenging endeavor though.

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